WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF MASCULINITY?

The “divine feminine” is often invoked as a Now Age ideal for our gender evolution. But how to really dismantle systems of patriarchal oppression? Trans man and diversity and inclusion activist, Aaron Rose, shares his vision for the future of masculinity …

Photo: Aziz Acharki

From Parasitic Patriarchy to Abundant Symbiosis 
When Now Age mystics speak of “divine masculinity,” what they are describing is simply: masculinity. Exalted qualities of heart-centered action, fierce loyalty, innovative logic, and earthly strength are what masculinity truly is. Everything else is an aberration, a mistaken idea, and a misuse of energy.

The divine masculine is complemented by the divine feminine archetype: the universal energy of intuition, receptivity, nurturance, creation, and collaboration. These energies are not inherently gendered. They flow within all of us.

So how do we reclaim healthy or conscious masculinity? How do we end our crisis of sexual violence? How do we build a world with true gender equality?

In the #metoo era, it can sometimes feel like the goal is total eradication of an inherently “toxic masculinity,” an embrace of androgyny, or an exclusive exaltation of the feminine. But the destination of our evolution is not about erasing our differences or course correcting from toxicity to divinity; it’s about reclaiming gendered archetypes while embracing an even wider spectrum of expression.

Patriarchy is the collectively held (and externally manifested) idea that men are superior to people of other genders, that there are right and wrong ways to be men and women, and that there are rewards for reinforcing these ideas, and penalties for violating them.

And if patriarchy is a result and a manifestation of parasitic scarcity consciousness, then we’re more than ready for abundant symbiosis.

///

A Different Way to Be Human
When I first began my transition from female to male, I was terrified of becoming a man. It was who I was – a person who had been female-assigned at birth and who felt called to a male identity and masculine embodiment – and yet, I could not have been more scared.

As a woman, I had lived a life defined and constrained by male violence – from the abuse of family members, to the harassment of strangers on the subway, and the subtle discrimination at work. The manhood I saw around me did not represent the kind of person I wanted to be. And the people I loved were quick to reinforce this idea: You’ll become a tool of the patriarchy, they said. The world doesn’t need another MAN.

On a physiological level, I knew that taking testosterone (in the form of hormone replacement therapy) was right for me. My body needed it, hungered for it like a too-late dinner after a long day. But on an emotional level, I was paralyzed, wracked by immobilizing guilt.

I was afraid of losing the part of myself that cries at Pixar movies and gathers my friends into huge hugs and composes love letters to my beloveds. The part who really, really listens to my people when they’re hurting. I was afraid of embodying toxic masculinity. I was afraid of becoming (even more of) a stranger to myself.

This deterministic model of gender is one we’re all used to. We’ve all heard “that’s just how men are” and any number of absolutist statements that divide the population squarely down the middle, into two prescribed boxes: man and woman. I was just as trapped as anyone.

But equally, in making the choice to transition I knew I was signing up for a lifetime commitment to proving the idea that there was another way to be a man than what I had been shown. That ultimately, there was a different way to be a human altogether.

///

Dismantling the Deal with the Devil
This commitment, this faith in the future of masculinity, has fueled my decade’s plus of evolving work in diversity and inclusion—a key part of which is leading conscious masculinity workshops in which men and masculine people of all genders have an opportunity to take themselves off of cultural autopilot and reclaim healthy masculinity.

Patriarchy invites men to make a deal with the devil: trade your eternal wholeness and humanity, in exchange for earthly and temporal power.

Time and again, I witness men become emotional in my workshops when we talk about gender equality and allyship. When I ask why, they say things like: “I feel like I don’t have anything else to offer,” or “What more do you want from me?,” or “Not everyone gets to be treated so nicely, you know.”

As the conversations unfold, we identify, again and again, that they are fundamentally bewildered about why or how they should be giving something to someone else that they do not feel they have themselves: gentleness, a reason to truly accept themselves, a full range of self-expression, emotional presence.

⁣⁣In my workshops, we inventory our masculinity stories, going all the way back to our first memories. And themes emerge, like the first moment of shame, often attached to a memory of playing with feminine clothing, hugging other boys, or crying when we were sad. We bring loving witness to these wounds, and then we choose again.

If the story was: “when I am emotional, the people I love reject me”—we elect to write a new story: “my vulnerability brings me closer to the people I care about.”

Photo: Sir Moon

///

What is your role in this process? Here are 4 ways we can all help bring about the future of masculinity … 

1// Separate masculinity + femininity from gender identity and sex assigned at birth.
“Sex assigned at birth” is the label you were assigned at birth based on the external anatomy your doctor observed. Gender identity is your innate, internal, sense of your gender.

Within our current western gender model, which has its origins in European colonization and white supremacist social control, sex assigned at birth, gender, and gendered energy are all conflated. If you are male assigned at birth, it is assumed you will be a man, and that you will behave in a masculine way. This deterministic model belies the truth of our experience — the truth that indigenous people of many cultures have always embraced — that there are as many possible genders and gendered experiences as there are people.

For example, I currently have a pretty masculine embodiment – short hair, muscles, a deep voice, a flat chest, traditionally male clothing. However, my energy is a blend of masculine and feminine – I am a go-getter who is often charging forward on the next big idea AND I create space for the people I love to be vulnerable, where I too surrender into vulnerability with them.

We all contain both masculinity and femininity. The unique mix and balance of this energy within us is as essential as the flow of oxygen into our lungs and bloodstream.

///

2// Conduct a patriarchal thought detox.
What are the stories you’re telling yourself about men and masculinity, and about gender overall? Do an inventory of your beliefs about masculinity and men, and choose some different stories.

Some of our big collective stories that you may have running on cruise control include: men should not be emotional, women are more emotional and nurturing than men, there are only two genders, men are just like that, what your body looks like determines your gender, and more.

Set a timer for 10 minutes, write these old stories out, and then decide what you want to replace them with. Write down your new narratives and reread them out loud every day for 21 days.

One my biggest autopilot scripts was that conscious men are few and far between, and that if I was really myself and spoke about gender the way I do, then I would have few connections with men, personally and professionally. I’m choosing to tell a different story now, to affirm that conscious stewards of masculine energy are all around me. And you know what? Bit by bit that community is emerging.

///

3// Understand that this work is not just for “bad guys.”
When I discuss my conscious masculinity work, I often witness men immediately deciding that it’s not for them. Or women deciding that it’s not for their husband or their brother or their friend. Because they’re already “good.” They haven’t assaulted anyone recently. They don’t make gross jokes.

⁣We have this mainstream idea that there are “those guys,” those really bad guys, who have really messed up, who really need to get their act together. They’re the problem. They’re the patriarchy. They’re the ones who need an intensive on conscious masculinity. ⁣But the truth is that this work is for ALL of us. We all have an opportunity and a responsibility to become stewards of a new era of masculinity, of gender, of humanity.

///

4// Embrace and reclaim the masculinity within yourself.
No matter your gender, you contain an alchemical blend of both masculinity and femininity within yourself. How does your masculinity manifest? In the clothes you wear? In the role you play in your relationships? In the way you tackle a project or negotiate a deal? In the fictional characters you identify with and seek to emulate? How conscious is your masculinity? How much have you chosen it, rather than operating it on autopilot? What do you love about your masculinity? How does it symbiotically complement and amplify your femininity? What do you wish others could see about it?

Write a love letter to your masculinity. Honor what you learn about yourself in the process.

///

5// Practice inviting others into this conversation.
Where do you see others running on autopilot about masculinity and femininity? Maybe you’re a mom and you see how other parents assume so much about their children based on their sex assigned at birth. Assuming how their child’s body looks determines what their gender will be. Assuming boys will be tough and girls will like pink. Assuming girls will be nurturing and boys will be adventurous.

Just the other day I spoke with a mother who was grappling to understand why her 8-year-old son had been described by a teacher as “sensitive” and “safe” for the other kids to play with, because of how gentle and unaggressive he was. “I would have no problem seeing my daughter this way,” she said. “But it’s hard to compute how a boy could be described like that. It’s not how I see him.”

Maybe you’re a man and you are aware of how conditioned you are to not call out other men when they say something sexist, or to shame each other for expressing emotion. Maybe you’re a woman who feels super supported by your community of women, but feels like your male partner, family member, or friend, isn’t conscious of his masculinity and how it impacts you.

It’s okay to call the people into your life into greater accountability and connection. To do this, get honest about what your unique role is, however uncomfortable or scary it might feel. Whoever you are, your voice matters, and others will resonate with it.

///

A Manifesto for Conscious Masculinity 
The work of remaking our relationship to masculinity and femininity is, like all other fundamentally spiritual work, ultimately about restoring our capacity to self-determine our identity, to trust our intuition, and to unconditionally love ourselves.

We are the generational clean-up crew, taking ourselves off of the autopilot our ancestors ran for centuries, mending the wounds they did not know how to tend. As we emerge from the shadow, it is our birthright to embody unprecedented levels of self expression, connection, and ease. It is the work of a lifetime, but it’s why we’re here. And we don’t have to do it alone.

The future of masculinity is not an erasure of the traditional masculine archetype (ie strong, rugged, powerful, action-oriented), but a conscious release of the shadow sides of these traits (domination, control, emotional suppression, violence) and a conscious choosing of what our masculinity means to us. ⁣⁣

The future of masculinity is the reclamation of this true divine masculine archetype, by whoever resonates most deeply with that energy.

The future of masculinity is amends and repair for generations of harm done, the honest reckoning of personal and collective shame and grief for violence committed, or violence not stopped.

The future of masculinity is an embrace of action without aggression, of leadership without dominance, of impetus and initiation without steamrolling, of grace without repression.

The future of masculinity is creation without collateral damage, strength without silencing, devotion without obsession, responsibility without control, power with rather then power over.

The future of masculinity is the intentional embrace of intuition, rather than the unconscious whim of instinct.

In short, it is a human life, fully and bravely lived, with self-love and connection with a Universal intelligence at its core, with nothing to prove and everything to share.

///

Ready for more support reclaiming a positive masculine archetype, for yourself, or someone else in your life? Registration is open for my online Conscious Masculinity Intensive. Use code NUMINOUS for 20% off all ticket levels through next Tuesday, November 20th. It’s open to men, masculine people of all genders, and allies; we even have a few parents of male-assigned-at-birth kids joining too! Join us in co-creating the future of gender, together.

HOW I AM COMMITTING TO RAISING A CONSCIOUS MAN

In a climate of deeply wounded masculinity, Nina Endrst was dismayed to discover she was having a boy. But she soon realized this was a calling to declare her credo for raising a conscious man …

Photo by Dru Nadler

I consider myself pretty intuitive. It’s been my work, especially in recent years, to release doubt and follow my heart in whatever direction I’m led.

Shortly after I became pregnant, I felt I “knew” I was going to have a little girl. I felt it in my bones. Saw visions of her during deep meditation and healing sessions. We were going to raise a little feminist.

Wrong. Well, sort of. My 22-week ultrasound revealed that I was in fact having a boy. A BOY?! Of course my only hope is and was to have a healthy baby—but I’ll admit I was knocked off my intuitive pedestal in that moment.

When we got in the car, I looked at my husband and said, “UGH! He is going to watch porn?!” I was totally freaked out for a good few minutes, going over all the things he definitely couldn’t do or be.

How the hell am I going to raise a man? Despite having strong relationships with good men, something about being responsible for ensuring that mine wouldn’t grow up to be a chauvinist asshole was daunting. It is impossible for me not to be enraged daily by the toxic masculinity that exists in our society, and around the world.

As I pondered what it would meant to raise a conscious man, I asked myself, where do I begin?

Then, I remembered a dream I’d had about an old boss (privileged, white, good looking by most people’s standards, probably rarely hears or understands the word “no”). This dream triggered a real memory of the sexual harassment I experienced while I was an employee and had “forgotten” about.

Because I, like most women, experience sexual harassment ALL the time. Many of us have also been victims of assault (I was age 9, and wrote about it here). The recent #Metoo shed some light on the epidemic, but this is not and cannot be perceived as “normal.”

So how do we heal such a deep and devastating wound? The conversation feels bigger than I can possibly wrap my head and heart around. And it raises serious doubts about how I will raise a conscious, sensitive, compassionate, FEMINIST man today.

Below is my individual process to tending to this wound daily—for myself, my son, and the whole. It’s where I am beginning my commitment to raise a conscious man …

Photo by Matthew Johnson

1// I commit to regularly sharing with the men in my life how I am and have been mistreated as a woman.
Practice: I will not assume that everyone is awake, watching, and listening. This does not mean I will excuse sexist behavior or abuse—this means I will educate men around me through my personal experience. I will share how it made me feel when I was cat-called earlier that day, when I do feel safe, and discuss the long-lasting emotional and energetic damage that I and most women have to continually work to undo.

2// I commit to teaching my son that women are not things to be “had.” We are human beings to be respected.
Practice: I will surround him with strong females, both in real life as well as through literature and media. From the time he is born, I will introduce him to men that speak to and about women with love and respect, and will continue to work with my husband to show him what a healthy and equal partnership looks like.

3// I commit to helping my son understand that silence is unacceptable.
Practice: I will speak up in his presence and explain to him that with privilege comes responsibility. That we are put on this earth to protect each other and it is not OK to sit quietly on the sidelines if and when we witness injustice or abuse.

4// I commit to speaking honestly to my son about dangerous and unhealthy body standards placed on women.
Practice: I’ll raise him to look for intelligence, kindness, and humor in women, and people in general, before beauty. I will show him that beauty exists in many forms and do my best to limit his exposure to messaging that is damaging to women.

5// I commit to teaching my son how to show emotion—that sensitivity and compassion are part of what make him “a man.”
Practice: I will ask him how he feels and listen to him with an open heart. I will allow him to express himself and his emotions fully and praise him for it.

>>>

My son will be born in a few weeks. I feel mostly at peace and a little clueless and naive. I do not know how our lives will unfold from here, and am very aware that much of it is out of my control. But I do know that I will try every day to be the strongest, softest, version of myself, both for my son, and for our collective healing of the wounded masculine as it unfolds.

Nina lives her yoga and is inspired by traveling to places outside her comfort zone, both physically and emotionally. Currently based in Hudson, NY, she leads retreats around the world and welcomes students of all levels. Connect with her at ninaendrstyoga.com and on Instagram.

SHADOW EMOTION: HOW TO WORK WITH ANGER

Mars retrograde stirring up any suppressed…rage (um, Lemonaid)? You can use your anger as a powerful tool for transformation, says Erin Telford

Anger is my favorite shadow emotion. It’s powerful, it gets things done and it is excellent at creating boundaries and change.

But anger is also one of the most misunderstood and underutilized emotions. As women, we are socialized in both overt and covert ways to be nice, not make a fuss and not rock the boat. When we are taught by our loved-ones and by our culture to bite our tongue in service of keeping the peace, we can get very disconnected from trusting our feelings and from feeling safe to work with this emotion when it flares up.

The thing is, most of us have never seen a healthy expression of anger. We associate it with road rage, throwing things at people, screaming, crying, cursing, fear, abuse, physical threats, danger, and out of control people. These are all examples of unhealthy anger. It’s not an emotion we appreciate so we try our very best to suppress it out of existence.

But it’s actually unexpressed or suppressed anger can get ugly. And beyond the stigma, all anger is, is a catalyst for change and an opportunity for some honest communication. Anger can actually work for you if you work with it.

Anger in its purest form simply says: “I don’t like this. Something needs to be different about this situation.” It’s a call to action! You don’t like it? Okay, change it!

One of the best examples of healthy anger is peaceful protest. This is anger put to work—a group of people turning their collective anger into action to create change. We are seeing this right now in politics, the environment, and human rights. It is impossible for anyone with a beating heart to turn a blind eye to what is going on in our world. We are riled up, expressing our opinions and getting involved!

We can all do this in our personal lives as well. Anger is a very powerful force and if wielded with grace and finesse, it can move mountains. Where we get into trouble with anger is when we push it down, causing it to build.

Anger is connected with the season of spring. This is because it speaks to the catalytic energy surge required to turn a seed into a plant, to push it’s little head above the soil and reach for the sun! Spring, our liver, and by association the energy of anger, are connected with upward and outward growth.

So what happens if your growth is inhibited? What happens when someone tells you “no”? A ridiculous new policy is created at work? What if you are simply just trying to walk down the street and everyone is in your way? You didn’t get the apartment or the job or the acceptance letter, a flight is delayed, a class isn’t offered, you didn’t get the promotion?

These are ways that an obstacle interrupts the smooth flow of our life. We don’t like obstacles. We don’t like no. We don’t like interruptions to our plans.

And so our natural reaction can be anger. Which is totally fine. We are upset.

But to deny this is to block our access our personal power. When we feel guilty about what we feel or label ourselves as being “negative” when we feel angry, we miss out on an opportunity to out-create our circumstances.

Rather, if we can sit with our anger, can look at where it’s coming from and why we feel it, we can polish it into a nugget of transformational gold. If we have been hurt or upset by another person, rather than lashing out, we can advocate for ourselves and clearly state our needs to that person. If someone continually disrespects or hurts us, you may need to use that anger to create a change in the terms of that relationship!

You may have heard that anger turned inward results in depression—an oversimplified expression, since depression has many roots and takes many forms—but there is some weight to it.

When we repress our anger toward a partner, friend, loved one or co-worker by not sharing our truth, we are betraying ourselves. We are inadvertently communicating to ourselves that our feelings don’t matter and we are not worth standing up for. Self-betrayal is the most painful betrayal of all and can decrease self-esteem and confidence—leading to depression.

So we stay snippy and unexpressed and we self-medicate even more or our tense up even more, or our digestion suffers. It doesn’t have to be this way. Use your anger as a call to action to change your circumstances.

Breathe it out. Dance it out. Run it out. Write it out. Scream it out (not at someone else!) Sing it out. Create it out. Talk it out. Paint it out. Boot camp it out. Express it out.

You have to feel it to heal it. You have to let it out to transform it. Just don’t be afraid of anger.

The more you know your triggers and can feel when it’s rising in you, the more gently and safely you can manage this emotion. Anger is so powerful and properly harnessed it can do so much for you. Think of anger as your inner Mama Bear, your inner Kali, and your inner badass.

And let it be fuel to create powerful change and transform your life.

UNDER THE ARMOUR: WHY MEN FIND IT HARD TO FEEL

Why men find it hard to feel is a case of nature and nurture. But when the new empowered masculine is invited to express himself, relationships become a catalyst for healing, says Darren Austin Hall. Images: HANs via Behance.net

“The rule of patriarchy demands that men armor themselves, not only to impose force upon the world, but to resist the Feminine externally, and deny or conceal its presence internally, in themselves. On the path of the hero…the genuine hero is a man who develops his power against patriarchy, rather than in support of it. He overcomes armor in the cause of amore.” – John Lamb Lash

I once had an insightful conversation with a female friend about her romantic struggles with men who perpetually shut down emotionally, a common dynamic in many relationships. I’ve also seen this complaint broached in neo-feminist articles online, often reading something along the lines of: “If you haven’t got your emotional shit together you don’t deserve me,” OR “I’m a queen and if you can’t handle intense communication then hit the road.

Firstly, I want to affirm that the kind of Kali fury women feel when their male intimate won’t communicate with them and/or shirks emotional connection altogether is totally valid – and can, when appropriately utilized, actually compel a lazy King out of his benumbed emotional doldrums into attractive action.

But what many women don’t understand is WHY men shut down, and how they can support us with compassion when we do.

I’ve been interested in developing the “healthy masculine” ever since a life-changing trip to India, where I met a beautiful soul brother who introduced me to several inspiring texts on the subject. The insights of the King, Warrior, Magician, Lover series by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, and the raw, brutal truths of Iron John: A Book About Men by Robert Bly, shone a light on the struggles facing men in the modern world. Things I had always vaguely felt, but never knew how to express – due in part to my own emotional dullness.

And as I delved into these studies deeper, I began to feel a tremendous sense of compassion for my brothers and myself.

Foremost, men are conditioned to shut down emotionally by society itself. Men are taught that to express emotions is “unsafe,” because it makes our masculinity appear weak and soft. For so long, we’ve been taught that to be masculine is to be “hard.” And if you’ve ever given a modern man a massage, you’ll know this hardness is tangible, our emotional armoring manifesting as layers upon layers of muscular tension.

Here’s a massive truth that I want us all to pause for a moment and reflect upon: that hardness in the body is actually layers of ice-cold frozen tears.

My own inner-work has been about reimagining my masculinity in a patriarchal world which conditions an immature and dysfunctional masculine identity that doesn’t know how to feel. Along the way, I have been shocked at how reading about the pain of male warriors going to war for corrupt political aims provokes massive grief in me.

And also how reflecting on this subject awoke the realization in me that every time I got my heart broken, I did my best to bury the wounds so deep that only through psychic scuba-diving in my meditation practice years later would I be able to excavate and process them.

It soon became clear that I’d been carrying around a hospice of old wounds, waiting to be healed and transmuted into wisdom – since every feeling I liberated held its own insights and revelations. One reason I’ve come to believe women, as I’ll explain, often seem wiser than men.

Women are at advantage in the emotions department for a couple of reasons. One, women are encouraged to be emotional. As a result, while many women still struggle with how to process emotions skilfully and use them as tools for alchemical transformation, they are usually more comfortable than men in this realm.

Secondly, diverse ancient traditions purport that women are at an advantage to men spiritually. I didn’t really understand the rationale behind this until I studied Chinese Medicine, and realized some important facts about our physical differences.

In Chinese Medicine, a person’s shen, or spirit, expresses itself as our sense of conscious awareness. It is said that this spiritual force is housed in the Heart and travels in the blood. And when women have their menstrual cycle and bleed they are actually cleansing this shen; their spirit!

Furthermore, I was taught by Native American elders that the sweat lodge was actually created to help men cleanse in a similar way, to help them keep spiritual pace with women! Totally mind-blowing.

Could this be why men are more vulnerable to being murky of spirit and emotional awareness than women? If women’s blood, or spirit, runs more clear, it comes as no surprise to me that women are able to feel more clearly and thus exhibit more emotional wisdom than men – for as I’ve learned, feelings are the catalyst for spiritual revelation.

Moreover, menstrual cycles mean women are energetically connected to cycles of the Moon, which in turn is energetically linked to our unconscious. This is why the cycles of the moon can inspire utter wildness of feeling in women! The moon is literally prodding their unconscious to come to the surface to be integrated into the light of consciousness.

A final stunning detail on this note: I was told by another wise teacher that women traditionally would intention their menses to cleanse not only themselves but the spiritual nature of the world at large, using their moontime to help bring the unconscious of the collective into the light of consciousness to be integrated. It’s no wonder women can feel so heavily burdened during their moontimes: they are cleansing so much more than themselves!

In saying all this, I’m not trying to excuse men who refuse or don’t know how to acknowledge their emotions. I know first hand from my own relationships how difficult for women this can be. My intention is simply to create a space for compassionate understanding of our differences, helping us pave the way for better relations in the future.

Ultimately, when it’s understood that women are by nature (and nurture) better feelers than men, this can be integrated into not only romantic but all relations between men and women, as well as utilized as a dynamic tool for healing.

In the past, I used to fear the way women seemed to know my pain even if I didn’t express it. Now I understand that female intuition is a great power that needs to be honored – but that we also need to honor how scary it can be for a man that she can usually tell when something is up no matter how hard he tries to hide it, for fear of appearing weak.

In the ancient romantic culture of the Troubadours, there’s an old adage: amore over armor. Men are constantly armoring themselves to fit an outmoded idea of masculinity, and while some protection is useful to buffer us against the trials of the world, most men are carrying way too much (which actually goes for women too, as we’ve all been conditioned by the patriarchy).

So the next time a man, either your partner or a friend, exhibits this kind of emotional armoring, instead of falling into frustration and even anger, choose compassion. Allow space. Ask tender, loving questions. Use touch and the beautiful arts of seductive love to tease out the truths from his tense body in a safe space that welcomes vulnerability.

Women’s gifts of sensuality and feminine beauty can entice the masculine to drop its defenses and open its overly guarded heart. In the ancient romantic traditions, this was seen as one of the great powers of women: to disarm men and invite their innermost essence to be expressed. Imagine if the women of the world used this power against all the war-mongering tyrants, to draw out the wounds that are at the root of so much violence!

When a man starts to feel openly, sharing his tender truths with women, then intimacy can blossom exponentially. Women will see, perhaps for the first time, the beautiful innocence that men hide in our hearts, and have been too afraid to show to a world they felt would demean them for it.

Further, perhaps we’ll realize that there’s a profound context in all romantic relationships for cultivating the balance between the masculine and feminine; for these two cosmic polarities to dance finally and ultimately in unison, fusing in the beauty of the divine.

Darren Austin Hall is a sacred musician, sound healer and spiritual teacher. His empowering music entails diverse, salving instrumentation, across crystal singing bowls, Indian tanpura, mystical guitar and shamanic singing. His new album, The Tantra of Truth, is a collection of ecstatic songs inspiring the evolution of consciousness and deep transformation, and he is one of the headlining musicians for The Yoga Conference in Toronto. He is also trained in Chinese Medicine and shamanic healing and is a gifted teacher and facilitator of a wide array of workshops on new paradigms of spirituality and healing. His writing appears on the blog The Druid, and is published online on sites such as Elephant Journal. Darren also co-facilitates a men’s group in Toronto devoted to raising the consciousness of the masculine and is a devotee of the wisdom of nature. Darrenaustinhall.com

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE: THE SPIRITUAL PATH OF BEING A DAD

Be moved, be inspired…fall in love with MEN all over again. Aussie videographer Johnny Abegg shares an intimate personal film on what being a dad means to him

BOYS TO MEN: A NEW VISION FOR EMPOWERED MASCULINITY

In the age of the Divine Feminine…what about our men? On the eve of the publication of his new book on the subject, Ruby Warrington talks to David Harshada Wagner about his vision for empowered masculinity. Images: Rainbow Gathering by Benoit Paille via Behance.net

“It’s like a guidebook for men to be more happy and free, but in a way that’s still masculine. And part of it is by owning their role as a male.”

When did you decide to make men and spirituality a focus?
I’ve been totally steeped in the Eastern spirituality thing for decades, but the men’s work was always in the background. Then I got into my 40’s, went through a divorce, got into another relationship, and all of a sudden I’m having a son. And it all just came home.

How does spiritual work look different for dudes?
It’s about practicality. For most men there really needs to be some kind of pay off, where the rubber meets the road. Most men wouldn’t be caught dead in a meditation class or a retreat, unless they knew it was going to help them with their work, their relationships with their loved-ones. They just won’t even do it.

Don’t men sometimes just feel out of place? There’s so much talk about ‘divine feminine’ this, and ‘Goddess energy’ that. I kind of feel like men must be thinking, ‘okay, so are my urges and drives redundant now?’
I don’t think it’s so much that men have that whole thought, like, ‘where do I fit into this?’ I think they just think ‘this is not for me. I’m going to sit home and drink beer and watch the game while my wife goes to the yoga retreat. Because that’s just not something that would be of interest to me at all.’

So part of it is about honoring the masculine energies as sacred too. On the Eastern spirituality scene the energy is predominantly feminine. And even anti-masculine, in the sense that it’s all mostly about peace, compassion, and softness. The average person, when they hear that I’m doing a spiritual book for men, they’re like, ‘Oh, good. You’re going to teach them to open their hearts.’ It’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to teach them to open their hearts, but the book is really about growing a backbone and balls.’

Ha! So should women be encouraging men to go on the yoga retreat with them?
I don’t think most men will necessarily get what they need from bending over in a room full of women. Of the 8% of men that will go, there’s an even a smaller percent of heterosexual men. It’s kind of like we have to go into our feminine to be able to be in that. Or at least fake it. And that’s when you get the yoga teacher who ends up in some sex scandal – because they feel like they can’t just say, ‘Hey, I think you’re really sexy, and you’re my student, but why don’t we go get a drink?’ Instead they feel they have to be like, ‘Yeah, I think you should come for a private session because I need to open your hips’ or something. You know? The heterosexual desire is made illegitimate.

So what are some spiritual exercises that you do with guys?
In my book there’s a big chapter on the ‘father wound,’ and it’s a real central thing for most men. He was my teacher on what it means to be a man, so did I learn from him? I also like to connect men to a sense of vision, because men without a vision are really lost. They need to have a mission. They need to know what they’re moving toward and be able to say, ‘Yes, I’m still moving toward it, I’m getting closer, or I’m going the wrong direction.’ So I try to help men find that. The other thing is to just get them used to being in a conversation with each other.

Without any beer. Because that’s often what it takes, right?
Exactly. And in my experience, men tend to communicate a lot better shoulder-to-shoulder than face-to-face. I had one veteran that I worked with a lot, and often times I would go sit at the bar with him, with the bartender there washing the glasses or whatever, and we’d do a session. My office, with the chairs facing each other, felt awkward – maybe too intimate.

Who are your typical clients for this kind of work?
What I get a lot is the partners of my female students, and partners of women who are already involved with spirituality. They either see my stuff as a safe way for their man to get involved in it, or sometimes they want me to fix their man. At my Kripalu weekend last year, half the men were there because their wives had given them a father’s day gift, in hopes that somehow they would get fixed.

And…what happens if the wife is part of what needs fixing?
This is actually quite typical. A man comes because his wife tells him he’s too angry, and society has told him that he has an anger issue. So he comes, thinking I’m going to teach him to breathe and not be angry. But instead I break down anger from the point of view of the Bhagavad Gita, which says anger is there when a desire is thwarted. So then I say, ‘Okay, man, you’re angry, and that’s beautiful. What are you wanting that you’re not getting? Like at a deep level.’ And I unleash them to go after what they want in their life. And sometimes that means they go home and they divorce their wives.

I know you have a theory about the difference between a boy, a guy, and a man. What’s that about?
The distinction I’m trying to make is that a man is someone who’s done some work on himself, and I think there’s definitely a sense of honor and sacrifice and strength. A man is ready to protect his world and serve his world, whereas a guy is just mostly about himself. A ‘dude’ is usually like a hipster, even more self-absorbed. Males in our society get into this really immature self-absorption thing.

How does that ‘man’ifest (ha)?
It looks like; ‘he’s not living his truths.’ He’s either living what his father wanted him to do, or he’s trying to live the opposite of that. He doesn’t really want to sit in this job and work in this job; he wants to be an entrepreneur, but he’s too scared. Or he doesn’t want to be in this marriage because he doesn’t get anything out of it, but he just doesn’t feel like he’s empowered to leave.

And so he makes excuses; ‘But I’ve got to bring home the bacon.’ Or, ‘it doesn’t matter. I’ll just watch some porn, beat off, just try to entertain myself a little bit.’ What I’m interested in is training men to be on fire with passion and vision, so they are bringing those values to their family and bringing that masculine energy to the house so that their woman can be in her feminine energy and not feel like she has to be the brains of the operation all the time.

You can be totally gluten free and only think nice thoughts, but if you’re a terrible lover or you don’t know how to make money, or you don’t know how to take care of your kids, all of that is for naught in my point of view.

What do you wish you could tell the average man in the street about spirituality, and how to tap into his spiritual power in a masculine way?
That they don’t have to do it alone. A lot of men just don’t have other quality men in their life in a quality way, and so they put all their emotional care in the hands of their women. And oftentimes they’re really isolated from other men. One of the first questions I ask any man who’s suffering, is; ‘Do you have good men in your life?’ And the answer is almost always no. Men need a network of other men that they can really talk to about their fears, but also about their strengths.

How are the men in your life getting in touch with their spirituality? Connect with us and share your stories on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Backbone: The Modern Man’s Ultimate Guide to Purpose, Passion and Power by David Harshada Wagner will be out May 5 2015. David’s next retreat at Kripalu, Wild, Deep, Masculine and Free: A Weekend for Men, will take place May 29-31 2015.