I like to find a balance between appreciating where I am in life and how far I have come.
I accept more and more that who I am is perfect, offset by the recognition that there is always room for more growth.
A lot of my growth occurs, at least up to a certain point, by going back and integrating left-behind aspects of myself. I intentionally use the word “integrate” rather than “heal” as, in my mind, there is nothing broken—there are just parts that have not yet fully matured or ripened.
To integrate something is to in-to-great it: to bring it forth into greatness, maturity, power.
As I reclaim the hurting and immature aspects of my former self and bring them forth into the now, what I discover is more strength, solidity and comfort being a man in the world.
I have been working on the following five things in my life:
1. Integrate how to feel
For many men—not all, by any means—feelings are in the realm of women and children; tears are for wimps and real men don’t cry.
This is changing, big time, and lots of men are stepping into what it is to feel; realizing that we have been numb and held back, denying ourselves the richness of our lives; seeing that to live without feelings is to live a life constrained, tight and restricted.
To integrate how to feel is to first reawaken the ability to feel within ourselves, to feel the absolute depths of whatever we have been suppressing.
It may be deep grief and we may need to have some seriously big sobbing sessions; I spent a week or so several hours a day curled up on the shower floor wailing my heart out.
It may be anger we have been withholding from the world, in which case we may need to feel fully the intensity of that; I walked around for a few weeks feeling incredible rage at everything and nothing. Yelling off the tops of cliffs really helped a lot—that and beating up my pillows.
Whatever we need to do to feel again—going there is so worth it. Life becomes more vibrant and colorful; an ability to tune into and experience women in a previously unknown way begins to arise.
I have seen some men fall into a trap: they reawaken this capacity to feel but stop in this wonderland, becoming flow boys lost in a world of feelings. They are nice to hang out with yet never really inspire any kind of deep trust.
To integrate feelings is to own them, include them in our experience and then transcend them; to allow our feelings to be just another source of information entering into the stream of our being—something we can observe, feel and then choose to act on, or not.
They aren’t the only source of information and they don’t guide us, just inform us.
2. Integrate a sense of purpose
I am discovering, almost daily, that the most pleasure I have in this life is in living with a sense of purpose. It doesn’t matter so much what I am doing, only that it is aligned with what I stand for.
To integrate a sense of purpose is to investigate, inwardly, what it is that inspires us most.
We have all grown up with the outside world telling us what we should do, what we should be or, at least, what they expect us to be. Parents, schools, peers and lovers all provide pressure, genuinely wanting the best for us and often unwittingly telling us what they think that is. Throw in the media—TV shows, movies and magazines—bombarding us with statements of what success is.
And as men, we want to be successful.
The questions arise, “What is success? Is it what society tells us it is? Or can it be something else?”
The opportunity here is to become aligned with an inwardly driven determination. Success is our own sense of self-worth and it arises from knowing that what we do is right for us.
It may, and probably will, change over time and that doesn’t seem to be important. What is important is that we are living from the heart.
To do that we have to find our own heart first.
3. Integrate relationship with sex
Like with the sense of purpose above, the world around us tells us what we should be like to be a sexually active man.
The media gives the impression that getting the hottest women is the realm of the most successful men, and many of us crave that hot status symbol. The bragging and boasting with our male friends started in high school and subtly instil us with a sense of competition in which numbers matter. Add to that a biological urge to procreate and spread our seed far and wide—or, at least, that is what we are told is the urge we have as men (and often the excuse we use for our promiscuous behavior).
What we end up is this big complicated and tangled mess of sexuality where I think many of us men are not even really sure (if we to take the time to investigate more deeply) what we actually want and what really turns us on.
Like the comedian Louis C.K. says in one of his acts, “Men will fuck even when they don’t want to.”
When I heard that it was a hilarious and slightly painful stab of truth.
To integrate our relationship with sex is to become suspicious of all our motivations around the act. We consider that, just like our feelings, our true sexual nature is numb and muted and that what lies under this constant and endless urge to ejaculate is something far more powerful, sensual and exciting than we ever could have imagine.
This may mean exploring fantasies and repressed urges. It may also mean stepping away from sex for a while as we contemplate our internally driven desires.
Regardless of the path we take in our investigations, the outcome is a sexuality that is self-determined. We fuck because we want to; because our hearts, bodies and minds are aligned in that moment of connection and pleasure. The voices of societal pressures are nothing more than a distant buzz, no longer influencing us in any way.
Awaken the dragon.
4. Integrate relationship with parents
Ah, our parents: the source of our life and, quite possibly, our frustrations too—with the ability to trigger us faster than a speeding bullet. For many of us seeing our parents, as much as we might love them when they aren’t around, is a challenge. We all have our stories of disastrous family gatherings, feel unheard, struggle against their expectations of us or whatever other ways our relationship with them might play out.
The way we relate to our own parents is going to have a huge impact on our lives, including any romantic relationships we might find ourselves in. If we haven’t yet integrated our relationship with mummy and daddy, likely we will turn our partners into some combination of the two, projecting our unresolved issues all over them and then wondering why our relationships suffer.
Our relationships with our mothers tend to reflect our ability to nurture ourselves. If there are sticking points and discomfort with our mothers then likely there are places in our own lives that we are neglecting.
Our relationships with our fathers tend to reflect our inner guidance. If we can’t have a civil engagement with dad then quite possibly there are places in our own lives that are confused and uncertain.
We know that we have done real work in integrating our relationships with our parents when they become our friends and it is enjoyable, easy and pleasurable to be in their company.
I like the idea that first we work on the relationships with ourselves, then we work on the relationships with our parents and finally we can engage the real, challenging and rewarding path of working deeply with another.
5. Integrate neediness
To me, people who are fully living with their integrity are people who need nothing from the world to feel good about themselves. This does not meaning being free of wanting—we can want we just don’t expect to get. The joy is in owning and expressing the desire, whether it is fulfilled or not is secondary and our inner beings stay centered regardless.
Where in our lives do we need something from the world?
It’s easy to see, because the moment we don’t get it our spoiled brat will come out in full force; we will be upset in some way or another. Perhaps we’ll indignant, angry or claim attention by attempting (my personal tendency) to play the victim and elicit sympathy from those around us.
We may numb ourselves through drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and television.
When we watch our own reactions, we begin to catch our neediness in the moment it arises. Like a detective we can track these down to the roots and unearth them from our minds, freeing ourselves for upwellings of appreciation. We may begin to see that we already always have everything we could possibly ever need, that it is all given.
The universe owes us nothing for it already gave us everything.
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Editor: Paige Vignola/Bryonie Wise