The Solid Masculine

photo by fazen

What does solid masculine energy look like, what are its key qualities? Shalom Ormsby, with an invitation to explore.

What does it mean to be a solid man? Beyond all the clichés, stereotypes, and cultural expectations, what does this look like on a practical basis? A close friend and I recently explored this question, which has intrigued me ever since I was a boy. As we spoke, we realized that we were both holding pieces of insight for each other. When our pieces came together, they sparked in ways that surprised and delighted us both.

Before I share what came to us, a quick word about my use of the first person plural, below. I use “we” when writing about the solid masculine not because I think of myself and my friend as super solid masculine guys (I have much to learn in this department), but rather because these insights seem to come from a place that is true, solid masculinity. Meaning, it’s not about us, personally – it’s not an identity or even a personal quality. It’s nothing that the ego can claim as “mine.” It’s just… the solid masculine. So what is that? Here’s what came to us.



A solid man isn’t afraid of attachment. We aren’t worried about losing our freedom through attachment, nor do we believe that it’s somehow “unspiritual” to be attached. To the contrary, we understand what healthy attachment is, we appreciate the importance and beauty of it, and we fully step into it when the time is right. Healthy attachment is the natural consequence of being intimately connected with what’s truly precious in life and aligning all of our available energy and resources to support this. Like Odysseus lashed to the mast of his ship so he could hear the songs of the sirens on his odyssey, we lash ourselves to spirit, to truth, to love, and to all those sacred things that express and support the fullness of life. We don’t bother attaching to transient or trivial things that would just drain and dilute our available time and energy – that’s a setup for distraction and suffering. Instead, we stay in constant contact with what’s most important, and we remain 100% devoted to it and connected with all of our hearts, minds, and muscles. This kind of clear, solid attachment orients all of our priorities and gives us the opportunity to be of service to things that are greater and more important than ourselves.


Being Of Service

The solid masculine doesn’t just GTD (Get Things Done); we do what’s most important. Our priorities flow from a clear vision of what this is for ourselves. If we lose sight of what this is, our attachments remind us through our connected hearts. We understand and respect how essential integrity is in every aspect of our lives, our relationships, and our work, for we know that the means and the ends are inseparable from each other. Nor are we concerned about orders of magnitude in our work. We simply do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, without allowing our egos to trick us into grandiose or diminutive thinking. So if the trash needs to be taken out, that’s what’s most important in that moment, so that’s what we do. Whatever it is, whether taking out the trash or working to cure cancer, we know that “Work is love made visible,” so we give our all to it. As we make our love visible, we notice the metaphors that the intelligence of life offers in the process. We know that in order to be able to do our work well, we need to have clear and clean hearts and minds, so we make a practice of taking out our inner trash regularly. We know that our lives are short and precious, and so we do everything we can to focus our resources on serving what’s most important before we’re outta here.



The solid masculine has healthy boundaries. We’re not leaky with energy – ours or anyone else’s. We’re not looking “out there” in the outer world for fulfillment, so we’re not spooked or seduced by the countless hungry ghosts that roam the world. If our partners are having a hard time, we deal with it without taking it personally (even if their hard time seems to be about us). We own our own egos and the suffering they can cause, and refrain from projecting this on others. Nor do we get locked in reactivity when others project their suffering on us (even if our partners do this, which can really sting). When our boundaries are healthy, we can rest confident in the awareness that there’s nothing to get, nothing to defend, and nothing we have to be or not be – there’s just insight and self-awareness to be unlocked and experienced. We’re not wrestling with appearances. We’re rooted in our own authentic, imperfect, ever-changing beings, intimately engaged with the universe that dwells within each of us. And even in the midst of the inevitable pains of being human, we’re able to experience the paradox that only by having created healthy boundaries are we able to experience the boundless. As the Zen riddle says, “You have to be somebody before you can be nobody.”


The Compassionate Conqueror

However Zenlike the solid masculine may appear, this doesn’t mean we always just “go with the flow.” [In fact, the Zen master is a highly specialized kind of compassionate conqueror.] We know there are times when we must confront and conquer the demons of fear, ignorance, illusion, confusion, and whatever else attempts to block us and our work. When we encounter these demons, we recognize that life is giving us opportunities to show what we’re made of and to practice skillful means of engaging and overcoming them. However these demons happen to appear, we don’t run from them, nor do we try to bully them into submission. Instead, we connect with a power that no demon, fear, illusion, or confusion can touch. Naturally, we experience fears along the way, but they don’t rule us; they don’t get to run the show. We remain open, loose, and creative in the presence of  whatever challenges or freaky things show up. We may get our asses kicked for a while, but that’s okay. Eventually, we get back on our feet, dust ourselves off, and reconnect with the infinite strength that lives within each of us. Once we’ve done this, the battle is already won – precisely in the way that’s the most compassionate. Demons can’t be conquered in ways that aggrandize the ego, that diminish other beings, or that add to the suffering of the world, for those are the exact tactics that the demons themselves used, which assured their defeat. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “All through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it – always.” Ultimately, only the compassionate means of truth and love can achieve a lasting victory over demons, tyrants, and anything that tries to block life’s fullness. Therefore, the solid masculine follows Gandhi’s wise example and does everything in its power to conquer every adversity it meets with compassion.


Receptive and Vulnerable

Sorry women, but we don’t see receptivity and vulnerability as being exclusively feminine qualities; the solid masculine embodies them too. We make a habit of receiving whatever happens to show up in life and working with it as best we can. We don’t pretend that we’re stronger, more capable, or more enlightened than we are. We’re not hung up on gender identities or stereotypes, so we don’t try to appear to always be the strong ones, or to be in control, or to be taking care of business. [We enjoy all that, but sometimes we’re not that, and when we’re not, we don’t pretend that we are.] We know from personal experience how much strength it takes to be vulnerable and to own our shit. So we practice doing this whenever life asks it of us. We do this because we have know that the innate intelligence of life is constantly expressing itself around and within us. And we know that this intelligence is so much greater than our own limited minds can ever comprehend. So we’re receptive to whatever shows up and we work with that, trusting that although we may not be able to understand why things happen as they do, we can rest in the awareness that the universe is smart and trustworthy, and that it constantly offers us custom-fitted opportunities for growth and evolution. So even when things happen that are precisely the opposite of what we wanted to happen, we’re able to humbly remember how limited our egos are and how little we know about what “should” and “shouldn’t” be… and then we trim our sails to use the energy of the ever-shifting winds to continue forward on our odyssey as best we can.



Presence is the key to our strength. Presence is our (not so) secret sauce. Presence is instantaneous connection with the infinite, right now… now… now. The beautiful-magical thing is that presence is available whenever we need it. The masculine is solidly present. Not distracted, not drunk on ego, not chasing this or that illusion. Rock. Solid. Present. And when we get thrown off the rock of presence (as life’s surprises can quickly do), we practice quickly finding our way back onto that solid ground. It’s never further than a breath away. We know that when we’re not present, that’s when get into accidents and make big messes. That’s when things get real ugly, real fast. Having created enough messes in the past, we practice our own ways of cultivating and remaining connected with presence. My presence practice is breath-awareness, which connects with and draws energy from my meditation practice. Whatever technique we use doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we become skilled at recognizing when we’ve lost contact with presence, and that we do whatever we need to do to get back in the flow of presence. When we’re present, our words and actions are supercharged with the intelligent life-force that Eckhart Tolle calls “Presence Power.” And when we’re not able to be present… life has countless ways of jolting us into awareness.

Of course, this is a very incomplete story about what defines the solid masculine. What can help make it more complete is your perspective. Whatever your gender, your thoughts and ideas can help deepen and diversify this discussion, so if you feel inspired to share in the comments below, please do. So I’ll close with an opening: What do you feel are key qualities of the solid masculine?

photo: frazen / flickr

About Shalom Ormsby

Shalom Ormsby: "The first time I experienced the magic of art, I was about six years old. As I gazed at the painting, I had no idea what I was looking at, exactly. The more I looked at it, the more I saw, the more I felt, and the more I wanted to look at it even more closely. I was enchanted." Visit his blog, here.


  1. Thanks, Jean. Have you seen the interesting post on a related theme by a fellow Good Men Project author?

    There’s a diverse conversation happening in the comments. I’m so glad that we’re engaging in open dialogue about these important subjects. There are so many flat stereotypes about what it means to be “a real man,” and there’s been concern expressed about “feminized men.” To me, one thing is clear: The concept of what solid, healthy masculine energy truly is has been sorely in need of updating for quite a while now, and I feel glad to be involved in this process however I can. The time is now.

  2. Isn’t all of that just being a solid human?

    And whoever those women are who think they own receptivity and vulnerability aren’t worth your apologies.

  3. Great start. Let’s go from this base and fight the good fight to the last breath.

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