Mark [0:00] Hello, Andrew, welcome to the Heart of Connection podcast. I’m your host Mark Randall and it is a great opportunity to sit here with you at the Association of Transpersonal & Experiential Psychotherapists (ATEP) gathering and to have a conversation about the Heart of Connection and what it means to you.
Just by way of introduction, would you mind giving a brief introduction as to Andrew, and life in his universe?
Connecting to Acupuncture & Men’s Circles
Andrew [0:18] Well, New South Wales Foster-Tuncurry. I’m an acupuncturist in Tuncurry. I’m interested in men’s groups and I’m currently starting up one in Ellenborough in a Wauchope. Wanting to get men on board into some really deep journey work, or maybe not so deep. To start – is just getting men interested in hanging around with each other and just sharing space together. That’s what I’m sort of just inviting myself into at the moment with some like-minded men so trying to get a group together?
Mark [0:56] What’s the connection there for you? How does that connect to you?
Connection to Like-Minded Men
Andrew [1:11] Connects me because I’d like to spend a bit more time with like-minded men. The connection without a beer in our hands. So we can socialize in more of an un-ordinary space, I suppose. This then becomes ordinary, everyday normal, but away from every day at the same time. So, it’s sort of just creating a space for ourselves and then that lets us go a little bit deeper.
Mark [1:46] In letting it go a little bit deeper with that bring us men closer to connect to our hearts?
Andrew [1:54] Yeah, for sure. That’s what it’s about. When I said going deeper than – that really probably translating for me would be, connecting more with your feelings, than what’s going on inside you. The hearts in there somewhere (Laughter).
Connecting Men to their Hearts
Mark [2:16] Yes, it’s interesting, I do a lot of work with men through Geelong Men’s Counselling Service and men we seem to be so up in our heads and so disconnected from our hearts. Would that be something you’d share or is it similar?
Andrew [2:22] Yeah, I’d share that belief. Yeah, there’s a bit of a split between the head and the heart I’ve found in my life. When you do get a bunch of guys together and talk this sort of subject, you really do find that we all start in our heads when we get together and then we sort of overtime drop down a little bit, you could say drop down into our hearts, and start sharing a little bit deeper stuff, within a safe environment.
Safe Men’s Circles to Share our Vulnerabilities
Andrew [3:07] That’s what we’re trying to get going at Ellenborough for our men’s group. A safe place to get a little bit real, I suppose and drop down into your heart. Be a bit vulnerable in the circle, and what shared in the circle stays there so it’s safe. Yeah, and then that has the opportunity to drop deeper in your heart and whether that means sharing stuff that you wouldn’t normally share, outside even to your family, that’s a possibility.
Andrew [3:38] So you just open up and if you want to crack open a little bit further you can. You can share a tear or so. I had the opportunity to do that after my father passed away about a year ago. I was just in the circle with the men at Ellenborough and I was able to naturally say it’s been a year since my Dad passed away. I was able to – just the tears just naturally came up in there. I wasn’t expecting that, I wasn’t planning that. It just sorts of – the emotion just came up. That was a blessing because I hadn’t really cried that much after his death but in that environment knowing that I had a buddy and they had my back – you know, it was all okay. It just naturally came up and I supposed I did connect to my heart then. The truth came up and it just came up through tears.
Our Bravado Front stop us connecting to our Hearts
Mark [4:35] What do you think over time has prohibited or prevented us men from being more heart-connected?
Andrew [4:44] Well I think it’s to do with having that front that manly sort of, I suppose that front of I’m all okay.
Mark [4:56] The male bravado?
Andrew [4:57] Totally. That’s what you show to the world and particularly in Australia that rough, tough man sort of stuff. Which is fine – there’s a place for it. It’s great energy but there is a time to sort of softening as well.
Mark [5:20] Were we allowed softening in the school ground?
Connection to Male Bravado begins at School
Andrew [5:26] No, not in the school ground. I thought it was more bravado, it’s like how good you were at sport – that was quite prized. For me in my primary school particularly and then into high school, it just ramps up a bit more.
Mark [5:39] I can imagine in primary school we were very soft up until grade four or maybe grade five – grade six then the ego starts kicking in?
Can we show anxiety on a football field?
Andrew [6:01] I sort of did (laughter) I was scared of big blokes running at me. If you didn’t tackle him – you’d pay the consequences of your teammates giving you heaps. If you were smaller or you are wimpy arse. So. I nearly knocked myself out once tackling this big bloke. I was dazed but I just picked myself up and kept on going. It shooked me, like it really shook me, I couldn’t sort of….
Connection to our Soldiering On
Mark [6:30] Soldier on?
Andrew [6:31] Yeah, soldier on. Yeah – there’s that aspect of soldiering on and don’t show any weakness. If your shaking in your boots inside, you just somehow you can – well in that context uses to push through it and, sometimes it turns into aggression, actually, that fear. You can actually flip into aggression, and you take that out on the other guy and it can get quite violent on a footy field.
Andrew [7:07] That can be valued. It can be taken the wrong way, you know, it can get out of control as well. It’s not very good behavior by the way when you trying to belt some bloke.
Mark [7:20] It’s good that the Australian Football League (AFL), being Victorian, the AFL, has really done a lot of work to stop that violence to – really curb that violence, it’s really inappropriate.
Mark [7:33] One of the things – what’s stopped men or what’s created men being disconnected from the vulnerability?
Men’s Fear of Being Soft in Vulnerability
Andrew [7:44] I think it’s a fear of being soft, may be looked upon as being softer. Not having your stuff together, your life together. I think it’s almost like, if I drop into my vulnerability, it’s like I’ll only do it if it’s a safe environment around me. This is where the guys if I’m with guys they can handle that. I can quickly pick the guys who probably are okay to do that or not okay to do that.
Andrew [8:19] So I think it’s like a peer group type of thing. Like a cultural thing of the behavior of men.
Mark [8:26] From the Emotional Release Counselling (ERC) or Association of Transpersonal and Experiential Psychotherapists (ATEP) perspective, are we men disowning the feminine aspect of our psyche, by disconnecting to our vulnerability?
Men disowning of feminine side & own it in inner work
Andrew [8:38] Oh, for sure. If you’ve done any inner work, and around femininity and masculinity, the feminine side of opening up, being a bit softer or showing emotions, I think men generally have disowned, like that’s a general statement of just society the way we do.
Andrew [9:09] Once you gather men together, in a safe place, it tends to open up something – a whole new world. Men can explore that in safety and they do tend to drop and I do become soft. They become okay with it more. The more groups you go to you find that you just drop further and further into a softer place, and it’s actually a strong place.
Building Men’s Trust in Groups
Mark [9:36] So by attending group after group that sort of builds the group cohesion, the group trust and sense of safety for men to start to explore that stuff. As you’ve deepened, connected to your vulnerability, connected to your softness, have you experienced that connection to your softness, to your vulnerability?
Andrew [10:00] Over time, having good leadership, and trusting in that leadership can hold space that has allowed me to show up – with all parts of myself. Like that bravado part and also putting that part to the side because that got me there, that bravado part.
Dropping Deep into our Emotional Pain
Andrew [10:25] When you’re there, you can drop into that space, in a group so to speak. It just becomes easier, the layers tend to be shred. The defense layers are shred and you can just drop deeper and deeper. Just telling your truth is deeper for me – just getting real. Say, look, this is how I’m feeling. It might be fear, might be scared, might be angry, sad – sadness with grief lately. It’s such – it just becomes easy. It really does become come easy, after all. In the right context – in the right company.
Holding my Presence in my Hearts Softness
Mark [11:06] As you there, what’s it like to be able to, within yourself to be able to hold – that presence of that softness, just be immersed and just let yourself – be present there? What’s that like?
Andrew [11:18] That is a special place? It’s like, I’m not using any energy to defend. It’s actually a powerful place. It’s like the energy is concentrated on my truth. There’s no fluff going on around it – is no – there is no hardening. So it’s an easy space for me now. It was difficult, but after a while, it becomes easier, as I said. I feel really comfortable in my skin when I’m in that place. It’s a new place. Breathing is better, open, I’ve got a warm feeling when I’m in that place. Sometimes it can feel discomfort, as well. If there’s more of agitation of anxiety or fear, so it’s more of a cold place, instead of a warm, juicy place.
Connecting to the Warmth & Strength Beyond VulnerabilityConnecting to the Warmth & Strength Beyond Vulnerability Click To Tweet
Mark [11:54] When when you hit the warmth – is there deeper energy coming forward? Is it something that’s going past the vulnerability – that energy that warmth?
Andrew [12:31] Yes it’s like you sort of move through the vulnerability and into another place. It’s like permeable and that warmth permeates through my body. It’s like, there is an energy coming from somewhere else. It’s like, I’m not needing to do it. It’s like I’m open to the energy coming in and it’s just comfortable.
Andrew [12:57] It’s like your connected to something bigger and juicier.
Mark [13:03] Can you describe what your body experiences is that – as you notice that energy moving?
Connecting to the Warmth of My Being
Andrew [13:07] Warmth is the main word through the whole system. You feel your belly a bit more and your heart and your chest. Not in a puffed up bravado chest way. It’s more a softening of the muscles of your chest and your breathing is less restricted it’s more open. Your ribs are moving and the chest muscles are softer, but you feel more mass in your body. Like I’m pretty thin, not a chunky block. I feel like I’m bigger in a way but again not in a bravado way. Just more of a presence, I take up more space – that sort of feeling and more alive.
Mark [13:52] When you’re in that space, how does that radiate out to others? How does it – what sort – How does it facilitate a connection to others?
Connecting to the men’s Heart level our truth level
Andrew [14:07] In the safer place with just the men it’s easier. You’ve got more connection, on a bit of a deeper level more of a heart level, which is a truth level. Which is a concerning level for yourself and others, you feel more open to other’s experiences – not just your own. That’s to me, a deeper relationship, a connection without the voices in my head of judging them or criticizing myself. It’s very open, it’s very – like a forgiving place.
Andrew [14:44] Also, in this retreat that we’re going on over the last five days with other women being around. So it’s a different context. I have been able to drop into that space. As it is in that context of anything goes it’s all good here. So, it was easier – so just better relationships with people around me. It sort of draws people to you, or it’s just a natural flow, fewer defenses that’s for me. A natural flow of conversation and respect with each other.
Mark [15:18] With the fewer defenses, is there more freedom in your body, more freedom in your psyche?
Without our defense, shields relationships are easierWithout our defense, shields relationships are easier Click To Tweet
Andrew [15:23] Yes, it reflects in the relationships are easier. The conversations are easier. So your body feels – breathing is more open. You’ve got that warm flow through your body. So, I think people notice it when they are around you if you’re in that state. You notice people if they’re quite relaxed in that place as well. So, it’s just like you just gravitate towards each other.
Andrew [15:51] If you do come across another person that’s not quite in that space, or if I’m not in that space, it’s just a little bit harder to have a connection. You just sort of skirting around the edges and around the defense systems and stuff. Just energetically you just sort of feel something that’s not quite settled yet, in that person.
Andrew [16:11] So yeah, it can get complex – like all that stuff, like just talking about I was realizing there’s a lot of facets to it. When you’re in it – you’re in it, and you know it, and you feel it. It’s a nice place.
Openness and clear mind ~ free our mental health
Mark [16:27] What impact does that have on your well-being and your mental health?
Andrew [16:32] There’s, there’s no problem when you’re in that place. It doesn’t even sound right mental health, you know I mean. It’s like, you know, you need frame it up somehow – to talk the subject. Your mind’s clear. There’s no problem. There’s no analytical – cutting things up and separating things out – this is this. I like that – I don’t like that. That’s not and it’s gone.
Mark [17:02] It looks quite peaceful?
Andrew [17:05] Peaceful, warm again, you know, it’s engaging.
Mark [17:11] Do you connect to beyond yourself to the “All That Is” when your there – As you’re sharing, watching as you’re sharing, and its really there, it’s like wow – does that then move you out to, beyond yourself to connection greater than yourself to the “All That Is”?
Andrew [17:32] I think it opens you up for the opportunity to see that or to feel that. So, we just went for a walk outside and checked out the mittens, the Aboriginal mittens, you just don’t look at them. You see what, they represent. The time, timelessness came to mind. I think Patrica Nolan who we were with, mentioned she could sense, the presence.
Connection to the Spirituality of Nature
Andrew [18:04] It just gives you a depth basically. Even if it didn’t sort of like a spiritual experience. You’re just – walking across the beach or something. You just feel more connected to the sand that you’re treading on. You’re looking up more as well. Haven’t you got your head down? So you’re actually engaging in what’s going on and say look at that bird over there and looking at the waves and pondering what natures up to.
Mark [18:32] When you went closer to one of the mittens and you pulled the branch down to look at the depth of the mittens. Yeah, then for me, when I was standing there was like, wow, that’s I just went back in a sort of thousands of years – just allowing the energy to – go back there. If I use my intellectual mind, that’s going to judge me. Don’t be a…..(Laughter). This stuff to allow that greater connection to the ‘All That Is.’
Connecting to Men’s Love in our Vulnerability
Mark [19:09] If more of us men commence this inner journey, start connecting to our vulnerability, heal what’s in the vulnerability, to heal the sadness’s and the pains that are in the vulnerability. To connect to that warmth that you talk about – that flow experience? What impact would that have on a global scale for Mother Earth do you think?
World Heart of Connection a lovely question
Andrew [19:35] (Laughter) That’s a really lovely question and an idealistic view. The answer would be – it would heal the earth in one second. Realistically, I don’t think it’s going to happen in one second. It’s going to take time through the eons, you know if we’ve got that amount of time.
Andrew [20:02] It does start a groundswell and its worth – it’s going to be healing for the individual – it’s going to be healing for the planet. It’s as simple as that. So whatever – it’s like that saying, if you want peace in the world – start with yourself. It really resonates with that, really. If you want health for the planet – well-being for the planet – have well-being for yourself?
Quieten Our Own Minds Down
Andrew [20:31] If we can quieten our minds down and really get a grip on how we live our life – that’s going to help the planet.
Mark [20:49] The more we men start to do it, would that – women have been doing it – women have been healing themselves for thousands of years with the feminine. The more men start to do it, could that hasten the change?
Andrew [21:08] I think it’s needed. I think it’s really needed. The feminine is doing a really good job at the moment. I think of looking after themselves and standing up for themselves as well, which is good. Men need to support that. Also, men can take a leaf out of the feminine book and get that softness, that openness. Gotta do it together.
Connection to our Inner Power in Softness
Mark [21:38] Before when you talking about the softness in that warmth, it’s a soft – in my experience and in my own journey – the softness – is a softness but there’s a power in the softness?In my experience and in my own journey - the softness - is a softness but there's a power in the softness? Click To Tweet
Andrew [21:54] Yeah, very much so.
Mark [21:55] I know that might sound like an irony?
Andrew [21:59] Well, it is – but I know what you’re talking about. It’s – there’s a power in it. Soft, I suppose – I’ve got an Aikido friend and softer your body is – the more power can come through. I felt it just on a feeling level too. So, when we saying like dropping the vulnerability and you feel that warmth and flow – there’s a real power to it.
Andrew [22:28] It’s – there’s a granted soulful power in your body, you feel it on a feeling level in your body. It’s sort of power that’s ready to act. It’s in waiting, it’s sort of solid and still but it’s ready to act. I suppose that’s when the male energy comes in, to help that power to be in action.
Mark [22:53] How do you access it soul power that you just talked about?
Connecting to Nature & with Men’s Circle
Andrew [22:57] Its nature helps. Being in a circle helps with men. When men are together, they can really express themselves really well in the circle, I found. I’ve been in circles with mixed groups as well. They are great too. When men get together, there seems to be dropping – a different behavior when there are no women in the room.
Connecting Men to the Strength of their Vulnerability
Andrew [23:25] So it seems to be dropping down and a real strength of men to – to share their vulnerability and then you go through that vulnerability and you come into that softness and that warmth and that flow. So that’s one way. Without the circle, I do it through nature. Just connecting with my body, maybe through exercise, yoga. That exercise could be punching and punching bag, like something quite vigorous. Or it could be something like walking in the bush, that sort of thing. Getting on your bike. Surfing is another one. Any sort of body orientated stuff to really feel your body though – to connect with your body when you’re doing it. Not be in your head or have headphones on and listening to some pop music while you’re running. It’s sort of – just really feel what you’re doing. Be conscious.
Mark [23:53] Be fully present with yourself and your surrounds?
Andrew [24:28] That’s it without too much distraction going on, so you can actually feel your body, doing the action.
Surfing Cleanses the Soul says the Surfer
Mark [24:34] I was joking with you the other night, being an amateur surfer. Sitting out the back, when you do have the occasional conversation because I’ve noticed that surfing – everybody could line up. When a set comes through they could all line up and all get a wave. Rather that competitiveness comes out.
Mark [24:57] When you do sit out the back and occasionally they do talk. Some of the guys have said – look ‘surfing for me cleanses my soul’? Is that something you would share within their story?Some of the guys have said - look 'surfing for me cleanses my soul'? Click To Tweet
Mark [25:13] Where did you go when I mentioned that metaphor that it cleanses their Soul?
Andrew [25:20] Well, yes, spaciousness, because you’re out in the vastness and spaciousness and it’s just – I just had a feeling it’s always there. I was sitting on a board talking to mate beside me. I just had a really strong visual. That’s my Soul. My Soul just popped this image up – sitting on a board, chatting to a mate waiting for a set to come in.
Connecting to the ‘All That Is” in Surfing
Mark [25:45] Is that the “All That Is”? Just out there?
Andrew [25:48] That’s it. There’s nothing complex about it – it’s just good for the soul like – only a surfer knows the feeling. So the catch cry that’s come up through advertising? That’s what it is. It’s a good feeling. It’s a feeling – it’s a feeling.There's nothing complex about it - it's just good for the soul like - only a surfer knows the feeling. Click To Tweet
Mark [25:48] We don’t need to compete in that feeling.
Andrew [26:05] No, but we do when we’re out surfing. That’s what can get in the road of that.
Leaving our Egos at the Door to being Inner Journey Work
Mark [26:16] What aspect of us, in the male – that’s doing that? We don’t need – when we are in that Soul – when you were just there we could share that space? I’m wondering when you’re talking about a circle – that I am just wondering – do we men leave our egos at the door?
In walks, a spiritual warrior, the Soul warrior that’s gonna hold the energy of that circle?
Andrew [26:45] There – as long as you’ve got a good person running the circle, and it’s got good boundaries and has a good container. You can go as deep as you want. It is a Soul warrior. It’s like there’s a feeling that comes into a powerful circle. The first talker (person) sort of sets the tone and sometimes, and if that’s deep, everyone goes shit, we’re going deep today.
It’s like you sort of put your warrior hat on. You get into that mode quite quickly, actually and it’s a safe place but also it’s an open place where you can dive as deep as you want.
Connecting to Our Spirit Warrior
Mark [27:33] It sounds like just sharing the story with you know, that Soul warrior can do a lot of healing as men or for men, with men – all of us?
Andrew [27:45] When you tap into that, that part of us, we’ve all got in us. Call it what you want, you know that’s a great word. We’ve all got it and it wants to be heard. When you give a space like in a circle, it gets heard. It will come out in your surfing too. If you’re out in surfing, it’s sort of where – you’re in the ocean, and especially when there is a bit of size in the ocean. That part of you needs to come up and it’s an invigorating part and gives you the energy you tap into a flow of that energy, you know. So that’s really cool.
Mark [28:19] The bells just been and disappeared. The question I’ve been asking to close the Podcast is young men and young women that are going to follow your footsteps? What advice would you like to share? From your experiences and in the inner wisdom you’ve gained now – to share back to them?
Connecting to like-minded Men & keep showing up to our inner work
Andrew [28:48] I would say, is find like-minded people who are on that sort of path. Those who like exploring that inner world and there are plenty of groups out there. Find the group that suits you as there’s a lot of groups out there that might not suit you. There’s always a few pitfalls along the way. Hopefully, people recognize that pretty quickly for themselves. Just keep showing up, basically, that’s what I used to do. Just keep showing up even though you don’t really want to sometimes, just keep showing up and it wins in the end. Your energy gets through – pushes through the hard times and pushes through. So you come out the other end and dust yourself off and feel good about yourself. So, be supported by like-minded people.
Mark [29:51] Andrew, thank you for sharing. Thank you for sharing the space. Thank you for touching base with me and it was lovely to experience in this 30 minutes, that Soul warrior that resides in your psyche. It was beautiful to connect to him as well as all the other parts of you.
Andrew [30:12] Thanks for letting me have the opportunity – to sort of – felt like a bit of a sharing in itself. Yeah, so thank you mate. Andrew [30:19] Put that out there.
Mark [30:21] Namaste
Andrew [30:21] Alright, cheers mate.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai