A Wordless Language

Nature is one of the languages God speaks.

~ Robert Bly

Many men have dabbled in, even mastered, languages. We speak fluent English, manage German “ein bischen,” use a peso’s worth of Spanish, murmur French when we feel amorous. We understand well the language of commerce, of industry. We’re plainspoken about stocks and bonds. We know “car talk.” We’re conversant in the colorful idioms of sports.

Every language has its proper place and time. And language is fun, even grandly mysterious at times. But for us to know and feel that point at which we and our God become one, we must speak the language of nature from time to time. We listen to God’s messages there, in the mountains, forests, lakes, and sky. The message is usually brief, and it’s delivered easily, right into the body and soul.

Today I’ll receive the wind’s whispers, the speech of the stream, the valley’s still, small voice. If I can be still amidst change as they are, I will become fluent in field, stone, tree, and fire.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Deep Respect

Our capacity for intimacy is built on deep respect, a presence that allows what is true to express itself, to be discovered.

~ Jack Kornfield

Respect can connect humans at the deepest level. Love that is based on respect – rather than need or longing – is more enduring. Such respect can tolerate great differences. Truth and commitment can emerge in the container of mutual respect.

Some things command our respect – perhaps because of their beauty or power. Respect for the ordinary, especially in intimate relationships, can sustain those connections. Express your respect. Say it. Show it in a gift or gesture, especially during difficult times. That which is accompanied with respect, even if it is difficult, will be better heard.

Today I will respect myself and all others whom I have contact with. I will communicate that respect by what I do and say.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

The True Work

Blessed is who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness.

~ Thomas Carlyle

The work we do should feed our soul and keep it strong, as good food nourishes the body. Sometimes we work only for money and survival because it may be that that’s all we can do at the moment. But often we work this way because we’re living someone else’s life rather than our own. Are we working to bring a father’s, or a mother’s, dreams to fruition? Or perhaps we have convinced ourselves that it’s better to be rich than happy. Do we believe the two are mutually exclusive? We must reflect on these questions with courage to find out whether we’re doing work that blesses ourselves and others.

Before the years run out, we need to be sure we’re not running from our heart’s desire out of fear or a desire for approval. We must be true to our inner life, because it’s the only life we can be certain of.

Today I’ll look at my work. If it doesn’t ring true, if it’s not “my bliss,” I’ll do some interior work necessary to discover my next step. If I find that I’m doing what I’m meant to do, then it falls to me to feel thankful.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Earth, the Great Teacher

Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee. ~ Job 12:8

So many men have been brainwashed into believing that the Earth is not alive, that it possesses no character, no feeling, and that it’s merely here to serve the insatiable demands of a greedy few. As we recover from this soul-shattering falsehood, a new depth of experience enters our life: we hear the Earth speak, groan, sign, and yes, bless us for listening to her cries.

The deeper I delve into the truth of my own body and soul, the deeper the teachings I receive from the Earth. That teaching is never stale, never inappropriate – each one of us will learn something different from the Earth, the first and last Mother and Father to us all.

Today I’ll listen to the truth the Earth has to teach.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

A Quiet Strength

“A thoughtful book like this encourages contemplation, rather than hyperactivity, and, oddly, we need good words in order to find fruitful silence.” 

~ Thomas Moore – Care of the Soul

Who will mentor, teach, and touch the souls of the boys who have been bullied, bloodied and beaten literally or figuratively?

Each day from now until the 11th Annual Creative Change Conference, “It Happens to Boys,” I’ll be providing a daily meditation excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul for the boys inside all men and for the man-father to the boy, and for women who love their sons, husbands, lovers, and fathers.

I hope you will join me for this important conference to be held on Oct. 4, 2019 at the ABC Recovery Center located at 44359 Palm Street in Indio, California.

Making Peace

“Blessed are the peacemakers.” ~ Matthew 5:9

Many men are uncomfortable with peace, though we may like the idea. We’ve been programmed since childhood to prepare for war, prepare to kill or be killed. We played army at five years old, imagining sticks into sub-machine guns, dirt clods into grenades, pretending to sneak up on the enemy to destroy them. Later on, some of us went on to wage wars on battlefields known as gridirons. If we didn’t engage in combat there, then we did with fellow classmates, particularly the ones who tried to wrestle away our girlfriends. We carried our propensity for battle into bedrooms and corporate boardrooms, believing our manhood would be won or lost there.

Without a war to fight, we rested only to prepare for the next great conflict, the next chance to “prove our strength.” We came to associate peace with boredom.

I want to teach my children that peace is greater than pistols, quiet and contentment more necessary than counterattack.

Today I’ll make peace with an old friend or relative I’ve hurt, a child I wounded with words. If nothing else, I’ll declare a cease-fire with myself. I’ll refuse to shame myself for learning what I was taught.

Regression: The Damage

“Where have all the grownups gone?” ~ Robert Bly, The Sibling Society

Emotional regression is a person and social unconscious return to our history when our buttons are pushed, or we get triggered and we react instead of respond. Regression gives us the sense that we are small, or little and not the powerful adults we are much of the time.

When we regress, we leave our new brain, our prefrontal lobe and hide in the limbic brain until the threat and emotional or physical harm has passed. It is in this very old part of our brain that we only have three choices – fight, flight, or freeze. Any one or all, of these choices are usually adolescent, infantile and primal.

When I wrote my book, Growing Yourself Back Up: Understanding Emotional Regression, I focused solely on how regression in our personal lives usually equaled regret. Regressed men and women will say or not say, do or not do or let be done that we may regret for days, weeks, or even decades. Trust me; I know; I’ve seen my own regressions too may times. That’s why I wrote the book as well as to help others with this misunderstood state of mind. I’m sad to recall one time something my then-wife said, and I took my wedding ring off and threw it across the room. I remember it as if it was yesterday, and I still regret it.

With all of this said, I want to turn my attention to the undeniable regression that our society is in a mass regressed, unconscious, adolescent and infantile state as I’ve ever witnessed. We are in a collective trance spun by malignant hypnotists.

Alright! Enough! We must leave their trance knowing we’ve lost touch with our feelings, our bodies and souls. We must leave our limbic brain and head back to the halls of our hearts and Congress by way of non-violence and stop acting, shooting, hood-wearing, and hate spewing.

How do we do it? Here’s what I said for coming out of regression in our personal relations, and perhaps these will apply to our social interactions:

  1. Get attention from our support system.
  2. Get and give empathy and compassion from those who understand what we are going through.
  3. Release the hurt, tears, fears, angers, sadness’s we’ve stored in our bodies and collective psyches.
  4. Pray, meditate, march to stop the terrorists in their tracks.

What do you think of Western Civilization?” “I think it would be a good idea,” said Gandhi


Racism – My First and Last Sermon – No Apologies

Q. How are we supposed to treat others?

A. There are no others.

~ Ramana Maharshi

My eyes bleed to see the racism, bigotry, homophobia and xenophobia that I’ve never seen before. I lived in Alabama in the late 50s, 60s, and 70s, and to be sure the language of hate was spewed all across the deep South. But it was not on a 24-hour news cycle, so we did get some breaks from George Wallace and Bull Connor.

While racists like our President and his support of the now over one thousand White Nationalists’ groups is not only appalling, it is in a word, heartbreaking. I agree with the Inclusive Christian minister Glen Berteau, “You got to be the dumbest people I’ve ever seen.”

Christians, Jews and Muslims believe that the first mother of every human being was Eve. In human genetics, the mitochondrial Eve is the mother of all currently living humans – White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native Americans, Middle Eastern, and yes, gay and transgender.

Speaking of mothers, when I was in first grade in Detroit, Michigan, schools were already integrated. My parents, aunts and uncles moved from share-cropping farms in Alabama to work temporarily in the better-paying automobile factories.

One day my black friend, Tyrone Black, was being bullied and beaten and called this obscene word I’d never heard before, “Nigger.” He cried. I cried. I went home and told my Alabama-raised, white Baptist mother what happened and asked her what the word meant? She said these words I’ve never forgotten or hope to forget: “Honey, I don’t want you to ever say that word again. It’s a mean, dirty word. Your little friend is no different from you. The only thing that’s different is the color of your skin, but underneath it, he is just like you. You both have red blood.”

Our society is in a mass dark hypnotic trance and a monstrous societal regression. I do not know what to do about it. I have no power, no money, but I do have the willingness to speak out on paper, print and participate in any organized, non-violent, humanized protest against the trend toward Fascism, Nazism and brutality.

Please, please for the sake of all our eyes, ears and hearts, let’s take action. Let’s do something – put down our iPads and pick up our residual dignity and apply it to the service of creating a safe place for our brothers and sisters.

There is not one person who is better than you or I are. I do not care what color you are…” ~ Rev. Glen Berteau

Honesty: Brutal, Rigorous, Lying

“Are you proud of yourself tonight that you have insulted a total stranger whose circumstances you know nothing about?” ~ Atticus Finch – “To Kill a Mockingbird”

On the 4th of July a new acquaintance and I had lunch and it went very well. However, in the parking lot as we were saying goodbye, she said, “I need to tell you the truth about something.

“Go ahead,” I said.

“It’s going to be brutal.”

Now for some set of reasons, I said, “Go ahead.” Let’s just say I was caught off guard and quite taken with her. We might say here in the South that I was smitten.

Here’s what I wish I had said, and would normally say to someone, anyone who starts to tell a truth beginning with the adjective, “brutal.” “No thank you, not today,” or “Stop, I’ll be glad to hear a rigorous truth, but I try not to be brutal – I’ve had enough brutality for this lifetime.”

So, what’s the difference? Brutal is going to be about me, not you. Brutal is always going to contain some level of shaming, criticizing, belittling, or demeaning words. Hers contained all of these.

On the other hand, a rigorous truth is going to tell you something about them – what they need, want, or don’t want.

In the case of my acquaintance, she wanted me to stop calling her “hon,” or “dear,” or “darling.”

Rigorous would have been something like, “I’m uncomfortable,” or “Those words don’t work for me,” or “I feel patronized,” any would have been honest, sincere and vulnerable and require my deepest respect.

Brutal honesty, by the way, is kissing cousins with the prefaces, “with all due respect,” or “I mean no disrespect,” or “I hope you won’t take offense,” or “I’m telling you this, but I hope you won’t take it personally.” All these are requiring the responses like, “No, thank you,” or “I’m not going to be shamed today.”

Now a word about honesty and lying. If someone pulls out a photo of their grandchild, baby, or wiener dog, or hairless cat and they say, “Isn’t she beautiful,” or “the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?” Well any good Southerner should lie their face off and say, “Why, yes, hon, that little dear is the prettiest, most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, darlin,’” and make sure you look as honest and sincere as Atticus Finch, the lawyer in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“People who are brutally honest get more satisfaction out of the brutality than out of the honesty.” ~ Richard J. Weedham

Finding Your Rhythms: When to be Close and When to Separate

Entrain: “To draw along with or after oneself.” ~ Merriam-Webster

Entrainment is syncing our rhythms with someone else’s. Women who live or work very, very close to one another will entrain to another or several women’s menstrual cycles.

We are all easily drawn into other people’s rhythms.

However, entrainment is not usually beneficial in most relationships.

Most people don’t know what their true rhythms for closeness and separateness are. I know I didn’t even begin to explore my own pacing until my late thirties.

Did you ever have the feeling that you wanted to go, but still had the feeling that you wanted to stay…” ~ Jimmy Durante

Yeah, I know you don’t know the comedian, but he says it all. I would stay too long or not stay long enough. This could be at parties, other social events, and most importantly, in relationships.

Some of the beautiful, intelligent, creative women I’ve had the honor to know stayed with me a long time before kicking my young ass to the curb, or for that matter, even my old ass. But more than that, some would be very clear and committed to their own way and pace of doing and being before I got there.

I’ve asked hundreds of women what they were like after leaving a relationship. So many have said things lie, “I started yoga, kept a journal, planted a little garden, meditated…”

“Then what happened?” I’d ask.

“Then I met soulmate number 12 or 15, and within six months, I stopped yoga, my garden turned into weeds, etc., etc.”

By the way, many men do these exact same things and then “lose themselves.”

I adapted to a lover’s schedule, pace, needs, appetites, agenda, diets, etc. Why? Because I didn’t now what my own rhythms were for closeness and separateness were.

By the time my ex-wife and I got together I knew how long I could be at a social event – an hour. She would stay two or three, and we did this gladly with never an argument because we took separate cars and cared and trusted each other’s time frame needs and fidelity.

Now when I go out for dinner or coffee my maximum time for relaxed and refreshing conversation and interaction is right at two hours. And all my friends now this about me.

So, have you ever let your rhythms for closeness and separation get too far in sync and “lost yourself?”

It is one of the kisses of death to creativity, intimacy, communication, and way too often, contributes to the demise of relationships.

Here is the mysterious poem that illustrates this:

The Wind, One Brilliant Day ~ Antonio Machado

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

“In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odor of your roses.”

“I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.”

“Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.”

the wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
“What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”

Translated by Robert Bly

From Rescuing to Resentment

“He was so angry at me you would have thought I had tried to help him.” Harry Stack Sullivan, M.D.

Look, I’ve certainly done my share of rescuing men, women, and a variety of small and large animals. The animals were all very grateful. But rescuing people is not a good idea. I have one friend recently who I gave a home, career, and money and she won’t speak to me after six years of what I thought was deep friendship.

When I was much younger, I tried to rescue my family from the emotional and physical abuse we all received. That didn’t go so well either. It took me well into my late thirties before I finally got it that no one in my family wanted to be preached to and be in my congregation and likewise none of them signed up to be my students.

“Okay,” you say, “but why are people that we try to rescue so angry at us?”

When we rescue and ride in on our milky-white stallions and our not-so-shiny armor we are explicitly and implicitly implying they are not competent to handle situations or people. It appears to the “rescuee” that we are more intelligent, wise, and that they need us because they lack the internal resources to handle their own lives.

Rescuing adults emotionally, financially, spiritually, physically, and intellectually is very close to “care-taking.”

There are huge differences between “care-taking” and “care-giving.”

“Care-taking” – “I don’t really want to go home for Christmas, but it is my duty or obligation.” “What would people think if I didn’t quit my job and take care of my ailing father?” “What if I refused to bake cookies for the first-grade class?”

“Care-taking,” unless you’re being paid or otherwise reimbursed for your efforts, more often than not leaves us drained, exhausted, and takes most of our energy, and guess what? Resentment is felt by both the one who receives “care-taking” and the one giving it.

Now, “care-giving” is a whole different ballgame. “Care-giving” comes out of compassion, generosity, and love. “Care-giving” leaves us energized; we feel good about ourselves. The one we care for ends up feeling respected, with their dignity intact and usually very grateful. There is no resentment on anyone’s part. When we care for the people we love, we do so with our boundaries and limits and health.

“Care-taking” says, “Listen to me; I know best.” “Care-giving” says, “Take my hand, we can get through this together.”

So, who do you “care-take” or try to rescue and who do you “care-for?”