How I Got My Life Back: Emotional Liberation

For many years I thought I was broken, like something was wrong with me. I saw other people in my life, mostly woman, who seemed to so easily experience great states of both deep joy and grief. My experience felt flat and dead by comparison. I was jealous. I wanted to feel deeply. I wanted to show great love, care, and affection for others and joy for life. And more than wanting, I needed the relief of breaking down and sobbing in a loved one’s arms, of expressing my great pain and anger. But that was not my experience. For years I lived without. I struggled, I maintained, I was happy sometimes, sometimes I was sad. I had emotions, but they were muted, stifled, and contained.

I discovered peer counseling through a friend who had been involved for years. She was excited to share the tool with me. I knew it was what I needed, but I was nervous and unsure as we walked into the strangers house. Nervousness and uncertainty, I discovered, were just right. This was a place where I could feel and express that nervousness along with anything else that was alive inside me. Here, I would finally discover how to do show myself more deeply by interacting with people who were honest and open-hearted.

The basic format of peer counseling is that two people take turns listening to each other. In the process each person gets a chance to express themselves and their emotional experience. The idea is that most of us, in some way or another, have been discouraged from honest emotional expression, and we can benefit from relearning how to be with ourselves in that way. The two peer counselors are part of a community of people learning together. Pairs and groups meet up regularly to trade time and learn the theory and skills of the practice. Over time trust develops in the group and individuals are able to experience healing, growth and authenticity.

I found a safety and freedom to be myself in peer counseling that I had never experienced before. I shared things about myself I never had, and never thought I would. Things that I felt tremendous shame, guilt, and fear about. Things that I had convinced myself that if others knew they would shun me and disdain me. I dove into sharing experiences of feeling stupid and incompetent because of my difficulties in school, of constantly feeling alone like no one was really there for me. I was relieved and inspired that not only was it ok for me to share those things, but that people appreciated, respected, and cared for me all the more for it.

I know now, after working with men for many years that the things I felt ashamed of, the numbness, confusion, and sense of inadequacy, are in fact really common for us. We have been taught to suppress the parts of ourselves that feel deeply. We have been told that showing emotions is for women and that in order to be men it is not okay to be scared sometimes, to be sad, to be hurt. We have been taught that men are strong, confident, and in control always, and we learn to where these like masks. In some ways I got good at putting on and wearing these masks, at being the man I was supposed be. In other ways I felt like I was always falling short.

Peer counseling has been a powerful tool in my life. It has become a magical time and place where I get to take off any masks I might be wearing and show my true self to another. It is often difficult and scary. Sometimes the masks that I wear are there, at least in part, to cover up overwhelming pain, terror, and rage. It makes sense that we would want to keep these feelings contained, but I know now that these powerful parts of myself are going to come through one way or another. The question is, am I going to use them consciously, proactively, and for good? Or am I going to unconsciously let them come out sideways and wreak havoc on my life?

What space are you creating in your life to take your masks off?

I know now that my happiness and well-being–as well as the daily experiences of my partner and those close to me–are deeply impacted by how I answer this question. Luckily, there is so much I can do to tend my emotions in a responsible, healthy way.

Self Care Is Sexy

How do we become that man who gives easily, from a seemingly bottomless reserve? How do we be that amazing father, spouse, partner, or friend? The process starts from the seemingly contradictory practice of self-care.

The truth is though that self-care is not the opposite of generosity. Putting others first, doing more, and giving more when you aren’t in a good place yourself leads to over exertion, over giving and over commitment. Then we get frustrated, angry and resentful, and guess who suffers? Both, us and our loved ones. On the other hand, Putting yourself, and your self-care needs first, is what fills up our cups to be able to give with abundance and joy.

Our daily self-care practices become more and more essential as we step into greater service and responsibility. I have learned this through experience. As I’m stepping into fatherhood and deepening into my coaching and energy work practice, my daily self-care practice has evolved and strengthened out of necessity. In the past I consistently struggled with self-care and with holding a daily practice, and I didn’t always equate the two. There was always some good reason, or something more important to do with my time, and over time I became rigid and unsatisfied. My work, and relationships suffered.

As I’ve discovered that I need to give myself this time every day in order to actually have something to offer the world, my life has become much more manageable and rewarding. I would not be the partner, father, or practitioner that I want to be if it were not for my daily practice. My self-care practices leave me clear, present, and focused on who I really am and what I am meant to be in the world. Because I know how powerful my daily self-care practice is, I see giving myself this time as the greatest gift I can give myself, and ultimately others.

I would say that Impeccable self care is the number one priority on the road to healthy masculinity and authenticity. In my work with men and masculine people I have found that our journey and struggles with loving and caring for ourselves are amazingly similar. We have been trained to ignore our own needs. The work is in re-training ourselves, and fighting the stories of self-deprecation and martyrdom that keep us from knowing our true selves and each other. Doing that work will allow us to tap into that bottomless reservoir so we can fill ourselves up and then give to those we love from a truly resourced and balanced place.

Where are you in your journey of self-care?

Energywork Transformation

I want to share some of my journey thus far with Jai Medina, my partner, and shamanic energy work teacher. I’d like to offer some of what I’ve learned about myself on the way of exploring this tradition and this energywork path.

When I began this phase of my journey 3 years ago with Jai, I didn’t feel confidence that I was on my path.  In many ways my life was great, I had friends and community and work that I enjoyed.  I was doing some good work on myself and was growing, but it was slow and I was pretty stuck in some old unhealthy patterns and behaviors.  I see now how subconsciously I was resistant to perceiving and following my intuitive and spirit guidance, and thus my energy was scattered, my power was fragmented, and my purpose or path was unclear.

One of the things that immediately struck me about Jai was their assurance of their sense of place and purpose in their life.  I knew somehow that they were operating with an unusual amount of faith, and thus where “all in” in their life in a way I hadn’t seen before.  From that place, I felt them seeing me in a way I had never felt seen.  They were able, in that first meeting, to see the ways I was “all in,” and the places I held back.  That was the moment for me when everything changed.  I started to see those places too, and started to look at the stories, values and principles (or lack thereof) that I was living under and to take more responsibility for becoming the person I wanted to be, a person of consciousness and integrity, while figuring how to be “all in” myself.  That was only a few years ago and it has been an amazing and rewarding journey so far.

In these past few years, I have started my own business, started seeing clients, and having events and workshops regularly.  I have been nourished by a steady job and relationship longer than at any other time in my life, and Jai and I are looking forward to welcoming our child into the world in a few months.  This tradition has helped me in becoming a more independent being, because I see now that I needed to first be truly independent before I could be interdependent or in real reciprocity, kinship or aya’a with others.  All the practices we use in the tradition, such as shielding, cord-cutting and connecting with my spirit and ancestral allies are all helping me every day to rapidly build my confidence, strengthen my character, and clarify my vision, so that I can show up ready to offer my unique gifts and receive the gifts of others.

As I’ve begun to understand this concept of aya’a or kinship, I’ve been able to lean into this community of support and care around me both of human and non human beings.  This has helped me drop into the amazingly, big, powerful, simple, incredibly complex and beautiful work of understanding what is right for me and staying “all in!” The first step for me has been noticing the places where I have ambivalence, where I am not “all in.”  Just noticing, before asking the question “why?” Then I ask myself: “Am I just being resistant to doing something that I know is good for me, that I have decided and committed to, or is this something in my life that is no longer serving me? A relationship? Job? Or activity?” For me it has been all of the above.  I have had some relationships that I needed to create distance from or end altogether.  I’ve had some ongoing addictive behaviors that I’ve had to rein in and end.  All of these patterns or bad habits were places I was resistant to or defensive about taking responsibility for my life and wielding true power.

Doing this work has taught me that any area of my life where I am holding on to ambivalence, doubt, uncertainty or resistance is not going to go well.  I will suffer and the people around me, who rely on me, will suffer.  This doesn’t mean that it’s bad to experience doubt and fear.  Of course not, but to understand what those feelings are telling me, I need to give them plenty of time, space, and compassion in order to move through them fully and completely, and not get swayed off course by their lingering.  Any place where I notice myself being anything less than “all in,” is a place to step back and ask myself, “What it is that makes me think I don’t deserve all of the wonder and beauty of life? What is keeping me from being “all in” right now?” I wonder if you ever ask yourself these questions, too?

Thank you for reading.  It was helpful for me to take this opportunity to write and reflect and I hope it provided some value for you as well!  I’m excited to share more and hear more of your stories as we continue this journey together.

To learn more about my energy work offerings visit:

www.gilescharle.com

To learn more about Jai Medina and our healing tradition, the Balanzu Way visit:

www.jaimedina.com

How I Got My Life Back: Livelyhood

Reclaiming our masculinity and finding our authentic life path is a journey of uncovering stories and assumptions. We’re all told a lot of stories by our families and the culture at large and so we end up with a bunch of false beliefs about work and livelihood, stories about who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to be doing. Thus our work tends to carry the weight of these illusions and ends up tangled up with our identities and sense of worth. In my own life, I have found that digging through these stories lets me reach the truth buried beneath them: the truth of my authentic desires and capacity to make my own choices.

In 2012 I had just finished my graduate program with a degree in conflict transformation and I was pursuing a job in the non-profit world. I had been unofficially accepted for a position developing Restorative Justice Initiatives in Berkeley CA. The job was right in line with exactly what I had been doing and what I thought I wanted, and it came with a good salary. I had visions and dreams of owning my own house, and all the things that I now could have with such a job; status and prestige, a nice place to live, a “real” relationship and kids. For a few weeks I was strung along, believing I had this job and my fantasies swelled. Then, all of a sudden, I didn’t have the job. The funding for the position fell through and it was now longer available. I was devastated. Disappointment, anger and deep sadness and regret were all consuming.

I expressed these painful feelings to my masculinity group and got the attention and support I needed to see them through and get some clarity on the other side. I realized that the beliefs I had attached to this job were rooted in my upbringing, that my sense of worthiness and goodness as a person was attached to my ability to achieve a certain mark of success and life style. I realized I had been living under this belief for a long time, and it didn’t leave much room for me to know who I really was and what I really wanted or was called to do. I realized that working for a non-profit conflict mediation/ restorative justice organization was not really what I wanted or where I felt called. I had more work to do to heal, find my own path, rooted in my own deep joy. What I really wanted in the meantime was to build, to work with my hands and allow my mind and my spirit to heal by freely exploring possibilities.

I have been making a living as a builder ever since. Recently, since I’ve been simultaneously developing my professional healing practice, I’ve been noticing those old stories creeping back in. I find myself anxious to quit the building work and jump full time into seeing clients and running my practice. At times I feel frustrated and get hard on myself for still doing carpentry because it is not as prestigious or lucrative as something else. Again I am attaching my goodness and worthiness as a person to my livelihood.

I am so blessed to have learned skills and developed community around me to be able to notice these stories, because they can be really destructive. These stories are not coming from me, they are not coming from my guides, Higher Power, or those who help me on my path. They are coming from the society I grew up in, which values intellectual work over physical work. It has nothing to do with me and my path and purpose. And yet if I am not meticulous and prioritizing my healing work every day, my life could easily be swept away by these lies.

My truth is that I love carpentry, and I am called to it. It is a craft and a skill that is essential to my being. I have always been a builder, since I was a child, I spent hours down in our basement tinkering with Dad’s tools, seeing the way things fit together, building, breaking and building again. I might at some point be called away from building as a main source of livelihood, but the desire, or goal to do so comes exclusively from stories and values that are not my own. The pressure to choose one livelihood path over the other also comes from some story that doesn’t serve me. My truth is that I don’t have to choose one or the other. I choose both fully and completely. They both serve me, complement each other, and provide what I need in different ways. They are vibrant expressions of different parts of myself. And all the authentic parts of myself are essential to my being and deserve my attention and respect.

When it comes to work, where are you living in pattern or external expectation rather than in your empowered choice and reality?

What are the stories and beliefs that you hold about your work or livelihood, and what they say about you and who you are?

What are the different ways that your livelihood actually serves you and your highest purpose?