A few years ago, one of Alex’s friends I’d never met offered to do a “channeling” session with me.
“Channel what?”, I asked Alex. “Channel your spirit guides”, she said matter of factly, “to help you get a better idea of what you want to do with your life”.
At the time I felt imprisoned by my shitty career, so I was open to anything that might help me break away from tech sales hell and catch a fire elsewhere. But consulting a spiritual medium? I was convinced that sadly, Alex had officially lost her mind. She’d left planet earth and was finally On Our Moon, for good. The closest I’d ever gotten to channeling spirits was when I would jerry-rig the TV antenna with seventeen feet of tin foil as a kid, and convince myself that the strange shapes I made out in the static noise were from an episode of Cinemax; Erotic Confessions (‘90s bros know, the struggle was real).
Besides, I was already tuned in to plenty of “wellness” channels - yoga, meditation, reiki, qigong - each of which yielded tangible, mental or physical benefits that I could rely on. Results that could be measured, in subtractions of aches and pains, or additions in hours slept. To make matters even more eyebrow-raising, the proposed location for our session was… the internet. Not only would I be receiving life advice from spirits watching over me from a 4th dimension, translated through someone I’d never met before in my life, but the whole thing would take place over Skype. Apparently even angels couldn’t resist going digital.
For all my skepticism, the session itself ended up being pretty striking. Here was this person I’d never met, relaying facts about me she had no business knowing, from three hundred miles away, through a web chat window. Not ambiguous prognostications about my future, or generalizations about my history, but lucid, precise details about memories and feelings from my past, known only to me. Like the tears I wept, alone in my dorm room after getting beat up my freshman year of high school. Or the dream I had about my grandfather, the night my mom gave me his ring to use as my wedding band when Alex and I got married.
Unfortunately, the session’s grand finale fell flat, or so it felt. As things reached a crescendo, she started tearing up, and exclaimed how aggressively my guides were trying to communicate to her my true purpose in life. “They’re saying that you’re going to help men” she said. Perplexed and let down by the response, I started trying to shoehorn her assertion into my preferred context. “Like, with sports? Like, I’m going to be a sports personality that helps men better understand and learn critical life lessons through sports?” I asked desperately. “No”, she said, “you’re going to heal men”.
In the years since, I’ve trivialized this experience for so many “logical” reasons. For one, how can you heal others when you yourself are unwell? Devoid of any sense of achievement or purpose, my life felt like a cesspool of unhappiness and insecurity at various points following that session. Shackled to a job I loathed in a life I’d become increasingly disillusioned by, I hardly felt like a good candidate to help other people find healing, growth and fulfillment in their own lives. Even recently, following my escape from that life, and the successful pursuit of one aligned with my passions, more deeply rooted doubts about that prophecy still existed. Namely, the whole “men” part.
I have a complicated relationship with men. I don’t really trust ‘em. It started with my dad and continued into grade school, middle school, then high school. I had a pathological tendency to surround myself with at least one or two bullies, who would manipulate, condescend or take advantage of me in the interest of making themselves feel better, more powerful, or more accepted at my expense. As I entered my 20s, I was able to identify and eradicate this tendency, building stronger personal boundaries and recalibrating my friend group to represent the people that truly cared for and respected me. But even then, challenges with men continued to persist.
My current friend group, while caring and generally respectful of one another on the surface, still festers with toxicity. Competitiveness, namely. For years, we’ve romanticized the behavior as a byproduct of us all being so close and fraternal, like brothers. We’ve normalized the insults, gossip, pissing contests and trolling between us, and chalked it up to “boys being boys”. With me, at times, being one of the worst perpetrators. But the further removed I’ve gotten from interacting with this behavior on a daily basis, the more I’ve started to see how harmful it’s been, to all of us. The more I’ve realized that the general dynamic between us was just a new chapter in a lifetime of experiences that continued to further embolden my perpetual distrust and wariness of being vulnerable around men.
As they’re apt to do however, that narrative took a small but pronounced turn this past weekend. Some new shit came to light, as The Dude would say, in the quiet, presumably Dude-approved beach town of Encinitas, California. We were there for a course Alex signed us up for, to get certified on leading people through breathwork sessions, something I didn’t really know much about going into it, but boy was I in for a jolt.
At it’s core, breathwork consists of lying on the ground, closing your eyes and breathing for roughly thirty minutes. For as simple as this sounds in practice, it’s equal parts profound in terms of the results it yields. At the expense of over explaining, let’s just say that during breathwork, your mind, body and ego melt away, and you’re able to engage with yourself on a much deeper, more intrinsic level than you’re used to. In less time than it takes to make scrambled eggs, physical pains, emotional traumas, and festering wounds from your past can come rapidly bubbling up to the surface, only to be instantaneously released into the ether like vapors, never to hamper you again. All from just... breathing. It sounds like a trip, I know, but it was easily one of if not the most mind-bending, enlightening thing I’ve experienced in my entire life. Especially as it relates to my lifelong narrative around men.
In just a few days of sucking in oxygen, I was able to expose many of my deepest traumas and darkest vulnerabilities, and map those back to the limiting character flaws and behaviors they were responsible for manufacturing in me, many of which I’d been suffering from forever. And then I was able to air those vulnerabilities to an entire room of strangers, many of whom were men. And then I watched them do the same. And then we hugged and cried and laughed hysterically at the beauty and simplicity in identifying these correlations, in turn diffusing their stigmas and the powerful hold that they’d gripped us with, individually, for as long as we could remember.
It made me realize that all men, beneath our often blustery exteriors, have a single, inalienable commonality that we all share. That all we really want is to be vulnerable, to be accepted, and to be loved. That we all have trauma, collected and hardened over generations, that we hide under thick layers of armor, which skews our ability to accept these vulnerabilities and to express our innate yearning for belonging. But that when we’re able to peel back this crust and meet together on the same vibrational plane, devoid of any of the chest-pumping, dick-measuring personas we’ve all grown so accustomed to interacting with the world in, all we really want is love. And we can embrace warmly, as brothers, and provide that to one another, unconditionally.
Even still, I remain unconvinced that my path is that of a “healer”, much less of men. For as transformational as the experience was this past weekend, it left me feeling pretty drained, physically, mentally and emotionally. Even a few days spent in this red-rock heaven, surrounded by nature, healthy eating, sleep and relaxation hasn’t recharged me like I was expecting it to, calling into question whether I really have the stamina to engage in this type of work on a regular basis.
But one thing that’s indisputable is the profound shift that the experience created, in transforming my perception of men. In helping me realize that every man that’s ever hurt me was simply operating from a place of pain, fear or shame. That all they were really looking for, in their own misguided way, was love, peace, and a feeling of belonging. That this work is important. For as much as the world is changing for the better, men are still dragging their feet in joining the movement for a less toxic, more egalitarian and spiritually enlightened society. That in committing to heal only myself, perhaps I’m doing the world a service, all be it incremental. That instead of worrying too much about my cosmic purpose, or where this is all headed, the best next step is just to sit back, relax, and breath.