I had a powerful experience recently that I I feel I must share. It was something that helped me gauge how far I have come with my inner work and how I can use this as service to others.
It is in my awareness that there is often a message playing out inside me. This message can often be sourced back to one experience where I took it on and carried it with me throughout my life. It is a message that comes up when I am scared or frustrated, when I am about to push through to greatness or make genuine connection with others. Many refer to this as shadow. It causes tremendous pain and separation in the world.
I can remember as a child I felt open and connected to my world then as time went on things happened and I began to feel unsafe. People yelling at me, telling me I wasn’t good enough, and the idea that I was less than another.
The separation began. The idea of “the other” started to come in. The mental concept that I am different from those around me followed by a strong judgment about that based on salient experiences.
This idea of separate was wonderful and exciting in a heart based way but also scary when it became extreme in belief. I tried to find ways to comfort this idea of being different. I ran into others who had this and it was often centered on how they looked, where they lived, what gender they were, what kind of clothes they wore…
For more back ground I will share that I recently staffed a Boys to Men Adventure Weekend.
Boys to Men Mentoring is an organization open to individuals of varying belief systems. They do not subscribe to any one belief other than healthy men need to mentor boys into mature masculinity or they will burn down the village to feel the heat.
The Weekend Adventure is a camping trip set up by this nonprofit mostly volunteer organization. These events happen every couple of months for local youth in Hawaii (nationally as well). I have found these Adventure Weekends to be powerful but at the same time a challenging experience.
For me, it often brings up my own difficult childhood and opens some of the deep inner wounds from that. These wounds are things that I used to let define me as a man.
I have since done a lot of work around this wounding and the many disempowered beliefs that come up around it like, I am not safe and I am less than another. This was put to the test over the weekend when I noticed one of the young men giving me a look, one that I had seen many times before.
I can’t be certain what the look was about but it bought up that childhood feeling of being ashamed for what I look like. It took me back to that message I took on as a youth that I was a lame and goofy white boy and how I had to toughen up and project more anger. The energy I felt coming at me was something like, white boy has everything he wants and his life is perfect. This of course isn’t true.
When I was a child this would shut me down. I would pull myself inside and dim my light way down trying to blend in. I would pretend I was miserable to keep people from targeting me, that I wasn’t this happy little white boy that had everything because I didn’t. I embraced darkness to feel safe.
I had a lot going on that people didn’t see. There was a lot of pain and confusion for me as a child. I resented that on the surface my life looked like a episode of Leave it to Beaver and that I was not worthy of any respect. I felt I wasn’t able to shine the light of who I was and would get attacked if I did.
So this time I felt that child wounding and story come up. I caught it when I started to want to protect myself and get angry or engage with a dirty look of my own with this young man.
This is not who I am and not why I was on the weekend. I was there to support these young men so it was pretty easy to simply notice what was going on inside me, breath it out and not engage in any interaction. I just stayed neutral to the gaze I felt from the boy as I continued what I was doing.
What was so powerful was that a little while later I was sitting alone when this same boy came and sat down across from me at the picnic bench. I smiled and happily chatted with him when he asked how I was doing. He then began to share all the things he was holding deep inside that were causing him pain.
I was in awe of his strength and openness. It was such an honor to be there for him as he asked for help with a lot of the same things I went through as a child.
He connected with a number of other mentors that weekend in the same way. He later showed even greater courage when he spoke up in front of everyone sitting in a large circle. He did what I have seen as being so difficult for many grown men to do. He stepped into his power and spoke his needs. He put down the shame and asked for help which he will receive.
This was able to happen because men did not react to his behavior but instead owned their own triggers and held the space of compassion for him to let go. To begin to heal that part that can fester and turn into a monster that may haunt a man for his whole life. Inviting a force of energy into oneself that has the potential to create great pain and suffering in the world.
I know that part. It took me a long time to remove a lot of it and control what may be left of it. To realize that it is fed on the idea of being separate or less than others. It can swing into thinking it is better or uses judgments to justify its actions. It lives in a person’s head and stifles their heart, their connection to all that is.
I still have work to do with this (being vulnerable and open) but I see I am making progress and helping others gain tools so they don’t have to walk in darkness.
May you always shine your light for all to see,