Whether it be a stream of men walking the streets of my home city, some bearded and muscular in suits, others in tattered clothes pushing shopping carts, or those in NorthFace jackets driving family SUV’s, smiling at long coated women wearing faux fur hats breathing mist into sunshine and snowy air, keen, or simple, I am deeply appreciative of the masculine.

Truth be told, a short time ago I was vastly unaware of any concept related to manhood above wage earning, loyalty, and being strong/hard, until an ex-partner of mine quite viciously informed me that I was not a man. “What does that even mean?” I asked myself earnestly, biting back the pain of those icy bullets. In the wake of what obviously became a dismantled marriage, the question still burns in my heart, but it’s lighter, tender, and more fertile than before. Most significantly, I’ve learned that the answers emerge most effectively through self-compassion and care.

As a therapist in the mental health industry, it is easy to see that a strong world current is driving an imperative toward new definitions of masculine, whether we like it or not. In a sense, my ex was right, I had no idea what this new version of manhood really meant. I had long been miring in a limited male-dominated worldview, and I owe the intense search to her prodding. For the solutions and will to continue, however, I am indebted to the world of male interaction, my men’s group (Prometheus), and my male clients who never cease their march toward mature masculinity.

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Repositories of information surrounding healthy masculinity are streaming out of the collective and men are waking up. Conscious men are surfacing from the deep, and here are some ways to recognize one:

-Conscious men smile, but not in an attempt to hide some inner malady. They smile because their actions in life, their very breath, fulfill who they dream to be.

-Conscious men do not give objects to gain affection. They give in order to shed an excess. They give of themselves, their fears, their bondage, and their hopes, for they know in sharing these they are set free to smile deeper and cleaner. They buy flowers to add to their internal love reservoir, and out of their self-love arises spontaneous gifts that surprise even themselves. Smiles follow them.

-Conscious men hold space for those around them. Behind their eyes one might see the comforting strands of a nebula of stars and the knowing that there is always space for the vulnerable, the hopeless, and the afraid.

-Conscious men breathe to the bottom. They are not afraid to take life in, and constantly live on the edge of their experience—when they are not resting or performing great acts of physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual acts of self-care.

-Conscious men have deeply tread the trenches of give and take, and as a result are gaining mastery in the world of business, relationships, and intimacy.

-Conscious men hold dear the company of other men. They know that despite their sexual orientation, spending time with the same sex evaporates isolation and excess emotional cargo.

-Conscious men play. They do things that are fun for no reason at all. Without direction or goals, they dance, sing, make love, and watch sunsets like Ganymede on the wings of Zeus’s eagle, en route to becoming the cup-bearer of pleasure for the gods.

-Conscious men dress well, eat healthy food, shy not from difficult emotions, entertain expanding thoughts, and exercise.

-Conscious men have a method of connecting to the great mystery of life, and do so, on a regular basis. Out of this connection, they marvel at the way life contributes and condones their desires. They see challenges as growth-inspiring messages from levels of life beyond normal comprehension. They know that the outer world is simply a tool for inner transformation and the inner world a source of love and charity for outer change.

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These men can be found in all paths of life. They are not limited to spiritual circles or secret societies. A conscious man is as much a father as he is a woodsman, shaman, teacher, painter, or mailman. Irrelevant of title, race, sexual orientation, class, or cultural, a conscious man transforms his intimate relationships in the non-exhaustive following ways:

-He puts his own health, happiness, and livelihood first. Without these he cannot give the gift of conscious attention. He provides his battery with ample charge, able to pierce the wildest storms of relating with attention, humour, and love. His method is self-care, and his gift is wise, kind-loving action.

-He delivers his word on a platter of tempered steel. Like a pyramid he is grounded through the interconnectedness of thoughts, actions, words, and intention, yet is crowned with a sharp and one-pointed devotion to his dreams and the sustainability of his relationships. Within this temple his partner may grow through limitless expression and fluidity.

-He knows what he wants and will not tolerate his desires being attacked or undermined, but his stance is one of cooperation and mutuality when his desires clash with his partner’s. In this way he protects and respects his dreams, yet selflessly yearns to have those dreams come to fruition in the vestibule of relationship.

-He is responsible for his own sexual pleasure, and he takes this with gratitude, as with all good things in life, yet on the edge of pleasure and bliss, his eyes are open, and his fingers work across the skin and through the hair of his lover, because he has received and cannot help but give. His kiss will write you a novel.

-A conscious man will choose a partner who is willing to take responsibility for their happiness, emotions, and pleasure. If you are with such a man, it is a compliment to you!

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Now I turn it to you. How do you recognize a conscious man? A man who is awake and steps through fear? What is it like for all you lovers out there to be in relationship with one (or not)?