by Michael Eatmon, MenLiving Board Member
Last Saturday morning, my quads would have none of it. The yoga instructor called for a standing, bound, revolved figure 4. My lower back and legs laughed at the prospect.
My expectations and determination didn’t find the situation funny, though. I’ve dropped into that pose dozens of times before. “Seriously?” I asked my body. “This is how today’s gonna roll?” Outside me, the weather was sunny and coolish. Inside, I started to feel cloudy, hot, and humid.
Before a storm could brew, though, I heard my body answer my question. “You haven’t asked me to do this in weeks, so it kinda hurts. I’m out of practice; we’re out of practice. It’s hard to do what we’re not used to doing.”
The wisdom of my legs, lower back (and glutes, if I’m honest) struck me in an instant. It can be so hard to do what we’re not used to doing. This is true of muscles, joints, and connective tissue. It’s no less true of character traits we’re working on. Avoid using that honesty muscle for a while, and it may balk when we ask it to do some heavy lifting. Skip flexing our compassion joints for too long, and we may find them too stiff to use when needed.
Lost in a momentary dialogue with my quads, I lost track of the yoga instructor’s next call. (Likely, she invited a standing, bound, revolved figure 4 on the other leg.) I was thanking my body for the helpful and timely reminder about the importance of practice. If I want to show up as ever better versions of myself, then I need to strengthen the practices that’ll get me there.
To enrich my yoga practice, I follow a few ashtanga yogis, but how can I deepen my character practice? I haven’t found a better pattern to follow than MenLiving’s five Suggestions for Living Fully. Each suggestion, each “pose,” focuses on attitudes and behaviors in my life where I want to stretch and grow.
I want to live consciously.
Living life fully begins with awareness—of ourselves, of others, of the world. Awareness is a tree that always branches out while always growing within. Its root is an intimate knowledge of our self. Awareness looks and listens and considers, but it doesn’t judge what it sees.
Humans are animals with consciousness, but this awareness can seem like a mystery. At its core, though, isn’t it an acknowledgement and an acceptance of our whole self and experience? This deep self-awareness allows us to connect freely and openly with others, too.
I want to live curiously.
Curiosity opens doors to discovery, within ourselves and within our relationships. If I’m not curious about what’s going on inside me, then how self-aware can I be? If I’m not curious about what’s going on with and inside others, then how rich a connection with them can I have?
Curiosity wants to learn about what it doesn’t know. It asks questions, waits for answers, and withholds judgment. Its goal isn’t so much to accumulate knowledge about people and things. Instead, it’s to know others deeply and to be known by them just the same.
I want to live emotionally.
For many guys, experiencing their emotions is like riding a scary roller coaster. They’d rather not get on in the first place, but life seems to insist. Once on, they grip their safety harness and grit their teeth. They can’t get off the ride fast enough when it’s over. What scares many about their emotions is the unknown.
What if we allowed ourselves, though, to feel fear, anger, sadness, happiness, and arousal? What if we let them flow through us, instead of stuffing them down, trying to silence them? What might happen? We might just learn to live free . . . from expectations, from judgment, from fear.
I want to live candidly.
Oysters, mussels, and many men have something in common. They clam up when others approach. For mollusks, the instinct’s understandable. It’s no fun to be a seagull’s breakfast. What if you’re a human being, though, who wants to be in relationship with others?
To live candidly is to live in open, honest, sincere dialogue with ourselves and with others. It’s to speak and listen from a place of curiosity, empathy, non-reactivity, and love. When we live candidly, we say no to our ego’s need to protect itself and yes to our heart’s desire to share itself with others.
I want to live intentionally.
For some people, life is something that happens to them. As though on a flimsy raft on a stormy sea, they feel tossed around by their circumstances. They feel powerless, subject to whatever life washes their way. Worse, many feel anxious, even resentful, that things don’t turn out as they expected.
We don’t know how life’s winds will blow, nor can we control them. Still, we can stop living passively—as a victim, blaming someone or something when life doesn’t go our way. We can experience life intentionally, as a choice, curious about what it might teach us.
“How do you want today to roll?” my body asked as I set up for an inversion. Before my mind could formulate a response, my back, legs, and glutes reminded me of the answer. However I want my day to unfold, however I want to show up in it, determination and expectations won’t be where it’s at. I’ll need to practice the poses I want to drop into.
The journey I’m on is that of the alchemist. I’m not interested in transforming iron into gold, though, nor am I searching for a fountain of youth. What compels my quest is the alchemy of the soul. How might a man’s baser elements be transformed into a nobler essence? What are the philosopher’s stones that can help him achieve so great a work? One of them, I’m convinced, is true friendship—a substance I’ve found in MenLiving.