Saturday, March 31, 2012

Robert Sapolsky on Stress - How Stress Hurts Men’s Sex Lives

Greater Good has featured clips from a talk by Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D., this month, and an essay (abridged) that originally appeared in Foreign Affairs. Sapolsky is the John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biological Sciences and a professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University. His most recent book is Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals.

Here is the segment on male sexual issues brought on by stress. See the article below for a lot more information on stress, a serious issue for a lot of men.

Robert M. Sapolsky

The best-selling author and Stanford University professor explains why the stress response, which evolved for short-term physical crises, can become a long-term, chronic problem for human beings—and how we can reduce the impact of stress on our lives. More about Robert M. Sapolsky.

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Featured Clip

How Stress Hurts Men’s Sex Lives

March 2012 | TRT 3:03
Combining wit with deep knowledge, the researcher and best-selling author explains why stress interferes with male sexual response.
 This clip is from a much longer talk only available to members. Here is the abridged article the talk is based on - with a lot of good material on stress.

How to Relieve Stress

By Robert M. Sapolsky | March 22, 2012

Robert M. Sapolsky explains why stress can become a chronic problem—and how we can reduce the toll it takes on our lives.

This month, we feature videos of a Greater Good presentation by Robert M. Sapolsky, one the country’s foremost experts on stress. In this excerpt from his talk, the best-selling author and Stanford University professor explains the difference between bad stress and good stress, and how we can manage the effects of chronic stress on our lives.

In 1900, what do you think were the leading causes of death in this country? 

If you were 20 to 40 years old and a woman, the single riskiest thing you could do was try to give birth. TB, Pneumonia, influenza killed a lot of other people. But few people under the age of 100 die of the flu anymore. Relatively few women die in childbirth. Instead, we die of these utterly bizarre diseases that have never existed before on the planet in any sort of numbers—diseases like heart disease, cancer, adult-onset diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.

Now, some of this has to do with nuts and bolts biology. But some of it has to do with issues that nobody ever had to think about before in medicine—totally bizarre questions like, “What’s your psychological makeup?” or “What’s your social status?” or “How do people with your social status get treated in your society?”

And this one: “Why is it that when we’re feeling unloved, we eat more starch?” Figure that out, and you’ve cured half the cases of diabetes in this country

Indeed, when you look at the diseases that do us in, they are predominantly diseases that can be caused, or made worse, by stress. As a result, most of us in this room will have the profound Westernized luxury of dropping dead someday of a stress-related disease. That’s why it’s so urgent that we understand stress—and how to better manage it.

How stress kills

Do you remember “homeostasis,” a term I guarantee you heard in ninth grade biology? Homeostasis is having an ideal body temperature, an ideal level of glucose in the bloodstream, an ideal everything. That’s being in homeostatic balance.

A stressor is anything in the outside world that knocks you out of homeostatic balance. If you’re some zebra and a lion has ripped your stomach open and your innards are dragging in the dust and you still need to get out of there—well, that counts as being out of homeostatic balance.

So to reestablish that balance, you secrete adrenaline and other hormones. You mobilize energy and you deliver it where it’s needed, you shut off the inessentials like the sex drive and digestion, you enhance immune defenses, and you think more clearly. You’re facing a short-term physical crisis, and the stress response is what you do with your body. For 99 percent of the species on this planet, stress is three minutes of screaming terror in the savannah, after which either it’s over with or you’re over with. That’s all you need to know about the subject if you’re a zebra or a lion. 

If you’re a human, though, you’ve got to expand the definition of a stressor in a very critical way. If you’re running from a lion, your blood pressure is 180 over 120. But you’re not suffering from high blood pressure—you’re saving your life. Have this same thing happen when you’re stuck in traffic, and you’re not saving your life. Instead you are suffering from stress-induced hypertension.

We humans turn on the stress response with memories, with emotions, with thoughts, and the whole punch line is: That’s not what it evolved for. Do it regularly enough, and you’re going to damage your cardiovascular system. Increased blood flow hammers on the walls of your blood vessels, causing inflammation. Fat and glucose and cholesterol glom on and begin to clog your arteries. That’s bad news. You are more at risk for chronic fatigue, sleep disruption, muscle atrophy, and probably most importantly, adult-onset diabetes, this once obscure disease that’s just on the edge of being the number one killer in this country.

Chronic stress also does bad things to the nervous system. Stress kills neurons in the part of the brain called the hippocampus and weakens the cables between neurons, so they can’t talk to each other. This impairs the formation and retrieval of long-term memory. The opposite thing happens in the amygdala, which is where we see fear in a brain scanner. In the hippocampus, stress causes stuff to shrivel up. But stress feeds the amygdala. It actually gets bigger. Chronic stress creates a hyper-reactive, hysterical amygdala, and this tells us tons about what stress has to do with anxiety disorders.

Another domain: the mesolimbic dopamine system. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is about reward and pleasure. Cocaine works on the dopamine system. All the euphorians do. What are the effects of chronic stress on this part of the brain? Those pathways get depleted of dopamine, and this takes away your ability to feel pleasure. So if stress depletes your dopamine, what have you just set yourself up for? Major depression.

What about the frontal cortex? It’s the most human part of the brain; we’ve proportionally got more of it than any other species does. And what does the frontal cortex do? It does gratification postponement, self-discipline, long-term planning, emotional regulation. It’s the last part of the brain to fully mature—that doesn’t happen until you’re 25 years old, which explains a lot about the freshmen year of college.

This has a very interesting implication. If this is the last part of the brain to fully develop, by definition, then, it is the part of the brain least constrained by genes and most sculpted by experience. What does chronic stress do to the frontal cortex? Atrophy of neurons, disconnecting circuits. As a result, you make the most idiotic decisions, which are going to haunt you for the rest of your life, and yet you think they’re brilliant at the time. That’s another effect of chronic stress: Your judgment goes down the tubes.

How to manage stress

We’ve just gone on a quick tour of all the things that can go wrong from chronic stress. If you study the subject for a living, it’s amazing to you that anybody is still alive, that we haven’t just collapsed into puddles of stress-related disease.

Despite that, most of us do decent jobs at coping, and a subset of us is spectacular at coping. And thus from day one, stress researchers have wondered why some bodies and some psyches deal better with stress than others. In making sense of individual differences, what we’re essentially asking is, “What is it that makes psychological stress stressful”? And a huge elegant literature by now has shown precisely what the building blocks are.

The literature is built on experiments like this one: You have a lab rat in a cage, and every now and then, you give it a shock. Nothing major, but nonetheless, the rat’s blood pressure goes up and so do stress hormone levels. Up goes the risk of an ulcer. You are giving this rat a stress-related disease.

Now, in the second cage, there’s another rat. Every time the first rat gets a shock, so does the second. Same intensity, same duration, both of their bodies are being thrown out of homeostatic balance to exactly the same extent. 

But there’s a critical difference: Every time the second rat gets a shock, it can go over to the other side of its cage, where there’s another rat that it can bite the crap out of. And you know what? This guy’s not going to get an ulcer, because he has an outlet for his frustrations. He has a hobby.

There are other stress experiments that involve torturing rats, which suggest ways for humans to manage stress. We can give the rat a warning 10 seconds before each shock, and we find it doesn’t get an ulcer. That tells us that you are less vulnerable to a stress-related disease if you get predictive information.

Another experiment: If we give the rat a lever to press, and that rat thinks he’s in control of the shocks, that helps—a sense of control decreases the stress response.

Yet another experiment tells us it helps to have friends: If a rat getting shocks has a friend it likes in the cage, and they are able to groom each other, the rat doesn’t get the ulcer. So social affiliation helps control stress.

In short, you are more likely to get a stress response—more likely to subjectively feel stressed, more likely to get a stress-related disease—if you feel like you have no outlets for what’s going on, no control, no predictability, you interpret things as getting worse, and if you have nobody’s shoulder to cry on.

Okay, these are very powerful observations. They’re helpful. But please don’t assume that if you get as much control in your life and as much predictive information in your life as possible, you will be protected from stress. To understand why, let me share some of the subtleties of this field.

Look at the rat that got a warning. Timing is everything. He didn’t get an ulcer when he got a 10-second warning. But if the warning light goes on one second before the shock occurs, it has no positive effect whatsoever, because there isn’t time for the rat to adjust anything. Or suppose, instead, the warning light comes two minutes before. That will make the ulcers worse, because the rat is sitting there, ulcerating away, thinking, “Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes.” When it comes to predictive information, there’s only a narrow window where it works.

When does a sense of control work? When you’re dealing with a mild to moderate stressor, because in those circumstances you know how much worse it could have been and can imagine, rightly or wrongly, that you had control over that improvement. But if it’s a major disastrous stressor, the last thing you want is an inflated sense of control, because that sets you up to think that the disaster is all your fault. In the case of a major disaster, we tend to minimize people’s sense of control—by saying, for example, “It wouldn’t have mattered if you had gotten him to the doctor a month ago, it wouldn’t have made a difference.” And one of the worst things we do, societally, is attribute more control to victims: “Well, what’s she going to expect if she dresses that way?” or “Well, what are they going to expect if they choose not to assimilate?”

In short, a sense of control is protective for mild to moderate stressors, but it’s a disaster for major ones. In that domain, the most humane thing you can do is foster denial and rationalization rather than a sense of responsibility.

When is stress good?

Just as not all stress management techniques work, not all stress is bad. In fact, we love stress. We pay good money for it in a scary movie or on a roller coaster ride. We love stress when it’s the right amount of stress.

When is it optimal? When it’s only moderately stressful, at the most. And good stress is transient—it’s not for nothing that you don’t have roller coaster rides going for three weeks! The stress also has to be happening in a context that feels safe overall. Moderately stressful at most, transient, safe—what does that define? 

That defines stimulation. That defines what play is. What is play about? 

It’s when a higher rank dog says to a lower ranking dog: “I am willing to suspend our dominance relations right now and allow all sorts of unpredictable interactions. To show how much I’m doing that, I’m going to give you access to my throat or my genitals, and we’re just having a great time here playing.” In play, you feel safe, and as a result, you are willing to give up some control and predictability. We say, “Surprise me!” That’s good stress.

There’s another lesson we can learn from dogs and other hierarchical mammals, like baboons: Social rank can cause stress, especially where rankings are unstable and people are jockeying for position. But social rank is not as important as social context. What patterns of social affiliation do you have? How often do you groom, how often does somebody groom you? How often do you sit in contact and play with kids?

What’s clear by now is if you have a choice between being a high-ranking baboon or a socially affiliated one, the latter is definitely the one that is going to lead to a healthier, longer life. That’s the baboon we want to be—not the one with power, but the one with friends, neighbors, and family.

Friday, March 30, 2012

David Wong - 5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women

Cracked is one of my favorite sites. They have turned making lists into an art form. Usually, their lists are heavy on humor, but they also impart information. This one takes a hard look at the ways males are socialized to conceptualize women. It's not pretty.

One note: I think of this more as fearing women, or their power, than hating women. 

Here is a little humor to lighten the mood - Sex as Understood by an Adolescent Boy, by Rachel Bloom, Jack Dolgen | March 26th, 2012

Sex as Understood by Adolescent Boys -- powered by

5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women

If you're not the type to keep up with ugly, soul-killing political controversies, let me catch you up: A while back, hugely popular political commentator Rush Limbaugh lost a bunch of advertisers because he publicly called a college girl a slut and a prostitute after she suggested that health insurance plans should cover birth control. But he's paid to say outrageous things. If you really want to feel all dead inside, you need to listen to what the regular folk were saying.

For instance, on crazy political message board, posters referred to the girl in the above-referenced story (Sandra Fluke) as a "Nasty, disease-ridden plodding uterus, an utter skank crack-ho filthy whore, a prostitute slutbag juice-receptacle" and a "Sperm-burpin' gutter slut," and said she "... is so encrusted and used, that I had to throw out my flat-panel TV because her appearance on my TV infected it with AIDS, gonorrhea and syphilis." There are many, many more worse comments collected here and here and here.

Now go to the front page of any mostly male discussion site like and see how many inches you can browse before finding several thousand men bemoaning how all women are gold-digging whores (7,500 upvotes) and how crazy and irrational women are (9,659 upvotes) and how horrible and gross and fat women are (4,000 upvotes). Or browse the "Men's Rights" section and see weird fantasies about alpha males defeating all the hot women who try to control them with their vaginas.

This current of white-hot rage has to come as a surprise to some of you, because we tend to think "sexism" is being dismissive toward women, or paying them lower salaries -- we don't think of it as frenzied "burn the witch!" hatred. Yet occasionally something like this Limbaugh thing will come along to prick that balloon, and out it pours. Like it's always waiting there, a millimeter below the surface.

Why? Well, you see ...
Read more: 5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women |

Here are the five ways . . . but be sure to go read the article.

#5. We Were Told That Society Owed Us a Hot Girl

#4. We're Trained from Birth to See You as Decoration

#3. We Think You're Conspiring With Our Boners to Ruin Us

#2. We Feel Like Manhood Was Stolen from Us at Some Point

#1. We Feel Powerless

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jospeh Gelfer & Laki Sideris - Men and Meaning

Joseph Gelfer has a new project that looks pretty cool - he is providing text for photographs by Laki Sideris. There are only five entries so far, but it looks like it has excellent potential as an eventual book.

Here is the announcement from Gelfer's blog.

Men and Meaning

The start of a new project I’m developing with Laki Sideris: Men and Meaning is a photographic and textual exploration of how men go about constructing meaning in their daily experiences. This meaning-making journey unfolds on two primary levels: what it means to be a man and perform masculinity, and more generally how the subjects derive meaning from the world around them. The images are a mixture of the staged and the documentary, the text a mixture of the biographical and the imagined.

And here is one of the first few posts, a simple but moving photo - Photographs by Laki Sideris | Words by Joseph Gelfer.

04 Desire

Žižek clearly tells us that, “Desire named as desire in this Other is what we think we have chosen, while in fact, by a logic we are not aware of, it was the only choice allowed.” So I have thought long and hard about this desire. From where does it come? Does something stir in the DNA at the sight of these child-bearing hips? Is it the passive availability in her stance that piques my conditioned need to dominate and consume? Could it be—more romantically, more spiritually—the elusive search for completeness? And then I cannot decide if its potency is evidence of the fact that it is indeed the only choice allowed, or whether it is evidence to the contrary (assuming, of course, that such potency can only be authentic). In the end, after all these years, all I know is the net effect of desire: the dissolving away of all things so there is nothing but her and me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Michael Taylor - What Are The Benefits Of Meditation For Men?

Last Friday's conversation on A New Conversation with Men, hosted by Coach Michael Taylor, featured Peter Vroom talking about his "The Resolute Mind" meditation technique and "how it can support men in dealing with the multiplicity of challenges men deal with on a daily basis."

Listen to internet radio with Coach Michael Taylor on Blog Talk Radio

What Are The Benefits Of Meditation For Men?

by Coach Michael Taylor

Men are faced with unprecedented stresses and challenges today. Unfortunately, too many men turn to alcohol, drugs and sex to try to deal with this stress.

Join Coach Michael Taylor as he speaks with Peter Vroom about The Resolute Mind meditation technique and how it can support men in dealing with the multiplicity of challenges men deal with on a daily basis.

Peter Vroom has been studying Vedic Meditation since 2002 and was an assistant teacher with Limor Babai for many years. He ran many advanced knowledge courses and assisted many students to a greater understanding of the technique. After finishing his training with Thom Knoles in India and the US, Peter now runs his own centres in LA, Sydney and New York. 

Find him here:
Meditation is good - no matter what it's called or what lineage it's from. At the very least, just sit with good posture, breathe naturally with your belly, notice the breath move in and out, and repeat. Do this until you have been sitting for 5, 10, or 15 minutes. Evey time your mind wanders from the breath, notice "thinking" or "drifting," and gently bring attention back to the breath.

For a more in-depth instruction, see this article by Thanissaro Bhikkhu on Basic Breath Meditation Instructions.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Documentary - Bring Your "A" Game

Interesting film from Director Mario Van Peebles and Producer Karen Williams - in partnership with the Twenty-First Century Foundation (21CF) - on the life, challenges, and resilience of young African-American men.

Bring Your A Game - Synopsis
To generate a national conversation on the plight of Black men and boys, the Twenty-First Century Foundation (21CF) has partnered with actor-director Mario Van Peebles and producer Karen Williams to create Bring Your A Game - a groundbreaking documentary film that, in Van Peebles' words, "sheds light on the resilience and influence of Black males." Bring Your A Game is a film that will use screenings accompanied by community discussions as a catalyst to transform the lives of urban youth. Using a cinematic style influenced by popular culture and employing innovative technologies, the film details strategies that have improved the lives of Black men and boys. It underscores how essential educational achievement and high school graduation are to survival and success in today's world.

Interviewees include such Black male icons as Richard "Dick" Parsons, Chris Rock, Spike Lee, Dr. Cornel West, Ice Cube, Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Russell Simmons, Kevin Liles, Lou Gossett Jr., Lupe Fiasco, Hill Harper, Damon Dash, Kevin Powell, Melvin Van Peebles, Geoffrey Canada, Bruce Gordon and former NBA star Alan Houston, among others.

To learn more about the Twenty-First Century Foundation, please visit:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Obesity and Radical Prostatectomy

This post is based purely on anecdotal reports, but I think it bears sharing. This may change how you think of your health and (I hope) increase your motivation to lose fat (if you are one of the 2/3 of Americans who are overweight or obese).

A young woman I know who is on her way into medical school next fall has been shadowing a surgeon on his rounds and in the O.R. over the last couple of weeks. The surgeon has performed several prostate surgeries in that time, ranging from biopsies to full removal of the gland and the associated tumor tissue (radical prostatectomy).

Among the many risks and side effects of a radical prostatectomy include (all quotes are from WebMD):
  • Sexual impotence - "About half of men are able to regain some of their ability to have erections.3 But this takes time. It can take as little as 3 months. But for most men, it will be 6 months to a year.4"
  • Urinary incontinence -  "Up to half of all men who have a radical prostatectomy develop urinary incontinence, ranging from a need to wear urinary incontinence pads to occasional dribbling. Studies show that one year later, between 15% and 50% of men report urinary problems.5"
  • Additional issues - "Damage to the urethra," "damage to the rectum."  "The same general risks as other major operations, including heart problems, blood clots, allergic reaction to anesthesia, blood loss, and infection of the wound."
Once of the ways modern medicine has tried to reduce these risks and outcomes is through nerve-sparing surgery. The hope is to preserve as much nerve function as possible so that these men do not become impotent or suffer from urinary incontinence. Outcomes are better with this approach, but still not ideal.

And this brings me to the point of this post. After seeing several "normal" men (i.e., overweight, and mostly with intra-abdominal fat) get this procedure, with the attempt to spare as much nerve tissue as possible, she saw the same procedure performed on a man with very low bodyfat, probably 6-8%.

With the prior men the surgeons literally had to dig through yellow adipose tissue to find the prostate, and then identifying and preserving the nerves was difficult, but with the low-bodyfat patient there was no significant adipose tissue to dig through, the nerves were easily identified and marked, and in all likelihood, he will suffer none of the negative side effects.

The moral of this story is that if you are a man, about 1 in 6 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during our lifetimes, but only 1 in 36 men die from the disease. Since this is now a disease that most men will live with, who wants to live those years with impotence and wearing an adult diaper?

We reduce the risk of that outcome significantly simply by being in good, healthy shape, which means regular exercise and healthy diet. It's not too much to ask, is it, if it will allow you a better quality of life? 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: Gary Stamper, Awakening the New Masculine: The Path of the Integral Warrior

My review of Awakening the New Masculine: The Path of the Integral Warrior, by Gary Stamper, Ph.D. (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2012) has just been published today at the Integral Leadership Review. Here is a little section from the beginning of the review:

Book Review: Gary Stamper, Awakening the New Masculine: The Path of the Integral Warrior

Is the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement Ready for the Leap to Integral? A Review of Awakening the New Masculine: The Path of the Integral Warrior, by Gary Stamper, Ph.D. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2012.

Reviewed by William Harryman

When I see a new book coming out from someone involved with the integral movement (Stamper co-founded and led the Seattle Integral salon), and especially the Ken Wilber version of integral theory, I steel myself for the seemingly obligatory two to three chapters that attempt to explain the integral model for those who are not familiar with it. Much to his credit, Gary Stamper, in his new book, Awakening the New Masculine: The Path of the Integral Warrior, has not done that. He has written a book about the work he does with men in his Integral Warrior trainings, work that happens to be deeply influenced by Wilberian integral theory and Spiral Dynamics, both of which require some explication. There is, to be clear, a lot of integralese in this book, but it doesn’t have the heavy-handed feel with which other books based in integral theory are often burdened.

Essentially, Stamper has written a how-to spirituality book for men. There have been a few of these in recent years, coming mostly from the Jungian world or from a previously scattered group that has coalesced into “muscular Christianity,” a masculinist spiritual Christian movement. The only other books that include integral theory are Martin Ucik’s Integral Relationships: A Manual for Men (2010), David Deida’s The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire (1997), Joseph Gelfer’s The Masculinity Conspiracy (2011, online e-book) and Numen, Old Men: Contemporary Masculine Spiritualties and the Problem of Patriarchy (2009). Both of Gelfer’s books are in-depth academic treatises rather than spiritual how-to books.

Before continuing, a brief overview of the last 40 or so years of the men’s movement might help to contextualize what Stamper’s Awakening the New Masculine is attempting.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Would You Play with Sex Toys to Please Your Partner?

Joe Blair does, and he has written an article about why he does so that originally appeared at Salon. The article was reposted at Alternet, which is where I found it. His argument is based on making his life simpler, which is certainly one way to get traditional guys interested.

But he should be focused on the reality that at least half of all women cannot reach orgasm through intercourse only - so we need to either help out manually, orally, or with toys. Personally, I suggest talking with your partner and she what she likes, and then do that. If she likes a vibrator, so what? Why wouldn't we do whatever it takes to bring her to ecstasy?
Most guys are ashamed to talk about using sex toys in the bedroom. I can tell you from experience -- it's brilliant. 
 This story originally appeared at Salon.
 The display next to the register reads “Viagra substitute.”

“Do you have anything like this for women?” I ask the cashier, nodding at the display.

“Those are for women,” she says.

I place the vibrating sex toy, which is packed in a plastic container with the words “Diving Dolphin” written in a wavy blue script, on the counter along with my American Express card. It’s been about one week since Deb and I argued at the Wig and Pen. That’s one week without sex.

“They are?” I say. I pick up a package of the Viagra Substitute, which appears to contain two pills. I scan the label. “No,” I say placing the packet of pills back in their box. “They’re for men.”

The cashier removes the Diving Dolphin from its package. It’s a complicated-looking thing with two vibrating eggs, each fitting into separate rubber compartments. She inserts two double A’s and pushes a button on the little plastic control panel. The Diving Dolphin hums loudly. “I might argue,” she says.

I laugh. “Yeah,” I say, “but what I need is something that makes a woman, you know … want to, you know … in the first place.”

“We don’t carry anything like that,” she says. “But I know where you can get something.”

“Where’s that?” I say.

She motions toward the door. “Coralville liquor store,” she says.

“They got something there?” I say.

“Yeah,” she says. “Liquor.”

Most guys don’t want to talk about vibrating sex toys. We’re ashamed. But I don’t know what there is to be ashamed about. If a guy could cut an hour off his commute time, he’d spare no expense to do it. And he wouldn’t be ashamed to tell everyone how he did it. Yet everyone keeps quiet about a vibrating sex toy. The vibrating sex toy is the time-saving device of the century.

There will come a time in your relationship when you will look your wife in the eye and say, “OK. You know I want sex. And I know you want sex. Right? OK. So what do you say we take our clothes off and both just … get the job done. All right? And then we’ll get some sleep. OK? Because I’ve got to be in Cedar Rapids at 7 o’clock tomorrow.” Of course this approach will fail. Your wife will refuse you. No woman wants to hear these things. But just because she doesn’t want to hear these things, doesn’t mean she isn’t amenable to the spirit in which they’re spoken.

A sex toy can do lots of things that your penis can’t do. A vibrating dildo, for example, can remain in the same rigid shape for years upon years. A vibrating dildo can also vibrate. Not a bad trick, I’d say.

I told a friend of mine one time that he really should introduce the idea of the vibrating dildo to his girlfriend. He, of course, didn’t want to talk about it. But I pressed the issue. “You should,” I said.
My buddy said, “Yeah. I’m sure she’d be just thrilled if I pull out some giant plastic thing in the middle of sex.”

“Tell you what,” I said. “I’ll bet you a hundred bucks right now. I’m serious. A hundred bucks. That if you do pull out that giant plastic thing at the right time, she won’t complain at all.”

“OK,” he said, “let’s look at it another way: Say she likes it. Then, when I go at it the old-fashioned way again, it won’t be enough. We’ll have to kick-start the dildo every time. What about that?”

To me, this argument holds no merit. What we’re talking about here is a vibrator. It has no soul. It runs on double A’s. It’s not your rival. It’s your helpmate. Think about the guy who rows out to sea every day. And then, after 10 or 12 hours of fishing, he rows back to shore again. One day, someone hooks him up with an outboard motor. If the guy wants to row, he can row, for Christ’s sake. If, on the other hand, the guy has grown older and he is getting tired of rowing for 50 or 60 minutes from shore to fishing ground and back again, he can go ahead and crank up the Evinrude. His choice.

All the pressure is off. If you’re afraid you won’t be able to make it to the shore, you have your helpmate. If your paddle seems inadequate, you have your helpmate. Your helpmate will never leave you. Your helpmate will never cheat on you. Your helpmate is there for you whenever you need it. All you need to do is remember the double A’s. That’s all.

When I went shopping for my first helpmate, I ended up buying a model that was an exact duplicate of an actual penis. Only larger. And purple. It was embarrassing to look at and to buy. When I brought it to the counter, I couldn’t look the cashier in the eye. As if she had never sold a vibrator before. As if her shop didn’t have 500 different types of vibrators to choose from. Ones with big bumps all along the shaft. Little eggs with remote switches. Gigantic ones with hand cranks.

When I got home with my prize and pulled it out of the bag (right before dinner), Deb seemed put off. She didn’t want to look at it. She didn’t want to think about my fantastic, purple vibrating dildo. She wanted to feed the baby and give him a bath and get him to bed. In hindsight, I know I should have waited. But at the time, it seemed like it was too important to put off. I wanted her to see my vibrating dildo. Our vibrating dildo.

Now that I’m older, I’m much cooler about it. I don’t need to buy the enormous vibrator anymore. I know that a medium-size vibrator will do just fine. I even ask the woman at the counter if she can plug batteries in so I can try it out. I’m like a wine connoisseur checking out an expensive bottle of Bordeaux. “Ah. A fine, tingling vibration on this one. But somewhat lacking on the lower register. Very nice. They’ve done a really nice job with this model. They’re improving. Improving. But I think I’ll pass. This time. Can you bring me another vibrator? Something with more, I don’t know … range? Yes. Exactly. Thanks. You’re a doll.”

I hide the Diving Dolphin in my gym bag. I figure I’ll smuggle it inside and wait for the right moment to produce it.

Joe Blair is a pipe fitter who lives in Iowa with his wife and four children. This essay is adapted from his recently released memoir, "By the Iowa Sea."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP - Working with Your Inner Dialogue

This post from Dr. Phillips is focused on increasing one's willpower to generate and maintain change, but the basic principles are essential for becoming more self-aware and less reactive. The more we are aware of our inner dialogues, the less unconscious we are - and this is a good thing.

A recent survey reported by the American Psychological Association of 566 adults revealed that most people(93%) made a resolution to change some aspect of their behavior in 2012. Many did not succeed. The top reason most gave for failing in their efforts to lose weight, save money, exercise or make other lifestyle changes was lack of willpower.

What Accounts For This Lack Of Willpower?
Willpower is defined as the inner strength that enables us to make decisions and carry them out. What many may describe as a “lack of willpower” may actually reflect a tendency to overlook an important factor that influences our determination to make something happen – our inner dialogue.

Inner Dialogue
Our inner dialogue is actually the fabric of the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. Sometimes the inner message is very conscious; sometimes it is so automatic that we hardly know we are thinking it; and sometimes it is without conscious thought.

Often if it is negative, we may just feel down, hopeless, unmotivated, angry or anxious – the associated feelings to defeating messages sent to self.

“Outing” the Internal Dialogue
Stopping to consider your inner messages – what you tell yourself about yourself – is invaluable in harnessing willpower. It involves:
  • Recognizing and understanding your inner dialogue
  • Altering the negative messages
  • Accessing the positive ones.
It makes the difference between heading to your goal with an inner critic or a positive internal coach.

Recognizing and Understanding Your Inner Dialogue
Our inner messages are central to our definition of self. Many evolve from our earliest experiences and identifications with the significant parental figures. Years may pass but we may still echo our own internalized version of what we were told.
  •  ”I knew you would do a wonderful job on that picture!”
  • “Can’t you ever get it right?”
  • “You are not as friendly as your brother – that’s why you have no friends.”
  • “You’ll always be fat!”
Sometimes our inner dialogue is shaped by experiences we have had over our life. Some experiences are so positive that they become life messages we can carry and draw upon.
  • “I can’t believe I actually won the scholarship.”
  • “I’m a Marine – I can do anything.”
Some experiences trap us in a perception colored by pain or shame that obscures the best of us.
  • “I must be a loser or he would have stayed with me.”
  • “I’ve made such bad relationship and career choices – I can’t trust myself.”
Sometimes we carry inner messages that are context bound. Locked into an old experience of self in a certain time or place, we continue to tell ourselves things that don’t apply out of that context and sabotage our efforts.
  • “I was never an athlete growing up. How can I run in my forties?”
  • “I flunked out of college at 18 – Who am I to think of going back to school.”
  • “I wasn’t ever one of the popular kids. I don’t speak up in groups.”
Altering the Negative Messages – Accessing the Positive Ones
There is no doubt that positive affirmations underscore willpower. Make room for the positive coach inside of you by altering the negative messages.

If they are negative historical echoes, consider replacing them with a positive message from your present adult selfThat was then. They should see me now. That was a very small world. I own my life and my goals. I know how to parent myself. I want this for myself.  I have people in my life now who believe in me.

If they are positive use them and connect them to your present goal. – They always said I loved competition. I usually figured out a way. My parents never gave up on me. My Dad knew I was smart. I’m like my Mother – I don’t give up.

If they are negative messages from life experiences re-frame and use them as positive assets. -  If I could get though cancer, I can do anything. I am not a victim – I’m a survivor. If I could cook for 4 kids all those years, I can cook for myself on this diet. I want to be strong enough to travel alone or with a group.

If you are faulting yourself or being told you are your own worst enemy because of your “lack the willpower” to achieve your goal, consider that you may be stuck in an old survival pattern.
A crucial way to drop negative messages is to recognize why we think we need to hang on to them.
One of the things we find when rationale adults seem to be sabotaging themselves is that the best survival techniques of childhood are often the most self-defeating patterns of adult life. Rather than berating yourself, accept that you once needed to survive – now you have a right to live.
  • It is really ok to lose weight – You don’t have to protect a jealous sister.
  • You don’t have to play dumb and be the silent audience anymore because no one is going to demean you for interrupting Dad or telling a story.”
  • You can change careers – there is no rule that you have to be what someone else wanted you to be in order to be loved.”
  • You can try out new lifestyle modes without being perfect because no one is checking or needs perfection- not even you.
Workable External Plan
If you can use your inner dialogue and positive affirmations to trust yourself to choose and follow a workable plan toward your goal, your willpower will be enhanced and your success more likely.

As described in the Blog, “Who Said That Change Was Easy?”
  • Plan a change when you have time and energy to focus
  • Set up simple and clear day by day goals
  • Record change
  • Work with others if that will motivate you
  • Find other motivations
  • Stay with it even if you lapse
  • Support others
…. and no matter what…keep your inner dialogue positive!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Eivind Skjellum - Amazing Lecture by Jacqueline Novogratz

Eivind Skjellum is the man behind Masculinity Movies, which is only occasionally active at the moment, but since completing the New Warrior Training Adventure in June 2011, he has been blogging from time to time at The Mankind Project Journal.

As long-time readers know, I have had issues with the MKP organization but have found many of their members to be good men of heart and strength. Eivind is one of those men - this post originally appeared at his blog.

I am pretty sure I posted this at IOC back when it first was posted by the TED folks - but it's worth seeing more than once. She gets to the important insights about men at the 7:15 point in the talk - she really gets it (text at the bottom, but please listen to the whole talk).

Amazing lecture by Jacqueline Novogratz

March 5, 2012 

I was very inspired by this incredible TED talk by Jacqueline Novogratz. Not only is she a wonderful, heart-open and humble woman deeply in tune with humanity’s challenges, but she has the visionary insight that male depression is related to female suffering. For some women, it’s very common today to think and say that men make women suffer because we are evil and uncontrollably violent, little else but walking testosterone bombs who need to be feminized to heal us from our inherent evils.*

Jacqueline understands that a young man who has not been loved, blessed or nourished by an elder man will turn into bitter, disempowered, depressed men who lash out from a place of pain and who are easy prey for tyrant demagogues. She also seems to understand how masculinity is a wonderful thing that the world needs more of, empowering men to serve as stewards of our future.

One story she told impacted me a great deal. Ingrid Washinawatok, a Native American woman, told Jacqueline how elders of her Native American tribe would visualize children from seven generations into the future watching them from above, seeing them as stewards for the time that was once going to be theirs. This concept is so powerful it strikes me right in the heart. All we think of in the midst of consumerist hysteria is “I need more”. Selfish, ignorant and altogether miserable are so many modern lives.

Have a look. Trust me, it’s worth your time.

* “All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman.” – Catherine MacKinnon
* “The media treat male assaults on women like rape, beating, and murder of wives and female lovers, or male incest with children, as individual aberrations…obscuring the fact that all male violence toward women is part of a concerted campaign.” – Marilyn French
 Here is the piece of the transcript that I find most moving for men, although the whole thing is excellent.
I also have been touched by the dark side of power and leadership. And I have learned that power, particularly in its absolute form, is an equal opportunity provider. In 1986, I moved to Rwanda, and I worked with a very small group of Rwandan women to start that country's first microfinance bank. And one of the women was Agnes -- there on your extreme left -- she was one of the first three women parliamentarians in Rwanda, and her legacy should have been to be one of the mothers of Rwanda. We built this institution based on social justice, gender equity, this idea of empowering women.

But Agnes cared more about the trappings of power than she did principle at the end. And though she had been part of building a liberal party, a political party that was focused on diversity and tolerance, about three months before the genocide, she switched parties and joined the extremist party, Hutu Power, and she became the Minister of Justice under the genocide regime and was known for inciting men to kill faster and stop behaving like women. She was convicted of category one crimes of genocide. And I would visit her in the prisons, sitting side-by-side, knees touching, and I would have to admit to myself that monsters exist in all of us, but that maybe it's not monsters so much, but the broken parts of ourselves, sadnesses, secret shame, and that ultimately it's easy for demagogues to prey on those parts, those fragments, if you will, and to make us look at other beings, human beings, as lesser than ourselves -- and in the extreme, to do terrible things.

And there is no group more vulnerable to those kinds of manipulations than young men. I've heard it said that the most dangerous animal on the planet is the adolescent male. And so in a gathering where we're focused on women, while it is so critical that we invest in our girls and we even the playing field and we find ways to honor them, we have to remember that the girls and the women are most isolated and violated and victimized and made invisible in those very societies where our men and our boys feel disempowered, unable to provide. And that, when they sit on those street corners and all they can think of in the future is no job, no education, no possibility, well then it's easy to understand how the greatest source of status can come from a uniform and a gun.

Sometimes very small investments can release enormous, infinite potential that exists in all of us. One of the Acumen Fund fellows at my organization, Suraj Sudhakar, has what we call moral imagination -- the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes and lead from that perspective. And he's been working with this young group of men who come from the largest slum in the world, Kibera. And they're incredible guys. And together they started a book club for a hundred people in the slums, and they're reading many TED authors and liking it. And then they created a business plan competition. Then they decided that they would do TEDx's.

And I have learned so much from Chris and Kevin and Alex and Herbert and all of these young men. Alex, in some ways, said it best. He said, "We used to feel like nobodies, but now we feel like somebodies." And I think we have it all wrong when we think that income is the link. What we really yearn for as human beings is to be visible to each other. And the reason these young guys told me that they're doing these TEDx's is because they were sick and tired of the only workshops coming to the slums being those workshops focused on HIV, or at best, microfinance. And they wanted to celebrate what's beautiful about Kibera and Mathare -- the photojournalists and the creatives, the graffiti artists, the teachers and the entrepreneurs. And they're doing it. And my hat's off to you in Kibera.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A New Conversation with Men - What Does It Mean To Have An Open Heart?

On this episode of A New Conversation with Men, Coach Michael Taylor speaks with Vanessa Petronelli about her Open Heart and Open Mind Health And Wellness Services that are "designed to support men and women in reconnecting with their hearts so that they can live a life filled with love, happiness and abundance." There's some useful information in this talk (and there is some woo, a heads up for those who are woo adverse).

What Does It Mean To Have An Open Heart?

The player is not embedding correctly, 
so listen to the episode here.

One of the biggest challenges for men is to learn to get out of their head and into their hearts.

If you have ever struggled with making this distinction, you don't want to miss this episode.

Join Coach Michael Taylor as he speaks with Vanessa Petronelli about her Open Heart and Open Mind Health And Wellness Services that are designed to support men and women in reconnecting with their hearts so that they can live a life filled with love, happiness and abundance.

Vanessa specializes in several areas of human growth and development including 'deprogramming,' detachment from ego and self-love. Vanessa’s clairvoyant abilities, energy healing and connection to the Angelic realm have inspired her to offer readings that also provide spiritual support to individuals.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Noah Brand - Misandry Mirrors Misogyny, or There Is No Gender War

For those who have not been following the situation, there have been considerable changes at The Good Men Project in recent months. The latest of which is the appointment of Noah Brand, he who blog(s/ged) at No Seriously, What About The Menz?, as the new editor-in-chief of the Good Men Project.

He's been doing a fair bit of writing on the site, since that is what bloggers do, most of which I have found interesting, but this one post - There Is No Gender War - I thought merited additional thought/discussion.

In this piece, Brand argues against the notion of a gender war between the feminists and the men's rights activists (MRAs):
Feminists and MRAs are not pure and not equivalent, victory for one does not equal defeat for the other, and it certainly doesn’t map accurately to people’s real-life experiences of gender. I reject the entire silly model as a useless framing of gender roles in our society. It’s a lousy model with no predictive value and I’ll have no truck with it. A better model lies not in the middle, but outside the Manichean conflict entirely.
I think it's important to qualify his observation as partially true, but only for those not engaged in the "war." Those people who identify as Feminists (note the capital F) and those who identify as Men's Rights Activists (again, note the capitalization), are so thoroughly embedded in their perspective, very limited though it be, that they cannot fathom another perspective possibly holding any merit. They are fundamentalists, or extremists, or radicals - and they are a small but vocal element in either camp.

But his real point is more important - and more post-gender. He argues that we cannot keep buying into the zero-sum game of the gender war but, rather, we must come to accept that we will be liberated from denigrating and restrictive stereotypes and gender roles together or not all.
There’s a principle we discovered over at No Seriously, What About The Menz?, that we named Ozy’s Law. It is simply this: you cannot form a stereotype about either of the two major genders without simultaneously forming a concurrent stereotype about the other. Or, more simply: misandry mirrors misogyny.

Pick out whatever sexist stereotypes offend you, and you’ll find that every one of them has a corollary stereotype. Men always want sex; women never want sex. Men are slobs; women should do housework. Men are shallow and looks-obsessed; women are only valuable for their looks. Men are only valuable for their success and money; women are shallow gold-diggers. There is no end to these, no offensively wrong stereotype that doesn’t carry its offensively wrong twin.

Therefore, the entire asinine notion of gender liberation as a zero-sum game in which one gender must lose for the other to gain… simply doesn’t make sense. It cannot make sense. Men and women can only be liberated together, or not at all.

We cannot liberate men from the trap of the success myth without liberating women from the beauty myth. We cannot liberate women from being nothing but housewives without liberating men from being nothing but breadwinners. We cannot liberate everyone from repressive and outdated sexual roles if we’re only going to pick at the edges of the problem, trying to free this person’s penis or that person’s vagina. At this point in the game, we are either freeing everyone from repressive gender roles or we’re just fucking around.
Exactly - and it's way past time to stop fucking around.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Peter Wicks - The End of Gender? - A Reply

A post-gender world where we can choose not only the social expression of gender, but also the biological aspects, even down to manipulating DNA. Sounds great in theory, at least to those who have a libertarian bent in social maters.

Maybe this will happen to some degree . . . but only within the mostly white, affluent (although this is the loosest aspect), educated, Western developed world with more liberal beliefs about gender and sexuality. People who make these kinds of proclamations tend to forget that much of the world does not fall into that socially and culturally advantaged group.

What we might be able to hope for, of the three reasons he gives for why the "end of gender" might happen, is that the "increasing insistence on choosing the socially-constructed aspects of one’s gender—whether it concerns sexual orientation, how to dress, what kind of roles to play in society, how we refer to ourselves" or whatever . . . will continue to spread - but again this is, again, an element of the white, generally affluent, educated, developed world.

[When I include affluent here, I am referring more to the culture than to the individuals. Most of those who transgress gender norms are not affluent, but living in an affluent culture offers more freedoms to push boundaries than living in a poor culture where social norms are more strictly enforced.]

The end of gender?

Peter Wicks
Peter WicksEthical Technology

Posted: Mar 15, 2012

It has been suggested by Peg Tittle in her recent article that the prefixes Ms. and Mr. be abandoned, on the grounds that they reinforce discrimination between sexes. What this and most other contemporary debates about gender might be missing, however, is that the whole concept of gender may be about to go the way of the dodo.

Contrary to what some like to claim, the basic male-female divide is not in the first place a social construct that humans have invented. Opposition and dichotomy is built into the fabric of the universe, and is fundamental to sexual reproduction. Long before homo sapiens the vast majority of animal species were divided cleanly into male and female, with females hosting and gestating their offspring through the initial stages of its developments, while the direct male role reproduction was limited to providing the fertilizing agent, together with its payload of DNA. As with all things biological there are exceptions to confirm the rule, but they are rare enough not to disrupt the overall picture.

In addition to the direct roles in reproduction, gender has also been correlated with other roles, in ways that differ from species to species. In the case of humans, the classic model for understanding this division of roles within stone age communities is the hunter-gatherer paradigm, and while this theory can be questioned, for the moment it seems to be the best guess as to how the roles between men and women were divided at this stage.

With homo sapiens came both technology and language, and eventually civilization. This resulted in a huge complexification of social structures, and thus of gender-correlated roles. There is plenty of evidence that the first civilizations were matriarchal in their structure, but at some point—possibly associated with the invention of the wheel and the taming of the horse—men came to dominate the public sphere, and patriarchal civilizations were born.

By then we were a long way from a simple hunter-gatherer division of roles, and indeed one’s role in society depended on much more than one’s biological gender. Furthermore, in addition to the two biological genders there was a third, socially-constructed gender, namely the eunuch. Thus not only did societal role started to become decoupled from biological gender, but even one’s sexual identity started to become decoupled from one’s at-birth biological gender. For the most part, however, men continued to be men, and women continued to be women.

This started to change during the 20th century when gender started to be seen as something that was entirely socially-constructed. This was a false belief, of course, but also an influential one. In particular, an increasingly vociferous number of women were no longer willing to associated in any sense with the traditional female gender. It was no longer just a question of demanding the vote, or equal pay for equal work. Instead, the whole concept of what it meant to be female—and by extension what it meant to be male—was now up for grabs. In parallel to this, people who had other reasons to be dissatisfied either with their biological gender or with the social baggage that accompanied it increasingly found a voice, and demanded the right to forge a sexual identity of their own choosing. The ladyboys of Thailand are just one example of a “third gender”—which, unlike the eunuchs of yesteryear, is largely the result of choice and tolerance rather than of oppression—that is complicating the traditional male-female divide.

The question that this article seeks to raise is whether this trend will eventually annihilate the whole concept of gender, at least in humans, and if so how long this will take. There are at least three reasons to suspect that gender is on its way out.

Firstly, the trend towards increasing insistence on choosing the socially-constructed aspects of one’s gender—whether it concerns sexual orientation, how to dress, what kind of roles to play in society, how we refer to ourselves (and insist on being referred to by others, or whatever—seems set to continue, at least in the developed world.

Secondly, surgical techniques enabling de facto alteration of our biological gender, at least at the macroscopic level, are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are thus enabling increasing alignment of our (apparent) biological gender with our wishes.

Thirdly, and most radically, we may be on the verge of being able to tinker massively with our DNA, with the result that even at the genetic level we might find ourselves able to blur the boundaries between male (XY) and female (XX), to a far greater extent than nature has done for us.

And once gender becomes a matter of choice, rather than of nature’s providence, there is no reason why there should be only two, three or even four of them. And once gender splinters, like political parties and religious denominations, into categories that are limited only by the human imagination, the term “gender” seems likely to become increasingly inappropriate as a description of reality.

Peter Wicks has been employed for 16 years at the European Commission, working mainly on environmental policy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Joanna Schroeder Mocks Norwegian Study Suggesting LSD as a Treatment Option for Alcoholism

Joanna Schroeder is a contributor at The Good Men Project, a site I read for articles about men, gender issues, and other related issues. I was disappointed see her article this morning with the headline, Beer? No Thanks, I’m Sober. But Pass Me A Hit of Acid. But I read the article anyway, hoping for something serious behind the snarky headline. Yeah . . .not so much.

She is responding to the incredible attention being given to a new meta-study that looked at the use of LSD for alcoholism back before LSD research was banned by the government. It's an open access article, which is rare for Sage Publications, and if one takes a few minutes to read it, the rigorousness of their approach is obvious.

But I suspect Ms. Schroeder did not read the study itself, and was only looking to generate a few laughs with her vacuous post. Other than that, the only reason I can see for this appearing on the Good Men Project is that nearly all of the subjects in the studies were male, which in itself is interesting and worth a more serious examination. Why only men? Were men far more likely to have alcohol issues then? But none of that is mentioned or explored.

She begins (and yes, she appears to be mocking her own headline as well):
Ahh, the allure of the tantalizing headline. I wonder if the Norwegian researchers who went back to the 1960s and 70s to study whether LSD use can help treat alcoholism thought to themselves, People are gonna eat this shit up! when they went into the research archives, because this new look into old research is definitely causing headlines.
She then lists some of the reporting, all of which is from the mainstream press, who notoriously get science so wrong that it's painful to read. And upon reading that the study used 536 participants, she observes,
536 participants? Am I the only one who finds that to be a bit flimsy? Though I guess it’s sorta risky to test people with an illegal substance… Researchers aren’t exactly able to dose 5,000 people in multiple studies and create a real meta-analysis of the data on the effects of trippin’ balls.
Sound research or not, LSD to treat Alcoholism is definitely something fun to bring up at your next cocktail party.
 All of these studies were preliminary in nature, so to get a total of 536 subjects in six individual studies is pretty impressive. But the author clearly has little or no understanding of research methods and standards - and she clearly did not read the original study.

I felt compelled, maybe because my coffee was just kicking in when I read her post, to leave a comment. Here is that comment:
Did you read the study, Joanna, or just the media reports about the study? It’s open access, so there is no reason not to have read it.

If you had, you may note that the researchers found 4275 subject records from LSD trials, but narrowed the pool to 536 through their rejection of any studies that do not meet the more rigorous standards of current research. Exclusion of the other studies does not mean they were not useful or effective, only that the study design did not meet current standards (placebo controlled, double blind, etc.).

It’s also important to note that these studies were done in the period from 1966-1970. One of the leaders in that era of research was Stanislav Grof (see Grof, et al; JAMA, 1970;212(11):1856-1863), who conducted many years (beginning in the 1950s) of LSD-based research for alcoholism, narcotic addictions, and neurosis (in the old psychoanalytic sense of the word, suggesting highly rigid defense mechanisms). He created very detailed protocols for using LSD in psychotherapy, as well as how the subjects experience on the drug impact outcomes, none of which were employed in the studies included in this meta-analysis.

One is left wondering after reading the study that you dismiss as “a bit flimsy” if the outcomes would be different, i.e., more effective, if the Grof protocols were used along with more intensive therapeutic work during the sessions, and more active follow-up to integrate the insights gained while on the drug. Perhaps results could be better still if the treatment model included a mindfulness based recovery approach in the pre-drug period and in the post-drug integration period.

We are now in a place of being able to offer an integrated and integral model for these issues, but only if people are open-minded enough to look beyond their own limited paradigms. A treatment model that includes body (which can include drugs such as LSD or the shorter acting psilocybin, or yoga, tai chi, etc), psyche (mind, emotions, and spirituality), community (family and friends), and environment will likely produce much better outcomes than any one approach in isolation.

If you are going to report on science, please be responsible rather than going for the easy response (and headline) that may lure readers to the blog but offers them nothing of value once they arrive. Snark is entertaining, but knowledgeable information keeps people coming back for more.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Compassionate Intensity - Balancing Your Warrior Spirit

This was the Daily Om from a few days back. Although this article begins with the premise that we prefer to be in our softer, more gentle selves, this is not true for most men today. We often are raised to be warriors, to compete, and sometimes literally to become soldiers and go to war.

For a lot of men, finding the gentle, tender part of ourselves, the part Chogyam Trungpa identified as the heart of the warrior, is the real challenge.
“The ideal of warriorship is that the warrior should be sad and tender, and because of that, the warrior can be very brave as well.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
 “The essence of warriorship, or the essence of human bravery, is refusing to give up on anyone or anything.” ~ Chögyam Trungpa, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

 For a good article on warrior heart in Buddhism, see this article by Justin Whitaker at Wildmind Meditation.


When we recognize our warrior self we can exhibit strength without sacrificing tenderness.

The human soul is dynamic, adapting readily to the changing conditions we encounter as time marches unerringly forward. Though we may use a single set of characteristics to define ourselves, we slip easily into contradictory roles when circumstances necessitate doing so. When we feel called to explore the way of the warrior, we may feel a strong sense of dismay because we have no wish to disavow ourselves of our softer side. Yet embracing the warrior spirit is not a matter of denying gentleness or compassion—all human beings embody all traits to some degree, and seemingly contradictory aspects can coexist peacefully within us. We can exhibit strength without sacrificing tenderness precisely because both are elements of the self and both have a role to play in the complexity of existence.

Balance is the key that unlocks the door of peaceable coexistence where opposing characteristics of the self are concerned. The warrior spirit, when allowed free reign, is overpowering and all-consuming. If it is to be an affirmative force in our lives, it must be tempered with wisdom and moderation. Our inner warriors are ready to react instantly to conflict, chaos, and confusion, while nonetheless remaining committed to a path of goodwill and fairness. They lie at the root of our dedication to integrity but do not drive us to use our strength to coerce others into adopting our values. The warrior may be nourished by raw emotions with the potential to cause us to lash out, but it channels that energy into positive and constructive action.

Your inner warrior is one source of strength you can draw upon in times of great need. When you employ your warrior spirit thoughtfully, it manifests itself as clarity, focus, determination, courage, constancy, and an unflappable zest for life. The warrior views roadblocks as evolutionary opportunities and is not afraid to pursue a purpose to its climax. There is more than enough room in the existence of the warrior for softness and benevolence, and the warrior's willingness to stand up for their beliefs can aid you greatly as you strive to incorporate these ideals into your existence. Exploring this unique side of yourself is a means of broadening your reality so you can internalize mindfulness while meeting life's challenges with an intensity of spirit that never wavers. 

What do you think?

Discuss this article and share your opinion 

Here is another article on awakening the warrior spirit, also from the Daily Om.

Awakening The Inner Warrior: Stoking The Fire Within

There are certain personality archetypes that we all carry within us, such as the inner child, the lover, and the mother. Some of these archetypes present themselves strongly, while others lay fallow. For example, there is an inner warrior in each one of us, but in some of us this warrior is underdeveloped to the point that we are unable to stand up for ourselves, even when necessary. There can be many reasons for this. We may have grown up with a parent whose warrior aspect was overdeveloped, and we responded by repressing ours completely. On the other hand, we may have grown up with parents in whom this aspect was dormant, so we never learned to awaken it in ourselves.

A warrior is someone with the strength to stand up for what he or she believes; someone who perseveres in the face of challenges and obstacles; someone who speaks and acts in the service of an ideal; someone who protects those who are too weak to fight for themselves. Regardless of the reasons for an underdeveloped inner warrior, you may begin to notice the lack of its fiery, protective presence and wish to awaken it. You may need to stand up for yourself in a certain relationship or situation, or you may have a vision you want to realize, and you know you will need the courage, energy, and strength of a warrior to succeed. Similarly, if you find that you often feel scared, anxious, or powerless, rousing this sleeping ally may be just the antidote you need.

One excellent way to cultivate the presence of your inner warrior is to choose a role model who embodies the qualities of bravery, strength, and vitality. This person could be a character in a myth, movie, or book, or a historical or living person you admire. Simply close your eyes each day and contemplate the quality of energy that attracts you to this person, knowing that the same potential lives within you. Confirm for yourself that you are capable of handling this energy responsibly, and stoke the fire of your own inner courage.