Men at work – An exploration of men and men’s work (Part 2)

Masculine and feminine dimensions of life

At the beginning of this article I wrote about the two general purposes of training specific for men. First, learning to stay open to life. Second, embracing the feminine. They’re somewhat similar but one normally leads to the other.

Here it might be a good place to start talking about this feminine and masculine business. Needless to say, they don’t have much to do with gender rather these are qualities or dimensions of our existence. You can be identified or not identified with any gender but you’ll still have a core. It could be well covered up but you still have one. Identification or non-identification is a game of the psyche, the realm I’m talking about is an existential reality. Reality always wins.

The feminine and masculine dimensions have been represented through eons in symbols such as the Moon and Sun, Shakti and Shiva, Yin and Yang, Ida and Pingala, left and right sides of the body and so on.

The qualities of the feminine are that of life: it is endlessly moving, endlessly fascinating, the dance of life itself. The feminine, Shakti, is life itself. The feminine is all about “more”. While the masculine quality is that of presence, purpose, freedom and “less”. The masculine is empty consciousness, the feminine is loving energy that responds to consciousness. It’s like the Sun, which is always on and present, and the Moon which constantly shifts and shows a different face every day. Because the feminine is life herself she pays attention to everything (multi-focus) and as the masculine is pure consciousness he is single-focused. One more way to look at it is that “she” teaches about life while “he” teaches about death.

We possess both of these qualities in a different mix, and each of us has a core, yet with training both can be developed so that they find a conscious expression in the world.

Now, how to tell if you’ve a feminine or a masculine core. If you enjoy dancing, singing, creating art, really just being with life endlessly then you’re likely to have a feminine core. On the other hand if practicing stillness, watching a still lake, paying utter attention to something, dedicating your life to a purpose, just sheer emptiness of consciousness is what lights you up then it likely means you’ve a masculine core.

To illustrate it differently if sitting alone in a quiet room meditating is as exciting to you as watching paint dry but you yearn for your partner’s undivided attention and presence when you’re together it likely means that you have a feminine core.

I’m over-generalising here but roughly this is how it works out. Before we get confused, we all have both but I’m talking about a core. Finding this core is very important.

Very often men have a masculine core, which means that he’ll be always looking for freedom and emptiness. However much engagement is there with the world he will always be looking for this to finish so that he can return to nothing and emptiness. Unconsciously, that’s why men might zone out in front of the TV after work with a beer. The masculine wants to be free at all cost. However, it can develop into some pretty unhealthy habits, so training is very important.

Life moves incessantly

The very nature of life itself is feminine. She moves. The day changes during a 24 hour period, weather changes, seasons change, circumstances change, emotions change, people change and so on. She moves it all. This has been called as Shakti in the yogic tradition but don’t have to worry about these terms. If you can see that life is just one big movement you’ll realise, especially if you’re a masculine-core person, that this can get overwhelming at times.

Or always.

As we’ve looked at it above, the nature of the feminine is to dance with life while for the masculine is to pierce through anything (problem, complication, difficulty) so that it can release and get back to emptiness.

The problem is it never really stops, unless you live in a cave.

Just ask most men if they understand their partners, spouses, girlfriends. The answer more often than not is a big resounding no. One hour she’s happy, the next one she’s said. One day she wants to chop off your head, the other day she just cannot stop loving you. One year she’s all about painting, the next she just wants to dance.

It is very confusing to men with single-focus.

The more you try to understand her intellectually the less she’ll make sense because for her to tell you why all of a sudden she likes painting yellow pots she has to trace it back to what happened three months ago when she was out with her girlfriends talking about painting, then how good she felt in the yellow top she wore the other day, then to seeing a beautiful pot in a farmer’s market last weekend and finally to the perfect weather today.

The feminine is multi-focused, it takes in and experiences everything. There is a perfectly rational reason for her to paint yellow pots today but not one that will make sense to you.

This is perhaps the biggest mistake I see men doing with their partners: they try to understand her…logically. But they’re using the wrong body part. She is not meant to be understood, she is meant to be experienced.

But I digress.

Staying present

It is very easy to get entangled with the movements of life if one is not centred in the present moment. For one to be seated there steadily requires training. In essence, it requires the training of attention so that it is pulled back from the movements of life all the way back to consciousness so that it is unsullied, pure awareness. As the distance between the world and consciousness grows the easier it is to stay present to, but not get entangled with, what’s happening on the outside.

Now, this all sounds nice but how do you do this consciousness business?

There are a myriad of ways and really it depends on the person. For some sitting in a dark room and meditating for five hours will do, for some it is martial arts training, for some it is chopping wood, for some it is body or movement based training, for some it’s lifting weights, for some it’s driving a car at high speed. It really varies. But the idea is that the more you can stay present in your practice, really aware of emptiness and silence, the more you can stay present to and be with the outside world as she moves day-in and day-out.

As we looked at it in the essay on free will once there is distance between you and the world it is exponentially easier to relate to it. From my non-representative survey of women over the years, single-focus in a men can be the most annoying thing in the world (“Why does he always leave the cap of the toothpaste off?!”) but when this, this pure awareness and presence, shines on them it is the most exciting thing in the world. Now she can blossom into full radiance.

Women will not be able to explain to you what attention or presence is but they all can tell you when you don’t have it.

Now, what happens when there is no such awareness and men are subject to the vagaries and daily movements of life?

Unfortunately, we see this very often and I also witness it in men’s groups. Men not knowing how to relate to life beyond their attitude that it’s some kind of competition where they have to win or gain something. Not knowing how to relate to their partners or children. Having difficulties with their fathers.

Addicted to their job title, career or status. Addictions of other kinds: women, sex, porn, cigarette, drugs, alcohol and so on. Not knowing that help is available, believing in the old story that boys don’t cry and that it’s socially not accepted to call for help.

The list goes on.

It’s really a sad state of affairs but very rarely talked about.

Stay tuned for part 3.