How can you create somatic experiences in nature to help heal deep trauma?
There’s been a revolution of sorts happening in men’s work, and “men’s groups” are becoming more popular. These are groups where men can communicate more deeply – including about their feelings – with other men.
One of the goals of these groups is to help men discover past wounds and heal them. And a powerful tool to help them do that is somatic work. It goes beyond “talk therapy”, and works at the sub and unconscious levels to heal trauma and other unresolved issues..
Among these groups is Evryman, and Michael Lipson is one of its executive team members.
I first met Michael in another men’s group called “Tribe of Men”. I found him to be an incredibly effective and creative coach. Among his many talents is the knowledge of multiple personal growth tools, and having an innate sense of which one to best use in different situations.
In this interview, we explore his experience with the power of somatic healing – how it’s used, what it can do, and when to best use it. This interview even starts off with a six-minute meditation which helped me “drop in” more deeply for the interview.
Here’s more info about Michael’s background from his LinkedIn profile. As you can tell, he’s a power player:
“Michael is an independent coach, consultant and advisor dedicated to helping individuals, teams and organizations identify, achieve and exceed their core aspirations. His work blends business and personal optimization, and emphasizes leadership, awareness and strategy. His clients are CEO’s, founders, execs, partnerships and teams who are seeking to have more impact, achieve greater success and experience more satisfaction and flow at work and beyond.”
- Investment banker with GE Capital for 8 years.
- Turned start-up and tech entrepreneur in 1990.
- Transitioned towards CEO and leadership coaching from the late 90’s to present.
- First VC funded start-up in ’94.
- First of 5 CEO roles in ’97.
- Began leading personal optimization work in ’05.
Involved in 250+ start-ups, coached 100’s of execs/teams, facilitated 100’s of groups and sessions, helped raise $50 million of seed and A Round venture capital, closed over 100 key deals, and written dozens of business and strategic plans. Trained in coaching, collaborative systems, therapeutic processes, psychometrics and more.
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Websites & Social Media
DOUG: Hi, this is Doug Greene with What Really Matters Interviews. And today I’m stoked to be interviewing Michael Lipson about how sematic work can be used by men for personal growth. But we’re going to start by doing something unusual. We’re going to do a meditation designed to help you drop more deeply into your body where somatic work happens.
I invite you to do this meditation with us so long as you’re not driving, or operating heavy machinery, or doing anything else that might put you in danger. It’ll last just about six minutes. If you want to skip this, jump to about the six and a half minute mark, where the interview begins.
MICHAEL: I’m going to actually start this off dog by lighting a candle and in doing so, creating a little space – moving out of that workspace into this space, whatever it is.
And appropriate since we’re going to be talking about somatic work to start by slowing down with a somatic meditation. And I invite us to, pause for just a few minutes – first, by sitting in our chairs, noticing how we sit or stand or lie down, whatever it is.
Put attention first on our breath and ask us to breathe slowly, more slowly than normal, inhaling through our nostrils, sourcing our breath from the base of our stomach, up into our chest as we inhale. And then pause, and then exhale from the top of our chest into our belly and pause possibly to a five count. Just something that’s longer than normal.
So right now in 3, 2, 1, inhale,
Pause. Exhale through your nose or mouth. Pause. Inhale from your belly up into your chest.
Pause. Exhale. Pause. And let’s continue that. It doesn’t matter how long or short – you can go longer or shorter. Your idea is slowly inhale through your nostrils and exhaling slowly. And what we’re doing is we’re activating the parasympathetic nervous system – that nervous system that is in rest, relax, rebuild, rejuvenate.
Not the sympathetic nervous system, which is in reaction to, and responding to, where the blood circulates more into our arms, into our lens so we can move quickly. Parasympathetic with this slow breathing is putting more of our blood circulation and physiology into our digestive system, into our rebuilding. Just notice if you feel any slower, I feel slower. I feel like I’m scanning less and I’m more aware of my interstate.
And now I’m going to put attention on my feet and invite you to do the same, and how they’re contacted, what the contact points are on the floor, the four corners of your feet, are your arches lifted or not? Are your feet angled out or not.
It matters less the specifics of what you’re examining with your feet, and more that you are aware of them into finer and finer detail. The more detail, the less distraction. Sometimes I like to imagine some tendrils growing from my feet through the floor, eventually into the earth and deeper, and deeper.
It gives me a sense of contact with the earth of solidity, of groundedness. Just notice what that feels like. You might even send some tendrils from the base of your spine, through your chair and down. And with that groundedness, invitation to let gravity do its thing on you. You don’t need to push against gravity right now.
Allow gravity to sink you into your chair, toto have your shoulders sink down, to have the undersides of your thighs pull down. In other words, let gravity take you instead of resisting gravity.
While we’re considering not resisting and allowing, notice your belly. Are you holding it in? Let it pooch out. Let it just go.
Many of us hold our bellies in looking good, being prepared, tensing up for whatever’s to come. This is a chance to just relax it, relax it all. Maybe it’s your jaw. Maybe it’s your neck. Allowing us to be.
And we could keep going. But for me, and maybe for you, Doug, this is enough to just be that much more open, connected to ourselves, slower, available.
And I know we’re going to talk about somatic work. This is the state in which sematic work is more accessible. Connection to my physical and mental and emotional allows me to be more sensory in my experience.
So I’m going to take a couple breaths. And I just have this little inspiration to put our awareness in our heart center, behind our breastbone, that area, and notice a sense of either joy or gratitude or appreciation for yourself or something else, whatever it is that puts a little smile in that area.
You might even notice the corners of your mouth lifting just a little lightness before we jump into our two-way conversation. And when you’re ready, open your eyes. I’m doing the same and we’ll get our conversation going.
DOUG: Ah, that was good.
MICHAEL: It’s a different way to start your podcast, huh?!
DOUG: It is. Let me do an intro here too, so we can get viewers up to speed on what’s going on. This is Doug Greene with What Really Matters Interviews and today I’m excited, stoked all of that to be interviewing my friend Michael Lipson, who I met through the Tribe of Men in Marin, and who is multifaceted.
What inspired this interview is an email he sent out to the Tribe. And it’s about somatic work. And I want to emphasize this particular podcast series I’m doing is about somatic work in a number of different areas. And what Michael brings to the table is his somatic work with men in this group called Everyman. And I’ll probably have to say that correctly. It’s spelled E V R Y M A N.com.
But what he said is, “Several of you know, I’m involved with Evryman, a men’s work org that uses somatic methods to help men slow down, feel their feelings ,and grow. I’ve benefited greatly from it as have a few other tribesmen.” And that was really what got me inspired to want to connect with him on this.
There’s a lot of reasons I like connecting with Michael anyway. In the Enneagram world, he’s a Seven. He’s got a wide range of interests and tactics. One of the things I remember that in our smaller subgroup of the Tribe of Men we’d ask is “What would Michael do?” Because we always knew he’d come up with something that was unique and different and effective.
And it was always a gift having him show up in our group. And even his presence when he wasn’t there was still there. So without further adieu, Michael, thank you for joining us. Thank you for that meditation. And why don’t you say something? And then I want to add how I felt after that, meditation we did coming in.
MICHAEL: This is going to be fun. I feel a kind of lightness and curiosity and openness, and a desire to help be a service, show myself, be connected, and be authentic. That’s where I am right now in this moment. And I will say that, to meditate first. I don’t know, meditation has a lot of connotations.
It’s sort of a charge word. I almost don’t want to use that word. But to just sit and slow down and get present and notice puts me in a space where I can share in a different way. So I feel like I’m there now, and I want it to be there. And I hope you’re there to Doug. And I hope that whoever listens … They’re in that place too, as they listen to this.
DOUG: Well, it worked. I came in and I often have an active mind. I often spend a lot of time in my head. It seems to be one of the curses of my type. And part of my journey has been learning how to drop in better, to get out of my head and into my body and my heart. And that meditation did exactly that. So it worked. I feel myself speaking a little bit more slowly.
I just feel in my whole body has dropped in and is not, it just feels more grounded. So it’s cool.
MICHAEL: Well, you actually got the first bit of a very straightforward formula that Evryman uses. And I’m happy to talk about Evryman if you want. But in essence, where, have a very mainstream approachable methodology where you don’t need to be practiced or have studied consciousness or have a certain level of awareness to do it.
And we call it the ROC Formula, R-O-C. R stands for relax, which is what you do when you do a little presencing or dropping in, as you call it, or a meditation. Let’s just get into a more relaxed state and slow down. From there, the O is open. Once I’m slowed down. I can actually open up to what is going on in me, in someone else.
I’m not in my fast monkey mind projecting and perceiving. I’m just more in an available receptive mode from slowing down – the R relaxed to O to open. And from that place, once I’m opened, I can really connect. I can connect to you right now. In fact, I feel more connected to you because we’re both not like scanning and looking at the levels of the audio and all that.
I feel you’re right with me. And I feel like I’m right with myself and I’m right with you. So when we get to that place where we can really connect, a lot is different. And there’s connection outwardly – I’m connected to you or others.
And then there’s connected inwardly. I’m actually connected to who I am, what I am, what’s true, what’s deep, as opposed to all the other stuff that distracts me from myself. So that’s what’s happening and that’s contextualizing it in that very simple, Evryman formula that I’ve observed is, while it seems simple, it’s just so profound. It’s has so much value.
DOUG: The words that come to mind to me are, it’s almost like getting out of my own way so I can drop into a deeper place .. That egoic da-dah-dah-dah chattering monkey mind, just like kind of steps aside.
And it lets me, just drop into that place where I do know that the quality work can happen, where true connection happens, and where I’m in touch with systems within me – my nervous system, my heart and other areas without filtering it through my chatter box upstairs, so to speak. So, starting with this, Evryman …
MICHAEL: I’m going to jump in, cause it feels like it’s a good time to mention something.
When you said that chatterbox upstairs. I have this point of view, and plenty of experts share it, that we have three primary centers. And you know it from the Enneagram work. We have the intellectual center – our mind is going. We have the emotional center – our heart is going. And we have the kinesthetic center, our body, or a physicality is going.
And to me, optimal functioning is when I can switch between all of them and they’re somewhat equal in their volume and in their accessibility. So that monkey mind thing, I have a really strong mind, and it’s taken work for me to balance that strong mind – which I love having it’s really valuable and all sorts of ways – with a stronger, more accessible, emotional state, heart space – so I’m feeling more, as well as a kinesthetic state moving through it more.
So when we talk about types in the Enneagram, I’m a head type – seven is a head type. I’m in my head a lot, right? So this presencing that we do is a way of balancing the others. So it’s kind of like setting levels. If you’re bored an audio, this is setting the levels of our centers of where we’re going so that I can intentionally lift any one of those or reduce any one of those.
DOUG: It’s interesting. The work I’m doing right now in that Enneagram group I’m in, the somatic Enneagram, is we’re doing what we call three-centered awareness. And it’s to be able to tap into exactly the same thing you’re talking about. We always tend to favor one – you’re a head type I’m smack in the middle of the head types as a six.
And I mean I know it, I sense it, I feel it, I hear it all the time when my brain’s just going “rrr, rrr, rrr.” An exercise like you started us off with, enables me to drop into those other two centers and find that better balancing that you’re talking about. And sort of the north star that we’re using in the group I’m in – and it sounds like it’s very similar to what you’re doing – they all have value and there’s places for each. And it’s knowing when to tap into each, or balance them out and knowing, the right tool for the right application in a way, but at a human level in our operating system.
So one of the things I’m really intrigued about, and one of the reasons I really wanted to interview you, is how this applies to men’s work.
We were in the Tribe of Men together; we are still in the tribe of men together as members. But you’ve moved into a lot of work now and attention with Evryman. It seems to be a very powerful, active, growthful – a lot of words I could put at it – but it really looks like one to put on the radar And knowing your skillsets from the past and having just experienced something in the somatic level, how do you see somatic work fitting in with the men’s work? What are the benefits of it? And also perhaps you could describe a personal experience with this – perhaps related to men’s work or not – but why somatic work is so powerful from your own personal experience?
MICHAEL: I’m going to answer it, but first I’m going to give listeners just a very brief profile of me, so they understand where I’m coming from – because a lot of people in this man’s work world are all about being therapists and kind of in the touchy, feely or New Age or consciousness movement. But my history is I worked my way into investment banking. I worked on financial transactions that were a quarter billion dollars and above. I’ve been involved in lots of startups, like dozens, some that are quite noteworthy.
I’ve gone head to head with a lot of sharks in the venture capital world. I’m pretty athletic. I do fairly ambitious endurance activities. I’m also a super active and engaged dad, though at this point, my kids are young adults, so less active, but just as engaged.
There’s a lot to me. I’ve traveled the world a lot. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in third world. I care about social good and environmental good, but I’m also a capitalist and successful in that level. So I’m not just a navel gazer kind of guy.
And I want the listeners to understand that. and I got into “men’s work” when I was invited by a mutual friend of ours Doug, Keith Merron, to get into a group of men who are asking the question, “What am I here for? What’s my purpose. What am I here doing in my life? And then how can I do a better job of that? How can we support each other in doing that?” And that’s the first time I sat in a circle with men and it was kind of goal-oriented .. I thought it was anyways. And that’s the stereotype of the masculine energy.
And let’s start the conversation of men’s work by saying that there’s masculine by gender, there’s masculine by identity. There’s masculine by energy. There’s a lot of different interpretations of what does it mean to be masculine or feminine or both. Okay. And I’m going to talk more about the energetic, the archetypal energetic, where a man or male is penetrating.
You know, our physiology is penetrating, whereas a woman’s physiology is receptive. That’s how we reproduce. And I think it goes energetically as well. I think the masculine energy is out there to go achieve something, get some shit done. And the feminine energy is more around holding the space and nurturing and receiving and being spacious in that way.
So men’s work is basically men doing it together instead of doing it co-ed. And it tends to be working those masculine energies or rebalancing men to be balanced in both of those gender energies. And I’m naming it in a binary way because I think it’s helpful.
I know that there’s a zillion shades of gray and a whole bunch of things that go outside the range, or I haven’t mentioned. So there’s just an infinity of energies and orientations, but this is just to kind of set the frame and, parameters. Okay. Does that make sense?
DOUG: Fair enough. So with that framework, where do you want to go from here? I like the personal experience side, because it really can pull people in and kind of give them a sense of, uh …
MICHAEL: So good. I’ll jump right in there. So when I got into men’s work from this purpose group, which begot, a workshop, which begot ultimately the Tribe of Men, of which I was one of the co-creators, we created a – I call it a culture, maybe a framework, maybe a culture or a ethos – to explore yourself, to go deeper into what’s your experience. What’s true for you. How do you learn more about yourself, your wiring, your program, what you do subconsciously unconsciously consciously, how do you achieve your goals, et cetera, et cetera.
And it was so powerful for me. It was a huge opening, and kind of the keys to the kingdom, to sit in a circle with a bunch of men who had enough skillfulness to ask me questions and to create a safe container for me to start answering and sharing some of what I now call the unspeakables – the things I didn’t really want to talk about.
I didn’t want to acknowledge to myself that I was going through, whether it was a pattern like, um, what would be an actual example? I didn’t really want to acknowledge that I was scared to stand up for myself when there was somebody big, burly, and aggressive. I didn’t want to acknowledge that I was kind of wimpy and how I would take care of myself. I didn’t want to acknowledge that I was stingy and could certainly be more generous of spirit, of money, of attention of time. There’s still plenty of things I don’t like acknowledging.
In the tribe of men I began to learn how to touch those places, admit them. And after I admit them, then I’m in a posture where I can begin to shift.
I’ve gone from denial to admission. I may not be in acceptance yet, but I made admission. And then I start hearing myself and wanting more. Okay. And there was a lot of, uh, it demeans it to call it “talk therapy”, but it was in that direction where we would talk about things and it would turn into some kind of process and I would get some kind of awareness.
And I don’t consider that somatic work now that I’ve gotten involved with Evryman and their form of somatic work. What we weren’t doing – and what I’m doing a lot now – is when I have that admission to slow down and feel my feelings. What does it feel like to say that I don’t stand up for myself and I’m scared, scared that I’m fearful.
And as I say that right now, I can access. I feel something between my sternum and my navel inside. I feel trepidation. It seems kind of gray and vacuous. It almost feels like a black hole that’s going to suck me in. And, as I say that, I’m amplifying that experience and I can feel my eyes sort of twinging.
There’s fear in my eyes. And this is real time. This is actually happening to me right now. I’m demonstrating the experience of how I do somatic work now. And what’s happening when I do that is I’m shifting. My physiology is starting to do the work too. It’s not just in my mind and in my emotional field. Something is happening in a psychophysical level, and there’s plenty of scientists and neurologists that will be able to explain the science of that better than I. It’s a different experience of doing growth work in our context, men’s work.
So when I, um, did one of my first Evryman retreats, what became more and more aware of is how much I’m in my head. Like, I kind of knew it. But guys would say, “I’m not really feeling you. Like I don’t feel connected. You’re really insightful. And it looks like – and I noticed that my eyes were darting around – it looks like you’re kind of accessing an insight and information, but I don’t feel very with you. And I want to be with you. Feel me say that I want that connection.”
And I started feeling it in my heart. I’m like, “ah, you know what? I want that too. I want to be connected.” And that has been a strategy for me to achieve, to defend, to be secure, to do all these things, to use my head and sort of disconnect from my heart to some extent.
So by the end of that workshop, I came up with what we call a work statement. A work statement is a very simple statement of where I’m headed or where I wish to head or my aspiration. The work statement was “I feel first.” the aspiration is I get to a place where when I encounter stimulus, whether it’s being yelled at, or whether it’s being seduced by something or energized by anything else – that instead of thinking about it and using my strategic mind to respond to it, my desire was to actually feel it first. “What is going on in me?” Which settles me and then gives me more latitude of how to respond instead of just going to that strongest tool in my toolkit, which is my mind.
So that’s real specific. Since then I have done so many reps of saying, “I feel first”, and attempting to do that, that now I have much more access to that, and more latitude to choose that as my move or my dominant of three sensors.
Is that what you’re looking for when you said, tell me something about you and your work, or do you want me to get more …
DOUG: That’s good. you know, what I’m looking for is that, and I think he provided it, is that sort of moment when there was like an “Aha!” Like, oh, this is another level, this is something that really, could serve me well” and you got that. “I want to go forward with this.” It’s “I feel it.”
I’ve noticed that a lot of people that excel in something often have some specific moment where they got a revelation. They got a “hit” that they felt, and it ended up becoming their North Star of sorts. And I think I heard you sort of describe that in the, you found yourself being called forth to drop down deeper, to connect more. When the guy said, “I see you, I see your eyes darting around and, you know, being strategic and all, but I don’t feel you.”
And you got a hit that “oh, okay. There sounds like there’s something to this.” And then you’ve taken actions and, you know, not just actions obviously, but you’ve made strides to drop into that, learn what that is and go in there. I feel like in some ways I can relate to this because my journey’s. very similar. Um, I think one of the times when I really got called out on it and it really, hit me was when I did my TEDx talk.
I’d done Toastmasters on a lot of stuff and I’d learned to drop in a little bit more. But the guy that coached me was a six-time TEDx talks guy, and really good at saying, “Doug, you gotta drop in. That’s when they’ll connect.” And I really, got it on that.
The hard part was at first you have to memorize every single fricking word. Right? Because those talks are so dialed in. So I went through the process of memorizing the words so that I could just speak them. And then the real work was learning to assimilate that in, so that it came from deep inside rather than from my head. And the response from the audience when I tested out, before the main speech, was phenomenal. I could see them, their interest drop in. And they all of a sudden would kind of lean forward and want to hear more – versus when I was in my head and just being, you know, reciting the same thing, but not coming from that deeper place.
And I think my voice drops down. My pace slows down. There’s a sort of on-purposeness that comes out from that place. So, um,
MICHAEL: Can I just ask a couple of questions? Cause I think it’s a really good example.
MICHAEL: What was different for you when you found yourself speaking from that place?
DOUG: Oh, wow. It was night and day.
It’s almost like if I could, you know, find a, single point in my body where I was coming from, when I’m literally in my head, above my neck, there’s kind of a tightening up lack of connection with down below. And I can almost witness or observe myself going “duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh.” And it feels like I’m not fully present.
When that place drops down I’m all of a sudden connected with my heart, my body, and there’s this whole-body expression coming out that people get. It’s like I’m broadcasting on three wave lengths now, instead of one. Right?
There’s the base. I don’t know, just to take an equalizer or something, I’d have my base section, which would be my gut, sort of that mid section, which is my heart. And then, you know, this thing going on upstairs.
And, it made a world of difference. And I try to find that place when I speak now too. And I find I can do it doing something similar. I really like that series of movements and meditation you took us through, it was a pretty quick way to get there.
MICHAEL: So you just gave the audience a good example of somatic work and I’ll, summarize it. Two states. The first state before I had that training, or when I’m not as you call it “dropped down”, how do I feel? And I’m going to speak on your behalf. I might not be entirely accurate.
I feel tight, chattery, disintegrated. I’m speaking from like my shoulders up. Not real centered. And disconnected in a way that I’m hearing myself speak in chatter. The second state, when I dropped down, I feel deeper, more open, slower, present. I feel connected. I feel like I’m opening myself up to the audience and I don’t have fear. I’m just being me.
Now that may not be entirely accurate, but those are describing feelings, not thoughts. That’s somatic. And presencing that, and then responding to it – how do you feel by saying that’s the way your experiences? That takes you even deeper in what we call somatic work.
DOUG: Hmm. Yeah, I think that was a good summary.
MICHAEL: And I want to comment now that the listeners have heard that. That’s accessible to anyone. You actually don’t need to have been trained in anything besides having the space to slow down and feel like it’s okay to do that .. safe enough to do that. And being encouraged to share what you feel. You don’t have to understand anything.
This is like psychotherapy. You understand a lot, you’re connecting things with your childhood and different inner voices and so forth. And there’s value to all of that. There’s value to understanding the model of the distinction between personality and ego. There’s space and value for all that. This somatic stuff is, in a way, very fundamental and foundational.
What do you feel? Oh, okay. And what do you notice when you really tune into how you feel and you amplify that, oh, you feel something else. And we think that that moved some stuff that has stuck, that you can process deep trauma that way, potentially. And there’s plenty of, I think they’re called EFT therapy among others, that use this technique for significant therapeutic work, or just getting to know yourself, better, getting to know your partner better.
It doesn’t have to be deep work, the somatic stuff of what do you feel right now?
DOUG: Agreed. The work we’re doing in the group I’m in now is, we’re turning towards our, when something fears us or just, you know, something we want to push away from, we know that’s a doorway. That’s where our leader, whatever we want to call her, says, “okay, there’s work. Let’s go there. ”
First she’ll just talk with us and she’ll figure out where she wants to go. And so she needs some data to work with. And then what we do is we look for the sensations in our body. We may visualize the situation, try to take ourself in there.
“Okay. Don’t describe the emotion you feel. Describe the sensations. Do you feel a tingling? Okay, great. Where is it? What muscle is it in? How tight?” And then what she’ll have us do is breathe around the space – because you can’t bring energy directly to it. It’s usually too tight and it’ll get defended. But if you breathe around where there’s some space, it starts to resource you.
And then where does it go? That might relax, open a bit, and then something else might start getting activated. “Okay. What are you sensing now? What is this sensation is? Where is it?” And it’s amazing. there’s no like bunch of stuff you gotta learn. It’s just come in, find the sensations, breathing around it and see where it goes. And it does release trauma.
MICHAEL: I love that statement of “there’s nothing you’ve got to learn.” That’s what you said.
MICHAEL: Because that is a barrier for many people in doing what we call “growth work” – “I’m supposed to know something. I’m not going to be able to do that.” And they turn themselves off. Instead of “you don’t need to know anything, just notice what you feel.”
Some men that I work with or have been circled with, they’re so disconnected from their feelings that they actually can’t initially feel. So we start with feeling physical sensations.
When we do a check-in, if I were to check in right now, I’d say “my right hand feels chilly. I feel dried sweat on my brow from the run I just took. I feel parched in my throat.” Those are physical sensations. Those are easier to access. It takes less training or less safety. And then the next level is and emotionally. “I feel comfortable. I feel at ease. I feel appreciated. I feel connection with you, Doug.”
And we guide men at Evryman, when they’re starting, to look at just five emotions. Some experts will say there’s four, or others10. But we give prompts to make a little easier. We say look for joy, sadness, anger, fear, and shame or guilt. Those five.
DOUG: Can you repeat those again?
MICHAEL: Joy, sadness, anger, fear, and shame or guilt, depending on which one you relate to.
And some will say, in fact, I said at the beginning, “well, it seems like there’s only one positive one and four that I really don’t want.” And we’re not suggesting that you feel in that ratio. We’re just saying that those five are easily relatable for those who are unpracticed or less practiced in identifying what emotional feeling they’re having.
So I think men are acculturized to not feel.
DOUG: I would agree with that.
MICHAEL: It’s like, you know, you grow up and you’re supposed to be – and maybe things are different now or are changing pretty quickly now, fortunately – but when I grew up, you know, you’re supposed to let go and be an athlete. “Suck it up. Don’t be a baby. Don’t be a cry, baby. What are you crying for? Be tough. You’re not going to have any friends. You’re not going to get any respect if you show your emotions and your feelings.”
I think we’ve been a culture as men, generally, to disconnect from our feelings. And you’re not going to be as successful if you feel and share your feelings, which is in my mind, the opposite of what enables us to live rich satisfying lives.
I think connection with your emotional inner world is extremely valuable and is how you create successful long-term relationships, how people stay married forever or parenting forever and all that. It’s because you’re connected. Your hearts open and you’re feeling love. You’re feeling gratitude or you’re feeling frustration. And you’re sharing that.
So us guys often show up without a lot of training or familiarity with feeling. I mean, we’re pretty good at feeling pain and then ignoring the feeling of pain, but we’ve been kind of trained to do that.
So when we start at Evryman we’ll say, you know, the first thing, if you’re having trouble feeling, cause you haven’t really gotten to do that much is, as I said earlier, feel what’s physical. What’s sore? Or what’s it feel like to sit? Where are you sagging? Whatever it is, just go physical.
And then we move to emotional. And if that seems a bit alien, well, look to see if you feel joy or anger or sadness or fear or shame. Just look for one of those. And just like going to the gym, you do reps, you do reps on feeling, and you get better and better and more and more fluent.
It’s like practicing a language or music or anything else – or emotion. And you start conditioning, your processing, your neurological, your brain processing to identify feelings. And it becomes more and more fluent. And then as we do that, just as I did it, when I said, “I feel first”, I become much more fluent in that language and in the ability to access that. And I use it more. And the somatic work becomes easier because it’s more familiar and more practiced.
DOUG: Do you find that in those five emotions that there are some that men tend to go to first? And then, the second part to that would be is that sort of an access point where they’ll then maybe start expanding into some of the other emotions that were harder for them to reach?
MICHAEL: Actually, I find that those five emotions are the ones that men tend to go to first. And then there’s dozens of them beyond that, that they go to from there.
DOUG: Might they hit all five of those at one time.
MICHAEL: Absolutely. In fact, it’s common to have multiple emotions that can seem contradictory and they exist at the same time.
That’s common and our brains have trouble processing that. How can I be angry and at the same time feel joy? And feel sad. How can I feel all those things? Like shouldn’t I just feel one. But I think the human condition is that we have lots and lots that we’re receiving, and processing.
DOUG: So when you bring somebody into this and I assume that a lot of men are very, um … this is unknown territory for them, right? They’re coming in and they’re getting hit with emotions and they’re being validated that it’s okay to feel that.
DOUG: What is a process that you might do, or how do you support them in expanding on that? There’s a certain level of resistance that they’re going to hit just because that’s the way they’ve always been.
MICHAEL: Right. So I’m going to describe what Evryman does. But this isn’t the only way to do it. The first part of the process is to create – I’ll call it a container or a safe space. So that means that there’s some agreements, which makes it safer to do this. This could be very uncomfortable. And I’ve been in situations where it was very, very confronting for men to be asked, “what do you feel?”
So it starts with an agreement such as confidentiality, such as, participate at whatever level you wish. So you can opt out, you can opt in, you can go deep, you can go shallow. Do what works for you. And there’s a few other agreements.
After that, we explain what we’re going to do. And the standard Evryman process is we’re going to slow down, usually through a somatic meditation. Then we’re going to do a very brief check-in, which will start with physical sensations and then move to emotional sensations, maybe 15 seconds, 20 seconds. “This is just what I feel.”
And then we’re going to do a second round where we go deeper into our feelings – maybe with a prompt. A prompt would be, you know “what I don’t want you to know about me is …” Or “what’s giving me so much joy is … ” Or “what I really want to happen is… ”
And the prompt, instead of just answering it like you’re answering a question, you’re looking at, “what do I notice? What do I feel when I get to that prompt? What I don’t want you to know about me is, ‘oh, I feel shame. I feel closed down. I feel scared. I don’t feel joy. I feel trepidation. I feel like if I out myself, I may get criticized. And now I’m starting to close down and I feel smaller, and I almost feel like getting the heck out of here or curling up in a ball. In fact, I want you to go to somebody else now.”
That would be an example of a second-level check-in and then that stirs the pot. That gives you awareness of, “wow, there’s some stuff that is going on inside me that I have not been all that in touch with. Or if I have, I have avoided talking about it.”
And then we give men a chance to go even deeper with a third round and start working some of that material. And often there’s not enough time for everyone to go deeper. So a few people go deeper.
Types of questions that we ask when a man seems kind of stuck, we try to keep them from telling the story about it. “Well, the reason I feel this way and the reason I’m scared to share and all that is … ”
We said, we need a little story for context. But then we just want you to go somatically into “what’s the experience? What is it like sharing it? What is coming up in it?”
And what you were saying about your process and what you’re learning is, you know, where is it in your body? And maybe breathe all around that space and see what happens. See what changes. We’re encouraging men to amplify their sensory experience, their feeling, their somatics.
So the types of questions we will ask is “what do you feel? Where do you feel it? What do you want?” We’re asking them questions that try to keep them from going up in their head. Like why questions put you in your head. How questions put you in your head. What questions put you in more in your body.
DOUG: And where.
MICHAEL: “What’s up?” That doesn’t really put you in your head. That’s like, “oh, what’s present is .. ”
“Why do you think that’s what’s happening now?” That puts you in your head. So we stay away from that to the degree we can.
DOUG: Where do you feel it? What’s happening inside? And what’s the sensation?
MICHAEL: What’s that feeling saying to you? What does it want to say?
DOUG: “If you could give it a voice .. ”
MICHAEL: Right. Would be an example or touch it. What happens when you touch that area? Oh, I feel more relaxed.
DOUG: And do you have them physically, like point at it or touch it or,
MICHAEL: Yeah. And just a reminder – not that I’ve said it, but still it’s a reminder – that we don’t have a script.
We’re always trying to be present, open, sensing what’s happening to men. The man that’s working, giving them a lot of space. Not being too intervening or popcorn’ing … because it can yank them all around. And noticing “what’s coming up in me?”
So when you’re sharing, I might say, “Wow, Doug, what I noticed in me when you say that is I feel really nervous and uncomfortable.” And that might be it. And then you, might respond. “Oh, that’s interesting when you say that. What I notice now is such and such ..” Like that wasn’t even about you. That was about me. But that can move a man. And often less is more in this kind of process. Less intervention creates more going deep.
DOUG: I assume you find a place where they hit a point of, “Okay, that’s enough.” Right? I think the body almost has a, a built in, “okay … whew.”
MICHAEL: Yeah. They hit a threshold point. There’s a level of capacity to experience. And then there can be some shutdown.
DOUG: When you’re supporting them, where are you in all of this? How are you feeling? What kind of space are you coming from .. to the degree that you can describe that? Cause I know we’re describing a somatic experience and sort of a sensory thing that’s going on at the heart and gut level and may or may not have words.
MICHAEL: Oh, I’ll tell you what I’m experiencing. Different people will have different experiences. I have multiple channels going and I operate that way. I’m that head type, that Enneagram seven type. I’m able to work on multiple channels and that’s a more natural or comfortable state.
One channel is I’m connected to the man. I feel the man’s feelings. I feel empathy. I feel anger. I feel fear on behalf of the man. It’s like, I’m standing right next to them. I’m putting my arm around them and it’s like, “brother, that’s what you’re going through. I’m right here. I feel that too.” That’s one place I am.
The second place I am is what’s happening for me. What am I feeling? “Oh, that reminds me of something from my past.” Or “I don’t know why I feel so emotional right now. This really touches me.” or “this doesn’t touch me.” Like I’m listening and I am in my first channel mode. I’m right next to the guy. But I don’t have a lot of emotional reaction to this, or whatever’s going on for me. So I notice what’s happening in me, which is information for my own work and my own growth.
And then the third place I am at – because I’m a coach and I’m a facilitator – is I’m looking at the system, the circle what’s happening there. And are people nodding off? If they are then we’re probably not as deep as we can be. It’s a signal that we can do something else. Are people really engaged? How are people intervening or not intervening? What’s the connection?
And what I’ve come to learn – and I’m still amazed by – is how much impact men can have in their silence if they’re really present to the subject’s work that’s communicated. That’s felt. It’s powerful when I’m the only one speaking, no one is saying anything, but I know that everyone is right there. Oh my God. That’s helpful for me.
So I’m observing the system, the circle, the collective, and considering if there’s any move that will further unify us or further deepen us together.
DOUG: Okay. I would invite that maybe there’s a fourth level going on too – because I think this is one of your gifts – is that you’ve got a pretty big toolkit.
MICHAEL: Is that where you’re going to go with connection to the “all that is”?
DOUG: That’s your words. What I would say is you’ve got a big quiver. So there’s three parts you’ve already described. It as your connection with a man. There’s the connection with your inner world. And then there’s a connection with the group. So you’ve got those things going on.
While that’s all happening, and you said this towards the end of that, is that, “where could we go from here to shift that?” And that’s where I think this fourth level you have … is you’ve got, you know, and that’s where that, “What would Michael do now?” thing that we had comes from.
So I’m curious about that because it’s a gift you have.
MICHAEL: That’s great you said that. So fourth thing I connect to is “What would be of higher service. What could be done here, if anything?” And that’s me being active, and that’s sort of a leadership stance of, “Can we get even more here? What’s going to serve this man? What’s going to serve the group?”
So I do consider the “moves to make.” What’s shifted from all the time we’ve been in circle together – a Tribe of Men – is that is less far less of a mental process for me now. And a lot more of a feeling process consistent with this growth edge of feel first.
So I am there, but I’m less aware of it because it’s not nearly as conscious. Sometimes people describe it as something just comes through me. And I know that what’s necessary is, and then I do that. Like, there are times when there’s, maybe you call it an intuition or an instinct or a hit or a download that if I role play being your father right now, something powerful is going to happen.
I think that would be really valuable. And I might do that, or I might ask permission to do that. So I am in a fourth place of – I’m not that conscious that I’m in a fourth place – but I am in a fourth place of “What other moves can we make? What would help here?”
DOUG: I took a workshop while back where we had four quadrants – the warrior, lover, magician and …
DOUG: King, ,yes. The part we’re talking about here is what I would call magician, pulling the right tool out. It can work. And I would suggest that you’ve probably done so much work with people that you’ve integrated this to where it’s .. You know, where to go at an intuitive level. You don’t even have to do that sort of mental scan anymore and and like .. You probably just get, “oh, here we go.” It’s really a gift you have.
MICHAEL: Yeah, that’s accurate. And I want to comment that there’s a multiplicity of places to go and quite possibly all of them are valuable. So I don’t, I now know that I don’t know the place to go. I just sense a place to go.
And then I feel into how compelled am I? How elementally authentic does it feel? And that’s what I notice in deciding do I share it or not? Like if it’s coming from my head and my ego and I’m sort of trying, I’m less likely to use it. And if it just wells up and it’s just like, “oh, this is just so obvious. It’s just feels so right,” then I really share it.
So while I have that gift, I’ve had to learn how to discern that data, that input that’s coming through me or coming in me. And now I have a lighter touch. I think it comes with maturity and I think it comes from less ego attachment to actually being the guy that makes good shit happen – and instead just being present. And the people I watch when I see all these very skilled facilitators, that’s like you and the Ted talk when you just dropped in and you’re authentically sharing. “I know the words, but they’re coming from me.” It’s like, “this is me telling you that what I think what I feel that this matters.”
So that’s that similar kind of I’ve dropped in or others when other facilitators drop in. I’m like, wow, they’re just plugged into this man’s work and the “all that is” that’s around them. And you’re sort of getting out of your way and letting these insights or possibilities come through you in some way, not all process through your brain and recalibrated and regurgitated and in different way, but rather it’s just like a sort of a gift.
So I’m always in awe when I see that and feel inspired by that.
DOUG: It’s almost like being a conduit to something bigger up there.
MICHAEL: Many people describe it that way.
DOUG: I’m curious, how have you … so the two parts of this, how has all of this changed you in the last couple of years since you’ve been with every man? Cause I, truly sense a shift in you from when we did work together.
And then also, how have you seen it shift, some men within your group – say just some average Joe-blow that comes in that hasn’t been in touch with his emotions very well. And you know, what’s his pain point that brought him to you? You can go either track on that. We can focus on.
MICHAEL: I’m gonna start with the other men, and I noticed I’m slowing down because I could answer that from my head, but I know it’s going to be more valuable and land if I don’t just go from my head.
So I’ve seen all sorts of men with different challenges or issues and joys. I’m thinking about one who was like he was uncomfortable in himself. It was sort of like, like the fangs, like everything was tight, and there was like, his fingers were like claws. And this is just sort of the sense of how it was for him, not his physical representation.
And he sort of, felt like somebody was looking over his shoulder. He couldn’t, he was scared that he couldn’t do anything right. Very hesitant and, um, almost paralyzed in a way. It was like, it was “crunchy”. I don’t know if that description really resonates, but I saw him really loosen up and relax and find ways to trust himself more and to admit things that were in his way that he didn’t admit.
Like one thing I’ve seen throughout his guys speaking more and more of their unspeakables. And when they do that, that lock-tight “I can’t tell anybody this” moves to “Now that I’ve told someone” and I asked, “how does it feel?” – one of the things that I hear a lot is “It feels like relief.” “Yeah. I’m outed. I might feel shame or embarrassed or scared that you will judge me, but I also feel relief.” Like “I’m not carrying this burden.”
I’ve seen so many places where guys have said “it’s taken a while, but I feel more relaxed. I feel more connected to myself. I know myself more. I know what I want more, I’m more willing to take a risk. I’m less concerned about what others say.”
And this is a gradual process. But there’s so many representations of what the changes are when men do this kind of work. And let’s remember, it’s not exclusive to men, but that’s the environment that I’m in.
DOUG: As they make that shift, I assume over the years, because sometimes these commitment to men’s groups can go on and on, which is great. They’re very supportive that way. How have you seen them change in the world and how they show up with their families, their work, in life?
MICHAEL: Well, I’d like to be able to say that, you know, a month later things started getting better and better, but that’s often not the case. Often it stirs the pot.
It’s like all those repressed feelings and things that we didn’t admit to ourselves kind of reminds me of when you’re like, you’re cooking a stew for a long time and you leave the pot on the stove for awhile. There’s a bunch of stuff that gets stuck to the pot and you stir it up, and the rest of it is still there, but there’s a whole bunch that you have to pry away.
And it’s kind of like all that stuff starts coming up and creating discomfort usually before comfort. Like “I was avoiding that because I don’t like that.” And “I don’t want to really be aware that that’s in me or that I do that thing.”
So what happens Doug often is there’s a sense of relief that I’ve scraped my pot. And then I go in the outside world and I don’t have the same agreement as I do in my circle. You know, in the circle, I feel like I’m not going to be judged and I’m going to be supported and you guys have my back and whatever I scrape, you’re still going to say, “Hey man, you’re just human. All right. So you did X or you did Y.” Bbut when I go in the outside world, I don’t have that agreement.
So it’s way riskier to share any of that. And it can be uncomfortable to have that more – I’ll call it “floating in the soup” – instead of stuck to the side. Cause it’s starting to get in my awareness in my consciousness. So what I see is men can feel more confused, less comfortable, and activated for a period of time. And they continue to feel those feelings and it starts shifting to, okay, “it’s less, it’s not as big a deal.” It’s like, “All right. I, uh, so I did that. I’m going to change it.”
And then they move towards action. Ultimately that’s where we want to get. You know that ROC formula: “Relax, open connect”? I like changing it to ROCA. After that we Act.
So if I’ve connected with someone and I don’t like being that person. And now that’s more presence. I’ve done my group work. And now I come back to my wife or my husband and I realized that I can be a poor listener. I can be over-controlling. I feel some amount of shame or discomfort when I see me doing that, it’s uncomfortable. But then I moved towards when I feel the discomfort more and more, at some point I’m like, “I got to change this.”
I do not like feeling so ashamed of being controlling or of not being a good listener. So then I moved to, “what can I do about that?” Well, I can slow down. I can listen or I can ask a question. I can do …
So I start taking action and then I find relief. So there’s a period where I moved from that discomfort to action, where I often can feel sort of a possibility and hope.
And then I start experiencing resolution and then things get lighter and easier and I get more in my flow. And what I’ve done is I’ve shifted what I call my operating system. I somehow entrain myself to those other habits and patterns. The reason I didn’t listen, or the reason I controlled is when I was growing up or when I was forming strategies for survival, et cetera, et cetera, I had to do XYZ and it kind of got burned into my operating system.
And now when I’m older and more mature and have more perspective, I’m like, “you know what? I don’t need to do that anymore. That’s actually not buying me what I want. It’s actually keeping me from what I want. It’s just that it’s wired in me.”
So now when I feel the discomfort of acting that way, there’s the somatic again. Instead of analyzing where it came from, I feel what it’s like to treat my wife that way. And then I share it in my group and I feel what it’s like there even more, because it’s safer. Like I do not want that, that motivates and inspires me to act and change. That’s where the change comes from.
Healing creates the awareness and desire for change, and it inspires and motivates us to take action, even if it’s not fun or pleasant.
And then I get to the other side and I feel lighter. So to answer the other part of your first question what’s changed for me is life has more ease. It’s kind of more graceful. It’s not all hunky-dory and all pretty. There’s plenty of places where I’m still entrapped in my old ways. But it’s less frequent.
I have a higher ratio or a higher percentage of not doing those old ingrained enpattern behaviors that when I get really in touch with “how is that for me?” I don’t like. And I feel like I have more resource to make change or shift.
One thing that’s very specific that’s changed is, when I’m activated, there’s a higher probability that I will slow down before I respond. And when I slow down, I -what we call “down-regulate the reactivity” – it decreases, and I get more in touch with, if I wasn’t reactive, if I was totally objective, what’s the best response to the situation. So I’m no longer as hotheaded, or as frequently hotheaded, because I’m slowing down so that I can have a choice in how I respond instead of just auto respond from my hot headedness.
And that is huge. That’s incredibly valuable and it makes life a lot easier, honestly, kind of lets things line up around you instead of fighting against so much. It’s not a panacea; it’s still work.
DOUG: Yeah. But it’s putting a gap in between the stimulus and the response.
DOUG: And in choosing a smarter response, that’s coming from a deeper place, they’re not going to be as many, you know, one’s coming beyond that, that probably that initial response of it just came from reaction would initiate, right? There’d be boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Started that. And then that he, every action has an equal reaction.
MICHAEL: You got it.
DOUG: Find the gap, slow down, be patient, maybe not respond at all.
MICHAEL: I think that’s happening to every man that’s doing this work in their groups or one-on-one with coaches or therapists or every place else. We are doing reps of slowing down, decreasing the reaction of reactivity, separating from it that much more, and having more objectivity and authenticity in how we respond. It’s kind of like getting control of the vehicle instead of having the vehicle drive you around.
And then there’s so many more things I could say about how I’ve changed, but I can feel proud that I’m doing this and I’m moving in that direction. And I feel more buoyant in a way, and I feel less kind of peak and trough.
I feel more modulating now. It doesn’t have to be so sizzley for me to feel like I’m in a contented state. It doesn’t have to be such a peak experience. chased a lot of peak experience. And don’t get me wrong. I still love them. But I’m pretty good more of the time. And without having those, hot flashy experiences that I like so much.
DOUG: How has this work changed your, um, family dynamic?
MICHAEL: I think the honest answer is I wish that it has changed it more than it has. And I think it’s a slow shift. It’s definitely changed my relationship with my wife. There’s a higher tolerance going in both directions. I can be more tolerant. And as a result, she sees that and she can be more tolerant back.
It allows me to be more empathic to my children and my wife – what’s going on for them. And then I respond from a different place. So I believe that under the waterline of what’s obvious, there’s a lot of benefit and influence. But above the waterline, when I see their responses, particularly my children, it doesn’t seem like a lot is different.
Honestly. I think if someone on the outside were viewing it, they probably would say, actually there is a lot different than here they are. But I’m not able to see those specific case by case by case. I see how I’m different. I don’t see how they respond differently in response to how in different.
DOUG: The reason I ask is when you come in with that, let’s call it more spaciousness, which I think is, a good metaphor for this – sort of a psychic or an energetic spaciousness – it can create a container that allows other people to drop into that once they start to feel it. I’ve noticed that in my own relationship with my housemate as I’ve learned to dial back the reactive ways that I can fall into.
We’ve had more spaciousness in our own discussions. She’s doing some wonderful work too, with Jennifer Welwood in a group. The spaciousness in our interactions, and just in the house, I can feel it, has really been remarkable. It’s been a gift, especially in COVID times right – sort of in this compression chamber, that’s heating up and getting tighter.
MICHAEL: Ya know, I have a little anecdote I want to share, Doug. And I’m reflecting on my answer. And I think the reason I don’t see a lot of difference is because I think Jeannie and I have been pretty conscious as parents for some time. Plenty we could do better. Plenty of looking back I wish we had done it differently. Lots of that.
But an example of that is I remember when my daughter was roughly a year and a half old. She was throwing a fit. And I was going to, okay, “what do I do? What action do I take? How do I …”
And I could remember I was attached to her not having a tantrum. I wanted to calm her down. I had a belief that good parenting meant calming her down and taking her out of her upset.
And what I chose to do instead is to sit kind of next to her. She was behind a piece of furniture. I went behind a piece of furniture. I just sat there and I tried to feel whatever she was feeling. I didn’t do anything. I just felt, “what is it like for her?” And I’m emotional as I say that … I had, it was like a revelation.
That was one of those aha moments: “oh, that’s what humans want. They don’t want to be changed. They just want empathy.” They want to have the sense that “someone else is here with me. They get me.” So I’ve tried to use that as a guiding principle in my family dynamic. And that’s the kind of thing that, I mean, I picked it up sort of early.
That’s the kind of thing that I see other men learn when they sit in men’s work at Evryman, Tribe, of Men, whatever it is. It’s like, I used to think I had to fix, I’m supposed to be the leader, I’m the general, follow me, suck it up. Don’t cry. Or here’s an ice cream. I’m going to take you out of your misery, whatever the action is.
And they get that somatically feeling the feeling and going to connection down-regulates, calms us down, has us feel like there’s love. It’s safer. It’s okay. It’s okay if I’m upset. So maybe that’s why I haven’t felt or observed a real shift in my family dynamic is because I’ve been doing it for awhile.
I’m just a lot better at it now from all of that.
DOUG: What’d you describe, I was thinking about my own living situation, where … I mean, my Sixness, right? – is like “we gotta fix this.” So I hear a problem and it’s like, we look for problems to fix. It’s like, “The world’s a dangerous place. Here’s all the problems with it. And here’s what I gotta do to respond to that so it’s safe for me.” Right. That’s where we come from in our fear place, or unhealthy place.
What really shifted the dynamic with my roommate is, just listening, like what you just described -to get her. And I literally went through a phase where I asked her is like, “do you want a response on this? Or do you just want to be heard? You know, did you just want me to listen?”
And you know, 90% of the time she said, “Thanks for asking. I don’t want to fix it. I just want to be heard.” Now I can sense it. And this is like, I won’t even respond with a “fix it” unless I get a specific request on that or it feels like what she described is sort of an open-ended loop that, “okay. It sounds like you described something that just, you know, it needs a fix, whether it’s a computer, whatever.
But that spaciousness … it took me a while to have to shift to where I could do that because I felt so compelled to wanna like just immediately respond. And the breathing, the slowing down, it’s like, just be quiet, listen, be here with her.
It was an incredible shift for our friendship. Incredible. And it deepened our friendship in a way that just brings such warmth and joy to me.
MICHAEL: Yeah. I see that on your face, hear it in your voice. And there’s somatic work. There’s like, “ah, that’s what I was after.” Right. And your body is giving you cues, how meaningful that is to you, right now.
DOUG: Yeah, ah, joy is, it’s a warm feeling. It just emanates throughout. And, it’s one I didn’t have a lot of up until more recently. I really find it in my friendships. you know, my closer friendships is where I feel drawn, where I feel devotion, where I feel like I can best be of service.
MICHAEL: Yeah. Well, that’s good modeling of somatic work. You had the experience. You noticed. You reflected, “oh, I have more of this now.” And then you got back to, and that’s meaningful because you know, what I love about it is the way it enhances my life is.
And then I’d say, “well, is there any action you want to take from there?” That does put you in your head, but really the question is, as you access that joy and having more of it, is there want. Do you want anything? Do you notice that there’s still appetite for something that’s unmet?
DOUG: And then I would ask myself where’s that want coming from? Is it something from up here versus something that is growing in here?
MICHAEL: Yep. For the listeners you said, is it coming from my head or more like in my gut?
DOUG: Yeah. Is it coming from a place of ego or is it coming from a place that’s connected with source?
MICHAEL: And I’d want to create the space to encourage you to connect deep.
Is there from a deep place when you feel that joy? And is there more that you want,? What shows up? How do you feel when I asked that question?
DOUG: It’s interesting. It’s not a question I would’ve asked. I would have originally said it unto itself was enough. But the prompt to say, okay, if I took that deeper, what would it look like?
Wow, great question.
MICHAEL: Or a different prompt could be, if you consider joy like music, what are the “notes under the notes”? What are the foundational notes that you don’t necessarily feel or hear right away, but they’re there and they’re real substantive. Now that may put you in your head, but I’m helping you create a construct that allows you to probe even deeper and notice if there’s more to go for.
DOUG: I think of, okay, so what are the elements of that joy? What’s it touching? Is it a number of different energies intertwining that, together, bring this feeling. And then if I follow each of those strands, where might that lead? What other pieces could come into it?
MICHAEL: So, just to play it out, is there one or two strands you can identify .. any sub components? What are they – of the feeling if you broke it down?
DOUG: Well, for one, there’s the feeling itself. It opens up my heart. And I don’t easily open up my heart. It’s certainly been one of my bigger life pieces of work. So where else have I felt that?
MICHAEL: One of the things I feel from joy when I really double-click on it and look at it is I feel heart opening. And I’m aware that that hasn’t been an easy automatic thing. And then I take you back to, “what does it feel like? How is that for you when joy helps open your heart some?”
DOUG: There’s a dissolving of, um, separation and sort of that sense of, we are all are one, we’re all tied together, despite ideologies and all the rest of it.
MICHAEL: And when you merge, when you go there, Doug – when you’re closer to “we’re all one. I fit in with everything else and everything fits in with me” – how does that feel? What’s that like? Is it pleasant? Is an unpleasant, is it energizing? Is it sleepy? What’s it like? Satisfying.
DOUG: It feels like a “coming home”, if that makes sense.
MICHAEL: All right.
DOUG: And in a sense, it feels like a coming home to a place that I’ve really not known before. Um, and yet it feels familiar at the same time.
MICHAEL: Yeah. So we could go deeper and deeper. This is just a little demo. But just to, summarize it, we went from joy to noticing open-heart, to noticing a return home. And your body language almost got a little like gooey or relaxed or held, or maybe what I imagine when the baby in the womb or something, but in a more universal way, there was some sort of lusciousness that I noticed.
I may be imagining it. And we just, through feeling state, we cycled a little deeper and deeper into your experience. And you may now have an insight that what I want beyond joy is that sense of coming home to a place I didn’t know, but feels familiar when I’m there.
DOUG: I’m almost thinking of that John Denver song “coming home to a place he’s never been before.
MICHAEL: Well”, you might be listening to that tonight.
MICHAEL: And then I would then go to, okay, so there’s the somatic stuff. What could you do? Like, I don’t want to process the whole thing and take you through it all because it takes some time. But, you know, then we can go to, “Alright, that’s my want. What do I do with that?”
And you may come up with some actions. You may find that every time you talk to your roommate, that you see an opportunity for more of that. Every time you go grocery shopping, you may find that, “oh, if I can find some joy or open up my heart to the cash cashier, I may find more of that.”
You may find things to do differently as a result that move you towards the desire. And ultimately you feel more satisfied or content or realized.
DOUG: This “action” piece is really intriguing. It lit up some lights in me. I see those light bulbs going on above me. So this is part of the ROCA, right?
DOUG: So can you go back over .. “R” is for relax?
MICHAEL: Relax, which is the slowdown. Out of my monkey mind, out of my head.
“O” is open. Ah, what’s really going on. I’m available to my experience. I’m available to you.
The “C” is connect. Ahhh, now that I’m available, I’m going to connect with you. We’ve just done that. I’m connected to your experience of joy. And I’m curious. I’m like, “oh, what’s beyond joy? And then now that you have some insight, what do I do with that?
I can just enjoy that. I can just be with that and things will shift and change as a result. In your subconscious, you have more clarity of awareness and you have more conscious clarity of what your subconscious was after. “Oh, I have more clarity that I’m really, after that coming home.” That’s part of what this is about for me.
But I then asked the question, which is very masculine, not very feminine. “What action? What do we do with that in terms of energetic? Like it doesn’t have to be, “let’s go do something!” But there is a, now that you are connected, what’s next? That is the action.
DOUG: It’s almost like now that the landscape has opened up a little bit more, and I can see a little bit farther ahead, what step might I take next? You know, they say that you can only see one or two steps ahead of you, and each step opens up a new doorway, new possibilities.
MICHAEL: It’s a lot easier to think about action in a more mundane or common dynamic. Like, let’s say I’m in a relationship that’s not working and we’re always yelling or we’re always at each other.
Then I slow down and I open up. How’s that feel? “Oh, man, it feels painful.” I feel so sad. And I feel like I’m not getting what I want. I want to be loved and I want to give love, and I’m not getting that. And I really feel that I connect to that feeling. I connect to others in sharing that, and I really get that. I want to be in a loving relationship.
And right now, the way I yell and the way I respond, it’s anything but loving. It’s actually challenging and confronting, and in a way kind of aggressive. And I’m not soft. I’m all hard. And I have this awareness. I’m like, “okay, what do I do with that too? I just stop. Or do I say no?”
There’s some things I could do, because I want love. So what am I going to do? Well, I’m going to take a deep breath before I respond …would be an action. I’m going to every day write the way I wish it were and feel that. That might make me more present in my interactions. I’m going to tell her what just happened and tell her what I want.
I’m not suggesting that any one of these actions is going to transform the relationship. I’m saying that they create movement – steps along the path. If I don’t take action, I’m just stuck. I’m in freeze. And what happens when you’re frozen, when nothing happens, is as the clock ticks, you’re further away from being in the loving relationship you want, because you have less time.
We take an action and the clock ticks.l The clock is actually working in your favor because then when the clock ticks again I’m going to take another action, another action, another action. I have initiated a sequence of baby steps. And when I take one, I likely feel good at being better, anyways, at being in action.
And I go to the next and the next. Some might say, well, if that action fails, will I actually do the next one? And then you feel it again. I feel it, “God, it’s not working, and I really want love.” So I better take another action.
So there’s something real core here that I want to make sure we get before we, complete, which is this notion of how we respond to challenge, or how we respond when we’re threatened.
In the animal kingdom either there’s you fight. Let’s say that a deer is attacked by a mountain lion. Well, the deer could either fight, but they’re not going to because they’re going to lose. They know that. They flight, they flee. If they can, they will, they’ll run away. And if not, if they can’t run away, they know that the mountain lion is faster, than they freeze. They play dead. I hope that by playing dead, the mountain lion is going to get disinterested and walk away.
And what we do as humans is we often freeze. I want this loving relationship and I’m not sure what to do. So I deny it. I avoid it. I don’t take action. I freeze. Sometimes we fight. Sometimes we leave.
In the animal kingdom when that animal freezes, if the mountain lion walks away, what you will see – and it’s documented on video – is when the deer gets up, the first thing it does is starts shaking. It doesn’t just run away, it shakes. What’s happening is it’s shaking off the freeze so it can re-engage and then run away. The theory is the same thing happens to us humans – emotionally. Instead of being physically threatened, we’re emotionally threatened. If we shut down and we freeze, we need to release the freeze in order to take action.
That’s what somatic work helps us do. When you feel the pain of that relationship, or the anger or the fear or whatever, and you feel it more and more, you will often have some type of physiological reaction or release. It might be shouting. It might be shaking. It might be crying. It might be punching a pillow. But there’s something where it’s like, “I’m so fricking angry, I’ve got to do blah” – and then you start letting it loose. Then you yell and you pound and you do that.
That’s unfreezing. And then the energy is no longer stuck. And then you can take action. So the somatic work is a vehicle or a conduit to unfreeze. You feel the feeling so much that it compels you to do whatever it is that unfreezes, and then you go to action state. You can’t really act until you do that.
DOUG: We’ve covered a lot here.
MICHAEL: That’s what you wanted, right?
DOUG: Yeah, no, I love it. I love this long form content. It really allows for deep diving that I think for the right person, it just makes a world of difference.
I actually have four questions for you left. And three of them are lined up in a row.
DOUG: The first one is when might a man know that he’s ready to approach something like Evryman?Where is he in life? What’s going on inside of him? What kind of self observation or feelings or something, would he be sensing that lets him know there’s something else I gotta do here? when is he right to come into Evryman?
MICHAEL: Any man who says, “I want something” – that’s really simple. Any man who’s saying there’s some change or “I desire’ .. you really don’t have to be ready. You just have to step in. I’ve been in places where men were just curious. They didn’t come with any reasonable curiosity. Then they observed, they started doing a little bit of it, feeling some of it. And that was enough for them to say, wow, “I want to do, like, I want some change now that I’m a little more open and a little more connected to what’s going on in me, I want change.”
So I think anyone’s ready who has the curiosity or desire, curiosity to check it out or desire for change. And of course, you know, when you’re there and if it doesn’t work, then you stop.
DOUG: Okay. The next question is more of a tactical one. It’s like, if they are interested, what should they do?
MICHAEL: So they go to Evryman.com E V R Y M A N.com and see our offerings. There’s some free experiences. There’s an inexpensive monthly membership, which is roughly 20, $25, $30 a month, where you get access to all sorts of things.
And where we like to direct men is to get a little familiar with our methodologies through some online training experiences – it’s very brief – to go to a few online groups to have an experience of being in circle with other men. And then ultimately to join a local group so you can be physically with man, assuming it’s COVID safe. And there are some groups you can join through Evryman. And we also support men and starting their own groups.
A group means that you’re committed to going consistently, and groups often meet once weekly or every other week. And it sounds like a big commitment. It is a significant commitment, but you get back what you put in. Categorically, men whose go to groups are thrilled.
It’s transformative. And that’s where incredible change happens. And you build the type of relationships where “these are my brothers.” Like “I know they’re there for me.” And that’s pretty amazing as a man.
When Evryman began, in essence I think we were looking to shift two things for men. One is the sense of social isolation.
A lot of men do not have a network of deep caring friends. “Locker room talk, let’s go watch a game. Let’s have a beer.” But not like “What is really going on? Tell me what you’re worried about and I’m here to help.” So it’s to help reverse masculine social isolation.
And the second is to help men connect to their feelings so that they can take actions and make decisions from a place that’s connected to “what’s real inside me? What am I really feeling? What’s going on?”
And groups create access to both.
DOUG: Are there virtual groups?
MICHAEL: There are virtual groups; there’s plenty of them. And there’s virtual group experiences where you don’t need to be committed. You can come in once or whenever it works for you. And there’s other experiences beyond groups. There’s meaningful conversations. We have a no drink, happy hour where guys are just talking about whatever they’re talking about – often it’s deep and real. But it’s just more social and conversational. There’s yoga or meditation. There’s a number of different things to experience within the community. But what I like is that it’s economical and I think there’s scholarships available and it’s very accessible.
All you really need to do is go to the website, become a member and start checking it out. And there’s more. There’s more offerings than that within a membership.
And then we have these weekend retreats where some men, instead, they just want like a deep, immersive experience and they go for a two and a half or three day experience or sign up for a course that goes for a few months. So that’s another way, instead of doing groups,
DOUG: The third question – I think you actually already answered – is, what could they do right now and experience to get a taste of this? And I would say it would probably be to listen to the meditation we went through at the very beginning of this podcast interview.
Maybe you have something else?
MICHAEL: They can go to a free group that’s open to the public. Or they could ask for, you know, a limited membership or a trial.
What else? They could listen to some of the Evryman podcasts. But I don’t think that gives you as much of a sense of the experience. You know, we believe that experience it. Spend an hour, attend, and notice what comes up. What you have at risk is an hour; what’d you have to gain is enormous.
DOUG: Okay. And the final question – you’ll probably guess that I would ask this – is that same question that Tim Ferriss uses at the end of his. If you could put something on a billboard or on the phone, every time it fires up on the splash screen, what might it say? Or what would you put on there?
MICHAEL: Well, I’m all about aliveliness and living the greatest life you can live. So I would ask permission to have maybe like the Burma shave ads, where there was a few billboards in succession to make a point instead of just one billboard. So if you give me that latitude, I would ask for three billboards.
First is imagine you’re 90 and looking back: “Was it a life well lived?”
The second says, “It’s your life. It’s up to you. Make it all it can be.”
And the third says, “Take action!” And all caps now – exclamation point – ANY ACTION IS BETTER THAN NO ACTION!”
And the reason I would wish for that is I find when we look forward, when we’re aged and we’re looking backwards – “Was a life well lived?” that’s where we get the sense of the degree to which we have joy or regret. Not in this moment, but rather looking backwards from the future.
So I really like to get someone in that headspace: “How did I do this current near? How did I do last year or 10, 10 years before, or 10 years after? And then from there tell people, remember, it’s up to you. It’s yours. It’s not somebody else’s.
And then the next step is action. Don’t just think about it. Do something. And this notion of taking any action is better than no action, because as I see it, if we take baby steps, the clock is in our favor. It means that with the ticking of time, there’s more and more progress. Maybe they’re baby steps, but they move us somewhere. And if we’re frozen and we don’t take action, then the clock works against us. So that’s why I’d like to finish by saying “Any action is better than no action.”
DOUG: That last one reminds me of a Zen quote – I think, it’s a Zen quote with a little twist on it that comes in from sailing – that goes “One step in the wrong direction is better than a hundred years of thinking about it. You can always course correct.”
MICHAEL: Yeah. I like that.
In somatic work, what we’re talking about is getting out of the free state. “I’m not sure what to do, so I’m frozen.” And that’s a set up for, in a sense, suffering or quote unquote failure. But any action gets us moving – in the somatic sense there’s movement. And that leads to the next thing and invites the next thing. And it’s anything but freeze.
And that’s probably a good thing to end with when you talk about somatic work. Some action is better than no action. Being in movement is better than being in freeze.
DOUG: All right, Michael. Thanks for joining us today. And for those of you that want to learn more, you can see more information about Evryman at www.Evryman.com.
And thanks for joining us
MICHAEL: You’re welcome Doug. It was a lot of fun.
DOUG: Thanks for joining me for this edition of What Really Matters Interviews. You can listen to other podcasts I’ve done with authors, artists, adventures and personal growth experts at www.WhatReallyMattersInterviews.com.