Apprenticeship to Love, Chapter 183, June 23, 2024

  • Today’s questions: What can you give, to remember the holiness of your brokenheartedness, and how it prepares you for love?
  • 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: 6am: 30 minutes: asanas (postures), pranayama (breathwork)



In the alley behind this garden, the strange music of young children crying. Not the crying for fear, but for the unfairness of life, that it should require any amount of disappointment in order that we become more than we imagine ourselves capable of being.
A teacher of men once said to me, Our work as men is to receive. All the rest that we do is preparation.

Today I read, from another teacher: When you stop confronting the world around you with your expectations, only then will it begin to offer new moments in your presence.

Again, the labyrinth and its puzzles.

I was not trained to prepare. I was trained to go forth and conquer. To take what I wanted. Politely, of course. But still, to allow the impulse of grabbing, taking, and then justifying this taking. All without any awareness of how there is a flow to be felt into, a very feminine way of giving birth to moments, a holiness in simply being alive. Maybe there were moments of that, in church as a child, when the cavernous house of worship would reverberate with a joyful noise unto the lord. As a child I may have intuited there was something going on here. A something that even then I knew had very little to do with the men and women in the room and everything to do with the —momentary, quickly-passing, barely-experienced— surrender of their voices to something beyond them. Knowing it was something else, and then —again, intuitively, without thinking about it— searching for it in the forests that I wandered as a child and as a young man, and now again, as a not-so-young man. Following a thread. Finding myself. Finding holy places.
It is still enough and there is enough solitude between us, when we are together and I have learned to become still, she allows herself to feel her hurt. Her anger. And I receive this as her gift. A moment that, following this thread of holiness that wends its way by way of heartbreak and confusion, appears. Unbidden.
I felt the calling of teaching long before I took steps to become one. When I did became a teacher, it was not because I thought I things to teach. It was because I knew I had things to learn.

I teach that I may prepare, that I may receive.
To give more than I believe myself capable of giving. To give —and even though the words of "no expectations" are spoken, the visceral presence of expectations in the offer of giving persists. Feeling this tension. Breathing into this tension. This too is my preparation to receive.

I am invited to lean back, by teachers of sacred intimacy. When my impulse is to lean into my desire and my feelings of expectation and deserving, lean back. Allow myself to become even more still than I can imagine myself being. Allow space to open between us. Allow time to stretch, between us. Allow an unbearable emptiness, silent and holy.
I am afraid.

This is not a bad thing, to feel afraid. Not a bad thing so long as I can keep my heart and my mind open through the feeling of this moment of being afraid.

So often in the days of grieving my wise friend, and as I hold this empty space for the anger and confusion of my beloved, the emptiness frightens me. How do I even breathe now? Where do I even stand? But the breathing comes. The standing comes. I find solace in the cathedral of the forest, where ravens call me and trees hold me. I am afraid, and I am alive, and I breathe and stand and sing. And listen.

I am alive, with so much to give.
In the midst of this a difficult gift: I am called to work with a younger man in a terrible moment of crisis. His crisis and how he itself a terrible reminder of how hard the breaking-open can be. How necessary.

As I teach this man the simplest ways to begin to become aware of himself, I remember. Now only dimly, but it's there, the memories: What it is to feel abject shame, hopelessness, confusion, impotence. Everything he has been taught, just as everything I had been taught: insufficient, nothing. Everything I thought was dear to me, stripped from me by my unpreparedness to receive. What was left? In that moment, it felt insufficient. Like nothing worth having.

Except this: a few bonds with a very few friends, one family member, my young children.

Like so many men, this man has even less. We are not good, most of us, at allowing our hearts to be held by others, and especially other men.

Like so many men, this man, like me, has the gift of children to redeem him. He is a father. I am a father. I have leaned on this as a crutch to get me through times when I've failed so many other tests of being a man —being a brother, a son, a friend, a husband.

I tell him, whatever else you do or think is important, in this moment of less-than-zero you have your children. From this moment of less-than-zero in the wreckage you have created, now you begin to create yourself as the father your children will remember. They will need you as never before. Mine needed me, and I needed them. Most of all, I needed them.
It's a week since the world celebrated Fathers' Day and I ask you to consider this: For most of us men who have the privilege of being fathers, it is the love of our children that redeems us. They offer us a moment of grace. Though we may fail to be the men and husbands the world has asked us to be, requires us to be, still we can find ourselves in the love and trust of our children.

To admit the grace of my children's love and trust required that I acknowledge myself as broken, as unworthy of this love and this trust. To be so aware of being broken is another part of my preparation to receive.
I see this younger-than-me man as so familiar. Like so many of us masculine-identified men, he has built a wall with his beautiful strong body. A wall that protects his heart from the world and from breaking. My wall was of the mind. Built, initially, as a bulwark against childhood grief at my sister's death, my parents' failure as husband and wife, my father's failure as a man protecting his family. Later, buttressed against my own flailings in intimacy and what I thought was love. Much later, as that which kept me from knowing that the real price of marriage, is sacrifice.

Every day that wall breaks open a little more. I'm afraid. But I've learned that I will breathe, that I will stand, and this is a holy moment, this breaking open.
I teach. To give, yes. Because I do know, thanks to my wise friend, that I have something useful to give.

I teach, more importantly, to become ever more intimately acquainted with my resistance to the broken-heartedness, the grieving that allows me to receive.
I am writing in the shadow of a very tall tree in my back garden. The ravens who live in the tree are talking. They are tricksters, the ravens. They are also, in their strange and mysterious way, the marriage-keepers. And this is hard for this man's mind to grasp: How to be both a trickster, and a husband to the sacrifice of marriage.


🌀You deserve nothing. (Kendra Cunov)

🌀 with the faith that every moment connects to your destiny... this produces the connections you appreciate with your life, and that the result is a benevolence that surrounds you at all times. (Guru Singh & Guruperkarma Kaur)

🌀This sadhana ...reminds you of the powerful creator that you alreay are. (Kundalini Yoga School, Create the Life You’re Meant to Live sadhana, Day 4)

🌀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)

🌀Everything you are now, I sacrificed myself for this. (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: What can you give, to remember the holiness of your brokenheartedness, and how it prepares you for love?
    • 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.