Men in Lockdown

Men are in lockdown

Well, we’ve always been

We feel the rage locked down inside us

When we are forced to stay in

It’s not the prison on the outside

It’s not the silent walls

It’s not the noisy family

It’s not the constant strain

It is the beast locked down inside us

It is the man who was born strong

It is the boy, abused, crippled

The little hero, left in cold silence

Outwardly, we are grown men

With big men’s toys we play

We plan, we dream, we hope

We work, we laugh, we pray

The mighty powers, locked within

Should not have been left untapped

The little boy, so kind, so open

Should not have been shut down

The busy father, silent, cold

The angry mother, holding tight

The raging father, no man but beast

The scared mother, voiceless heart

The lack of peace, of warm expression

The lack of strength and manly love

The world of pain, of death, of evil

Of bad news and frustrated hopes

The rumours of impending doom

The news of all those dead and dying

It shatters young hearts, oh so fast

And scatters all the parts

The heart, the vital inner self

Grows only partly, void of life

The young tree so crooked grows

The young back so weak

The man cannot find straight expression

His back cannot find its strength

Work and life and bills to pay

Some pleasure on the side

Cannot prepare a man for life

And so life never is

Imprisoned, made to look inside

The first waves of rage may come

Or grief, panic, and deep depression

Thus the first layer is exposed

That layer people do not like

It is indeed a dark one

And greater darkness can be found

If one looks even deeper

But there are places deep inside us

Behind each wall of all those prisons

There are places there on the bottom

Of each chamber of this broken heart

There are the places we do not reach

Indeed our way is barred

But they hold gold and treasures rich

This is why dragons guard them

It is not the lockdown, the home prison

That drives us toward pain

It is the lockdown deep inside us

Dry patches without rain

Starved boys, trapped in the dark

Chained beasts and wounded kindness

That fragmented, confused world

That desert, dry and parched

Cannot give life to others

Cannot pour out living water

Those locked places we must reach

No matter how we fear it

Those self-fragments, lost, abandoned

Were once made whole and holy

They were parts of a heroic structure

A being of life and fire

A strong, passionate, feeling man

A hero, a life of good power

The powerful currents, made to flow

Pure, clear and strong, a mountain river

For the good of all people, for mercy

For healing with sword and with fire

The words, like weapons in this fight for good

Were never meant to be silenced

The currents of life should have been harnessed

The powers within should have been channeled

Instead they were left and abandoned

Instead they were broken and crushed

And locked down inside, sad and angry

Trapped deep within and enslaved

But even when this lockdown is ended

Even when words of freedom are heard

There will be a lockdown inside us

There will be a prison that never leaves us

There will be the lack, ever-present

There will be the need, ever-wanting

There will be the worm, never dying

There will be the child, never crying

Choose freedom.

George Stoimenov


March 2021, Eastbourne, East Sussex

Great Britain

‘A Boy Walks Into a Bar’…

”A journey, years long, has brought each of you through thick and thin to this moment in time as mine has also brought me. Think back on that journey. Listen back to the sounds and sweet Air of your journey that give delight and hurt not and to those too that give no delight and hurt like Hell. ‘Be not affeard’. The music of your life is subtle and elusive and like no other—not a song with words but a song without words, a singing, clattering music to gladden the heart or turn the heart to stone, to haunt you perhaps with echoes of a vaster, farther music of which it is part.

‘We cannot live our lives constantly looking back, listening back, lest we be turned to pillars of longing and regret, but to live without listening at all is to live deaf to the fullness of the music. Sometimes we avoid listening for fear of what we may hear, sometimes for fear that we may hear nothing at all but the empty rattle of our own feet on the pavement. But be not affeard, says Caliban, nor is he the only one to say it. ‘Be not afraid,’ says another, ‘for lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”’

— Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey

This is a story from my boyhood — the story of the most exotic, mysterious place in the village…at least for me, at that time. This is also the story of the woman who was painted on the entrance wall of that place. But I am getting ahead of myself here…

Now come with me, if you will, to that long-forgotten place. Let us go back to the place where I grew up, and visit the village again…

This time I want to tell you about The Hole.


A late weekend night. A small Balkan village with a cold, cruel, broken past, and a murky, hopeless, bitter future…

Poverty. Desolation. Broken, cracked concrete. Scarred, damaged souls…

Normal life and normal people, if such things exists anywhere at all. Good people. Hard-working people, most of them, and deep down, sad — all of them. Faces with names, nicknames and ‘labels’ one never forgets.

A handful of young men, some with their girlfriends, most of them not, wearing blue denim jeans, white trainers, and hair too long and too strange to be taken seriously…

Old men with smelly clothes, smelly lives, and sour, twisted faces…

The old and the new; the hope for glory and the despair of the broken heart; the flight up to Heaven and the descent into Hell…

It is what it is. We are what we are and we will never be what we once were. Make hay while the sun shines. Eat, drink and be merry…

Loud music; red light; the smell of cigarettes and the sense of impending drunken chaos — this is what you feel as you dive down under the thick concrete slab that separates day and night, exciting and mundane, sacred and profane. And then you see her — The Woman My Uncle Painted…

After you see her, you can enter. Or not.

But you must see her first…

Yes, the first bar I ever walked into, was down there, under the old Communist building that was the village restaurant, which in my time, also turned into a nightclub every weekend night…

But there was a time when ‘my time’ had not yet come. There was a time before time; there was a time before my loss of innocence, and before the beast of time had leapt upon me from the darkness, sweeping me in its merciless deadly race…

In that time, there was The Hole — the first bar of the village.

That bar looked like one of saloons I had seen in the old Westerns. Apart from nighttime, it was also open during the day, offering soft drinks, coffee and hamburgers to the children from the school which was just opposite, across the main road. The atmosphere of The Hole was not really suitable for children, and I think this was what made the place so mysterious and so alluring to me at the time.

The red velvet on the tables; the modern music; the smell of coffee, alcohol and cigarettes; the colours of the lights; the stag antlers on the wall behind the bar; the exotic-looking large foreign banknotes and the even more exotic-looking photographs and pictures of naked women, pinned to the walls…it all made such an impression of me that I remember it to this day…

There, men who had only popped in for a quick after-work drink on their way home, drank, and would not leave until their wives sent their children to ‘remind them’ to get back home…

There, on weekend nights, those young people came in to drink, court, and dance clumsily to the music that, not long ago, had been forbidden to them.

There, those old, bitter men drank, cursed and laughed; but bitter was their laughter, for there was no hope in that village. No hope and no longing…

Unless you were a young boy, like I once was.

In those days, I yearned much and I longed much; and when I grew up a bit more, I still longed for the things I once felt close to me…the thing that even now I cannot name.

When I grew up old enough to think and reason, old enough to kill my dreams, I was still young, and dreams still existed. In those days, I looked around me, and saw an empty, voiceless world. I saw nobody who dreamed like I did; I saw only young, free, empty minds, and I saw my own emptiness.

The cynics of my age, barely twelve or thirteen, were around me in the classroom. They were happy, as most children are. I looked at them and thought myself insane for dreaming. I was not normal, I knew that. And I was not happy.

How quickly they had grown; how soon they had become who they would one day be. And how quickly, still in the spring of life, I was growing bitter with myself and life.

Despite all the wonder and joy of my younger years, I knew then that Hope did not live there, in that school. Hope did not live there, in that village.

My days grew dark, and my soul began to fade.

And yet, only metres away across the road, hidden under the old concrete building, locked behind iron bars, surrounded by piles of waste, broken glass and stench, was The Woman My Uncle Painted.

It was as if she had been waiting, for years, for decades…

Like Blanche DuBois, getting ready for her Caribbean cruise; like Miss Havisham, still wearing her wedding dress, while everything around her fell to ruin and decay; like the Bride of Christ, torn, bruised and bloody, waiting to be rescued and claimed at last by her Lover…

She was waiting, and is waiting still.

I knew she was there, under the ruined, eroded surface of my adult life, and I even glimpsed her a few times. Once, me and my friend Victor — a wild boy with a soft but darkened heart and fists that was ever clenched ready for revenge — were relieving ourselves right outside the locked entrance of what was once The Hole. Above, the loud bass rocked the old building and amidst the shouts of joy of the young people, the promise for goodness, for a destiny, for a future, could be felt so clearly…

‘Do you remember her?’, said Victor, pointing at the darkness through the metal bars. He was holding his beer bottle in his hand, even though we weren’t allowed to take glass bottles out of the ‘nightclub’.

I laughed. The night air was soft and was pleasant, the drink had softened that terrible tension inside me. The night was good, we were young and we were kings. Nobody bothered us in the village anymore and I liked it.

‘One of a kind, your uncle is’, laughed Victor. My uncle was still very much alive at that time, and, thanks to his wit and drunken antics, was something of a legend in the village. ‘There’s nobody like the good old Coco!’

But I did not want to look at the woman on the wall…for some reason, my eyes did not want to meet the past. As if I was afraid that, by looking at the old picture in the darkness behind the locked gates, I would see something else that was also imprisoned there, behind the gates of time and pain.

Perhaps I was afraid that I would see myself there — my younger, more innocent self — locked behind the bars.

And so I laughed, and we went back to continue the party.

And I did that every time when I was faced with some relic of the past.

But I have since decided to stop running. And in the summer of the turbulent 2020, I went down behind the old restaurant and found the gates wide open…

The Woman My Uncle Painted was there to greet me.

August, 2020. The only thing that remains from The Hole — The Woman My Uncle Painted.
My uncle has been dead for years now but she lives on… 
Untouched by time, surrounded by the ruin of everything she was meant for, she is still there, and she is still preparing for the life she wants to live.

Maybe we can all learn from her.

On Doing Fitness Wrong.


The pictures above were taken between 2011 and 2015. As you can see, at that time I looked strong, muscular, and, generally, in a very good shape…

But although I did have the look, the reality was very different.

I worked a lot in the gym, of course, but the motives behind this ‘work’ were not even remotely connected to my health, wellbeing, or (least of all) any love for exercising; on the contrary, it was hatred that motivated me. I hated the way I would look if I didn’t keep pushing myself, day in and day out, but this hatred wasn’t merely towards my becoming softer, weaker, and smaller if I didn’t exercise – it was a hatred of my very self, a form of self-loathing, developed in my childhood, and nurtured all throughout adolescence and young adulthood. By the time I was a grown man, that hatred had grown too – to monstrous proportions. Even though I did not realise how I felt myself, in the comings and goings of the daily life, deep in my heart I was seeing myself as something like an ugly, even monstrous, creature, or a child that was so deformed and undeveloped, that I was deeply ashamed and afraid of him, and had to keep him in the dark…

Guarded by a wall of muscle, shrouded by a cloud of false approval from the world, and endless performance to maintain this deception daily, my hideous inner self was kept out of sigh, and out of the way.

The little boy within me, whom I saw as ugly and deformed, was dead; life could finally go on without him.

Or so I thought.

Yet, even though I could ignore the cries of my buried heart, my body, though looking strong and healthy, still manifested this inner turmoil, and for decades I suffered with various ailments: acute stomach indigestion problems, that didn’t let me rest at night; severe back pain which, when it attacked, left me in agony for days, even with the help of painkillers. Other, seemingly minor things, were also lurking, ever so close to the surface: heart palpitations, recurring feeling of tension and nervous exhaustion at the end of some days, and a strange, long-present ache on the left side of my chest…

On most days, I struggled to get out of bed, and I had no idea why I was a victim of this strange, persistent apathy.

While I looked like a strong, muscular young man in his prime, ready to take on the world, I was in turmoil. Various ailments, conditions and disorders plagued both my soul and my body; I looked healthy on the outside, but the truth was quite different.

Today, in 2018, I no longer look as muscular as I once looked. Yet, ​I am, in fact, even stronger than before – both mentally, and indeed, physically – I move better, breathe better, and have more freedom of movement. Yet, what I consider even more important is this: I am now open to the world, no longer hiding the inner darkness, no longer a slave to secrets, lies and shame. I have grown in self-discovery, and self-love, and this has made all the difference. The road to self-compassion, knowledge, and right actions, has been long, but good, so good to me. Today, I look very different from I once did; I feel very different too…

And this is where the key lies.

For when a man feels healthy, strong, and happy inside himself – with no need for external actions, rituals or masks to make himself more acceptable to the world and to himself – only then he will truly be able to enjoy life in its fullness. Then, he will not only feel the desire to move, exercise, and play, but will do that from joy, and not from a sense of duty.

The peace I have been receiving in the later years, this one-ness with my body, did not come as a result of any dealings I’ve had with my body… It came as a result of addressing my inner self, the true me. Yes, I no longer have the crippling pain in my lower back and hips, the burning acid no longer ravages my stomach, and those many subtle but disturbing symptoms I listed above, have all but disappeared…

When a self that has been abused, shunned, and buried for decades, comes back to life – when it is finally liberated, allowed to live again, and once more fully inhabit the body it has been given – when that happens, something truly miraculous occurs…

Then, one is free, fully free, to live in utter abandon; to live a life of purpose, joy, and fierce pursuit of what truly matters. Freed by love, and nurtured by self-care, the self within can finally feel joy, and express this joy outwardly, with its unique gifts, talents and qualities, its unique ‘voice’…

This is when the body begins to heal; this is when the soul can finally be free; free to live.

I am by no means a finished product, God knows. I pursue change with the same tenacity I once had…but I will never stop learning; even though I teach others, I will always be a student.

We all have our journeys to make, but the only way each one of us can bring a lasting change to the world, is to start climbing his own mountain, pick up his own cross, and win the battles inside himself first.

If this is you, and if you are willing, look deeper into yourself…

Perhaps, if you look hard enough, long enough, you will find something worth fighting for, struggling for…something worth loving…

Perhaps you will recognise who you were born to be, and search for that lost self; search for that lost child.

”Let the little children come… and do not hinder them…” say the ancient scrolls…

Yes. Let them.




(this post was found and rescued from the recycling bin by a last-minute pang of consciousness early in 2020. To read more on my fitness journey and various other subjects related to being a man, go to


Masculinity: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow



‘…the world sets in to making us into what the world would like us to be, and because we have to survive after all, we try to make ourselves into something that we hope the world will like better than it apparently did the selves we originally were.’

Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

In the past, the most widely accepted standard for masculinity in the Western world was, generally, the successful adherence to certain rules, codes, and principles. According to the needs of the last century, one of the main qualities that made a man worthy of being called one, was the ability to ‘man up’ — show no fear in the face of danger — and get the job done; to be strong and reliable.

And there was a good reason for that.

The society of the past, always fighting one war or another, had indeed a great need…

View original post 1,398 more words

The Wild Beauty of my Homeland…

As a child, I was enchanted by it; in my youth, I lost it – I sold it for something which turned out to be very cheap. Today, I return to it, time after time – in my dreams and waking moments…

This is why I want to share it with you.

No, this is not nostalgia; I am not looking back with sorrow, to times long gone and places long forgotten – I have indeed been doing that, a great deal, in the past, but I did so with one single purpose in mind: to find, awaken, and embrace something I though was long gone.

To bring back to life somebody I thought was long dead.

The boy I once was is now back. He is alive and well…

I am sharing these pictures with you, in hope that they would arouse and awaken your younger heart, and resurrect memories, longings, and hopes which you might have given up on…

Yes – pain might come, but do not fear it.

I felt much pain, going back year after year, looking at cracked walls and empty streets – but eventually, after the ‘death’ of experiencing the old, buried pain, there came the ‘resurrection’ of the boy whose feelings I had been repressing for decades…

Do not fear the dark. The Light is stronger.

Seek the wild goodness of your childhood, even through the pain, and you will find Life…

The Life you were always meant to live…






The Boy Who Came from Heaven




When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
I have become comfortably numb

Pink Floyd, ‘Comfortably Numb’



Once upon a time there was a boy who had come from heaven. He was born into a family of two people who had themselves come from heaven once, but had forgotten it. The two people, man and a woman, did their best to raise the child but since they had forgotten where they had come from, they were not able to see who he really was. The boy was too little to tell them; he needed them in so many ways but could not express his needs – so little he was, and so tender. But he knew he was from heaven because he felt heaven within him – he knew that he was very special and he knew what he needed, yet he could not say it…

Night after night, the boy lay in his bed, waiting to be seen, longing to be understood; for even though his parents were good, they did not see his heart, and therefore, did not know him at all.

They did not know his heart because they had forgotten their own.

The nights and days turned into months and years, and in time, the boy grew sad. He felt abandoned and alone but since there was no apparent reason for his feelings – he did, after all, have a good family – he hid them, from the world at first, and then from himself. As time passed, he hid his feelings more and more; he hid them so much that at the end, his whole self was hidden – out of the sight of those around him, and of himself as well.

By the time he was a grown man, he had already forgotten who he was.

Just like his parents had done.

* * *

The man who was once a boy who had come from heaven, spent many years trying to survive by pretending that there was nothing wrong with him. He had not really come from anywhere, he reasoned with others and himself, and had therefore no reason to feel the misery that tormented his soul day and night… Eventually, he succeeded, and stopped feeling pain; he stopped feeling joy too, but said to himself that, so long as he still felt pleasure, he was fine.

He was, after all, a normal man who had come from a normal family, and was living a life that, although not particularly fulfilling, was…well, normal.

The man who was once a boy who had come from heaven grew old and died. He knew about heaven, for even though he had long ago stopped feeling heaven within him, he had heard about it and thought he knew all there was to know about heaven. And so, armed with this knowledge and nothing else, he went to heaven, where he met God…

God was great, simply great: there was great goodness in him, great power and great glory. Fear and amazement filled the man’s soul but he knew there was no danger; he was home.

And as the man marveled at his Creator, from behind the throne and all the dazzling light and glory, there came a young man who looked like a prince. The fear and amazement grew as the man watched him come closer, for he realised that this must be an angel, sent to either punish him or bring him closer to the throne – yet, he still knew there was no danger; he still knew he was home.

As the prince walked toward him, his heart felt full of sorrow, shame, and most painful desire; he saw that he was a man, and that he had a face much like his own. But he was full of life – he was strong, lean and supple; he was as beautiful as any man could be, yet regal and mighty like a king.

Here before him was a man like the men of legends…

Swiftly, suddenly, he remembered how much he loved those old legends once, and how quickly he had forgotten them, as he left his childhood years behind.

The prince still walked toward him, slowly and with ease, and he had a smile on his face.

The longing grew, and the pain increased.

The man who was once a boy who had come from heaven fell to his knees and cried, for the first time in years, and bitter were his tears, for he had finally recognised the person before him…

He recognised him at the same moment as he heard the booming voice of God, full of sorrow, full of pain, and full of mercy:

‘You know who this is, son? This is you.’

‘This is the man who I always wanted you to be. This is the man you could have been.’






(You who read this…let this not be the end, but the beginning – it is not too late to discover who you are; it is not too late to become who you were born to be…)







Masculinity and Courage.

Duncan Regehr as Zorro. Source: internet



If I win – I win for all our people, if I lose — I lose only myself.

— Vassil Levski


The mystery that was constantly calling to me in my early childhood continued to do so while those first years rolled by. And when I began to read books and started making sense of what I saw on the television screen, I discovered that the mystery was also there — on the screen, and on the pages of those first comic-books, just as it had been in the lavish gifts of the wild nature, and the ancient stories told by those around me.

During my transition from childhood to adolescence, I found myself drawn toward the screen even more, through my favorite television shows, among which were the Highlander series, and La Piovra, or Octopus — an Italian TV series about the Mafia and a few brave souls who took a stand against it. Here, in a stark contrast with the serene world of nature, I found myself stirred in a new way; I was aroused, like I had been in my explorations and encounters with wildlife, only this time I felt less peace, and more emotion. It was as if the same unseen hand that had previously lavished the wonderful blessings of nature upon me, had now placed me in a new, more dynamic, and far more dangerous, environment — nudging me, stirring me into feeling what the heroes on the screen felt – anger, hatred for evil, defiance and a wild, self-sacrificial love for that which they defended.

It was in the Italian saga La Piovra, that I found my first hero. Corrado Cattani, the brave police inspector who relentlessly pursued and fought the Mafia, was among the first men that I admired for their heroism, nobility, and fighting spirit. New emotions, unknown to me at that time, stirred my young heart as I watched Cattani live. But never was that stirring stronger than in the moment I watched him die. The brave Cattani faced his death alone, his back against a wall; he left the world bravely staring evil in the face, in utter defiance of the masked cowards who had come to take his life. Sudden grief seized me; fear and anger gripped my young heart; I was shaken by tremors and convulsions from deep within. Confusion descended upon my mind and overcame me – how could the hero die? Why did evil prevailed in a world where everything and everyone I knew seemed to be on the side of good? Something shifted inside of me, something changed as I watched Catani breathe his last, leaning against that cold, cruel wall, his body riddled with the bullets of those who hated goodness and destroyed it. Silently, awkwardly, I suffered, hiding from my parents the uncomfortable emotions that raged within me. The sudden, unexpected death of Cattani, was my first true loss. In vain my mother, who had noticed my distress, tried to comfort me by explaining to me the ways of films and acting. To me, the story and the loss was as real as the hero whose life was depicted in it. Days, weeks, even months after watching the scene of his death, I drew picture after picture of Cattani`s last moment — with his head bowed sideways against the wall, his eyes closed on a face that did not change its grim, fierce countenance even in death. Beautiful. He was just beautiful.

I had truly lost a great friend on that day. A brave, bright soul had been extinguished by men who served an evil cause. I grieved, but shed no tears.

Cattani had died like a man — I knew that, though I knew little else besides; he had died like someone who hated evil more than he feared death. No, but he scorned death, looking at his murderers with fierce, blazing eyes, and an open face in which nobility, strength and passion merged in a splendid, divine way.

Do such things really happen, I wondered? Do people like that really live today?

* * *

Another very powerful story I immersed myself in as a boy, (besides that of Vassil Levski, of course — the idol of every Bulgarian boy) was the story of Zorro — the noble masked outlaw who defied evil, defended and protected the people from their oppressive rulers, and captured the heart of the beautiful girl.

I became acquainted with Zorro in the early 90`s, when the national television broadcast a show named The New Zorro, where the main character was played by Duncan Regehr — a man whose face, just like the face of Michele Placido who played Cattani, became a symbol of everything I wanted to see on my face one day.

I was stirred beyond words by Zorro`s powerful, yet gracious presence; I was mesmerised by his courage in the face of opposition, by his strength, speed and the graceful masculine gentleness with which he treated the women around him, especially the one he loved…

I was young, very young at the time and could have never been able to put all that to words – the strong pull from within, the call that aroused a deep part of me which I felt but could neither see nor explain. That strange urge swelled into a desire, as I watched those tales of heroism unfold on the screen before me; I longed to grow and do more — be more — and live, breathe, fight and die, in the name of love, and for some great cause. I did not know what it was I was wishing for, hoping for; I only knew that the life I wanted was very different that the life I saw around me. Looking at my surroundings and then into the other world behind the thick glass of the old television, a voiceless question was being birthed within me. A question that did not come out into the light until decades later:

Why is the life we live so different that the life we desire?

There, in the safe nest of my childhood, I was not aware of any search for meaning, or even the feelings of sadness, nostalgia, and inadequacy, that had already began their treacherous unseen work within me. But I was deeply impacted by the black-clad man who embodied the beautiful, noble, and gallant warrior-spirit I so longed to possess.

Without words or even thoughts, I wondered: could I be a man like Zorro one day?

Even though the greatest blows which would soon descend upon my heart were yet to come, I felt a barb in that question, and a faint trace of shame pierced me; I began to suspect, albeit vaguely, that its answer could be disappointing.

Do not ask that again, it seemed to say. Do not open Pandora’s box.

Yet, I persisted. My dreams lifted me higher than the world around me, and my imagination gave me wings.

Could I, like Zorro, face a group of villains and, draw my sword and use it, with graceful speed, uninhibited by fear, free from paralysing dread?

Could I, like him, gaze into a beautiful woman’s eyes, and talk to her gently, opening the door of my feelings, not with shame, but with a smile — a tender smile, but manly and even roguish.

Could I be like him — slender but strong, sure-footed, and utterly confident in himself — so much so, that he even dared step in to defend others.

Could I?

As my hungry eyes took in all that played out before me, a sense of hope arose within me. This wild hope was something new, but felt very old; it was a feeling unreasonable and totally impossible to explain…

Perhaps I could indeed, be such a man one day.

And with all of my heart, I wished for that to be true. I longed for the day when life will offer me a chance to be like Zorro.

I did not know how the world would one day treat my heart; I was only a boy, and I believed.

* * *

‘If people bring so much courage to this world’ — Ernest Hemingway once wrote — ‘the world has to kill them to break them…’

There is much courage in the heart of every baby boy brought into this world. Much courage, and much strength. But it must be drawn out, nurtured, and trained — or it will remain weak and hidden; it will be stifled, darkened, and broken.

‘The world breaks every one’ — continues the man who was himself very broken and knew it — ‘and afterward many are strong in the broken places.’

We have all been born to be courageous; and we have all been  broken.

May you have the courage to rouse the lion that sleeps within you. He is your goodness and your strength; he is your very masculine essence — this is who you once longed to be, and this is who you are still…





Masculinity – Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. Part 2



Most people today would agree that the world desperately needs to see and experience a new kind of masculinity.

Today, men do not need any more exhortations to do better; most of us are already labouring under the heavy load of externally (and internally) imposed values, expectations, stereotypes, and accusations…

I do not mean to suggest that there is no proper use for such things; but if they are put before what matters most, they can enslave the soul, instead of liberate it.

The tough, hairy man of the past, and the sensitive, eco-friendly man of the present — those are but mere representations of the ideologies that only drive the masculine soul deeper into bondage. As a result, few men today are truly free – one needs look no further than the TV screen and the news headlines…

Or the mirror.

Like every product of utopian ideas, the false masculine icons of the past and the present have strands of truth woven into them: it is indeed good for men to be stronger, and it is good for them to be more caring…

But we must beware.

‘’And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths,’’ said Shakespeare in his dark, bloody Macbeth; and continued:

‘’Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence.’’

A grave warning indeed – not a mere verse of dead prose, but a call, echoing from within the stone walls and the dark dungeons of the past centuries; a call we must heed, if we want to survive…

Because, more often than not, today as ever before, deception works through good intentions; it speaks to the heart and appeals to its desires and passions – only to betray it later.

We must never forget that Hitler did not force his way to power – he was wanted by his people. We must remember that the most brutal, murderous tyrants in history, used deception long before they reached for the sword. And even after they had revealed their true faces, they were still wanted by many people; they were even ‘loved’ by them.

Not too long ago, as Communism came to power in little Bulgaria, much of its good, hard-working population rejoiced. They put their very lives in the hands of the Party, and believed in its promises for a brighter future…

They believed, even when silent whispers of dark deeds slithered through locked doors at night…

They believed, even when some of their neighbours  were  arrested and sent to prison or to one of the ‘camps’.

They believed, even when people with clean names and honorable reputations were swallowed up by horrific darkness and their screams were heard only by the faceless shadows gathered around them in deep basements and old buildings.

They rejoiced, even while landowners, scientists, artists, and thinkers, suffered and died at the hands of those who claimed to love ‘the motherland’ and her people.

Yes, it was no Soviet invasion that so darkened the sky above the little sunny Balkan state; when the Red army marched in, they did not come as enemies…

And when the killing began in earnest, it was not Soviet hands that dripped with the innocent blood of so many – it was those who claimed to serve the people, that were destroying them. The sons of the land were dying at the hands of their own brothers.

But how was such monstrosity chosen? And why was it allowed to endure for so long?

Utopia – this is what, I think, lies behind all other reasons. The human heart longs for prosperity and peace; it is our make-up, our deepest desire. And so, well-meaning ideas, by well-meaning people, were wrapped in promises and presented to the people, most of whom, longing for peace, unity, and life with no class-system and no poverty, took the bait and swallowed the lie…

And, even after decades of blood and oppression – even after thousands of brutal examples of the very inequality and injustice they had once fought against – they refused to turn back, refused to see…

Even though they were normal people. Good people. Hard-working people.

More equality, more justice, more unity and peace – is this such a bad thing?

No, but beware. Beware…

For in this world of ours, things are seldom what they seem; and if the innocence of the dove is not joined by the serpent’s craftiness, deception often comes, and does its secret work unseen, in the dark…

* * *

The disturbing events I mentioned above serve as examples of how good ideas and good values can be used or manipulated to serve an evil purpose, if individual thinking, inner sense of calling and purpose, and personal responsibility, are abandoned.

The difference between the unwritten laws that set the external standards of masculinity – strength yesterday, compassion today – and the iron rules of Communism, are only  in the amount of blood that is spilled, while people are trying, and failing, to adhere to those dogmas…

Unlike an oppressive political regime, under the unseen oppression which has reigned over men for centuries, death does not happen right away — not externally, at least. Under the yoke of false masculinity — in its traditional or modern form — death mainly happens at the level of the soul; it is the death of joy and freedom, the death of man’s connection with his own true self – the self he once freely enjoyed and expressed, while he was still a little boy…

But for many, the process of death does not stop there.

As I write this, I am tempted to say that, yes, while many have suffered from the harsh rules of the cult of masculinity and its various expressions through the ages, comparing that to Communism would be ridiculous.

I say to myself that i have gone too far, and prepare to erase the whole paragraph.

And then I hesitate, and I stop. And the blood begins to flow…

And I see before me thousands upon thousands of dead bodies: the fatherless young men stabbed to death on the streets of London; the children killed in school-shootings in the States; all the girls and women murdered daily in the Middle East; all the women across the world who have died as victims of domestic violence; all the victims of racism and senseless hate…

And, sadly, that is only the tip of the iceberg…

Terrorism. War. Oppression.

We would be dangerously naïve to assume that the externally-imposed, fabricated faces of masculinity, in all their shapes and forms – have played no part in the blood that has flown, is still flowing, and is yet to flow, under the beautiful blue skies of the planet we call home.

We would be fools to say such a thing. And sooner or later, fools are made to pay for their foolishness.

We need change. And we need it soon.

* * *

Unfortunately, many times when change occurs in the world, it is often external, the replacement of a set of rules with a new one. I believe that, just like our inherent desire for a world of prosperity and peace for all — which are not bad desires at all — we humans also have the tendency to avoid the hardships of personal responsibility, and the toil behind the process of discovery of one’s own unique design, potential, and place in the world.

I think that, when that tendency of avoiding one’s own journey of self-discovery — and all the responsibilities that lay along the way — is not engaged and overcome, it can lead to a lifestyle of compromise. The compromise of one’s true self, might then easily evolve into emotional and spiritual numbness, and quickly fall prey to addictions and compulsions of various kinds; it would then give birth to corruption – and this is in the best case-scenario…

An example of the worst would be a full-scale case of tyranny and oppression — personal, domestic, and political.

Most dictators, it seems to me, appears to have always been elected by groups of people who have suffered greatly in the past, and have, through that suffering, lost something good, vital, and life-giving…

Sometimes, what has been stolen, is their very identity. And a person — or a nation –without belief in itself and hope for a good future, is spiritually dead. Once this death occurs, the existence that still continues in some form, no longer requires great things; it no longer drives one to excel and conquer heights… instead, it craves relief, and longs for ease.

This is what we search for, when we turns to people and systems that offer us the desired ease of life by reducing individual responsibility instead of empowering the individual to discover and develop the unique potential and gifts that all people have.

And so, one tyranny replaces another; Communism replaces Fascism, and the old macho-man god of our fathers is overthrown and replaced by the god who demands obedience through openness, sensitivity, and care – no matter how one might feel.

No matter how one might suffer inside.

* * *

Yet, there is a better way. It is a narrow, rocky path, cut through dark valleys and forbidding mountains…

But it is the only way to true freedom – the only way to true masculinity.

Through years of being alongside men of various ages, and through the pain of my own journey of regaining inner wholeness, I have found that every man has within himself, no matter how deeply buried, a heart – that is to say, an inner self – which is good, and filled with all that the man has ever wanted to be. There is the strength that the insecure men of the past have desperately tried to find in machismo and bar fights; there is the compassion, love, and care – for the fellow humans and the whole planet – that many men of today are so passionate about. In the heart, there is much glory – it has unique expressions of creativity, as well as strength; it has deep wells of wisdom, love, and knowledge of justice – all spoken in the language of that one man, all marked with the fingerprint of that one soul.

But rarely, if ever, are people fully connected to this source of life. Rarely, if ever, are men so healed, that they are one with their heart – the self which they once knew, while it still shone it those first years.

‘’Comfortably numb’’ – overfed, sleepy, and void of passion.

Lost in anger and crime.

Lonely and enslaved by their dark sexual demons.

Corpses that have not yet died, and time-bombs, waiting to explode…

Poor beggars, starving and diseased, while sitting on bags full of gold – this is what we all are; we do not hear the cries of the child within, we do not heed the call of the heart that is not yet dead…

Instead, we run away, and live tragic lives. Too readily we turn from truth and hate the only thing that can make us human – the heart, and all its treasures.

* * *

How then, can we get to those treasures? How can we connect to the source to all that is good, the place where all true masculinity comes from? Where do we find the dark and rocky road, so that we can walk on it?

Unfortunately, the answer that I have found to be true is contained in a single word – a word filled with potency, darkness and horror…


Yes – the doors of our hearts behind which the best treasures are hidden, are shut down and barred, sealed by pain and guarded by horrifying darkness, anger and grief, and self-protection mechanisms – it is a sick, oppressive system, a system many have accepted to be their character, their trie self, their lot in life…

But we must know that, as in the fairy tales, the most precious gold is often guarded by the most hideous monsters – monsters that can be slain.

Monsters that must be slain.

I have found that those men who walk in the direction of their pain are noble; those who endure further and reach the source of their pain are heroic, and those who grit their teeth and press on, all the way to the other side, are transformed.

The men who reach such transformation are not only able to recover their lost strength and courage, but they are also able to embrace the heart of the child they once were – the little boy who had been rejected as weak and unmanly, the young keeper of all the love and compassion that the world today so needs to see in men.

By taking the narrow road, men become boys again – but only if they are willing.

By stooping low, men become raised to unseen heights, as those boys are slowly integrated into the whole being, as they are nurtured and ‘’grow up’’ to finally be the men they wanted to become before they were cut off by rejection, self-hatred, or other forms of trauma and abuse.

True masculinity should come from the heart; the boy inside must be liberated, and embraced by the man who once so hated him — and then be taken on a journey to become a man.

Only then – when every man is no longer divided within himself – will the world rest from hatred and division. Only then – when every man truly knows, loves and values himself – will the world know peace.

But it is pain, that we must desire, and not just an easy way out.

* * *

‘’You need to do better, or you’re not a man!’’ shouts the man of the past and kicks the fallen, wounded boy, in the ribs. ‘’Man up, get up, and keep walking!’’

‘’You are acceptable and good, just as you are,’’ smiles the modern man and extends a hand to the wretched, hurting boy. ‘’You just need to love others as you love yourselves – and what’s not to love? You are perfect!’’

Yes – you are that boy. And so am I.

He does not need the brutal training of manhood – no doubt, it would have helped him if he had been whole, but now it makes his state worse.

He does not need just to be accepted, and be trained into accepting others – not in the state he is in now; he would have naturally been accepting and loving, if he had been whole.

He needs wholeness, and everything else can be added to him later – and everything else will, no doubt, be needed — in different amounts, and in different areas of his life.

But wholeness comes first; the heart comes first.

May all of us men have the courage to face the darkness within, and find the hidden gold, before we look for monsters out there in the world.






Masculinity: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow


‘…the world sets in to making us into what the world would like us to be, and because we have to survive after all, we try to make ourselves into something that we hope the world will like better than it apparently did the selves we originally were.’

Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets


In the past, the most widely accepted standard for masculinity in the Western world was, generally, the successful adherence to certain rules, codes, and principles. According to the needs of the last century, one of the main qualities that made a man worthy of being called one, was the ability to ‘man up’ — show no fear in the face of danger — and get the job done; to be strong and reliable.

And there was a good reason for that.

The society of the past, always fighting one war or another, had indeed a great need for men who were tough, efficient, and reliable — and so, it constantly urged all men to conform to its standards. The male characters created by Hollywood and played by actors like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and many others, became archetypes of true masculinity; the term ‘real man’ came to represent a man who was tough, serious, skilled — fully able to be the warrior the world needed him to be. Those Hollywood icons embodied the spirit of the ‘old generation ‘ – the men who lived and fought through the World Wars.

The majority of those men never shared their true feelings with others, even with those closest to them. On the battlefield, and during all the tough years in which they had to earn a living and raise their families, they simply did ‘what they had to do’ — with no fuss, and no drama.

Those were the men of the ‘stiff upper lip’; the tough, hard-working men who lived a life of service to their country, their loved ones, and the peace of the next generation — while seeking no glory to themselves.

* * *

In recent years, the modern world is seeing a rapid decline in the need for the ‘tough guy’ persona…

Today, as more and more living ideals of masculinity fail their followers by revealing a history of violence, greed, or sexual misconduct, the world looks away in disappointment and disgust. The icons of masculinity fall under the hammer of the media; they are hurled into the ground by the anger of the young generation; they are shattered, and nobody cares to pick up the pieces…

The world today knows that, under the brawny, weather-beaten surface of traditional manhood, things are not always what they seem. By now, most of us are certain that we have seen enough of those ‘real men’ – the men whose so-called masculinity often did more damage than good…

And so, we turned away from the rules and the principles that uphold strength, honour and courage; we aimed to create new masculinity, and to forge a new man out of the ashes of the old one, who was burned at the altar of our righteous anger.

The modern man is now here, and this is his time.

The idea of the ‘modern man’ is realised through the adherence to those new norms of masculinity — the application of new rules and principles. These rules largely revolve around issues like the need for more sensitivity and less aggression in men.

Much like its predecessor, the ‘tough man’ of the past, the ‘modern man’ is led by rules and principles — a new masculine code — that demand of him to become more ‘open-minded’ and ‘accepting of others’. Through these rules and principles society exhorts the ‘modern man’ to be more gentle and compassionate, to care for the environment, to be more accepting of other races, cultures and religions, and, when all is said and done – to be less like the man of the past…

Which perhaps means that most of us today are trying to be less like our fathers.

It is clearly evident, then, that in each case, there appears to be an emphasis of the need of certain qualities in men: in the old, wartime years, they were related to strength, resolve, toughness and reliability, while the modern age calls for more compassion, sensitivity, and openness. And so, it seems that, whenever a certain set of attributes are in demand of the current society, new norms of masculinity are set, and the imposing of  external standards pertaining to that version of masculinity are used to generate the desired outcome. In the past, men had to be tough, and failing to live up to that standard resulted in shame and exclusion: the boy who failed to win a competition, or was unable to defend himself against a bully, walked home with his head hanging low…

The modern age, though far more accepting of failure and sensitive to emotional needs, is nevertheless doing the very same thing: it criticises the ones who do not conform to its standards, and ostracises them, often labeling them with names and epithets that brand and stigmatise them — just like the previous age once branded and stigmatised the men who could not conform to the old version of masculinity.

* * *

It is therefore clear that each society, driven by its needs and agendas, tries to exclude unwanted parts and fragments of masculinity, while accepting and developing the ones that it needs. Sadly, men’s true needs, and indeed, their true selves, are neither considered, nor in fact accepted, as the political forces of their world are unleashed against them, driving them to either conform, or pay a price for not doing so.

The biggest problem with both ways that have shaped the lives of men – the demand for toughness in the past and sensitivity in the present – is that they are based in external needs and expectations. The externally-imposed moral codes of each version of masculinity have been used to enforce the external behaviour of the men who live by them — which in turn, yields external results in the lives of those same men!

Laws, rules, codes and moral principles, as useful as they might be when used rightfully, do nothing to address and honour the individual reality of each man’s life. Such an approach might achieve obedience, but it does so by making its author look no different from a cruel taskmaster who cares only for the result of his slaves’ hard work, and nothing for the slaves themselves.

* * *

If we take masculinity to be a thing of a nature and significance that is much deeper than its external, physical expression, we must acknowledge that the modifying of a man’s behaviour will produce little or no results in transforming the reality of his inner being.

And if we know something about people in general, we will see that most of us are far more attracted by living a life of well-being, purpose, and aliveness, than we are to a life of endless strife and adherence to doctrines.

Unfortunately, the history of humanity shows very little knowledge of this truth; the deeper nature of being a human – in this case, a male human – has been treated as something like a set of behaviour traits, habits and rituals, the altering of which has been thought able to provide us with the success that only inner transformation can bring.

So, if we say that the two most popular models for masculine behavior have failed, we must look for a third option.

When the external approach fails, it must be replaced, either with another form of tyranny, or with something better, something deeper.

The superficial approach toward masculinity has failed, and will fail again, because it ignores the very thing masculinity is rooted in – the inner being, the heart.

If we want to change the face of masculinity and alter its behavior, we must first take a good look at its heart; it is the heart that must be re-discovered and redeemed, and it is the heart that must be honored, healed, and brought into the fullness of life. When men are in touch with their hearts, and when those hearts are truly free to be what they were designed to be, masculinity will at last present itself to the world in its glorious fullness.

Only then will the world begin to fully live.

Only then will we be finally able to forge a brand new future for ourselves and our children – a redeemed generation that would never commit the wasteful sins of their fathers, but would use the strong foundation laid by them as a platform, and their sacrifices as fuel, to propel itself into a golden age of freedom and peace never witnessed by any of the generations before.

But if men are to recover their hearts, if we are to create this golden future, we must first take a deeper journey – a journey of healing; and if we are to be healed, we must first face our sickness.

It is a sickness of the heart, and the cure is received only by those who are brave…



To receive, one must let go first…take your mask off, you will find pain and treasure underneath…

The Father. The Power. The Wound.

baby-22194_960_720When a father and son spend long hours together we could say that a substance almost like food passes from the older body to the younger. The contemporary mind might want to describe the exchange between father and son as a likening of attitude, a miming, but I think a physical exchange takes place, as if some substance was passing directly to the cells. The son`s body – not his mind – receives, and the father gives this food at a level far bellow consciousness.

Robert Bly — Iron John: A Book About Men



I had always wanted to be like him.

He was a good man, a strong man; he was a man who did not shy from telling it as it is, and did not let bad people get away with their badness.

But now I know. I know the truth…

He could not love me, and he never did. He could protect, and he could provide — but he could never father me. My little body needed his big body; my boyish skin longed for his touch — in an embrace, or a wrestling match…

I did not see what he failed to give me, for how can one sees what is not there? But I grew with a lack, a void, an emptiness of soul; and I knew I would never be a man like him. Yet this is what I have always wanted, in a deep and primal way, far beyond the reach of reason…I wanted him, and I wanted to become like him.

After boys are born, they do not become men; they must be made men. That ‘making’ happens through the active intervention of the father, as Robert Bly once put it. In other words, we must be loved into manhood, in those precious first years, and then trained and initiated into it.

But love comes first.

Masculine love is the baseline of manhood.

The father’s love is the power that works within the boy and spurs him on to do more and be more, later in life. The lack of it…well, you probably know its effects…

I certainly do.

Not being able to give me what he himself had not been given, the great man left me with a deep hole in the chest, and a deep question:

am I a man?

The question came from the curious, hurting soul, and my wounds provided the merciless answer:


You will never be a man; you must pretend and cover your weakness…do not let them see the child within — do not even allow yourself to see him.

They whispered dark and dreadful things to my young and trembling soul. In my weakness, I believed them; in my fear, I obeyed.

Kill him and bury him. 

And I did.

Then I wondered, year after year, why I was so hollow inside — why the sex, the drugs, and all the falsehood and pretense, failed to make me alive, save for a few fleeting moments?

Inside, I wept for the boy, and I searched for him — an orphan, searching for his lost life, the family he has never known…

Or a murderer, searching for his victim in repentance.

A father holds a great power over his son, a power to make or break him with his words or with his absence. Harsh words, or the lack of words; scornful look or an absent smile — it all pierces, and it all kills…

How can you, years later, give to your family from a full heart? How can love overflow from a soul in which love has never been poured? How can you be strong and make strong decisions, if you have never been trained and fathered into manhood; if your empty, father-starved heart has either been shut down — abused and pushed out into the world — or left alone in the dark, forever waiting to receive that which only a man can give…

That which only a father can give.

A grim message, to be sure, but it is not the end of the story — only its beginning.

I will not ask you if you are ready, only if you are willing…

Are you willing?

Have you suffered enough inadequacy, shame, and emptiness?

If you have, good.

This is your time; this is your chance to re-write your story.


The father-wound must be entered, for beneath it lays a golden heart; the pain of the past must be re-lived, for only then it could be healed.

Do not fear.

You are not alone.