Issue 2021-4 (August)


The Northern California Heartbeat is a place for men to tell their stories,
share their works, their experiences, and keep the community up-to-date.

— In this Issue —

    Submit your article & story ideas!


    The Greeting

    Kelly Doughty & Son

    Kelly Doughty & Son

    Welcome to the August 2021 issue of the heartbeat!

    In the four pieces below you will see some of each man’s journey.

    I see these four pieces as embodying listening wisdom, the deep caring of king-warrior decisions for safe space, a brother’s internal journey, and in community, to raise awareness on internalized racism, privilege, and cultural appropriation, and finally wisdom from the heart and belly. I suggest you find a quiet moment and add these journeys to your own—here’s what came up for me. Do you have one to share to? 🙂

    In July I had a big journey, both physically and psycho-emotionally. Over a ten-day period, I drove my ex’s car to Southern California, emptying my son’s storage unit, and delivering the car with some of his belongings to my ex and son in Colorado. The journey started with local “basecamp” support from my youngest daughter, valkyrie-like support from my middle daughter in Southern California, and finally deep connection and communing in nature with my son in Colorado (pictured above).

    For me that journey was like a string of beads… One in the beginning as my youngest daughter, in the middle with my middle daughter, and at the end with my son who is the oldest (29, 32, and 35). As I shared my feelings and became vulnerable with each of them during this trip, I felt deeply seen and supported. In each their own way. Thank you MKP! Afterward I dove into feelings of fathomless love, and deep anger and grief for not being able to protect them. In one hand love and the other anger and grief, and all within the stark reality that I have no control over their well-being and happiness. A truth of every parent and partner. I choose to hold this all and I find it challenging. Support from my Warrior Bothers makes this choice attainable for me.

    Thank you, brothers!!! On top of life‘s experiences, we are also experiencing contraction due to Covid. If you have had enough zoom pick up the phone! Stay connected brothers. Stay engaged with each other. I need you, we need you, your family needs you, and the world needs us.

    Kelly Doughty, Nor Cal Area Steward;

    Skinny Trees

    Joshua Lowe

    Joshua Lowe

    Climbing up the hillside
    Behind the house
    Out to find the last golden threads
    Of daylight woven among the wild grass.
    Sitting with these skinny
    trees called friend.

    I find myself longing, once more
    for a straight path forward, the teacher
    who points the direction home.
    Nothing is guaranteed
    Nothing lasts forever
    Or more likely,
    the opposite is true.

    And if this wise one
    came knocking,
    what then?

    I can clearly hear the question offered
    In answer to my unease.

    Have you ever tried walking
    up the hillside
    at dusk to catch the last breath
    of day and bear witness
    to the night’s unfolding?

    Be still and listen for the small, quiet prayers
    that awake and stir in the darkness.

    Joshua Lowe, Laughing Mutt Twin Heart

    New Warrior Training Adventure (NWTA) Enrollment; Next Man

    Randall Maynard

    Randall Maynard

    Just a short note this time around. No NWTAs for 2021. Yep, we had to cancel the Sep & Oct NWTAs, because of the recent uptick in COVID infections. Not much else to say at this point.

    I feel disappointed, but I am clear that we made the prudent and safe decision. None of us want anyone to be sick or die from attending an NWTA. I feel sad for the 17 men in each NWTA who had seats, the over 80 men on the waitlists, and the men of staff & MOS.

    While we plan for next year, hoping for a Mar 2022 NWTA, we still need to hold to probably the most important guidepost of any NWTA…safety. When we feel we can do this safely, we will. Not a moment sooner.

    Appropriately, below, I share a piece that was written by an MKP Elder.


    Once upon a time there was a group of men…and they lived in a time when life was hard…full of challenges…some, the men had never encountered before—and things often appeared to be—and indeed were, beyond their ability to control. But these men were warriors, elders, magicians, shamans, lovers, and kings—so when challenge and adventure presented itself, they were known to say “Yes! That’s just the kind of thing I like!”

    And so, one year—after a time of great storms, great challenges, great disappointments, great sadness and for many, great loss—a time when many felt lost, felt alone, felt separated, felt as if the life they had known and loved had in many ways ground to a halt – a call to adventure came again!  And the men breathed deeply…smiled…looked deep within them…found their “inner allies”—their inner child, wild man, adventurer, and king—and again said, “Yes! That’s just the kind of thing I like!” And they looked to the horizons…to the wild seas…to the deepest oceans…to the vast deserts…to the majestic mountain peaks…to the deep forests and jungles…to the very stars…and to the hearts and lives of men…and they began.

    They began to prepareindividually and together; to plan, to consider, to pray, to center, to meditate, to organize, to build—to be ready for this next great adventure…this joyous return to a part of their calling and to this special “fleshing out” of their mission.

    And…as they drew near to the time when their planning and preparation would begin to take on it’s final leg of preparing to launch the adventure—as the very countdown began…the storm again reared its head. The wild winds began to blow, all the elements raged and seemed to once again stand in the way of the time to launch that next great adventure.

    And those tasked with the sovereign challenge of making that “go—no go” decision thought, shared, considered, meditated, prayed, listened…and finally brought their word: “Not yet.”

    And the men…poised…ready…hopeful…yearning…longing…heard the word—and breathed deeply. The warriors, elders, magicians, shamans, lovers, and kings felt deeply…every feeling that surged deep within them.

    And they raised their eyes again—to the horizons…to the wild seas…to the deepest oceans…to the vast deserts…to the majestic mountain peaks…to the deep forests and jungles…to the very stars and to the hearts and lives of men…

    And they will wait. The men who are poised…ready…hopeful…yearning…longing…will wait, as they continue to live their adventures…to live their callings…to live their missions – however, whenever, and wherever they find themselves—for having already found themselves they will never again lose the deep “who I am”—for I am…you are…we are…the gift.

    And the time…the right time…will come.

    Until then, blessings, thanks, keep giving, and peace.


    For scholarship, payment, and registration information, see New Warrior Training Adventure.

    Randall Maynard, Lion’s Tooth, Enrollment Coordinator;

    My Experience Bringing the Topic of Racism to My Local MKP Community

    Tom Lorish

    Tom Lorish

    My Experience Bringing the Topic of Racism to My Local MKP Community; And Why I Have Hope

    My first honest look at racism came in January 2021 on the Nor Cal Race & Racism (R & R) call with men from the DC Tribe (men well versed in racism work). Before that, I had little or no understanding of what White Privilege and Fragility actually meant. Because of this call, I volunteered to lead one of our local circles here in San Luis Obispo (SLO) County. My topic was “Racism: White Privilege, White Fragility.” Two days before leading this circle, I had been on another Nor Cal R & R call, this one focused on MKP’s use of Native American rituals. I was struck by the things that the guest presenter, an MKP USA and Native American man, felt were most sensitive and hurtful to him as a Native American. These were the animal name ritual, the talismans men wear sometimes, and the sweat lodge ritual.

    He went on to say, the most important thing was the intention behind the use – his suggestion was, if you are going to use them, bring Recognition, Respect, & Gratitude into the use. This would be a way of honoring the source. Also, land acknowledgement was very significant. What is the history of the land we’re gathering on? (For my circle here in SLO County, it is Chumash land.) This Zoom meeting was when it hit me that I had almost no understanding of where the rituals we use regularly come from, and while I believe we use them with respect, I know I had not expressed recognition or gratitude. And I had no real understanding of who the Chumash were and what happened to them to lose this land (I do now). This all troubled me — I felt shame for my ignorance and sadness about my uninformed use of these rituals.

    The Fork in the Road

    The Fork in the Road; by Tom Lorish

    Beyond that, the MKP USA Native American man encouraged us to ask, “why are we doing these things?” Why do we use the word “Aho” or why do we smudge or why welcome in the grandfathers – does this have meaning to MKP and or to the IGroups? Or is it just something picked up at the NWTA and used perfunctorily?

    Following the R & R call on Native American Rituals, I decided to drop my use of my animal name and Aho (and subsequently have stopped using any of the Native American rituals). After looking at my use of the Native American rituals, I realized, I was using them in a perfunctory way. I hadn’t understood where they came from, yet I went ahead and used them. My feeling was, how could I be using these rituals respectfully or express my gratitude if I didn’t understand where they came from? Again, I felt shame, anger, and sadness. I felt out of integrity. This was something I could change, so I did. The Native American man on the R & R call described it as whites “playing Indian.” That stuck with me, and I agree. I choose not to “play Indian’ anymore because I know it is insensitive and hurtful to at least one Native American man, a man working with MKP USA on this topic. For me, the toothpaste was out of the tube.

    Because I was on the R & R call on Native American Rituals two days before the local circle I would lead, and because of my personal decision, I made a request of the men in this circle: to suspend the use of “Aho” and animal names for the 150-minute duration of the meeting. My thought was, this IGroup would be open and curious enough to handle both the sensitive and provocative nature of the topic (White Privilege, Fragility & Racism) and would accept meeting for 150 minutes simply being what we were – Elder white men. I was wrong about this in many ways. I had expectations about how this meeting would go and that the men would readily accept my request – I was attached to an outcome. When it didn’t go the way I wanted I was angry and sad. I didn’t and don’t know what these men’s relationship to their animal name was or is, so my judgements got in the way of learning their point of view. I have since heard from several men about their relationship with their animal name and this helped me understand how they’re approaching this issue.

    Several issues were triggering for me in this circle. Before the Zoom meeting even began men were making racially insensitive jokes until I spoke up, asking if they’d be saying these things with a Man of Color present. This made me angry and I found it very disturbing – and the meeting hadn’t even started. Once the meeting started, I made my request that men suspend their use of Aho & their animal name. About half the men honored my request. And from there, in my judgement, the meeting was really about avoiding the topic of racism – it was clear to me these men were very uncomfortable, if not fully triggered. Me included. I was very angry and very sad.

    I had put a lot of time and effort into my presentation for this topic and was angry these men chose not to use their work round time addressing an issue I believe is important and sensitive both in and out of MKP. I thought, we meet 40 times a year or so, surely, we can use one to address racism, but that’s not where these men were at – it’s where I was at. It was hot for me and it hadn’t occurred to me that this could be something men might not want to address, for whatever reason. This in turn made me sad. I was saddened by my unmet expectations and my attachment to an outcome. I was saddened by what I judged was men avoiding the topic of racism. Mostly, I was angry and sad that I wasn’t able to create the dialogue and exchange I wanted. Somehow, I thought in my first circle about racism, I’d be able to create a safe place for men to share openly about a topic that has become radioactive. This, I see now, was my ignorance (in the true sense of the word – “absence of knowledge”) coupled with my arrogance. This was completely unrealistic. I can see now that this work takes time and moves forward in small steps.

    This meeting, in my judgement (IMJ), was an excellent example of white fragility and privilege. We whites largely don’t have to deal with Race and Racism if we don’t want to. Nobody had to be present at the February Circle (Zoom), and in daily life, especially here in the very white SLO county, thinking about racism can be “turned off” anytime we want. Not the case for people of color, and indigenous people. This experience made me realize I was very ignorant about systemic racism in the United States, in California, and my community. AND, I didn’t have any idea how to get a meaningful dialogue started with my MKP brothers about this topic. More anger and sadness.

    The R & R call in January made me aware how my own deep-seated challenges in life – not being heard, being dismissed, being marginalized – resonated with my rudimentary understanding of some of the systemic challenges faced by men of color, women and other marginalized groups. Let me be clear: I am not comparing my personal challenges to what people of color experience with systemic and personal racism. I am saying, this was my “felt-in-my-guts” lead-in to realizing how fucked up and painful it is to be dismissed as a group, to not be heard, or to get lip service but no action, even before being dismissed as an individual for similar reasons.

    The protests, even the destructive ones, felt to me like loud yells to be heard, to truly be heard. To be listened to with the intent to understand. I can relate to that in my own individual personal way. I still experience that frustration, like while attempting to bring the topic of racism to my IGroup. It hurts and it’s frustrating – I feel it in my nervous system. It makes me fucking angry, and sad. My nervous system gets jacked into hyper-arousal, fight, flight, freeze. I can’t imagine what people of color go through on a daily basis, worrying about getting pulled over by the police, for example, and what it does to their nervous system. And that is just one aspect of systemic racism.

    I share my experience of leading the IGroup in February because it made me realize how naïve and ignorant, I was about how entrenched white privilege and fragility is – and, I believe this is true for my MKP Community and MKP at large. We’re no different than the general population.

    Because I felt this topic was important, and because I hadn’t seen any other SLO Community folks on the R & R calls, I brought all of this to my local MKP community council via an invite from the council “King.” I decided to focus on the Native American rituals first as a way of taking a smaller bite (my learning from the circle). My hope was that through hearing my experience, the council’s group wisdom would be open and curious enough to do their own research into Native American rituals used by MKP. My thinking was, by doing this, they would’ve heard it directly and then with this information, they could make a decision what to do with it; e.g., share it with the larger community was my hope.

    They chose not to look into it saying it was an issue for each IGroup to address on their own. I came out of this call numb. I realized I had expectations of a specific outcome and I did not get what I wanted. I had plenty of judgements along with more frustration and anger. Why was I not being heard? Why did it feel like so much resistance? Yet, I was being heard. And, I was making progress. It just wasn’t what I expected it to be, it didn’t happen when I wanted it to or how I wanted (what it would look like). It took me several weeks to process this and regroup after the SLO council Zoom meeting, but once I did, I realized I had many paths I could take, many men to support me, and I was re-energized to take action.

    Through my experiences with the IGroup & SLO MKP community council, I had found a number of like-minded men that were very supportive and wanted to continue this work. These men were receptive to helping me create another circle for dialogue and exchange – a sharing of our realities and perspectives on the topic of racism. I realized I had learned a lot and there were ways to keep this topic alive in the SLO Community. I learned I needed to make sure men felt safe when talking about this uncomfortable topic, and that I’d need to take smaller “bites” so the impact of whatever came up was manageable.

    In April, using my learned experiential wisdom, I led another IGroup. Again, I chose to focus on MKP’s use of Native American rituals. I had planned to use the whole time focused on a very important topic (a shadow) that needs to be addressed in individual circles (IMJ). I had a man co-leading the circle with me. I also had a “shadow watcher” to step in if he felt a man was triggered, but not owning it. I had planned as much as I could, based on my experience in the previous circle I led, and the SLO Council meeting. What I had not expected was being met by resistance in the week leading up to the circle; I was called out by a senior man for changing the IGroup format without clearing it with the group. This was NOT part of my plan! I was surprised and flummoxed. I was being challenged about “how” I was doing the circle – the fact that I intended to use the check-in round AND the work round to address the Native American rituals was the issue.

    I was told I was breaking our local circle’s agreements, though as other men chimed in, I learned I was not. Subsequently, this brought me to take action around our local circle’s agreements, specifically, to ask what they are and how we actually make agreements. I like clarity. Clarity of agreements with accountability means safety for me. I can navigate and know what to expect of myself and others. If I’m not clear about agreements, and there is inconsistency around accountability, I feel much less safe. I like and want more warrior energy and boundaries in any circle I am in. This is important for me, to make a container safe. I believe challenging topics like racism need safe containers to have honest and open discussions (IMJ).

    The impact of this challenge stemmed from the timing (the Monday before our Thursday circle), and the sideways (IMJ) method used. It threw me off my mojo, and troubled me as I felt my integrity was questioned. I felt wronged. This brought up anger and sadness that a well-regarded man in my local circle did not trust me enough to be thoughtful in my approach to account for how to handle it if a new man showed up (we’re an open circle). This was a big unexpected distraction and I had a circle to lead.

    Because of the challenge, I modified my plan limiting the topic to just the check-in round. This was significant for me – I had spent a lot of time planning this circle. I felt cheated, and despite many men telling me afterwards it was a very moving and meaningful circle, I came away with mixed feelings. There was excellent turn-out; 14 men, of which at least 5 were there exclusively for the Native American topic. In addition, my co-lead did an excellent piece on “walking in another man’s shoes” that was very moving and impactful to the men in the circle. Conversely, it was clear (IMJ and I was told directly by a couple men) that some men, don’t want to deal with this topic (MKP’s use of Native American Rituals) or racism and or don’t like how I’m doing it. I was told by a man that “you are not an expert on this subject. I don’t like the way you’re doing this.” I felt sad hearing those comments – I did not feel heard or understood. Nevertheless, there were good things from this circle – I learned more and realized I needed to move out of my regular MKP circle to address the topic of Racism. I have taken action on that. As of this writing (early July), I have sent out an invite for a “Special Circle” to take a deeper dive look at systemic Racism in our Society. Five men are “in” at this point – I’m encouraged!

    Also, I was able to get a hold of the MKP USA & Native American man who spoke on the R & R call to further my understanding about the animal name ritual for Native Americans and how MKP came to the other rituals used in the NWTA. I signed up for and completed MKP’s Waking Up to Whiteness training, and subsequently, Unpacking Power, Privilege, and Difference. I read Resmaa Menakem’s book, My Grandmother’s Hands, and Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste along with all the materials from the two MKP trainings I mentioned above. I am learning and finding new paths to keep this topic alive in my MKP Community. Onward.

    This has been a very meaningful exploration and experience for me in many ways. I’m learning more about myself and my shadows, patterns of behavior, and the trauma stuck in my body. It’s the work I need to do, and it is what links me to the topics like racism. In some felt way, I feel the unfairness of being dismissed without you caring to know who I am, the effect of not being heard leading up to the point of utter frustration and lashing out. My experiences with bringing the topics of racism and MKP’s use of Native American rituals to my local MKP community has helped me understand and process my shit so I can more effectively address these topics and others. It is a necessary step. I can’t help others if I can’t help myself. I believe this is a good thing for me and those around me, and it gives me a better foundation to continue my journey as a white man addressing systemic racism. My hope is that my actions might make a small difference for the better.

    I am encouraged because:

    • Five men responded to my “Special Circle” invite with, “I’m in.”
    • My local SLO County circle has largely stopped using “Aho.” And there are men who are receptive to creating our own rituals instead of borrowing from another culture.
    • There are many men taking the MKP Waking Up to Whiteness training I took in May – men are interested enough to be curious and step out of their comfort zone.
    • There are many men taking the MKP Unpacking Power, Privilege, & Difference training I am in the middle of as of this writing (early July).
    • MKP created the two trainings above, which means this issue is important to MKP USA and it makes me want to stay involved with MKP.
    • MKP USA has an Intercultural Committee to address the issues of borrowing Native American ritual.
    • My (SLO County) Coastal Circle brothers continue to support me in this endeavor and because of the conversations we’ve had energize me and show me I’m on the right path.
    • A huge proliferation of educational material about these topics is showing up in every format (books, YouTube videos, online articles, etc.).

    These are some of significant things that give me hope and I’m grateful for. Yes, it’ll be a long journey, and like everything I know to be successful in my life, it is “one day at a time.” If I do that 8, 9, 10 thousand times, I know real change happens. All by doing it in a manageable, one small bite at a time, I believe we can handle this shadow.

    Thank you for taking the time to join me on my journey for a bit. I wish you the best on yours, whatever that might be – the work we do in MKP, IMJ, will make the world a better place, one small bite at a time.

    Take good care,

    Tom Lorish

    To contact me, email

    Acknowledgement: A large amount of gratitude to Chris Kitts (& the inner UG) who was an honest editorial collaborator, sounding board, and caring MKP brother.

    A final note: I encourage anyone that has not done so already, to take one of the MKP trainings I listed above – they both are very worthwhile, well done, and worth the time spent.

    An Embodied Warrior

    What We Don't Know…Finding Inclination, Intuition, and Inspiration

    What We Don’t Know…Finding Inclination, Intuition, and Inspiration; photo by Jan Watson

    As The Mankind Project (MKP) shifts its work from experiential initiations created by men sharing sacred space to online courses, and training in written protocols and procedures, we grow further from embodied learning in the “oral traditions,” and in greater need of somatic practices that can preserve the depth and wisdom of experiential learning. Applied Aikido is unique among many somatic disciplines (Feldenkrais, yoga, bodywork and dance) in that its principles teach conscious embodiment under pressure. Men’s consciousness work addresses pressures from shadowed beliefs of unworthiness and triggered charges in relationships of adversity. The realms of shadow are the stuff we don’t know that lie beneath the surface of conscious awareness.

    Jerry Green

    Jerry Green

    In Robert L. Moore’s 1995 Address Masculine Spirituality, he states the first component as a connection with a man’s power, and the second is channeling that power constructively. He relies on Mircea Eliade’s idea that “when human beings cannot find the Center, they fall into chaos.” He develops the concept of Center as an ascent from chaos through creative epiphany to community and cosmos, a journey of actualizing the four archetypes of the soul, rooted in Jung’s thinking and cast as foundations of MKP New Warrior Pedagogy: King, Lover, Magician, and Warrior, energies we must learn to balance in our “journey to the Center.” (Moore, p. 163)

    Could finding center in conscious embodiment empower the journey to the spiritual center we seek in community, which actualizes the four archetypes of the human soul and lead us from chaos to cosmos? Moore’s language speaks to the human psyche (mind) and its quest for social harmony and sustainability in a world we have all but destroyed. Though I haven’t found evidence of somatic thinking in his writings, he does address the need for grounded and centered thinking in transformational work, and these are fundamental somatic ideas indeed. This seems like a great opportunity for applying Aikido for somatic attunement to our embodiment of center in support of our journey to center in our growing spiritual community. I believe that I’m more likely to find center in community when we each can find centered presence in our bodies. The Mission of Somatics is to restore care for one another and our environment by being more in touch with ourselves.

    I learned about accessing the wisdom of not-knowing from practicing Aikido, and now I’m exploring the application of its principles to conscious embodiment in men’s work. MKP has pioneered restoring emotional intelligence in men, whose culture and upbringing discouraged our emotional awareness and self-expression. Men still enter men’s work thinking that feelings are “fine,” maybe “a bit warm/cold.” Once we learn mad-glad-sad-afraid-ashamed, we may wonder about entering a woman’s world. I learned to talk about feelings, which often begins by addressing how I’ve been feeling lately, and perhaps for some time. Without conscious embodiment, I may report what I recall about feelings, which is in my mind, where my attention is on my memory of the past.

    Elder presence has a lot to do with the present moment, and this observation speaks as much to accessing heart-felt emotions as it does about entering the illusive realms of not-knowing; imagination, intuition, and wonder. My feelings are fleeting… emotion is “e” (energy) in motion. Somatics teaches that without conscious awareness, my emotions can lodge in my tissues as tensions and connective tissue rigidity. As a child, I grew up with a mild congenital cerebral palsy that contracted my left extremities, made me a target for bullies, and disqualified me for physical education activities. My emotional intelligence was locked in my head as thoughts, and I was blocked from embodied awareness. Studying conscious embodiment with somatic practices opened myself-awareness beneath my neck, and Aikido trained lowering my attention under the pressure of being attacked into my torso (heart) and my belly (hara). Without this dropped attention, I was likely to get riled up under pressure.

    Language of the Heart

    By putting my attention in my heart before speaking my feelings I can distinguish what’s presently alive there from how my mind thinks about what I’ve been feeling all week, perhaps much longer. So before discussing the wisdom of not-knowing, let’s consider what conscious embodiment brings to distinguishing the past from present. As I learned to identify and express what I was feeling, I became aware of familiar feelings, those that accumulated over time, and then I looked for opportunities to express them.

    Sometimes I would express them to the people with whom they were associated, and often I would bring them to my I-Group in some form of “work.” As I discovered their “fleeting” nature, I learned that feelings change on their own (emotion = “e” energy in motion.) How am I to know if they still abide in my heart unless I can access my heart-space with an open mind. If “I know what I feel,” I may be in my head. Perhaps an unanticipated greeting changed what was in my heart on the way to group.

    Language of the Hara

    Belly wisdom is even more elusive. It compliments memory of the past in my head with the gift of centered presence. But this hara has no conceptual language, and its wisdom lies beneath the sensate language of feelings and emotions. It’s called a still-point, is dimly lit, and easily obscured by heart-felt passions. I get there by feeling my weight, connecting with Earth’s magnetic attraction to my center of gravity; by playing with balance: right/left, front/back, and going within through a kinesthetic listening. A thumb over my navel helps to feel this illusive center beneath the palm of my hand. I let go of wanting to know… get comfortable with the silence; feel my potential for length and expansion; and begin to wonder or imagine.

    In Aikido, it’s letting go of a learned technique, trusting the safety in balance and connection to Earth’s center some four-thousand miles beneath mine. I can harness its power, and access its wisdom when I align my heart/torso centered above my hara, and begin to appreciate its language when my head sits balanced over my heart. But I keep my attention in my belly and resist putting words to my thoughts. I wait for something to emerge from the emptiness. Beyond a familiar fear of the unknown, which I’ve grown accustomed to; still in wonder, something inevitable fills the vacuum. Often it first appears as an inclination, literally as in a leaning; a fitting reference for the center of gravity, a movement toward some direction in space, or a connection, perhaps a pull.

    Applying this practice to men’s work reminds me of the musician’s connection with the muse; she doesn’t come if he thinks he knows what he’s playing. But he still picks up his instrument and appears to know what he’s doing…only if my attention is not in thought, and my emotions have subsided, will this wondering evoke an impulse from connections unknown. I call that intuition or imagination, and it can evoke inspiration. Such an impulse can shake my whole body. I can see it in men’s compassionate curiosity dialogues when speech slows down to reveal space between the words, as though the speaker is listening to another source. Sentences often begin with “I wonder…, or I imagine.”

    When I consider the qualities of awareness that I can find there, I have an opportunity to resolve splits between what my head thinks and what my heart feels. What kind of resolution might my gut provide when my head and heart diverge?

    I like to consider a recent situation of being under pressure, perhaps from a triggered shadow, or a work/relationship encounter. The response to this pressure can be felt in the body as one of three common somatic responses to pressures (push-back, cave-in, rigidify.) These responses, embodied predispositions, can be transformed by centering and grounding practices that support connection by extending energy from our center.

    An experienced staffer at Nor Cal’s last initiation weekend described this work as an “advanced facilitation skill” after he attended a presentation including practicing responding to pressure from stances and with gestures that model extending energy from a grounded center (title photo.) These applications are somatic alternatives to psychologically reprogramming shadowed beliefs.

    After attending an online open circle, one embodied warrior said:

    My new awareness was a sharpening of something that I have been feeling for most of my life; easily mistaken for fear or shame that I am not good enough. As I became aware of my body and how I was standing, I noticed my alignment, balance, and posture, as well as the feelings in my gut. When I worked with my alignment I experienced a release of the emotional feeling of shame. This was accompanied by a release of energy in my body and mind…not able to say if the flow was out of me, into me, or an exchange of energy with the other men. I am grateful, energized, and curious.

    This man’s account addresses both his personal work and the impact of connecting with others from hara. He changed his posture (stance, shape, attitude) and became totally present with the other men. We experienced this as a group, each in our unique way, all knowing “your work is my work.” I-Groups know the feeling of connecting at the heart level. We haven’t practiced connecting from hara yet, and we can…

    I also invite men to simply name or title their group work rather than formulate a “work statement;” say just what or who it’s about before dropping into the heart space. Speak what’s alive there at this moment. Then settle attention in the still place and get content there without thoughts or feelings. Compassionate curiosity dialogues reflect this somatic process by exploring feelings and what’s imagined about a world of mystery beneath the reality of known thoughts and felt emotions.

    Aikido principles empower conscious embodiment in communications to transform frustration and overreactions into responses that leave you satisfied, calm and respected. Can you identify the posture of your predisposed responses to pressure? Can you transform the tension patterns in your stance to a centered and grounded connection with others?

    I believe you can…Many blessings.

    Yitzak / Jerry Green, Playful Otter; Lead Elder Emeritus

    For Open Circles incorporating conscious embodiment: email


    Japanese Calligrapher Sengai made the mystery of the Circle/Square/Triangle visible to the world throughout history. They represent the grounding of consciousness in the human body and are the spiritual dimensions of embodied consciousness in Aikido (head/heart/hara.) The mysticism of these cornerstones of sacred geometry also associates the shapes with the energies of fire/water/spirit, written about in Jewish Mysticism as The Three Mothers, the energies that bring forth creation. These notions are expanded in Kabbalah of the Mother Letters, in Tiferet: Journal of Spiritual Literature (#11, 2009.)

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