Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Derek Markham (Natural Papa) - Manly Skill: Become an Authentic Man

Excellent article from Derek Markham at Natural Papa - a very good blog if you are not already reading it. This is sort of a promotion for Jayson Gaddis, an excellent coach, and Tripp Lanier’s The New Man podcast - but that's cool with me.

The real point is that men sometimes need to get an outside opinion - and we need to be open to that outside information if our goal is to become better men. I think most of us want to be better men, so it's all good. We take the help that fits for us.

Manly Skill: Become an Authentic Man

by Derek Markham

heroic man

In my reading, both on the web and in print, I’ve come across two basic types of men: those who believe that their development as a person and as a man is finished (and anyone who thinks differently is some kind of girly-man or should ‘get over it’), and those who are willing to go deeper – to explore their shadow side, their weaknesses and fears – in order to grow into the man they know they are capable of. To be an authentic man.

I used to be one of the first types, making fun of guys who want to ‘get in touch’, to express themselves, to be vulnerable, honest, and authentic. But through my reaction to a series of events in my life, I came to learn that I was being held back by beliefs that I picked up from society, and that I was living my life in reaction to the world. I wasn’t making choices based on what I truly wanted and believed in, but rather simply reacting, and not in ways that were fulfilling to me or were for my best interests.

So I started looking around at what other men had written or spoken of in regards to the journey of a man – or rather the journey from boy to man. And honestly, 10+ years ago, all the things I heard ran counter to what my heart was telling me – that men are different than women, that they have a different language and different needs than women do. Mostly what I found were focused around taking the lessons that women have learned in empowerment, and putting a male spin on them. This felt wrong. It still does.

I saw quite a few women who had really broken free of the negative gender stereotypes, had claimed their power, and were doing great work for and with women. But I didn’t see any male role models that I felt drawn to – they were either selling a ‘magic pill’, were complete ass-hats and focused on the shallow end of the psyche, or were completely unbelievable.

Because of that, I decided that I needed to just work on myself and find my own way. During that time of my life – about a decade – I read extensively in the great spiritual texts, especially the Eastern religious traditions which were fully focused on the inner game, not the outer rituals. I practiced Hatha yoga, experimented with Qi Gong, and learned to meditate. I also spent years pursuing the elusive (false) feeling of enlightenment that came through psychedelics, but realized that no matter how profound the experience, you always came down, and it isn’t really possible to stay in that place (though many people try to).

Further along, I discovered the Lakota ceremonies of sweat lodge, crying for a vision, and Sundance, which enabled me to bridge the gap between the physical and the spiritual. I learned the feeling of letting go of my expectations, pushing through my physical suffering, and trusting fully in the power of faith, prayer, and intention. I also learned the true meaning of community – gaining a chosen family, with every man my brother and every older man my uncle or grandfather.

And through it all, the challenges of marriage and fatherhood put me to the test – many times leading me to believe that somehow I wasn’t good enough, that who I was wasn’t competent, because I would still react in ways that were not fully authentic, not fully empowered. There were many times that I wanted to run away to my ‘cave’, to head out to the mountains or desert to live the life of a hermit. I never acted on those impulses, but seeing the urge to do so showed me some things about myself that I was busy trying to deny.

Read more . . . .


Derek said...

Thanks! It was one of those posts that I struggled with - how much do I share, and who really cares? But I'm glad I did.

william harryman said...

I'm glad you did too - I think it's important to share the struggle with each other. It's helpful for guys to know they are not alone in trying to figure this stuff out - there aren't any real good maps for this yet.