The Power of Being a Spiritual Man

 gmp quest

Jacob Nordby believes the most heroic adventure in life is inward.

 

I will never forget when my own private Hero’s Journey began. It was one I had been eyeing, denying and running from my entire life. An outwardly successful entrepreneur, I began to have metaphysical labor pains at age thirty-four. It scared the shit out of me. I had this deep sense that the Great Inevitable was finally upon me. Yes, this was an adventure of the spirit and I was terrified of what I suspected would change my whole life.

It did.

What followed was an unwinding of everything that once held my American Dream exterior together. I did not like that. I no longer knew who I was—and neither did anyone else.

If you can imagine yourself playing the big game as a businessman, living in a beautiful home, commanding the respect of the community and generally viewing yourself as a stud, then you’ll be seeing the world through my eyes about six years ago. I thought I was living life to its fullest. I thought I knew who I was.

And I was wrong.

Now fast forward almost two years and imagine that same person living in a tiny rental in a distant city where no one knew me, working a couple of menial part-time jobs just to pay the bills, spending lots of time by a creek with a journal and leaky eyes.

At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.

I was a cautionary tale and probably the embodiment of every modern man’s worst nightmare. But somewhere inside, I knew that for the first time in my entire life I was walking the Path With Heart. Somehow I trusted I would find myself, stripped though I was of everything which had bolstered my self-concept.

As Alan Alda once said, “At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.”

And so it was with me. For the first time, I could feel that raw, solid ground under my feet. It no longer depended upon my bank account or credit score or approval rating. It only required me to get up each morning and face the world as myself and continue putting one foot in front of the other. I had to live honestly before my family without the shields of masculine infallibility. I had to let them see me try and fail and get back up again. I had to let them see me be weak and then find new strength.

But that is a terrifying journey and I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to embark on it. Why would any man voluntarily risk ‘emasculation’ in this way? What do I mean by that?

Here is a guaranteed recipe for a really uncomfortable evening: Walk into a sports bar, sit down at a table with ten guys and say, “Hey, I’d like to share something about my spiritual journey.” It makes my stomach hurt to imagine what comes next. First, everyone’s shoulders hunch over their beer. Eyes lock on the table. Jaws clench. Silence yawns like an open grave waiting for the offender to fall in and never, ever crawl out again.

Why is this? I mean, if you said, “Hey, I just bought a new four-wheeler,” or “I’m about ready to pull the trigger on a new business deal,” you just provided fodder for rousing conversation. More importantly, you fit in with what men love to talk about—what we love about life: conquest, adventure, and challenge.

So just why are we men so afraid to talk about our spiritual side, let alone explore it?

Sure, there are many reasons to avoid spiritual discovery and most of them are common to both sexes, but men face a particular obstacle and it is time we get over it. We are cheating ourselves out of the most intense, rewarding challenge—and adventure—of our lives.

For most of us, the word adventure comes as a surprise when juxtaposed with spirituality. We are so accustomed to pairing spirituality with images of Buddha meditating in the sunrise or women doing yoga poses. We imagine soft music, misty paintings, incense in the air and hushed voices. We suspect that it might require owning a Prius, eating grilled tofu and memorizing Sanskrit poetry.

We don’t remember putting on the armor that covers our raw, wild soulful magnificence, but here we are decades later clanking around in heavy, ill-fitting roles we don’t know  how to shed — and even if we did, we’re afraid we might get our balls cut off in the process.

Brothers—fellow bearers of testosterone—hear me well! This is no lecture about how you should feel badly for not wanting to sit on cushions and chant. In fact, at least for now, I’d like you to delete “spiritual” from this conversation altogether. Like so many other words, it comes with too much baggage. It makes us feel afraid we’ll have to turn our backs on what makes us men in the first place.

You see, we are comfortable with our boxed-in lives. We hate the constricted feeling at times, but we were conditioned from birth that men do life a certain way. We don’t remember putting on the armor that covers our raw, wild soulful magnificence, but here we are decades later clanking around in heavy, ill-fitting roles we don’t know  how to shed — and even if we did, we’re afraid we might get our balls cut off in the process.

There could be nothing further from the truth.

This is a call to the greatest adventure of your life. I’m talking about a conquest so intense that it will require all of your courage and strength and stamina. I’m talking about a hero’s journey into the most powerful version of you. One that will tax you to your limits and demand that you take the fullest measure of yourself.

And isn’t that what we so deeply want? Isn’t that what we secretly long for when life becomes a predictable cycle of work and routine and comfort? Don’t we really wish something would come along and seduce us into a heroic journey that will not let us rest, a journey worthy of us?

What if you ventured off the common map and were forced to blaze your own path with heart?

This is what I’m talking about and it has nothing to do with weakness. It has everything to do with learning what it means to be a spiritual warrior—and then living it out. Adventure, my friends. High adventure, indeed.

I am here to tell you that a hero lies within you. A creative, inspired being inhabits your man’s body and it wants full expression in your life. It wants you to stretch yourself to the limit and end your days on earth satisfied that you had the best possible run.

This is what it means to become aware of the suffocating web of cultural conditioning and expectations. This is what it means to face and embrace your fears of vulnerability so that you can experience the electric, breathtaking energy of who you really are.

I’m not asking you to apologize for being a man in this lifetime. You showed up here as yourself, in your body, absolutely laden with talents begging to be developed and potential insatiable to be revealed (now, ask yourself, just who is this being who showed up as me? That might be the very first step on your own expedition).

Your foes are the forces which say you must not stand up, stand out and discover the treasures of your own adventurous heart.

Since humankind began telling tales of epic adventures around campfires and in the agora and in novels and on stages and movie screens, something in us has always risen up to cheer the hero who ventured into the unknown to face insurmountable odds and returned weary but victorious.

You probably don’t need a sword or Viking ship in your daily life anymore. Your dragons don’t guard castles and you probably haven’t been required to fight to the death with any villains recently. But you are still a man and that spirit lives within you. Your foes are the forces which say you must not stand up, stand out and discover the treasures of your own adventurous heart.

◊♦◊

And now let’s return from this fanciful language and bring it home. You, as a man, are being asked to find yourself in the thicket of work and responsibilities and all the tangled rules which dictate how men must be. When you do, you will love your life more than ever before because you will know who you really are. This adventure will lead you into deeper love, richer expressions of your talents and more exciting ways to be yourself.

Now every time I used the words inspired or authentic or vulnerable, replace them with “spiritual”. You see? I don’t differentiate between these anymore—and nor should you. Spirituality isn’t reserved for the temple or meditation room. This is about real life all the way, baby!

If you were honest, what practical dragons block the path and keep you from this adventure?

Stay tuned. There’s a lot more to this story, of course, and I’ll be back to share more notes from the road.

Oh, and you should know that my own life is unspeakably richer now. I no longer wake up at 3 am with a knot in my gut wondering “…is this all there is?“. Every day has become a new step on the path with heart–an intense, honest journey which delights, terrifies and inspires me to be more than I thought possible. In very real terms, I now enjoy my career, a true partner relationship and many other features of my life are now light where once they were heavy. These are the real-world rewards of answering the call to inner adventure.

 

—–

(Author’s Note: The “Hero’s Journey” was explored in-depth by Joseph Campbell in his book, The  Hero With A Thousand Faces. He shows us how this theme is repeated in collective myths and legends from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey to Lucas’s Star Wars. This perennial archetype continues in popular culture in movies like The Matrix. In the introduction to his book, Campbell summarizes the hero’s journey this way- “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” The Hero archetype lies dormant in modern man and asks us to rouse it from slumber so we may experience lives rich with meaning and satisfying challenge.)
photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Featured photo: Michael Julian Berz Photography

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About Jacob Nordby

Jacob Nordby is a Good Men Project associate editor in "Good For The Soul" section, an author, speaker, and creativity coach.

He accidentally sparked a worldwide phenomenon when he wrote and shared: "Blessed are the weird people: poets, misfits, writers, mystics, heretics, painters and troubadours--for they teach us to see the world through different eyes."

He is author of The Divine Arsonist: A Tale of Awakening, co-author of two other books and is currently working on his second novel. He is convinced that everyone contains divine magic and his mission is to help them see it.

You may wish to get better acquainted with Jacob by visiting his website and downloading a free ebook or audio titled, Re-Mapping Your Life – A travel guide to get un-stuck, chart new paths & follow your purpose. Go to www.JacobNordby.com

Comments

  1. …Thanks for putting pen to paper on this subject…I can relate to almost every paragraph. Its been a similar Journey for me..and it continues..All the Blessed.. David Maddy, Dublin, Ireland

    • Thank you, David. I am so glad to meet you. This is born from several years of frustration with the prissiness and even arrogance which turns many men away from the true-est adventure of life.

      Thanks for being a fellow warrior.

      Jacob

  2. Thank you!!! read with tears of awareness that the path im on and the journey im taking is the right one for me. Namaste xx ps ive had to save this so i can re-read

  3. Darling Jacob – once again you have hit it right on the head! THIS is what women are talking about when they talk about a “real man”. I am sharing this with everyone I know – especially those with relationship issues. “Knowing oneself” does not require wearing long robes, endless chanting or losing all traces of what it means to be masculine. It requires guts, hard work and a mind open enough to really listen. Thank you for sharing your gift and this message – you are such a special blessing in my life and I have no doubt others’ as well.

  4. Jacob, well done! I know several men who should read this piece and will be passing it on.

  5. Jacob, As someone who has had the privilege of having some of these “spiritual” conversations with you in person, I applaud you for sharing your talent and insight. Best to you (and everyone reading) in the future.

  6. Good piece, brother!

    And of course, Campbell’s book is a must read for anyone contemplating a life on The Path – however you name it.

    Two thoughts to add here: First, my recommendation for anyone starting on this journey, or contemplating it is, don’t go down to the sports bar and try to explain it to the bro-bros – at least not right away. First, find yourself some new friends who are on The Path themselves, and will naturally be supportive of your own (often) stumbling first attempts to both understand and walk it. Folks like these are actually all around, both on the net and off. Having them as some sort of spiritual community is really invaluable.

    Then, once you’ve got some soul support, you can go back to the sports bar and try to explain to your bro-bros. Maybe you’ll touch a chord (or hit a nerve) in one or more of them – and maybe they’ll look at you like you’ve been invaded by the body snatchers. But it won’t feel so bad, and you won’t get so discouraged.

    It’s like when you’re trying to start a business. You want to get some other entrepreneurial types in your corner – and not necessarily share your shiny new plans with the fam over the T-day turkey.

    Second thought: Another must read book – one I would actually recommend BEFORE Campbell’s, is MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING, by Viktor Frankl. It’s very short (Campbell’s is pretty long) and it is one of the most compelling little books you will ever read. Even if you’re not thinking about any sort of Hero’s Journey, or spiritual Path, Frankl’s book will give you an incredible sense of AGENCY when it comes to finding the authentic meaning of your own life.

    It’s actually must reading, in my view, for anyone who is interested in what GMP purports to be about.

    • Paul,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I so agree.

      By the way, Frankl’s book is one of my all-time favorites. I wish it could be “highly suggested” reading for every human being in first world countries. It would spark a revival of personal responsibility and engagement in life that would doubtless change the course of history.

  7. Hi Jacob…that was truly awesome (and I’m a girl!!!). I would love to send this on to my brothers, but I can’t yet because it doesn’t tell them ‘HOW’ to go about this journey, ‘How’ to start, ‘exactly’ what they need to do. I know my brothers and they will just say “Well, that’s great for him, but I wouldn’t have a clue where to start, so I won’t do anything!”… ‘I’ could make suggestions from my own experiences, but I think they need to hear it from a Man, a Man who has done it. Can you give me a few pointers to pass on to them with your article? I know you are really busy, but I would be most grateful! Cheers Lesley

    • Leslie,

      So good to hear from you. I wrote this for men, obviously, but this call to adventure isn’t exclusive, is it?

      I would be delighted to share some thoughts. In fact, I did that in the e-book/audio available for free on my site (see the Author bio section below).

      In my experience, we don’t embark upon the journey until it becomes inevitable for some reason. When people ask me “how” questions, I want to know first how important it is to them. Because the inner journey isn’t one we can possibly do unless we are willing to step outside the comfort of how we have always seen ourselves (and been seen) in the world. Feel free to email me so we can chat a bit more if you like.

      your fellow traveler,
      Jacob

  8. Truthseeker says:

    I’m really curious what prompted this change of your previous paradigm? What was the catalyst for your change and why are you so elusive in revealing the truth of it? Also, doesn’t the website where this article is coming from “The Good Men Project” just continue with the idea of separation between men and women and why is it that no one seems to recognize this? Is it because it is shrouded or “cloaked” in the idea of “spirituality”? Isn’t that then a false path of enlightenment?

    • Hello, Truthseeker.

      You ask some good questions. Actually, I have been quite forthcoming about this journey in my novel, The Divine Arsonist: A Tale of Awakening, as well as the short (free) e-book and/or audio titled, Re-Mapping Your Life, which you can download on my site if you so choose. Space doesn’t permit a full exposition in this article, but I’m happy to share the whole enchilada.

      As to GMP and excluding women…well, I applaud Good Men Project for providing a thoughtful, honest platform for men to get something other than the usual fare. This is about a “conversation no one else is having”. Not only are women encouraged to join in (I think about 50% of the readership is female), but many of the writers are of the fairer sex.

      I’m happy to meet you here and hope you’ll stay tuned for more notes from the road. We’ve only just begun.

      your fellow traveler,

      Jacob Nordby

      PS, my site is jacobnordby.com and you’ll find easy access to the downloads I mentioned.

      • Theorema Egregium says:

        Please! The notion of women being the fairer sex (or the weaker sex) is one of the concepts this website’s mission is to challenge. I for one refuse to be seen as one of the “ugly sex”. I would appreciate it if you were a little more careful with words such as these.

        Otherwise, great article! Guess I should get around to reading Campell now. I’ve been interested in reading this book for quite some time.

  9. Thank you, Jacob!…For stepping out and not only giving a voice to men who want to join the spiritual adventure, but also for giving hope to us women who are excited to partner with the new and evolved spiritual man. Both men and women are discovering a new heightened desire for a spiritual partnership that was once reserved only for church-going folks. Thank Goodness for the Men and Women who are stepping into their spiritual body with strength, kindness and sexiness! Hallefrickinlooyeah!

    • Suzanne,

      Thank you so much for being one of those who simply won’t be put in a box–who have such ardent conviction that living whole and free is our very birthright.

      Hallefrickinlooyeah, indeed!

  10. Ahhh….34 is a magical age. But so is 44. And I can only imagine what 54 will hold!

    Beautifully written, as always, Jacob. Your gifts and your words enrich the lives of those who have eyes, ears and hearts to receive them. Thank you for your willingness to expose your most vulnerable self to show the way to others. Namaste’ _/|\_

    • Jennifer,

      Thank you! You’ve been a friend for a long time and watched from varying distances as I worked my way through the process. I’m grateful for your presence and I honor your path, too.

  11. Fellow traveller :-)

    What book is being referred to above? The Path, Campbell?

    • Vickram,

      There is a whole banquet of books woven into this piece. Carlos Castaneda spoke so often of The Path With Heart. I am deeply inspired by his work.

      Joseph Campbell’s, Hero With A Thousand Faces, is another which deals with the Hero archetype. I owe a lot to him.

  12. Rachel Wenger says:

    fantastic!! Well written and solid encouragement for moving forward as a spirit in a “meat coated skeleton made of star dust” There are several men in my life who will be encouraged to read this, and join me.. if they dare.. on the Path.

  13. Edie Weinstein says:

    From this openly, unabashedly spiritual woman who has many deeply, living from the heart, gut and soul men in her life, I applaud my blessedly weird friend for penning this epically awesome piece. Jacob, I am constantly amazed at what pours forth from you. I will share this with my friends (male and female) who will reap rewards from reading it. Hugs and high fives to you, mi amigo.

  14. Jacob well said !!
    may many see it, feel it, & be open to it
    this awesome journey

  15. Janice Hunneybell says:

    My dear friend Jacob, I so enjoy witnessing you going from strength to strength as you share your roller coaster ride with us all! I enjoy the way you openly express yourself, passionately, poetically, with humour, courage and honesty. If you can encourage men to be more expressive of their authentic self, to talk and to share thoughts and feelings rather than being ‘strong and silent’, the women and children who love them will be forever grateful – and the world will be a better and happier place!

    • Hi, Janice!

      I appreciate you. One thing I realize is that I can get a lot better at speaking Guy. In other words, I want to do exactly what you suggest (“…encourage men to be more expressive of their authentic self, to talk and to share thoughts and feelings rather than being ‘strong and silent’) AND do it in a way which the male brain can assimilate. It is my job to become more fluent in that language. :)

      Thank you, my friend

      Jacob

  16. Excellent article, Jacob.

    People shy away from spirituality because it’s too real. It’s scary…at first. And awkward as you pointed out in your example of going out with the guys to a sports bar.

    Thank you for giving voice to the men out there who are struggling with this, but even more, to anyone who is grappling with their spiritual identity. I don’t see this article as just for men.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading more. Thank you.
    Blessings.
    Penny

  17. Beautiful article Jacob! Every time I read something written by you, it makes my soul sing. Men, as well as women, would do well to heed your call to investigate their spiritual nature. Otherwise, Life has a funny way of “gently nudging” (a.k.a. traumatically pushing) us toward that journey eventually anyways, whether or not we “signed up” for said journey.

    Namaste my friend!

  18. Elena Castro says:

    Jacob, thank you for this straight up article. Women may have easier time accepting the call, but we also tend to fall into otherworldly positive-thinking all-needs-to-be-happy extreme. And looking like that is what scares me to come out of the closet. I love love love how you ground it in real life, real human experience.

    • Thank you, Elena! I feel we are entering a critical cross-fade zone in humanity and are being asked to integrate both masculine and feminine in a whole new way. Thanks for being one of those who gets it.

  19. Thanks for this. The spiritual journey is so rewarding. It is such a shame most men i come across just dont want to talk about feelings!

  20. I felt your words to be: Inspiring. Encouraging. Thoughtful. Resonant. Passionate. Strong.
    Gets my vote for the most enjoyable read on GMP so far.
    Looking forward to reading more of your work.

    cheers mate! :-)
    Leo

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