As a child, my father often said, “Do the right thing, Edward.” From turning out the lights when I left a room to sending thank you cards after receiving gifts, he would speak those words.
Back then I did my best to avoid doing the right thing… or at least doing HIS right thing. Certainly, there was a good measure of youthful rebellion in that avoidance but there was at least an equal part of me that felt the mechanical, rote nature of his words. They felt empty and disconnected from a greater rightness that I sensed existed beyond the words.
If you had asked me back then I doubt that I would have been able to voice it but a part of me sensed that doing the right thing meant more than turning out the lights and sending thank you cards (although those are certainly good things to do!)
Now, though, when I hear those words coming from within, I find that I am grateful to have internalized this concept of “the right thing.” Not that I believe there is one “right” thing in a situation but because the question, “What IS the right thing?” opens me to bigger answers.
As the start of the Awakened Man Summit approaches and I dive deeper into the research and reading in preparation for it, I’m beginning to understand what it means to be an Awakened Man.
To be honest with you, when I got the “hit” to produce this summit, I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant to be an awakened man. I had a sense of what it meant, but no clear picture or definition. Now, with less than 2-weeks to the start of the summit, I’m starting to “get it!”
A big part of awakening, as a man, means letting go of the old concepts of the “right thing.”
Until recently most men have chosen to follow a path of rightness handed down blindly through generations of men. This unbalanced expression of the active (masculine) principle that has defined what it means to be a man in our culture has led to violence, war, unchecked growth and the increasingly unsustainable condition of our world.
More recently, some men – myself included – have actively chosen another path, one that disowns the active (masculine) principle and intentionally embraces the softer, receptive, feminine principle.
While there is much benefit in “exploring the feminine” most of these explorations start in reaction to the belief that there is something “wrong” or “bad” about the active, masculine energy. In that place of reaction, where men are actively connecting to the soft, feminine energies and consciously (or not) disconnecting from the active, masculine energies the “right thing” has led to inaction and an abdication of responsibility.
Neither of these paths leads to the Authentic Power that a man can access and wield when he disconnects from the old beliefs about manhood, discovers his true purpose and surrenders his idea of rightness into the service of the highest good of all.
It saddens me to think that my father – like most men – has never explored the concept of rightness unhitched from the yoke of manhood placed upon him by his forefathers (and mothers).
Rites of Passage
In most indigenous cultures there were, and remain, rituals of initiation to help boys make the transition from childhood into manhood. These rituals involve extended time in the company of men, away from the energy and influence of women. As these boys step through the fire of initiation they are unburdened from the need to act in ways that lead to approval and acceptance from the feminine.
These cultures understand the importance of guiding men out of the “womb” and into the world. For, in many ways, men remain connected to and immersed in the womb of “WOMAN” until consciously and actively choosing to release that connection and step out into the world “naked and alone” as an awakened, conscious, mature man.
Our modern culture lacks those rituals – or gives us watered down versions such as a bar mitzvah. So most men have not experienced the transformative possibility these rituals offer.
Until a man makes this choice and releases his attachment to the energetic womb of “WOMAN” he cannot show up fully as a man in the world or in relationship with a (singular) woman. There will remain within him an urge to answer the question “What is the right thing” based on whether or not it will lead to approval and acceptance from the energy of WOMAN.
The Hero’s Journey
Last night, I saw the movie Thor. It was a bittersweet experience: My beloved and I had been planning to see it together and it didn’t work out that way. We were in the midst of a relational opportunity… to choose to move forward and deeper into trust or to step backwards into distance and defensiveness. The jury is still out on which way we’ll end up going.
[Note that a slight movie “spoiler” follows!]
There is a scene near the end of Thor where he makes a decision to save many lives and an entire world. It is not a decision easily made, for in saving the lives of many he must cut the bridge that connects him to his beloved. In making that choice he knows there is a chance that his actions will forever separate them.
As he strikes the final blow that shatters the bridge he speaks the words, “Forgive me, Jane.”
If Joseph Campbell were here, he would tell us that, with that blow, Thor had completed his “hero’s journey.” He had learned to seek out, listen for and act upon a rightness transcendent to his own personal desires and even those of his immediate loved ones. He had become an awakened man and earned the right to become King.
While not nearly as dramatic as Thor’s actions, I made a decision yesterday to narrow my focus down to a laser point and put all of my time and energy into preparing for the Awakened Man Summit. I felt guided to stand in service of the highest good and consciously devote myself completely to this project.
In choosing that path and sharing my decision I knew that it could create a chasm between my beloved and myself.
Now I find myself standing at the edge of that shattered bridge wondering if I did, indeed, “do the right thing.”
Was the guidance I received authentic or was it coming from a place of fear?
Was my action truly “Awakened” or was I motivated by unconscious forces?
Will my beloved forgive me or have I permanently severed our trust and broken the bridge between us?
I don’t know the answers but I sense that asking these questions means that I am not far from the right path. My intuition tells me that my guidance was “right” but that I could have found a more graceful and elegant way to navigate those waters as I shared my decision.
Sin and Forgiveness
Sam Keen, author of Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man, and one of the speakers in the Awakened Man Summit, once said, “Sin and forgiveness is a better way to handle relationships than the illusion of perfection. We learn from our mistakes.”
What a relief it was to hear those words and to let go of the “illusion of perfection” in my relationships. And, yet, what a difficult path to walk… to be open to the “sins” of your partner and your own, to be willing to forgive your partner and yourself, and to be willing to acknowledge and learn from your mutual mistakes and use those lessons to awaken more fully. What a blessing. And what treacherous waters you may (WILL) find yourself in when you choose to engage in relationship in that manner.
I have no illusions about being a “perfect” partner (except sometimes when I do!). Nor do I have expectations of perfection in my partner (except sometimes when I do!) To be quite honest, I have no idea what it would look like to BE a perfect partner or to HAVE a perfect partner!
Perhaps perfection is to be found on the path of surrendering the question, “What is the right thing?” again and again, into the service of the highest good.
It seems that my father’s refrain of “do the right thing, Edward” worked, though perhaps not in the way he intended. I truly do long to do the right thing. Perhaps that longing is enough. And perhaps the desire to do the right thing, combined with the willingness to learn from my mistakes will keep me moving forward on the path of awakening.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below!