Some years back I was on a long retreat with the late Dr Shakti Malan, my spiritual guide and tantra teacher. Shakti challenged me to create for men an equivalent to her ground breaking sexual awakening for women work. It's been a long journey...
First day at school. The school mistress, Miss Simons, a real old-style battle axe, looks me up and down and says in icy tones, "A boy? I don't like little boys. You'll probably never be as good as your sisters." So it was that a sunny, confident little boy became overnight, shy, chronically anxious and full of shame. There were other incidents, but that one sticks in my mind.
That same little boy grew up, shy, lonely, bullied as a sissy, rejecting boyish attitudes, dismissive of authority, and, being academically clever, taking refuge in intellectual arrogance.
Hw grew up in a female dominated household with a mother who was a successful doctor, three older sisters, a live in nanny and grandmother (even the cats were female!). His father, a senstitive artist was loving but emotionally absent due to mental health problems during his crucial passage into manhood. He was totally out of touch with his identity as a man.
He failed totally at the teenage dating game... constantly falling in love and being rejected as weird by the few girls he had the courage to ask out.
Finally, he had his first proper relationship aged 21 and discovered the deep joy of intimacy, but was devastated when she broke off the relationship due to pressure from her repressive Christian fundamentalist parents.
Life is good. I have found my mission. My expertise is recognized, I write books and articles, do 1:1 coaching and teach at major festivals and events. I am in a deeply fulfilling relationship full of love and intimacy. Approaching 60 I have more energy, more happiness and a richer life than at any previous time. I am clear about who I am and where I am going.
For me the tipping point was in my mid 40s. I was supposedly successful and happily married but the cracks were beginning to show. I was actually at rock bottom. I was stressed out, unfit and my sexual energy was zero. My marriage was in fact falling apart and I was and using porn to zone out. Here was I, a supposedly "spiritual man", someone others turned to for wisdom and support.... and yet inside I was a total mess. Something inside me screamed STOP! and I did.
Above all, perhaps for the first time in my life, I took real responsibility for myself. I got real and recognized the destructive beliefs and habits that were running my life for me. You story may be different to mine, but you can change!... and the first step is to get real and take responsibility for yourself.
This lesson is all about being yourself and being ok about being yourself. It's a crucial lesson to learn in the context of relationships and sex.
We all hide behind masks to protect against our fears and manipulate others into meeting our needs. There's Mr Nice Guy, The Joker, The Bully, The Idiot, The Addict....
We all wear labels that other's have put on us, like that school mistress put on me. Those labels are often deeply shaming.
And we are all caught up in our cultures beliefs: Men should be strong... Marriage is for life... A man should provide for his woman... and so on.
I was a classic Mr Nice Guy on the outside, easy going, accomodating while inside rage and frustration burned.... until that moment in my 40s when I said "STOP".
Learning to drop the Mr Nice Guy mask was the hardest lesson for me to learn. It cost me my marriage and much more. I had to acknowledge and let go of a deep fear of rejection for being not good enough together with ingrained habits of perfectionism and self-hatred.
I had to learn to love and accept myself and being willing to show up in life and love in my truth and vulnerability.
Self-acceptance takes courage but it is a key to a fulfilling life. You need to be, as Neil Young put it in his classic anthem, "A miner for a heart of gold"... your own true heart.
What saved me from total meltdown was a return to my roots in the martial arts and the Eastern philosophies of Zen, Taoism, Confucianism and Tantra.
Studying with master teachers and delving into ancient texts, I came to a new understanding of how these seemingly exotic traditions had gritty, practical advice for how I live my life as a man in the modern world. They had the answers.
From these traditions, I leaned the skills of self-reflection, meditation, compassionate communication and effortless action that were the actual means of my moving forward in my life and relationships.
From the martial arts, I learned the way of the peaceful warrior. I learned that the essence of the warrior is is bravery, the willingness to face fear and danger and above all the courage to look deep into one's own heart.
From Tantra I learned to open my heart and be connected with my feelings. I learned a new way to be a man: strong and calm, purposeful and skillful in action and at the same time full of tenderness and love. I learned about the dance of masculine and feminine energy in relationships. I learned how to be truly present to my partner and how to share our lives from a place of trust and openness.
I learned much about sex and lovemaking. I learned how sex can be so much more than chasing orgasm or release. I learned learned to let go of performance anxiety into the experience of pure pleasure. I learned that lovemaking can be an exchange of energy between souls, a truly spiritual experience.
And I learned that sex can be an art form, a skill that can be mastered to express our highest potential as men. I learned practical techniques to be free of issues such as premature ejaculation and impotence, and I learned esoteric methods to balance, circulate and amplify my sexual energy.
Much of what I learned is summed up in the Confucian ideal of the Superior Man, the man of reverence, kindness, integrity, wisdom and loyalty.
Yes, I owe much gratitude to those ancient Chinese, Japanese and Indian masters. From their wisdom, channeled through my own life experience I have created the core programmes that I use in my work with men: Action Centred Training (ACT), my basic tool kit of life and relationship skills, The Way of the Master Lover to help you be a great lover and Natural Virility to help you enjoy abundant sexual energy and good health.
My ex-wife used to say I was the most autonomous person she had ever met. While self-sufficiency can be good, it can also be a trap. We men are strongly programmed to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. We often carry a lot of shame around our life problems and we are reluctant to reach out and show ourselves.
I was fortunate that there were teachers and therapists to guide me and loving friends to support me on my journey. I can say without hesitation that without that support I'd still be in meltdown, or worse. I wish I had learned sooner to let go of shame and reach out!
I have come to understand the key to long lasting, happiness in relationships lies in paying attention to another, often neglected relationship...Your relationship with you. To heal your outer relationship you must heal your inner relationship. Your capacity to open to love with another is a reflection of your capacity to love yourself.
So what do you want to change in your life?
Are you ready to take responsibility for your own life?
What masks are you wearing in your life and relationships?
Are you ready to drop the masks and labels and be you?
What are you willing to do, who are you willing to become to have the life and relationships you deserve?
If you'd like to talk or share what's going on for you and what your relationship and sexual challenges are, we can arrange a brief confidential chat together online. We can talk through your issues and explore what will help you.
Just click on the button and book a FREE mentoring call with me.