The Flying Boy Letters: Getting Back to Y’all 30 Years Later

This is a most unique and comprehensive book, which is a culmination of thousands of hours of teaching, counseling, key noting clinical conferences on relationships, men’s issues, recovery, anger, regression, grief, and passivity. This small book is the “best of” 30 years.

I would be honored and appreciative of any support you may provide. Please buy it if you can, read it and post a review on Amazon; or recommend it to your friends, family, clients, and colleagues.

If you have a podcast, radio, or television program, I would like to do any and all interviews.

Thanks so much for over 3 decades of support!

JOHN

Order The Flying Boy Letters

Schedule sessions, or to bring JOHN  to your treatment facility, community group or place of worship or an interview, please contact me.

 

Conflict

“In fact, the conflict itself is creative and perhaps should never be healed.”

~ Thomas Moore

Very often men seek to remove conflict. At times that’s the best move to make. But hoping for an end to all conflict is unrealistic. Conflict is natural; it’s part of living in community rather than isolation.

When conflict arises, I can take it as a great opportunity to practice my skills. I can explore, appreciate, and learn from each circumstance. If someone flirts with my wife, I get to practice handling my jealousy and anger. In a disagreement with a coworker, I can practice seeking a task in a new way. If my teenage son wants to dye his hair purple and put a ring in his nose, I get to practice tolerance and compromise.

No matter how disagreeable on the outside, every conflict has a delicious sweet at its core – a great teaching hidden in its middle. To pray that a conflict will disappear before it has done its work on me will only lead me further into darkness. To meet conflicts with an enthusiastic good nature, to work at each one until I discover its hidden teaching, is to live wisely and fully.

Today I accept the presence of conflict in my life. I have the choice to embrace conflicts, to learn from them, to use them to grow.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Seeking the Truth

If you tell the truth, you have infinite power supporting you; but if not, you have infinite power against you.

~ Charles Gordon

I’m a man who has told lies and lived lies and listened to the lies of other men. Lying is what I was taught to do. I was told that if it hurts, you put on a smile; if it cuts or bruises you, be a “big boy” and act like you’re okay. And if you fail – fake success.

Now I want and need to tell the truth about my hurt, my pain, and my disappointments, and I need contact with other men who are learning to do the same. I also want to learn the truth about a man’s special capacity for intimacy, joy, and serenity.

Nothing less than the truth will suffice at this point in my recovery. But I also don’t want to turn the truth into a battering ram. I may feel shame and regret for past untruths, but none of these mistakes is who I really am. Not one of them diminishes me as a man. If I begin to shame myself, I can raise a shield, saying, “Stop.” If others use the truth brutally against me, I can leave.

Today I honor, search for, and embrace the truth about myself and my masculinity.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Where is the Treasure?

If there is to be any peace it will come through being, not having.

~ Henry Miller

As boys, many of us learned that having a lot of toys brought popularity. As teenagers, whoever had the first car was the center of attention. If we had more clothes, money, and athletic ability, we had more dates and others envied us. To this day, many of us still seek happiness in things – a better car, a gold credit card, a more spacious house – more, always more. Where is our satisfaction? Aren’t the things we have now the things we wanted a few years ago and worked so hard to achieve? Where is the contentment, the enjoyment we expected to feel?

There’s nothing wrong with possessions, of course. It’s great to feel gratitude for what we’ve received in our lives. But if we feel driven to get more, to accomplish more and more, maybe our desire is misplaced. What we really want most is not to be found outside us. Throughout the ages, the wise ones have said that the love we give and receive in this life is all we take with us when it’s over. Together we can focus on acquiring inner peace. Then by our example, we will leave our sons and daughters this great treasure, a wealth they can never lose.

Today I’ll look at how much time I spend getting, how much I spend giving, and how much I spend just being. I have the power to change the focus of my time and life to reflect the highest good.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Fire

The voice at the center speaks in tongues of flame … The child in man hears his fire rise.

~ M. C. Richards

The author of the quotation above, M. C. Richards, is a potter. Fire is at the center of her art, as it is at the center of much art – indeed, of life itself. The blaze captures our gaze. Love, like fire, can sear, is not always kind, can cut through the dead wood, demanding change. Solar fire lights each day; without it we would perish instantly. The sun rises brilliantly some mornings, giving us pleasure and another new day. The sources of fire are many: relationships, the sun, a forest burning wildly, and wherever friction exits. Fire is many things: strength, power, destruction, beauty.

Some people so fear fire that they never allow its flames to ignite them. They become passive, missing the activity inherent in fire. Others move too often into the fire and are frequently burned. Crafting the appropriate relationship to fire and to fiery people is key.

Today I will reflect on fire. I may light a fire in a fireplace, or make a fire on a beach, in my backyard, or elsewhere. As I watch the flames leap, I will think about how to kindle the fire in my heart.

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

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.

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

Every Time You Say “YOU,” You Will Pay!

The rule for men and women’s communication before, say Adam and Eve, was to not talk much about anything.  Adam never told Eve how he felt about the apple thing. Then there was a huge communication advance somewhere around the 80’s – “When you say or do, I feel…,” and then you would fill in the blank – “When you don’t show up on time I feel angry, disappointed, hurt,” etc.  To be sure this was a great break from the silent treatment.

I’ve had many clients say to me, “Well, I learned in couples’ counseling to say to my husband, ‘When “YOU” don’t make love to me often, I feel rejected, not sexy, not beautiful, and I need “YOU” to find me attractive.’”

“What did he say?” I asked. “Did you feel heard – really listened to?”

“Not at all! He got defensive and said in his harshest tone, ‘Damn, baby, “YOU” know I find you attractive. I married you, and it just seems like “YOU” are just too needy sometimes.”

Here’s what I used to do when I was not very smart just so you’ll know I learned the hard way what I’ve said so far. When I was young and dumb – when I was upset, disappointed, annoyed and even angry or hurt – “YOU” need to stop saying… or Why don’t “YOU…?” If only “YOU” would stop or start or, God forbid, I wish “YOU” would get some damn therapy. Well let’s just say my track record was not very good for this, and many other reasons, and that’s why I had to do what seems like 10,000 hours of therapy.

About 20 plus years ago I thought, “Why do I need to say, ‘When you say this, I feel…?’ Why not just say what I feel?” In other words, tell my lover, partner, parent, friend, child – “I feel…;” “I need…;” “I want;” “I hurt;” “I’m sad;” or “I’m angry.” Now you really smart people will say, “But how will they know why I’m sad or angry or hurt if I don’t tell them?”  When you take out the “YOU’S,” they can usually listen, and more often than not, even ask questions, like “Tell me what is wrong?” or “Tell me more.” If you don’t have to fend off any “YOU’S,” guess what happens — a conversation, communication — just imagine that.

So this is how most arguments or fights go, but don’t really go anywhere.

I’m going to tell about “YOU,” what you’re doing or saying, and how you’re wrong. Then he or she is going to tell “YOU” how “YOU” didn’t say that.

We tell the other person what they just did wrong, or “YOU” are not saying it right, and then you tell him/her, and they tell you, and this is a four-hour marathon where at the end I don’t know anymore about “YOU” and “YOU” don’t know any more about me – and I jokingly say, “This is too often called marriage?”

Every time you say the word, “YOU,” you will pay when you’re having a conflict, confrontation, or argument because there’s something about the word “YOU” that triggers people unless it’s followed by a compliment, and if not, we get our buttons pushed, or worse case, we really regress. As soon as I say “YOU” – the person almost always goes into defense mode. Hell, you may have already stopped reading this and are preparing a defensive rebuttal, and that is what most people do when they’ve had enough “YOU’S” hurled at them – they stop listening. “You” throws many into flight, fight, or freeze.

“I,” on the other hand, says, “Let me tell you about me, and then I want to hear your thoughts and feelings about this.” “I” tends to keep me in my adult self, my new brain, my neo-cortex.

…The truth is you turned away yourself,

and decided to go into the dark alone.

Now you are tangled up in others, and have forgotten

   what you once knew,

and that’s why everything you do has some weird

  failure in it.

From Kabir translated by Robert Bly

Seven Years to Seven Minutes

It ain’t dying’ I’m talking about, it’s living…”

Gus in Lonesome Dove

Hold on, there’s a good and true ending.

Let’s say your doctor tells you (God forbid), “You have seven years to live.”

Here are the four questions I had to ask myself when I did this exercise:

  1. Where will you go?
  2. What will you do?
  3. Who will you take with you?
  4. What are you waiting on?

When I answered these questions at seven years, I said I’d live in my mountain cottage in the pigmy southern Appalachians and travel to Austin. I’d continue to write and see clients part-time and would take my wife with me to both places.

Okay, now your doctor didn’t read the x-ray report correctly and he said, “Sorry, you only have seven months.”

Then I answered the same four questions. I was surprised by how those answers changed. The answers really changed when it got to seven weeks, and dramatically changed when told seven hours and then seven minutes.

Well, I did this exercise with a good man who came for a two-day Intensive Session with me in my mountain retreat. He had literally been told his cancer would take him in six to eight months.

Long story short – when I asked him the four questions with only seven months to live, he said: “I want to take all my old friends and family to the Redwood Forest in California and find a tree that we could make a circle around, lay down on the ground and hold hands.”

What a beautiful image he placed in my head. I asked him the last of the four questions: “What are you waiting on?”

He replied: “That’s asking an awful lot – the money for airline tickets, car rentals, etc., etc.”

I’ll come back to this in a moment.

His wife was with him and I asked her to come in the studio where I had a daybed.

I told him and her, “Now you only have seven minutes to live, and I’m going to step outside and give you your privacy.”

I had no idea what would happen. When the bell rang, I went back in and they were spooning and weeping and laughing. The wife wiped away some tears and said, “He told me something he’s never told me in 35 years of marriage.”

I never asked what that was – it was theirs’ only.

About a half-year later, his wife called me to tell me two things. The first was that he and she and 14 family and friends went to that magnificent forest, circled a tree and held hands. Not one person he asked declined. The second thing was that he was peaceful, serene and beautiful in the days before he went. He knew he was deeply loved.”

I ask you to try the exercise and answer the four questions, and then answer this fifth question posed by one of the greatest poets, Mary Oliver:

“…Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.”

~ The Summer Day