The Language of Animals

Animals are nothing but the forms of our virtues and vices, wandering before our eyes, the visible phantoms of our souls.

~ Victor Hugo

Men used to listen attentively to the messages of the animals; our lives, our souls, depended on it. The appearances and absences of certain animals at certain times were full of meaning and offered essential guidance. The hawk, raven, wolf, and bear all sent messages to men and spoke in a language we understood.

A part of us still understands that language. The animals still speak, showing up at interesting times, in “coincidental” ways. A husky a cousin to the wolf, might walk up to us just when we are in need of courage. A cat visits when we require patience. When peace is most precious, a dove flies overhead. The animals are speaking.

Today I’ll observe the animals to absorb their wisdom.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations On the Masculine Soul

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

The Perfection of Imperfection

Baseball … teaches that errors are part of the game.

~ Ernest Kurtz

Some of us, long ago, learned that anything less than perfection was failure. We learned this in our families, at school, from coaches. Some of us had “four A, one B” parents: we handed them our report card, they looked silently at the row of A’s, then saw the B and said, “What is this doing here?” Such parents pass on to their children the intolerance they got from their own parents. As adults they teach their children to be ashamed of anything less than perfection, even if their children are doing very well.

If our worst fear is to make an error, we can’t make any home runs either. When we feel our worth depends on perfection, we stop taking risks. But if we can’t risk failure, our days will be colorless and empty.

Inevitably our life’s journey will include stumbling over rough terrain. At these rough spots we discover our inner strength. Besides, without out “mistakes,” we’d be somewhere else – we’d be someone else! Today, we can try to accept all we’ve lived through. We can keep going, accepting the outcome, whether it matches our fantasies or not.

Today I’ll look back on my “mistakes” with new eyes. All that I’ve done in my life has helped me to arrive where I am right now.

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

Self-Esteem

“A man falling in his own esteem needs more ground under his feet; to stand again he may need the whole world for a foothold.”

~ Wendell Berry

So many men try to live up to the expectations and visions of others (as our fathers did) by acquiring land and things, even by “collecting” people! We must finally come to the conclusion that we, in ourselves, are enough. All those who ever implied or said outright that we weren’t good enough were wrong. Until that moments of awareness arrives, we will continue to work and worry ourselves to an early grave.

Once we recognize ourselves at our full value as the priceless, irreplaceable men we are, we can begin to let go of our choke-hold on a world that can never confirm our manhood, our inner worth.

Today I’ll let go of one thing I’ve been using to measure my manhood, to validate my existence, to confirm my right to be here.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Search for the Sword

Though much is taken, much abides;

… that which we are, we are,

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Most of us received no sword from our fathers. Instead we inherited an awkward club, or an attitude, or a wound. So, we say “yes” when we mean “no.” We pound our point into the ground, and we abuse others with our foul dispositions.

All the while we wish for a sword sharp enough to amputate our dysfunction, to cut through the crap daily life can dish out, to sever the umbilical cords that bind us to people and places in our history. We want a sword that gleams in the darkness, that lights our way, that shines for those less fortunate or those too small or weak to stop the abuse they’re receiving. We must find this sword and remove the dust it has collected. Then we must learn when to wield it and when to sheath it.

Today I’ll search for this sword. When I find it, I’ll keep it close to my briefcase, my pocket, my soul.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Returning the Earth

“We have conquered the environment, and in our obsession for control, we no longer allow the environment to live in us.”

~ Valerie Andrews

Humankind has “tamed” the wilderness, bought and sold land for profit and loss. For too long we have mortgaged the earth and bankrupted its resources, pouring fumes into the skies and sludge into the oceans as if they were ours to destroy. Much more than rhetoric and legislation are needed to change this pattern of control and conquest over nature. I must begin a new inner relationship to my environment. Only then will the right action be clear to me.

I resolve to let the great trees live in me. I accept their strength and the wisdom of their years. I invite the land back into my legs and back and bones so that I might reclaim the rhythms of birth, death, and renewal. As I stand on the shore, I’ll feel the sea rushing into my gut. I’ll let my arms reach to embrace the painted sky. I’ll walk right through the mud! I’ll receive the meaning of those mountains at which I used to blankly stare, wondering who “owned” them. To be truly alive, I must relinquish my illusions. To truly survive, I must learn to receive the grace of this earth with gratitude, respect, and love.

Today I let go of the illusion of control, the dogma of dominion. I set my soul on automatic pilot, letting it soar through this world. Today I am touched and taught by the earth.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Retrieving Dreams

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

~ Albert Einstein

If we believe that our dream life is at least as important as our waking life, what wonders might occur. Intuition is as real and dependable as anything that can be scientifically observed. We know from experience that we become what we imagine. We don’t just burst forth as we are, full-blown, without a clue. We may not be able to prove or quantify this knowledge, but we do possess it.

Men can make dreaming, hunches, and musings important again if we try. After all, we were pretty good at it when we were children. We haven’t lost the ability to wonder; we’ve just let it get rusty. Daily, we used to dream ourselves into giants, kings, unheard-of creatures, magicians, rock stars, astronauts. We always intuitively knew where the treasure was buried and exactly what steps we had to take to retrieve it. We have this knowledge still, if we will use it.

Today I’ll take time to dream. I’ll sail into waters filled with pirates and piranhas – intellect, logic, and reason. I’ll retrieve my dreams and present them as a gift to myself in the waking world.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Empowerment

The power of a man … is his present means to obtain some future apparent good.

~ Thomas Hobbes

Many of us have lived for power, often getting it at a very high cost to ourselves and the people we love. In such cases, we seldom feel empowered by our actions. Nor do we feel able to aid and empower others.

Now more and more of us are striving to discover a new way of being, one that allows us and our sons, daughters, lovers, and friends to feel energized and connected to our Source. We’re beginning to see that our play and our work are creative acts, not so different from each other. We feel a new love of life, a new conviction that even corporations, factories, offices, and shops can be run in a way that nurtures and supports us all.

Today is a day to explore my understanding of loving empowerment. I will cease vying for power with those around me. Instead I delight in finding and using that divine power inside myself. Today may everything I do and say be aligned with the true Source of all power.

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