I am always surprised by the negative reaction from some to the word “spirituality” and I wonder why we deny this essential core of our being. To me, brought up in a Buddhist home and a Jesuit school among all other religions and diverse communities, spirituality is about integrity. It helps us to find meaning in life, provides a foundation of our values to guide us in the way we behave with self, others and the world around us.
Spirituality is a way of facilitating a dialogue between reason and emotion, between mind and body. This provides a base for growth and transformation from our ego-centered material self to an active, unifying, meaning-giving center.
Spirituality is about a transpersonal vision of goodness, beauty, perfection, generosity, graciousness, and sacrifice. It hinges on respect for self, others and the dignity of life. Love, compassion and empathy are its cornerstone leading to sympathetic joy and equanimity – to be grounded through this roller coaster of our uncertain, impermanent life.
Yet the 500 year modernization project driven by men promoting rational reductionist science has given material prosperity to a few, and left many in a spiritual desert – a rudderless life without much meaning and little appreciation for the inherent goodness of what it means to be human.
To be human is to learn to be vulnerable, open to our emotions, as emotion provide us vital information about ourselves and our surroundings. When we ignore or suppress emotion we act through sheer will and physical force, driven by the alpha male ego.
That was appropriate in the hunter gatherer days as we had to protect our villages from animals and intruders. When those threats were real, the Adrenaline, Cortisol and Cholesterol cocktail got pumped into our body to fight, flee or freeze, which would dissipate in the action.
Our modern threats and stress do not need physical reactions but thoughtful and mindful rational responses. The bio-chemical cocktail does not differentiate when we feel threatened with an argument with a loved one, a manager, colleague or just watching the news. When it gets pumped in our muscles tighten to respond physically, but our modern reaction is with words of anger or perhaps in passive frustration or fear, which does not dissipate the cocktail, so they become toxic in our body.
The myth of the all powerful man was formalized with Descarte’s wisdom – “I think therefore I am” – leading to individualism that separates the mind and body, dividing the material and spiritual world with science shaping the rational, reductionist mind to compete and use force. This physical and mental separation leads to solutions through the senses, to win at any cost. It does not leave room for a softer approach – have the courage to be vulnerable, kind, loving and generous.
This mastery of the alpha male half has created a competitive and a reptilian world denying the modern industrial man the wisdom of nature’s interconnected and interdependent quantum universe, which is spiritual and mysterious. We continue on this treadmill of thought and life, self obsessed with our ego driving us to be a predator to earn and consume more, as that defines our external success. Deep down we know something is amiss as we question the meaning of all this stuff.
Fortunately for humanity, women the world over have shattered the glass ceiling to find their rightful space as partners to men in the home, in business, politics and society. Women usher in the balance while us men struggle to find our new space – to bring our inherent gentleness, compassion and vulnerability that had been hidden for centuries as men were expected to only show our prowess – our physical strength, to compete, to seek power, lead and conquer.
There are ancient and not so ancient paths to wisdom to learn and practice, whether from the Vedic, Buddhist, Quaker or Aboriginal worlds – to find that power of balance between matter and the spirit, by accessing the inner strength – the power we have within.
Finding the space to be quiet and still to reflect and meditate on the breath gives our mind a break from those ever-moving thoughts to gain access to our extra senses – intuition, deep consciousness and wisdom. Then we realize the impermanence and the uncertainty of life and learn to let go of the generations of conditioning of how a man should be and adapt to the new realities fearlessly.
Creating a habit of focusing on the breath – to stop the emotionally conditioned thoughts help dissipate the toxic cocktail of the stress response and it can be more profound than that. In finding that deep inner-self, we can acknowledge and accept the mystery of life with grace. Us men may then become comfortable with our inherent nature to love, have compassion and empathy to complement our other nature. This balances our rational, emotional and spiritual intelligence – moving towards self-mastery.
Self-mastery is to acknowledge our emotions, be emotionally intelligent, act with integrity, be responsible and accountable – to be true to ourselves and others, to be generous, gracious and when we protect another’s dignity and life with our word and deed, we protect our own.
Being mindful is to find that spirit in our lives to give more meaning to whatever we do. For that we need to acknowledge – us men too are a bundle of emotion and real courage emerges when we become open and vulnerable to them.
That will help us heal our internal wounds of separation and find unity to mend our relationship with other beings and nature around us. That may just be the power of balance we require to set the intention to love and live as one in harmony with acceptance that us men will always be fallible in this imperfect world.