Unified Living is a project being created by myself and a few friends to share insights and advice on creating a unified state of being that balances material abundance with spiritual truth; essentially moving towards the complete freedom and therefore happiness that wholeness in life allows. Isnt that what we are all ultimately after?
An aspect of the Unified Living Project is helping men find a path to authentic and balanced masculinity. The balanced man is both a strong visionary leader and compassionate caring person. In this article below, my friend Dr. Richard Sears addresses some of the common issues men have with understanding and accepting their emotional nature as humans.
Men, Emotions, & Mindfulness
Alexithymia is the diminished capacity to experience emotions. Some have half-jokingly said that all men have alexithymia. Growing up, many boys are taught that only two emotional states are acceptable: feeling nothing (social pressure to “be a rock”), and feeling angry (social pressure to “give ‘em hell”). Of course, biologically, men and women are both very similar (despite arguments to the contrary). Hence, men are born with the full range of emotions, but learn many ways to mask them. While it seems that times are changing, I hope the reader will indulge in a few generalizations to illustrate some common issues.
Emotional management is not often taught in schools. If anything, boys often learn from other boys not to show emotion. They may learn to erect a wall to protect themselves. This strategy works in the short term, but a dear price is paid – a great deal of loneliness.
Men are also often taught to be “fixers” and “doers.” If an unpleasant emotion arises, the typical man wants to “do something about it.” Women are often frustrated when a man continuously offers advice about fixing something. Men feel they are being helpful, but the woman tends to feel unheard. Men can have difficulty tolerating emotions, and in some cases, this can lead to problems with substance use.
One approach to learning how to tolerate and wisely work with emotions is through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness involves learning be with our experiences moment to moment, fostering awareness of our physical, emotional, and mental states. While this is best developed through systematic practice, the basic concept is simple.
One strategy is simply to sit with the emotion and say to yourself, “Whatever it is, it’s already here, just let me feel it.” Feelings are not concrete things – they come and go in waves. Mindfulness involves learning to surf the sometimes stormy sea of emotions, instead of trying to stand firm and be battered by the waves.
Mindfulness brings awareness. I once worked with a man at a residential clinic in a hospital who had lived a difficult life. He had been in the military, had been in prison, and had been homeless for several years. In order to survive in the tough environments he lived in, he learned to have an angry expression on his face. This expression basically said, “Don’t mess with me.” However, this face now prevented him from forming friendships, and made it difficult for him to secure employment. I once brought this to his attention in a psychotherapy session. Having seen him for several weeks, I knew we had developed some rapport, and I could be direct with him. “You know, I’ve seen you interact multiple times with the other residents, and I know you are a kind person, but right in this moment, I feel like you want to kill me. Your face looks very angry.” He was quite surprised at this, saying that he did not ever notice that about himself, and he even questioned if it was true.
At the next session, he smiled at me and said, “Wow, I looked in the mirror, and you were right! I did not know I looked so angry all the time!” From that point forward, he looked much happier around the unit. He now had conscious choice of when it was necessary to look angry, and when it was necessary to look inviting or happy, which served him well in his next job interview.
Learning to practice mindfulness throughout the day, turning toward our emotions and experiences, can be challenging at first. However, tearing down the protective walls and sometimes feeling vulnerable is can also open us up to hitherto unknown levels of intimacy and joy.
I set a goal for 2012 to get in the best shape of my life, reconstitute and master my body, become physically, mentally, and spiritually stronger than is/was possible for me, and reverse aging. My plan for doing this was a combination of physical training, diet modifications, and spiritual work. I am training daily now with an Olympic gymnastics coach and several Cirque du Soleil Acrobats. In 7 weeks I have dropped 20 pounds, my blood chemistry is better than a teenager’s, and I feel amazing.
Even though I was always an athlete, I was something of a weak child and had GI and other issues that held me back from maximizing my physical potential. Part of this project is completely healing any residual weaknesses. Recent breakthrough research shows us we can actually change our genetic code with the power of focused intent.
When I first met Uldi, a Hungarian who is my primary coach, he said to me (in typical European style) “You are very strong and very fit compared to most but for what you want to do, you are fat and weak.”
That’s when I knew he was the mentor I wanted and needed. I always seem to have had this masochistic leaning when it comes to choosing teachers and while I seem to have this karmic ability to draw amazing teachers, they are always tough on me. I knew this would be no different, but everything truly worthwhile in life comes complete with its challenges. Uldi told me it was going to be hell, he was going to make me suffer for awhile, and then it would be heaven.
And he wasn’t kidding.
The first month was definitely hell as my body, mind, and spirit rebelled. Now, I’d say I’m in purgatory heading closer to the pearly gates.
On the first day, we were at a park and I did 15 chinups on my second set. Hey, I thought that was pretty good. Uldi just shrugged and said “you must be at 30 very soon.” Nothing like being pushed by a man who can hold an iron cross for 30 seconds.
He told me I needed to lose 20 pounds and to eat light…and when I thought I was eating light, to eat half of that. For that first month, I primarily ate soup. My body hated it…my energy level and moods were all over the place as I completely cut out wheat, dairy, anything processed, sugar, anything fried, dessert, etc and replaced it with healthy alternatives like juices, dark chocolate, organic meats, rice, and potatoes, goat’s milk and cheese, raw foods, and the Hungarian food that Uldi’s wife would make for me
People asked me “where is this 20 pounds going to come from? You’re already in shape.” I really didn’t know but I just followed his advice and stayed true to my commitment as I have found that commitment, tenacity, and the desire to stay true at all cost is what has gotten me the best results in life so far. As one of my teachers once told me: “I started teaching you because you’re a pain in the ass and don’t give up.”
Those early workouts consisted of running stairs…lots of stairs…followed by hills…followed by climbing a mountain. Then I did this with a 20 pound weight vest. 1000 reps with resistance bands and weights in one sessions would not be an underestimate. And core, core, and more core. There were days of running, doing 50 pushups, and continuing to run only to repeat. The run apparently was my rest time. And then the freerunning…jumping over picnic tables, fences, walls, from one wall to another, flips, etc…..constant conquest of my fear. The freedom that comes with transcendence of fear has been a big part of my quest since I was a teenager and will be a central theme of my writings.
With my medical background, I have the ability to run my own lab tests. Over the summer, there were some things that were not exactly where I’d like them to be. (like my prolactin was elevated. WTF, I know I’m in touch with my feminine side but I’ll stick to goat milk for now). Recently, I reran comprehensive blood chemistry and then reviewed it with a specialist in metabolic optimization. Everything was perfect.
Side note: Going to the lab is always so funny….you have to sit in the waiting room with a bunch of horribly unhealthy fat people. So when I get in there, the phlebotomists (who aren’t always the happiest people) look at me and are always like “why are you here?” And I’m usually running hormone panels so I try not imagine what they are thinking I’m actually there for and I think to myself “I’ve been waiting out there for an hour with miserable people, and I’m hungry, give me the damn needle, I’ll draw it myself.”
Anyway, my body went through a massive detox and now I finally feel like I am on the other side of it and I feel amazing. Our bodies store all kinds of things in excess weight including physical toxins, old emotional baggage, and negative energies and I had to let go of several old things I was hanging onto during the process.
I look forward to what the next months will bring with my training.
While I realize my project is a bit extreme, I invite everyone to get out there and make changes in your health. We are spiritual beings in physical bodies. And it is our bodies that provide us the vehicle to do everything we do in life.
And I hope to get some guest articles on this blog written by the acrobats I train with who are extreme examples of what’s possible for the human body and mind to achieve.
In this series, we will look at several aspects of how to create abundance in your life. We’ll start with the mindset and then move on to actions.
Have you ever looked at someone else and thought to yourself “I want what he or she has…man, if I could just have that…that person is so lucky.” Maybe they have money, a great relationship, good looks, a lifestyle, a promotion at work, or anything else that you want.
And perhaps you feel jealous of or angry with that person. Hell, I have. Haven’t we all? It’s natural to crave the things we don’t have but desire in our lives.
In fact, I am often one of those people who is on the other end of the jealousy projection. I hear regularly “man, it must be nice to be you. You have it all.” (and the flattery goes on and on. And when that happens, I feel like I’m being put on a pedestal and someone isn’t taking the time to get to know the real me. I do have incredible abundance in my life but there is a lot more to me than just what I have. I suppose that is the guy’s version of what it is like to be a hot woman who is constantly being hit on for her looks and then puts up walls to men because her experience is that they do not look deeper at the person she really is.
So, I’ve been on both the jealous one and the object of jealousy as I’d bet we all have. Neither is as much fun as…well I can think of many things that are more fun than both.
There are things in my life that I don’t have and want, of course. And while desiring to have more, to improve, to become better is healthy and important, projecting jealousy on those who do have more blocks our attaining more for ourselves as does dwelling on what we do not have
But there is a simple solution to quickly create more abundance in your life. Okay now when I share this with you, you’re going to think “DJ you’ve been spending too much time in San Francisco.” Perhaps, but hey I still like women!
The solution is gratitude.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the principles set forth in the Law of Attraction, right? Being grateful for what you do have does a few things in metaphysical terms:
It puts out positive energies to the universe which opens you to attract more
It affirms that you are moving in a direction you wish to go and opens the door for more to come in.
It shifts your state of mind to focus on creating more abundance
It lends to permanent happiness by blocking out the painful emotions of fear, jealousy, anger, greed, and craving. These 5 emotions create that familiar feeling of discontented anxiety. Just as benadryl instantly reverses misery from allergies, gratitude is an antidote to all the crap that causes us to suffer.
It stops the chasing and creates space. When you chase something you push it away however when you create space, you pull it in.
It counters ego and puts us in touch with higher awareness. This higher awareness opens the door to draw in more of what we want where ego can block. (this is fairly complicated and I’ll talk more about this in another post.)
On the other hand, craving and jealousy affirm lack to the universe. This closes down your opportunities to pull in more. If you are jealous of what someone else has, you are shutting the door to having that very thing yourself. Many people actually unconsciously enjoy being miserable and there are many reasons for this but let’s save those for another post.
For now, I invite you to do an experiment with me and let’s create more abundance together. Get a journal and each day take a few minutes to write down 5 things in your life for which you are grateful. And then take a few moments to reflect on them and affirm that you wish to have even more. Then repeat the reflection one more time during the day. Do this with me for 30 days. And let’s see what happens in a month. Feel free to report your results in the comments section.
Cheers to “super badass awesome” results and extraordinary abundance.
I have been on a quest in 2012 to completely reconstitute my body, move into perfect health, and become stronger than is possible for most people. And I am reversing the aging process as well. It’s my latest challenge.
During my daily training with circus acrobats and gymnasts, I get told I’m fat and weak quite often. Here’s a funny video of me recently after over an hour of one such butt kicking session with my Hungarian Olympic Coach. The form is very imperfect, but hey I was tired by then…and I’m very new at this!
Many of the guys I have worked with come to me thinking that what they seek is more attention and more intimacy from the opposite sex. They think if they could just get that one girl, they would be happy. Problem is, the “If I could only…” attitude is one that affirms lack and therefore creates need. Nothing can block us from what we seek more than need. Need disallows room for curiosity, creativity, and flexibility – the three things that can bring us more of what we want.
These guys sometimes find that as their success increases, your definition of success changes as well and may even create more need. Whereas before, a simple smile from a woman made them feel good, now they need to see her again and so forth.
There is so much talk out there about not trying to the point where we “Try not to try.” This also is a dead end road. If you are trying, you are not doing.
So then, people continue to ask me: “How do I get rid of neediness?” It almost seems like a riddle. But, it is possible and it is simpler than you might think.
First, many single guys (and sometimes not so single guys) look for techniques to increase their success with the opposite sex. Sounds simple and easy, right? At face value it is. However as warriors we cannot stop there, we must question deeper.
I find that to many of those guys, the notion of wanting more women is really a means to wanting more of a feeling. It is a symptom, if you will. It is not an end in itself, it is the way they think they can get more of what they really want.
What is it that they really want? People do not seek things per se, they seek emotions and feelings. We want to feel good about ourselves, we want to feel confident, we want to feel validated and worthy, and we want to feel as though we are part of something bigger. The activities in which we engage are ways that we believe will bring us more of the feeling.
Sometimes it works…to a degree. But it never works if that feeling creates a new high, raises the bar, and drives us to need more and more of it. And when we don’t get it, we feel the opposite of those good feelings. Consider the scenario:
You go out to a bar or party with your buddies and after a few drinks, you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. And that hottie in the corner over there is looking better and better. You get up the balls to approach her, you work your mojo, and a conversation ensues. Because you’re fun, funny, confident, and even charming, she is not creeped out and quite enjoys the interaction. Though thoughts of what you could do with her later when you get her back to your place are racing through your head (and let’s be honest, your buddies would be impressed), she has different ideas. She’s curious enough to continue the interaction so you leave with her phone number. Not your first choice, but you’ll take it.
You text her something witty the next day and she responds positively. You then text her again. The texts continue until you are asking questions and getting short answers. She seems busy, bored, or disinterested. Within a day or two she’s telling her girlfriends about “that guy” she met the other night who is creeping her out and driving her crazy and now she’s thinking she should block your number.
Even happen to you? No, of course not. 🙂 But for the guys who have had that experience, you probably found yourself frustrating and pushing harder to get the response YOU wanted. You were needy and she was off..and not the way you were fantasizing about.
So how do we then eradicate neediness?
Well one way might be to find alternate ways to get more of the feeling we seek but ultimately that would also be fragile.
The key lies in understanding what it is that we really want rather than what we think want.
In my experience, most of the men I work with are primarily looking for one thing: Validation of their masculinity.
In a society that discourages men from being men and women from being women and provides no rites of passages and positive role models, it can be really easy to get lost in our search for what it means to be a man. It can be easy to think that more sex and even aggression can bring us more masculine validation. In our search for more masculinity, it can become easy to forsake subtlety and gentleness in favor of such things as cocky funny and alpha male behaviors which may make us think we are becoming more masculine.
The real way to eradicate neediness and become more masculine is to shift the stimulus we seek as validation of our masculinity into a new paradigm. What would it be like if you really didn’t need sex as validation and conquest, you could be a genuinely nice and caring person, and you could still have all the positive virtues of a man because your life is so rich that you really don’t *need* anything? What if this new you could be far more attractive to women than you ever thought possible? Well, it is possible.
The first step is to redefine your understanding of the masculine and all that it can be. David Deida provides us a nice start:
The essential Masculine style of search is that of the warrior, the hero, or the visionary. The Masculine force is one-pointed, directional, and guided by a vision of freedom. Masculine energy cuts through any obstacles that are in its path. Nothing deters the Masculine from its goal of freedom. However, not every man uses his Masculine energy to search for freedom in the same way.
Then, we must transfer what validates us from something outside ourselves that is characterized by fragility to something internal that is unshakeable. When we are internally centered, we don’t get caught up in the ups and downs of needing, getting, and needing more that an external source of validation provides. A great way to do this is to get our priorities in order as I detail in my “Organizing your Life” document. When we shift our primary validation from something external such as how women respond to us to something internal and higher that is aligned with our mission and vision, such as a spiritual or physical practice, our entire experience of life transforms, and in turn so does the attention we attract. Yes guys, healthy women can’t help but be drawn to a man who has his life in order and is on his path. (Yes, some of you are going to argue with me and say “But don’t women want a project they can fix?” I won’t deny it, many women do get swept up in that idea but ultimately most will realize that such a man cannot and will not fulfill her…and oftentimes will degrade into an abusive situation)
Now we no longer need to furiously pursue the latest technique in search of more and greater success. We, like Deida states, can abide in the freedom of the warrior’s quest – the freedom that allows us to open to all of our resources unencumbered by need and draw from our curiosity, creativity, and flexibility. Our sense of who we are as a man is no longer in question and is no longer in the hands of women. It is our own. Whether a woman (or anyone) responds to us favorably or unfavorably is her issue and not ours. We are free to just be and free of need for the latest tactic, tool, or technique that can make things go our way.
In fact, we can begin to realize that control at all is an illusion and that the only thing we can control is ourselves. We can let people be who and where they are because we are comfortable being who and we are.
And as a side result, when and as we do this, we curiously also find our attraction from the opposite sex to skyrocket. We are free of need and therefore are free to get more of what we want and in this unhindered state of being, we exude those qualities that women strongly respond to but are absent in so many men.
And it is this freedom that really characterizes our search for the masculine.
I have decided to begin a series of short stories of profound moments in my life. Some of these will be of time spent with my teachers, some will be solo, and some will be downright hilarious! In this series I hope to recall some of my profound lessons, funny moments, and embarrasing realizations as a student of life.
Memoirs of moments with Teachers 1: The most profound peace
It was a crisp October day in Vermont and I was visiting my teacher. When I first met this particular teacher, a Japanese monk, as a teenager, he was living for the summer months on a 70 acre old farm house in rural Vermont that he had adapted to a temple. The house was complete with a kitchen table that had been sawed down so that guests could sit on the floor Japanese style. I recall only seeing one chair in the entire house which, not surprisingly, seemed to be more decorative than practical as it was never used.
One of the highlights of being in Vermont in the fall is the spectacular changing colors of the mountain foliage. One side of Sensei’s house faced the mountains and the other faced a huge open field. It was mid to late afternoon (my memory has become a bit fuzzy) before dinner and Sensei, his wife, and myself were sitting on the floor in the guest room having green tea looking out over the field. This room had sliding glass doors and gave us a spectacular view. Green tea is almost sacred in Japan and is a nectar of relaxation and peace so to this day when I sip on hot Sencha green tea, I am transported to a place of gratitude and peace.
In those days most of our interactions consisted of me asking silly intellectual questions about spirituality and much to my dismay, Sensei retorting with questions of his own about how school was, how my sister is doing, if my mom is healthy, and how we would all wear neckties if Bill Clinton san visited his temple.
At some point, Sensei and his wife began to quietly sing a Japanese children’s song that began “Aki no yuu hi ni…” I did not know the meaning of this song however I listened as they sang while sipping tea and gazing out over the orange hues of the sun beginning to set captivated by the rainbow of colors that covered the trees in the field. At that moment, I was both gently nudged and fully shaken into nakaima the center of now..completely in the present moment. It was the most profound feeling of complete and magical peace I had ever experienced and remains so to this day.
After the singing was finished, I asked Sensei about the meaning of the song. Turns out it was about how the mountain wears a kimono in the fall as the leaves change. I remember thinking how our American nursery rhymes have children falling off trees in their cradles where this Japanese tune spoke of the mystery and beauty of nature. But that is a hallmark of Japanese culture – a perfect intermingling of the modern world and the wonder of nature.
I think often about that moment. And it’s likely Sensei doesn’t recall it at all which I think it so interesting – how what is just another moment in a teacher’s life can be such a powerful crystallized moment for a student. And it’s those moments that help us realize just how powerful, wonderful, and fully actualized an ascended master’s life truly is.
When you think about your life and the choices you make, and you really deeply examine them, you’ll probably agree that most of what we do is seek happiness. We all want to live a happier, more fulfilled life and feel like we’ve accomplished something of value to both us and the world.
Several years ago when I was in Japan, my mentor (Ajari Jomyo Tanaka pictured below) presented me with his 5 secrets to happiness. He was preparing them as a speech he was going to give that weekend to a large crowd and I was fortunate to receive his teaching over tea while he was preparing. In preparation for the new year, I’m honored to share these five secrets with you. And, I guarantee that if and as you follow them faithfully, you will find your life bringing you not only a permanent and unwavering happiness, but also incredible abundance.
These 5 keys are profound in their simplicity and incredibly effective in their truth. The first three deal with the physical and the last two address the spiritual.
Good Food: (Shokuyo) Our bodies are our vehicle in the human realm. They encapsulate all that it means to be human and provide us the capacity and capability to live. Consequently, how we nourish and treat them is directly related to how we feel. By making healthy choices about what we consume, we are making more enlightened choices about how we choose to live. In addition to consuming healthy foods, regular exercise is also extremely important. There is a lot of conflicting information about what makes a healthy diet. For more information on my perspective, please check out my article on more empowered eating.
Respect: (Koyo) In Japan, respect permeates every aspect of the culture. American society, in contrast, is characterized by a sense of entitlement. We want everyone to respect and acknowledge us. Sensei’s teaching on Koyo underpins one of the most important keys to materializing abundance: Gratitude. Respect for parents and elders and an attitude of gratitude for all that you already have will increase your emotional vibration. By emotional vibration, I mean such lower emotions as jealousy and greed will be replaced by better feeling, peace, harmony, love, and appreciation. Since like attracts like, such emotions will attract more abundance into your life. So, give it a try – offer respect and gratitude and see what happens.
Knowledge: (Kyoyo) Just as the physical body needs nourishment and exercise, so does the mind. Regular reading and cultural activities will broaden your horizons and open the mind. Have you ever met an uptight person who is narrow minded? How did you feel around such a person? Did they strike you as being truly happy? Keeping an open and fresh outlook is another super important key to maintaining positive emotions. So, get on a regular schedule – read something mind expanding…go to a play…try a different ethnic cuisine.
Spiritual Practice: (Shuyo) I recommend to all of my coaching clients and readers that you get on a regular schedule that allows you a daily period of “you” time…time to connect with the core of who you are. This could be a daily period of meditation, tai chi, yoga, or a walk in the park. The most important element is that everyday you take some time out for yourself and connect to and with yourself in the here and now…in this moment. I won’t write much about this as it’s experiential. Try it and see the results. To get started, read my article on daily meditation.
Offering: (Kuyo) This one is going to be heavily loaded. In addition to taking care of yourself, it is very important to maintain a connection with something higher. We are spiritual beings living a human existence and having a connection to the divine keeps us on our path and in touch with what’s really important. It also provides a source of life energy (chi) that is far more powerful than what is available to us when we draw from only ourselves. Find time everyday to offer to the divine, whatever that is for you. This could be a period of daily prayer and thanksgiving or actual food offerings as is common in the eastern traditions. There are several realms beyond the physical everyday reality that we see, hear, feel, choose to acknowledge. And, we all have our own unique spirit guides. It’s not important which tradition most calls to you or whether you choose a personal religious path, but it is critical that you do have a connection to forces higher than yourself. This is so important because it allows you, on a daily basis, to step outside the pressures and stresses of worldly life and tap into higher potentials that will enable you to fully actualize yourself. Helping people find their personal path is one of the aspects of my spiritual coaching work.
I realize this advice may seem either too simple or too “out there.” I am one of the most grounded, least airy-fairy individuals that I know and I can attest to the value of these ancient secrets. I invite you suspend judgement and give this formula a try for one month.
May your life be filled with endless abundance and boundless happiness,