The Foundation of Radical Personal and Spiritual Development

Photo by Josh Levin

Photo by Josh Levin

In my humble opinion radical personal development has one powerful process and its core.

Knowing and living this one gem can be the difference between the relentless self-improvement project and experiencing true joy, abundance, and fulfillment, especially for men who are habitually geared toward “improving” and “being better.”

So, what is this process?


That’s right. Love in every form. From self-love, to loving others, and even loving things.

“Loving” is the process by which we transform, evolve and open to greater and greater aspects of ourselves. Typically the process of loving happens within the context of relationships, a major pain and pleasure experience for most men.

If you are a normal man, you have struggled in the realm of relationships. Perhaps you have had your heart broken, been betrayed, or maybe you have experienced great pain in losing a loved one.

Love shows up in our “relationship” to family, friends, pets, co-workers, race, politics, money, the environment, and of course, our relationship to ourselves. And, like most men, you might attempt to tackle your relationship problems with more doing, acheiving, trying harder, and more problem solving. But if you desire more fulfilling relationships, try setting aside your current masculine approach and lean into loving as your “way.”

If amazing relationships are your destination, loving (adjective and verb) is the path to get there.

Pour genuine love into just about any kind of relationship and you will get results you were not getting before. Learn how to open your heart in your relationships and your relationships will evolve and deepen. Give some love to yourself and you will find over time that your personal blocks, issues, and challenges transform. Love your demons, your fear, and the parts of yourself you don’t like and something powerful begins to occur. Love is what transforms your judgments of others (which are disowned judgments of yourself) into acceptance.

I’m here to purport that love is the greatest medicine in personal and spiritual development.

As Carl Jung says,

“Love is the dynamism that most infallibly

brings the unconscious to the light.”

Try it on that you are either opening to love or contracting away from love. Anything else is an ego-building project. More status, money, fame, power, are all just another ego trip.

Love is who you are at the most fundamental level. It is the main food you survived on during infancy and childhood, and the teaching you likely delivered to your parents during that precious time.

This concept is something I thought I understood for years. I remember when I was 21 listening to the Samples song about loving myself. It made sense. In that moment I realized I kinda loved myself. Looking back, I had no idea about what that really meant or what was possible with love. I had layers upon layers of self-protection that were unconscious to me and I was pretty unhappy.

If I am honest with myself, I spend most of my time in subtle levels of contraction. However, slowly over time that is shifting. Parenting, my men’s group, my marriage, and my life keep pointing me toward greater love. As any of you parents know, a new baby in your life can crack the dam open pretty wide. It continues to crack, some days it bursts open and my love comes ripping out like a mountain torrent. Other days my love is just a trickle, and some moments, my love is well hidden far behind the dam, which, in those moments seems impenetrable.

Loving is changing how I work with people and the view I take on the personal development path. I know there is an endless well of depth and profundity to me experiencing love. I’m suggesting the same for you.

So, I’m here to challenge you to join me in opening to greater and greater love in the context of your relationships and your life. Why not? What do you have to loose? Think about a world where you and others exuded love most waking hours?

To me opening one’s heart is the hardest practice of all. Much harder than climbing big peaks, going to med school (so I’ve been told), being lost in the wilderness, or even starting a business. A man’s relationship to his work, his family, his partner, his guy friends, and his environment can all be enhanced with serious and frequent doses of love.

Since, loving might just be the hardest practice, here are some basic tips to love more and more.

First, get honest and think of your relationship to love. How much do you feel love? Do you know what it feels like? What is more of an edge for you– giving or receiving love? Big picture in life and with your intimate partner or lover.  For many men receiving love is a much steeper path. Receiving love is largely a feminine process and most guys are simply not in touch with the feminine aspect of themselves. I struggle with both but my greater challenge is in receiving love.

Here are some signs that you could use some help receiving love:

  • You always have to be “on top” during sex.
  • You are great and helping others and being there for friends, but you never ask for, or need, help.
  • You blow off compliments and affirmations with a compliment back, without first taking a breath and letting what the person said sink in and impact you.
  • You like to be in control and be the leader.
  • You have a hard time relaxing and doing nothing.

Signs that you are challenged by giving love:

  • You resist giving a genuine compliment to a co-worker, lover, or friend.
  • You hoard things in your life such as money.
  • You are territorial
  • You say things to yourself like “I am not going to drop the “L bomb” on her until I really feel it.
  • You withhold your love for the “right relationship.”
  • You judge, hate, blame, shame, and make fun of others.
  • You believe that gays are bad, criminals should be locked up forever or killed, and you think anyone who doesn’t believe what you believe is going to hell.
  • You see giving your love as someone potentially taking something from you.

Now, on to the practices.

I am practicing most of these daily. I suggest that you choose the ones that fit you and your life.

Warning: Only do these if you want to experience more love in your life. If you prefer contraction, being shut down, or have a stronger allegiance to your fear, please skip these practices and see if you can genuinely love where you are at instead of judging yourself. Seriously.

Practices toward greater love

1. Practice connecting to your own love. Close your eyes, meditate, relax and breathe into your heart. Imagine someone (or something) you love deeply. See if you can feel the love in your body, not just think about the concept. What does it feel like and where do you feel it? Can you expand it?

2. Live love daily. Commit to showing at least one person love every day. Strangers, friends, co-workers, and even yourself.

  • Self-love. Stand in front of a mirror. Talk to that guy in the mirror and let him know by saying things like “I accept you” or “what I love about you is…”
  • Love others. When you are at the store, a coffee shop, an elevator, or in your building at work, just make someone’s day by opening to them and loving them. Tell them directly what you appreciate about them in that moment, or show them with your body language and your smile without saying a word.
  • Notice when you showing love is genuine, forced, or faked. All are find, but notice the difference and what it takes to drop in to a genuine expression of love. Faking it helps you see where you are holding back.
  • Find an accountability partner. Send your accountability partner a text message every night, letting them know you showed love to someone that day. If you forgot, or didn’t do it, practice in the mirror, or, directly with them via text by letting them know you love them. Send a TM that reads one word: love.

3. Express gratitude. Do this verbally with someone or in your journal every day. Use a service such as gratitude log or just let yourself know 3 things you are grateful for prior to going to bed. “I am grateful for A, B, and C.”

4. Set the tone every morning. Every morning for 10 minutes do practice one and commit to love today. Choose love over stress, being grumpy, or complaining.

5. Own your fear and contraction. Remember that we are either opening to love or closing down to it (fear). Own your fear, own how comfortable you are in judgment and contraction.

6. Make a list of everything you get by keeping your heart closed and withholding your love. Share it with another man.

One of the first things you might notice by doing these practices, is that you will begin to bring awareness to how often you are closed down. No need to judge this, just open to the truth of your experience and love that.

Now, why the hell would you do this daily? Well, simply because most of us claim we want to feel better, be happier, be more at peace, or experience more love in our life. If this is true for you, I challenge you to commit to this for 1 month and see what happens. Find another man to do this with. Why another man? Because it is harder of course. Okay fine, a woman friend is good, but at some point, man up with another man and practice together. As my mentor David Cates likes to say, “If a man can’t love other men, he can’t love the man in himself.”

And finally as Pema Chodron says so eloquently:

“If your everyday practice is to open to all your emotions, to all the poeple you meet, to all the situations you encounter, without closing down, trusting that you can do that–then that will take you as far as you can go. And then you’ll understand all the teachings that anyone has ever taught.”

Stay tuned for part 2 of this post in a few days when we discuss how the yoga of self-acceptance might impact a guy like you.

For now, let’s here your thoughts.


  • Jonathan Wondrusch

    Reply Reply March 16, 2010

    Thanks for sharing this post Jayson – I can't wait to talk about it in my RMLT small group tomorrow and see how I can bring it into my life. Love has a crazy impact in my life when I let it.

    When I feel like “everything else gets in the way of love,” I realize that its just my response to it. I've began to start the day by breathing deep into my core before I even get out of bed. Just ten, really focused, really deep conscious breaths. The more I do that, the more I feel like I'm opening myself up to the rest of the world and the love it possesses.

    I look forward to part two man!

  • Joshua Gribschaw-Beck

    Reply Reply March 16, 2010

    Good stuff !

  • Graham Phoenix

    Reply Reply March 17, 2010

    Love is central to life not just relationships. Thank you, Jayson, for sending out this powerful message. I have a partner that I love and adore. It is important to me as a man that she knows that. So when do I tell her that I love her? All the time, everyday, all day. I never get bored with it and, of course, neither does she! But that is not enough. I also show that love by accepting all that she does for me. I am open to her love. I drink it in and grow from it.

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