The Man of Awakened Heart

Sensitivity is a sign of life. Better hurt than hardened. I bow to those who keep their hearts open when it is most difficult, whose who refuse to keep their armor on any longer than they have to, those who recognize the courage at the heart of vulnerability. After all the malevolent warriors end each other, the open-hearted will inherit the earth.
— Jeff Brown, Ascending with Both Feet on the Ground
Photos by Paul Howell,

Photos by Paul Howell,

I have just returned from the Wilderness Guides Council Gathering in eastern Washington State. At this yearly gathering, the conditions are created for everyone to come for a few days and be their true selves, knowing that they will be listened to, honored, seen, and greatly loved. From young to old, we live as a soul tribe; people who are passionate about Wilderness Rites of Passage work, who care for the earth, who are working to make our human presence more benevolent, and are called to serve humanity. It is in this rare environment that I have discovered a concentration of one of the most extraordinary beings in the cosmos — The Man of Awakened Heart.

 From my particular perspective, the Man of Awakened Heart is a healing and humbling teacher. Below are some of the qualities that for me, define this kind of man:

  • He is able to express a full range of emotion — love, anger, compassion, fear are all alive in him. He does not squash any emotion; though he is also able to express his emotions appropriately.
  •  He gives full-bodied hugs that are filled with presence and caring. He is able to hug both women and other men in this way.
  •  He has the capacity to listen deeply with his full attention.
  • He has gone beyond the need to live up to some ideal of manly identity. Who he actually IS as a man is enough.
  • He has clear boundaries, but no armor. His boundaries are fluid, not rigid.
  • He has the capacity to go into the frightening territory of his own shadow and his own vulnerability. He can stand in that vulnerability, in the place of not knowing, without trying to cover his butt.
  • He has come to know and honor his own feminine energy. It is alive in him and he has a conscious relationship with that energy.
  • He can take action, letting his heart give him guidance.
  •  He smiles a lot because his heart has been broken repeatedly and he has let it break — standing the pain, and eventually letting his heart open wider. In doing so, that heart of his becomes the strongest muscle he has. He has the capacity to deeply love many people.

The Man of Awakened Heart does not just wake up one day in this condition. It is a process that happens bit by bit, a continuum that can become ever deeper with age.

Modeling this way of being a man is critical. If boys never have the opportunity to be around a Man with Awakened Heart, they will have a heck of a time becoming one themselves. A boy needs to just hang around this kind of man, because an awakened heart is something that is felt rather than understood with the rational mind.

 I bow to all the men who are on the path of strengthening and waking up that most tender of human treasures, the awake and loving heart. May our world become filled to the gills with them