Why Bernie Sanders May Be the Youngest Presidential Candidate And the Most Qualified

544928_b2edaa294b_oAs the Presidential primaries begin and the candidates try and convince us that their opponents are not qualified, it might be good to consider what neuroscience might teach us about the aging brain.

According to a recent headline in the magazine Politico, “Clinton surrogate to demand Sanders release medical records.” The article goes on to say, “A top surrogate for Hillary Clinton, David Brock founder of the Clinton-aligned Correct the Record PAC, is prepping a new attack in an intensifying and increasingly personal war against rival Bernie Sanders — calling on the 74-year-old to release his medical records before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1.”

It’s true Bernie is 74 year’s old, while Donald Trump is 69 and Hillary Clinton is a mere 68. We certainly want the candidate who may be our next President to be able to function at a high level. But mental function may have more to do with the stresses and traumas we experience in life than the number of years we have lived. The youngest brain may be housed in the cranium of the oldest candidate. [Read more…]

7 Surprising Reasons Stress is Good for You

Good StressMost of us could claim to be experts on stress. We know the feelings of being rushed and overwhelmed, of running around trying to get more and more done with less and less time. But some of us are more expert than others. I’ve written two books on stress and the harm it does to our lives: MenAlive: Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools and Stress Relief for Men. I taught people how to recognize the damage stress did to our body, mind, and spirit and how to combat stress. But like many experts on stress I was wrong, wrong, wrong.  

Recently I’ve learned that there are different kinds of stress and not all stress is bad. In fact, stress can be good for us and rather than avoiding stress, reducing stress, or combating stress, we might learn how to use stress more effectively.  In my books I described the work of Dr. Robert Sapolsky, who did some of the early research on stress in the 1970s that many professionals, like myself, have used as foundational material in our own studies. Sapolsky’s work was the subject of the National Geographic documentary Killer Stress.   The film focused on groundbreaking research that revealed surprising facts about the impact of stress on our bodies. It showed how it can shrink our brains, add fat to our bellies, and even unravel our chromosomes.

Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. is another expert on stress. For years she counseled and taught people about the dangers of stress. “I told people that stress makes you sick, that it increases your risk of everything from the common cold to heart disease, depression, and addiction, and that it kills brain cells, damages your DNA, and makes you age faster.” In a TED talk that has garnered more than 10 million viewers she told people why she had changed her mind about stress and offered the latest research she found that lead to her book, The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It.

Here are some of the upsides of stress that we are now coming to recognize: [Read more…]

Independence Day and The Birth of Civ 2

dawning of civ2Last 4th of July Carlin and I decided to get out of town and watch the parade in Mendocino. I brought a book to read while we waited for the parade to begin–Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for the Future of the Earth by Alan Weisman. Weisman also wrote the widely acclaimed The World Without Us.

In his review of Countdown in the New York Times, Nathaniel Rich begins with these unsettling words:  “If we wanted to bring about the extinction of the human race as quickly as possible, how might we proceed? We could begin by destroying the planet’s atmosphere, making it incapable of supporting human life. We could invent bombs capable of obliterating the entire planet, and place them in the hands of those desperate enough to detonate them. We could bioengineer our main food sources — rice, wheat and corn — in such a way that a single disease could bring about catastrophic famine. But the most effective measure, counterintuitive as it may be, would be to increase our numbers. Population is what economists call a multiplier. The more people, the greater the likelihood of ecological collapse, nuclear war, plague.”

How can we keep from being overwhelmed with fear and anxiety facing these kinds of realities? Do we simply “eat, drink, and be merry” and deny that anything bad can happen?  Do we sink into depression and despair or check out with Alzheimer’s? If we believe humanity still has a “last, best hope,” what can we do to make a difference?

I’ve been wrestling with these questions since 1995 when I sat in a sweat lodge at the 4th Annual Men’s Leaders’ Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. During the third round I had a vision of how the “Ship of Civilization” was sinking. Fortunately, I also saw that many people survived in lifeboats and created a world where humans lived in balance with nature. The human species woke up from our destructive dream of domination and once again claimed our place in the community of life. [Read more…]

How to Make More Money, Work Less, Stress Less, and Live in the Country

Less Stess picCarlin and I moved to Willits in 1992 because I thought I was going to die. I had recently had surgery for life-threatening adrenal tumor. My doctors told me that I was fine now. The tumor had been removed and I had fully recovered from surgery. When I asked them why I had gotten the tumor in the first place, they just shrugged and said, “It just happened. Maybe something you were born with that finally caught up with you.” They never asked me about being increasingly stressed and depressed living the fast-paced life in Marin County.

Like many of my friends and colleagues I was busting my butt trying to make a living. It seemed the harder I worked and the faster I ran, the farther behind I got. The fact that we were living in a beautiful house and could go into San Francisco whenever we wanted a night in the big city blinded me to the fact that I was one of many living a rat-race of life.

I had just taken my car in for service and was jogging home (needed to get my exercise in whenever I could). All of a sudden my head felt like it was about to explode. The pain was so severe, it literally knocked me off my feet. It took the doctors a month to finally figure out what I had. “This falls under the category of rare diseases you learn about in medical school, but usually never see in your lifetime,” my doctor told me. “It’s called a pheochromocytoma, basically an adrenal tumor. What you felt when you thought your head was exploding was the sudden increase in blood pressure due to the upsurge of adrenaline.”

Even after the surgery I wasn’t satisfied with my doctor’s explanation that “it’s just one of those things. We don’t know why you got it, there was nothing you could have done to prevent it, and you should just be grateful that you are fine now.” Instead I consulted my own doctor, the one that lives inside my psyche, the one who often has deeper information that the specialists who are licensed to practice medicine. [Read more…]

Life, Death, and Leaving: The Next Step on the Journey

life and deathSome of the neighbors got together the other night to support our friend who is planning a service for her husband who died last week. We’ve known Scott since we moved here nearly 25 years ago. His death was a shock and a great sadness. His passing coincides for us with our decision to leave our home here in the country and to move into town.

When we first moved to our home in the hills it was motivated by a recent near-death experience. We had been living in Marin County and while jogging home one day after dropping my car off for repairs, I had a sudden surge of adrenaline and my head felt like it was about to explode. When I finally was able to make it home and saw my doctor, he was perplexed about what might have caused the symptoms.  Following numerous tests, it was determined that I had a rare kind of adrenal tumor that releases so much adrenaline into the system, it usually blows out a blood vessel in the brain and death is immediate.

That’s exactly how I felt, though I was lucky to be in good shape so I didn’t die, had the surgery, and recovered well. I asked my doctors why I had developed a tumor. Their Western-medicine answer was that “you were probably born with the potential and it just happened.” That didn’t satisfy me so I consulted the best specialist I knew. His name is Guntar and he’s been my inner healer for many years. I’ve found that our inner wisdom often provides answers that are not always available from modern medicine. I’ve used Guntar to help me deal with my depression, my bipolar illness, and my stresses, though I also use Western medicine as well. A combination of both usually gets me through a medical emergency to a more healthy balance. [Read more…]

5 Ways to Achieve Peak Prosperity as We Face the Biggest Economic, Environmental, and Energy Transformation of All Times

change machineAs Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a-changin’.” Indeed they are, big time. We are facing the biggest crisis in human history as we deal with our economy, environment, and energy use. Although we face great danger, there is also great opportunity. We often experience the impact of change through illness and pain—everything from Alzheimer’s and depression to anger and arthritis are on the rise.

In 1993 I participated in a Native American sweat lodge ceremony. During the sweat lodge I had a vision where I saw the sinking of the “Ship of Industrial Civilization” and the emergence of “Life Boats to a New Way of Life.” Since that time I’ve gotten a clearer understanding of the reality of this change and how we can all find our lifeboats, get on board, and create a new way of life that is more sustainable and satisfying than anything the world has ever known.

  1. Recognize the Opportunity Within the Crisis

If a raging tiger broke into our yard, we’d immediately recognize the danger and run for our lives or fight to survive. But economic, environmental, and energy changes occur slowly enough that our brain doesn’t register them. We have to use our creative imaginations to see the danger we are in.

In his book and video series, The Crash Course, economic researcher and futurist Chris Martenson describes the three major forces that are impacting our future: Economy, Energy, and Environment, how these big three Es interact, and how they determine our prosperity or decline.

Our Industrial Civilization has been driven by the use of more and more of the Earth’s resources.  As Richard Heinberg points out in his book Peak Everything, our use of fossil fuels is damaging the environment and we’re reaching the end of “cheap oil” that drives our energy economy. But if we understand the trends and address them wisely, Martenson and Heinberg believe we can move towards Peak Prosperity. [Read more…]

5 Surprising Reasons a Good Relationship Is the Best Stress Reliever in the World

The stress response was our secret weapon for success through most of human history. It saved our lives, making us run from predators and enabling us to take down prey. The problem is that we are no longer responding to a wild animal attack that might occur once every six months, but instead we are dealing with hundreds of stresses every day. Human beings are turning on the same life-saving physical reaction to cope with aging parents, unhappy teenagers, costly gasoline, increasing food prices, traffic jams, and job insecurity. As a result, our stress response never turns off, and we’re constantly marinated in corrosive hormones that used to prepare us for fight or flight, but now they just make us sick.

We know that stress is implicated in 80-90% of the illnesses we all suffer, everything from arthritis and Alzheimer’s to irritability and depression. Richard O’Connor, PhD, is an expert on treating stress and believes that our modern medical approach misses the mark. “Current practice overemphasizes control of symptoms: take an antidepressant; learn self-hypnosis for anxiety; take a pill to overcome your addiction to alcohol; find a doctor to give you drugs to make you feel less pain or discomfort. By focusing on symptoms like this, we play into the vicious circle of disease.”

There’s a better way to prevent chronic stress and I describe it in my new book, Stress Relief for Men: How to Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well.  In working with stressed-out men and women for more than 40 years, I’ve learned we need to change how we understand and deal with stress in our lives. Here are some important findings from my research: [Read more…]

Heart Coherence: 3 Simple Steps for Reducing Stress and Living Well

I’ve always prided myself on having a healthy heart. When I’d have my yearly health checkups, the doctor always commented that I had the low blood pressure of an athlete. I do keep in good shape, but I haven’t considered myself an athlete since high school when I played basketball and wrestled.

At age sixty-six, I decided I wanted to do some kind of physical challenge to recapture some of the feeling I used to get when I really stretched myself physically.  I decided to train for a marathon, something I had never attempted, even when I was young and in shape.  I trained for 6 months and thought I was good to go.

A week before the race, I ran into an unexpected problem. At odd times, my heart would begin speeding up and beating hard. I’d get a bit light-headed and short of breath. I’d never had anything like that happen before so I went to see my doctor. She didn’t think it was anything serious, but she sent me to a cardiologist to get a thorough checkup. I have to admit, I was more worried that the doctor wouldn’t let me run the marathon than that there might be something wrong with my heart.

But having been in medical school and being the worrying type, my mind wandered to problems like pulmonary arterial hypertension and chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI).  Luckily, I didn’t have any problems that the doctor could find. I decided the more likely reason for my speeding heart was the stress and worry about the race. I wondered if I could do it, whether I would injure myself, or make a fool of myself running so slowly the snails might pass me by. [Read more…]

Men and Stress: Saving Your Sanity and the Only Brain You’ll Ever Have

Although we have known for some time that stress can cause damage to the heart, the gastrointestinal tract, and other parts of the body, we have recently learned that stress can actually damage the brain.  J. Douglas Bremner, M.D., is Director of Mental Health Research at the Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center, and is editor of Trauma, Memory, and Dissociation and Stress Disorder.  In Bremner’s book Does Stress Damage the Brain? he explains, “Research in only the past decade or so has shown that extreme stress has effects on the brain that last throughout the lifespan.”

As a result many of those emotional distresses that we have, in the past, viewed as purely psychological, may be the result of physical damage to the brain.  “A group of psychiatric disorders related to stress, what I call trauma-spectrum disorders,” says Bremner, “could share in common a basis in brain abnormalities that are caused by stress.”

Bremner continues saying that “Trauma-spectrum disorders are those that are known to be linked to stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dissociative disorders, borderline personality disorders, adjustment disorder, depression, and anxiety.”  I would include the Irritable Male Syndrome as another one of these trauma-spectrum disorders.

Trauma-spectrum Disorders and Gender:  Why Women Cry and Men Run Away 

One of Dr. Bremner’s experiments helps us understand the difference between the way men and women experience these disorders.  He gathered a group of former depression patients.  With their permission, he gave them a beverage that was spiked with an amino acid that blocks the brain’s ability to absorb serotonin, the neurotransmitter that allows us to feel upbeat and happy.

Using the new brain scan techniques he took pictures of the subject’s brains to see if he could pinpoint the areas that were associated with depression. If we knew the areas of the brain associated with depression, he reasoned then we could come up with better medications and treatment approaches.  In looking at the color brain scans he was able to show that a loss of serotonin affects all three major areas of the brain.

What I found even more fascinating were the gender specific differences in the way men and women reacted to the potion that blocked the effects of the serotonin.  Typical of the males was John, a middle-aged businessman who had fully recovered from a bout of depression, thanks to a combination of psychotherapy and Prozac. Within minutes of drinking the brew, however, “He wanted to escape to a bar across the street,” recalls Bremner. “He didn’t express sadness … he didn’t really express anything. He just wanted to go to Larry’s Lounge.”  Contrast John’s response with that of female subjects like Sue, a mother of two in her mid-thirties. After taking the cocktail, “She began to cry and express her sadness over the loss of her father two years ago,” recalls Bremmer. “She was overwhelmed by her emotions.”

So we see a very real contrast in the ways men and women respond to a loss of the brain chemicals that keep our emotions in a healthy balance.  Men tend to withdraw and go for the alcohol to prevent us from feeling our pain.  Women tend to share their emotions with others.  I have found that chronic irritability is one of the principal ways men withdraw, rather than dealing directly with our feelings.

 Men and Stress:  What’s a Man to Do?

Men and stress can be a killer combination.  We can make decisions that help eliminate or decrease the stress response in life by once again paying attention to the physical, emotional, and chemical components of our health. Physical stressors include accidents, physical inactivity, and changes in temperature. Chemical stressors include sugar, high fat foods, cigarettes, alcohol, and toxic work or environment. Emotional stressors include fear, anger, guilt, depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

When we get out of balance with our lives, many of us overload on all aspects of our stress capacity, stopping our regular exercise regimen, eating poorly, and navigating family get-togethers or loneliness. Come up with a plan for how you can circumvent illness by planning ahead.

Make sure you are able to identify when your stress levels are high, and have some ways of interrupting the process. An increased heart rate, sweat, tense muscles, irritability, moodiness and dilated pupils are clear signs of fight or flight and an increased stress response.

When you notice these signs stop what you’re doing and check in with yourself for at least five minutes. Check in and see if HALT is a problem.  These letters stand for hungry, angry, lonely, tired.  These are some of the more common ways that stress manifests.  Ways to re-set the system are going for a brisk walk, taking a few deep breaths, visualizing yourself somewhere refreshing, relaxing tight muscles, and shifting your perception to a different space. This does not have to be a long task. Just check in and re-set every hour until you get the hang of it and feel some shift in your overall tension pattern.

You can practice using the energy healing tools I describe in my book, MenAlive:  Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing ToolsLearn about Earthing, Heart Coherence, Attachment Love, and Emotional Freedom Techniques (Also known as EFT or Tapping).  These simple tools combat stress in men and the women who love them.  You can get your brain back in balance and allow you to more effectively deal with the ups and downs of life without becoming overwhelmed or stressed out.

Please share your story or experience.

Together we heal.

Photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalshotgun/454380458/


The Masculine Mystique and Male Depression: Embracing Your Vocation of Destiny

 

There is something amiss with men today, and I’m still trying to figure it out.  I’ve been working with men, and the women who love them, for more than 40 years.  Actually, I’ve been on a quest to understand what is happening to men since 1948.  I was five years old that year and my father was 42.  I knew he was unhappy, but I never understood what troubled him.  He would disappear for long periods of time and when he was home he seemed irritable and angry much of the time.  My mother was perpetually worried—about him, about me, about money, about the state of the world.

The Masculine Mystique

I still remember the day my mother told me my father had been hospitalized.  She might have been crying, but she covered her emotions and simply told me my father was in a hospital.  She never explained exactly why he was there or when he would be coming home.  It was years later, when I was already in graduate school, that I found out he had tried to commit suicide.   My father was a writer and had boxes of journals with plays, poetry, radio shows, and short stories of all kinds.  I had read many of them, but they were hand-written and not easy to decipher.  When I came across a big box with personal journals I read them with a mounting excitement and apprehension.

Here is a note from my father’s first journal, written when he was his old self, full of hope and joy for life:

“I feel full of confidence in my writing ability.  I know for certain that someone will buy one of my radio shows.  I know for certain that I will get a good part in a play.  Last night I dreamt about candy.  There was more candy than I could eat.  Does it mean I’ll be rewarded for all my efforts?  Has it anything to do with sex?”

Journal number three was written a year later.  The economic depression of the time and the depression going on within his mind had come together.  His entries are more terse, staccato, and disheartening.  I still get tears when I feel how much was lost in such a short time.

“June 4th:

Your flesh crawls, your scalp wrinkles when you look around and see good writers, established writers, writers with credits a block long, unable to sell, unable to find work,  Yes, it’s enough to make anyone, blanch, turn pale and sicken.

August 15th:

Faster, faster, faster, I walk.  I plug away looking for work, anything to support my family.  I try, try, try, try, try.  I always try and never stop.

November 8th:

A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence, my hope, my belief in myself, has run completely out.  Middle aged, I stand and gaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried.  All around me I see the young in spirit, the young in heart, with ten times my confidence, twice my youth, ten times my fervor, twice my education.

I see them all, a whole army of them, battering at the same doors I’m battering, trying in the same field I’m trying.  Yes, on a Sunday morning in early November, my hope and my life stream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend.”

Six days after his November 8th entry, my father tried to kill himself.  Though he survived physically, emotionally he was never again the same.  For nearly 40 years I’ve treated more and more men who are facing similar stresses to those my father experienced.  The economic conditions and social dislocations that contributed to his feelings of shame and hopelessness continue to weigh heavily on men today.

The Feminine Mystique:  The Problem That Has No Name

I’ve been reading Birth 2012 and Beyond:  Humanity’s Great Shift to the Age of Conscious Evolution by Barbara Marx Hubbard.  In the book Hubbard, talks about those key figures that had influenced her personal and professional life.  The two primal people she mentions, the psychologist Abraham Maslow and feminist author Betty Friedan, also had a profound influence on me.

The Feminine Mystique

I was in college when I read The Feminine Mystique.  I still have my original copy written in 1963 with a quote of support from anthropologist Ashley Montague, “the wisest, sanest, soundest, most understanding and compassionate treatment of contemporary American woman’s greatest problem.”  In her book she talked about the fact that in the years following World War II American women seemed to have it all.  She described “the American housewife—freed by science and labor-saving appliances from the drudgery, the angers of childbirth and the illnesses of her grandmother.  She was healthy, beautiful, educated, concerned only about her husband, her children, her home.  She had true feminine fulfillment.”

Yet, with all that she had—a husband, children, a nice house, T.V. and new “labor-saving devices,” she was becoming increasingly unhappy.  In the secret confines of her heart and soul she knew there was more to her life than a husband, house, and children; and she felt ashamed for wanting more when she had so much.  “She was so ashamed to admit her dissatisfaction,” said Friedan, “that she never knew how many other women shared it.  If she tried to tell her husband, he didn’t understand what she was taking about.”  When she’d go to a psychiatrist for help, he didn’t understand either.  Until Friedan called it “the feminine mystique,” it was a “problem that has no name.”

Barbara Marx Hubbard remembers her reaction to The Feminine Mystique.  “When I read that book, I realized that I was depressed because I had accepted the role of wife and mother as my exclusive identity….Once I read Betty Friedan, I was encouraged by one major thought:  I knew I wasn’t alone.  And I wasn’t willing to accept this depression as normal for me.  The meme of the feminine mystique liberated and encouraged me to keep seeking.”  She shared the feelings of so many women of that time.  “So much was given to me, yet there was this feeling of depression caused by a loss of identity—a deep longing for something more.”

The Masculine Mystique:  Why Men Are Angry and Depressed

It doesn’t take social science research to prove that men are angry and depressed.  One measure of this trend is the increase in the rates of homicide and suicide we see in males.  According to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), homicide rates for males are 3 to 4 times higher than they are for females.  Among persons aged 20–24, the male homicide rate is 6 times higher than it is for females and it is much worse among minorities than among whites.   For those ages 10-19, the homicide rate is 10 times higher for blacks than for whites.

Differences in suicide rates are even more dramatic, according to the CDC.   Overall, males kill themselves at rates that are 4 times higher than females.  But as with homicide, certain groups are even more vulnerable.  The suicide rate for those ages 20-24 is 5.4 times higher for males than for females of the same age.  In the older age groups suicide is predominantly a male problem.  After retirement, the suicide rate skyrockets for men, but not for women.  Between the ages of 65-74 the rate is 6.3 times higher for males.  Between the ages of 75-84, the suicide rate is 7 times higher.  And for those over 85, it is nearly 18 times higher for men than it is for women.

Why are men so unhappy?  The Feminine Mystique told women that they should be satisfied with being wives, mothers, and homemakers.  The Masculine Mystique told men that they should be happy to compete with other men to find a woman and then compete with other “breadwinners” to create ever greater material wealth for themselves and their families.  We were told that “he who dies with the most toys, wins” and “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”  Both women and men become depressed trying to fit into roles that no longer work for us.

Men are losing out on three fronts.  First, as women become more self-sufficient, men don’t feel they are needed as the sole “breadwinner.”  Second, as the economy continues to move from one based on continued material growth to one based on sustainable living, more males are losing their jobs.  Third, as stresses from economic and ecological imbalances continue to increase, men are no longer able to succeed in love and work.  More women are seeking divorces than ever before and more men are stuck in dead-end jobs working longer and longer hours for less and less pay.

Anti-depressants and psychotherapy aren’t the answer.  Both the feminine mystique and the masculine mystique would have us believe that we are depressed because there is something wrong inside us—with our brains, our serotonin levels, or self-esteem.  The “experts” tell us that we need to take something or do something to better fit into the world as we know it.  Liberation for men and for women requires that we break free of the old constraints and find our true purpose and direction in life.  Depression isn’t merely an illness.  It is a wake-up call from the soul.

Depression is More About Loss of Love Than Loss of Serotonin

We’ve all seen the pharmaceutical ads for the latest antidepressants.  They show two nerve fibers greatly magnified with a few little black dots representing the neurotransmitter, serotonin, in the synapse between the nerves.  The ad informs us that too little serotonin causes depression and when we take their anti-depressant we immediately see many more little dots of serotonin flooding the synapse and connecting to the next nerve.  But as usual, there is more to the story than the pharmaceutical companies would have us believe.

Depression is About Loss of Love

Andrew Solomon is a well-known writer who has dealt with depression in his own life. Although he acknowledges that anti-depressants can be of help to some people who suffer, he describes the problem in much different terms than the simplified view we see in the ads.  In his comprehensive book, The Noonday Demon:  An Atlas of Depression, he begins the book this says:  “Depression,” says Solomon, “is the flaw in love.  To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair.  When it comes, it degrades one’s self and ultimately eclipses the capacity to give or receive affection.  It is the aloneness within us made manifest, and it destroys not only connection to others but also the ability to be peacefully alone with oneself….In depression, the meaninglessness of every enterprise and every emotion, the meaninglessness of life itself, becomes self-evident.  The only feeling left in this loveless state is insignificance.”

The Male Vocation of Destiny:   How to Love Ourselves, Each Other, and Embrace Our Calling in Life

Many men are ready to shed old roles, but don’t know what it means to be a good man in these changing times.  Barbara Marx Hubbard says we must embrace our “vocation of destiny.”  I suggest that our work requires that we learn to devote ourselves to three, inter-related, grand, causes.

  • We must learn to love and accept ourselves just the way we are.
  • We must learn to love our partner (wife, spouse, lover, or “special someone”)
  • We must learn to love and embrace our calling in life.

Part of the masculine (and feminine) mystique is that men must be a certain way and women must be different.  In fact, it tells us that the very things that men must be women cannot be and vice versa.

For instance, psychologist Ann Neitlich says that men must be and women cannot be:  Cool, stoic, economically powerful, physically strong, logical, aggressive, athletic, hairy, muscular, outspoken, rugged, and tough.

She says that men cannot be and women must be:  Nurturing, tender, feeling, loving, beautiful, soft, curvy, thin, passive, receptive, nice, sweet, hairless, quiet, giving, and apologetic.

It’s not easy going against the mystique of masculinity, but we must do so if we are going to truly love ourselves.  “When I get to heaven,” said the Hasidic rabbi Susya shortly before his death, “they will not ask me, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ but ‘Why were you not Susya?  Why did you not become what only you could become?’”  The first grand cause is to learn to love ourselves.

When I first heard Ann Neitlich talk about the things that women must be and the things that men cannot be, I wasn’t surprised to hear words like “beautiful, soft, curvy, thin, passive, receptive, and hairless.”  But I was surprised to hear words like “tender, feeling, and loving” included.  But the more I thought about it, I realized it was true.  Even qualities as important and universal as these, we are taught are for women, not for men.

I hate to admit it, but learning to love my wife and even my children at the same level that my wife loves me and our children, has been a real challenge.  The second great cause of our lives is to learn to love those we are closest too.  If we’re not married or “in relationship,” we all have someone special in our lives that we need to love more fully and unconditionally.

Finally, we have to learn to embrace and love our calling in life.  I believe that we each have a calling, something that goes far beyond our job or career, something that we were born to do.  It isn’t always easy to find, embrace, and love, but we must do so if we are going to be the men we’ve always wanted to be.  Barbara Marx Hubbard says, “So, the question for each of us is, ‘what is my unique way of expressing my essence that is both self-rewarding and of service to others?”

I’ve found that for many of us our calling emerges out of our wound.  It was my father’s attempted suicide when I was five that started me on the path of my life’s calling.  It wasn’t always obvious to me, but became more and more clear that my calling has to do with awakening the masculine soul and helping men, and the women who love them, to live long and well on this beautiful planet we all share.

As men, we must come home to the essence of who we are in order to love ourselves, our partner, and our calling.  We live at an important transition time in human history.  An old way of life is coming to an end and a new path is opening before us.  David C. Korten, author of The Great Turning calls it the transition from Empire to Earth Community.  Psychologist and philosopher Sam Keen puts the challenge we face simply:

“The radical vision of the future rests on the belief that the logic that determines either our survival or our destruction is simple:

1.    The new human vocation is to heal the Earth.
2.    We can only heal what we love.
3.    We can only love what we know.
4.    We can only know what we touch.”

Are you ready to step up and embrace the challenge to accept and love yourself?  Are you ready to reach out to others and love more fully and unconditionally?  Are you ready to seek out and embrace your life’s calling?  Let me hear from you.  We can help each other on our journey.  As my friend Joseph Jastrab reminds us, “The world needs a man’s heart.”

Jed

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/elsie/with/207892924/Creative commons

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