Welcome back guest blogger Paul Coulombe! His posts on mindfulness were so popular, we’ve brought you more! Enjoy!
I have practiced mindfulness over many years now and one thing that I see missing time and time again is…men! It is right down their alley too in terms of what it means and how it can be practiced….and most don’t even know it.
This is not the case everywhere. Certainly all over Asia mindfulness has been, and continues to be practised by millions of men and women. Here in North America however it gets lumped into the female dominated yoga, breathing and Pilates classes. This is changing. Olympic athletes and top performing corporations and leaders…many who are male are using this skill to tame themselves.
I hope to change the appeal it has for men as I believe it could be the most powerful practice men have ever done to advance themselves personally, socially, professionally, romantically, spiritually and globally. To be able to feel, sense, experience and let go of attachments-both fear and craving- and then choose our path and not be slaves to our blind reactions – that is freedom brother!
Firstly men, I need to clear up a misnomer. Mindfulness is not a warm and fuzzy new age fad, where we hold hands and sing kumbaya. Not that there is anything wrong with that…but it is simply not that. We don’t zone out in bliss as we lovingly reflect on a flower and snuggle and pat a kitten. Although after some practice you indeed will feel more connected and less isolated – more energetic and alive.
Mindfulness is some of the hardest inner work I have ever done. Not always but it certainly can be. It is not necessarily fun. But it’s incredibly beneficial. If a muscle builder lifts and holds weight he benefits from the resistance…and indeed a similar process can be experienced with our stress, our emotions, our thoughts, our physical aches, pains and tightness and feelings. We always react to these automatically…without awareness…but what if we didn’t? What would happen if we held such heaviness in the light of our awareness? Where would it go eventually? Well…good news. It dissipates in the inner space we give it rather than staying in your clenched jaw! The awareness of holding and experiencing things and letting them go is the practice and benefit of mindfulness. It’s all about letting go.
If men pride themselves on being tough in the outer world, then I gently offer them the challenge to journey deeper into the inner world and do the same. From our safe awareness inside we see and experience the world of ego and wholeness, uncertainty and safety, of observation versus reaction, of walls and freedom and of innate beingness and conditioned illusion. You will begin to know yourself like never before and master the phrase “Don’t do something…stand there!” But don’t worry…you will not become a zombie or drool all day and become lethargic; that is how many of us are, as we clutch the TV clicker anyway…without mindfulness!
So…just sit there with it all that. Face-to-face with things you never knew about. Man up and hold it. No running, no punching cupboards, no numbing out, no avoiding, no video game escapes, no soothing with food or booze, no procrastinating in any way. Just sitting and experiencing and then and letting it go. How cool is that? THEN… from that new clear place you develop, you can do all the things you like to do with more clarity and less attachment and you can enjoy them even more. Conversely you can stay away from things that ensnare you by seeing them more clearly as unnecessary. Unnecessary for your completion and fulfilment; your awareness is that special essence in you that is already full, already safe.
There is nothing more powerful than a man who can understand and tame himself and take clear action from that good place and not re-action from fear, ego or negativity. It’s about being open and vulnerable which might sound weak in men’s circles but is in fact the most empowering way to be for a man – or anyone. Think about it…when there is a tornado approaching a farm, what do farmers quickly do? They run out and open all the barn doors! This is what we are doing with mindfulness. We let things flow through us without stopping them or attaching to them and getting trapped by the swirling energy we give them…and thus stressing the structure.
I admit…I lean on the existential side of things but you certainly don’t have to. Many men are more practical and simply want less stress and to be more effective at work and have a better home life and with others. Cool. It can be that too. Mindfulness leads to simplicity and clarity.
Let me leave you with three reasons why I think men should take a course in mindfulness:
Increased Focus and Performance
Google launched a Search Inside Yourself Program. Not to mention Aetna Insurance, General Mills, Apple, NASA and many other Fortune 500 companies. George Mumford taught the Lakers mindfulness and the US marines use it as do more and more prisons who say it helps with reform and relapse. At a recent annual summit at Davos Switzerland it was standing room only for the world’s top leaders. The workshop was…mindfulness. It’s no mystery. When we feel present and relaxed we can direct our minds to things and tasks and become more focused. We become the driver…not the driven. Why? Because we discover choice about what to direct our attention to. Companies know this are investing in it just as you could.
Improved Teams Dynamics and Relationships
Being present and emotionally grounded are essential to mental health, healthy relationships and a fulfilling life. If we’re constantly on edge with our fearful reactions, or constantly distracted with our cravings, think of the life energy and attention that we hog up with all that! It’s the egoist parasite! Add that to the avalanche of emails, texts, mortgage payments, girlfriend demands and stuff our daily life throws at us and it’s no wonder we suffer and limit ourselves. Mindfulness teaches us how to approach our ego-centered fear and craving triggers in a particular way so that we see them as experiences to observe and let go of and not get entangled in. We learn they are not the core ‘us’ and thus we don’t need to defend or support them in order to be happy or secure. It’s tough work sometimes facing ourselves and our reactions and letting go but rest assured we do not diminish …we expand. It’s the great paradox that nobody told us about; you will be more than compensated for what you let go of.
Be a Better, More Confident Partner and Parent
Your wife or partner will thank you, as will your kids! You can learn to be less defensive, more receptive, and have a natural confidence based on nothing; just being present. You can be more physically and emotionally present and responsive which also makes for a better marriage and sex life. It absolutely improved my marriage as it did other important relationships as well. If you have kids the GREATEST thing you can give them is a fully present father – not that distracted guy that radiates anxiety and unease. Who do you think absorbs that? Kids! In fact everyone! You become responsible and effective without being controlling-there is a big difference between the two.
Check back for more on mindfulness for men in future posts.