In a Constant Conversation with the Life of the Soul

An initiated man is in a constant conversation with the life of the soul. His soul life is extremely important to him and he has various ways of paying attention to it. This conversation feeds him, it feeds his life, and it feeds those around him. Without this conversation, life wears thin. There is a danger of tedium settling in, and despair can easily follow. A conversation with the soul is necessary to give life it’s full-bodied aspect. It gives riches that are available to us all and necessary to live a complete, full life.

The conversation with the life of the soul is offered to us in dreams. Our soul often speaks to us in and through dreams. It wants to be known in the fantastic, limitless way in which dreams come to us. The soul may be sad and therefore offers up an image of rain drenching a forest. For some, though, that same image could be a communication from the soul of an undeniable thirst for an aspect of life that has been missing. The infinite possibilities that psyche holds can speak to us in dreams. We can know of forbidden fruit, of lost potential, of riches we carry that we have ignored. By conversing with the soul’s life through dreams, we keep in touch with those nether regions that our waking consciousness wants to slip past.

Another way of staying in conversation with the life of the soul is to spend time in wild places—forests, beaches, deserts—places with a minimum of human presence and development. When we cultivate a relationship with a favorite spot, our soul likes to meet us there. We can enter with increasing ease into that contemplative mode that allows our soul to come forth, to show itself, to be known. Time in places we call “nature” feeds our soul and gives a richness and dimension to our lives that lets us know we are living fully and large.

There are many other ways to keep holding this conversation with the life of the soul—engaging in music, art, writing, dance, or any creative activity that allows us to expand into ourselves and fully inhabit our lives. Silence and meditation also support this process. There are as many ways to hold the conversation as there are people. It is important to find one’s own ways and practice them.

Our next retreat, “Voyage into Masculine Soul,” will be Feb. 24-26 at Camp Whittier in the Santa Barbara mountains.

For more information, follow this link: Voyage into Masculine Soul


What is the Soul?

The soul is a red-tiled Mediterranean villa,

soaked in moss,

overtaken by tangled vines,

from the vineyard


the fountains are cracked,

the cats are hungry,

desperate cries of lovers pierce the moon,

children are on the roof laughing,

an owl swoops on a runaway rat


an old man with a beret

plays the violin,

and the long moan of notes


like burgundy wine

–Richard Palmer, from The Moan Inside of Things


            We hope to address this question, acknowledging that we do not necessarily have the answers.  On the surface, an initiated man looks no different from an uninitiated man.  He may be a businessman, an engineer, a professor, a cab driver, a construction worker, a minister, or engage in any other line of work.  He could be unemployed, retired, or disabled.  He may or may not be a father, husband, or grandfather.  He can be of any adult age.  He may have many interests and hobbies or none.  To know what an initiated man looks like, one must get to know him and observe him over time. Certainly, faults, inconsistencies, and problems will be observed. Also, certain qualities will emerge that are recognized as the qualities of an initiated man. We will name some of these qualities we have been able to identify here, then go into them more deeply in the coming posts.

An initiated man is in a constant conversation with the life of the soul. His soul life is extremely important to him and he has various ways of paying attention to it. This man bears suffering in a dignified way. He does not shrink from either pain or suffering and allows it to develop and deepen a gravitas that is not felt in every man. He has a healthy relationship to nature and accesses nature in a way that feeds his soul and informs his life. This man can make clear, effective decisions. He exercises restraint, patience, and containment when it is called for and has a good read on his impulses. He is able to rest in presence. An initiated man is accountable. He takes healthy responsibility for his words and actions.

This man can hold the tension of opposites. He is not easily swayed to one side or another of a question or issue and knows how to live with paradox. He knows when to speak his truth and when to be silent. He carries a healthy balance between the puer, also known as the exuberant boy, and the senex, the older and wiser man who can bring sobriety to a situation. He is able to balance wildness and responsibility without allowing one or the other to erode or win out. The initiated man does not lean away from life for fear of its threats, danger, or pain. He is able to appreciate life on life’s terms and find gratitude for his life. He is also able to negotiate relationships in a way that allows his vulnerability to come forth while maintaining his basic strength. He can recognize, appreciate and negotiate the various forms love and power in relationships and exercise them in constructive and respectful ways. He acts to empower women and all those within his sphere. This man finds a refuge in solitude and silence and deep connection in intimacy. He carries a genuine authority that arises out of passing through ordeal. “Authority” comes from the same root as the words “authenticity” and “authorship”.  It is also related to sovereignty.

The initiated man is willing and able to bring love and deep affection into the world. He is gift-oriented. He protects and blesses the sacred. He maintains a daily sacred practice that keeps him connected to his soul life.


“The Boy and the Elder”

When the raw hot nerve of the boy

is scraped,

a lightening flash of pain

devours his senses

He is drowning now

in a black pool of electric eels


He has two choices:

fight to the death or

play possum and pray he won’t be hunted

Neither choice fares too well


We need men who are willing

to be cooked and seasoned into elderhood

Men who celebrate getting old,

like full bodied vintage wine,

like old oaks–gnarled and twisted and beautiful

Men who weave and carve and poet their pain

into living miracles of beauty


Men who carry the blood and the tears of their grief

with dignity

Men who–with joy

turn toward the boy

and welcome him with mercy and kindness


Richard Palmer, from Inside the Moan of Things