Finding the Father, Our Journey Home

This talk was originally presented by Max Warren at our June 16 Father’s Day service at Straub Park in St. Petersburg.


Whenever he hurts himself, my seven year old son comes running to my wife and I with a death grip on his injury. He won’t let her touch it and he won’t let me see it.

Sometimes, in life, we act the same way with our emotions. We know we are wounded, but we are afraid to let anyone see.

My sense is that we are all, to some degree, comfortable holding the wound but are unwilling or unable to release our grip on apathy. I believe that we can find a way to see ourselves (and our fathers) with a new perspective — a perspective that is provided by an integral framework.

The last post touched on the need to move on, and to embrace Religion 2.0, moving past the familiar, antiquated concepts of “that old time religion.” Integral theory holds a unique position that is unlike classic modernity or post-modernism. Without going into too much detail on the evolution of maps from modern to integral, here is a brief thumbnail sketch.

Modernism is sometimes defined as “a socially progressive trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve and reshape their environment with the aid of practical experimentation, scientific knowledge, or technology.” Modernist philosophy concerns itself with absolutes, meta-narratives and holding a monolithic view of spirituality, life, work, and relationships. Post-modernism was by and large a knee-jerk reaction to the ideology of modernism, which it essentially saw as a box. Post-modernist thinkers have questioned the certainties of absolutism, have declared that we’ve lost the meaning in the very words we speak, and that we must deconstruct this box. For the most part, post-modernists have blown up, torn down and ridiculed all that modernism brought to us as a global culture. In short, they view it as worthless. An integral lens appreciates the validity of all the perspectives along the way (including previous pre-conventional and mythic stages) and sees them as a holarchy that transcends and includes each previous level.

I want to share a quote from Richard Rohr’s book Adam’s Return that I think succinctly expresses what authentic, transcendent, integral spirituality looks like. Rohr states that “healthy religion always finds God in the present much more than in the past. The past is only to create a runway for us so we have some communal assurance that ours is a valid experience.”

This rich and ever-present approach to spirituality demonstrates the most validity by moving us past pet doctrines, divisive arguments and entrenched ignorance. If we look through this integral lens, we will find within all the the great wisdom traditions the “esoteric” core beneath the “exoteric” trappings. And by looking beyond the “letter of the law” that can, at times, serve only to isolate and kill, we may find the wellspring of a living Spirit — alive in every experience.

When we focus the integral lens on our relationships, we then have a very different basis with which to evaluate them. Reflect for a moment on the act of fathering a child. Parenting is one of the most profound things that we do in this life. If done well, it has the power to bless, heal and instill courage and wisdom not only in our offspring, but in ourselves. If parenting is done half-heartedly or out of obligation, its psychological shadow effects can be just as limiting (and crippling) to both parties.

Allow me to guide you through a scenario where our vulnerability can be most crucial. Clear your mind and breathe deeply. Allow yourself a moment to create a sacred space, a place for you to play a movie in your mind called Dad (I acknowledge that some of you reading this may never have had a father in your life and the term itself may seem foreign to you, but play along).

My wife’s movie, for example, is the story of a little girl abandoned by her dad. In her movie, someone named “Grandfather” stepped into the role, and loved and raised her to the best of his abilities. In other movies, a character called “Mom” was tasked with handling both parental roles, some of us may have even grown up with two Moms, or two Dads. Feel free to play and replay this exercise as often as you need to, and in ways that best suit your own experience and that allows for the most comfort. What do you see? Rewind. Pause. What do you see? Fast forward. Pause.

At the same time, think about the following words — father, Dad, Daddy, Papa. Is there a sense of pride when you hear this name?

Is there a memory of yours when you knew your father’s full attention was solely on you?

Is there a time when he blew it?

Is there a time that he missed you?

Is there a time that he crushed your spirit?

Don’t dodge or avoid that feeling. For just a minute, can you pause and let it be?

Our fathers were also subject to modern and postmodern views, and it impacted not only their sense of themselves, but the world in which they were raising us to live. In most cases, that same world doesn’t exist anymore. We all share, to a greater or lesser extent, a father “wound” and a father “hunger.” It’s hard to allow ourselves to be honest about such feelings, or actually feel them. But, Father’s Day is not about glossing over and minimizing the impact that Dad has had (and still has) on us.

The movie called Dad is a story of celebration as well as grief. It’s about speaking the truth to ourselves and to our fathers. Some of them parented us well and true, and some simply lacked the knowledge and did the best they could with what they had. Perhaps they struggled with their own emotions, floundering within their own prisons and burdened by the wounds and fragile hopes handed down from their fathers.

Each of us has had a unique experience with the men in our lives who fathered us, who served as figures of the mature masculine. In some cases, Dad was a no-show or Mom was pulling double duty. How then, are we supposed to transcend and include? What are some practical steps that we can take?

I believe that we have the ability to grow beyond our story. But it is essential to be vulnerable, and look for the gift, or opportunity, in every wound. The very situations that we suffered through, and were shaped by, have made us the people that we are today. Can we find the courage and the compassion to let our wound be seen? Can we allow others to touch or heal that wound? Will we allow ourselves to breathe calmly and release those feelings of pain or will we remain rigid, apathetic, atrophied?

From an integral perspective, we do not have to be subject to a truncated or misogynistic masculinity. We have complete access to the full breadth and depth of a multitude of mature male archetypes.

The Father exhibits the power and wisdom of the shaman/magician when he tells stories and tall tales, or when he builds an elaborate fort out of blankets and chairs. The Father displays healthy warrior/teacher energy by taking initiative in a confused or chaotic situation or putting up boundaries that protect the family. The Father channels the strength of the king/visionary when he is the Axis Mundi for his children and his wife’s anchor in the storm. The Father is also looked up to as the lover/healer and consciously chooses to forgive, embracing and learning from the good, then moving on.

This is the masculine heartbeat of an integral community. This can and will make a difference in the everyday nitty gritty of our lives together. This is the path that we will forge as leaders, kings, lovers, warriors, teachers and healers.

We look forward to doing the work.

About Max Warren

I am passionate about serving men who want to grow and explore the depths of the authentic Masculine soul. My blog, Men's group and coaching are ways to carry out this mission. I am always and happily in the seat of the student. There is a deeper life for us and meaning to be created as friends, brothers, Fathers and Partners. Share in this journey and add your verse to the poem. Learning to Live all in is what this can be for all of us. View all posts by Max Warren

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