Bringing Forth Your True Sense of Purpose

Researchers like Elizabeth Kubler-Ross tell us that people who have a “near death experience” often describe seeing their whole life flash before their eyes. They realize that they had been chasing all the wrong dreams. Later, they stop pursuing money and fame and find that making the greatest contribution is the reward they were looking for, not the money that it brings. You can come to that same clarity without having to risk your life or to die temporarily. This means to question all the false identities that have been embossed into your soul by culture, family, and philosophies, both ancient and modern. It means to become aware of them and to let them go. Then your innocent face, your natural voice, emerges, and you know the Right Thing to Do. 


A great way to get started with this is by keeping a journal. For example, you can write a list of all the people in the world who most inspire you. Take the time to really go into this deeply. Whose life story lights you up with a sense of energy and passion? Once you have collected some names like this, scan the list and think about the qualities that each person emanates rather than the specific activities they are involved in. 

For example:

Leonard Cohen ~ Poetic visionary

Paul McCartney ~ Heartfelt creative genius

Eckhart Tolle ~ Natural authentic mystic

John Mackey ~ Conscious entrepreneur

Barbara Marx Hubbard ~ Energized aging

Oprah Winfrey ~ Generous change agent

Steve Jobs ~ Persistent innovator

Malala Yousafzai ~ Courageous rebel 

Muhamed Yunus ~ Empowering leader

The next step is to envision a life for yourself that allows you to live these same qualities. Perhaps you can think of some activities that are available to you right away, today, that can allow you to explore these qualities more fully. 

You can also ask twelve people for the qualities they most admire in you. Ask people who have known you for a long time like your brothers and sisters or childhood friends. If you ask twelve people to tell you twelve qualities they each admire and appreciate about you, you will get 144 qualities in all. You will find that many people will list qualities that are very similar, so you can group these together. This is probably the surest and most reliable way to get a sense of your “unique energetic blueprint.” For example, after doing such an exercise, you might have a list that includes insightful, humorous, articulate, focused, inspiring, and artful as a leader. Now, in the same way as above, you can journal about the kinds of activities that are immediately available to you to explore those qualities more. This can naturally lead to the next step: developing a vision of a way of life based around those qualities. Arjuna says: You can read more about this process, which we call “Midwifing the Unique Gift” in my book Better Than Sex.

Peer Support and Mentoring 

The unconscious masculine, out of which we are all evolving, has had a tendency to isolate himself, to have the thought I have to do this all on my own. Another man, whether a professional coach or simply a close friend, can help you to create the much needed ingredient of accountability. 

Here is how it works. Once you have a sense of the qualities that most inspire you, or indeed the qualities that other people most appreciate about you, carve out small periods every day that you can devote to developing these qualities. This process of carving out a little time each day takes discipline, and discipline is infinitely easier to find in collaboration with other men than it is on your own. An accountability partner is simply somebody you report to every day to say whether you did what you said you would do or not. A daily email will suffice quite well. 

Break it down into tiny steps. For example, commit to working on your book (or whatever it is) for just ten minutes a day. Ten minutes is easy. After ten minutes, if you feel like continuing, great. But your commitment is actually only for ten minutes. Then send your accountability partner an email saying, “Yes I did it.” If you don’t trust yourself to tell the truth about this, which some people don’t, you could email proof of what you accomplished that day. You and your buddy will find between yourselves the best ways to hold each other accountable.

The Vision Quest

Here is a very powerful way (and you could say a foolproof way) to bring forth a sense of mission. 

Arjuna says: As an Awakening Coach, whenever I work with a man who feels that he has lost his sense of mission and purpose, I do everything I can to support him to take a retreat alone. Five days is ideal, but take as long as you can manage. You need to minimize all distractions, so switch off the phone, leave the computer at home, no reading, and no writing. The key to a retreat like this is the quality of waiting. I have suggested such a retreat to dozens of men over the last 25 years of coaching. Some said that it felt like going crazy: every kind of weird, exaggerated fantasy floats before your eyes. But as each one floats in, you can have the intelligence to let it go and recognize that it is just the conditioned mind. Almost invariably, by the end, you find that your head is clear. All the fears and desires have dissipated and are recognized just as thoughts, and then you just know what to do. You absolutely know what was your distraction in your life, and you absolutely know what your true calling is. 

I suggested this retreat to one man who was living in New York and working as a hedge fund manager. He was making a multiple six-figure income, and he was engaged to be married. By the end of the retreat, he just knew what to do. He drove back to New York and went almost directly to his fiancée’s house. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I know this is difficult and painful for both of us, but I’ve realized that I’m not the right man to make you happy. We really wouldn’t be right for each other. And also, I have realized that the work I’ve been doing is not really my passion at all; I was doing it just for the money.” Of course, they had to talk things through, but finally, he left New York and went back to his native Australia to do what really inspired him the most: surfing. He opened a shop on the beach selling surfboards and went on to found a very successful surfboard manufacturing company. If he hadn’t gone on that five-day retreat, his life would have taken a very different turn. 

Celebrate Your Victories 

Another important practice in bringing forth your true sense of purpose is to celebrate victories. When you have accomplished something great, create the time to be with your children or your partner to really enjoy the other aspects of your life that are not the primary expressions of your mission. A Conscious Man needs work time as well as cake time: Mission Time as well as Mission Accomplished Time. 

John says: At the end of the day, I love to have dinner with Bonnie, my wife, and then we sit on the couch and watch television. After a day of giving everything I have to give, I feel like I’ve earned the right to sit here. I’ve done my duty. If I had not done all I could to serve people in the day, I would not be able to enjoy this downtime so much. 

Deep Listening

There are many dimensions to listening. One is just like the sky: to be still and receive. Simply listening to someone sharing challenges and issues may in itself be the solution that is required. Particularly for a woman, when she feels heard, it produces oxytocin—which lowers stress—and then she discovers that she has the power to solve the problem on her own, or it loses its importance. A Conscious Man has the trust that when someone is emotional or stressed, or when new creative thoughts are rising and dreams are sprouting, a process is working in the other person. He knows that he does not have to interrupt that process to fix it. He simply provides a stable and safe container for it to find its resolution.

Practice active listening by becoming curious and asking powerful questions so as to draw out more from the person speaking. Ivan Misner, the greatest expert in the world on networking, says that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them all proportionally. “It’s something I had to work on and I continue to work on. Especially when it is a topic I really know something about. If someone comes to me with an issue, within thirty seconds I feel I know what the problem is, and I have the solution. And I need to tell them. But if you start to tell someone what they should be doing before you have really heard them, they don’t feel heard and they can’t listen to your answer. You may have heard the same problem one hundred times before. But it’s only when the other person feels heard that you can give them suggestions and ideas. So a Conscious Man uses both ears and his mouth in a two-to-one ratio. I’m still working on that.”

Deep Listening

A man can listen in a superficial way but also in a deep way. Deep Listening means to hear every dimension of the other person, both what is said as well as what is implied. It means to hear the words and the emotions underneath them and to hear the general disposition and mood of the person: to hear all of it.

Here is a really simple and obvious example. You go to a family gathering at your parents’ house. When you arrive, your mother has done most of the preparations already.

“What can I do to help get ready?” you ask.

“Oh, I’ve done most of it already by myself. It would have been great if you could have asked me an hour ago. Just do what you want now; I really don’t care.” If you listen only to the words, you might reply, “Well great, Mom. If you really don’t care, I’ll just go put my feet up and have a beer.” But it would be obvious to anybody that the words do not contain everything she is communicating. She is telling you that she feels resentful, abandoned, or frustrated. She has given up hope of you showing up and being present.

Deep Listening means to hear that she has not felt supported, and even deeper listening would mean to also recognize her difficulty in asking for help. It might mean to reach out and connect with her and give her a hug, to quietly in your heart empathize with her feelings, and only then to look around for some practical task that you could take on.

That was an obvious example that very few men would miss. All day long we are faced with more subtle examples where we are called upon to listen more deeply than just to the words on the surface.

When we get distracted in superficial listening, we can become like an attorney, focusing on the exact meaning of words but overlooking where they are coming from.When anyone says, “You never show up on time,” or “You always make such a mess,” Deep Listening means to not take the words literally but to see them as an opportunity to validate emotion. This is empathy. Rob Allbee learned this in his work in Folsom Prison with prisoners serving life sentences: “You just sit back and listen to the story, listen to where they are coming from. People want to feel like they matter. I’ve learned that I can just sit here, and listen, and be authentically engaged simply because I want to give the prisoners the feeling that they matter.”

Being fully present means to feel what it is like to be inside the other person’s reality, including the fact that they are stressed and overtired and maybe need help and do not know how to ask for it. It means to be able to slip inside the other person’s shoes and to feel what it’s like to be in there. That is how you fall in love with people.

Deep Listening can be condensed down to three powerful statements. You do not need to say these statements out loud; they can be communicated through the way you show up.

I’m right here.

The first statement is one of presence. It is communicated in the way that you are in your body. “Feel me: I’m here with you.” 

Tell me more.

The second statement is one of curiosity. It communicates a disposition of wanting to know more. “Help me understand this better.”

I’ve got this.

The third statement is one of action. Again, it does not have to be communicated through words or even doing anything immediately. It is a disposition. Think of Michelangelo’s statue of David in Florence. He is sizing up Goliath. He has a certain stance. Michelangelo perfectly captures that moment. David is holding his rock, knowing that he has the skill to take down the giant. He has an expression of calm equanimity and confidence. His whole being is saying, “I can do this. I’ve got it.”

Communication in the Bedroom

We have learned that the most important gift a woman can give to a man is to communicate her needs: to find ways to tell him honestly when she wants to have sex, when she wants to be sensuous and cuddle, and when she wants to be left alone. Men have a difficult time imagining or guessing what sex is like for a woman, and unless you communicate, he assumes that it is exactly the same as it is for him, which turns out to be far from the truth. To become more conscious sexually, men need a lot of feedback about what is working, what is not, and when it is time to stop or slow down. You can communicate this not only with words, but by making sounds of pleasure or by moving his hand somewhere else.

One of the greatest errors that women make today is to assume that when a man wants to have sex, he is only trying to get off or to release pent up tension. A Conscious Man is motivated to love you deeply, through his whole body, and it feels good to him to succeed in taking you to the moon through sex. Rather than offering him a quickie or oral sex, it may be better to be honest when you are not in the mood but instead to make a date, at least once a week, to be intimate together. This does not even have to involve intercourse: it is simply a firm date to be naked together, to breathe and touch and connect. A date like this is guided by your pleasure. Let him know what you like and how quickly or slowly to move to the next step. You might even like to teach him how you would like him to give you orgasms through your clitoris, your G spot, as well as deep in your vagina. To a Conscious Man, this is a gift. It is a much more fulfilling sexual experience than just getting off.

Some women will sometimes fake pleasure or even orgasm, which trains a man to think he is doing a great job as a lover when he is not. That is not the best way to bring forth consciousness in a man. When resentments build up between a man and a woman, it affects a woman sexually more than it affects a man. He can still have sex even when there is “stuff” in the air. But for a woman, when there are unresolved feelings in the relationship — resentment, distrust, hurt, or distance — it makes it difficult to genuinely open up in sex. Since he does not understand that so well, he may put his partner under pressure and tell her that she is not contributing to the relationship. Many women then just do it anyway, to please him and to do their part. Under these circumstances, a woman wants to get it over with quickly. She will look for the shortest route to get him aroused so he can ejaculate. The key here is to talk about feelings and to encourage him to practice listening.

Both men and women come from thousands of years of woman’s sexuality being less important than a man’s. For a Conscious Man, the practice is to focus more on your pleasure. It recreates balance and retrains him to be more aware sexually. We might think the opposite is also true, that for a Conscious Woman, the practice is to focus more on his pleasure. But we have all been doing that already for thousands of years. It will help a man much more to practice focusing on your pleasure. Focus on what feels good to you and what opens you, and find ways to communicate that to him. That will give your man the opportunity to succeed in being a good lover. Remember, in every way men feel better about themselves when they are able to succeed through action.

If you are single, it is equally important to be honest with yourself and everyone else about what you really want and what you do not want. It is important to learn how to say “No” to a man, without the fear of rejecting him and losing him.

A Few Minutes Alone Can Make All the Difference

Modern man today does not have the opportunity to come home from hunting and then sit and stare at a fire. The hundred thousand demands of work are followed by the hundred thousand demands of home. His nervous system has not rewired itself quickly enough to catch up with the dramatic change of lifestyle. He still needs space and withdrawal in order to detach from the demands of the day. In solitude, in stillness, he finds his center again.

42The primary habit that makes it difficult for contemporary man to take the space that he needs, to return back to himself, is the sense of being overwhelmed by a never-ending torrent of small details that require urgent attention. Of course, dramatic advances in technology just in the last couple of decades have made this feeling immensely stronger. Hardly a few minutes go by without a text, or an email, or a call, or the equally alluring distraction of TV, radio, tweets and Facebook updates and… it never seems to end. Living in a hyperactive world like this can cause us, as men, to feel that there is always another fire to put out. Even when there is nothing immediate to do in front of you, it can still leave you with the continuous feeling of something mildly important that got forgotten. This makes it difficult to take space. The sense of distraction, of small details to attend to, becomes addictive. When was the last time you sat at the gate waiting to board a plane or even sat at a bus stop or in a doctor’s waiting room? These are all opportunities to be still, to feel the environment around you, and to practice pure waiting-being aware. But today, we rarely allow ourselves to do that. Perhaps just like us, small gaps in your day easily get filled by pulling out the smart phone or lifting the lid on the laptop and filling in the few moments of “nothing to do” with finding “something to do.” It’s keeping busy.

It can be very uncomfortable when you finally decide to sit still. Many men say the practice of stillness is very difficult, because when you do sit still and even close your eyes, the rapid movement of attention from one thing to 43another keeps going, even in the absence of any external stimulus. The key here, when you do make a conscious decision to withdraw from the world and take space, is not to try and make the mind quiet and still, but simply to notice with curiosity and sometimes even with amazement, how wildly the machine is spinning out of control. Simply making this amused recognition will not immediately change your state, but it will return attention to something deeper, something that is conscious and aware and present even in the midst of rapid mental activity. That is pure awareness, and that is the deeper dimension of you calling you home.

Much more than in any previous generation, men today aspire to being fully involved in family life. We want to be loving and caring partners. We are not just interested in seduction up to the point of “getting laid.” Instead, the conscious man has had a taste of a loving and harmonious relationship and wants to go deeper into it. We want to be good fathers as we have felt what it is like to be present and involved. We like it. We want to show up. This aspiration to be a good man, not only in our own eyes but also in the eyes of other people too, creates a relational pull: a feeling of obligation to participate. And so, retreating into solitude or “cave time” can easily feel like self-indulgence or like you are denying other people what they rightly deserve from you.

Many men say that this kind of pull comes particularly strongly when they come home at the end of the workday. A man might tell us his honest truth: he wants some time to withdraw. He has had it with the demands of other people and with the swirling, 41churning confusion of the world. But as he opens the door, he is greeted by his partner and the excited bright-eyed demands of his children. Now he faces a whole new set of obligations. His partner has also been working all day. Now, caring for children, preparing food, and supervising homework, is part of his duty. The thought of taking 20 or 30 minutes to withdraw from everything and find his center again causes him to feel guilty. Some men turn to alcohol or marijuana or even to other substances to dampen down this feeling of wanting to explode.

The good news is that there is a way out. Simply recognizing and consciously acting on the need for space can work miracles. Take a walk or a few minutes alone to breathe and embrace the stillness around you. Breathe gentlemen, breathe.

Love is a Practice

If you are a man who-like us-chooses monogamy, the most important key is a level of honesty that is so moment to moment and so detail oriented that things never build up and become a big deal.

Arjuna says: I tell my wife about small attractions that I feel throughout my day. Even if I have a dream which features a 53beautiful woman, I might tell Chameli about the dream in the morning. If you practice this kind of meticulous honesty on a day-to-day basis, it may not be entirely comfortable, especially at the beginning, but it will build trust in a way that you might not expect. She knows that you are healthy normal man, who experiences sexual energy, but you also have the presence to feel it and not act on it. In the long run, this will be much more important for building trust than pretending that you are Mahatma Gandhi and you never ever notice a pretty girl.

As a man, it’s not a matter of if you experience attraction to other women but what happens when you experience attraction to other women. It happens. Feel this energy fully when it comes to you. Enjoy it as a pleasurable feeling in your body, as a rush of aliveness, as an opening of your heart. Be grateful that you are having this feeling of pleasurable energy. Direct this feeling, once it is alive in you, back to thinking about your partner. Perhaps you are having dinner with a beautiful woman when you are out of town for business or any other reason. If you notice a flush of attraction, feel it fully, and then tell her about how much you love your wife. Or if you are traveling and not going straight home to your partner, write her a romantic letter, or call her up, and bring these feelings of arousal back to remembering your attraction for her.

Love Is a Practice

52John says: I remember a moment seven years into my marriage. After making love with Bonnie, I said to her, “That was fantastic. It was as good as it was in the beginning.”
“Oh, I thought it was much better,” she replied.
“Really? How so?” I asked her.
“In the beginning we had great sex,” she said, “but we didn’t really know each other then. Now you’ve seen the best of me, and you’ve seen the worst of me, and you still adore me.” When she said that, I had to stop and think. I had never thought of it that way. It was a moment of becoming more conscious as a man. The love we had built in seven years had made the sex much more fulfilling.

To love deeply is to experience all of who a person is. It’s not to fantasize that she is perfect but to grow and love someone who is not perfect simply because you have made a decision to love more each day. You create friendships in life by giving; they do not just happen automatically. Equally, you can create a great marriage. Its starts with a fantasy, and you create it through give-and-take. In those times when it is difficult to give and your partner needs you, you rise to the occasion. You made a promise to your partner. There are temptations and distractions, and you rise above them because you made a commitment. You grow in love.

Ultimately, your relationship becomes sacred. The words “sacred” and “sacrifice” both come from the same Latin root, “sacer,” which means holy. When you make sacrifices for someone, you make that person special. You make it a sacred relationship.

We have all had the experience of falling in love, which usually happens when we first meet someone we do not yet know very well. It is a glimpse of seeing just how beautiful everything can be when you truly open your eyes and your heart. But it is not yet grounded. You need practice to ground it, to stabilize it, to integrate it, and to live it. One of the greatest obstacles that men face is the expectation that love should be automatic, just as it was in the beginning 51when there was nothing you had to do. That glimpse was the result of chemistry and bumping into the right person at the right time. However, that particular configuration of forces will quickly disappear, and then you have to commit yourself to the practice of opening up that portal again and again and again. It is tempting to assume that it is your right to experience those feelings, and when they go away, it must be your partner’s fault. Then we get frustrated because we have the unrealistic expectation that romance, affection, attraction, and passion should be automatic if you are with the right person.

Remember with Netflix, or one hundred thousand other things available on the Internet, that you can get the first month free? They are hoping you get hooked. Then you have to pay. It is just like that with the practice of love. You get a free glimpse when you fall in love, and then you need to be prepared to make regular payments through daily practice.

Learning to love is best measured not by how you feel inside yourself but by how other people feel in your presence. It is relatively easy to be impressed with your own state of maturity. When you get to the point that your partner, or your teenage children, are impressed by your love, then and only then will you know that you are onto something. It requires you making your life into an art form instead of an accident.