This is not the strength our fathers and our brothers taught us.
When I close my eyes, I see the mountain’s form — the wide base, the peaks, the charismatic presence that shapes the air and earth around it. Still distant in my mind, it fills my view: solid, stable, and strong.
This is not the strength our fathers and brothers. They taught us how to bully and coerce with mockery and violence.
The mountain finds strength in how it fastens to the earth. It has deep roots. Its wide and stable mass supports its vaulted peaks. It cannot overreach. It is unmoved by the seasons or the weather, which crashes on its summit. It asks for nothing. It acts on no-one. It does nothing, except to be itself.
The mountain declares its truth to the world. Its presence draws us to its slopes, challenging and inspiring us to find the courage and resourcefulness to climb it. When we reach its top, we marvel at our efforts, hardly stopping to acknowledge that it is, in good measure, the mountain that has pulled us up.
Here is an exercise you can practice when you need to manifest your own magnificent inner strength. Find a comfortable place to sit — either on a chair, or on the floor. If you are on a chair, scooch your butt backwards and press the base of your spine into the chairback. Place your feet underneath your knees, and your soles flat on the floor. If you are sitting on the floor, create a stable platform for yourself by crossing your legs and holding your upper body upright.
Close your eyes. Stretch out your spine so that it is as tall as you can make it. Allow your arms to hang loosely from your trunk. Place your hands in your lap, or on your desk if you are sitting behind one, with your palms flat on its surface. Imagine there is a line running down the center of your body that divides your left side from your right. Focus on the balance in your posture — the pressure underneath the left foot and the right; the pressure underneath the left side of your pelvic bone and the right; the pressure underneath the left palm and the right.
Stretch out your neck. Hold your head level, as if you were looking straight ahead. Feel the strength in your posture. Feel how stable you are. Feel the strength in your spine, and the way your back, your glutes, your hamstrings and your stomach support it.
Breathing through your nose, bring your attention to the sensation of your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils. Visualize a mountain in front of you. It may be one you have visited, or from a picture in a book. It may be from the landscapes of your childhood. If you live in the mountains like me, it may be right outside the window :) As you breathe in and out, repeat this mantra to yourself:
Breathing in, I am a mountain.
Breathing out, I am strong and stable.
So many men grow up with such poor role models. Our fathers tell us not to cry, as if showing our emotions reveals weakness. We compete with our brothers and our friends to tear each other down, learning that our basic stance towards each other must be competition, which causes fear and insecurity in us, and which allows no space for kindness and love.
I began my coaching career avoiding male clients, especially ones who have grown into adult bullies. I think it was because I was so deeply uncomfortable with the bully in me. Here’s a confession: I was a bully at school. I wasn’t the ringleader. But I was one of his inner circle of henchmen. I was a bully, and I was bullied.
I have been doing a lot of work with the bully inside me. I have noticed that he suffers just as badly as the little boy who was bullied. Isn’t that a powerful insight! My bully needs my compassion too. I also noticed recently that my male coaching clients now outnumber my female ones. I think I might be unlocking a passion and a talent in me for helping men find their true strength.
I am a mountain, strong and stable.