Is it just my husband or are other men angry, confused and depressed? I can’t walk down the sidewalk without bumping into a man who might be suffering from alcoholism, workaholics, hypertension, or chronic stress. It is as if there is massive middle-aged fraternity, and these self-destructive actions are the requirements for recognition.
It’s obvious that men are in a lot of pain.
However this pain is becoming a catalyst for countless numbers of men to explore the emotional and spiritual geography of their lives as well as create a new vision for what it means to be a man. Workshops, retreats, and men’s groups are providing safe havens where men talk from the heart instead of the head. A commonly held perception is that men express their spirituality in more primal, aggressive modes like beating a drum. Rather, what seems to be emerging in men is a more reflective spirituality that focuses on cultivating inner qualities such as compassion, intimate connection, and mutual respect rather than power and authority. Some are saying their spiritual work is helping them find inner peace, live more authentic lives, and have more fulfilling relationships, especially with women.
During the industrial revolution of the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, a seismic shift occurred economically, socially and culturally. For men and their sons, and consequently for society as a whole, this shift proved catastrophic. Men left their homes to seek work many miles from the common thread that historically united grandfathers, fathers and sons. This was a tribal thread that had once woven the males into the fabric of lineage of men that had come before them. Older men had always initiated the younger boys into the ways of men, guiding them to find a balance point deep within their masculine souls. Today, ceremonial rites of passage are all but extinct in our society. As a result, most boys are not spiritually awakened. They do not grow up to feel competent around other men and with their own manhood. They then have sons of their own and the cycle continues. If we are to find new ways to initiate our boys and share with them their spiritual and masculine legacies, it will only come after we all do a great deal of soul searching. This search can lead to spiritual insight and a movement towards embodiment, transformation, and service.
The challenge many men are encountering now on their path to spiritual awakening is how to integrate these more sensitive qualities into their lifestyle without losing touch with their masculine warrior energy. The goal, it seems is not to become a sensitive, tie-dye wearing new age guy but instead embrace one’s wholeness. For many men the greatest fear they have to overcome during their spiritual passage is facing prolonged uncertainty. The void that all spiritual warriors pass through between the disintegration of the old unconscious self and the emergence of the new conscious self is terrifying.
Slowing the pace, listening more attentively, and cultivating inner awareness are ways men are making healthier and more conscious choices. Men are also seeking spiritual guidance and inspiration from the various wisdom traditions around the world. What they are learning from their search into the sacred text and teachings of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, mythology and Native American culture is that they are experiencing what every spiritual warrior has experienced through out the history of time – the loss of self. As horrifying as this is for many men, they are also realizing that not having a fixed identity is helping them discover their more true empowered selves, moment by moment. Slowly, one by one, men are going through the transformational fire of death and rebirth and coming more fully into their wholeness, into their power, and into their humanity. And, because of this the world is becoming a better place for everyone.