Apprenticeship to Love, April 7, 2024

  • Today’s questions: What are your goals? What is your purpose? And, —and this is so important— are you ready to sacrifice these for what is most important in your life?
  • Today's suggested practice: Day 7 of this month's practice, to pause and feel the sacred space within (see my "Short Practice,” below)
  • My practice today: 5:30am: 45 minutes: yoga asanas (physical practice), Ganesha mantra meditation.
  • Invitation to be an accountability partner with me. Did I do my vulnerability practice today? Y How about you? Y/N? My invitation to be your accountability partner: Just send me a simple Y or N via text, email, FB, or Whatsapp message. That's it!


It's the season to remember foolish wisdom. To consider sacrifice, and what is both lost and won in the trip to the fires of our personal hells and back.
The lessons of sacrifice and surrender are very hard lessons for those of us who are schooled as masculine-identified men. Ours is a culture of purpose. Goals. Striving. Conquering. We only know the binary of winner/loser, and the culture we've grown up in will not abide the loser. So we do what we can—we do everything we can to control all that is within us and all that is beyond us, all that is beyond our awareness, the great feminine tide that washes over and through everything. And, even though our efforts are always destined to fail, whether in our this moment or this decade or this life or beyond our efforts to control will fail, we resist what can help us know ourselves and life more deeply. That something is women’s wisdom. Women's bodily wisdom, born of blood and a body in pain and pushed beyond what we would endure, about the necessity of surrender, and the necessary sacrifice of our juvenile notions of freedom and self. Unfortunately, the more we resist, the greater our suffering, the greater the suffering we inflict on those near to us, & the greater our uselessness to ourselves, our women, our children & families, our communitie, to this culture we could be building.

We are the fathers of this culture.

I am the father of this culture.

Am I ready to sacrifice myself, to surrender to Her endless tides and storms and silences?
If spending time with my children and my grandchildren tells me anything it is this: there is still so much for me to learn about fathering. And, perhaps more important: this fathering is the most important work of this life.
I write this after spending almost a week with my family. It's easy to be with them. I am in awe of how they live, standing on my shoulders, so much more than I was at their age. They are a blessing, and my sacrifices on their behalf, because every parent is called to sacrifice themselves for their children, is something I rarely hesitated and hestitate to do.

It's easy being with them, but there's always something that interrupts my cozy complacency and comfort at being a father and grandfather. Some reminder that there is still more work to do in this fathering, and so much of it has to do with recognizing myself and what else needs undoing, needs revealing, needs sacrificing. For my benefit as much, if not more, than theirs.
I write this after listening to episode four of the Stephen Jenkinson and Kimberly Ann Johnson "Forgotten Pillars" conversation. Enjoying the illumination of the pagan, indigenous European roots of my family culture. Stirred by SJ's wonderings about the place of patrimony (fathering) and mothering (matrimony), and things like marriage and weddings, in the always-and-ongoing work of culture-building. I recognize myself. I hear echoes of teachers who drew me close, and understand some of why I was drawn to them. I ask, Who am I? What am I doing with this life? With this love?
SJ talks about the crooked ways, the wanderings and wonderings, and the "parabolic" wisdom of folk tales. Even in the neutered versions of these tales offered by the mass-production culture system this wisdom persists. In part because this indigenous and pagan and crooked wisdom is seen as harmless in a culture goal oriented, straight-talk oriented, face-to-face oriented, bullet-point oriented. As I understand it, SJ describes a way of being with the world without a set of instructions. No right or wrong. Just the inevitability of things. A way of telling and being with the telling that allows us to rest, to be held in something older, larger, something more crooked and more difficult to grasp than we can ever imagine. Certainly more difficult to imagine for those of us born and trained as masculine-identified men in this culture.
Recent words from a man that resonated: What is true reveals itself in our surrender, in the sacrifice of who we think we are, what we think we are about. This, he said, this is the hardest thing for us as men who identify with the masculine, to surrender.
A lesson from my life (given me several times because I am, like so many, resistant to learning the lesson): The times when I have been most focused on purpose and goals, and most successful in work, business, community, family —these are the times when I am most impervious to gentle reminders to attend to the crooked ways. It is no accident that these gentle reminders are feminine reminders. It is no accident that, to my success-in-the-world way of knowing, these feminine reminders are experienced as nonsensical. Not of the "real world" of money and power and etc. Even viewed as borderline crazy or at least worthy of some sort of psychological labelling.

I will not be reminded. And, instead, I crucify myself on my own success. My willfulness and intelligence nailing me to a cross of my own making, and —to my surprise— I suffer & gnash my teeth & strain at the nails and this cross until, eventually, I surrender. And, surrendering, become aware of something more.

I'm well-acquainted with this scenario. I've survived several self-inflicted crucifictions. And risen again. And, yes, found my way out of the crooked path onto something straight and narrow and headed straight for my undoing again.

You might think that I am some kind of special idiot. Maybe. Maybe a little more aware, a little more afflicted with both drive and hubris. It doesn't matter. I do see this affliction all around me. Somewhere in the straightening of our ways —whether through the impact of ancient Roman or medieval or modern Christianity— whatever crooked pagan wisdom was in my culture was (almost) lost to me.

I put "almost" in parantheses because I know it's still with me. As a child and as a young man I would wander and wonder in the once great woods of Vancouver Island. I'd see the remnants of the ancient forests in the tombstones of giant stumps. I'd imagine myself in that pre-colonial forest with the great tree and forest spirits. In my most recent fall from grace I found myself again wandering and wondering the woods. It's now one of my holy places. After being in town with my family for a few days I was feeling unsettled. I was not comuning with woods. A strange and crooked way of being that I experience most fully when I am walking the truly crooked paths of deer and my dogs in through the lush forest floor, with no goal, except a place to sit and be in awe of it all.
I try to listen to all the men and women who speak to me. Of course, I have the hubris to think that I have something to say, so I must always stop my habit of knowing, and remember that there is no straight way through the woods. Perhaps there is something for me to begin to know, if I would just listen. (Believe me, this is an important lesson in my life, and I am earnest —now— in attending to it.)

Recently a man told me a story that resonated with my own. Different, but the same. You'll see.

His was a tale of profound love lost. He'd cultivated this love with patience, and was disbelieving as the flower began to open. Tolstoy famously observed (or complained?) in his Anna Karenina, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in it's own way." But let's twist this a bit. And especially given Kimberly Ann Johnson's grievous account of what it is to be a woman yearning for a man worthy of beauty and love in this culture. Let's consider that the unhappiness between us as men who love women and women who love men is almost always the same. And that our happiness —at least that happiness we may experience if we somehow pass through the hellfire and the crucible of marriage— our happiness as men and women together is rare, if not different.

This man related a story that resonated with me because it was the story of a man afflicted with the plague of "idiocy." A plague we are, I'm afraid, innoculated with as boys and men in this culture, a plague of insensitivity and privilege and fear that makes us resistant to crooked wisdom. And especially the part about sacrifice and surrender.

This man related a story that resonated with me because it was only in the abject forlornness of his suffering has realized his affliction, and begun to do something about it. That something having to do with undoing the lessons he'd learned about being a man. That something having to do with regular practice to mitigate the plague of indifference, insensitivity, fear that is experienced as idiocy. Now, years of heartache and regret later, and still feeling the burn of that hellfire, he is surrendered. It is as if we need to feel this much pain to learn, he said to me as we parted.

I wonder that myself. And especially as I heard KAJ's tearful telling of her yearning, a yearning I hear from almost every woman I listen to, whether she is with a man she loves, or seeking a man to love and to love her.

I believe we, as masculine-identified men in this culture are carriers of a plague of idiocy, to put it lightly. Dumb to wisdoms that don't fit our solution-oriented and straight-forward oriented training. And so I hurt those nearest me. Not with intentional cruelty, but with an inability and unwillingness to see, hear, feel what is so close.
There are ways to become more than I am, more able to experience the subtleties of love and beauty and distress. That is why I practice yoga, tango, meditation. It's why I practice listening more deeply, and especially to the silences. It's why I spend hours alone with my furry angels in the forest. To feel more.

But I know that I only remembered this by feeling acute pain and regret. By becoming aware of how I sacrificed the gifts of love and beauty on the altar of my success, and that any way forward would require me to sacrifice something of my own in turn.

In pain I was invited to surrender. At this time of my life, when I am no longer in saving time with the short cut of straightforward thinking and goal-setting, etc, now I am ready for the slower path of the crooked ways.

SJ, in episode four, alludes to how folk wisdom brings marriage and hell into proximity with each other. There is, he says a way of pre-empting this crucible, and that is cynicism. But that isn't the way of understanding or of culture-building. It is not the way of men who would be fathers to the culture, or to children. It is not the way of women who would be mothers, not just to children, not just to the culture, but to the men who are worthy of their sacrifice.

I can feel it sometimes. My readiness for this. I can see that this is what this apprenticeship to love prepares me for: the hell of my own making, the fire of this love, and the building of a culture in this family, with the patient and silent and strange mothering of this woman I love. It is a crooked way. I am, at times, crazy —certainly in the eyes of family and friends who want my "happiness." What they can't know is how unhappy I've been pursing happiness, and how happy I am now, wandering and wondering this crooked path. Following a feminine creature whose silence and whose mystery invites me always deeper into the dark woods.

I test you, she said, not so long ago, before withdrawing into the middle-distance of her silence. I know, I replied. Sometimes that feels good. And sometimes it doesn't. But I'm still here, ready for more.


"C'mon baby," he sang, "Light my fire." That I may burn, and burning, become more than I imagine myself to be, a father to more than I imagine fathering.


🌀…‘She’ demands the death of all my control..
I surrender to Her, Divine madness, Pure in heart,
Who demands nothing but Truth.
It is so painful.. but it is the portal, infinite Love,
The nectar of Freedom… (Pantherrre)

🌀I appreciate you. (My beloved, the one who calls me deeper into the crooked ways)

Day 7 of this month's practice, to let these thoughts and feelings move through you, with less resistance:
Please read through first, then ...

  • Set two alarms, for times of the day when you have a five-10 minutes to become conscious of who and how you are in this day.
  • When the alarm sounds, wherever and however you are, take a few moments and:
    • Ask yourself:
    • Then, follow the short practice here:
      • Stand, or sit, and bring your attention to your posture.
      • Feel the ground beneath your feet or sit bones, tilt your chin slightly to lift your chest open and straighten your neck.
      • Take a deep breath, through your nose, and hold it gently for the count of six. Relax the breath for the count of eight. Repeat three times.
  • When you’re done, sit or stand for another minute or two, breathing gently, slowly filling and emptying your belly. Here, as you breathe into your fullness, ask yourself, Do I feel right? Am I in alignment with the man or woman I am? Do I even have an inkling what that might feel like? Do I even have an inkling of what it feels like to be out of alignment with myself?
  • Notice if your body-mind feels somehow changed. And whether you notice a change or not, be content with yourself, exactly as you are in this moment.
  • Continue with your day until the next alarm sounds, and repeat.

★The next Apprenticeship to Love virtual workshop, on April 16 with Sarah Anderson, is now open for limited registration at . Free to all Premium, Premium+, and EXTRA subscribers