Men are often forced into crude stereotypes of ‘macho’ or ‘metrosexual’ but our insecure world needs more mindful men who know how to be strong and resilient, yet at the same time emotional, grounded and peaceful. This is the argument Caspar Walsh makes in his new book, The Mindful Man, which reveals how he found a new path away from a life of crime and multiple addictions.
Here are ten ways in which you can become more mindful, to develop your own purpose and find your own truth…
1. Focus On Calibre, Not Competition
We don’t need to tell you that men are naturally competitive, and in some situations that’s necessary. But to Caspar Walsh, constantly fighting to be better than the next man means you’re not sharing the load. ‘Too much competition can kill our best-laid plans, ideas and visions for the future.’ He suggests instead focussing on being a certain calibre of man, because ‘calibre’ suggests something more than power, status and wealth.
‘It suggests the potential to recalibrate to a higher state of being… We can each of us focus on calibrating every part of ourselves into a more balanced, clearer place… Being open, honest and clear can give us an unfamiliar, unexpected freedom. We are all about the paradox of tenderness, strength and resilience. And there is power in that.’
‘The first thing the samurai took into battle was his fear’
2. Hold Your Fears Out In Front
‘Fear at our backs drives us forwards without time to think,’ says Walsh, who recommends identifying and working with your fear rather than trying to conquer it. He tells the old story of a samurai who was terrified of battle. He deliberately brought his deepest fear to the surface, expressed it fully and had it witnessed by his fellow samurai. When that fear was clear and held in his mind he drew his sword and visualised his fear being on the tip of his blade, and staying there, so that when going to war his sword would be held out in front. The first thing he took into battle was his fear.
If a man whose life was war can honestly embrace his fear, then so can you. ‘Our fears need to be out front, in plain sight, so we can enter into a dialogue with them, find out what they are trying to tell us and attend to those parts of ourselves we have neglected or ignored,’ he says.
3. Write A Letter To Yourself
If you’ve got something coming up on the horizon, whether it’s a new job or a difficult conversation, it can be easy to allow free floating thoughts and anxieties to clog up your mind, making you doubt aspects of your character. Instead, Walsh recommends taking a few minutes out, away from distractions but with a pen and paper. ‘Sit for a while. Breathe. Focus your attention on what you want to have happen. Where do you want to be at the end of this time? Experiencing more clarity or courage? Feeling easier in your skin?’
Whatever it is, write down what you intend to happen. ‘Start with the words: “How are you doing right now?” Allow the part of yourself that you’re speaking to, to respond without questioning the response as you write it. ‘Then follow with a series of gentle, clear questions. Ask: “What do you need right now?”’ Keep writing until you feel you have asked everything that needs answering. ‘The trick is to write faster than your inner critic can edit,’ says Walsh. At the end sit, breathe and focus on the feelings in your body without judging them.
4. Build Brotherhood
As Walsh says, friendships that last are rare, but true friendships will reveal parts of yourself impossible for you to see alone. Sometimes our friends annoy us, but this doesn’t always mean we should walk away – often being a true friend requires a level of honesty that men just aren’t comfortable with. ‘Conflict isn’t a sign that the friendship is ending. It can be a sign that it’s ready to grow. Finding ways to deal with conflict and difference is essential to maintaining any healthy relationship,’ says Walsh.
One way to create a supportive brotherhood is to do something different with a group of male friends. ‘Light a fire, head for the woods, sit down and talk. Avoid slipping too far into banter: humour is good but shaming each other to secure a place in the hierarchy is not,’ says Walsh.
5. Move On From Shame
We’ve all done things we aren’t proud of, times when we have benefited from the expense of others. For Walsh, this can lead on to feelings of low self worth and toxic shame. Once this combines with a pressure to keep ahead in our fast-paced world, unconscious, primal instincts of survival can kick in. ‘As a result we can unwittingly become predators for our needs, hunting down work, power, sex, status… this drives us ever further from what we know to be the right way,’ says Walsh.
But rather than being driven by this cycle, you can choose to leave parts of your past behind. Walsh suggests writing down elements of your past you want to let go of, and then build a fire. ‘With intention and compassion, place the paper in the fire. Sit with the flames. Take a breath and give thanks to whatever learning you may have had or may be yet to come. Return to the ashes when they are cooled. Use a piece of charcoal to write down what you want for the next stage of your life – read it once a week for a month.’
‘Watch out for parts of you that you’d rather avoid by trying to be anywhere but in your own skin’
6. Turn Loneliness Into Solitude
As much as we need true friends, we also need to be comfortable in our own company, especially when trying to silence the chattering, competing thoughts in our minds, and become more present. Walsh recommends finding ways to be on your own without the radio or a list of chores. ‘Take time to wander, hang out and see how it is to be yourself without distractions. Watch out for parts of you that you’d rather avoid by trying to be anywhere but in your own skin, and start a dialogue with those parts. Be compassionate. Listen and feel into what comes back to you.’
7. Try Silent Running
Being mindful in today’s hyperconnected, always-on world is a tough ask. Every time a notification on your phone pings it rudely ejects you from whatever moment you were being present in, and thrusts the needs of the outside world at you. Walsh recommends unplugging yourself from all communication devices to the outside world for a set period each week (after preparing the ground with those who may need to reach you).
‘Begin with what feels like just outside your comfort zone. It may be switching off the outside world for an hour. Then two; continuing through the days and weeks until you have reached a half day, or a full day. As you find the time and space in your week to do this, note down what feelings come up for you. What thoughts arise and repeat? What excuses come up that you need to stop doing this?’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Andy Puddicome’s Ted Talk about how you can use focussed relaxation for a mindful ten minutes…