Having a sacred practice every morning and every evening grows our soul lives into a beautiful garden. The Spanish poet Antonio Machado asked: “What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?” We must be willing to ask ourselves this very important question. What have we done with the garden that was entrusted to us? Are you willing to fiercely protect this precious garden? What are you willing to sacrifice in order to more fully tend this garden?

Devotion to a daily practice is one of the most essential qualities in cultivating a soul life as a fully adult man. This means putting in garden time: tilling, watering, weeding, loving, even singing to your garden. This is truly living an artful, soulful life.

What does it mean to be a man with a daily sacred practice?

It could mean creating “bookends on the day.” That is, beginning the day in the morning hours in silence and prayer, attuning to the dreamtime. Then very slowly moving into a writing practice from that dreamstream. Ideally, this is followed by a walk in the canyons. This is Richard’s morning practice. In this morning practice, he is mining the dream world. As Jung says, it is, “dreaming the dream onward.” The silence, the prayer time, the dreamstream, the writing practice, and the walking in wilderness cultivate an ongoing intimacy with the soul life.

It could mean walking into the back yard, saying a prayer of devotion, greeting the trees and other plants, saying hello to the birds, acknowledging ancestors from all the species, attuning to all the senses, and walking barefoot on the earth, reciting a prayer of reverence. Then, once inside again, meditating for ten minutes. This is Tom’s morning practice.

The morning practice becomes a sacred refuge, a home for the soul, and an invocation for the day.

In the evening, before bedtime, we pause in silence and prayer once again, reflect on the day, giving gratitude for what has unfolded that day, asking for blessing for the night. This is the other bookend.

The space between the morning and evening practice—the work day—becomes a ritual space between morning invocation and evening gratitude.

We only get so many days here. So whatever your practice is, step up and begin to listen your soul into life, your life!

What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?


The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

“In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odor of your roses.”

“I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.”

“Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.”

The wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
“What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”

Antonio Machado


A man takes care of his emotional health.  He takes responsibility for his feelings. When it is called for, he expresses them meaningfully and accurately as possible. This means allowing emotions to come through in all their glorious and troublesome ways.  The wounded boy was taught that his feelings were unacceptable.  He may have been shouted down, physically harmed, or simply ignored when his feelings came through.  This is a huge wounding.  It conveys to the boy that he must hide his feelings and keep them to himself.  With time, he learns to become unaware of his true feelings as he negotiates a world that seems to always punish him for having them.  He may numb his feelings with chemical substances, work, or other addictions so that the emergence of his true feelings do not disturb the delicate balance of unawareness he has achieved.  This is one of the great tragedies of our time—that boys are taught that their feelings are unacceptable.  It has contributed to many disasters in our world as boy-men go about the world in numbness, killing, destroying, pillaging, and exploiting the planet and the beings that inhabit it.

It often takes help from a mentor, therapist, lover, or other interested person to help the wounded boy grow out of this state of numbness and lack of awareness of his feelings.  It is a great leap toward manhood when he is able to come out of his emotional lethargy and begin to risk feeling again.  If he is able to summon the courage in the presence of the right encouragement, he can begin to uncover the feelings of his wounded boy and care for them.  He can comfort that wounded boy and learn to respect his own feelings.  Once he can accept and respect his own feelings, he may open to the feelings of others, making way for a full and healthy emotional life.

The following Rumi poem presents an example of a healthy expression of emotions.




The most living moment comes when

those who love each other meet each


other’s eyes and in what flows

between them then.  To see your face


in a crowd of others, or alone on a

frightening street, I weep for that.


Our tears improve the earth.  The

time you scolded me, your gratitude,


your laughing, always your qualities

increase the soul.  Seeing you is a


wine that does not muddle or numb.

We sit inside the cypress shadow


where amazement and clear thought

twine their slow growth into us.                                 Rumi

Living on One’s Right Path: Sing Your Song (poem)



Michael Meade says that our destiny is like an arc and our lives are meant to follow that arc.  When we are not following it, we feel off-center, something isn’t right, something is missing.  Sometimes it feels like one’s life has gone awry when we’re not following this arc and it can lead to substance abuse, depression, outbursts of anger, and deep despair.  When we are following this destiny, somehow our lives feel right.  Things often seem to flow and we may notice that, although we are encountering challenges and difficulties, there is an underlying contentment that speaks to the sense of living on one’s right path.

When we are following this arc of destiny, we sense a rhythm to life.  It can even be a sound.  Words can express what this rhythm is.  It can show up in verse that conveys the essence one carries into this world.  These words can be called a poem, a prayer, or a song.  We think of it as a song that must be sung, and often, to keep in touch with the essence of who we are.

We will gather this Friday with the men who joined us in retreat in March of this year to celebrate their individual songs and the community to which they belong.

This poem by Richard Palmer speaks to the importance, not only to the individual but also to the community, of singing one’s song.




You cannot belong here

until you are known

You cannot be known here

until your watermelon heart

splits open

and the blood red juice

and the little black seeds

pour upon the earth


It is the song

of your broken-open heart

that nourishes and seeds

the dream of the village


Sing your song!

Sing your song!

Oh brothers of the heart!

The broken-open heart!

Sing your song!

Sing it loud!

So our sons and daughters may find their own song



and the village can dance again!


Everything wants to dance!

Everything wants to dance!

Mockingbirds, morning glories, mustard blooms,

one legged chickens, mollusks, moles,

and the red dust


Everything wants to dance!

Everything wants to dance!

when men sing their songs

from their broken-open hearts


~ Richard Palmer


Go Outside and Meet Your Beloved

The wounded boy does not take the initiative to create his life.  He waits for it to come to him, expecting that it will be handed to him somehow or that he will happen upon it magically.  This magical thinking eventually results in frustration, bitterness and despair if it goes on long enough.  The man must build his life, stone by stone, creating it from a rough approximation until he grows into his true authentic life.  This new poem from Richard Palmer touches on these thoughts.


There is a boy
who lives inside a ravaged hut
He hasn’t gone outside since the Ice Age
He plays checkers in the dark
and listens to Heinrich Gorecki’s
“Song of Sadness”
Everyday he eats sardines and dreams of a woman
who is tall and slender like a birch tree
At Christmas he makes her rice pudding
with cinnamon and nutmeg,
and sets it on the hearth in hope that she will come
After many years
the boy becomes an old man,
bitter and angry that his beloved did not come
He pounds the table and shouts:
Where is my Beloved?
Where is my Beloved?

Then one day,
a voice, both sweet and strange,
blows in from the mountain
The voice says:

She is everywhere!
She is the fragrance of orange blossoms
She is the hopping squawking of crow
She is the dampness at twilight
She is the sycamore arcing across the creek
She is the whir of dragonflies
She is the cabbie driving downtown
She is the carpenter, the baker,
the children laughing and running through the sprinklers in summer
She is the fawn in a field,
She is the osprey in flight,
She is that bursting feeling in your chest from so much beauty
She is everywhere!
Go outside
Meet your Beloved!
She is everywhere!

Richard Palmer, 6/17/15


Healing the Boy, Strengthening the Man

We men carry a boy inside us that sometimes drives our actions and words. That boy holds all the wounds, dreams, patterns, and desires we developed during childhood and adolescence. He arises in our world at times when insecurity, doubt and fear are clutching at us, grasping at our lives in a way that can confuse us, defeat us, or tear at relationships. That boy also holds the key to wonder and awe, mystery, and joyful relationship.

We also live through the man we have become. All the lessons we have absorbed, all the skills we have developed, all the wisdom congealing in our souls, are presented to the world through this man. He struggles to bring his best to himself and others and often feels alone in this struggle.

We have the potential to heal this boy and bring out his best parts. We have the potential to reinforce and strengthen the man in us.


We also have potential to give birth to the wisdom, knowledge, and discernment of the budding elder, who can take the best parts of the boy and the man and fashion a being who is equipped and ready to give tremendously to this world.

Women have a vital stake in this process. Women who understand the nuances of men’s development have an advantage in being able to relate to men in a way that helps to foster constructive, caring, and fulfilling relationships.

Join us in healing the boy and rediscovering his awe and wonder. Join us in strengthening and developing the best parts of the man. Join us in giving birth to wisdom, the formation of maturity, and the evolution of discernment.