Apprenticeship to Love, May 10, 2024

  • Today’s questions: What commitment am I afraid to make? What responsibility —for another's being loved, for my own being loved— am I hesitating to allow?
  • Today's suggested practice: to breathe and feel the tension, pressure, friction, and stress, and then allowing it to become what it needs to be... (see my "Short Practice,” below)
  • My practice today: 5:30am: 45 minutes: asanas, Ganesha mantra meditation
    • May 13: Vagina, a conversation for men, with men's and couples' therapist and sex coach Fabiola Perez (see to register) FREE for all Apprenticeship to Love subscribers
    • May 16: The King, a conversation with practice, with men's coach Leroy Gordon. The fourth in our series on "men's work and masculine archetypes." Free to all men who are on the "1000 Early Readers" list (if you're reading this and you identify as a man, that's you)
    • May 29: For Intimacy, the May Apprenticeship to Love virtual workshop** with Tantrica Sarah Anderson, is now open for limited registration at . Free to all Premium, Premium+, and EXTRA subscribers


Learning to lead has been a difficult and lifelong process. Whether in tango, in love, in business, in my family, learning the skill of leadership is only the beginning to learning my art. And, as I've come to realize, it is my art that matters.
Learning is, for me, rarely straightforward. Quick to learn I am also cleverly resistant to learning what now seems most important to learn: How to be in and receptive to the flow of love. There is a taking responsibility for that I've most reluctant to acknowledge. I know I'm not alone.

I know this for several reasons. One, I see and hear it in so many men and women around me, and especially in masculine-identified men. But not only in these, my brothers and fathers and sons in the culture.

I also know it because of what I've allowed myself to learn through the Stephen Jenkinson and Kimberly Ann Johnson conversations of recent years. And especially KAJ's persistent and recent comments. I'm seeing all of this now as having to with this culture of individuation and separateness from each other that. It's often attributed to capitalism. But, following SJ's comments, I think it dates back to the Roman conquests and the Roman Catholic conquests of pagan cultures. When crooked ways through the dark forest were made straight, by roads and law and an intolerant understanding of the mystery of this life.

I've studied this phenomenon of making the crooked ways straight most of my life. Some lessons take a lifetime to find their moment. Perhaps now is the time.
Many years ago, I began to face up to the wreck of my second marriage. It was suggested that I had failed to take the responsibility that I had been invited to take. Slow to learn, I had to face another catastrophe before I began to really understand what this means for me, and for those I love.
Let me paraphrase one of today's sources of inspiration and insight: The gateway to living “in love” is to live responsibly.

When I set myself up as responsible for the solution, these teachers say, I become the ultimate “you.” And, becoming the man I am, the man I've come to love, when I “do this on an ongoing basis” I am fully able to respond to what the moment asks of me. And the moment, when I become intimate with its asking, is always asking me to open to mystery and the unimaginable.

Too often the beautiful is subverted by selfishness (fear) masquerading as a form of “reality therapy.” At least in my life. Perhaps if I surrendered to a different perspective on reality and practiced the reality therapy of taking responsibility, and leading with love, perhaps then I would be in that flow and experience of love I have glimpsed?
I listened to a younger woman recently. She has spent her adult life resisting and searching for something she cannot surrender to. It is a familiar tale. It is my tale. It is the tale of so many men and women I listen to.

In her lifetime of searching she has made commitments, several times, to marriage. Again, she is like so many of us who, feeling the warmth we think we crave, step close to the fire, but do not allow ourselves to be burned, fully, by this fire. The crucible draws us in. And we resist. Terribly. So much suffering! Not just the heat of the fire, but the heat of our resistance! And the others' resistance! And neither willing to surrender, completely.

To be consumed by this fire is too terrifying for many of us. So we somehow make the excuse of "freedom," or blame the other for their psychological inadequacies. (And, as I write this, I wonder: What is this if not an elaborate way of slipping away from my responsibility to love?)

And, now, a few days after this conversation and the first draft of these words, I see that what I am perhaps most afraid of is coming to grips with my own lack of artistry. There are skills to loving. I've been learning them all of my life. But turning these skills to my own art of loving? The furnace doors have stood open many times, inviting me to be consumed and for my fears and my skills to be transformed. Only now am I, even now timidly, approaching the threshold of the crucible.
I do not deserve anything. It is all already here for me. Am I ready to do what must be done, to receive everything?
Some time ago, as I struggled to understand how honeymoon becomes hell, I was told this about my leadership: There is no "partnership," no "equality," no 50/50 when it comes to leadership in a marriage. There is only seeing what needs to be done, and doing it, for the sake of the marriage (and not for the sake of any one who could be leading).

I thought I'd figured that out. But no, I hadn't. More burning. More testing. More diminishment, to become more of the husband I am.

It takes only one to change the relationship. Every relationship. Father-child. Brother-sister. Son-mother. Friend-friend. Employer-employee. Any one of these, regardless of their perceived leadership role, can change the relationship.
I am blessed with curiousity and with courage, even when I am unwilling to step into the crucible. Still, I am blessed with qualities of vision and strength. Women and children and animals and plants, and even the winds and the tides (I am being poetical here; indulge me) are drawn to serve me and my purpose. And, repeatedly over the decades, I've disappointed. I've been unwilling to take the risk of the fire, of fully and whole-heartedly exercising my art of leadership.

Talking is not enough. Words are not enough. There is only the burning, and then the living, and surrendering to the burning again, and again, and again.
I listened to this younger woman. I saw her torment. Raised and living in a culture her blossoming is limited by men's untrustworthiness and by the —now so necessary for so many girls and women in this, frankly, rapacious culture— injunction to be self-sufficient. Self-reliant. Self-protective. And woe to any woman who might so reckless as to trust a man who speaks well, even acts well, but who has not burned away childish desire to be unaccountable, un-responsible.
I know that untrustworthy man. Or, I know his likeness, because I have been he who was unwilling to step into responsibility for love.

Or, I was that untrustworthy man. For, as my beloved tells me, You're not like that now.

It's a weight, to feel her trust. A blessed weight.

When I teach someone to lead a follow in tango I am most usually teaching a man to lead a woman. But not always. More than whether they are man or woman is the question: Who leads, who follows? Who is willing to surrender to the polarity? And, when the polarity is determined, I introduce the finest of arts, to both of them: to both find their balance, and then to risk it all in the space between them.

All that moves us, all that allows us to become who we are are the forces of tension, pressure, friction, and stress. The dance we create —in love, in tango, in sex, in marriage— this is our art. And everyone of us, with whatever skills or desires we bring to the dance, begins to feel into and express the art of the moment between. The lead stands, firm, their heart open, slightly forward and over their toes. The follow, also standing firm, heart open, slightly forward, and ever so slightly leaning into the lead's open chest. Individual balance is risked for the always falling-through balance that is the art of the two, together.

I say to those who would lead, feel the other's weight as a blessing. As their trust. And if they are masculine-identified men they know the treasure of this weight of the feminine-identified woman whom they gently lead. There is, I believe, no greater treasure in our lives that to know this trust, given in the risk of falling.
When I step, fully into leadership in this love, I feel her weight. It grounds me. It reminds me: practice, daily, with devotion. It reminds me: the testing will not end, so long as I am willing to stand in responsibility for love to flourish in this life. The only thing I can fear in this moment is that she stop testing me, because that is the signal that she is not feeling my readiness to risk and sacrifice.

It all comes down to me. It only takes one to tango, the one willing to stand in leadership. The one willing to draw the follow into their flow, their blossoming. Standing in that polarity of trustworthiness, the world, her heart, her body, everything opens. And I am amazed.


🌀 …the gateway to compassionate living . . . [is] living responsibly. When you set yourself up as responsible for the solution, you become the ultimate "you" . . . this calms your survival mode and sets your emotional body into fearless mode . . . you're tapped into the source of time within space . . . you're able to respond. When you do this on an ongoing basis, no matter what circumstances might arise, you're fully able to respond in time . . . (GS&GK)

🌀The Conscious Warrior takes 100% responsibility for the reality he has created — seeking what needs to be changed in him before blaming others. (John Wineland, Precept 5)

🌀 What you believe you experience. (Krishnamurti)

🌀I am just beginning to trust the “no expectations.” (My beloved, my Oracle & Siren, she who must be ravished by my beautiful and powerful presence)


This month's practice, to breathe and feel the tension, pressure, friction, and stress, and then allowing it to become what it needs to be... :
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: What commitment am I afraid to make? What responsibility —for another's being loved, for my own being loved— am I hesitating to allow?
    • Then, follow the short practice here:
      • Stand, or sit, or lay yourself down, and bring your attention to your body.
      • Feel the ground beneath you. Allow the earth to hold you with gravity. Feel how dense and heavy you are. Feel also how lightly you sit or stand or lay on the earth. Feel yourself between the pull of earth's gravity and the subtle but persistent pull of the sun, the stars.
      • Begin to breathe long and deep into your belly. Slow the inhale to a count of four or six. Slow your exhale to a count of six or eight or ten. Repeat three to five cycles of breathing, going a little slower with each cycle. Continuing to notice yourself held by the earth, raised by the sun and stars and sky above. Feel the subtle tension and pressure and friction and stress that allows you to be and rest and move in this body.
  • When you’re done, take 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.