I am not sure what I am going to write about today, but I better hurry up and figure it out soon. I’ve got stuff to do today besides write. I could just start writing and see what comes out. That might work. I would, however, risk losing your attention. You might not have an interest in reading about me warming up to writing. I had better think about this. Please give me a few minutes.
I am good to go. Thank you for your patience. I appreciate you clicking on me without giving much thought into why you were going to do so. The least I could do is do some contemplation about what to write. Following said contemplation, I have decided to write about contemplation.
What is contemplation? It is a word that means to take a look at something for awhile. You can contemplate things that you can experience or you can see. You can contemplate your thoughts. You can contemplate your feelings.
I have recently returned to worship with the Religious Society of Friends, more commonly referred to as Quakers and commonly referred to as, “I thought Quakers died out long ago.”
No, you might be thinking about the Shakers. The Shakers made great furniture, but didn’t believe in making the sexual kind of love.
Since that is where babies come from, the Shakers had trouble finding other sources for Shakers to come from.
The Quakers never had any problem with sexual reproduction. They still are very much around. They don’t dress funny anymore or refer to themselves as “thee” and ”thou,” though. (I love having the occasion of having thee, thou and though in the same sentence. I hope my editor won’t ask me to change that.)
Quakers are known for keeping things simple. When Quakers get together for worship it is called a Meeting. They worship in Meeting Houses. Meeting houses are know for being as plain as can be, No steeples, domes, or high arched ceilings. No angels in the architecture. No statues and usually no religious leader. The head of Quaker Meetings are called Clerks. Clerks are usually not paid. They usually don’t preach or teach, they just are in charge of taking care of business stuff.
Quakers are in the business of social justice, in a activist sort of way, as a form of worship. Since the dawn of Quakers in the 1600’s in England, Quakers have been active with pacifism, anti-slavery, inequality of all kinds and prison reform.
Some Quaker Meetings have pastors. My grandmother was one. For Quakers, having women in leadership positions is nothing new.
Quaker Meetings For Worship come in two flavors, programmed and unprogrammed. I am used to the unprogrammed kind. At my Quaker Meeting, worship starts by sitting in silence. After an hour, it is over.
The preaching and teaching goes on mainly between my two ears. Sometimes someone will speak-up and share a little about what they are thinking about. This usually takes about a minute. There is no raising of hands to ask for a turn to talk, because there is no one assigned to make that choice. When to talk, how long to talk, what to talk about, and whether to talk at all is up to the individual. No one keeps score.
Quaker meetings are a good place for contemplation.
I started going to Quaker Meetings when I was about 12 years old. I stopped going in my 20’s. I stopped for the righteous reason of not feeling like getting up so early on Sunday mornings. I figured that I could contemplate in the comfort of my own bed, when I felt like it. Over the years, I found I didn’t feel like doing if very much and I didn’t.
When I retired, I was afraid that I was going to have way too much time for contemplation. It took coping with some strong anxiety and depressed moods to discover that I loved being left alone with my thoughts. I discovered through the goodmenproject.com website that I had a place to share my thoughts through writing.
Reading articles posted on the goodmenproject.com website inspired my contemplation of changing perspectives on masculinity. The website inspired me to write more. Even re-reading my own articles after they were posted has been inspirational.
It was a common practice, not that long ago, for men to go for long walks, just to think. Such journey’s were often taken at night. Short walks often lead to places with few lights and plenty of night sky and night quiet. These days such places are often only accessible by helicopter.
Walks since the invention of the portable cassette player, called the “Walkman” can be less contemplative. I am old enough to remember quite clearly my excitement when I got my hands on a small portable radio, made possible by the invention of the transistor.
I would take my transistor radio with me on walks.
Walking with the radio changed how I thought. I was less likely to notice the weather conditions as I was walking, because I was paying attention to a weather forecast about the next day. I was less likely to ponder something old, because the news was on. Contemplation can be hard work. Listening to one tune after the next, much easier.
The present day “smartphone” is the mother of all distractions. Thanks to technology that you can hold in one hand, any urge to contemplate can be quickly erased.
When I was in high school, I struggled to pay attention. Something a teacher said got me thinking, but while I was contemplating a point made by the teacher, the teacher was moving on to make a bunch of other points. These later points could be on the test. I needed to keep pulling away from contemplation to keep passing tests and then a bell would ring and it was time to change classes. In the next class, I might start contemplating how something I began contemplating in the last class related to something in the class I was in at the time. Some teachers called that daydreaming and told me to stop it.
Books were bad for the same reason. I would get to wondering about an argument made in the foreword until I panicked remembering how many pages I was supposed to read that night and more pages in other books that needed to be read.
This reading madness reached its height for me in graduate school. I paid big bucks for bunches of books that were required reading. Every professor assigned more required reading than could be read and as an extra gift, provided lists of optional readings. When I asked any of my fellow students if they were reading all of the required reading the answer was always no, followed by a guilty sounding laugh.
I studied to be a social worker. After I graduated, I knew that a good social worker seeks out books and trainings to learn more after graduation. So, I shelled out more money. I often worried that a client would have a problem that I hadn’t read enough on. Sometimes, I did read more to help me better help someone, but usually I did not. There was so much to read and so many people to try and help.
As I got more experienced, I became more aware of the problem of treating the client in front of me, as if they were a case study I had read about. I caught myself responding to clients as representatives of concepts in books, with less focus on their uniqueness. I started to get the feeling that too much reading can block feelings about a client’s unique situation that can be very helpful in making decisions about what to explore and what to leave alone, in terms of addressing their problems.
Not treating clients as a category seemed to make it easier for me to support clients in telling their story.
You could find a story like it in a book, but not exactly like it. In telling their stories, clients often referenced strengths that they had used a little bit to try and help with a troubling situation to no avail. At least, they thought to no avail. I found that strengths the client had used before they met me arose out of their unique personality facing a unique problematic situation. I would often encourage clients to do more of what they were already doing and to be more optimistic about the good results that would come from doing so.
When my timing was off, it was usually because of my lack of patience in listening to how anybody in their situation would be as hopeless and helpless as they. If I replied that I was amazed at how well they were doing given their situation and was curious how they managed to do it, too soon, clients would look at me funny and repeat how I didn’t get the hopeless and helpless part of their story.
I, too, often thought that since I had spent so much time and money on training and education and was paying off debit incurred in doing so, I had darn well better tell people what to do, based on what I had read about people like them.
I found over the years, that one of the best uses of book learning was to be able to recognize when a client was doing something that the books said was good to do, yet the client hadn’t realized it.
It is something like the movie The Wizard of Oz. The “great and powerful Oz” could have taken things he had read in books to give the Scarecrow a teaching on how to get smart, the Cowardly Lion, instruction on how to “grow a pair,” the Tin Woodsman lessons on loving, and Dorothy, suggestions on finding home. What Oz did instead was to listen carefully to their story about how they were able to get the broomstick of a wicked witch to be able to point out the unique ways that each in their turn were smart, brave, loving, and knew just how to get home.
The goodmenproject.com website is a place where you will find unique stories about men, most of whom are not celebrities. These stories can help a man recall some of the stories of their story, a process than can reveal forgotten strengths related to being a man. This process can reveal times when a man thought he was being the man he wanted to be, but was’t. It can reveal how he realized that and what he did about it. This can help a man do it again.
You, most likely, are not going to be able to find your stories about being a man any other way than through contemplation. Chances are, you won’t be able to Google it.
Here are some suggestions to help you with this contemplation:
- Go for a walk. Bring your smartphone in case you get lost, but otherwise leave it alone.
- When you are not feeling exhausted and are tempted to seek out some quality recreation, chose contemplating instead.
- Write, if if you don’t fancy yourself to be good at writing, write more. Write about anything that is on your mind.
- Meditate on some thought that comes into your mind. Stay with that thought. See where it takes you.
- Think about what experiences made you the man that you are today, good and not so good. Think about what is not so good that used to be great. Think about how you got good. This can lead to how you can get back to good, your unique way.
- Think about your use of technology including media consumption technology. What do you remember doing before this technology was available to you? Think about your use of technology as a child.
- Think about the story of your sexual awakening. Where did it go wrong? Where did it go right? Where is it today and how come?
- Think about your relationship to play from as early as you can remember. How did your gender influence you play for the better and for the worse?
- Think about stories older men have told you. How have they affected your story?
- Think of fictional stories that have impacted your sense of manhood.
- Recall the women in your life that have informed the expression of your maleness.
- Notice how the length of this list is stating to irritate you as there is nothing on it that appeals to you. Contemplate how you already know how to contemplate well and how you do it.
- Stop reading this article and just do it.
- Taking the time to contemplate your strengthen and awareness that you don’t like the concepts of Man and Woman. If so, great. Just remember that goodmeproject.com is good for you, too.
If you liked this article, it might be because it was written by a man who used to be a psychotherapist. If you have seen a psychotherapist, you already know the power of psychotherapy to fuel life-changing contemplation. If you think psychotherapy is only for losers you are wrong. If you think you aren’t ready to face something that a psychotherapist might suggest you face you are right if you believe that, but are probably wrong in your beliefs.
If you thought this article sucked, that does not mean that all psychotherapists suck. It was just because the article was poorly edited or that you didn’t contemplate it enough.
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