“What has astonished and delighted me about my husband’s participation in the Men’s Group is not just HIS growth, but how that growth has affected the other men in our life–cousins, brothers-in-law, friends, co-workers. Something in him has shifted, and his men friends–even casual men friends–open up to him in amazing ways. At a family reunion, he sat and listened to a male cousin-in-law tell him about a painful betrayal he had suffered. The man’s wife said, ‘Oh honey, let’s not go into all that unpleasantness.’ But the man looked at her and said, ‘No, I need to talk about this.’ He must have just talked ‘at’ Eldon for 20 or 30 minutes. Eldon was mostly quiet, but when he did speak, it was supportive, understanding, and encouraging the man to speak more. When he was done talking, the man said, ‘Wow. I feel a lot better. My hat’s off to you, Eldon. Thank you for just listening.’ I was so proud of my husband.” Theresa Renner, wife of Eldon, member for 19 months
Socrates said that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. “Not worth living” might be a bit extreme but I do agree with the sentiment as I am a self-professed life-examining junkie. Personal growth is my passion and the path of a seeker is definately not for the faint of heart. I feel the same way about relationships and there have been times when the two paths have been at odds heading for virtual destruction. Committing to one’s own path of self discovery can certainly be a scary and sometimes dangerous thing to do to a relationship. It could really monkey up the works, couldn’t it? Seekers are often faced with the question of which is riskier, staring certain change in the face or snuggling into the security of familiarity. After almost 23 years of marriage I’ve spent many hours on the fence, chewing my nails and creasing my butt while wrestling with just that question. I generally jump onto the side of change because if I’m going to suffer I’d at least like it to be productive, you know, move me forward, but sometimes it can take a while.
One of the scariest times for me came when I had been working on my self long enough to notice that my husband wasn’t really “that into” personal growth or the idea of “building a better relationship”. Building a better sailboat – yes, he was definitely interested in that, but as far as looking at himself, well let’s just say he wasn’t terribly motivated. Opening my eyes to that reality was scary (no wonder I stayed in denial so long). “How is this going to work?” I thought to myself, “Look at him he’s standing still and I’m like a shooting star blazing across the cosmos on the fast track to enlightenment! How can he possibly hang with me?! Not to mention I can’t have him holding me back!” (I actually used those words or something equally embarrassing.)
Turns out my worst fear came true. Not the fear that worried he wouldn’t get his you-know-what together but the fear that was hiding right behind it. The one that said “What if he turns to me and says, ‘You’re right, Jo, I haven’t been showing up and working on my side of this thing. I’m in and I want to join you on the path.’?” That’s what he did and the only thing I could say was….”Gulp!” Then I think I turned and ran shouting, “I was just kidding!” over my shoulder. I ran and he chased. Turns out I wasn’t as interested as I thought.
It wasn’t until a few years later when we met a wonderful therapist that I stopped running. She helped us pull our marriage out of the dumpster. I seem to remember that Wayne threw it there when he got tired of chasing me. She (the therapist) wanted to know why I was running. Good question, goooood question. She helped me sit still long enough to find out what was so scary about showing up for my marriage. The list was long, the fears were valid. (An interesting little side note, I wasn’t the only one afraid. Who knew?)
She helped us build a safe foundation of love and trust between the two of us and within ourselves so that we could truly take advantage of what a committed, creative relationship can provide. She helped us lay our fears and our judgements right there on the table. Yikes! One of my long-standing fears was “what if he’s not the “one” for me?” Another favorite was “what if we create a great connection and then he leaves me or dies? That’s going to hurt so much it will surely kill me”. We saw how our “insidious” little judgments of eachother were sucking the life out of our relationship. Maybe he didn’t feel safe when I secretly referred to him as a “Neanderthal!” I’m sure that his view of me as a “frigid flake” didn’t contribute to intimacy either. But those were real and alive inside us. We peeked around to see what was behind them and learned a lot (too much to share here!).
Ultimately our therapist gave us a place and a way to tell the truth, each our own truth. Scary business that truth telling is. Everything is risked each time the truth is told but if you can do it the rewards are incredible. The things you learn about yourself, the wounds that can be healed, the confidence you build within yourself and the way you see your mate make it all worth it. It increases your capacity for love and acceptance of yourself and others. I think that’s what we’re here for.
by Jody P.
Thank you Phil. I remember when I made the all star team in Pony League baseball. The first game I went 2 for 3 with a walk and 4 rbis. I hit a home run and got my name in the paper right next to an article about a Detroit Tiger star. The next game, the first time I stepped up to the plate, the catcher went out to the mound. Sure enough, the first pitch was a side arm deal that came right at my head. It missed, although I can imagine many of you have some doubts. As I dug in for the second pitch, I knew in my gut it was going to be a side arm fast ball down the middle of the plate, and I had a vision of hammering it over the center field fence.
Here it came, a side arm fast ball. What did I do? I jumped back like a little pussy and the umpire yelled STRIKE. I did not listen to my GUT. I did not swing for my DREAM. I was DEFEAT! I went hitless that day, my team lost, and we were out of the tournament.
Fifty (50) years later (count them) I can still see the seams on that fast
ball, in slow motion, as it floats belt high over the plate. STRIKE STRIKE
STRIKE god dam it, it still rings in my ears. I did not sacrifice my body to the fear of pain and the demon, regret, lives with me always.
A few days after that 14 year old young man recovered from his tears he made a commitment to himself. He would never again ignore his gut and let another balloon float over the plate for a strike. He would swing the bat for his dreams. To not swing is too painful. I have been swinging all my
bats ever since. I often miss the ball. I sometimes lose my grip and the
bat flies into the crowd where it could hurt somebody. I sometimes strike out and go 0 for 5. But I swing the bat and sometimes I knock the fucking ball out of the park. I am ALIVE. I may lose a game or two but I am never DEFEATED.
Men, go for your dreams. Ask for what you want. The cost of missed opportunity could be very large compared to what keeps you from getting what you want.
MOON LION ( growling in the night with my passion for life) going going gone!
We’re in Butte, on a day off, heading out Monday am, about 400 miles and a little over 4 weeks into our hike. Overall, it’s been great, although there were some sections during this last stretch, with a lot of road walking and cows and very little scenery where I had to keep reminding myself that, like life, the trail has parts that you simply endure to experience the rest of the good stuff.
I miss the social aspects of the SMG. But, in some ways, I have apreciated the break from the weekly meetings. Although, it’s not all “freedom” – the time on the trail brings a LOT of introspection. Not many answers, but the questions get deeper and some occassional insights flash into mind.
In response to another man’s question about finding the path to doing what they really want to do, I wrote about the following experiences I have had, and think it will be of general interest to share it here:
I have long recognized and appreciated how difficult it is to do what we really want to do. I had several epiphanies in the early 1990s and made some choices to do what I wanted – my first long hike. It meant making some sacrifices and it meant taking some risks. Doing it was liberating though, and it became easier after that first leap to do so again. I’ve encouraged others through the years to make such personal leaps of faith and go about doing whatever it is that they truly want. At the last corporate job I had, I preached “anarchy” to all new hires and interns, suggesting they all quit before they got trapped into careers. I diddn’t hide this – I told my bosses exactly what I was doing, and yet they let me keep on training. Probably feeling safe that few would listen.
One of the things I have found is that most people do not know what they truly want. They are either afraid to dream, or are afraid to admit to whatever their dream is. I guess because it’s often easier, in the short term, to supress or deny a dream than to pursue it. Of course, later on regret can be more demonic than the sacrifice needed to achieve a dream.
I’m more scared of potential regret, so I try to pursue my own dreams. I have to, or can’t quite live with myself.
So, that’s where I am, willing to endure the hardhships and compromises, to be able to do what I want to do, walk 1,300 miles this summer. And maybe, tonight, to go sit in the hotel’s hot tub and drink the beer I have been dreaming abot for the last five days!
Phil, Compassionate Coyote, Hough
Last Saturday I spent the afternoon helping a nine year-old boy begin to make moccasins. He is a great kid who is learning to track animals and wants to wear the moccasins to “fox walk” in the woods. I had made moccasins and mukluks a long time ago and I knew I could help him. As it turned out I think I was the one who most benefited.
I noticed during the day how observant he was. I noticed when I talked to his mom how he would disappear out of the room sometimes and suddenly we would discover him watching us. It reminded me of myself. As a boy, I was always watching. Trying to learn. Trying to understand whatever it was I longed to know more about.
He and I talked about a lot of things. Sometimes he got fascinated at my stories and opened his mouth and stared at me. He would put down the pliers and the leather needle and just listen. For awhile he did this after each stitch. He drew me into my stories even more because he paid so much attention. I had to bring our focus back to the next stitch each time. He was hungry for one-on-one time, stories and sharing. I recognized that hunger. It is a hunger that still burns in the boy part of me.
It was the next morning that I woke and couldn’t get back to sleep after 4am. I kept remembering this boy quietly watching. Soon I found myself sobbing for 90 minutes from the boy inside of me. I remembered watching my parents the whole time I grew up. I never saw them once hold hands, kiss, hug, or touch each other. Not in eighteen years. I always wondered whether relationships were real or fake. Was it an act? A role you are supposed to play? Part of me wanted it to be simply real, true natural friendship. But I never saw healthy touch. Not once. No physical expression of love. I knew something different must happen in the bedroom but what was real to my heart was what I could see. Laying there in the morning crying I so wanted my parents to show me.
Grief leaking that morning from the deepest wound in my life. I questioned myself a lot growing up. What was wrong with me? Am I really a man? Painful tears at my self love. True intimacy was a empty blank spot on my map of life for a long time. I was lost. I didn’t find my way into intimacy until well into adulthood. I worked in communities where healthy intimacy was modeled by peers. Sharing shoulder rubs was a daily exchange. It could all be real. Nothing less.
Suddenly I found a second wind of crying. Like the boy listening to my stories, now I was the little boy so hungry for Dad to pay attention to me. How I wish my Dad would have come told me stories where I would forget everything and listen. I wanted his attention. I knew the hunger in the eyes before me as we made moccasins. Every second of giving him attention was healing the boy inside me. Sure enough, 4 am the next morning that trapped grief was freed. I look forward to the continuing the moccasins.
The Healing Journey™
Have you ever asked yourself, why can’t I get over X or achieve Y? You’re smart, you make things happen, yet there are these X’s and Y’s that won’t move.
You aren’t alone. We all struggle with creating what we want in life.
The biggest things that get in our way are stress or trauma. I used to teach Mindfulness Stress Reduction to Type-A-personality professionals. Before the end of the 8-week class, these people learned how NOT to let stress take them out. Often they would surprise us with how their lives changed.
When one class began, I remember one woman, a VP for a large bank, bragging about how hard and long she worked. She claimed she often was on her two phones simultaneously. She didn’t take lunches or vacations and worked upwards of 60 hours per week.
Before the end of the class, she had removed her second phone, was taking lunches, and worked no more than 40 hours per week. What amazed her was not only how she was happier, but how she was getting more done.
Animals Do It
We all know we are hardwired to survive—fight or flight. Yet when we can’t defend ourselves or run away, we have a third option – we freeze. When a deer can’t outrun the mountain lion, she goes into shock and pretends she is dead. Hopefully for her, the mountain lion will believe she’s dead and leave to return for a later meal. Once safe, the deer comes to. She goes through recovering from the trauma, and runs away.
Stress and trauma progressively build in our body/mind from all those times we didn’t use fight or flight, and we just grin and bear it. However we can re-teach our physiology so it doesn’t default to freezing, but releases the stress. Then we’re back to behaving like wild animals.
But “releasing” does not mean we get into fistfights, or run down the street to escape stressful situations. In the vast majority of situations, it means we are breathing and speaking. To be able to release current stress, we often need to release the old stress and trauma.
The Quick Way
Many body/mind therapies indirectly remove the frozen stress response. The quickest could be a process called the Healing Journey™, developed for Sandpoint Men’s Group (SMG). In the course of 30 to 45 minutes, a man with the guiding of a trained facilitator travels back to the event(s) that created the trauma that was never fully experienced. The man physically experiences that frozen stress (trauma) as the block he can’t get over and possibly the cause of his PTSD.
We have a natural ability to regain balance once the block that prevented us from experiencing our resources is removed. It’s as if the stored energy converts into usable energy to move through our blocks. Beneath the block lies a hidden gift – a skill that was entrained as we learned to hide our trauma. The acceptance of our stress and traumas eventually leads to discovering the positive aspects of what the previous events created. Those gifts are powerful and only available if we journey through the trauma to our healing.
SMG and Sandpoint Women’s Group (SWG) use the Healing Journey™ developed by Owen Marcus as a way to expedite chang
With pride, joy, sadness – feeling more introspective.
Greetings from Augusta – the challanges of the Bob Marshall did not match the fears/apprehensions I had of it. I wrote some about tha already in the trip report that will be posted to our website www.walkingcarrot.com so I won’t repeat that here.
I’m geting back in tune with the rhythem of trail life. During long stretches of forested trail I am drifting back, almost trance like to past events. Some sad, some glad – re-examining some, just re-feeling others. Old conflicts buble up anew. They are many of the same “placesL I’ve drifted back to before on my long walks. This time I’m trying to be less intellectual about themand just feel them; to recognize that my fear of feeling them holds me back from working through them and fully learning what they have to teach. Also trying to be less judgemental of my own past actions around them, whether those previous judgements were “bad” or “good”. This will be going on for the next couple months, as I attempt to ask myself the same questions you all would ask me, to take me deeper into the feeling side.
I’m going to go back to getting ready for the next segment now, groceries to pack, maps to read – we leave early friday am.
I’d love to hear from some of you – be sure to send messages to my “pocketmail” adress, NOT my hotmail.
Compassionate Coyote, Phil Hough
Today I will do one thing I don’t want to do
It might not be a big thing to you
It might not even be a big thing to me
It might be a call that scares me
It could be finishing a project I started a month ago
It could be taking out the trash
It probably won’t be balancing the check book, but it probably should
It could be finishing a resume
It might be signing up for a class
I may play soccer with my daughter
It could be a date with my wife
It probably won’t be watching TV but I wish it was
I hope the one thing starts a revolution but I would be happy with evolution
Today I will do one thing that I think is a good idea but I convinced myself I don’t have the time or energy to do
Today I will do one thing that might change how I feel about me in this moment
One thing that may save a life
One thing that could save mine
One thing that could make my life just a little more stress free
Today the one thing, the one small thing, that I know I should
Today the one thing that I keep putting off
That one thing does not even need to be a big thing
It just needs to be one thing
Just ONE THING today I don’t want to do that could change a life
Maybe not now, but a thousand one things later
By Grateful Cheetah
I first came across this poem when my daughter’s 6th grade Sandpoint Waldorf School class recited it. Each child had a part. It moved me and a look around showed me it moved lots of the other parents in the room. I also liked what the author Oriah Mountain Dreamer had to say about the poem and about life:
“I went to a cabin owned by some friends and started writing, using each segment of the original piece as a doorway into deeper places-the longing, the joy, the sorrow, the fear- reflecting with ruthless honesty on the meaning and struggles of a human life. I wrote what I need to remember, what I need to hear again and again: that life is full of beauty and pain; that the world will break your heart and heal it, over and over, if you let it, and that letting it do both is the only way to live fully; that we are not alone but deeply connected to that which create, and sustains all life. ”
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithlessand therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day,and if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
Oriah Mountain Dreamer
copyright © 1999 by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
Posted by Grateful Cheetah