Check out the May Newsletter talking about missed opportunities and lessons around bullying.
Check out the May Newsletter talking about missed opportunities and lessons around bullying.
The challenges in defining our own values rather than accepting predefined values. Check out the April newsletter.
Been thinking a lot lately about the differences between unfocused anger and focused revolution and how this impacts being a leader. Check out the February newsletter.
We are afraid of sex. Everywhere I turn I see a culture that is afraid of bodily pleasure. We can’t talk about sex. We can’t ensure that children have a healthy perspective toward sex. We can’t communicate desires. We mostly ignore sex and hope that it all just goes away. The only exception is when sex is used to sell things. Then it seems to be OK. Just look at most commercials selling cars, shampoo and alcohol. Buy the right product then all your sexual issues will just go away.
Yet we seem to love violence. A recent Supreme Court decision codified it. This decision says that a state cannot restrict violent video games to those under 18. I’m not a gamer, but games have certainly changed. I remember games like Doom where the objective was essentially to shoot everything in sight but the object of the shooting was aliens and monsters. Today’s violent games feature rupturing the insides of people, dismembering and decapitation. All of which is extremely visually explicit.
So the high court says it’s OK for someone under 18 to see a woman literally torn in two by pulling her legs apart, yet this same child cannot access information about sexuality or the body. There’s something really wrong with this!
One of the dissenters of this opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer, summed up this important question clearly.
But what sense does it make to forbid selling to a 13-year-old boy a magazine with an image of a nude woman, while protecting a sale to that 13-year-old of an interactive video game in which he actively but virtually binds and gags the woman, then tortures and kills her? What are we teaching our children? It’s OK to rape, torture and kill someone else, but only if their clothes are on?
Why can’t we have open, honest, intelligent conversations about sex? Why can’t healthy sexual expression be viewed as the gift that it is rather than something so disarming? Of course everyone won’t agree on what healthy sexual expression is, but I’m sure most anything is better that teaching 13 year olds that there’s nothing wrong with extreme violence. I guess it’s just a reflection of who we are.
As for video games… I actually enjoyed the original Mario Brothers. I’d rather stomp on mushrooms.
Opportunities to Explore Bodily Pleasure
Mindful Self-Loving continues on the third Monday of each month. We gather next on Monday July 18 at Eros in San Francisco at 6:30. Generating and playing with erotic energy in a group is definitely different than doing it alone. For most guys, a supportive of erotic explorers can add to the experience, even if you’re a bit shy. Many men find that a group encourages each other to let go of preconceived notions and connect on a profound energetic level.
We meet in a private space not connected with the rest of the activity at Eros. You do not need to pay an admission fee to Eros for this workshop; however, you may optionally enjoy the facilities at Eros after the workshop by paying a separate admission fee. In the words of Douglas Adams, be sure to bring a large towel.
If one evening isn’t enough, imagine spending a week diving into Eros. I’ll be returning on the facuty ofEros Spirit Camp this July at Easton Mountain in New York. Join me and a group of gifted facilitators at Eros Spirit Camp July 25-31. Imagine taking the best of your summer camp experience as a child and combining it with a supportive environment of men helping everone practice creating the kind of erotic life we’ve always wanted. During the week, we’ll use workshops and events to explore the possibilities of interacting erotically that are respectful, safe and life affirming – ways that both help us to go within and to discover new depths of self by connecting with others.
Easton Mountain is a retreat center created by gay men in upstate New York. It’s a short 2 hour train ride from Penn Station in NYC and is also easily reached from Boston and Montreal.
I recently returned from Easton Mountain where I led several workshops on anal eroticism. At the opening circle we were doing some simple introductory exercises to help everyone get to know each other a bit better. One of the exercises required everyone to find a partner for a simple 2 or 3 minute process. Many of the men in attendance were frozen and couldn’t begin to find a partner – even for a simple short exercise.
The most common issue I hear from guys is around challenges in finding connection with others. Connection is a basic human need, yet sometimes we get in our own way in finding happiness around connection. While there can be many factors that get in the way of connection, I’ve noticed two primary issues come up over and over again: lack of confidence and fear of rejection.
Lack of confidence takes many forms. For some of us we’re worried that we aren’t the right type for someone. Others may have been subject to ridicule at some point and have given up – I think this is especially important for gay men. Many of whom experienced direct ridicule for who we are.
There’s no magic pill to boost your confidence, but there are some things we can all do to change our outlook. Be yourself. We can only gain self-confidence when we are our genuine selves. In some situations we may feel awkward so we succumb to the temptation to do what we think other people expect. We try to be somebody we are not. But, when we are trying to be someone that we are not, we can’t escape the falseness in denying our true self. This denial adds to the lack self-confidence.
Be kind to ourselves and find a chance to succeed. It is a bigger mistake to always hold back. Try inspiring yourself to give some activity – any activity – a chance. When we avoid the situations we fear, we’re stuck and never attempt anything. It’s all about practice and building self-confidence comes one step at a time. We’re often our own worst enemy. If we can’t be kind to ourself – who is going to be? Find ways to be nice to you. Focus, even if just of a short time, on what we like about us.
Fear of rejection can stop us from taking any risks. Learn to take small steps to put yourself out there. Learn how to fail successfully. Failing successfully means learning something in the process so that we can get up, brush off the dirt and try again.
I’ve felt this issue most of my life. For many years, I was the one hanging around the outside while I thought everyone else was having fun. I thought I was too fat, or too unattractive, or not in the right group. It wasn’t until I got tired of standing on the sidelines and realized that I needed to at least try to get in the game. Yes, sometimes I don’t get what I want, but many times I do and that’s why I keep trying!
Check out the new April newsletter where finding out what happened to an old friend of mine got me pondering some big questions.
A common topic that comes up is around learning how to accept ourselves just as we are. We are our own worst critic and we know exactly how to cut ourselves down. Further, many of spend a lot of time and energy trying to be someone else.
I’d like to offer an alternative. Learn how to fall in love with yourself just as you are. I’m not talking about narcissism. That’s accepting yourself without any appreciation of how our actions and behaviors land with others. Rather, I’m advocating that we have a good understanding of our self combined with an awareness of how the way in which we behave lands with others.
A great place to begin this journey is to develop a relationship with our archetype. I believe that each of us has such an archetype. For example, mine is my inner beast. I’m very much aware of this part of me and how it can sometimes be overbearing or frightening to others. I’m also aware of how this part of me is responsible for my drive, determination and fierceness.
I spent a lot of time trying to run away from my beast and be someone else. I realized that I’m not very good at being someone else. Rather, I’d like to be the best me I can be! I’m not running away from my beast any longer; at the same time, I try to listen to how this part of me is interpreted by others. The beast is both a source of my strength and a challenge. Awareness of my archetype combined with how that archetype is felt by others has been very helpful for me.
A great exercise to find your archetype is to write a fairy tale of your life. Begin it with, Once Upon a Time…
Be sure to include witches, fairies, beasts, warriors and princes! Your archetype will begin to come to life. As you begin to look at possible archetypes, try them on. See how they feel. Look at their strengths and challenges. You may begin to feel a connection with one of the archetypes. Take a look at this archetype – both the strengths and the challenges. See how your archetype interacts with others and how others feel about your archetype.
I believe that our archetypes are very much alive in all aspects of our life. Look at how your archetype impacts your work, your relationships, your sexuality, your fun and all the varied facets of life. As you begin to see the strengths of yourself, you may begin to accepts the challenges too!
I’ll be turning 50 in a few weeks. As I approach this birthday I’ve found myself in a good and reflective place lately. To me, 50 feels much more like a milestone than previous decade birthdays. I’m aware that, statistically speaking, more of my life is now behind me than is ahead of me. I’m happy with where I am in life but also curious about choices I didn’t make.
Some of those choices were simple forks in the road – either option would have probably worked out ok. On the other hand, with other choices there was a clear right way for me and a wrong way for me. An example of this right way/wrong way option was the coming out process. I remember a time in my early 20’s, when I was still confused, and I was going to propose to my girlfriend at the time. We had known each other for several years and got along well.
I had everything planned. But, at the last minute, I didn’t do it. At the time, I don’t know why I didn’t propose other than something in my gut told me not to. Looking back on this, it was clearly the right decision. I wouldn’t have been happy married. However, I am curious about what would life had been like had I married and had kids. It amazes me to think that they would be in their teens or even 20’s by now! I’m curious what kind of a father I would have been. At the same time, I’m very happy with the way my life is today and I know in my heart that it was the right path for me.
We all have milestones in our lives. I believe that it can be helpful to reflect back upon those milestones to look at what we learned. Sometimes, it can be helpful to express curiosity about the paths not taken. At times those paths not taken can inform us about where we need to be in the present moment or how we need to change our present situation to be closer to where we want to be.
I’m also aware of key events in my past that impact me today. Some of these events were quite painful. These painful events influenced me in many ways; however, as I’ve become older, I’m also aware that these events happened in the past. Keeping them in the present isn’t helpful. They did have a profound impact on my life, but they do not control how I live my life in the present. I think at some point we all have to find a way to let go of the past and keep it there. The past informs us. Yes, it all happened – both the good and the not so good. However, the more interesting perspective to me is how those past events influence what we choose for today.
As I approach 50, I’m thankful for the wonderful opportunities I’ve had in life. I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve had along the way. Of course, there are some decisions I would like to do over, but there are many more that I’m very happy and satisfied about. I look forward to the path forward with, hopefully, a bit more wisdom than I’ve had in the past.
I’m Not My Type
So many of us go through life feeling that we’re undesirable. We look at ourselves in the mirror and conclude that no one could possibly find us attractive. I see this all the time when coaching men. While there are many factors that can contribute to this feeling, I believe that, for many of us who identify as gay or queer, it’s because we make the mistaken assumption that everyone is attracted to the same ‘type’ that we’re attracted to and we aren’t that type.
Every time we look at ourselves in the mirror we see someone who we’re not attracted to. We see a body type that is not our ideal. In many cases our body type is the opposite of what we’re attracted to. The little guy wants the big guy. The smooth guy wants the hairy guy. We don’t see how someone could be attracted to us because we’re not.
When we believe this we have a hard time letting in interest from others. When someone we find attractive expresses an interest in us we question how this other rational, attractive person could have any interest in us. We’re so focused on all our shortcomings that we assume everyone only sees those shortcomings too. Yet the reality is that no one is as hard on ourselves as we are. Maybe this other attractive person is attracted to you because you’re just their type!
I’ve seen this in myself. For many years, I went through life ashamed of my body. I always felt too big, too fat. I didn’t like the way my body looked. I was always attracted to thinner people and assumed that everyone was attracted to the same type and that I was undesirable. Later in life I realized that many people are attracted to larger men like me. I had friends tell me that people were checking me out and I was completely unaware of it because of my mistaken assumptions. It goes to prove that old adage that there’s someone for everyone.
Understanding that other people find us attractive – regardless of how we feel about ourselves is a step toward coming to terms with our bodies. For every person who thinks they’re too old there’s someone looking for an older person. For every person who thinks they’re too thin, there’s someone looking for thin people.
The difficulty begins when we start to compare ourselves to cultural norms without realizing that those cultural norms change over time. It’s not that long ago when the burly “Marlboro Man” type was all the rage. Now everyone is shaving everywhere! Tastes change and magic happens when we begin to see ourselves as worthy of desire along with everyone else!
“Success isn’t the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.”
I saw this on a t-shirt someone was wearing at O’Hare airport while I was changing planes over the weekend. I was coming back from Easton Mountain where I was part of an amazing team of men leading a week of workshops on being erotically conscious. I liked the quote on this shirt because it reminded me of my belief that we must all set ourselves on fire to get what we want in life.
Whether it’s Eros, or career, or relationships, or any other aspect of life the common thread is that fire we create for ourselves. It’s so easy to complain about things that are missing or things we want more of in life. Yet, often when we examine what we’re looking for the one key ingredient missing is that fire or passion. We just expect things to automatically happen and we’re surprised when those things don’t happen the way we want.
Looking at our erotic life can be a useful window into finding that fire for each of us. How do we interact erotically in ways that are safe and fulfilling? Eros has the potential to offer us great gifts of connection with self and others and the sense of the divine in all. Yet, many of us only see the surface of Eros – the sexual act. When we can find ways to dive deeper to see all the parallel paths that Eros has to offer, we can begin to see infinitely expanding possibilities and the intersection of Eros and spirit. The best place to begin is to become aware of the power of intention. In other words, become clear on what you want and why you want it.
When things aren’t going the way you want a place to look is your own fire. Are you creating and tending the fire to give yourself the things you want out of life or are you expecting spontaneous combustion?