Apprenticeship to Love, Chapter 168, June 8, 2024

  • Today’s questions: What wisdom is calling you? And how are you resisting?
  • Today's suggested practice: to sit with your own resistance to learning what you know will change your life... (see my "Short Practice,” below)
  • My practice today: 4:30am: 60 minutes: asanas, mantra: chanting Akaal to aid the dead in their journey from this life
  • Upcoming for men in June


And I say this again: To be so seen. To be so heard. To be so received and known and loved. With all of my flaws. I am so grateful to you, my dear wise friend.


I sat with a man recently. We were both in mourning, and he asked that we sit together, alone. He did not want to mourn publicly. He was, as I learned (but as I'd already anticipated, afraid of what might happen if he were to be so vulnerable, even with other mourners.

I was exhausted before we sat. I didn't go to this meeting with much of an open heart. I was familiar with this man's story with grief. I knew he had good reasons to feel grief. I also knew he was held hostage by his fear of grief. I was more than a little frustrated. And, I had my own grief to hold. What did I have to offer him? Or, to be truthful: What did I have to offer that hadn't already been offered, by those better than me at offering? I was exhausted by my own grieving, and exhausted in anticipation of his resistance to grieving. Ugh.

But, I knew he was hurting. I knew he wanted to sit with me. I hoped I had something to offer. In the end, I'm not sure I did. But I did learn something. Not something new. Something familiar: there is so much more for me to learn, and I am still resisting.
Towards the end of the Forgotten Pillars conversations Stephen Jenkinson makes an invitation. While he does not recommend grieving, it is part of being alive. And if we are grieving, he says, take the opportunity to practice the skill of it. Because we are all, inevitably, asked to exercise that skill, our art of heartbreak, at the end of our days. The big one is coming, for every one of us.

I listened to this man with so much grief, and so afraid to surrender to it. How familiar that is to me. How easy to slip out from under the wet blanket of grieving and "celebrate life."

I'm reluctant to to do that these days. I know that as much as the man I grieve was indeed, as my beloved has said, himself the celebration of life, he celebrated so beautifully because he was intimate with death. Had been for 25+ years. A survivor who did so much more than surviving. He knew that the big one was coming. He didn't run from it. Didn't hide from it. He let it give contrast and depth to everything he did and said.
So much to learn, and so little interest. A friend of mine offered this viz marriage, as he was, again, struggling (or not) to learn his art of husbandry.

And these days I am reminded of how hard it is to learn, how little interest so many of us men have for that surrender.

Consider this: There is currently information circulating about which is more threatening to a woman alone in the woods, a bear or a man. The information is that most women surveyed (70%) are more afraid of a man than an a bear. This is important information for us men. I shared it with a group of men. Something useful for us, if we are interested in learning.

Sadly, what so many men are saying to me ignores the information. We will not take it in. Our amazing defensive skills have atrophied. Many of us no longer instinctively protect women, children, those weaker or more vulnerable than ourselves. Instead we protect ourselves from the information that would revive our purpose and our power. We —as the saying goes— "weaponize" the information and deflect it back to those we could be protecting as their "attack on men." Another way we are emasculated.

So much we could learn. So little interest in the learning of it...

Consider this: Something else, closer to home than the forest path where a woman is asked to choose between bear and man. Something, I suggest, closer to so many of our homes than we want to acknowledge: A man says he loves his wife, then beats her, kicks her. Not once. But several times over several years. He thinks he loves her, but repeatedly exercises his powerful presence, not as that safe place in a dangerous world, as a the very threat to her life that she seeks shelter from. She thinks she loves him. But she is better to love the bear in the woods than this man with whom she shares her life, her home, her body.

There is so much for this man to learn. He wallows in shame and self-pity after every attack. But he does not have the interest to do the learning.

Consider this: How much pain have I felt and how much pain have I occasioned in my life before I became interested in what I needed to learn? This is the beginning of the skill of heartbreak. To feel the pain of it, and know that I am not worthy of trust until I surrender to its teachings. My grief —what I feel for my wise and recently departed friend, what is stirred by his death, from my sister's death in my childhood to the divorces and deaths of my adulthood— this is the experience of love that I have not allowed to hold me and guide me to my deeper being and purpose. Until, perhaps, today.
I sat with this man and his heavy weight of grief and I marvelled: How much will he carry before he breaks open to himself? He knows the stories of it. He is even acquainted with the tears of it. But he does not know that these tears are calling him to a river, an ocean, of love. To be carried to that river and into that ocean is a skill he has not learned. His art of heartbreak, unimaginable. Or: terrifying if imagined.
So often, and especially in these days, I reflect on my good fortune. A slow-to-blossom aptitude for grief and heartbreak. An aptitude or capacity that was nurtured by my dear wise friend. Our time together a tending of this garden of heartbreak, of love. Tending until tears. Tending until visions and unreasonable knowings.

He did not run from my pain or my fruitless efforts to deny it. He invited me to slow down. To feel it all. To become aware of the gifts this woman I love brought to me, brings to me. To learn how to become familiar with my hurt as a way to love, to know compassion, to welcome the strange and the stranger, without fear of losing myself.

He helped me to have an interest in learning what I'd been running from learning. To hold me when I would not hold myself in the pain of heartbreak. And, held, known, to begin to know how to celebrate this life I've been given, as a celebration of love.
There is good reason for us, as masculine-identified men, to be in good company with each other. But my wise friend was adamant: many of us are not worthy of our trust, are not good company. Again, I've been fortunate. I have had several good men in my company. But he stands tall above them.

How do I stand on these shoulders? That is what I ask myself, every day now. He gave me a gift. Not to hoard, but to share. A wisdom about heartbreak and about men's hearts and how dangerous we are when we do not know our hearts and our capacity to become the very thing that stands in the way of trust and love, agents of violence and fear.

He helped me to hold my heartbreak as a beautiful and tender thing to be tended. To be my teacher. That which shows me how to be a good and worthy man in a world bereft of good and worthy men.
Compassion. I begin by holding my own heartbreak and allowing it to teach me how to other men's heartbreak. We are not pretty in our fear and hurt. We are often dangerous. Better to be ugly and dangerous with each other than with those we consider our loved ones. And we will too often be ugly and dangerous with them if good and worthy men are not there to hold us. With compassion. And with accountability.

Did I bring this compassion to my conversation with the man who carries a lifetime of grief in his body?

Am I willing and able to help a man so ugly and dangerous he hurts the body and heart of the woman he says he loves?

Am I willing to sit with men who are threatened by the information that we are perceived and experienced as dangerous by 70% of women surveyed? To have compassion for their bewilderment, confusion, and defensiveness?

I find it all too easy to collapse into frustration, anger, blame, self-righteousness. So much to learn. How much interest do I have in this learning?
How do I stand on his shoulders, this friend and teacher? If I've made him sound like masculine perfection, forgive me. He was a man. He had lived a life of mistakes, had his own apprenticeship to love that he was still following, to his final breath. But in that was his greatness, to me: that he did not shrug off the learning that was still required to live and to celebrate this life.

He left me with so much. To consider. To absorb. To do.
Thank you.
I love you.
I am here.


🌀You do not deserve anything. (Kendra Cunov)

🌀…it is essentially important for us to get in touch with our presence, to consciously connect with it, to feel how we lose the connection and how it feels when we do connect and to get very clear on how this impacts our life. (Kundalini Yoga School, Create the Life You’re Meant to Live sadhana, Day 1)

🌀The Conscious Warrior makes death an ally, using it to sharpen his present actions, future plans, and current state of being. (John Wineland , Precept 11)

🌀I'm just beginning to trust the "no expectations" (My beloved, my Oracle & Siren, she who must be ravished by my powerful, unwavering, and trustworthy masculine presence)


This month's practice, to breathe and feel the tension, pressure, friction, and stress, and then allowing it to become more beautiful than you can imagine:
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 wisdom is calling me? How am I resisting? What am I afraid of losing if I stop resisting?
    • 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.
      • Slow your breathing so that it is 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.