Author Jay Cradeur shares his views on the subtle power of the feminine that is rarely acknowledged by the masculine.
I wrote the following words several years ago. At the time, all of my experiences with women were in America. Having spent the last 15 months in Southeast Asia, I have now also experienced women from different cultures (Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore). I made many friends during my travels, with women in their twenties to women in their late sixties. I am even more convinced that what I wrote then is still accurate and represents a fundamental truth between men and women. Check it out and see what you think.
“It is a challenge to find a man who truly respects the wisdom of women. Most men, mired in the pathology of patriarchy, can’t see clearly through the darkened lens. Until a man surrenders to the power/divine connection/creative force of a woman (any woman, not necessarily his partner) and is humbled by the living goddess within the feminine form, he will hold women as a second-class citizen. Social conditioning makes it so.
Women, on the other hand, in order to warrant said respect, must do the heavy lifting to find and nurture the goddess within. European women do this better than our American sisters. Sadly, many women simply do not know of the power they wield. Therefore they invite the patriarchal dismissal, unaware that a man in their life is a choice and not a result of need.
Women living fully within their power are the most beautiful beings in creation. Only a humble man will ever experience the joy of co-creating with the feminine in a true organic partnership.”
I used the word Goddess is another post I recently wrote and received some masculine backlash. Many men don’t seem to want to acknowledge the divinity that lies within both men and women. I saw this dynamic on powerful display in Thailand. The Thai men I met and observed showed very little respect to the women. They do not see what you or I may see. There is a massive undercurrent of powerful feminine energy that lies dormant and unrecognized in the world. It is for this reason, I believe, many Thai women prefer to find a ‘farong’ or westerner as a life partner. To the Thai women, we the westerners offer a far more appreciate, loving and nurturing relationship. While it is true that many Thai women have finances as their primary motive for a farong, this does not denigrate the authentic attraction to and human need for love and adoration from one’s partner.
I wrote the original piece for I had been guilty of objectifying women. I still objectify women from time to time. I see this in myself, and work to remember that we are all equal, and that when I am seeing things clearly and in truth, the feminine in my life show up with a splendor and grace and generosity that still takes my breath away. I am inviting a mutual respect back and forth across the sexual divide. Men are put on a pedestal from birth just for being born a man. The invitation is to bring all of us up onto the pedestal where we all deserve, as a matter of birthright, to be.
The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.
Author Jay Cradeur shares the rare opportunity of working with men over the past 15 years and the powerful impact on relationships.
Many men, especially young men, look for a woman to fill a hole they feel inside. When we do not feel whole, we tend to look outside of ourselves for something, anything, to make us feel complete. This is a common first reaction on the path to personal growth and healing. This is also the source of most addictions. Alcohol and drugs and female companionship and sex can give us a wonderful feeling of euphoria that we latch onto and hold onto for dear life. The hole gets filled, albeit temporarily, and so we go back to the well time and time again, for that same feeling of peace, serenity, wholeness, and connection. Eventually the well runs dry!
“We are a generation of men raised by women, I wonder if a woman is really the answer we need?”
From an early age, the American male is led to believe that a woman, or a relationship, or a marriage is a valid source of joy and satisfaction. As men, many of us not feeling whole and self-sustaining, we have looked to a woman to fill a void. Rather than feel the pain of being alone, or looking within to find our answers, our bliss, our contentment, we may grasp after a woman and suck all the life force out of her that we can. She will get tired of it and leave. Think about it, how many women have you “vampired”? If I am brutally honest with myself, I can count quite a few.
There is strong and popular misconception, that being in the company of a woman is the answer to a man’s woes. There is a seminal line in the movie Fight Club with Brad Pitt who plays a fascinating character named Tyler Durden. He says, “We are a generation of men raised by women, I wonder if a woman is really the answer we need.” That is a powerful question and one that bears looking into on a deep level. Why do we assume a woman and a relationship is the key to our happiness?
In order to become whole, a man must learn to become a father and a mother to himself. And of those, being a mother to himself is the most important.
I remember being a young whippersnapper, attending Catholic school. I don’t actually remember if it was at school, from my parents, or it was just something in the cultural air, but the life path that was set up for me, and which I embraced with exuberant boyhood enthusiasm was go to school, get a degree, get a good job, get married, and have children. By the age of 25, I had done it all. I was married, living in the San Francisco bay area, one child born and another on the way, I had a good corporate job, and then the bubble burst. I thought to myself, “Is this all there is?” I felt bamboozled. It was this feeling of profound discontent that initiated my quest for something deeper.
“The power of quiet is great. It generates the same feelings in everything one encounters. It vibrates with the cosmic rhythm of oneness. It is everywhere, available to anyone at any time. It is us, the force within that makes us stable, trusting, and loving. It is contemplation contemplating us. Peace is letting go – returning to the silence that cannot enter the realm of words, because it is too pure to be contained in words. This why the tree, the stone, the river, and the mountain are quiet.” Malidoma Patrice Some, Of Water And Spirit.
The best company a man can keep is with himself, with his quiet knowing, with his inner peace, with his silent power. In order to become whole, a man must learn to become a father and a mother to himself. And of those, being a mother to himself is the most important. If you can provide yourself with the motherly nurturing that we all need from time to time, you are home free. Once you can be a loving mother to yourself, you don’t need a woman to hold your hand as you walk this path of life. You become independent and strong. Rather than having a relationship provide you with a mother who harps on you and praises you, you are open to the real joy and the real juice of a relationship of equals.
She wants to feel your unwavering presence, and your humor, and your knowing touch. Period.
In the pursuit of personal growth and inner peace, the next best company a man can keep is with other men. The best men to keep company with are strong men, men who will tell you the truth and challenge you each step of the way. You want men who will tell you “That’s Bullshit!” It is hard to find good men, trustable men, men who you can count on to deliver the goods. I ask myself this question about other men: If we were at war together, and gun shots were flying over my head, would I trust this man to cover my back? If you can answer that question with a “Yes,” that man is a true gift in your life. In the company of men, we men can gather great wisdom about ourselves. By listening to the stories of other men, we hear stories about our own life. We are all the same, and we have the same “stuff” to deal with: women, work, mission, purpose, our dads, sex and desire. Together as men, we can arrive at core truths that will help to set us free. We won’t get that same experience from our women.
Most women I know don’t really like spending time with their man in conversation about their relationship. That is not being in relationship: rather it is talking about it. Frankly, women I have spoken to about this have reported they would rather we men sort out our issues on our own. It’s not their job. In the company of strong men, we can do that job together and meet women on the other side. Women would rather we come to them already full, deeply present and with a clear direction for our lives. That is living. And in that space that we as men can create, a woman is free to be her radiant self, a free flowing fountain of love. She doesn’t want to be bogged down. Who does? Life is short. She wants to feel your unwavering presence, and your humor, and your knowing touch. Period.
In the company of men, there is opportunity for powerful insight and growth. It is a gift of strength and independence.
Many men, most men I know, don’t experience good close strong male camaraderie. It’s heartbreaking. Having discovered the power of a group of committed and focused men in my forties, I realize there is nothing like it. Men in a man’s life are a rare and precious gift. It is a simple and beautiful experience. I hear men talk about how they yearn for good male companionship, about how they feel alone and isolated. Many look at the state of the world, wars and fear of terrorism rampant, and instead of sharing heart felt feelings, they experience “guy chat” where the topics are often beer, boardrooms, and blowjobs.
Men are waking up to this truth more than ever. In the company of men, there is a comfort, an at-easeness, which men don’t feel around a woman. We can breathe, and really relax, and know that we are among our own. In the company of men, there is opportunity for powerful insight and growth. It is a gift of strength and independence. This is a gift you can share with everyone you meet. It is a gift you can take back to a woman, if she is ready for it. It is your choice.
The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.
Author Jay Cradeur shares his visceral and heart warming experiences in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigion, Vietnam.
Upon arriving at the Ho Chi Minh International Airport, obtaining my highly valued and well earned “visa on demand”, passing through customs and finally walking out to breathe the Vietnamese air, I was immediately struck by the number of people waiting outside for loved ones or for potential customers. It felt like a full ocean of people. It was also raining hard, what I would call torrential rains, the kind of rain that hits your windshield as if someone had dropped a bucket from overhead. And then there was the music. My taxi driver was playing on his radio what I assume was a traditional Vietnamese tune; with a very simple sing song rhythm to it. The scooters also made a lasting impression for they were everywhere. They dodge and dart through this vibrant city like a cat swats at a toy placed above its head.
Each day out walking about is akin to an ongoing sweat lodge, uncomfortable at times but always worth the trouble.
Now having landed, I walked the streets with sidewalks largely rough and uneven, and the smell of grilled meats wafting here and there, I noticed the remarkable human diversity on display. There are not too many Americans, nor Europeans, nor Australians. Amongst the Vietnamese people, I saw the affluent in their big cars, the workers zipping around on their scooters, the tourists on foot learning how to negotiate through said scooters, the impoverished, who unabashedly hit me up for money time and again, and the physically deformed. I have never seen so many people with such physical challenges. There was the little girl with no arms, who approached me to buy a lottery ticket, which she held under her chin. There was the very old woman who had a body that looked like a reverse L, bent at a 90-degree angle. There was the older man missing both legs, who walked on his knees, in tennis shoes, with the help of two canes, and wearing a huge smile on his face. The human spirit is remarkable.
It is hot here. Let me say that again, it is hot and humid here. I like to walk. During my first day here, I put in 5 miles, going from restaurant to bar to restaurant and back to my hotel. My Saigon body is always wet. I don’t know if the body adjusts and sweats less over time, but as I felt the drip sliding down my back, or the chilling cold sensation of air conditioning pelting my sweat laden body, I remembered that sweating is an excellent form of purification. Each day out walking about is akin to an ongoing sweat lodge, uncomfortable at times but always worth the trouble.
As my local tour guide explained it, people are more interested in sharing coffee before work and having drinks after work, than what they do during work.
The food is unique and varied and most often accompanied by some cigarette smoke. Last night, I ate barbecue. Each table had a small gas-burning platter in the center. We ordered some beef, and a variety of fish and shrimp, all brought raw to the table. The platter is then coated in oil, and then without any further adieu, let the barbecuing begin. The flame is quite hot, so it does not take long for a piece of filet mignon wrapped in bacon to become an excellent accompaniment to a cold swig of Tiger beer. We also shared a salad and some white rice, and finished off with a nice crepe desert filled with bananas, vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. I have had some of my most memorable soups here (Pho), and a pancake wrap filled with vegetables and duck (Banh xeo), and don’t even get me started on the unbelievable fresh sushi and in particular the lightly grilled salmon underbelly special.
But all of this covers up what I most strongly observed. The Vietnamese are a very warm and loving people. They are much more of a social animal than my American brethren. As my local tour guide explained it, people are more interested in sharing coffee before work and having drinks after work, than what they do during work. I saw this from the window of my hotel room. I awoke my first night at 4AM. There across the street was a small group of people, sitting on chairs, drinking coffee, talking and preparing items for the coming day. Again in the late afternoon, small tables seemed to appear out of nowhere, and groups of men, families, and old women, all were drinking, laughing, sharing and relating. Interestingly, I did not see many smart phones amongst these socializers. Say what – old school conversation? You can still find it in some places in the world. Vietnam is a place I could easily call home.
The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.
Author Jay Cradeur shares a few simple strategies to reduce spending and increase the love you share and feel during the ever-increasing commercialized holiday season.
I enjoy the holidays. I grew up in America where the end of the year brings the two big holidays. I recall our family gatherings during Thanksgiving. We met at my grandparent’s home in Piedmont, California. Aunts, Uncles, Great Aunts and Uncles, friends of my grandparents all gathered once a year. I remember eating good food, watching the Wizard of Oz and playing Charades. Christmas also brings about memories of giddy joy upon waking up early in the morning to find gifts under the tree.
Years ago, I learned to say “No” to the social and familial pressure to buy everyone a gift.
As I have aged over the years, it feels Christmas has become far more commercial. Rather than being my bucolic experience of childhood, it feels bloated and excessive. When I see people running on top of each other to get a good deal on a 32 inch television at Wal-Mart on Black Friday, I wonder how it all went so sideways. My children are all grown and out of the house, so the days of big gift buying have passed me by. However, the pressure of the holiday season is still there. It is a pressure to get everyone I have ever known, a gift. Here I present to you a few simple ways to reduce your spending, and recapture the real spirit of Christmas.
#1 Just Say No.
There are a dozen or so people in my life to whom I truly want to give a gift. Then there are another dozen or so that expect a gift. Years ago, I learned to say “No” to the social and familial pressure to buy everyone a gift. I let everyone know that I was planning to cut back and commensurately, I was not expecting anyone to get me a gift. This way, only those that authentically wanted to get me a gift would follow through. I gave my gifts to those that I authentically wanted to have my gift. This cut my gift expense in half.
#2 Give Gifts of the Heart
Ten years ago, I began an institution called ‘Jay’s X-Mas Playlist.’ At the time, people were still using CDs. My first step was to go over the ‘best of the year’ music lists provided by magazines like Rolling Stone. If I saw a song that I might like, I would then go to Itunes and listen to a sample. If I liked it, I would pay the minimal fee and download the song. Each playlist would also have some old classics, some of my favorite music’ like Dock of the Bay’ by Otis Redding or ‘Brandy’ by Looking Glass. Once you have your songs, then you need to put them in an order that has a flow to it. The first few song set the tone. I then select some music that is more mellow, and then follow those songs with more vibrant music, and then end with songs that captures the essence of the whole. Here, for example, is my playlist from 2010:
- I Phone 4 Don’t Care – The Bears
- If You Could Read My Mind – Johnny Cash
- Farther Along – Marideth Sisco
- Send In The Clowns – Frank Sinatra
- The Hands of Angels – Elton John and Leon Russell
- Nobody’s Fault But Mine – Willie Nelson
- For The Good Times – Jamey Johnson
- Round Midnight – Thelonius Monk
- Flume – Peter Gabriel
- Wholy Holy – Marvin Gaye
- When The Saints Go Marching In – Bruce Springsteen
- Slippin and Sliden – Justin Townes Earle
- Me and Bobby McGee – Kris Kristofferson
- Femme Fetal – Velvet Underground
- Moon Dreams – Miles Davis
- Tumblin Dice (Live) – Rolling Stones
- Angel Dance – Robert Plant / Band of Joy
- Long Road Home – Sheryl Crowe
- Stoney End – Barbra Streisand
- Tupelo Honey – Van Morrison.
It is unique joy to listen to a playlist that someone you know created. I have found the music is always a welcome gift, and far less expensive than traditional gifts. If you happen to be a writer, you might add a short poem in addition to the playlist. Icing on top of the cake!
#3 Reduce Electric Lights
Cars can be so isolating. When I was on the train, I had 50 or so fellow passengers, all on a journey together. It felt good.
I remember being shocked by my electric bill in January. All of those lights on the house, and all of the lights inside the house, can add up to a significant energy spike. You can still be festive without lighting up the neighborhood. I have also found that candles inside the house, rather than lights, adds a very magical feel to the holidays. Candle light is very soothing during a stressful holiday season.
Bonus Idea – Take Public Transportation
I have recently begun to use more public transportation. Now that gas prices are quite low, this idea may not be a big money saver, but it does make an impact on your overall energy output. I also find that using public transportation is a soul satisfying experience. I recently took an Amtrak train from Sacramento to Oakland. I was able to relax, look at the beautiful California landscapes, work on my laptop, and eat my apple and almonds. Public transportation also forces you to interact with your fellow human beings. Cars can be so isolating. When I was on the train, I had 50 or so fellow passengers, all on a journey together. It felt good.
If you have any more ideas for reducing holiday expenses, please share in the comments below. I wish you all a very happy and warm holiday season. I now will begin working on my ‘Jay’s X-mas Playlist 2015’. The only songs I know that I will add are Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk‘ and the Rolling Stones ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’. I better get to work. Happy New Year!
The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.
Author Jay Cradeur Shares Five Powerful, Educational, Introspective, Fascinating And Compelling Documentaries That Will Challenge You.
I love to watch a great movie. There are few things is life that give me more pleasure. I usually watch in the evening at the end of the day, lying on my bed, my MacBook propped up on a pillow, my reading glasses on and earbuds firmly in place. A movie, done well, can transport me to another world. Normal reality ceases to exist. I am there, in the movie, with the characters, living their life, experiencing their joys, fears and tears as we march together for a couple of hours, hand in hand on this crazy train ride called life. Documentaries have the rare opportunity to not only transport, but also whack me with powerful and potent doses of reality. I learn, I may cringe, I may be inspired and I may be saddened. Regardless, after a great documentary, I am changed. While watching all of the five documentaries featured here, I took a deep dive into myself. I made realizations and expounded on profound truths. I hope you do too.
This movie focuses on the life of Ayrton Senna who was an Formula One racing car driver. He won the world championship three times before his tragic death at the age of 34. The movie also focuses on his rivalry with Alain Prost. This movie will inspire you. Before I saw Senna, I had no idea of the extent of the physical toll car racing exacts on a driver. Indeed, it seemed many of Senna’s racing wins were a result of pure self-will. If you are like me, and you never heard of Ayrton Senna, nor knew much about Formula One racing, then you will be astounded and impressed on many fronts. The conclusion of the film both angered and saddened me. I am feeling thoroughly tossed just now remembering this film.
I am a huge Muhammad Ali fan. I remember being a young boy, attending a Boy Scout meeting in the sacristy of Christ the King Catholic Church, and ducking outside so I could listen to the first Ali Frazier fight (called the Fight of the Century) on my little AM radio. This movie captures Ali past his physical prime, but firmly embracing his mental mastery. The Rumble In The Jungle in Zaire, Africa is one of the sports most legendary fights. Ali’s opponent, a young and angry George Foreman, was the heavy favorite. Ali was the fan favorite. The entire country of Zaire supported Ali. Who knew what Rope a Dope was nor how Ali would use it to win this magical fight? Rarely do we get an inside look at the the profound impact of words and energy on the trajectory of an event. Featuring commentary by George Plimpton and Norman Mailer, this film will have you on your feet. “Ali, boom-bah-yea”
I watched this film about a year ago. It is hard to shake. It is a tough film to watch. This documentary features Indonesian death squad leaders and challenges them to reenact their mass-killings in the style of American movies. These leaders were never prosecuted, and are still treated as heroes in their home country. This movie is a deep dive into the heart of darkness. It is a study in the way humans can compartmentalize and justify unconscionable behavior. In much the way factory farms kill animals without as much of a thought for the well being of the animals, these leaders clearly demonstrate the same kind of disconnect from their human prisoners and victims. It’s all just another day in the office. While watching this film, I evaluated and reassessed the depth of darkness that lives in me.
I just watched this movie last week. The documentary is about three men who undertake to climb and summit a never before summited mountain called the Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru located in northern India. Remarkably, one of the climbers, Jimmy Chin, did all the photography. How he was able to climb in those conditions and capture such gorgeous images, is absolutely astounding. When you see the weather and the terrain, you will marvel at the rare opportunity we all have to share in the journey. This film will inspire you like few others. The challenges of the mountain and a few other unexpected and potentially tragic events all add to a powerful tale of overcoming all odds to accomplish what seems impossible. We get a birds eye view of mountain climbers breaking the four minute mile. To experience what it is to sit in a tent that is literally hanging on a sheer rock wall, thousands of feet above the ground, was worth the price of admission. But make no mistake; this film is so much more.
My favorite film of all time is Apocalypse Now Redux. Hands down, there is no other movie that dives into the human condition like this film. “The horror, the horror.” This documentary is the behind the scenes look at what it took to get the film made. As I learned, the movie could very easily have never been completed. There were many unforeseen challenges, delays, illnesses and actor demands, any of which could have derailed the masterpiece that is Apocalypse Now. This movie teaches the power of one man with a clear vision. Francis Ford Coppola kept moving forward, never gave up, believed in his project, and finished the movie. Lesson learned!
This movie is about men and their relationship to work. This movie is also about dedication to one’s craft. This movie will make you hungry not only for sushi but also for your passion to do what you do well. Jiro Ono is a master sushi chef, world renowned, who has been doing the same thing day after day for decades. The film allows Jiro to share his philosophies, his rituals and habits, and his impact on his two sons. You will also gather a wealth of knowledge about sushi. Don’t miss this one.
Today, online, there is a plethora of fine documentaries available for viewing. When looking at all offerings from the perspective of the masculine, these five are the ones that most dramatically jolted me into a new way of seeing the world and my role therein. There are three more outstanding fims that I want to mention for they just barely missed the cut. Blackfish will have you thinking about what it means to be held in bondage. While the film is about whales, you can’t help but ask the question, “How free am I?” Earthlings is a brutal and challenging film about how humans treat non humans. It is startling, disgusting and poignant. This film pushed me over the edge to become a Vegan. The final honorable mention goes to the film Restrepo, a movie filmed in the Korangal Valley of Afghanistan. The two filmmakers embedded with an American Army unit and present to us the horrors of war unlike any other film. It is real and gritty and honest. We get to know the guys, and experience their fears and profound grief for the loss of their brothers.
The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.
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How Looking Death In The Eye Changes A Man
Author Jay Cradeur shares the five searing lessons he learned when he faced death.
Seven months ago, I was in the peak of health.
At 56 years of age, I had lost 45 pounds, dropping from 235 lbs. to 190 lbs. I had never spent even one night in a hospital. I had no major illnesses nor broken bones. I was working out each and every day for one hour at the Duangtawan Hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Then I slowly began to have challenges urinating. I could pee, but I had to really work hard at it. I visited the doctor at the clinic on Loi Kroh Road and he conducted some tests and determined I had BPH (benign prostate hypertension) aka Enlarged Prostate. This is a condition that affects 50% of all men over 60 years of age. As the prostate grows, it tightens on the urethra, which is the vessel through which urine flows. Little did I know that the next seven months would take me to the darkest and deepest grief, pain, suffering, and depression. I will forever recall saying to myself with crystalline clarity and sanity, “Death would be better than this!”
I was put on a gurney, stripped down to my blue Bob Dylan T shirt, had a catheter inserted into me while two Thai nurses worked on my stomach to get every drop of urine out of my bladder.
The Thai doctor prescribed a medication similar to Flowmax. I took it each night and for three months, everything was great. I was peeing normally and everything seemed right with the world. Then, towards the end of August, the lights just went out. I was not able to pee. For two long days, I tried hard. Think about the time you really had to pee, but you had to wait. Perhaps you were driving, and you had 10 minutes until the next gas station. Imagine that feeling for 48 hours. I pushed with everything I had to squeeze out a few drops. I doubled the dose of my medication. I took a shower every hour to loosen up my muscles, and relieve the incredible pain I felt. Then I would sleep for 15 minutes until the pain returned. Then I went back into the shower. I began to feel my bladder, tight as a drum, protruding from my stomach. After two days of sheer misery, I jumped into a tuk tuk (Thai taxi) and said “Hospital.” I felt very alone in a foreign country and deep into a crisis for which I could see no end.
Upon arriving at the hospital, I urgently and with great desperation asked for some kind of drug to take the edge off. Instead, after a short interview, I was put on a gurney, stripped down to my blue Bob Dylan T shirt, had a catheter inserted into me while two Thai nurses worked on my stomach to get every drop of urine out of my bladder. At last I felt relief. The nurses were both quite animated for they had never seen anyone have such a large quantity of urine in his or her body. They squeezed out 2000 mls, about two and half times the normal quantity for a bladder. As I began to feel the relief of pressure, I did take note of this rather unique situation in my life, lying naked as a jay bird with two petite Thai nurses up on the gurney with me, kneading my stomach with great enthusiasm like it was a wad of dough. I live for those unforgettable moments.
In the face of pain, despair and depression, what is it that a man most desires?
Over the next three months, I was in the hospital five times. I had approximately 30 catheter insertions, three different UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections), a 60 minute dose of Morphine (awesome), one green light laser procedure to repair my prostate, two ultra sounds, one CT scan, one less kidney (I learned I was born with just one kidney), a 36 hour flight back to San Francisco with a 17 hour overnight stay in the Taiwan airport, and a few other medical issues (bladder distention, enlarged ureter, etc.) which further complicated my bladder and prostate condition. I could have died there in Thailand. Had my bladder burst I would most likely have died. There were moments, sitting in the shower with water falling on me, at times crying and others shrieking, when I would have chosen death. I learned it is difficult to remain positive and life affirming in the face of constant and severe physical pain.
That is the back-story. What interests me now that I appear to be on the other side of the trauma is this: what did I learn? What does one learn in the process of accepting that death in a quick moment is a legitimate possibility? It is a rare opportunity that most of us don’t get. In the face of pain, despair and depression, what is it that a man most desires? Does a near death experience make any kind of lasting impact that results in changed behavior? Here is what this man learned:
One: An appalling amount of my life is lived in reaction to fear.
“It is such a waste. How much have I missed?” Just after a moment of despair, I experienced the pain of a life lived sloppily and lazily. While I have done much examination of self, I clearly saw how still, after all these years, and after all the weekend events and daily meditation, and all the talk and writing and engaging, a still significant segment of my life is dictated by fear. Instead of recognizing the fear, and taking action in spite of the fear, I turned and took the easier, more comfortable and predictable path. I particularly saw this in my work choices and pursuits. Had I died, I would have known I could have done so much more with my gifts.
Two: My work does not have to be my passion.
Piggy backing on number one above, I have spent so much time pursuing my passion, that I have taken my eyes off the prize. The prize is time and money to spend when I have time to do the things I want to do. Rather than passionate work, I need work that fully engages me, keeps me interested, has value, and very importantly and in my case, until now undervalued, it pays me well for my time. I am not going to be Bruce Springsteen no matter how much I love guitar, great lyrics and rock n roll. But I bet I could have been a great agent. I don’t have a passion to be an agent, but I would have been fully engaged, used my gifts, and been handsomely compensated. The bottom line for me is this: it is time to get to work and generate significant revenue and then spend the money with the people I love, eat the food I want to eat, and see the places I want to see. It is time to stop dicking around.
Three: If I had one last month on the planet, what would I want?
This one surprised me. I would have thought I would want to be with my family, or my children, but that is not what I felt in that moment. Yes, of course, I would want to say good bye to my loved ones and my friends and give them a chance to say their good byes, but once that was complete, I would get on a plane, pick up my favorite travel partner, and go to my chosen destinations to see sights, eat great food, get massages, share laughter and intimacy, drink a bit, and thoroughly relish the most wonderful parts of a life well lived. I would then die happy.
Four: Life is short and I truly don’t know when it will end.
It seems like this would go without saying, but each time I dance with death, I get to a deeper understanding of this truth. Nothing is secure. We are all specks on a rock hurtling through space. At any moment, it can end. At some moment, it will all end. Every relationship, every activity, every love, every moment will cease to exist. We don’t know. I don’t know. Security is an illusion, and security mutes my desire to be fully alive. The message to me is this: Grab life by the tail and don’t let go until I have to.
Five: Regretting anything from my past is an insult and a slap in the face of life.
How much time have I wasted thinking about how I wished my life turned out this way, or that way? “Why did I pass on the job? Why didn’t I fight harder for that woman? Why, why, why?” What a freaken waste of time! This hit me hard in those savage moments of pain and suffering. I realized my life is what it is. I am here because of everything that came before me. My judgments are plainly irrelevant in the face of the facts. I am here now. So be it.
I am not out of the woods. However, I am on the road to recovery. As I put it to my guy friends, I am now peeing like a Viking. The first time I peed after the surgery, I felt like I was holding onto a fire hose. I haven’t peed like this since I was a young boy. I may need one more procedure to repair my distended bladder, injured during my traumatic 48 hours in Thailand. But I am confident all will be well. My energy is returning. Here, today, I am writing for the first time in several months. I am at a crossroads with choices to make, and it feels good. I have and continue to experience a transformation. My life will never be the same, and I am excited to take action on what I learned. The pain of the lessons has made an indelible impression. Let’s see who I am now.
The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.
Life as a path of joy. “The What? How do I stop the damned thinking”
I think too much. At least, I think… I think too much. When I think of my childhood, I am saddened at the current state of my own internal affairs. I remember riding my bike, the wind blowing cool in my face, and pure adrenalin excitement pumping through my veins. I didn’t stress over the height of the curb. I didn’t give a thought to my physical condition and how I would make it all the way to the grocery store and back. I never considered the possibility of a car wiping me out. Truly, as I look back, given all the amazing and often life threatening experiences I had, I must have been doubly blessed by angels. Where did the angels go? Where did those experiences go? Where did I go?
It is an impressive accomplishment, and even more so for men, to retain our childlike qualities. Wonderful timeless qualities such as curiosity, wonder, innocence, and passion in the moment come to mind. I recently saw an interview of the French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, who is considered the greatest photographer of the twentieth century. What a life he led! He spoke about his experiences traveling the world, engaging in conversations with Henri Matisse and Picasso. I particularly noticed one statement he made. Twice, during the interview, he said:
“Thinking can be a dangerous thing.”
Not once, but twice! This concept was something he had obviously come to grips with early on in his life. He kept talking about the subtle textures of the life experience, and how his job as photographer was to feel when the moment was right to click his camera. He repeatedly said it was all about feel as he gently rubbed his fingers together. I began to think (there I go again) about how this concept could apply to my life.
If I remember the best sex I ever had, there it is. Joy. Actually, if I remember just about any sex I have had, there it is!
Can I live with less thinking and more joy? Ah yes, Joy. Having a good time. Enjoying myself. Bringing a smile to the face of others. Feeling a lightness of being. While this is not my normal operating system, I do know joy. I have experienced its elusive and always glorious nature. Still, joy feels like a foreigner in a foreign land.
Take a deep breath here Mr. Jay. You may actually enjoy this.
Where is the Joy?
If I remember the best sex I ever had, there it is. Joy. Actually, if I remember just about any sex I have had, there it is! If I remember the birth of any of my children, there it is. If I remember how I feel after an initiation ritual, there it is. If I remember how I feel after making a big sale, there it is. If I remember sitting around a campfire with my close friends, there it is. If I remember how I felt when I looked at the scale, and I had achieved my 3-month weight loss goal, there it is again.
Now it is the time for joy in all it’s glory: ongoing, ever lasting, and full on.
Memories of Joy
I notice that all my joy comes as a result of an experience, and more specifically the memory of those experiences. In the moment, I think. How do I stop the damned thinking? Seems I have never been much of a “smell the roses” kind of guy. Growing up as a male in America, I was taught to have goals, work hard, achieve great things, and then take on the next project. There was never much emphasis (actually none) on joy. And I know I am not alone. Having spent 15 years of my life in men’s transformational weekend events, I can tell you there is not much joy among the brothers.
Calling in Joy
I call in joy. I call in my joy. I am too old to do things I do not want to do. If I want to do something, then I will do it with joy in my heart. I call in joy that is not dependent on a situation, an accomplishment, nor another. I call in joy as my way of being. Today I say to myself: “I am joy!” While this will no doubt make some of my buddies want to vomit, I am too old and too tired to keep pushing a boulder up a hill. Rather, I will follow the boulder down the other side of the hill, and smile all the way to the end.
Embrace The Unknown
So what do you do with an over active thinking mechanism? I believe we all have to sort that one out for ourselves. It would seem that recognizing my left brain dominant situation and committing to a life of more feeling is the first step. I find myself increasingly drawn to situations that I can’t figure out. I am drawn to matters of the spirit and the lives of mystics. I participate in group events that produce a tangible energy I can feel. Then I remember, bit by bit, what I am here to do. I keep jumping back into the fire, to feel the fire, and keep some of the fire in my heart. And if I see you on my path (which is your path), and we feel the same thing together, truly it is a most glorious heartfelt connection. I live for those moments. We are all teachers for each other. If only we can stop thinking about how to get more than we give. Thinking can be a dangerous thing, even in the ditches and on the side roads of life.
Dare to be Happy
Taking a stand for joy requires some courage. Dare to be happy. This affirmation will require discipline. This way of being is not for the dramatic, the emotional, nor the weak. It takes some balls to say “I choose joy.” Try it out and really mean it. Just for today, greet every experience with joy. When your husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend does that thing they do that you hate so much, greet it with joy. Transform your experience. When you lose that sale that you were counting on, bring joy rather than disappointment. When the waiter brings you a cold hamburger, can you experience joy rather than anger? When you realize this life, this one glorious life that you have, when you realize it is all going to come to an end, can you still greet each day with joy? Through heartache and betrayal, through hurt and failure, will you chose joy?
There was a time when I thought talk of joy was utter bullshit. I would say to my brothers, life is about challenge, life is about burning, and unearthing those searing bits of my unconscious, and reliving past painful events, so as to become the hollow bone through which spirit may freely flow. I have done all that. It was hard, and at times, brutally painful, and it required a powerful vision to stay the path. Occasional exuberance was a welcome by product of the work. However, as one who has walked the path for three decades, I can now say there could have been more joy. Hell, there could have been a whole bunch more joy. I am not one to lament the past, but there is a truth to be gleaned from my own experiences. I never chose joy in the past. Today I choose joy.
I tell you, I hear you snickering on the sidelines. I know well of your feelings of derision. “Has he lost his mind?”
Yes I have.
It is about time!
The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.