Lent Meditation – Day 34

Journey: Start

Earlier in the series I wrote about seeking and returning, about how this had had a profound effect on my life. Looking back I can see the pattern of a journey in my life, a journey of profound importance to my life now and my life moving forward from here. Over the last few posts I am going to trace the journey and draw the lessons.

I was brought up in a normal middle class family in a comfortable suburb in the North of England. My family were Scottish although I was born a Sassenach (English to the Scots). My father was an accountant and company director with a large company and my mother was a mother and housewife. These were traditional roles in this period soon after the Second World War.

My parents had wide outside interests and a supportive circle of friends. They were involved in Scottish activities through the Caledonian Society. They even taught Scottish Country Dancing. While there were occasional arguments they were a happy couple who had a fulfilling life.

I was the youngest of three brothers and felt the effect of the masculine challenge from them and my father. My father was loving but dominant in his nature. That element made him a successful man, but sometimes a difficult man to live with. My brothers and I learned that need for dominance from him. This resulted in a challenging atmosphere for me—the youngest.

I felt little connection in my home life and buried myself in my own activities, such as the Boy Scouts. I felt lonely much of the time, riding my bicycle and pretending it was alright not to have friends. I remember once attempting to run away from home with a rucksack containing monopoly money and a bag of sugar! I must have got no further than about a mile from home.

There was always this sense of seeking, of there being something bigger that I could hang on to in my life. I tried to read the bible and listen to radio evangelists but they only feed the desire rather than answered the questions.

I went to a great school, Manchester Grammar School, but did not excel there despite my abilities. They were not to come out until much later in my life. I failed to get a place at university, a rare thing for an MGS pupil. This was the late sixties and there was not the plethora of universities that exist today.

My father was concerned about what I was going to do with my life and talked to me about helping me find work in accountancy or banking. I screamed inside my head at the thought of sitting in an office doing what my father did. Looking back I can see the rising of rebellion against my parents and my comfortable home life.
I had to do something to avoid this–hanging round at home doing some dead-end job was just not an option.

I thought about the thing I enjoyed doing at school—working with the Dramatic Society as stage crew or productions. I remember being annoyed when they said I could not work on the production of Hamlet because I was doing my final exams. Perhaps this was where I could go.

I wrote a couple of letters off to theatres asking for a job doing anything. The first letter brought a reply offering me a job. I did not care what the job was, it was work, it was adventure and it was out.

I shocked my parents when I went downstairs one evening and told them I was off to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. I was going to work in the professional theatre. They were also impressed and did not stand in my way.

With no idea of what lay ahead I left home at the age of eighteen and started my life. I faced the fear of the unknown, and discovered sexual awakening, drugs and a way out of the suburbs.

Lent Meditation – Day 33

Authentic: Openness

I strive to be open. I seek to be myself. Achieving this can be difficult. It almost seems impossible. I have delved into my core, I have come out from behind my mask, I have re-built my boundaries, but there is something still there.

Perhaps I am trying too hard? Perhaps I am seeking and missing the solution? Maybe it is there all the time?

Earlier in this series I told the story of the shift I made in my relationship. I stopped trying to make it work, I stopped persuading. I just became me, whatever that was. When I got back home Urmila saw the difference, she saw the man inside.

Openness is the solution, the simple solution. It is about letting the light in to the man inside, letting the light reveal the simplicity of what is there.

Authenticity is about letting go of trying to be anything.

When I try I end up creating something that is not there. It is that creation that causes the problem. That creation builds something artificial on top of the internal reality. Holding the honesty of my internal reality is the simple solution to all the problems of connection.

The difficulty I create for myself is thinking that I know better. I set my mind to work and it takes what it sees and judges it. That judgement finds fault and sees what could be better. But that is only what could be better not what is.

Whatever I am is what I am, authenticity comes from the openness of letting that light shine through.

Of course I can always work to change things, to create new shifts, but that is to come. Today is what is happening now. Today accepts the warts and all.

When I attended Tantra weekends in the Netherlands there were many times when I stood naked in front of the other participants. There was no hiding there, there was no chance to pretend I looked other than I did. I would want to be slimmer, more muscular, have matching legs, but I was not and did not.

It worked because we were all standing naked and wishing we looked better, fitter, more attractive. But we did not. Our ability to be open with each other made it work. The trick is to take that idea and integrate it with the rest of my life.

I have been through the work of awareness. I have looked at every aspect of myself and found what I was hiding away from, discovered what I did not want revealed. I have been through the work of acceptance. I have considered all that I have found out and accepted it, become one with it, drawn it into my life.

Now the work of authenticity is before me. But this is easy after all, it just needs me to do nothing. I need to find the courage to just be me, I need to take on board the compassion to just be me.

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness, It’s about cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think—No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking—Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”—Brené Brown

I am enough, I am worthy of love.

  • Do you practice openness?
  • Are you enough?
  • Are you worthy of love?

Lent Meditation – Day 32

Authentic: Wall

I often felt the urge to exert control, the need to get people to listen to me. What I did not realise was that it was all about boundaries, my boundaries.

What took many years for me to discover was that I could only control myself, not others. To lead others I needed to be seen to be in control of myself. Learning to control myself, I realised, is about setting boundaries, something that is not as simple as it seems.

“There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. […] Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.”—Ursula Le Guin

I can imagine the wall being built, crudely, before the builder had any skills. It was rough but it was confident. When it came to the road, the way that was open and used by many people, it lost its strength.

The idea was there, the imaginary line, but it had not been marked, either with wall or gate. The line did not really exist.

This is what boundaries were like for me. They were built early because of childhood events. They were built before I understood their significance. They fell apart as I interacted with other people. I lost confidence and I became upset.

What I forgot was what the wall meant to those on the outside. I knew the inside, I saw it all the time, but I forgot that it looked different on the outside.

What I found difficult was how to see my boundaries from the other side. I resorted to blaming others for what happened. I knew my side, I knew I was justified in what I was doing, I knew the world was against me.

The world I saw, the world out there, I discovered, was the world I created. I saw the world as against me because I only I saw things from my point of view. I only saw the inside of the wall.

I attached meaning to the world I experienced. I reacted to the world I saw and created an inside world of anger in relation to it. What I didn’t realise was that I created that meaning from inside myself, from where I was hurting.

I needed to take control of myself, of my thinking and of the meaning I gave to things. To take control of myself I needed to take responsibility for what I did and how I reacted, I needed to see the other side of the wall.

I create my world myself, it is not created by the actions of others. This is a crucial issue, one that is at the heart of boundary setting.

I decide what I will do, not others. If I am doing what others want it is because I have decided to do so. I cannot blame others for what happens to me, and I can not punish them for it.

When I find myself getting angry, which is rare today, I know the wall has started to crumble. I know the way is no longer clear. It is time to get out the mortar and re-build my wall, on both sides. I need to take responsibility for what is happening and clearly communicate that.

I talk, I listen, I explain, I hear and I re-create my boundaries and, as a result, I am now a happy man and others respect me and enjoy my company. I no longer need to control others because I no longer attach meaning to what they do and I no longer react to them.

  • Did you wear a mask in your life?
  • What were you trying to hide away?
  • Can you come out from behind the mask now?

Lent Meditation – Day 31

Authentic: Mask

I used to regard the life I was leading as a lie. My fear was that people would see me as weak, indecisive and scared. We all have a Primary Question that we ask ourselves everyday of our lives, one that controls the direction of our lives. Mine was, “What if I’m found out?”

I regarded the life I was leading as a lie, a mask, an attempt to bolster my male power. My fear was being found out by someone, by anyone. My fear was that people would see the real me, the weak, indecisive and scared me. To avoid being discovered I put on a front of strength and determination. I hid behind a view I had of masculinity, of male power, a view that I thought protected me.

As I developed my view of myself and moved beyond this phase, as I started asking myself better questions, I found that I was left with a borrowed view of masculinity. I realized I was lost, as a man. My view of myself was based on an idea of being a man that I thought was attractive to women. I realized this was false when I discovered that the women I knew saw through this mask.

It was only when I looked closely at myself, when I discarded what I thought a man should be, that I started living as the man I am. It was then that my outward presence shifted, it was then I became just me, a masculine man, not a not pale shadow of a male stereotype.

The context within which I now see myself as a man is one of honesty and authenticity. Its not that they are necessarily masculine characteristics, but they do reveal a man in his true essence. My mask is swept away and what I now see as masculinity appears free and clear. Women see this and respond to the clarity. The nature of the masculinity revealed is personal to me. There is no one model, there are many forms of masculinity, all equally valid.

William Pollack said in his book “Real Boys’ Voices”,

“When boys speak about ‘being themselves’. Many describe a double life in which they are one person in public — a cool guy who plays fast and lives by the rules of the Boy Code — and somebody completely different in his private life, often a much more creative, gentle, caring sort of guy. Others say they can ‘be themselves’ only after they go home, go to their own rooms, and shut out the outside world. What just about every boy says he knows all too well is what I call the mask of masculinity, a stance of male bravado and stoicism boys learn to use to cover over their inner feelings of sadness, loneliness, and vulnerability, to act cool, and to protect themselves from being shamed by their peers.”

I now live way beyond the mask I wore when I was younger. I see myself clearly and understand the issues I faced through my life. I have successfully dealt with the issues and feel happy and relaxed as a man. I no longer worry about being found out, I happily let people see my true essence, see me as I truly am.

“Life is all about making a choice regardless what is thrown at you. Overcoming these so call obstacles that will assist you in becoming a better person. Go against the grain and do not just grow into that idol that society wants you to be. Fighting to keep your own image and standing fast for what you believe in is the only thing that counts.”—Fendson Dorvilus

  • Is your life relaxed and peaceful?
  • Have you come to a clear understanding of who you are as a man?
  • Have you dealt with the issues you had when making your transition from boy to man?

Lent Meditation – Day 30

Authentic: Authenticity

Authenticity is such a hot potato today. People have such powerful reactions to any claim to be authentic. What is the issue with this? Why are people so afraid of claims of authenticity? What is authenticity?

The problem stems from people using authenticity as a badge of honour. If I reveal my darkest thoughts I can claim to be authentic. I am bad and admit it so I must be authentic. This, for me does not get to the heart of the matter. Authenticity is about more than baring your soul, it’s about being totally honest with myself and with others.

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” ―Brené Brown

If I really admit it, by Brené’s definition I am rarely authentic. I make choices every day and frequently those choices involve me in some measure of holding back, of not saying what I really think. This is not about telling the truth, I think I have fairly well debunked the idea that there is a truth. This is about being seen for everything I am, for the whole of me.

I rarely have the confidence to reveal every part of me. I have a lingering fear of being judged, that I have talked about already. I wonder what people will think or say if I reveal everything. I want to keep something about me to myself.

Even more important is the question of revealing everything I think about the other person. the classic question is what do you say if your wife/girlfriend asks, “Does my bum look big in this?” I am not even going to look at how I would answer this…

Why would I want to reveal everything I think about another person?

Perhaps I just think that to be authentic I should be honest about the whole of my thoughts. Maybe I think that they should know it all because it would help them? Maybe I am just arrogant enough to think that what I think matters that much?

“The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!”

This might be relevant and necessary in court but I do not live there. I live in the real world full of decisions to make about my interactions with other people. I make assessments all the time about me and others in order to create an optimal situation.

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” ―C.G. Jung

For me the answer is to leave behind all the stuff about thoughts and truth and follow Jung in becoming who I truly am.

This is not about what I reveal or what I say, it is about who I portray myself as. Do I create a persona that I set out as the real me or do I just behave as me, unadorned, open and honest?

I believe I say more by being silent than by speaking. I find that my energy speaks volumes. My body language, my facial expressions, my energy are all about me inside. Being authentic is about being congruent with what these say. Being authentic is just being.

“The authentic self is the soul made visible.”—Sarah Ban Breathnach

What does my soul say about me? having been through a process of awareness and acceptance I should be clear about my soul, can I let it speak for me? I hope so.

  • Do you regard yourself as authentic?
  • What does your authentic self say about you?
  • Can people read your soul?