Reframing Personal Priorities
Craig Hamilton Explores the Gender Gap in Spiritual GrowthCraig Hamilton is a writer, radio host and workshop leader devoted to helping people evolve their consciousness for the greater good. The former managing editor of What is Enlightenment? magazine, Hamilton went on to found Integral Enlightenment, an online education program for those on a contemporary spiritual path. Since then, thousands of people have participated in his courses and workshops, and the vast majority have been women. Natural Awakenings asked Hamilton for his insights on this trend.
What’s behind the gender imbalance in personal growth and enlightenment circles?
Two years ago, I hosted a summit called The Way of the Evolutionary Man that included a discussion about why more men aren’t drawn to participate in these kinds of things. One of the main points made was that, while many Americans have focused on creating equality for women in the last 50 years, there hasn’t been a comparable men’s liberation movement.
I know that some would say, “Why do we need that? Men are already the ones with the most power, freedom and privilege.” Yet it became clear during our discussion that men do not have freedom when it comes to choosing among valued social roles.
For example, a woman can feel valued whether she pursues a professional career or something else that we might call a path of the heart, such as following artistic passions, working for a nonprofit or serving as a teacher. But if men do such things, they risk losing value among women.
Traditionally, women have wanted to be with men that are more economically successful than they are. If a man decides he wants to be an artist or a spiritual practitioner or follow what we might label a higher calling, he’s stepping out of traditionally validated activities for men. So the reason that more men aren’t putting more time into their personal growth could be that they’re not being valued for that.
What might it take to shift this phenomenon?
If women want men to join them on paths of personal and spiritual growth, they might need to start in analyzing the part of themselves that says, “I want a man who makes more money than me, is successful and able to be the family provider.” Many women want their men to be conscious, sensitive, reflective and capable of profound intimacy, plus be a good provider.
I’ve heard from some men that feel seriously pained about this. A few said that they always wanted to be, for example, a musician or a teacher, but they couldn’t see themselves being sufficiently successful at it, or their family discouraged it.
Is pursuing personal growth at odds with being a breadwinner?
I teach a spiritual path that anyone can pursue in the midst of their busy life. It involves turning everything into a spiritual practice. It means observing your own motivations and distortions and experiencing a different relationship to life that’s no longer rooted in patterns of the past and the ego.
I believe this work appeals to men because, while there is a meditative and interior dimension to it, the bigger part is calling people to step up in life and remove the obstacles inside themselves that keep them from playing their biggest game. Spiritual life isn’t about getting beyond this world; it’s about the evolution of our world through conscious participation. That’s something men and women alike can become inspired by and put their energy behind.
How can men be most effective in a changing world?
In order to be truly effective, each person needs to do the necessary inner work. It’s not enough to focus on trying to do and accomplish and acquire without clarifying what’s getting in the way of your full self-expression and creative engagement.
It’s easy to think about life in terms of our history, identity, desires and concerns, but that’s just a small part of who we are. At our deepest level, we are this unfolding evolutionary process that’s been going on for more than 13 billion years. Now we have the ability to participate in the greatest adventure of all, that of conscious evolution, growing into a future aligned with our highest ideals, visions and aspirations. While that is mobilizing generations of women, I am finding that it also speaks to the highest aspirations of men.
Connect with Craig Hamilton at IntegralEnlightenment.com.