• eric aspen marley

Visual Consumption: Thoughts for Men Who Are Becoming Conscious

** Warning: This contains some language and references to rape and rape culture that may be difficult for some readers.

This is a love letter to my “becoming-conscious” brothers. At the same time, it’s cautionary. Hopefully it will be generally taken as both.

While it may appear to be, it’s not coming by way of self-righteousness. I openly admit that I have not learned to embody this in every instance. But I’ve experimented with it enough and embody it sufficiently, I think, to feel comfortable bringing my experience to light. I’m imperfect, then, but the message itself is inspired.

Along the lines of listening to inspired messages from imperfect people: the days have passed where I won’t hear a message from a messenger that is imperfect. Maybe they have for you, too. I used to be like that, until I saw how much it hampered my progress. However, this is not a backstage pass for hypocrisy, either. It’s a fine line we need to walk, we consciousness-seekers, between being deceived and being too critical.

But if I wait for my teachers to perfectly embody their message – and I have several trusted yet flawed teachers – then I run the risk of stagnating myself.

If I am going to grow as a “conscious man, becoming,” perfection is simply too high of a standard to foist upon a mortal teacher. Frankly, I don’t have time to wait around. Babies being thrown out with tepid bathwater… this is ultimately not helpful to me. I hope you’ll bear with me, then, as I attempt a few words on a practice that is becoming both empowering and sheltering to me as I attempt to progress as a conscious man. Because I want nothing more than this.

So, here goes.

You know the phrase, “you are what you eat,” right? It’s the idea that what we consume goes into our bloodstreams. It builds our bones, alters our chemistry and fuels our bodies in general. I’ve recently – with a couple exceptions – taken the path of “clean eating.” You know, no/less sugar, meat that’s been sustaininably curated, a lot of water, less salt, minimal processed food, organic fruit and vegetables, smaller portions. I have to say, I feel tremendous. I’ve lost 5 pounds in a couple weeks and, although I have a bit of a cold, I have more energy during the day than I’ve had in a long while.

But the consumption I want to talk about isn’t what we put into our mouths. It’s what we do with our eyes.

I have to pause here. This feels like really vulnerable territory for me. I am planning to put this, like most of my writing, out via social media. A lot of people – most friendly, but not all – might call me out.

Also, I’ve been seeing someone, and she’ll see this, too. I think she’ll agree with it, but I haven’t spoken to her about it. I won’t because it needs to come out no matter the consequences, like most of what I put out there.

That said, I’ve been experimenting with this for a while, and it works. So, Marley… quit stalling. What have you been up to? What is this “eye consumption?”

Well, before I get into it, I’m going to stall a little more and give a little more background. Actually, this is also hard to admit, so release the Vulnerability Lions. I’m a gladiator in a Roman forum and my weapon is a mere pen.

Oh, the drama.

Here it is, my massive personal revelation: I’ve always appreciated beautiful women. Not really worth the build up, was it? But don’t hit “close” just yet. Please read on.

What I mean is, the term, “head turner” well… I was one of those guys that had no problem turning my head to stare at a woman I thought was beautiful. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this, alone. To explain, we need to delve into some critical word choice, so I’m going to choose mine carefully.

Men, I have come to believe, are meant to have their “heads on a swivel.” I think this is an evolutionary trait. It’s how the prehistoric hunter (or anyone in Alaska, or on Burnside Avenue in Portland) survives in an environment where he is not at the top of the food chain. We are meant to be aware, both situationally and physically. If you’re like me, at a restaurant you prefer to position yourself in a back-corner booth. I do this, not because I’m shy, but so I can see what’s in the room, what’s coming and going. This is how I’m wired. I feel confident in my ability to act, if I can see what I’m dealing with.

Surprise, in other words, freaks me out. I like my challenges head-on, thank you. I think most men are like this.

Where it got sticky for me was around seeing – the act of regarding - women. If I’m in a relationship, (and for most of my adult life I have been), it means I’ve made commitments. For me and for most of us, that means monogamy. Not all of us have that constraint, if it can be called that. But most of us do. If I were to ask the woman I’m seeing what that means in terms of “consumption,” she would say that "healthy" means I’m not only avoiding sugar, I’m avoiding Sugar.

Let’s say I’m at the gym, and Sugar walks in. She’s in spandex. She’s in training for a swimsuit competition. And by the looks of her, she’s going to win all the prizes. Now, what “less-conscious Marley” wants to do is take in Every. Single. Curve. This is not accomplished in a one-second notice, though. Oh, no. This takes a while. This may even take positioning myself over by the weight rack where I can really get a good look, really take this sight in. She may not see me, but I see her.

Gross, I know. Creepy. Eerie. Enough, already. Read on.

Now, there’s another saying. It’s, “it doesn’t hurt to look.” But I’m calling bullshit on that, here and now. Remember what I said about "critical words," above? I’m going to illustrate what I was talking about. Because it may well hurt to “look.” After all, there are no constraints on looking. We can look for a second, a minute or more. What does not hurt, is “noticing.” And there’s a world of difference. For those of us in a monogamous relationship, if we’re in our integrity, “noticing” is nothing more than simple situational awareness. And, as I said, awareness is in our DNA.

How do we know if we are in our integrity with our “noticing?” Easy, imagine your partner standing next to you, seeing what you’re seeing (and for how long), and note how you feel. If you feel "one of those conversations" coming, you looked for too long.

Now, most women I know are fine with a man, even a partner, who merely notices. I think that women, in general, understand evolution. They understand instinct. They instinctively know how to be mothers, after all. They have an evolutionary event every month or so. In my experience, they instinctively feel things deeply, by nature. So, they get it.

What women do not like, and I mean this almost universally, is leering. Noticing is one thing and leering is entirely another. “Less-Conscious Marley” leers, over there by the weights. He justifies it with the saying I mentioned above: that “it doesn’t hurt to look.” On the other hand, “Becoming-Conscious Marley” simply notices. One has a certain egoic energy behind it. The other is a result of evolutionary programming. One feels out of integrity, energy-wise. The other feels energy-neutral.

Do you agree with this? Why, or why not? I'd like to know, if you want to engage.

To continue, I submit that this also applies to single men. Why?

Have you ever really watched, “The Silence of the Lambs?” This is a treatise on exactly what I’m talking about. Seriously. I can’t recommend the film because of its salacious violence which exceeds my personal standards, but if you happen to be in front of it anyway, pay attention what the director does.

The main character is Officer Starling. She is a petite, attractive female FBI officer who has been asked to hunt a male killer of women called, "Buffalo Bill." Who does she work with to catch him? A cannibal named, “Hannibal Lector.” Note that a "lector" is a lecturer, an authority. It’s a position of power, and knowledge. In the film, he is a man and she is a woman. He, the teacher, she the student.

It could be argued that this is coincidental. But I don’t think it is, because the camera work gives even more clues. There's a scene where she is the lone woman in a room full of policemen. Again, authority and power in uniform contrasts with she as a petite woman with no apparent authority at all. No words pass through an awkward silence in one scene, just a bunch of men looking down at her. In fact, it takes her male boss/ counterpart to give her permission to dismiss them. She couldn’t do it on her own.

And then in another scene she interviews two suspects that love insects just like the ones found in the victims’ mouths. They’re all eyes, ogling her hungrily. One of them asks her out, but she's already weirded out, and refuses.

Spoiler alert, but I suspect that when Starling blasts Buffalo Bill at the end of the movie, there’s more to it than a female shooting a male. She’s shooting a concept. She’s overcoming the “boss” in the rape culture… which doesn’t exist without the energy produced by leering. Rape, almost always a power-based domination situation rather than the result of mere lust, takes a few slugs in the chest.

Toxic male domination, then, is the real subject of the movie.

Now, I am definitely not saying that all men who leer are rapists. I have, and I'm not. What I am saying is that, whether it’s acted upon or not, mere noticing is not harmful. Leering at least may be. Furthermore, it requires that he see a woman a certain way; as a commodity, for instance, just as Buffalo Bill does in the film. Leering requires a de-valuing of the substance of the subject, if nothing else. It doesn’t see her Soul, that’s for sure. It's behind an attitude that leads men to call women, “a nice piece of meat.” It may even take a body part, and call her that, alone.

“That’s some sweet pussy there, dude.”

Like I said early on, vulnerable.

I can honestly say I don’t *think* I’ve ever said those words. However, I've disappointed plenty of women by treating them as a commodity, less than who they are. I’ve disrespected myself by acting unconsciously, too, doing the masculine visual equivalent of eating a box of cookies and drinking a liter of Mountain Dew. Talk about “toxic masculinity.”

I am what I… consume… after all. Merely noticing a beautiful woman doesn’t put her in to my bloodstream. It doesn’t change my chemistry. It may brighten my day for a moment, but it won’t affect me for hours or days afterward. I can face my partner with my head up, totally in integrity regarding our commitment. When I practice this as a single man, I feel more focused and purposeful.

Moreover, even if Sugar sees me merely glance her way, she probably won’t feel threatened. She may even feel inspired. At least she won’t be grossed-out by some guy standing over there by the

weights, staring. This is because I haven’t crossed the boundary between noticing and consuming.

In the end, single or not, when I keep my energy within myself rather than casting about for another beautiful woman to gaze upon, I find that I am more present, and this may be the biggest benefit to noticing, rather than leering. It’s easier to practice my favorite non-meditation presence practice that I call, “Keeping My Energy Straight Up and Down.” I do this by walking slightly slower than I need to, back straight, feeling my feet on the ground, and seeing my crown chakra connected to the Sun. I breathe deeply. I "sense" my chakras, and can feel resistance or clarity in each. I feel my body, itself. I feel clear and clean. I feel like a masculine man, observing without unnecessary engagement. At ease, but ready.

I think this is how many of us would like to feel. I’d like to feel it more often than I do. As I practice keeping my energy within myself rather than constantly casting about, it builds something in me that I really enjoy. This feels like UN-toxic masculinity. It feels healthy and electric, like my body just had a veggie smoothie with a little protein powder and a cool glass of water. I feel Connected and Alive, and can receive inspiration.

This little missive, in fact, came to me right after the practice I described above.

I hope this is taken in the spirit it’s given. I think it’s wise to push ourselves a bit, to share ideas. Even vulnerable ones. The world is a messy place right now, and I place a lot of the blame for that on the shoulders of the masculine. We could have done better. Our forefathers could have, too. They did what they did, however, and it’s up to us to do more than merely attempt to erase the effects of their choices through governmental legislation.

Instead, if we’re conscious, we can assist in the alchemical work of changing dark karma, theirs and ours, into light. Women will naturally feel safer, less like prey. And safe people, regardless of gender, are freer; freer to bring their best selves to light. To express themselves. To be who they came here to be. This makes the world a better place.

I can think of no better or longer lasting reason to at least consider the ideas I'm presenting.

So, there it is, brothers. Some thoughts about nutrition; a satisfying, healthy meal, versus a double Whopper with fries and a shake.

With too much Sugar.

(photo by Brandless)

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