Friday, May 31, 2013

This Is What a Good Man Looks Like . . . Patrick Stewart

I have admired Patrick Stewart as an example of a good man for several years. He always has seemed humble and grateful, yet is one of the most talented actors of his generation or any other. When he began to speak out about the domestic violence he lived with as a child (see here and here), my respect for him increased substantially.

A blogger at the Comicpalooza in Texas, held on Memorial Day weekend, thanked him for a speech he gave on domestic violence at an Amnesty International event. She said she had been through a similar event in her life and thanked him for speaking out.

From there, things got personal . . . .

Patrick Stewart hugs domestic-abuse survivor, tells of violence in his childhood

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

Patrick Stewart told the Comicpalooza audience that his mother was blamed for the abuse rained on her by his father.

On television, he was the almost unflappable Captain Jean-Luc Picard on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." But Patrick Stewart was raised in a poor household with an abusive father, and the experience gave him the fire to work for such causes once he had the fame to make himself heard.

Stewart appeared at Comicpalooza in Texas over the Memorial Day weekend, and while there, answered questions from audience members.

Heather Skye, who blogs at Lemon Sweetie, thanked Stewart for a speech he gave at an Amnesty International event about domestic violence, saying that she had come through a similar event and appreciated his speaking out, and asked him about what non-acting work he's the most proud of.

And then things got personal. Stewart, who has spoken about his father's abuse before, referenced his own childhood in 1940s England. "The work that I do in campaigns about violence towards women, particularly domestic violence, grew out of my own childhood experience," he said.

He discussed the specific groups he works with, and went on to say, "I do what I do in my mother's name, because I couldn't help her then. Now I can."

Stewart said his father, a World War II veteran, was then said to suffer from severe shellshock, but would today be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He works with both the veterans' mental-health charity Combat Stress as well as the domestic-violence shelter Refuge, saying he does so because of both of his parents.

"As a child, I heard in my home doctors and ambulance men say, 'Mrs. Stewart, you must have done something to provoke him,'" Stewart said to Skye and the crowd. "'Mrs. Stewart, it takes two to make an argument.' Wrong! WRONG! My mother did nothing to provoke that, and even if she had, violence is never ever a choice that a man should make. Ever!"

The crowd gave Stewart a standing ovation, and shortly after, he walked into the crowd and hugged Skye. She wrote on her blog, "He told me 'You never have to go through that again, you’re safe now.' I couldn’t stop thanking him. His embrace was so warm and genuine. It was two people, two strangers, supporting and giving love. And when we pulled away he looked (straight) in my eyes, like he was promising that. He told me to take care. And I will."

After Careful Deliberation, Baby Goes With Homosexuality

Nice parody of what some people still believe - from The Onion, of course.

After Careful Deliberation, Baby Goes With Homosexuality

ISSUE 49•22 • May 30, 2013

EDMOND, OK—Following weeks of deliberation during which he carefully considered what sort of life he wanted for himself, 4-month-old baby Nathan Reynolds announced Wednesday that he had decided to be homosexual.

“I thought about it for a long time,” said Reynolds, who took into account both how his peers would view him and how he would be treated by society at large before determining his sexual orientation. “I weighed the pros and cons of homosexuality, and ultimately I decided that it was the right thing for me.”

The 16-week-old infant, who admitted that he was fully aware of the negative consequences associated with choosing to be attracted to members of the same sex, claimed that he was now prepared to go through life struggling with rejection, intolerance, and unprovoked hostility.

In addition, Reynolds confirmed that he opted for homosexuality despite very serious concerns about sustaining permanent psychological damage from a lack of acceptance from family members and fearing the stigma of publicly displaying affection for another man.

“Of course, I wasn’t certain of anything at first, but when I finally made up my mind to be gay, I was conscious of the fact that loved ones would repeatedly tell me that I’m not normal,” said the 4-month-old baby who made the decision before reaching the developmental milestone of head control. “Even though I’ll be subjected to ignorant homophobic attitudes and countless anti-gay slurs, the choice of homosexuality really works for me.”

Reynolds, like all infants when they reach the ages between 2 and 10 months old, was intent on determining his sexual orientation, emphasizing that his decision was “just a lifestyle choice and nothing more.” While every baby reportedly makes a commitment to being heterosexual, homosexual, or transgender, Reynolds revealed that each infant has different reasons for their decision, explaining that gay felt like a good fit for his personality and disposition.

“My selection of a sexual preference was the product of a great deal of self-reflection,” said the newly homosexual infant, who added that he reached his decision completely on his own and was not influenced by his genetic makeup or any circumstances beyond his control. “If my sexuality means I get bullied at school, or that I end up feeling unloved and shunned for my entire life, or that I don’t receive equal protection under the law, then obviously that will be my own fault.”

Reynolds reportedly acknowledged that heterosexuality would have had some benefits, such as the universal right to marriage, the ability to adopt children without fear of scrutiny, and the feeling of being validated by his religion. However, the 16-week-old infant said that, in the end, he had decided to identify with a small minority that lacks many basic rights.

“Who knows? Maybe I’ll even change my mind at some point,” said Reynolds, explaining that he can, at any time, freely choose whom he is attracted to. “If I wake up one day and don’t want to be gay anymore, then I can just switch to being heterosexual, easy as that.”

“After all, it’s not like I’m stuck with this decision for the rest of my life,” Reynolds added.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

'Boy or Girl?' Transgender (and Gender Queer) Children in the Schools

Via the AP and ABC News, this is an interesting story on the challenges facing public schools with more children identifying as the opposite sex or refusing to adopt either sexual identity/gender identity. Here is a little piece from the beginning:
From early on, we divide toys and activities by very distinct gender lines, with superheroes and trucks and muck on one side and princesses and dolls and all things frilly on the other. 
Many children land, enthusiastically, on the expected side. Others dabble in both "girl" and "boy" things. But what if your kid, even from an early age, mostly showed interest in doing opposite-gender things? More importantly, what if they wanted to BE the opposite gender — or a less-defined mix of both? And what if they wanted to test those limits in public places, like school? 
Would you let them?
My sense is that we should allow kids to be themselves, whatever and whoever that is - BUT, I also know that other kids are cruel and brutal, so if my boy child wanted to wear dresses to school I would be afraid for him because I know how he will be treated by his peers. I also know that no rules or laws are going to protect him from verbal and even physical harassment on the playground.

The way I remember it, the playground at recess (in a small Southern Oregon community) was only a few steps away from Lord of the Flies. While I would never want to squash a child's individuality, I would also not want them to go through the likely ridicule from their peers.

On the bright side:
Some experts predict that views on gender will evolve in much the same way they have for sexual orientation, since homosexuality was removed as a mental illness nearly four decades ago. Today, the gender spectrum includes those who are transgender, who see themselves as the opposite gender, and those who are gender variant, or gender nonconforming, whose gender is more "fluid." For kids, it means they identify part of themselves as boy and part as girl.
I've written here about gender fluidity on many occasions so it's good to see the mainstream press also talking about it. Some articles from The Masculine Heart on gender fluidity are listed below:

'Boy or Girl?' Gender a New Challenge for Schools

By MARTHA IRVINE AP National Writer
CHICAGO May 28, 2013 (AP)

From the time they are born, we put our boys in blue beanies and our girls in pink ones. It's a societal norm, an expectation even, that you just are what you are born — a boy or a girl.

From early on, we divide toys and activities by very distinct gender lines, with superheroes and trucks and muck on one side and princesses and dolls and all things frilly on the other.

Many children land, enthusiastically, on the expected side. Others dabble in both "girl" and "boy" things. But what if your kid, even from an early age, mostly showed interest in doing opposite-gender things? More importantly, what if they wanted to BE the opposite gender — or a less-defined mix of both? And what if they wanted to test those limits in public places, like school?

Would you let them?

It's not, of course, that pat of a process. Parents don't just decide to let their kids switch genders. But, whether parents are dragged through the process, or if they decide to work it through more openly, more kids are challenging the boundaries of traditional gender, and going public at younger ages.

And they are doing so with the guidance of a growing faction of medical experts who no longer see this as something to be fixed. Last year, the American Psychiatric Association removed "gender identity disorder" from its list of mental health ailments.

Some experts predict that views on gender will evolve in much the same way they have for sexual orientation, since homosexuality was removed as a mental illness nearly four decades ago. Today, the gender spectrum includes those who are transgender, who see themselves as the opposite gender, and those who are gender variant, or gender nonconforming, whose gender is more "fluid." For kids, it means they identify part of themselves as boy and part as girl.

"Now these kids . are beginning to have a voice . and I think that's what's been making things interesting and challenging — and difficult, sometimes — depending on the family, the kid, or the school," says Dr. Robert Garofalo, director of the Center for Gender, Sexuality and HIV Prevention at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

While the numbers are relatively small, it means that, increasingly, schools are having to figure out how to accommodate them, some more successfully than others.

The questions often start with the basics: Which bathroom do they use? Where do they change for gym class? What if teachers or students don't want to use the pronoun, "he" or "she," or a new name the student prefers?
Transgender at 11: 'I Want Boobs!' Watch Video
It can be difficult, and uncomfortable. In Colorado, for instance, the parents of a 6-year-old transgender girl are suing their school district for trying to make her use a separate bathroom.

The center at Lurie opened recently, in part, to meet the demand from parents seeking guidance for children who are questioning their gender identity and to provide support to older transgender youth who sometimes struggle more in adolescence, even facing a greater suicide risk, especially if they have no backing from family and others around them.

The center also serves as a resource for schools with transgender and gender variant students.

Increasingly, those students are making the transition as early as elementary school, if not before.


Ryan, a fourth-grader in suburban Chicago, is one of those kids.

Most people, upon seeing her big blue eyes, long lashes and flowing blond hair, would never know she's anything but a girl. But underneath, she is still physically a boy.

Doctors call that gender variant, though Ryan prefers to call herself a "tomgirl."

"I feel that I'm a girl in my heart," she says, "and a boy in my brain."

Her parents allowed her to be interviewed and also agreed to speak to The Associated Press on the condition that the family's last name, the name of the town where they live and the school Ryan attends not be used in the story.

Though the decision to publicly express publicly as a girl happened at the end of kindergarten, Ryan had slowly been becoming "she" at home for a long time, even when she still had a crew cut.

Six months after her second birthday, her parents say Ryan was drawn to all things pink and sparkly. Ryan, the boy, wore pajama pants on his head, pretending it was long hair, or acted out girl roles from movies.

"I'm wishing . for the one I love . to find me!" the preschooler would enthusiastically sing into the toilet, copying Snow White, who sings into the echoing wishing well in the animated Disney movie.

By kindergarten, Ryan would bolt through the door of the family's suburban Chicago home, leaving a trail of boy clothes up the stairway — then quickly changing into a skirt and matching T-shirt.

Ryan's parents, initially told that Ryan had gender identity disorder, tried to get their child more interested in traditional boy things. But Ryan preferred chasing butterflies instead of footballs. Her dad scheduled extra "father-son" time, thinking that might have an influence. But nothing changed.

"The next step was to eliminate all girl things — can't write about girl things, can't draw girl things, can't talk about girly things ... and that just didn't feel right," says Sabrina, Ryan's mom.

They decided to stop resisting and allowed Ryan to start taking small steps into the outside world, at a nearby park, for instance, where she wore her girl clothes.

For her kindergarten Halloween party, Ryan dressed as a princess and, shortly after, asked her parents to refer to her as "she," a request to which they agreed, though it took a few months to adjust.

Their first support came from a pediatrician who specialized in gender, as well as other parents with children like Ryan, many whom they met through an online listerv. They are, as they call themselves, "affirming parents."

"There's a realization that it's not a phase or something that's ending when the preschooler gets to kindergarten," says Kevin Gogin, the program manager for school health programs at the San Francisco Unified School District, which recently added a transgender category in student health surveys. The survey found that 1.6 percent of high school students and 1 percent of middle school students identified as transgender or gender variant. Elementary students weren't in the survey, but Gogin says the district has seen more young transgender and gender variant students, too.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have transgender rights laws, according to Michael Silverman, the executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York City. He is representing the family of Coy Mathis, the 6-year-old transgender girl in Colorado.

But even in states that don't have laws, he says districts are often open to guidance.

"By and large, most educators want to do the right thing and want to know how to treat all of their children equally," Silverman says. But often, they don't know how.

In California, which has had protections for transgender people for some time, a new law requires schools to provide transgender and gender variant students with "equal and full access to programs and facilities," such as gender-neutral bathrooms, if need be, and private changing areas for gym and sports.

There can be resistance, of course — even in families and friends, as Ryan's parents discovered.

Neighbors in the Chicago suburb where the family lived when Ryan was born stopped asking about or acknowledging her when she started dressing in girl clothes. "It was as if she no longer existed," Sabrina recalls.

Early on, people in their own extended family also struggled with their decision to let Ryan live outwardly as a girl. Some said: "I think what you're doing is wrong" or "Ryan's too young to know."

Cousins made fun of her, too, and once shut her in a dryer to taunt her.

Sabrina and husband Chris sat their family members down to talk and, over time, they say they came to an understanding.

"Our commitment is that our children are in an accepting, loving environment — and if someone's not on board with that, then they're not going to be around," Chris says, calmly but firmly.

They also moved to a neighboring suburb, where some said a particular elementary school would be more open to Ryan.

They still fear a harsh reaction from people outside their community. But they say most people locally have been accepting.

And she notes how well the staff at Ryan's school has handled things. She remembers meeting with the principal and teachers at the end of Ryan's kindergarten year. She told them that Ryan would likely enter first grade as a girl, then came home to find that Ryan was ready to make the transition — right then.

"I don't want to do this anymore," Ryan told her parents, referring to what she now calls the "revolving door" of changing her appearance from boy at school to girl at home.

Her mom alerted the school. "You know how we spoke about, that it might happen next year?" she said. "Well, it's happening tomorrow."

They were ready, and allowed Sabrina to explain things to Ryan's classmates — that Ryan liked to dress in girl clothes and liked girl things.

One of Ryan's friends also stood up: "I want everyone to know this is Ryan's first day as a girl, and everyone better be nice."

One boy talked about how he'd once worn his sister's shirt when his own got wet. A girl said she'd worn her brother's boots. And then the kindergarteners moved on, Sabrina says.

Of course, how a school staff and a community react still varies widely from place to place. But overall, attitudes about differences in gender identity have been changing, even in the last decade, says Eli Erlick, a transgender student and graduating high school senior in Willits, Calif., a small town in the northern part of the state.

When Erlick began her transition from boy to girl at age 8, she says that even she didn't know what the word "transgender" meant. She just knew that she wanted to live life as a girl. "I thought I was the only person like this," she says.

School was difficult. Some teachers made fun of her in front of the class, she says. To avoid dealing with which bathroom to use, she would pretend to be sick, so she could go home and use the facilities there.

Now Erlick is the director of an organization called Trans Student Equality Resources, which provides schools with training and information about students like her. Erlick also has helped her school district and others in California develop transgender policies.

Some schools in other states are doing the same.

"There is definitely more awareness," says Kristyn Westphal, vice principal at Grant High School in Portland, Ore.

There, they've established a student support team to determine how well the school is meeting the needs of transgender and other students. Earlier this year, the school also created individual gender-neutral bathrooms that any student can use.

Bathrooms often become a focal point because, when children are young, the transition is often more "social," a change in clothing and hairstyle.

As some kids move into puberty, they might use hormone blockers and, eventually, start hormone therapy to help their bodies transform from male to female, or vice versa. But any kind of surgery, experts say, is still relatively rare, even in adolescence.

Ryan's parents will consider these options later. But for now, Ryan sees no reason to choose one gender over the other — "at least until I get married or something," she says. So she uses a separate bathroom at school, as the principal has arranged with her parents.

A separate bathroom was not, however, a workable solution for the parents of Coy Mathis, who are suing their school district in Fountain, Colo. Kathryn Mathis, Coy's mother, says it's about more than that.

"If it were just a toilet, then just having the gender-neutral option would be fine. But it's really about being accepted," Mathis says.

"What's happening now — they will call you a girl but you're not really a girl, so you don't get to act like one. And that's incredibly damaging."

The school district has declined to comment on an ongoing case.

Mathis says she's heard from several parents who've made the decision for their transgender children to go "stealth." In other words, they make the transition — from boy to girl or girl to boy — and then move, so no one knows.

"That's how they're doing it ... because there aren't laws to protect them," Mathis says.

Even in Ryan's case, the initial transition at school wasn't always smooth.

While her own younger classmates were accepting, older kids called her "gay" and a "fag." Early on, a few followed Ryan around on the playground. "Are you a boy or a girl?" they'd ask repeatedly.

Her parents had prepared her for this type of reaction as best they could. Ryan, who her parents say is a strong-willed, independent kid, was mostly just annoyed. Still, she was relieved when her principal quickly stepped in to enforce the school's anti-bullying policy.

One mother also recalls how, early on, a few other parents worried about their boys being around Ryan — that it might cause them to be confused about their own gender. But that talk eventually dissipated, she says.

Sabrina took it upon herself to speak about Ryan at school curriculum nights, to answer parents' questions. And now, the principal says, it as a non-issue. "Ryan is Ryan," she says.

It's not been as easy at other nearby elementary schools, where there's been more friction over the few other transgender students. Some administrators have come to Ryan's principal for advice — and she's already been in contact with her counterparts at the middle school Ryan will eventually attend.

No one expects that adolescence will be easy.

"The more challenging times are up ahead, and we're clear about that," Sabrina says.

But Scott Morrison, a transgender student at Grant High School in Oregon, says having support at home and at school, as he did, will make a big difference for kids like Ryan.

Morrison, a graduating senior, moved to Oregon from Virginia three years ago.

"Gender identity is probably the most important part of me," Morrison says. "It's the most important discovery I've made about myself."

He transitioned from female to male a year later and says support from his mom, his friends and his new school — and help from a counselor — likely prevented him from committing suicide.

According to a 2010 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 41 percent of transgender people surveyed said they had attempted suicide. That figure rose to 51 percent for those who said they'd also been bullied, harassed, assaulted or expelled because they were transgender or gender nonconforming at school. The survey was a joint project of the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

With more support and an ability to live more openly, however, some wonder if it will be better for Ryan and this up-and-coming group of transgender and gender variant kids.

"I'll be really curious to see what this next generation looks like," says Masen Davis, the executive director of the Transgender Law Center, a civil rights and advocacy organization based in San Francisco. "I'm hopeful."

Ryan is, too. "It's just made me feel more strong and confident," she says of the support she's gotten from her parents and her school.

People who know her say that's true. She is a bubbly kid, they note. She loves to draw, sing and write poetry, loves sports and running. On the school playground, she can be found in the middle of a group of girls, doing cartwheels and playing tag.

"Most people forgot that she was ever a boy," says one of her girlfriends, a fellow fourth-grader.

If her parents ever question their decision to let Ryan go public at school, they say they pull out her first-grade photo and compare it with the one from kindergarten, taken when Ryan was still hiding her girl self.

"There is a light and a twinkle in her eye that's unmistakable," Sabrina says of the first-grade photo. "And if nothing else, just looking at that picture, we're clear we made the right choice."


Watch a video on non-gender conforming kids:

On the Internet:


~ Martha Irvine is an AP national writer. She can be reached at mirvine(at) or at

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gender Roles and the Persistence of Pro-Male Gender Bias

This collection of links comes from Bookforum's Omnivore blog. One of the articles looks at the influence of Hanna Rosin's End of Men article and book, which has become old and tired. But another one, which is both brief and disturbing, looks at the persistence of pro-male gender bias.

Gender Roles

MAY 27 2013

  • Kara W. Swanson (Northeastern): The End of Men, Again
  • A marriage mystery: Why aren't more wives out-earning their husbands
  • Man-pleasing and feminism: How much is too much when it comes to “dressing for him”?
  • From The Atlantic Monthly, Benjamin Schwarz on the rise and fall of charm in American men: Few possess it, and few want to — explaining men's ambivalent relationship with an amoral virtue; and Karen vs. Kevin: Nicole Allan on the persistence of pro-male gender bias
  • Unexcited? There may be a pill for that: Daniel Bergner on the pharmaceutical quest to give women a better sex life (and more and more). 
  • Don't “shrink it and pink it” if you want to appeal to women: Emma Sinclair reviews The Daring Book for Boys in Business by Jane Cunningham and Philippa Roberts. 
  • What if gender roles in advertising were reversed?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Jules Shuzen Harris, Sensei - Holding Anger

Anger is - unfortunately - still mostly a male issue. Women are trained as they grow to feel almost anything but anger, while men grow up being taught that any emotion other than anger is girlie. But we - generally - have an uneasy relationship with anger.

For many men, anger is equivalent to aggression or even violence. But these are separate responses. Anger is a natural response to feeling wronged. Aggression and violence are how we turn anger against others (or sometimes ourselves).

Anger is most often experienced as a product of someone or something else, but certainly not us. We project its cause outside of ourselves. Yet we have a choice as whether or not we get angry, and if so, how we use that energy.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, Buddhism sees anger as one of the "three poisons," something to be transmuted  or overcome in some way. I believe anger is a very useful fuel for creating change, in our own lives or in the external world.

Holding Anger

We must develop a measure of psychological insight along with our meditation practice.

Jules Shuzen Harris, Sensei
Tricycle Wisdom Collection

Anger hinders our liberation from suffering. It takes its toll on our spirit and our health. Stress levels are on the rise. The Harris Poll in 2002 recorded that tension levels in almost half of Americans had worsened over the preceding year. According to the American Institute of Stress, 75 to 90 percent of doctors’ visits are for stress-related ailments. Psychological distress such as anger, anxiety, and depression seems to be a good predictor of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and sudden death. But what is missing from this research is the “first cause,” the damaged self—a belief that manifests as anger projected for the most part onto others. On one level, this projected anger is a defense against one’s “bad self.” On a deeper level, it represents our feelings of vulnerability.

Over 2,500 years ago the Buddha identified anger as one of the three poisons that hinder our progress toward liberation from suffering. In the Anumana Sutta, a teaching on self-observation, the venerable Mahamoggallana, one of the Buddha’s closest disciples, counsels bhikhus against angry thoughts that lead to disparaging others. The bhikhus are instructed to refrain from unruly behavior such as hypocrisy, mercilessness, jealousy, and selfishness, to name a few examples. In the Lekha Sutta the Buddha asserts that there are three types of individuals in the world and three ways they manifest anger. First, he refers to the individual who is like an inscription on a rock. His anger stays with him for a long time. It is not effaced by wind or water. Next, the Buddha compares an individual who is often angered, but whose anger does not stay with him for a long time, to an inscription in soil that is effaced by wind or water. Lastly, the Buddha describes a person who is like water. When this individual is spoken to roughly or harshly, he or she remains congenial, companionable, and courteous, just as an inscription in water disappears immediately.

After more than 30 years of working first as a therapist and later a practitioner of Zen, the poison that stands out the most to me is anger. And while I believe that meditation has some transformative power, as a former psychotherapist I believe that teachers and spiritual guides need to address the role that small mind plays with regard to anger. Meditation enables us to see the transparency of our anger, and this is a good start, but we can still remain blinded to the mechanics of our anger. The Buddhist teacher and psychologist John Welwood asserts that “most of us live caught up in prereflective identification most of the time.” In working with dharma students, teachers must address the deeper wounds from which anger has sprung. We must enable students to see the anger they project onto others as a defense against old story lines, such as “I’m damaged, I’m unlovable,” and so on.

Anger is “habit energy,” to use Thich Nhat Hanh’s term; karmic in its origin, it is deeply engrained and deeply rooted. As Welwood says, we imagine that our thoughts and feelings are an accurate portrayal of reality and therefore justified. If we are to be effective in transmuting our anger into prajna (wisdom), then we must develop an additional measure of psychological insight along with our meditation practice that focuses on the cyclical relationship between thoughts and our body.

I saw chronic episodes of anger manifest when I trained former criminal offenders in counseling techniques that they could use to redirect youth caught up in the criminal justice system. The anger the ex-offenders projected onto their clients was cloaked in their judgmental attitude toward them. They were hypercritical of behaviors they themselves once engaged in. This behavior points to an aspect of anger that we don’t usually think of. We typically attribute the source of our anger to someone or something outside of ourselves: “I am experiencing great displeasure because it is the ‘other’ who is at fault.” The ex-offenders didn’t see their shadow beliefs and resisted addressing them. Their anger toward clients was a defense—it allowed them to distance themselves from their “bad selves.”

In order to work on anger, we need to employ an approach that incorporates psychosocial strategies in the service of spiritual development. This approach embraces the transpersonal, personal, and interpersonal. Mindfully held anger is a step in the right direction. This approach requires that we contain our anger—that we meditatively attend to our anger with an emphasis on neither suppressing it nor acting it out. Being present with our anger enables us to witness the process of it, which includes all three levels of awareness. On the personal level, we witness the felt sense of our anger, along with its cognitive and perceptual dimensions. On a social level, we witness the effect our shadow beliefs have on our interaction with others. On the transpersonal level, we witness the “I,” or who it is who is angry.

Another approach to dealing with anger on the psycho-social-spiritual level is mind-body bridging. This technique enables us to see the impact that thoughts have on us viscerally. The prime mover behind the impact thoughts have on the body are our requirements: how we should be, how other people should be, and how the world should be in order for us to feel acceptable. This approach begs the question of how to bring compassion to our anger. It is not easy to refrain from repressing or indulging our anger. Our challenge is to embrace it with mindfulness and genuine caring.

We must become intimate with anger to clear the way to our connectiveness, to our vulnerability and an aliveness to everything. In the end, our anger is transmuted to wisdom, which in turn gives rise to compassion.

~ Jules Shuzen Harris Sensei is a Zen teacher in the Soto lineage and the founder of Soji Zen Center in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania.

In the following audio teaching, Jules Shuzen Harris Sensei walks us through the Mind-Body Bridging technique. Samples of the four Mind-Maps (in the order that you will create them) can be found by clicking on the links below. Throughout the week, Harris will be available to answer questions about Mind-Body Bridging. Post a comment and he will get back to you.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Product Review - - "Live Burn-Free"

A few weeks ago, the folks at (the main site is being upgraded, so here is the Facebook page) asked if I would be wiling to review their product (since I maintain a male-oriented blog). I agreed, so they sent me a set of each product: a handle and five 3-blade razors, and a handle and four 5-blade razors.

The 5-blade model:

The 3-blade model:

I've gone through two of the 5-blade cartridges and one of the 3-blade cartridges so far. While the 3-blade model is better than most 3-, 4-, or 5-blade models we can buy in stores, I definitely prefer the 5-blade version - smoother shave and no burn.

The design of the razors eliminates razor burn (or mostly so), by recessing the blades just slightly. There is also a moisturizing strip. The handles are heavy and well-balanced, a very different feel from most store-bought razors. It's been a pleasure to use them - I will be a regular customer.


The price of 4 H5O cartridges is only $9.99 and the savings increase when you order 8-20 cartridges at once ($17.99-$32.99). Pricing is also $9.99 for 5 H3O cartridges, with additional savings when ordering larger quantities. I'm guessing the initial order comes with a handle at no extra charge, but since their site is being upgraded at the moment, I can't say that for sure.

Another cool feature is that they can put us on auto-ship so that we can automatically receive a new set of razor cartridges every 8-20 weeks. Shipping is free and there does not appear to be any sales tax either.

Personal Thoughts

By the way, not really a schwag bag, but they did send me about $20 worth of their razors.

Sometimes there is an upside to reviewing a product, even though I find it challenging to do so here - it's not what this blog is about.

But I have always hated shaving - my face is easily cut and I get a lot of razor burn (or I used to). We all have to shave, aside the bearded men among us, so why spend more money than necessary for an inferior product?

When I come across products I like, either through solicitation or dumb luck, I will share my finds with you. I get nothing further for this review (no referral fees or such), so I'm not in it for the money.

David Beckham's Best Goals (Videos)

Okay, so yesterday I posted a satire piece from The Onion that poked fun at David Beckham, probably the best-known soccer player on a planet where soccer is still the most important sport (outside of the U.S.).

Beckham could make a soccer ball move in ways that seem to defy the laws of physics, a skill so remarkablke that a film was named after his futbol magic, Bend It Like Beckham.

A couple of weeks ago, after Beckham announced his retiurement and played his final home game for Paris Saint-Germain (he was not named for the line up in tomorrow's last game of the season, so his career is offically over), The New York Times posted these videos of Beckham's most beautiful and mind-bending goals. Enjoy!

Beckham’s Best


Some highlights of David Beckham’s best goals over his long career in England, Spain, the United States and France.

… And some of his best goals in M.L.S.

… And from his days at Manchester United

… And even a few from his season at Paris St.-Germain.

… And just for fun

Friday, May 24, 2013

Highlights From David Beckham’s Career

This satire from The Onion is kind of funny. However, I have a soft spot in my heart for Beckham. I've long admired his gender-bending courage in how he dresses and behaves.

The only time I ever saw him play in person, after the game was over, he walked around the field barriers and signed autographs for nearly 45 minutes until security took him off the field so the next game could begin. Before leaving the field, he gave his jersey (signed) to a young girl in the stands.

He was also one of the best players I have ever seen live. When he came on the field a few minutes into the 2nd half, the quality of play seemed to increase several levels. He sent a pass 40 years in the air right to the foot of his teammate who was making a run on the opposite side of the field. His accuracy and control of the field was amazing to witness.

Highlights From David Beckham’s Career

SPORTSGRAPHICISSUE 49•21 • May 23, 2013

With David Beckham retiring last week, Onion Sports examines notable moments from the soccer player’s illustrious 21-year career.
  • 1993: Signs first professional contract at Old Trafford, with a guaranteed signing bonus of 3 million soccer balls
  • 1994: Plays season on loan from Manchester United with the Hiawatha, IA Youth Soccer League Boys U12 Wildcats
  • 1997: Caps off Premier League–winning season that included memorable victories against Manchester United foes Coventry City, Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday, Percy of the Hills, Friendly Arthur, Burbridge Tickles, and Nottingham Forest
  • 1998: Infamously receives a red card during the World Cup after kicking out at Argentina’s Diego Simeone, an incident that would leave the South American with incredibly serious fake injuries
  • 1999: Begins dating Spice Girl Victoria “Posh Spice” Adams, leading to the British tabloids nicknaming the couple “Posh Spice and David Beckham”
  • 2005: Following Real Madrid’s victory over Barcelona, Beckham’s mother forgets to pick up her son, leaving him to wait in the parking lot for like two hours
  • 2007: Makes hotly anticipated MLS debut before crowd of 30 screaming Galaxy fans
  • 2010: Tears Achilles tendon, even though he was just playing soccer
  • 2011: Wins an MLS cup with the LA Galaxy, completing the Triple Who-Gives-A-Shit Crown

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Male Rape Survivors Tackle Military Assault in Tough-Guy Culture

Last year, more men than women (13,900 men, 12,100 women) were raped by their fellow soldiers in the military. Percentage-wise, however, a much higher percentage of women were raped than men (there are 1.2 million men vs. 203, 000 women).

Men are having to fight against the tough-guy, hyper-masculine culture of the military to even report or seek treatment for the sexual assaults they have experienced. Not a good situation.

Male rape survivors tackle military assault in tough-guy culture

By Bill Briggs, NBC News contributor

Former Navy Petty Officer Third Class Brian Lewis talks about a sexual assault "epidemic" within the U.S. military while speaking on Capitol Hill Thursday. Lewis emphasizes that his chain of command "failed" him during his time in the U.S. Navy. 
Amid the legislation and indignation sparked by the military's sexual abuse crisis, male rape survivors are stepping forward to remind officials that men are targeted more often than women inside a tough-guy culture that, they say, routinely deems male victims as “liars and trouble makers.” 
The Pentagon estimates that last year 13,900 of the 1.2 million men on active duty endured sexual assault while 12,100 of the 203,000 women in uniform experienced the same crime — or 38 men per day versus 33 women per day. Yet the Defense Department also acknowledges “male survivors report at much lower rates than female survivors.” 
“As a culture, we’ve somewhat moved past the idea that a female wanted this trauma to occur, but we haven’t moved past that for male survivors,” said Brian Lewis, a rape survivor who served in the Navy. “In a lot of areas of the military, men are still viewed as having wanted it or of being homosexual. That’s not correct at all. It’s a crime of power and control. 
“But also, you’re instantly viewed as a liar and a troublemaker (when a man reports a sex crime), and there’s the notion that you have abandoned your shipmates, that you took a crap all over your shipmates, that you misconstrued their horseplay,” he added. 
Lewis, who was raped by a male superior officer aboard a Navy ship in 2000, spoke Thursday at a press conference introducing a bill that seeks to strip serious sex assaults from the military’s chain of command. At that event, he said: “Too often male survivors are ignored and marginalized.” 
“The biggest reasons men don’t come forward (with sex assault reports) are the fear of retaliation (from fellow troops), the fear of being viewed in a weaker light, and the fact there are very few, if any, services for male survivors,” Lewis told NBC News. 
Men in the spotlight 

All sexual assault response coordinators within the military are instructed to provide “gender-responsive, culturally competent and recovery-oriented” resources, said Cynthia O. Smith, a Pentagon spokeswoman.  
“Based on that guidance, each of the services customizes its training and implementation specific to their service,” Smith said. DOD offers a 24/7 “safe helpline” providing anonymous victim support, and its staffers “have been trained to assist male victims.” 
Still, the Defense Department acknowledges it must do more to help male victims. 
“A focus of our prevention efforts over the next several months is specifically geared towards male survivors and will include (learning) why male survivors report at much lower rates than female survivors, and determining the unique support and assistance male survivors need,” Smith said. 
The Pentagon “has reached out to organizations supporting male survivors for assistance and information to help inform our way ahead,” she added. 
“I applaud that stand on behalf of male survivors,” Lewis said. “However, I would be interested in hearing what organizations they are partnering with considering there are none especially geared for male survivors of military sexual trauma.” 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is joined by a group of colleagues on Capitol Hill while introducing sexual assault legislation that would reform the military justice system. 
'Critical' part of process 
At Protect Our Defenders, a leading advocacy group for male and female service members who've survived sexual assaults, president Nancy Parrish said she would welcome the chance to offer guidance to the Pentagon as it develops better programs to support male sex assault victims. 
“As of yet, we have not been asked to participate in such an endeavor,” Parrish said. “For the success of the military efforts to end the ongoing epidemic of male and female military sexual assaults, it is critical that survivors are part of the process." 
An annual DOD report on sexual abuse, released May 7, described separate attacks on two male soldiers who were shoved down by fellow troops then sodomized with a plastic bottle or broom handle. 
Next month, a documentary called “Justice Denied” — which explores sexual assaults against men in the military — premiers at the Albuquerque Film and Media Experience. 
Assaults on men have been “carefully hidden from the public and covered up,” not only by the victims themselves but also by superiors within the chain of command, contends the film’s producer and co-director Geri Lynn Weinstein-Matthews. “It’s time for men to have their voices heard. It’s time for them to stand up against these vicious attacks and against the deception of some of their commanding officers.” 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel addresses the growing concern over the number of sexual assaults occurring within the U.S. military. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Jack O'Sullivan - The Masculinity Debate: No Wonder Men Stay Out of It

The masculinity debate: no wonder men stay out of it

Men who fear ridicule from women for talking about masculinity understandably clam up. Matriarchy has a lot to answer for

Jack O'Sullivan
The Guardian, Monday 20 May 2013

'A consequence of boys and men living in private matriarchies is that even the most senior male chief executive often lacks confidence in areas that might be defined as personal, private or family.'

The past week has again highlighted the inexplicable absence of an intelligent discussion conducted by men about ourselves. It's followed a familiar pattern: a leading female commentator – Diane Abbott on this occasion – diagnoses male ailments and prescribes her cures. What comes back from the patient? Silence. Can there be any group that is subject to so much debate and accusation, and is so apparently powerful – yet remains so utterly speechless?

It reminds me of a stereotypical scene: a woman challenging a man on some personal or domestic issue; him sitting before her silently, absorbing, stonewalling and eventually walking away. It's a dissatisfying experience for both. She complains to her friends. He has no one to talk to. Somewhere here are clues to this bewildering male silence on the public stage about our own condition.

Men's absence from the debate has dramatic consequences, making it overwhelmingly negative. In recent weeks the focus has been on abuse of teenage girls, porn, male unemployment and misogyny. But next month it could be "deadbeat dads", domestic violence and harassment in the workplace.

A debate about men defined by women inevitably dwells on what's wrong with men – on a continuing "crisis". That's understandable. There are many worrying issues that a male discussion of masculinity would and should confront. We are, after all, fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, lovers, colleagues and friends of women. But which man wants to join a debate loaded with negativity, littered with slogans like "all men are rapists"?

A debate with genuine male participation and leadership would include the above issues, but within a broader, aspirational and authentically male agenda. The centrepiece would be today's extraordinary transformation of masculinity. A huge transition is taking place in all our lives, as we redefine our relationships with women, with our children, with work, with our sexuality. History may judge it to be a faster and more profound change even than the developments in women's lives.

Men, like women, are belatedly escaping what we now recognise to be the confines of our gender. Many of us are enjoying a massively increased engagement with children. There is a stunning growth in male capacity to hold down successful jobs and play an integral role in our homes and personal lives. We are changing our relationships with women and with each other. Male homosexuality is widely expressed and affirmed. And men play a vital role in supporting, personally and politically, the advancement of women's rights.

But all this fails to generate male leadership or collective discussion. Each of us is operating in our personal world of change, with little sense of what it's like for the other guys. The women's movement produced articulate women to narrate their agenda. Where are the men?

An important factor is that otherwise powerful, educated men – the ones you might expect to speak up – tend to have been raised in, and live in, households where they defer to female decision-making and narrative. The reasons are complicated. Women's centrality in the private arena is a complex expression of both male power and male impotence, of patriarchy and infantilisation. But a consequence of boys and men living in private matriarchies is that even the most senior male chief executive often lacks confidence in areas that might be defined as personal, private or family.

This may always have been the case. But feminism has reinforced rather than challenged – or even acknowledged – matriarchy. It is an environment in which male spokesmen for change are unlikely to be nurtured. When they do articulate their views or concerns, they are often ridiculed or ignored by women. Misandry can be as nasty as misogyny and is as widespread (just check the internet). Smart men play safe and stay out of it. We're so conditioned, we don't even talk to each other.

However, as long as these men – who typically support the women's movement – remain passive, the only male voices we hear are those of reactionary patriarchs, who reinforce the idea that men are dinosaurs.

Why are we ridiculed when we talk about ourselves? Perhaps because men are assumed to be inherently powerful, with nothing to complain about. It's a mistake. We urgently require an updated theory of gender that acknowledges there are, and always have been, discrete areas of female power and male powerlessness, not simply female powerlessness. Patriarchy did not rule alone. There was also matriarchy – and there still is.

A revolution is taking place in masculinity, but much of it is below the radar and denied, even when well-documented. This transformation is about much more than "helping" women and addressing their complaints. If we want to hear about it, then we need democratic personal, private and domestic spaces where men feel comfortable to speak. That might generate a more open, less condemning public space. Until then, women will continue to find themselves shouting into the silence about issues that we need to confront together.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Jayson Gaddis - Why Men Need to Feel Their Feelings

From Role/Reboot, this is a good article from Jayson Gaddis - originally posted at his own blog. This is an important topic for men, and I include myself in needing to pay more attention to this aspect of my life. I've become very attuned to feeling my client's emotions, but I have been paying less attention to my own feelings.

My being shut down lately has made my partner angry and uncomfortable - she feels shut out and that I am not fully invested in our relationship. It's understandable that she feels that way in the absence of any indication from me.

This article from Jayson is a good reminder to get back to being self-aware - because when I was younger, I was exactly as he described himself, "emotionally shut down." I don't want to fall into that trap again.

Why Men Need to Feel Their Feelings

By Jayson Gaddis
May 19, 2013

This originally appeared on Republished [at Role/Reboot] with permission.

I was emotionally shut down for years. Every woman I dated had to deal with my inability to identify a feeling. She would ask, “Hey is something bothering you?” I would reply, “No, I’m fine” with a hint of defensiveness.

The closest I ever came to identifying what was really going on was “I’m in a funk.” Many folks know this as feeling off somehow or my personal favorite, “I’m in a bad mood.”

Underneath such comments is an entire emotional landscape that remains largely unexplored. The metaphor I like to use is that of a lake.

When standing on the shore of a large lake, you can see ripples, colors, and reflections. If it is windy or stormy out, the surface of the lake changes and makes it even harder to see beneath the surface. Not until the storm dies down can you begin to see more clearly. When things are still, the lake's surface mirrors its surroundings.

Venture beyond the shoreline and even more possibility opens up. The lake takes on a new perspective. Looking beyond the reflection, it becomes three dimensional and you can see below the surface.

We are very similar. When we are upset, it is hard to see things clearly. The only way to see things clearly is to take some space from the upset, calm down, and gain a new perspective. Why am I mentioning this metaphor?

Because feeling helps you see clearly. And seeing clearly helps you move more freely toward what you want in your life. And when you get what you want, you are more fulfilled.

But Why Is It So Hard For Dudes to Feel?

Contrary to some big generalizations out there, men do in fact feel, but most men were trained as little boys by the “boy code” to not feel. They were trained and taught to suck it up, not cry, etc. For example, as a boy I was trained by my dad and my culture to not feel. To feel meant I would be judged as a wimp, a girl, or even gay. (As if girls or gay people are somehow bad?) So, men do feel, it’s just challenging for many men to know what they are feeling.

So, it’s understandable why many men don’t allow themselves to feel and can’t even identify a feeling. Many adult men are still very scared to feel their feelings because if they do, their fear is they will be judged as not manly, acting like a girl or being weak or gay.

So, most men never venture out beyond the shoreline and certainly don’t look below the surface. Therefore, many men remain locked up, shut down, and not free.

The Cost of Not Being Willing to Feel

1. relationship blues

Sadly, these old fears keep many men locked up around their feelings and lead to very frustrating relationships for women dating these men. Rather than dive in to the unknown waters of intimacy, men stay on the shore, where it is safe. But as any sailor will tell you, a ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for (a William Shedd quote).

Moreover, men who shut down or stuff their feelings remain emotionally constipated and have very little facility or freedom when it comes to intimacy. Then, they keep resisting actual help like couples counseling.

2. narrow bandwidth of expression

If you never let yourself feel grief, anger, sadness and other “negative” emotions, you will have less access to the “positive” emotions such as joy, love, and happiness. The waters you are able to swim and navigate are more shallow. For example, if you avoid “negative” emotions, you might experience some happiness but the depth with which you feel it is limited.

3. you are not free

Staying on the shore, you never really get to test if your vessel is seaworthy. Freedom is the open water of who you are, not the shore.

4. physical problems

Most body workers, massage therapists, and good body-centered, somatic therapists know that the body holds and stores trauma and unexpressed emotion. The more you hold, the more the body has to carry the burden. Your boat begins to decay having never touched water. Stoic men who never learn to feel, are simply in pain.

5. You are less available to give and receive love

If you shut yourself off from your own emotions and never “set sail,” you’ll never know what it is like to swim or sail. The endless terrain that is available to you will remain a distant dream. If you want to feel more love, try feeling all your feelings. Try exploring what lies below the surface farther from the shore.

For the brave who do decide to face the unknown lake of discomfort and painful emotion, what you will experience may shock you. Try it and see what happens. To me it’s something like an elixir.

But Where Do I Start?

1. Get quiet: When you are upset or “in a funk” sit down or lie down and be still. You cannot see below the surface until you are still. Meditation is a tool that can help.

2. Get Curious: Start with the facts before you begin to interpret or try to figure it out. Target three main areas:
a. Thoughts: When did it start? Ask yourself when this feeling started? Was it the fight with your partner last week? Was it a call with your parents? An ex-lover? Did something piss you off at work? Where are your thoughts going and what are they like? 
b. Emotions: What does it feel like? Explore the feeling quality and the sensation that goes along with it. Is it hot? Cold? Tight? Humming? Vibrating? Tense? Soft, Achy? Does it have a color? A tone? Does it radiate? Is it dense? Thick? 
c. Body sensations: Where in your body do you feel it? Is it in your throat? Gut? Chest? Where does it live?
3. Take responsibility for what you are feeling: Name it, begin to articulate it with a friend. For example, “Wow, for the last few days I was locked up. Now I know that it started when ____happened. I have felt tense and irritated ever since. I feel shut down and I don’t want to be around anyone.”

4. Notice what your default behavior is when you feel this way. When you find yourself “in a funk” do you numb out with TV? food? sugar? porn? masturbation? alcohol? drugs? Or do you isolate? Or both?

5. Choose to feel it until it changes. Have the balls to turn toward it. After all, what is the worst thing that could happen?

Want to feel more love and lightness in your life? Then start saying “yes” to feelings you have been saying “no” to. Invite them in and get to know them. As psychotherapist John Welwood says, befriend your emotions.

Jayson Gaddis is a yerba mate addict and a householder. He’s a relationship healer, psychotherapist, and guide devoted to helping people awaken through relationships, intimacy, and parenting. He’s a husband and part-time stay-at-home Dad getting schooled by his two kids.

Related Links:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mike Robertson - 6 Best Exercises for Strength

This is a nice article with some good advice - the only thing I would change is weighted dips instead of the close-grip bench, and if I made that change, then I would want to make the resisted push ups into feet elevated resisted push ups.

But Robertson is the expert, not me. He is a frequent contributor to T-Nation, from whence this article comes,
Mike Robertson has helped clients and athletes from all walks of life achieve their strength, physique and performance related goals. Mike received his Masters Degree in Sports Biomechanics from the world-renowned Human Performance Lab at Ball State University. Mike is the president of Robertson Training Systems, and the co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training which was recently named one of America's Top Ten Gyms. 

6 Best Exercises for Strength

by Mike Robertson – 5/7/2013 

What would you do if you could only pick 6 exercises to put into your strength-training program?

Here's a better question: What if strength was only one component of your entire program?

If you compete in strength sports such as powerlifting or Olympic lifting, picking your exercises is easy. But if you're an athlete, you have hundreds, if not thousands, of exercises to choose from.

How do you whittle it down and only focus on a few exercises, the ones that would be the most impactful to your overall strength and physique?

The Athletic Strength Conundrum

These are the exact questions I was asking myself a few months ago.

I've been lucky in recent years to work with a handful of professional and Olympic-caliber athletes. The problem is, in my mind, I'm a "weights" guy. In my estimation, everyone can benefit from getting stronger.

And I still feel that way, no matter how many books I read, conferences I attend, etc. But I also realize that for an athlete, there's a lot more to athletic success than simply being strong in the weight room.

If I'm trying to get someone ready for a 90-minute soccer game, we're doing a ton of conditioning in that last phase or two leading up to camp. I don't have a ton of time to do 6, 8, or 10 lifts in one training session.

So what do I do? Forget about weight lifting? Lose all the strength that we've taken precious time to develop in the off-season?

Absolutely not.

What we have to do is focus on a handful of big-bang lifts that will not only improve performance on and off the field, but maintain our mobility, strength, and power as well.

As a result, I came up with a list of the following exercises. I call them "athletic strength" exercises, not because you can't get strong off them, but because the powerlifter or hardcore meathead may not totally agree with them. I'm okay with that.

If you're a powerlifter, squat, bench, and deadlift until the cows come home.

If you're an Olympic lifter, snatch and clean and jerk repeatedly.

However, if you're an athlete that wants to not only get strong but also develop and maintain other critical qualities such as power, speed, mobility, and general athleticism, these are your exercises.

#1 – The Power Clean

While no one will confuse me with an Olympic lifting purist, I definitely respect the power of the Olympic lifts.

And I'm not even going to get into the whole "should you take the time to coach them?" debate – that's been beaten to death already. Regardless of your stance, we can all agree that the Olympic lifts are fantastic for developing power and explosiveness.

Can you do this with a med ball throw? Or jumping exercise?

To a certain extent, sure. But these exercises belong more on the "speed-strength" side of the continuum.

The power clean is a great way for an athlete to improve or maintain explosiveness and power. If you're comfortable coaching or training it, I highly recommend using it.

#2 – The Front Squat 

The front squat is an amazing exercise for athletes and it provides unique benefits from its cousin, the back squat.

If you're an athlete, you need strong quads. Quads are critical not only for improving your vertical jump, but your ability to decelerate, plant, and cut as well.

However, quads are just the starting point. The front squat is an amazing anterior core exercise. You know how you can get totally caved over and still manage to finish a back squat? Yeah, that ain't happening with a front squat.

If your abs are weak, do a 2-3 month front squat cycle and you should walk away impressed with how much stronger and more stable your core and trunk are as a result.

Last but not least, the front squat is an amazing tool for maintaining your mobility. Front squatting ensures that you maintain ankle, knee, hip, and thoracic spine mobility, which is why it's a mainstay in my programs.

#3 – The Trap Bar Deadlift

We all know that deadlifts are awesome. After all, the deadlift is my favorite lift, so there's no way I'm going to downplay its importance.

For athletes, though, mobility could be a concern. Or in the same vein, they may not have adequate strength in the posterior chain to do conventional deadlifts safely and effectively.

The sumo deadlift doesn't work either as it doesn't get you into a very athletic position. This is why I'm a big fan of the trap bar deadlift.

When you use the high handles you can get someone into a very vertical tibia/inclined trunk position. This combo gives the trap bar deadlift the potential to be very posterior chain dominant.

Note: If you want to learn more about how to maximize your leg development, read this.

Trust me, if you work with enough athletes, you know they often have the posterior chain strength of Gwenyth Paltrow. They need stronger backsides, period.

Also, if you're working with an athlete who has the mobility of a stone golem, the trap bar deadlift is a great starting point. It allows you to load their hips effectively while addressing other mobility needs throughout the "corrective" part of their programming.

#4 – The Close-Grip Bench Press

As much as I love wide-grip bench pressing for powerlifting performance, I feel as though the close-grip bench press is a superior alternative for athletes.

Think of it this way: if your hands (or elbows) are out really far from your body and someone is coming to push you off your spot, you're going to lose.

However, if you have your elbows and arms in tight to the body, you can maximize leverage, as well as effectively tying together the legs, trunk, and upper body.

The close-grip bench is also an ideal exercise for building upper body strength. I know the bench gets a bad rap, but there's something to be said for being flat-out stronger than your competition.

#5 – Resisted Push-ups

As awesome as the close-grip bench press is for developing the upper body, it does have limitations. The biggest issue when benching is that even if your core and lower body are tight, they're rarely the limiting factor in your performance.

While close-grip benching is great for developing upper body strength, it doesn't necessarily tie that strength together by unifying the upper and lower body. Which is why we do heavy, resisted push-ups.

A well-executed push-up with the core stable and in neutral spinal alignment will absolutely crush your anterior core. And even though this isn't a coaching article per se, try this little trick to get even more core development:

Set up in the top position of a push-up and before you start moving, think about exhaling hard. After you've exhaled, pull your head and neck back to get into a more "neutral neck" position.

It may sound easy, but getting into a more ideal position through the neck and core will definitely crank up the intensity. The other huge benefit you get from performing a push-up versus a bench press is scapular stability.

When you're doing a bench press, the goal is to "pin" your shoulder blades back and down. The scapulae are stable, but it's a very static kind of stability. On the other hand, a push-up is similar to actual sporting movements since you're forced to actively control the position of the scapulae.

Instead of simply pinning them back and down behind you, you need to make sure they're moving appropriately and in the right place at the right time.

Finally, the push-up is a closed-chain pressing variation, meaning it's awesome for developing rotator cuff strength and stability.

Next time, instead of doing 3x15 shoulder external rotations with a Theratube to crush your rotator cuff, bang out 2-3 sets of high-quality push-ups.

You'll get more out of the exercise, and look infinitely more awesome to boot.

#6 – Chin-ups

The last exercise on my list is the chin-up. Just like the previous exercises, chin-ups are an incredible "bang-for-your-buck" exercise.

In most sports (and strength training programs), there's a ton of emphasis on "pushing." All you have to do is observe the posture of someone who "presses" all the time, without balancing it out with upper back work, to see why this is an issue.

These athletes are a disaster waiting to happen. Chin-ups, however, will help balance out the equation.

Another awesome benefit of well-executed chin-ups is developing the lower trapezius muscle. The lower trap is not only a key shoulder stabilizer, but (along with the upper trap and serratus anterior) constitutes one-third of the upward rotation force couple.

The key with chin-ups is that you need to focus on getting your chest to the bar and actively depressing your scapulae down. Here's a short video on how to maximize chin-up performance:

Bottom line, if you only have a limited amount of time to strength train, at least some of that needs to be geared towards strengthening the upper back.

The chin-up will give you a ton of benefits and should be a staple in your athletic strength program.

What? No Single-Leg Exercises?

I know someone is going to come on Live Spill raging because I didn't include single-leg work in my programming. Look, I'm a big believer in single-leg work, but this article is called "Athletic Strength," not "Athletic Stability."

Single-leg work has a time and a place. If you have a stability limitation, then single-leg work may be ideal, but if you want to get seriously strong or powerful, train on two legs (or arms).


Whether your goal is to be a beast on the field or court, or to simply look like a beast in the gym, the exercises included in this article are tried and true.

Make them a focus of your upcoming training programs and I guarantee you'll see results not only in your physique, but in your performance as well!