What it Means to Be a Man

Another day is dawning and here I sit after completing my yoga, meditation and prayer.

Yesterday, I spoke with an acquaintance who had some less-than-stellar things to say about the Ashaya Path I am considering for yoga teacher training. This upset me, but it was also a gift. I was able to set up a meeting with the founder, Todd Norian, and speak honestly with him about my concerns. After 51 minutes of conversation, I felt heard and connected, though a bit fatigued.

I was tired because I fear authority, especially male authority. It’s an old story, really, dating back to fathers, principals and bosses. We men can be ogres and I carry around some of the wounds that men, unconsciously, gave me as they were trying to change me from a boy into a man. What a shame it is that we men tend to think of ourselves only as doers and competitors on the field of battle. I am reminded of the story of John Henry, the steel driving man, and other myths that puported to teach me how to be strong. Sigh.

Of course, I have redefined strength in the last twenty years. Since the moment I entered into life-coaching, men’s work, yoga, marital therapy and more I have become much more than the John Henry or John Wayne version of a man our fathers knew. When we think of those characters, don’t we see them in competition with someone, defeating another in order to prove themselves? Well, what life is really about IMHO is decidedly not about competition. It’s about collaboration.

And that brings me back to my conversation with Todd. While I carry around an old fear of male authority, I don’t act from that perspective any longer. I have learned to be Bierko Strong – honest, kind and curious when courage is called for. I may have vestiges of the old tapes in my head, but now I know how to bravely move towards another man, even one who I incorrectly perceive as better than me in some way, with a growing sense of self-worth. To me, this is the essence of what it means to be a man. I am neither full of myself nor full of fear of the other. We meet as hale fellows, not as competitors on the battlefied.

Why is this important? Lots of reasons, but one I’m thinking of right now is that there are very few male yoga teachers and even fewer men who participate in yoga. As I enter into a predominently female field, I am conscious that I am in a minority, that something has occured and still happening in our society that has turned men away from yoga. I plan to find out the why of that and investigage how, perhaps, I may be able to change that, if the opportunity arises. It’s such a strong practice and I believe that men could benefit from participating in it more.

The last thing I’d like to say today is that we often will be challenged when we turn towards the light. The Universe sends us some tests to see if we’re really serious about changing and growing. In my case, it was the acquaintance who was displeased with Todd and two other people who expressed their own doubts and concerns about the path I am considering. Again, Bierko Strong is about being kind, compassionate and curious, so my old tendency of wanting to feel angry or competitive with these “challengers” had to be converted into questions – what valid, important concerns are these people raising about my path? Is there something to reconsider before engaging on it?

So, I’m not 100% committed to the path, yet. I still have some thinking and investigating to do before taking the next step. This is okay. I’m not in a gunfight and I don’t have to draw quickly to defend myself against a foe. Life choices can be slowed down, considered and reconsidered. It’s even possible to say, “No. I am not going to take the Ashaya Path” or whatever else we want. This is another new learning about being a man – our quick thinking and acting isn’t always a virtue! We can meditate, pray, collaborate and write about it before we act.


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