Friday, October 31, 2008

A Boy's Life - Transgender Children

I'm very intrigued by children who choose not to live their biological sex identity. The Atlantic recently ran a very good story on Brandon, a boy who has -- from the day he could speak -- insisted he is a girl. Now his parents are raising him as a girl.

These cases, which seem to be increasing, are raising lots of tough questions for psychologists and parents, not to mention those who study gender roles. I find all of this very interesting, for many reasons.

One thing that intrigues me is the history of cross-gendered people in tribal societies. In some cultures, men who dressed as women (sometimes, but not always, they were also homosexual) or who adopted female gender roles also served as shamans, the spiritual healer in the tribe. S/he was the person who bridged two worlds, both male and female, human and spirit, human and animal, living and dead.

These beliefs have fallen away over the centuries in our postmodern culture, but it may be time that re-examine what our ancestors (and those who still live a tribal life) once knew. I suspect there may be some wisdom in these kids that we are not recognizing.

Anyway, here is the beginning of the article.

Since he could speak, Brandon, now 8, has insisted that he was meant to be a girl. This summer, his parents decided to let him grow up as one. His case, and a rising number of others like it, illuminates a heated scientific debate about the nature of gender—and raises troubling questions about whether the limits of child indulgence have stretched too far.

by Hanna Rosin

A Boy's Life

transgender child
Brandon Simms at age 5 in a Disney princess costume
(Courtesy of the family)

The local newspaper recorded that Brandon Simms was the first millennium baby born in his tiny southern town, at 12:50 a.m. He weighed eight pounds, two ounces and, as his mother, Tina, later wrote to him in his baby book, “had a darlin’ little face that told me right away you were innocent.” Tina saved the white knit hat with the powder-blue ribbon that hospitals routinely give to new baby boys. But after that, the milestones took an unusual turn. As a toddler, Brandon would scour the house for something to drape over his head—a towel, a doily, a moons-and-stars bandanna he’d snatch from his mother’s drawer. “I figure he wanted something that felt like hair,” his mother later guessed. He spoke his first full sentence at a local Italian restaurant: “I like your high heels,” he told a woman in a fancy red dress. At home, he would rip off his clothes as soon as Tina put them on him, and instead try on something from her closet—a purple undershirt, lingerie, shoes. “He ruined all my heels in the sandbox,” she recalls.

At the toy store, Brandon would head straight for the aisles with the Barbies or the pink and purple dollhouses. Tina wouldn’t buy them, instead steering him to neutral toys: puzzles or building blocks or cool neon markers. One weekend, when Brandon was 2½, she took him to visit her 10-year-old cousin. When Brandon took to one of the many dolls in her huge collection—a blonde Barbie in a pink sparkly dress—Tina let him bring it home. He carried it everywhere, “even slept with it, like a teddy bear.”

For his third Christmas, Tina bought Brandon a first-rate Army set—complete with a Kevlar hat, walkie-talkies, and a hand grenade. Both Tina and Brandon’s father had served in the Army, and she thought their son might identify with the toys. A photo from that day shows him wearing a towel around his head, a bandanna around his waist, and a glum expression. The Army set sits unopened at his feet. Tina recalls his joy, by contrast, on a day later that year. One afternoon, while Tina was on the phone, Brandon climbed out of the bathtub. When she found him, he was dancing in front of the mirror with his penis tucked between his legs. “Look, Mom, I’m a girl,” he told her. “Happy as can be,” she recalls.

“Brandon, God made you a boy for a special reason,” she told him before they said prayers one night when he was 5, the first part of a speech she’d prepared. But he cut her off: “God made a mistake,” he said.

Tina had no easy explanation for where Brandon’s behavior came from. Gender roles are not very fluid in their no-stoplight town, where Confederate flags line the main street. Boys ride dirt bikes through the woods starting at age 5; local county fairs feature muscle cars for boys and beauty pageants for girls of all ages. In the Army, Tina operated heavy machinery, but she is no tomboy. When she was younger, she wore long flowing dresses to match her long, wavy blond hair; now she wears it in a cute, Renée Zellweger–style bob. Her husband, Bill (Brandon’s stepfather), lays wood floors and builds houses for a living. At a recent meeting with Brandon’s school principal about how to handle the boy, Bill aptly summed up the town philosophy: “The way I was brought up, a boy’s a boy and a girl’s a girl.”

School had always complicated Brandon’s life. When teachers divided the class into boys’ and girls’ teams, Brandon would stand with the girls. In all of his kindergarten and first-grade self-portraits—“I have a pet,” “I love my cat,” “I love to play outside”—the “I” was a girl, often with big red lips, high heels, and a princess dress. Just as often, he drew himself as a mermaid with a sparkly purple tail, or a tail cut out from black velvet. Late in second grade, his older stepbrother, Travis, told his fourth-grade friends about Brandon’s “secret”—that he dressed up at home and wanted to be a girl. After school, the boys cornered and bullied him. Brandon went home crying and begged Tina to let him skip the last week.

Since he was 4, Tina had been taking Brandon to a succession of therapists. The first told her he was just going through a phase; but the phase never passed. Another suggested that Brandon’s chaotic early childhood might have contributed to his behavior. Tina had never married Brandon’s father, whom she’d met when they were both stationed in Germany. Twice, she had briefly stayed with him, when Brandon was 5 months old and then when he was 3. Both times, she’d suspected his father of being too rough with the boy and had broken off the relationship. The therapist suggested that perhaps Brandon overidentified with his mother as the protector in the family, and for a while, this theory seemed plausible to Tina. In play therapy, the therapist tried to get Brandon to discuss his feelings about his father. She advised Tina to try a reward system at home. Brandon could earn up to $21 a week for doing three things: looking in the mirror and saying “I’m a boy”; not dressing up; and not wearing anything on his head. It worked for a couple of weeks, but then Brandon lost interest.

Tina recounted much of this history to me in June at her kitchen table, where Brandon, now 8, had just laid out some lemon pound cake he’d baked from a mix. She, Bill, Brandon, his half sister, Madison, and Travis live in a comfortable double-wide trailer that Bill set up himself on their half acre of woods. I’d met Tina a month earlier, and she’d agreed to let me follow Brandon’s development over what turned out to be a critical few months of his life, on the condition that I change their names and disguise where they live. While we were at the table talking, Brandon was conducting a kind of nervous fashion show; over the course of several hours, he came in and out of his room wearing eight or nine different outfits, constructed from his costume collection, his mom’s shoes and scarves, and his little sister’s bodysuits and tights. Brandon is a gymnast and likes to show off splits and back bends. On the whole, he is quiet and a little somber, but every once in a while—after a great split, say—he shares a shy, crooked smile.

About a year and a half ago, Tina’s mom showed her a Barbara Walters 20/20 special she’d taped. The show featured a 6-year-old boy named “Jazz” who, since he was a toddler, had liked to dress as a girl. Everything about Jazz was familiar to Tina: the obsession with girls’ clothes, the Barbies, wishing his penis away, even the fixation on mermaids. At the age of 3, Jazz had been diagnosed with “gender-identity disorder” and was considered “transgender,” Walters explained. The show mentioned a “hormone imbalance,” but his parents had concluded that there was basically nothing wrong with him. He “didn’t ask to be born this way,” his mother explained. By kindergarten, his parents were letting him go to school with shoulder-length hair and a pink skirt on.

Tina had never heard the word transgender; she’d figured no other little boy on Earth was like Brandon. The show prompted her to buy a computer and Google “transgender children.” Eventually, she made her way to a subculture of parents who live all across the country; they write in to listservs with grammar ranging from sixth-grade-level to professorial, but all have family stories much like hers. In May, she and Bill finally met some of them at the Trans-Health Conference in Philadelphia, the larger of two annual gatherings in the U.S. that many parents attend. Four years ago, only a handful of kids had come to the conference. This year, about 50 showed up, along with their siblings—enough to require a staff dedicated to full-time children’s entertainment, including Jack the Balloon Man, Sue’s Sand Art, a pool-and-pizza party, and a treasure hunt.

Diagnoses of gender-identity disorder among adults have tripled in Western countries since the 1960s; for men, the estimates now range from one in 7,400 to one in 42,000 (for women, the frequency of diagnosis is lower). Since 1952, when Army veteran George Jorgensen’s sex-change operation hit the front page of the New York Daily News, national resistance has softened a bit, too. Former NASCAR driver J.T. Hayes recently talked to Newsweek about having had a sex-change operation. Women’s colleges have had to adjust to the presence of “trans-men,” and the president-elect of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association is a trans-woman and a successful cardiologist. But nothing can do more to normalize the face of transgender America than the sight of a 7-year-old (boy or girl?) with pink cheeks and a red balloon puppy in hand saying to Brandon, as one did at the conference:

“Are you transgender?”

“What’s that?” Brandon asked.

“A boy who wants to be a girl.”

“Yeah. Can I see your balloon?”

Around the world, clinics that specialize in gender-identity disorder in children report an explosion in referrals over the past few years. Dr. Kenneth Zucker, who runs the most comprehensive gender-identity clinic for youth in Toronto, has seen his waiting list quadruple in the past four years, to about 80 kids—an increase he attributes to media coverage and the proliferation of new sites on the Internet. Dr. Peggy Cohen-Kettenis, who runs the main clinic in the Netherlands, has seen the average age of her patients plummet since 2002. “We used to get calls mostly from parents who were concerned about their children being gay,” says Catherine Tuerk, who since 1998 has run a support network for parents of children with gender-variant behavior, out of Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “Now about 90 percent of our calls are from parents with some concern that their child may be transgender.”

In breakout sessions at the conference, transgender men and women in their 50s and 60s described lives of heartache and rejection: years of hiding makeup under the mattress, estranged parents, suicide attempts. Those in their 20s and 30s conveyed a dedicated militancy: they wore nose rings and Mohawks, ate strictly vegan, and conducted heated debates about the definitions of queer and he-she and drag queen. But the kids treated the conference like a family trip to Disneyland. They ran around with parents chasing after them, fussing over twisted bathing-suit straps or wiping crumbs from their lips. They looked effortlessly androgynous, and years away from sex, politics, or any form of rebellion. For Tina, the sight of them suggested a future she’d never considered for Brandon: a normal life as a girl. “She could end up being a mommy if she wants, just like me,” one adoring mother leaned over and whispered about her 5-year-old (natal) son.

Go read the whole article.

World’s First Metrosexuals: Viking Men

Neatorama ran with the recent revelation that Viking men were into good grooming and created a post with a great image. The actual article is worth the read, if for no other reason than to change our false views of the Vikings.
World’s First Metrosexuals: Viking Men

Turns out, Viking are getting a bum rap over that whole plundering and pillaging thing. Dr. Elizabeth Rowe, a Viking expert and lecturer at Cambridge University, wanted the world to know that Vikings are a peaceful race that prefer grooming to pillaging:

They say that the Norse explorers, far from being obsessed with fighting and drinking, were a largely-peaceful race who were even criticised for being too hygienic.

The university’s department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic has published a guide revealing how much of the Vikings’ history has been misrepresented. They did not, in fact, wear horned or winged helmets. And they appear to have been a vain race who were concerned about their appearance.

"It seems that the Vikings may not have been as hairy and dirty as is commonly imagined," the guide says. "A medieval chronicler, John of Wallingford, talking about the eleventh century, complained that the Danes were too clean - they combed their hair every day, washed every Saturday, and changed their clothes regularly."


Oh my God, they bathed once a week? The heathens!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Man Episode 35: Ed Fell: The Mankind Project

Very cool.

Episode 35: Ed Fell: The Mankind Project

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How much bullshit are you tolerating?

Are there things you wish you could do before you die, but are not getting around to them? Are you tolerating a life that you never thought you would have, feeling that there is no way to change things?

Ed Fell wants to help us out. As a longtime member of The Mankind Project, Ed points to the fact that men have no initiation ceremonies in American culture and often drift through life, unsure of themselves as a result.

We have heard several times on the New Man about the importance of initiation ceremony. The Mankind Project is dedicated to giving men a healthy initiation to manhood and giving us an experience of who we truly are and what it feels like to be our authentic selves. From that experience of initiation, The Mankind Project offers a close network of support and challenge, to help men live their lives to the fullest.

The last item on that "bucket list" might just be the journey inward, to really get to know ourselves.
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Robert Augustus Masters - Turning Toward Our Pain

From the November newsletter, a great article on how we should turn toward our pain to grow as human beings, rather than follow the culturally embedded proclivity to turn away.

Men, far more so than women I think, are taught to turn away from pain -- deny it, suppress, reject it, swallow it, and any other way to make it go away. We end up unable to be open with our feelings because we do not know what it is we feel (aside from anger, the one "OK" emotion for men).

What Masters is advocating is hard, but it pays dividends in every area of our lives -- work, relationships, family, you name it. If you do not have access to your feelings, you are only a partial person.
Robert Augustus Masters

Turning toward our pain is an act of radical caring — and not just for ourselves, because we are then no longer fueling or supporting the turning-away-from-pain that has addicted so many of us to whatever keeps or seems to keep us removed not only from our pain, but also from the pain of others.

In turning toward our pain, we are also, however indirectly or slightly, turning toward others’ pain (in both personal and collective contexts), one result of which is that our compassion for others not only deepens but also widens, and our interconnectedness and intimacy with all that is becomes much more than just a belief or intellectual construct.

Turning toward our pain is about bringing into our heart all that we have rejected in ourselves, all that we have ostracized, disowned, neglected, bypassed, shunned, excommunicated, or otherwise deemed as unworthy in ourselves. Our heart somehow has room for it all.

Opening ourselves to such qualities does not, however, mean that we then allow them to run the show, to act out, to run wild, anymore than we would allow a child — including our own reclaimed child-side — to drive our car. So we must proceed here with great care, sidestepping the minefields/mindfields of neurotic tolerance and let’s-accept-it-all naiveté, keeping our eyes simultaneously open and discerning.

When something has been caged for a while, kept for prolonged periods from much of what it needs, it usually will not behave particularly well when it is released. Knowing this, we will not expect our pain to domesticatedly or nicely resonate with us when we no longer are protecting ourselves from it. Initially, it’s enough to simply name our pain and stay turned toward it, taking our time making its acquaintance, not expecting it to look or behave like a pet. As it comes more clearly into view, you may see something roughly akin to a dragon, something far from tame or civil or predictable, and perhaps even glimpse the treasure behind it.

In turning toward our pain, we are also turning toward our avoidance of our pain, allowing ourselves to see it for what it is, even as we feel its pull and hear its siren call, its promises of pleasurable release, its advertisements for itself.

Seeing this avoidance with any consistent clarity may be very difficult at first, as our distractions again and again seductively approach us, but it helps to know that they will thus show up — more often than not dressed to kill or thill — and that we are capable of naming the pain from which they are promising to remove us.

If, before reaching for your favorite fix, you simply ask yourself what you are actually feeling besides your urge to thus reach, and you then turn toward that feeling — which is probably painful, and tied in with certain strands of your personal history — and stay with that feeling, breathing it in, letting yourself fully feel it, you increase the odds that you won’t significantly distract yourself from your pain (including by converting it to suffering).

In naming our pain, we may still be turned away from it or be at an angle to it, but when we turn toward our pain, rotating until we are facing it squarely, we are in full frontal contact with it, preparing ourselves to step forward by deepening our stand.

And deepen it we must, or we will be uprooted all too easily. As we strengthen and stabilize our stand, getting more used to facing our pain, we may notice that our longing to be truly free is, however slightly or sporadically, getting stronger than our longing to distract ourselves from our pain.

We are now facing the dragon, perhaps feeling its heat and meaty threat as we open ourselves to its presence, breathing in its energies — but not so much as to overwhelm ourselves — and then breathing out in a manner that settles and further anchors us. We may feel like distracting ourselves, but we have too much at stake, and know we have too much at stake, to postpone, obstruct, or otherwise turn away from our pain. So we stay put, but not rigidly. If we find it too difficult to stand where we are, we step back a bit, and then root ourselves there. Moving back from the fire is fine so long as we keep facing it.

Once you’ve turned toward your pain and have found a place or position where you know you can stand with sufficient solidity, root yourself, feeling your stand streaming down through your belly and legs into your feet, and then through your feet into the earth — and at the same time feel your stand rising up through you even as become more and more firmly planted, rising up and up, up through your torso, lengthening your spine and lifting your sternum, with your head effortlessly balanced atop your neck, your eyes both focused and spacious.

Even if you are shaking inside, sweating at the thought of more fully encountering what is in front of you, keep your full height, filling out your body with presence, so that you begin to embody your true size. No matter how slight this shift is, stay with it, breathing integrity and care into your intention to stand your ground.

Do not move forward yet.

Beware of the ambition that would have you move forward prematurely. Beware of playing the hero, the dragon slayer, the impeccable warrior. Do not take the dragon lightly. It won’t lie down and roll over just because of your dreams of glory and breakthrough. What matters is that you take an open-eyed stand and do your best not to wander away from it. You may sway in the wind, but do not let it turn you away from your pain.

As you ground yourself, keep some awareness of the back of you, doing so in as easy a manner as possible. “See” with the back of your head, your shoulder blades, your sacrum, the back of your heart, sensing what is behind you, while remaining focused on what is before you.

Study the dragon as closely as you can from where you are. It is in sight. See it both in its totality and in particular ways: its position, its shape, its colors, its bulk, its movements, its odor, its teeth. And see how you have tended to treat it.

Don’t try to outstare the dragon, though. If you lock eyes with it for too long, you may lose touch with yourself to the point where you lose your footing. Better to look with clear focus for a little while, then look away for a bit, then look back at it again.

Give yourself enough time to acclimatize; facing your pain — which includes facing your aversion to it — so directly may be a very new experience for you. If your pain seems monstrous, it may be because you have treated it as such, keeping it from loving human contact so long that it has taken up residence in less-than-human forms.

As you stand your ground, cultivate a second-person relationship with your pain; before, you’ve probably had a first-person approach to it, namely identifying with it, as well as a third-person approach, keeping your pain as an unpleasant or undesirable “it” somewhere in the distance, just as you may have considered your body an “it” somewhere below your “headquarters”.

So now bring in a second person approach: Instead of relating from your pain, you relate to it. As such, you listen to it, you observe it without disengaging from it, you let yourself sense more than its surface features, you start to get inside it, you choose to be in relationship to it, no matter how alien it might seem. And thus you make the acquaintance of the dragon.

And you keep whatever distance you need, deepening your stand, relocating it if you have to, without turning away to any significant degree.

If this sounds like something you think you can’t do, think again: To turn toward your pain does not necessarily mean that you remain thus turned all the time! Rather, it means that you turn toward your pain, taking a stand there for long enough to start to get used to facing your pain. Of course you’ll take breaks, sometimes frequent breaks. But so what?

So long as you keep turning toward your pain, and practice staying there, rooted as best you can, it won’t really matter that you weren’t able to always stay with it for very long. Acclimatization takes time. Take time for the necessary adaptation. Treat the process more like a long run over rough terrain than sprint training.

Turning toward our pain is a step toward real freedom. Turn as slowly as you need to, but do turn. You are worth it. So are we.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Charles Staley - Learning To Clean Can Be Accomplished In One Lifetime!

I am a big fan of functional weight training for health, fitness, and fat loss. One of the classic lifts, and that many people think is too difficult, in the Olympic clean. It's a tough one to learn, but in this article, strength coach Charles Staley offers most of what anyone needs to know to do this lift properly.

As always, start light and get the form down before going heavier. Often, though Staley doesn't mention it here, it's easier to learn this lift if you start with the hang clean then progress to the full power clean. [Hang clean video below the article.]

Learning To Clean Can Be Accomplished In One Lifetime!

By Charles Staley, B.Sc, MSS
Director, Staley Training Systems

It's unfortunate that so many coaches make the process of learning the Olympic lifts seem more difficult than a manned mission to Mars. In point of fact, developing safe and efficient technique in these lifts isn't much harder than learning to bench, squat, or deadlift, which most people seem to have no issues with.

Now of course, developing the technique necessary to compete on the International stage does take years, but the same can be said for powerlifting, a sport that Olympic-lifting coaches love to demean as primitive and pedantic. Just because a sport looks simple doesn't mean it is. And conversely, just because a sport looks complex or sophisticated doesn't mean it's unattainable for the average person willing to put in the time and effort.

Here's two cases in point: Justin Negrete and James Fitzjohn.

Justin's entire experience with resistance training spans just one year, and his experience with Olympic lifts was gleaned during two stays at Bed & Barbell- a 5-day visit in July '08, and a 4-day visit just last week, where he completed two workouts. So in total, Justin has had a total of about 3 workouts with us where we worked the clean. With that in mind, check out how nice his cleans are in this video:

My second example is James Fitzjohn from England. Prior to working with us here at Bed & Barbell, he had virtually no experience with Olympic lifts, other than toying around a handful of times. As of this writing, James has visited us here 4-5 times, and last week he posted a lifetime Personal Record of 100kg's (220 pounds). Check out the video and tell me that cleans are beyond your reach

Both of these lifters display the elements of sound technical cleaning, namely:

  • The bar starts against your shins and stays tight against the front of your legs all the way up to the "rack" position on your shoulders.

  • As the bar ascends upward, your knees push backwards, which positions your shoulders in front of the bar at the instant it reaches knee height. This allows for efficient full-body extension powered by the posterior chain.

  • Your arms stay long and straight until your body reaches full extension (meaning a vertical body line, up on the toes, big shrug.

  • Once you've reached full extension, you allow your elbows to bend so that your arms won't impede the upward motion of the bar. I emphasize the word "allow" to point out that the elbows flex passively to get out of the way of the bar, as opposed to actively to assist with lifting the bar. The arms attach you to the bar - nothing more.

  • The bar is caught on the shoulders with high elbows. This provides a shelf for the bar on the deltoids. Catching with low elbows tends to make the bar land on your collar bones (which hurts). If you have trouble with the shelf, experiment with grip width and make sure you protract (push forward) your shoulders- protracting your shoulders is a lot like pulling our a drawer… it's like pulling out your shelf for the bar.

  • There is a distinct "tempo" to a successful clean- it starts slowly, and gradually builds to full speed once the bar gets past your knees. Think of it like this: from the floor to your knees, the goal is to "get into position:" meaning, push the knees back and get your shoulders out in front of the bar. This is the "power position." Make sure you get here each and every rep. From the knees to the top of the pull, think explode. Once you reach full extension, you're "done." Now all that's left to do is to catch the bar on your shoulders.

And that's it! Are there finer points I haven't covered yet? Sure. But the point is, just get started. Because cleans are fun, so no need to wait until you've mastered it, cause that'll never happen.

Enjoy and discuss- maybe Justin and James will chime in with their own experiences.

About The Author

His colleagues call him an iconoclast, a visionary, a rule-breaker. His clients call him “The Secret Weapon” for his ability to see what other coaches miss. Charles calls himself a “geek” who struggled in Phys Ed throughout school. Whatever you call him, Charles’ methods are ahead of their time and quickly produce serious results. His counter-intuitive approach and self-effacing demeanor have lead to appearances on NBC’s The TODAY Show and The CBS Early Show.

Currently, Charles competes in Olympic-style weightlifting on the master’s circuit, with a 3-year goal of qualifying for the 2009 Master’s World Championships.

Hang Clean:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fit Brains - The Male/Female Brain

This is an interesting article, but it seems to me a bit female biased. Or is it just me? This peice seems to privilege the female mode of communicating over the male, which is a recipe for disaster in most relationships.

Yes, men and women communicate differently, but neither way is the "right" way. Both are useful and both are necessary. It really is long past time that male ways of doing things stops being "wrong" in this culture.

The Male/Female Brain

genders.jpgTalk to the most happily married couples or to the best of friends and they will tell you that sometimes they do not “understand each other,” “he does not listen to me,” or “I just do not understand her.”

If this sounds familiar do not fret as it is to be expected and even normal. The female and male brain is different and the two brains process information differently. The good news is that with some conscious effort communication can be enhanced between the brains and frustrations lowered.

In general, female brains tend to employ both sides of their brain to process information while male brains tend to rely primarily on their dominant or language side to process. As the dominant hemisphere tends to be analytic, problem solving, task oriented, detailed, and verbal this helps to explain male behavior. A female brain can also process in this manner, but the non-dominant hemisphere that can process emotion, meaning without words, empathy, tone, and disposition is also engaged by the female.

Perhaps this helps to explain why females enjoy shopping while most men view it as a chore, women vote differently than males, men and women struggle communicating with each other, and men do not understand psychotherapy. Men tend to be more isolative, less talkative, and focused on solution. Women tend to be more group oriented, more talkative, and focused on the means and not necessarily the ends. This gets played out in the U.S. at this time as women and men tend to view the same debate between candidates differently (men tend to focus on content and women both content and style).

A great question from a male brain to a female brain is “what do you mean” or Am I correct in hearing this…..” Female brains can enhance communication from and to the male brain by being explicit in language as male brains may have some difficulty “reading between the lines” or appreciating emotion if it is not declared explicitly.

Once again the good news is that each brain can benefit from the other if we try!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chad Waterbury - Huge in a Hurry

Chad Waterbury, a frequent contributor at T-Nation, has an article in the current Men's Health that promotes his new book, Huge in a Hurry. Waterbury's programs have been some of the most successful I have tried for building strength and size.

Part of being a healthy man requires having a strong and healthy body. What that means will be different for each of us, but a healthy heart, mind, and spirit must be housed in a healthy and strong body.

That said, the article cites Waterbury's five new rules for muscle:

1) Lift big to grow big
2) Lift fast to grow big
3) Quit when you're ahead
4) Don't sweat the small sets
5) Think big to grow big

The basic premise is that we need to lift heavy weights as fast as possible, but under control. We should be aiming for total quality reps and not worrying about the number of sets (3 sets of ten is a beginner's approach).

Here is his "big things come in small packages" workout -- three exercises, three day per week. This is the perfect routine for skinny guys and "hardgainers."
Bench Press

Aim for 25 total reps of each exercise using a weight that you can lift 4 to 6 times before speed and form deteriorate. Rest about 60 seconds between sets.

DB single-arm shoulder press
DB single-arm row
DB lunge or step up

Aim for 40 total reps of each exercise with each arm or leg, using a weight that you can lift 10 to 12 times before speed and form deteriorate. Rest about 45 seconds between sets.

Barbell bent-over row

Aim for 15 total reps of each exercise using a weight that you can lift 2 to 3 times before speed and form deteriorate. Rest about 90 seconds between sets.
That's it. The low volume might be a shock for some people used to spending 2 hours in the gym, but your muscles will thank you by growing bigger.

And, obviously, this program is not the be-all and end-all of lifting, but it should be a good six to eight week cycle in your training year.

The Caveman Mystique

Interesting article on the spread of (watered-down) evolutionary psychology in popular culture from American Sexuality Magazine. Here is a key passage:
Men, the popular account of evolution tells us, are rampantly heterosexual skirt chasers. (Anyone who’s gay serves, at best, as evidence of the supposedly nonadaptive delights in which some humans indulge and, at worst, as evidence of what is unnatural and therefore immoral.) This understanding of male sexuality helps fuel a culture Michael Kimmel recently labeled “guyland,” the life stage and social space in which teenage and twenty-something men cultivate a rude-dude attitude, resenting anything intellectual, politically correct, or smacking of either responsibility or women’s authority. What better than the caveman narrative to help these guys avoiding the demands of adult life define themselves as, nevertheless, real men?
That doesn't sound like the men I know, but then I have strange friends. Most of the men I know are polite, considerate, and even compassionate. But maybe cavemen were, too?

Now read the whole article:

The Caveman Mystique

Finding an identity in pop-Darwinism

By Martha McCaughey

“You’ve got a great waist-to-hip ratio,” my date declared, after which he went on to explain that men have biologically evolved to respond to just the right womanly proportions and also to react to large breasts, since both of these signify fertility. My date was not an evolutionary scholar, or a scholar of any kind. He was just a regular guy who, like so many others, had been exposed to and internalized popular magazine articles and television news programs that champion the science of evolutionary psychology.

Evolutionary psychology uses contemporary Darwinian theory to explain, among other things, how human males and females evolved with different sexualities or, in the jargon of evolutionary psychologists, different “sexual psychologies.” Read: men and women want different things in a mate and have different sexual styles. While the fairer sex is choosey about her mates, more capable of a lasting bond with a lover, and dedicated to her role as a parent, the harrier sex is sexually promiscuous, places an enormous emphasis on women’s youth and beauty (which he ogles every chance he gets), either cheats on his wife or wants to, and can be sexually aggressive to the point of criminality.

Evolutionary theorists interested in human behavior reason that our human male ancestors were, back in the environment to which our bodies are adapted, constantly competing with one another for sexual access to fertile women. Evolution favored women who were picky about their mate choices, given the high level of parental investment required of the human female for reproduction—months of gestation, giving birth, and then years of lactation and care for a dependent child. The human male’s low level of parental investment required for reproduction—after all, he need only ejaculate into a fertile body to reproduce and could father hundreds of children—meant that human males evolved to be relatively sexually carefree or, less delicately, to be, by nature, wanton skirt chasers.

But having briefly outlined the evolutionary theoretical approach to sex differences in human sexual behavior, I want to talk about the popular spread of that theory, however distorted or watered down it winds up. For we find references to man’s evolutionary heritage throughout popular culture—in new science textbooks, pop psychology books on relationships, men’s magazine, and even on T-shirts. (Picture the frat dude chugging a beer in a shirt with a picture of a caveman clad in a fur pelt holding a club and with the statement “Me Find Woman.” You can actually buy these shirts on There are caveman fitness plans and caveman diets. Saturday Night Live’s hilarious “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer” and the affronted caveman of the Geico car insurance ads joke about the ubiquity of caveman narratives. More disturbingly, the Darwinian discourse also crops up when men need an excuse for antisocial behavior. One man, who was caught on amateur video participating in the Central Park group sexual assaults in the summer of 2000, can be heard on video telling his sobbing victim, “Welcome back to the caveman times.”

Popularized evolutionary discourse, or pop-Darwinism, offers men a scientifically authorized way to think about—and live out—their sexuality. Indeed, popular attention to the evolution of human male sexuality has increasingly lodged American manhood in an evolutionary logic. Pop-Darwinism has become a sort of cultural consensus about who men are. Average American guys don’t read academic evolutionary science, but many do read about science in popular magazines and in bestselling books written by enthusiasts of evolutionary psychology. Popular culture is a political Petri dish for Darwinian ideas about sex. As such, it is worth examining—even when magazine writers and television producers intentionally “dumb down” or distort more sophisticated or modest academic claims.

Read the rest of the article.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Books - Boys to Men

Two new books look at the difficult transition from boyhood to manhood in our culture. This review appeared in the Boston Globe.

Boys to men

Two new books chart the uneven evolution of the American male past adolescence

By Rebecca Steinitz October 12, 2008

The Decline of Men: How the American Male Is Tuning Out, Giving Up, and Flipping Off His Future
By Guy Garcia
Harper, 300 pp., $24.95

Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men
By Michael Kimmel
Harper, 332 pp., $25.95

Ever since Chicken Little, the sky has been falling for someone. According to Guy Garcia, the current victim is the male sex, as the title of his new book, "The Decline of Men: How the American Male Is Tuning Out, Giving Up, and Flipping Off His Future," makes clear. Once upon a time in America, Garcia tells us, there were real men who upheld "the classic male virtues - physical strength, aggression, self-sufficiency, resolve." Evolution had everything to do with it: As early men hunted woolly mammoths to feed their womenfolk, aggression and hard work became part of their DNA, and times were good.

Then came feminism. There have been other social and economic changes, of course, but Garcia doesn't have much to say about those. Though he occasionally proclaims that women are not to blame (indeed, it would be unmanly to blame them), for the most part he holds fast to the notion that the après-feminism ascent of the American woman has precipitated the descent of the American man.

And what a descent it's been: While women are excelling as never before, male unemployment is up, educational achievement is down, marriage is on the way out, male elephants are running amok, testosterone levels are plummeting, and it's possible that in 10 million years the Y chromosome may disappear altogether! Given this litany of woes, it's easy to forget that women still earn 78 cents for every dollar made by men, or that men run 490 of the Fortune 500 companies and control 83 percent of the House and Senate.

Garcia does make some valid points, especially when he resorts to real data and nuanced analysis. His discussions of the growing education gender gap and the negative effect of absent fathers on masculine identity are thoughtful and persuasive. But each subtle moment is tempered by another head-spinning girl-hating move, like a lecture on evolutionary theory from the heretofore-unheralded scientific authority Richard Parsons, chief executive of Time Warner ("Almost from the beginning of man's time on earth," Parsons proclaims, "his role has been as the protector-provider") or Ken's interior monologue (yes, that Ken) after Barbie tosses him "aside like last year's Prada handbag."

In short, "The Decline of Men" is one of the shoddiest pieces of writing and scholarship I have recently encountered. Garcia rarely comes out and makes a claim, preferring strings of semirhetorical questions alongside randomly bolded sentences. Chapters ramble, lengthy interviews veer off topic, and a list of the side effects of steroid use sounds like a sixth-grade report. We can't check its accuracy, though, because, despite a profusion of quotations, statistics, and anecdotes, the book does not include source notes.

After Garcia's incoherent fury, it is something of a relief to turn to Michael Kimmel's carefully researched and argued "Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men." Kimmel narrows in on "the world in which young men live . . . a liminal undefined time span between adolescence and adulthood that can often stretch for a decade or more." Guys are, for the most part, white, middle-class, college-educated, and baseball-hatted. In Guyland, they talk about sports, play video games, watch porn - and indulge in sadistic hazing rituals, alcoholic binges, and sometimes rape.

Kimmel is certainly surveying the same landscape as Garcia (though his more measured survey includes endnotes). Uncertain what manhood will mean in a society where economic exigencies and formidable females have eroded the longstanding privilege enjoyed by their fathers and grandfathers, Kimmel's guys retreat into a fantasy world of male bonding that barely masks their anger at (and fear of) the women, homosexuals, and black men they believe have usurped them.

Postponing adulthood, they live by the "Guy Code," with its central tenet of "Bros Before Hos" and its culture of "entitlement, silence, and protection." Most guys, Kimmel is quick to point out, are decent people, yet they go along with the herd, acquiescing to a culture of brutality that they know is wrong but feel powerless to resist.

While Kimmel points out the limits of Guyland, he also falls prey to the power of rhetorical overkill. Though he repeatedly notes that not all guys are demons, he seems to revel in descriptions of debauchery and debasement (gang-rape scenes, for instance). And yet, he ultimately admits, most guys, rather than becoming debauched, debased men, eventually grow out of it. They get a job or meet a girl, decide that the rewards of adulthood are worth the risk, and leave Guyland behind.

Kimmel argues passionately that parents, mentors, and guys themselves must create alternate routes to responsible, ethical manhood. But while the implications of his data - that most guys get there on their own - do not vitiate his call, they do undermine its urgency.

Still, as both these books suggest, something is clearly wrong, though I would argue that men aren't the only ones suffering. At the beginning of a new millennium, none of us have fully adjusted to our new gender roles. While women are putting 18 million cracks in glass ceilings, they are also expected to be sexually voracious and maternally impeccable, not to mention beautiful, thin, and large-breasted. Men teeter between demands for sensitivity and stolidity as they try to figure out how to make enough money to pay the mortgage. "The Decline of Men" and "Guyland" are testimony to the power of our anxieties, but they do not answer our questions.

Rebecca Steinitz is a writer, editor, and consultant who lives in Arlington.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The New Man Episode 34: Authentic Man Program: The Power of Integrity

The New Man this week talks with Bryan Bayer and Garrison Cohen of the Authentic Man Program, about their latest tools to help men achieve their true potential.

Episode 34: Authentic Man Program: The Power of Integrity

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What the hell is integrity really? Why would it play an important role in our lives and our interactions with other men...and women?

This week we're talking again with our friends Bryan Bayer and Garrison Cohen of the Authentic Man Program, about their latest tools to help men achieve their true potential.

Listen as the fellas from AMP cover:

  • How our being nice can be the barrier to our own greatness;
  • How it is really our duty to express how we really feel, regardless of the outcome;
  • The importance of owning our attraction;
  • What we have to put on the line to evolve to the next level;
  • Where to find the arena to play our highest game;
  • Calling ourselves on our own bullshit;
  • The latest multimedia products from AMP;
  • How to put all of this theory in to real action.

Click Here to start discovering your potential with the Authentic Man Program.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

How Manly Men Can Fight Poverty

The Art of Manliness posted this on Blog Action Day, which was dedicated to fighting poverty -- I think it is a good post and deserves a little more attention.

Personally, although I grew up reasonably "poor" by American standards, I had no idea what poverty looked like until I traveled to Mexico City in 1986 for the World Cup. Until then, I had never seen people living in cardboard boxes or "shacks" made from aluminum siding nailed to trees. I was devastated.

There is so much we each can do, and even though I missed Blog Action Day, every day can be a day devoted to fighting poverty. The more the economy collapses, the more those of us still working will need to help others.

It's our moral obligation as men, as human beings.

How Manly Men Can Fight Poverty

shack How Manly Men Can Fight Poverty

Editor’s Note: Today is Blog Action Day and AoM is taking part. Blog Action Day is an annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, in posting about the same issue on the same day. The goal is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion about that issue. This year’s issue is poverty.

The first time I was really confronted with poverty on a consistent basis was when I lived in Tijuana, Mexico for two years as a missionary for my church. For a white kid (well, a tan white kid) who grew up in an affluent American town, the experience was an eye opener. For the first time, I saw all the ugly effects of poverty first hand: drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, child neglect, sickness, and crime.

While I was in Tijuana, I saw several church groups from California cross the border with the goal of alleviating poverty. They’d come with bags of used clothes, toys, and handouts of free food. Heck, they’d even build people new homes for free! While their intentions were noble, their efforts did little to help the people. In a day or two the food was gone and in a week or two the free toys were lying untouched on the dirt street. But the people still didn’t have enough money to buy clean water or food for their families. And those people who got new homes? As soon as the church groups left, some of these new homeowners dismantled their houses and sold the materials for money. Others, who kept their homes, failed to take care of them properly and they quickly deteriorated. Within a matter of months, those brand new houses were indistinguishable from the other run down shacks.

But during my time in TJ, I met several families who were able to beat the poverty cycle. As I look back at these people, they all had two things in common that helped them get out of poverty: self-determination and responsible help from others. I never saw one without the other.

One family stands out to me. The husband was basically a bum. He drank his days away and worked odd jobs that paid a pittance. He couldn’t provide for his family and they often went hungry. This bum happened to attend the same church as a man who owned several taxies that ran in Tijuana. The taxi owner knew the bum husband and the problems he had. The taxi owner took the guy under his wing and worked with him on getting his life in order. With a bit of tough love, this guy turned his life around completely. It took a lot of hard work and a lot of setbacks, but he had the determination to make a better life for his family The taxi owner soon offered the newly transformed man a job as a taxi driver in Tijuana. For the first time in this man’s life he had steady work that allowed him to provide comfortably for his family. He was able to escape poverty.

Grit and determination will only get you so far when you’re battling poverty. I saw men in Tijuana who worked their asses off at two jobs, but their situation never improved. It wasn’t until someone stepped in and provided better resources and opportunities that these men’s situations got better.

Likewise, all the help in the world won’t do any good unless the person has the desire to accept the help and do something constructive with it. As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. So just providing handouts won’t cut it, like the misguided church groups did above. At some point the impoverished person must make the decision to get out of poverty. And they might need some help to see that they even have a choice. Some people have been so beaten down by poverty that they don’t have confidence or self determination to rise up from it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not naïve enough to think that self determination and help from others will beat poverty every time. Some places in the world have such corrupt governments and extreme environments that Herculean efforts and all of Warren Buffet’s money can’t possibly eradicate all of the poverty there. But individuals don’t have much influence over those factors. I think it’s much more constructive to focus on things we can have a direct and immediate influence on.

And a final thing I learned while I was in Mexico is that it isn’t the big Herculean efforts that beats poverty. Big government programs, huge benefit concerts, or even Blog Action Days don’t do much to help people get out of poverty. It’s done one person at a time.

Go read the rest of the post for some ideas on how to "kick poverty's ass."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Study looks at the lives of boys who commit dating violence

Date rape is an under-reported plague in this country. I have personally known many young women who have been raped or beaten by their boyfriends or dates. We need to address these issues and find a way to end the violence.

The worst part is that many of the young men do not feel they have done anything wrong until many years later, and are then hit with the guilt and shame of having been abusive and violent.

For the girls, it's much worse. They lose a sense of self-control, of being a valuable human being, and so much more. Relationship violence and date rape and can leave life-long scars.
Contact: Phyllis Brown
University of California - Davis - Health System

Study looks at the lives of boys who commit dating violence

To prevent violence against girls researchers advocate addressing issues related to boys' home and other environments

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — A new study sheds light on the lives of teenage boys who abuse their girlfriends. In their own words, the young men often describe facing challenges such as growing up with troubled family lives, having little or no support when they began to fail at school, and witnessing violence in their own homes and communities. The study advocates broadening the view of abusive behaviors within dating relationships to explore the myriad environments — school, home and community — that affect boys' lives and actions.

"Until now, we did not have much information on young men who hurt their partners," said Elizabeth Miller, the study's senior author and an assistant professor of pediatrics at UC Davis Children's Hospital. "This is a critically important piece of the puzzle in terms of designing meaningful prevention and intervention programs to prevent adolescent relationship violence."

The study, "The Social and Emotional Contexts of Adolescent and Young Adult Male Perpetrators of Intimate Partner Violence: A Qualitative Study," appeared online in the September issue of the American Journal of Men's Health. It is the first qualitative study to document the social and environmental factors experienced by adolescent males who have abused dating partners.

Despite multiple studies on the consequences of dating violence for girls, Miller said researchers still lack an understanding of the fundamental social and environmental factors that promote male violence within dating relationships — information that is crucial to guiding its prevention.

"While less is known about what leads to male violence within dating relationships, existing studies have often pointed to individual characteristics of males, such as substance abuse or having traditional attitudes towards women," said Elizabeth Reed, the study's lead author and a graduate student at Harvard University at the time the research was conducted. "However, we need to also conduct research that considers aspects of environments — such as family life, school, peer environment and communities — that might promote such characteristics among boys. Violence in dating affects certain groups of boys more than others. We need to look beyond individuals to see how environments play a role in this important public health problem, and address the issue in a way that considers factors much larger than individual choices and behaviors."

For the study, Miller and Reed conducted in-depth interviews with 19 boys, ages 14 to 20, with known histories of perpetrating intimate partner violence and who lived in mostly urban neighborhoods in metropolitan Boston, where Miller worked before moving to Sacramento, Calif., two years ago. The researchers identified common themes — from listening to boys who had been referred by their schools or families to an intervention program for abusive behavior with girlfriends. They also gathered information from their previous work. In 2007, Miller and her colleagues completed a survey of 825 Boston-area youth that was designed to assess the prevalence of and factors related to teen dating violence among those who utilize confidential adolescent health clinics. The current study was part of this larger research project on adolescent relationship violence and health.

For the interview-based study, researchers identified common themes — from listening to boys who had been referred by their schools or families to an intervention program for abusive behavior with girlfriends.

"The themes that often came up in interviews included problematic home environments, inadequate support at school, community contexts characterized by violence and peer interactions that encourage the sexual maltreatment of girls," said Reed, who is now a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University in Durham, N.C. "The findings of our study suggest that it will not be effective to focus on the influence of one of these contexts alone. We need to understand the complex interplay of how they influence boys' behavior within intimate relationships. Intervention programs that aim to address boys' abusive behaviors toward their girlfriends may be more effective if they also address a broad array of difficulties faced within boys' lives. However, we need more research on this topic to know for sure."

Miller and Reed said that the study is from an urban sample of boys in programs for dating violence perpetration and, therefore, does not represent all boys who perpetrate abusive behaviors toward girlfriends. However, it offers some important, initial insights into the life contexts of boys that may contribute to dating violence.

"Many intervention studies have assumed that talking to students in schools about dating violence will do the trick," Miller explained. "It's not that simple. We really need to do meaningful prevention that addresses the failures of the structures and systems in place that are supposed to support these boys. For example, the lack of positive mentorship and support at home and in school are key factors. Given staggering high school drop-out rates, school-based programs cannot reach those males who have already dropped out of school."

Miller is conducting a research study on a dating violence prevention program called Coaching Boys into Men, sponsored by the Family Violence Prevention Fund. The program trains coaches to work with high school-aged athletes to stop violence against women and girls. In addition to the research study, Miller is establishing a Sacramento-based Coaching Boys into Men program.

Miller also continues to support young women through a dating violence intervention program based in Planned Parenthood clinics and funded by the National Institutes of Health. Through the program, family planning counselors in Northern California will be trained to talk to patients about how intimate partner violence may be affecting their reproductive and sexual health.

"We need to design dating violence prevention programs that meet these young men and women where they are and that speak directly to their needs — emotionally, socially, academically — and literally at the places where they hang out. That might be on a sports field or in a Planned Parenthood clinic," Miller said.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Matthew Fox - The Hidden Spirituality of Men (The Real Meaning of Warriorhood)

Hat tip to Elephant Journal for pointing me to this article by Matthew Fox in Ode Magazine. Matthew Fox was kicked out of the Dominican Order by the man now serving as Pope for being a "feminist theologian" (Fox's term). So it's good to see him now working to uncover the healthy and mature masculine impulse -- the tender heart of the warrior, to cite Chogyam Trungpa.

Here is a key quote:
The archetype of the spiritual warrior helps to answer in a constructive way some important issues: What to do with male aggression and competition? How to steer both in healthy directions?
This is an excellent and needed article.

The hidden spirituality of men

The spiritual lives of men are, for many, concealed, repressed or forgotten. In an exclusive extract from his new book, Matthew Fox argues that men can rediscover their true selves by embracing the role of noble warrior.

Matthew Fox | October 2008 issue


I know of a renowned scientist who has a large sweat lodge in his backyard where he and his wife do regular sweats led by Native Americans. They even know the ancient songs in the Lakota language. But no one at the university where he works is aware of his spiritual practice. It’s hidden from them. His is one of the best-kept secrets of our culture: Many men are profoundly spiritual and care deeply about their spiritual lives.

What’s no secret is that men today are in trouble. And these troubles affect everyone. The warring of our species continues, from Iraq to Sri Lanka, from Lebanon to Somalia; the U.S. government sells more weaponry worldwide than even entertainment. Meanwhile, global warming is a global warning: a warning that we’re not doing well as a species and as a planet. One out of four mammal species is dying out.

In fact, young men are also disappearing. In Baltimore, Maryland, in the shadow of America’s capital, 76 percent of young black men aren’t graduating from high school. It’s no secret that failed education frequently leads to incarceration, and as a result, more young black men are in prison than in college in the U.S. For many inner-city youth, it’s cooler and more manly to go to jail than to get a degree.

For years I’ve been writing as a male feminist—indeed that was the No. 1 objection to my theology voiced by the chief inquisitor general of our day, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), when he expelled me from the Dominican Order, saying I was a “feminist theologian.” But what I’m saying now is in no way a denial of my previous work; rather it’s a logical extension of it. Women have been recovering their stories and their archetypes. Where are the men in the awakening our species needs so badly? Where is the healthy masculine in men and in women?

Our culture has latched onto images of God as male and then defined for us what male means. Male means winning (being No. 1 in sports, business, politics, academia), going to war (“kill or be killed”), being rational, not emotional (“boys don’t cry”) and embracing homophobia (fear of male affection). Male means domination, lording over others—whether nature, one’s own body, women or others.

Thomas Berry, a Catholic priest of the Passionist Order and an eco-theologian, talks about the need for “The Great Work.” What is this Great Work? It’s “the task of moving modern industrial civilization from its present devastating influence on the Earth to a more benign mode of presence.” Such a great work will require great spirits, real warriors, and it will require steering our moral outrage and our powers of competition in more positive directions.

The Great Work is “not a role that we have chosen. It is a role given to us, beyond any consultation with ourselves. ... We are, as it were, thrown into existence with a challenge and a role that is beyond any personal choice. The nobility of our lives, however, depends upon the manner in which we come to understand and fulfill our assigned role.” Noble warriors are called for. The archetype of the spiritual warrior helps to answer in a constructive way some important issues: What to do with male aggression and competition? How to steer both in healthy directions?

Aggression is in all of us. Whether you’re athlete or preacher, businessperson or taxi driver, aggression will emerge. It’s easy to identify the negative ways it expresses itself: as war, as conquest (whether in business or sex), as passivity (aggression turned against oneself: “I can’t do that...”), as selfish competition (“I can’t win unless you lose”) and more. But what are the healthy ways to engage it? How to turn aggression into nobility, to use Berry’s term?

To me, the key is understanding the distinction between a warrior and a soldier. A Vietnam veteran who volunteered to go to war at 17 described this eloquently: “When I was in the army, I was a soldier. I was a puppet doing whatever anybody told me to do, even if it meant going against what my heart told me was right. I didn’t know nothing about being a warrior until I hit the streets and marched alongside my brothers for something I really believed in. When I found something I believed in, a higher power found me.” He quit being a soldier and became a warrior when he followed his soul’s orders, not his officer’s; in his case, this meant protesting war and going to jail for it. The late Buddhist meditation master Chögyam Trungpa talks about the “sad and tender heart of the warrior.” The warrior is in touch with his heart—the joy, the sadness, the expansiveness of it.

However, not everyone understands this distinction. I believe the confusion of soldier and warrior feeds militarism and the reptilian brain. It’s also an expression of homophobia, since I suspect heterosexism is behind much of the continued ignorance and fear of the real meaning of warriorhood. The warrior, unlike the soldier, is a lover. The warrior is so much in touch with his heart that he can give it to the world. The warrior loves not only his nearest kin and mate but also the world and God. The warrior relates to God as a lover.

How different is this from right-wing depictions of God as judge and not lover? This view of God leads to the distortions of masculinity. The confusion of warrior and soldier feeds unhealthy relationships, with God, self and society. It feeds empire-building, and the builders of empire would like nothing more than to enlist young men who believe soldiering equals warriorhood. We can’t afford this ignorance any longer. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If the warrior is different from the soldier, there must be distinct ways by which the warrior develops his or her strength. If the warrior is the mystic in action, then let’s try the following four steps on for size. They derive from the mystical/prophetic or mystical/warrior journey in the creation spirituality tradition.

  1. The Via Positiva. This is the way of celebrating life, of seeing the world with its beauty and goodness, its grace and generosity—and being open to seeing more. This is the way of reverence, respect and gratitude. It’s the way of original blessing, whereby we live out the truth that the universe and life itself, for all the struggle and pain they dispense, have birthed us as individuals and communities with what we need for happiness and for sharing joy.

  2. The Via Negativa. The Via Negativa goes into the darkness, the wounds, the pain and silence and solitude of existence to find what we have to learn there. It’s a way of letting go and letting be, of emptying and being emptied, of moving beyond judgment and beyond control, and learning to breathe, to sit, to be still, to dwell in silence, to taste nothingness without flinching and, ultimately, to focus. It’s the way of grieving. Without grief we can’t move on to the next stage, one of giving birth. The ancient German theologian, Meister Eckhart von Hochheim, calls the process of letting go “eternal.” The warrior faces death and, because he or she has, loves life more passionately.

  3. The Via Creativa. Having fallen in love with life often (Via Positiva) and having been emptied and learned to let go and let be numerous times (Via Negativa), the spiritual warrior is ready to give birth. Creativity is the weapon, the sword, of the spiritual warrior—who is mother as well as father, and who digs deep into a wellspring of wildness that provides the energy for new life, connections, images and moral imagination by which to change things in a deep, not superficial, way. The true warrior is a co-creator, a worker with Spirit, a worker for Spirit. The warrior’s hands are the hands of Spirit at work; the warrior’s mind is seized by Spirit precisely in the work of creativity. As 13th century Catholic philosopher and theologian St. Thomas Aquinas put it, “The same Spirit that hovered over the waters at the beginning of creation hovers over the mind of the artist at work.” Every warrior is an artist at work for the people that they might live.

  4. The Via Transformativa. Claims to artistry and to creativity and to co-creation need to be tested. The Spirit requires discernment and evaluation. The primary test for claims of spirit work is that of justice and compassion. Does the work I’m doing pass the justice test? Does it fill gaps between haves and have-nots or make the chasm deeper? Does it contribute to healing and empowerment of the powerless or re-establish the privileges of the few at the expense of the many?

The prophets always speak on behalf of justice; they’re attuned to injustice, which they feel like a kick in the gut. Injustice arouses the passion of anger and the prophet/warrior is in touch with his or her anger and passions. But instead of just responding in a reptilian brain action-reaction mode, the prophet uses the anger as fuel to fire effective and creative ways to enact justice and healing. And the authentic warrior remains humble, or close to the Earth (humus, from which “humility” is derived, means “Earth” in Latin), and aware that he or she is only an instrument of the work of Spirit. Not a messiah. A prophet is a weak and needy human being like everyone else, fully capable of evil and mistakes. And needy also for the Via Positiva to be a regular part of one’s spiritual practice, a need for filling up and refreshing in the cool waters of peace and joy that life’s small moments can bring. Nevertheless, in all of this the warrior/prophet remains fierce for justice and compassion to happen.

Read the rest of this article.

Matthew Fox is an Episcopal priest, theologian and author of numerous books on creation spirituality. This article is excerpted from The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, published in October by New World Library.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New Man Episode 33: Robert Masters: So What Do You Do With Your Anger?

Part 2 in the New Man interview with Robert Masters is up -- more good stuff.

Episode 33: Robert Masters: So What Do You Do With Your Anger?

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Anger is an emotion, something we feel in our bodies very vicerally. What we do with our anger is another story entirely. Anger gets its bad name from anger expressed as aggression or violence.

In this episode, Robert examines this distinction and give us insights on how to work with our anger. We explore:

  • Taking a relational approach to anger.
  • How do breathing and eye contact change an argument?
  • How unspoken emotions can affect relationships despite our holding them in.
  • Where to start working with anger
  • The role of shame, guilt and sadness.
  • Meditation as a tool
Learn how to honor your anger and maintain healthy engagement with women, and every other relationship in your life.