The view from my sailboat, looking west at Vancouver Island

Apprenticeship to Love, Chapter 178, June 18, 2024

  • Today’s questions: How are you allowing yourself to feel the bitterness of the strange that sweetens the familiar in this moment of living?
  • 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: 5am: 60 minutes: asanas (postures), pranayama (breathwork)


The labyrinth. Every time I am here, it is new and strange.

It's a recurrent motif in my life, the labyrinth. I became aware of it during the first trainwreck of my adult life, in my late 30s. It's not just the getting lost and seeking of Ariadne's thread; it's the spiral of awareness. Every time I find myself here, lost in the turns and tunnels of this life, I meet what is familiar, yet now strange, because I know —just a little more each turn— what I am going through.

One of the gifts of the labyrinth: to see the strange in the familiar, and to become wiling to bring my best forward to meet and welcome this strangeness. And always, She —the great unknown magic of movement and flow and change and disruption and testing that animates and gives meaning and beauty to my life— is the source. And usually, perhaps always, She takes the shape of the woman I love, the woman I am always learning how to love. Always learning because she changes shape and the how of loving must necessarily shift with her strangeness.


I learned something vital when I was a younger man, in that first conscious encounter with the labyrinth. This was also the first great undoing of my life as a man attempting to be a husband. I now understand this as the greatest calling a man can have in this life. Certainly this man. In that dark and confusing time I was so vulnerable and tender to the world. It was only by the grace of that tenderness that I learned that what I need rarely looks like what I want.

And also: that what I need arrives in its own time.


My wise friend has died. I am grieving. I've learned to allow myself to receive everything that this moment brings me, all the treasures of this strange moment.

My job here, now, in this particular turn of the labyrinth, in my most grasping moments of grief and thinking I know what I most need, is to "lean back." To breathe and, stepping back from wanting everything to be different, to prepare myself, and to receive it all. I don't find this easy. It is strange, to be in this moment and not clutching at the familiar, some of it no longer there for me to hold. But I'm breathing it in, and allowing something to draw me through.


I, like so many of us masculine-identified men, am often very good with plans and strategies and executions of plans and strategies. Some of us learn how to wait. To prepare. To sit. To allow what is ours to come to us, without forcing a solution. I was not one of these. It's perhaps why I could never enjoy fishing. I would not be patient. It is an art, and, perhaps, I learn it now.

I cannot force Ariadne's thread to appear to draw me through this labyrinth. I must sit. I must let her bring it to me, must allow her to leave it where I will stumble upon it when least expected. This much I have learned.


Significantly, one of the last pieces of advice my strange and wise friend left me had to do with patience. He'd already helped me learn to trust myself and my own understanding of what was alive and real for me. Where others intimated my foolishness in matters of the heart as something to be overcome, he encouraged it.

Some time ago he'd said to me, There is a golden thread between you. It was in response to a strangeness that I struggled to accept about myself. Now I know that was speaking of the thread of Ariadne that helps me find my way through the lostness of my life. It is a thread that reveals itself not in my seeking, but in my not-seeking. It's why he advocated that I sit and meditate in the face of so many invitations to busy myself with striving and succeeding. In is only in my sitting and allowing the unknown, the strangeness, the uncomfortable, to come to me that I will be myself.

So long as she feels your need as neediness, he said, so long will she be closed to you.

So long as I occlude my vision with my need will this thread she offers be lost to me.


"We lead by following the follow." The tango axiom again.

Ariadne's thread is not so much to be tugged as to be tugged-by. Drawn by. My heart must be broken open to feel this subtle pull, broken open and confident in what it now feels. As I grieve my friend I feel this pull acutely.


She is beginning to trust me —how long has this taken? Another of the subtle gifts of this lost wandering that cannot be chased or strategized.

And, she is beginning to to trust herself with me, again. She shows me her pearls, the treasures she holds for me: anger, resentment, disappointment, complaint with me, and with herself for trusting me.

It's at the end of our evening together. I can feel it, in this just-before-parting revealing of her heart: she trusts me. Enough to show me how much she regrets failing herself by trusting me.

Is this what I wanted? Her anger and blame and self-recrimination?



What I need is her trust. Her vulnerability. This is the thread. To know that she feels safe to be angry. Safe to show her tears welling. Safe to tell me her heart is closed.

And everything she offers is this vulnerability. It is love, but in a form too strange for a younger self to have received, even a few months younger it would have been too strange for me to allow into my heart.

You are, she said to me not so long ago, not like that anymore.

It's a hard habit to break, this fear of the strange gifts of intimacy, of love. I know that I am here, now, with my heart broken open to receive and enjoy receiving her strange gifts, only by the grace of practice and preparation and the wisdom of my friend. I am ready now, today and the other end of evening, to see the beauty and the vulnerability of this stranger, and to welcome her.

In this expression of regret and grief, in this trust, and in my receiving of these strange gifts, here I am most alive, and here love lies.


We are, all of us, and certainly by our middle and later years, broken by life. Not broken by love. But by our resistance to love, our expectations of love, our preconditions for love.

We've learned to become careful, tentative. We protect what we think is the tenderness of our hearts but is instead our unwillingness to fully sacrifice ourselves to love.


There are so many ways that love knocks on the doors of our hearts. Few are celebrated.

For the rest —the form of love as grief, as yearning, for example— they are strangers, born by men and women and circumstances with strange gifts that terrify.

We are not schooled in grief or yearning as ways to help us better become and know ourselves. We are, instead, schooled in how to keep their strangeness from our doors. And still, these strangers knock. They are inevitable. Yet we try to hide.


So I've hidden myself, my heart. I've retreated, so often, back into the labyrinth and away from the golden thread that could and will —when I allow— draw me to my own strange capacity to love. This is a foolish capacity, to open my heart, again and again, to breaking and grief and yearning and wonder. We do not, in this culture, suffer fools so much as we suffer the futility of denying love in our veneration and celebration of romance and sex and pleasure as antidotes to love.

I have been chided for my foolishness. I have doubted it. But even as I have tried to to retreat something calls me —perhaps this golden thread? Again, I have to thank my wise friend, for encouraging my foolishness and for encouraging me to trust my own strangeness. It was one of his greatest gifts to me, to warn me away from any familiar comforts that I might and often did choose as distraction, and to allow myself to be drawn by the golden thread.

He would not say this, but I think he would agree: Love is the prize of the fool. Love is only known when we step into the unknown with our hearts open and tender and afraid. It is a risk. Few of us are practiced in the deep breath it takes to open so deep, to feel so much strangeness, and not close.


She, who regrets her recklessness, made her own foolish gamble and revealed herself at the end of our evening. What had I wanted for that evening? Just to stay with her strangeness and not close in fear or urgency. To "lean back" from my wanting, to receive what flows into the space of my need that I've allowed to open. To, perhaps, with luck and practice, encounter what strange treasures lay hidden between us.

Was I able to do that?

Did I hold her treasures gently enough, carefully enough, to hear love speaking?

This is when I most miss my wise strange friend. I would walk with him and talk with him and he would tell me I am his own in this strange labyrinthine garden of life. These are the questions I long to put to him. Now I must answer them for myself.

I am afraid. He was with me for so many years as I walked with strange and terrifying feelings in this life. Now I am alone. Not entirely, of course. I still have his spirit and his joy for life, as well as his ever-present awareness of death. I have his shoulders on which to stand. And here is another turn of labyrinth: to trust myself to stand that tall, to feel so deeply, to receive so much that is strange, and to know it all as love, and to share it all as love.


🌀...'out of line' is a good thing to be when your goal is to align with the unusual, the opportunities that have never existed before, the unknown, radical, and creative solutions... (Guru Singh & Guruperkarma Kaur)

🌀x (Kundalini Yoga School, Create the Life You’re Meant to Live sadhana, Day 3)

🌀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)

🌀People want to hear what you have to say. / I'm always impressed by you. (My beloved, my Oracle & Siren)


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: How are you allowing yourself to feel the bitterness of the strange that sweetens the familiar in this moment of living?
    • 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.


Part IV of my conversations with men's coach Leroy Gordon about using the "four archetypes" of men's work. Also available, with the other three parts, on the podcast at