Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Revolutionary Man - Open Your Heart, Even if it Stings

Jayson says his post was inspired by one of mine, which works out nicely since this here post is inspired by his - it's kind of like an ascending spiral of inspiration.

Here is the beginning of Jayson's post:

Open Your Heart, Even if it Stings

Wed, Nov 4, 2009

Open Heart

This post inspired by Bill Harryman blogging about chapter two in David Deida’s book Way of The Superior Man

Commitment 10

I vow to live with an open heart even if it hurts. (see other commitments here.)

In a powerful medicine ceremony the other night I was reminded how much it burns to keep my heart open. Then I felt the sheer power of my open heart. In that moment, I renewed my vow to keep my heart open and available.

If you claim you want deep love and true connection but you walk around with a closed heart, read on. If you want to know your life’s calling and you keep your heart stifled and tucked away, it’s unlikely you’ll ever find your purpose in this life. If you are a man who longs to be seen, acknowledged, understood, or loved, this is required reading for you.

If you are a human being, you have been hurt in some way. And chances are you still walk around with that hurt, the pain locked up inside you, buried for really valid reasons. The good news is that your old hurt can be the key to unlock your power and potential. All of us need help opening our heart further and further.

Living with your heart open is a rich, unexplored part of the path for most men. Many men keep their heart closed their whole life, never even opening up to their spouse or intimate partner.

I was that guy until about age 30—walking around with a puffed out chest and a closed heart. At the same time I guarded my heart, I also longed for deep connection. Little did I know that it was up to me to make the first move. And, I had no clue that in order to get what I wanted, I had to start feeling.

So, why bother opening my heart?

First, let’s look at it from the opposite angle; why not open your heart? Ask yourself “what is the worst thing that can happen?” It gets broken? You get hurt again? Remember, you are already walking around with hurt. Do you fear what you are already feeling?

Many of you already have had a broken heart.

For me, I had a long list of really good reasons why I was not opening up to my girlfriends and why I kept my distance from my male friends. Mostly, I would blame others. I was saving it for the big day when I met that special woman. “Well, if I knew she was the one, then I would open up to her.”

Had I never looked in the mirror and got honest with myself, I would have taken my amazing heart to my grave. A lot of men take this approach and end up dying feeling alone and broken. In fact, the number one cause of death among men in the US for the last many years? Heart disease.

Read his whole post.

This was a timely article for me, as yesterday was a bit of an emotional challenge. Two things happened yesterday that shook me deeply.

(1) A female friend of mine talked opening about being sexually harassed by a man I had looked up to and respected. I felt horrible for her experience, for the fact that he tried to silence her, for the self-doubt he likely created in her. I can't imagine what she has been through, but my heart was opened by her words and her strength in the face of suffering.

And I was saddened that someone I looked up to was a much lesser man that I had thought him to be. Yes, he is very gifted in his profession and is an important part of making the world a better place at the social level. But as a person, well, not so much.

(2) A professor (Sharon) who I admire and look to as a mentor may no longer be able to teach in the counseling program due to bureaucratic bullshit. She has a masters degree, not a PhD, and the U of Phoenix is now wanting all professors, regardless of skill and experience, to hold a PhD. She is a fellow Buddhist and unlike much of the program, which is geared toward turning out CBT therapists, she is more of a person-centered gestalt therapist, a person actually spending most of her days doing therapy, not teaching.

Here is another quote from Jayson:
I know it’s painful and it can even sting, but try this on–feeling into your broken or closed heart is the way back to your own aliveness and your freedom as a man. The more you allow yourself to feel (including anger, sadness, and fear), the more alive you will be.
It took me years to learn this truth, but now that I know it, I can sit with my feelings so much more easily.

I spent much of yesterday being with my sadness. It came to a head at the end of our last class with Sharon last night, when we all talked about what we had learned in the class (individual counseling), the ways we had grown.

She often began the class with a short reading, generally from a book by Irvin Yalom, but also last night, a section from Pema Chrodron's The Places That Scare You. Chodron was talking about impermanence, and about holding an open heart in the face of loss and sadness. She mentioned the "warrior," a reference to Chogyam Trungpa's concept of the warrior heart - the strength that comes from being able to open our hearts and feel the tenderness of being vulnerable and open to our full feelings.

After class I hugged her and thanked her for all she had taught me and told her I appreciated her. I felt genuinely open, not only sad about the loss, but appreciative, grateful for having known her for the two classes she taught to our cohort.

My strength as a man, my aliveness, comes from working to discover and nurture this tender open heart. Ten or fifteen years ago, I would not have been able to hold that sadness in my heart as I did yesterday. Hell, maybe even five years ago.

I felt deeply for my friend who had been harassed - and I had even discussed it with her a while back, so I knew about the generality of it. I guess reading her words, seeing her strength, her humor, and her sadness made it all more real.

And I was saddened by the loss of a role-model. So few men have their shit together enough to be good role models. Another man revealed himself to be flawed in deep ways - as so many of us are.

And I was saddened by the loss of a mentor and friend along my path to becoming a therapist.

Because I did not push it away, or deny it, or try to numb it with chemicals, the sadness came and went. Today there is still some lingering feeling, but it has mostly passed - the same way storm clouds gather, rage a little while, then move on, leaving blue skies and fertile soil in their wake.

So, open your heart, even if it stings.

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