The Roadmap Home: Your GPS to Inner Peace®

August 4, 2021

Two Models of Male Friendship

Men seeking deeper friendships with other men must make a conscious commitment to develop relationships. However, this often conflicts with the old model of friendship that many men experienced growing up. Some 20 years ago, George Ortenzo and I developed a Conscious Friendship Model for men. It still holds true today. Upleveling to a model that provides deeper levels of connection, growth, and love requires a commitment. Are you willing to let go of the old and embrace the new?

                                       MODELS OF FRIENDSHIP: TWO VIEWPOINTS

OLD FRIENDSHIP MODEL

CONSCIOUS-EFFORT FRIENDSHIP MODEL

1. Friendships between men happen while doing (working, playing sports, etc.) When the doing stops, the friendship usually ends.

1. Friendships between men are perceived as important in and of themselves, and are consciously pursued.

2. The discussion of work, sports, finances, women, and like matters dominant male dialogue. Men are cautious about discussing their personal life.

2. The discussion of personal/spiritual growth, dreams, hopes, desires, and fears are crucial to forming a close relationship.

3. Competition, rivalry, and social status are of paramount importance. Closeness occurs when working for a common cause or opposing a common enemy.

3. Cooperation, personal honesty, and emotional “status” are of paramount importance. Closeness occurs within the context of a developing relationship.

4. A self-image that reflects success and dominance is essential.

4. A real, authentic, and honest self is essential.

5. Anger is an acceptable emotion but other emotions are suspect and dangerous.

5. All the human emotions, from joy to despair, from tenderness to toughness are worthy and life defining.

6. Conversation is egocentric and non-relational.

6. Conversation expands to explore the mutual social, emotional and personal life of oneself and the other.

7. Distrust and caution are essential in dealing with men who want friendship.

7. Trust and vulnerability are essential in building friendship with other men.

8. Staying hidden, concealed, and obscure leads to loneliness and isolation.

8. Openness, availability, clarity, and connection are consciously fostered. This results in renewed energy and a deeper understanding of self.

9. Love and tenderness are rarely expressed to another man; praise is used sparingly—if at all.

9. Love, tenderness, and appreciation are joylessly expressed.

July 28, 2021

Are You Plugged into Your Inner GPS?

When I access the GPS in my car, I know that the Global Positioning System is connected to a worldwide navigational system. As it determines my position, processes my destination, and charts a course, I cruise comfortably without worry. And if I happen to not pay attention and miss an exit, the GPS merely tells me without judgment, “Recalculating.”

To access our spiritual nature and connection to a Higher Consciousness, we need a navigational system. Fortunately, we all have an inner GPS, one that is intricately linked to a Higher Power. When we feel such a connection to the Divine, we become Spirit-driven in our actions and interactions. We enter a state of flow where inner guidance and synchronicity miraculously appear. From that spiritual center, we become a beacon of light to others as we radiate love and inner peace.

How do we increase our receptivity and strengthen our connection to the Divine?

  1. Recognize that you are on a sacred hero’s journey to return Home.

The journey calls you to heal wounds that create separation and break free from your “False” self. Healing raises your consciousness on the hero’s journey, knowing that you are a spiritual being on a human excursion.

We may be at different phases of our spiritual development, each following a unique path with individualized lessons, but we are all, nonetheless, journeying toward Home, the place where we feel part of something far greater than our ego. As we break free from destructive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that prevent us from embracing a Spirit-driven life, we welcome curiosity, love, and acceptance.

  1. Grow from the inside out through a daily practice.

Developing a spiritual practice is the fulcrum for inner work. Such a practice grounds us, centers us, and humbles us by reminding us that we are part of something far greater than ourselves. It plugs us into an endless source of wisdom, gratitude, connection, forgiveness, and acceptance. There is nothing soft about our spirituality. It is hard won and emanates from within.

Choose a practice that aligns with who you are and that you can use daily. Meditation and prayer are common in most traditions, and they come in many different flavors. Other practices include journaling, time in nature, transformational trainings, twelve-step work, contemplation, breath work, and gratitude.

  1. Keep a Gratitude Journal.

Holding an attitude of gratitude reminds us to recognize each day those incidents, be they big or small, that bring us joy.

1. Notice where you are blessed and the gifts that have been bestowed on you for no other reason than you exist.

2. Notice how you are supported in mysterious ways.

3. Notice where you have abundance.

4. Notice the sacred and beautiful relations with family, friends, co-workers, and even strangers.

Embracing our spiritual journey, we can find the joy, gratitude, and gravitas that help us become potent souls. From that place, we will feel deep in our bones that we are spiritual beings and can let our light radiate freely with open hearts.

 

 

 

July 20, 2021

Men and Love. What’s the Problem?

Give a man a problem to fix; he feels right at home. Ask a man to love; that becomes a problem.

Men tend to demonstrate love through acts of service like doing things or fixing problems, or we may seek to feel loved through sex. However, loving with an open heart is hard for us. Sure, we can give a woman flowers or tell a close male friend in an off-handed way, “Luv you, Bro.” However, real love asks us to embrace intimacy (Into-me-see).

Intimacy is about being vulnerable, something men have been taught to avoid. If we identify with the images of masculinity as portrayed in the media and by culture, we will value toughness, self-sufficiency, and invulnerability. Those qualities of a warrior may work in the field of sports, but they don’t translate well with love and intimacy. That doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t long for love. Hell, everyone needs love. Deprive infants of love and they don’t survive.

To find love, we often lean into the beliefs that if we are good enough, strong enough, smart enough, or successful enough, then we will be loved. Unfortunately, this outcome depends on external praise and reinforcement. We can be extremely successful in the outside world yet feel unloved on the inside. Worthiness doesn’t come from others; it comes from the inside—where real love exists.

To love with an open heart requires tremendous courage because love is fraught with fear for many men. We either fear rejection and abandonment, or we fear getting smothered and losing ourselves. No wonder love is so difficult!

To build a life of love, we must be willing to move past our defenses and cultural images of masculinity. If we grew up with guilt, shame, rejection, or abuse, we have likely erected barriers around our hearts and carried on stoically.

The mystic Rumi tells us, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Building a life of love requires us to seek out those beliefs that act as barriers. Here are but a few that get in the way:

    • Real men are tough and invulnerable.

    • I’m not the problem, you are!

    • If you see the real me, you won’t love me.

    • When I’m successful, I’ll be loved.

    • I don’t deserve love.

After becoming aware of our unspoken and often unconscious beliefs, we must dismantle the negative ones and replace them with heartfelt loving ones. Here are 5 steps to do that:

1. Accept yourself the way you are. Even though you may be frightened of opening your heart, you can still accept that you are fearful of getting hurt and still move forward toward intimacy.

2. Become aware of thoughts or beliefs that prevent you from receiving or giving love.

3. Open your heart to act in loving ways toward yourself and others. (Affirming words, acts of kindness, tender touch, time for play, etc.)

4. Institute a daily practice of self-care and love.

5. Share that love with a loved one, a friend, or your family.

When we become self-generating lovers, we have more love to share with others. And love is what the world desperately needs!

July 7, 2021

Why Are Men So Lonely and What Can They Do About It?

As a therapist, I have seen countless men in my office because they were depressed and lonely. Sadly, this was becoming common for men during the pandemic as social isolation prevented many from engaging in activities with others. Add to this the set of traditional masculine values that men have learned—be tough, invulnerable, self-reliant, and independent—and you have a perfect storm for loneliness.

Having been brought up with such beliefs, I used to isolate uncomfortable feelings and keep them hidden. As a boy, I had yearned to be like the superheroes in my comic books. Since they prided themselves on being invulnerable and not crying, I tried to be like them.

It wasn’t until I became a therapist and later joined a men’s group that I realized that shutting down and hiding my emotions stopped me from feeling connected, both to myself and others. Isolation and loneliness caused deep pain. Fortunately, I discovered the way out and that was to build bridges of connection where I shared feelings with others I trusted. When I did so, I felt closer, and if I resolved conflict with another successfully, I was drawn into a closer bond.

To grow and develop as men, we need face-to-face connections where we break out of isolation and deal directly in a non-competitive manner with other men. When we do so, we receive countless benefits: a deeper understanding, appreciation, and love of self; more meaningful relationships; opportunities to satisfy emotional needs; increased vitality and vigor; and a genuine desire for greater connection. In other words, we grow as men in relationships.

Consider the following steps to build connections:

1. Seek friendships with men who value relationships and who are willing to talk about their lives, including dreams, hopes, desires, and fears.

2. Reach out to another man and invite him to share his experiences, emotions, or senses, face to face, with you.

3. Increase your awareness of what you are feeling or sensing in the present moment and acknowledge them without judgment to a trusted friend.

4. Practice being vulnerable with those you trust and listen to, encourage, support, and validate them to be open and vulnerable. If you’re a father, become a model for your children.

5. Ask for what you need in relationships and consider the other person’s needs.

6. Stay committed to the ongoing process of building connections as you strengthen your relationships.

Sometimes we need to withdraw into our caves and reconnect with ourselves to recognize thoughts and feelings. Once grounded, we can then re-emerge into the world of relationships. Connection is about balancing the flow between self and another like the rhythm of inhaling and exhaling air. Inhaling alone does not promote growth. When we express our thoughts, feelings, and needs, we reduce isolation and loneliness, revitalize our spirit, and feel deeply connected with others.

October 19, 2020

Life is a Journey to Find Home

Everyone’s life is a journey. That journey comes with a narrative—how we describe it and the meaning we give each experience. That narrative provides a framework that shapes the way we view the past, live the present, and perceive the future. Journeys, however, do change. Here’s part of my journey.

The first time my father left the family I was six. The second time was for good and I was nine. My mother worked in a factory on the south side of Chicago and with four children to feed, her hands were full. Too full to clean, cook, work, and tend children. Too full to cradle a frightened child or whisper, “I love you” to a broken heart.

Out of desperation, she considered a heart other than her own to pump life into her children. She took my brother, two sisters, and me to visit Mooseheart, a residential childcare facility outside Chicago. Her intention was clear. If she couldn’t care for us, she would explore an alternative.

Even if a moose had a heart attached to its name, I knew it was an orphanage. It wasn’t an awful facility, but it was a disturbing venue for a Sunday excursion in the summer of ‘57. When we toured the grounds, I didn’t get mad, sad, or act bad, even though I was faced with the prospect of leaving the familiar to live in a frightening new place with a group of strangers. I was ready to accept the decision, for I had learned to adapt and accommodate – keys to survival. At that tender age of nine, I didn’t need an orphanage to realize I had lost my home.

Home is about belonging—to a place, a group of people, a wellspring of love. A place where one is comforted, nurtured, and protected. Where one can feel safe and secure and can gather strength in the face of adversity. Most importantly, it’s a place to live one’s truth.

That was not my home. Mine was a place ravaged by my father’s mental illness, domestic violence, blaming parents, and their impending divorce. It was a place riddled with conflict, fear, and anxiety. Home was not a fortress of protection. Rather, it was a crumbling castle with dragons spewing hot flames. I felt insecure and unsafe, and realized later that I had lost a more sacred space—that place of inner knowing where I had inalienable rights—the right to exist, to feel, to think and act, to love and be loved, to express myself and be heard, to see my potential and have it recognized and blessed. That home was clearly lost by the time I visited the orphanage.

To survive my childhood, I learned to shut down. I forgot about that inner knowing and replaced it with voices of anxiety and fear. Becoming orphaned from my sacred truth was the harshest of losses. To manage the fear, grief, anger, and shame simmering underneath, I adopted defenses—silence, avoidance, and suppression, along with a dash of sarcasm and dark humor. I had learned that life was not about love, it was purely survival.

Fortunately, there were slivers of hope. My three siblings as fellow orphans offered some companionship and comfort. As well, my Polish grandmother helped soothe my soul. Her English was poor, so I couldn’t talk about problems, yet she acted as a haven in an ugly firestorm. With her support, my mother, thankfully, made the courageous decision to rear her children for better and for worse.

Though we never moved to that place with the heart of a moose, my anxiety and fear remained. It turned into a faint hum coursing through my veins like electricity, urging me to be alert, ever ready, on edge, because home as I knew it could be stolen in a flash.

I never talked about the humming and carried on as if nothing was wrong. During times of uncertainty and insecurity, the hum would vibrate more intensely, forcing me to be vigilant about any possible threat. I often ignored the hum and followed my mother’s dictum, “Get busy and forget your problems.”

It wasn’t until after I became a psychotherapist that I realized the damage caused by neglect, abuse, and abandonment. Deeper insidious wounds resulted from the ways I adapted and accommodated. No talking, no feeling, no crying, no sign of a whimper, even when my heart was humming with pain. Denial and disconnection were not the best ways to manage wounds, yet without much guidance or direction, it was hard to act otherwise.

Nonetheless, out of our deepest wounds come our greatest gifts. The amazing gift I received from my childhood was a quest. And that quest was to find home.

I discovered that the inner Home, though buried, had not been extinguished. The heartbeat pulsed with a rhythm of life. The sound was often faint, but the message was clear—return to the place of inner knowing. Wake-up calls shook me from my unconscious state. Those bolts of lightning sent tremors rippling through my psyche. The widening fissures in my defense system allowed me to turn my eyes inward past the ruins of old preconceptions and toward the beckoning heart of authentic connection.

Finding the way back demanded that I recognize the calls, liberate the orphan, and awaken from a numbed existence. I had to share stories, release tears, and embrace forgiveness. The healing energy of acceptance and love provided soothing balm on the journey Home.

Home is not the result of finding a place, living with a person, establishing a career, or having material success. Rather, Home resides in the heart and soul and remains with us wherever we go. It endows us with wonderful gifts—to delight in the senses, to experience emotions and feel joy, to exercise our free will, to love and be loved, to express ourselves, to see our true potential and satisfy our dreams.

Welcome Home!

Leonard Szymczak

April 30, 2020

National Superhero Day

April 28 was National Superhero Day. I believe all parents are superheroes. In today’s hectic world, it takes incredible energy to raise children.

Over the years, I’ve been passionate about breaking the cycle of absent fathers in my family. When my children were young, I became a stay-at-home dad. That experience not only altered my life but the lives of my children.

In my TEDx talk, I share my journey where I had to WAKE UP from the pain of being a fatherless son, GROW UP to be the dad I always wanted, and SHOW UP with a superpower—the power of fathering.

 

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The Roadmap Home: Your GPS to Inner Peace

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