I dream of being with a woman elder who teaches me about a clan of good men with special spiritual energy that have been with humanity throughout our history. Then the dream shifts. I’m waiting on a street corner on my island home for a man to pick me up and give me a ride. I intuitively know that he’s part of this clan, a teacher and holder of this special energy. The car pulls up. He smiles and greets me. I get in the car and then the dream ends.
In my waking-world life, I know this man, and he is indeed of this special clan of good men whose presence and deeds can open hearts, heal souls and change our world. He’s a poet, teacher and Zen practitioner — a brilliant yet humble man, with gentle, penetrating eyes that seem to take in our world of beauty and sorrow with a deep love, wisdom and crinkle of humor.
There are such good men among us. They are the poets, writers, teachers, leaders, wise men and healers in our midst who kneel in reverence before the miracle that is life, and give over their hearts and hands in service of the very best of our human society: love, compassion, justice and beauty.
Oddly, the good man isn’t our cultural ideal of the masculine. Instead this ideal venerates “real men” who emulate a rugged self-determinism founded on domination and personal gain. In the battle for supremacy in our shared social order, real men fight their way to the top of the pile, reaping the rewards of wealth, power and adulation, indifferent to the price others pay for their success. Our modern political, social and economic systems are founded on this masculine ideal of dominion, will to power, and unfettered self-interest and greed.
It can be hard to recognize the good men among us given the long shadow of our cultural, real-men ethos. Many of us have experienced harm at the hands of an abusive man, or because of the misogynist roots and toxic male and female stereotypes that permeate our social order. Others may have a strong political or intellectual viewpoint that understands the role that men and patriarchal institutions have played in the worst of our human history and current malaise.
Yet there are good men in our midst, with big hearts and spirits, gifting their best in service of others and our world. And these men, with their positive masculine traits, are desperately needed as partners, allies and role models in the mending and renewing of our human society.
When I shared my good-man dream with my poet neighbor who appeared as the good man in my dream, he replied, “Yes, there are such men without a doubt. I’m glad you know, Karen. That, in itself, is worth all the dreams.”
To know the good men among us — to open our hearts and minds to their presence and offerings — is a powerful counterbalance and antidote to the clamor of the crazy, crazy of real-men masculinity, played out in the constant bad newsfeed of political mayhem, environmental devastation, economic crisis, income disparity and war.
Here is a simple exercise for claiming this powerful, healing good-man medicine in your own life.
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Two dreams, thirty years apart — a modern Goddess tale for these times.
The Dream of the Lost Daughter
I’m in my mid-twenties, with a business degree and a promising career in a blue chip company. My desires are purely materialistic — I want power and success in a man’s world. I don’t know any better, and I’ve no idea how immensely unhappy I am.
I have a dream that I don’t remember until many years later, yet my life is changed forever.
It’s a Winter Solstice eve, in the darkest hours of the night. Outside my apartment window, the world nestles down under a crystalline blanket of fresh-fallen snow. I dream of a silver shining path, as if hewn of moonlight, that leads me down, down, down to Hecate’s realm — the Goddess who is the Mistress of the crossroads, and guardian of our human destiny.
I’m a lost daughter, profoundly wounded, cut-off from the true power and presence of the Goddess, my womanhood, and the sacred feminine of human nature. But something is stirring within me, and within the Mysteries. I dream of the Goddess, and the Goddess dreams me.
Deep in the belly of the Earth, Hecate directs me to Her magic cauldron and shows me the raw, naked truth of my life story — the beauty and the wounding — all that I’ve forgotten and denied, the very things I’ve been running hard from, and undreamed of possibilities sleeping just below the veneer of my waking reality.
Hecate gifts me with this crossroads moment, with my life laid bare before me, and asks me to choose how I will live for the rest of my days. I make a vow: to wake up, to remember, and to find my way home to my Self, my womanhood, and Her sacred ways.
By my choice, my destiny is woven.
The Dream of the Goddess Queen
Now, thirty years later, I’m lost no more. I’ve found my way home to my Self and the Goddess. I live nestled in the forest on a magical island with my beloved family and community, writing and teaching the life-changing ways of the Goddess that are now as natural to me as breathing.
I have another dream, within days of co-priestessing a community Samhain ritual to honor the beloved dead and the blessed newborn.
Think of a black box, with clearly delineated dimensions and solid, impermeable sides — this is a potent metaphor for our tightly held conception of reality, constructed of our beliefs, values and understandings of the world around us. Consider the vast, expansive space outside the box — this is true reality, unconcerned with our puny human constructs and limited imagination. What we can perceive and experience is delineated and limited by our black-box reality.
The Path of She calls us to step outside of the world that we know and to embrace what else is true and possible. Integral to this pathwork is enlarging the dimensions of our black-box reality, which in turn broadens the scope of reality and experiences available to us.
This is easier said than done because we’ve spent our whole life immersed in the self-reinforcing foundations and building blocks of our black-box reality, forged from the mainstream culture, our family conditioning and our personal adaptations to the world around us. Yet sometimes it only takes one illuminating insight or experience to crack open our black box and let in the light of new possibilities.
A Personal Story of Cracking My Black-Box Reality
Early on in my spiritual journey, I experienced what I call a keystone moment — an event with enough potency to crumble a foundational element of my black-box reality and replace it with something new and expansive.
At the time, I was part of a Buddhist meditation group that met every Monday evening. Although my MBA-addled mind desperately struggled with the strange, new notions of my teacher’s weekly Dharma talks, still I had begun to sink into my meditations and experience a modicum of inner peace and spaciousness.
This night, shortly after I’d settled into my sitting, my body started to twitch and change. I felt my face extend into a long muzzle, with a cold, wet nose. My eyes became sharp, wary, and bristly, rough fur emerged on my cheeks. Then I flung my head back and opened my mouth in a long, silent howl. I had morphed into a she-wolf, perched on a hard pillow, in the middle of a group of silent, slow-breathing humans. The experience was visceral, embodied and undeniably real.
Our shared culture is like a sleeping spell that disconnects us from our Deep Self that holds our true beauty, unique essence and authentic humanity. As children, we’re not asleep; we naturally, innocently express our true beauty and inclinations. And then slowly, relentlessly, the forces of culture — through our families, school, the media and countless other aspects of our shared outer reality — domesticate our free spirits and lull us to sleep by telling us, over and over, how we’re meant to believe, think and live our life. By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have lost our roots in our Deep Self and are fast asleep within cultural-defined reality.
Yet our soul longs for an authentic life, where our outer existence is a natural expression of our Deep Self. Though our waking mind may be asleep to these things, our soul remembers who we are and the life we long for. It speaks to us through our most secret, cherished desires, the things that give us joy and satisfaction, and in a restless hunger for something missing from our life that we can sense but often not name.
From the midst of these opposing energies, wake-up calls emerge. A wake-up call is an unexpected, often startling event that prods us to remember who we truly are and to take our life in soulful, new directions. It can take on many forms: from something as dramatic as an accident or illness, to something more subtle, like a gnawing, brewing discontent that just won’t go away. Big or small, direct or subtle, drawn from the familiar or the wildly unexpected, wake-up calls are profound gifts that can take our life in soulful, new directions.
Recognizing Wake-Up Calls
The intention of this exercise is to heighten your awareness of the presence and impact of wake-up calls in your life transitions. With this awareness, you can become more attuned to the small and large ways your Deep Self and the powers of life work together to shake you awake and steer you in a more positive, soulful direction.