Man Up | Ep. 129 • July 25, 2016
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or over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D., has coached tens of thousands of people from over 87 countries to achieve happiness and success in their dating and love lives.
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David Tian: Boom! Stop. In Episode 129 of Man Up, Stefan Ravalli and I answer the question of: Can meditation make me more masculine?
Masculinity for the intelligent man. I’m David Tian, Ph.D. and this is Man Up!
Welcome! I’m David Tian, Ph.D. And for over the past ten years, I’ve been helping millions of people around the world in over 87 countries attain success in life and love through ancient wisdom and cutting-edge research. And this is both in today’s show. For the very first time, we’re all on Skype. I’ve always done them live in person, but this was so important, I needed to get it out there and I couldn’t wait until the next time he and I happen to be in the same location on this planet.
But we’re in the same time zone at least, maybe three hours airplane apart, flight apart. And this is Stefan Ravalli. He’s my personal meditation coach. He’s the one who introduced me to how to do it, and meditation and the practice of it has changed my life. Renewed energy. I wouldn’t even say renewed, it’s a whole other level of energy, and clarity and focus. So, the reason why we’re addressing meditation today is because we’ve got a question from the private Facebook group about meditation and masculinity.
But before we dive into the question, I wanted to just introduce Stefan. So Stefan, you’ve got a great background, a great story. But before I continue to babble on, how about you introduce yourself to the Man Up men?
Stefan Ravalli: Hi. I’m Stefan Ravalli. I teach meditation in the Vedic tradition that comes from Ancient India. It was brought to the West and popularized by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, where a lot of movements were formed around him. I teach independently of any institution because I think that’s really what it’s all about; this wisdom goes back thousands of years, passed down orally as folk wisdom, teacher to student. Now, I just try to bring it to a modern audience, through modern ideas, dealing with modern issues and incorporating as much as I can of modern science and understanding of life and pop culture.
David Tian: Yes, awesome. We originally met in Singapore while you were there as… Were you managing the bar there?
Stefan Ravalli: I was.
David Tian: You’re managing– right. One of the best bars in Singapore. And so, I used to hang out there. We had another friend there who is also a big– Actually, he did his meditation training just before me, VJ.
Stefan Ravalli: Yeah.
David Tian: And it changed his life as well. It was, ironically, in the bar scene that we met. And then I was going through a period where I was looking for deeper meaning in life, as I’ve been doing that every few years, and I kept hearing about meditation. All these people that I looked up to, and was learning from, were doing some form of meditation. And I’m like, “Damn, that seems to be a common thread and I’m missing that.” And I had actually done my PhD partly in Asian Religions. It was Asian Religious Philosophy, so of course I did a lot of theoretical work in meditation, specifically Buddhist meditation, and had tried out meditation in the Buddhist tradition.
It was very difficult for me. It was too hard and I fell asleep, and whatever right? So, I was like, ah, screw it. And I thought I knew what meditation was, but I wanted to give it another try, especially this different type of meditation. And luckily, just before I moved out of Singapore, you had just come back and overlapped one month or something. And serendipitously took your course as soon as– Actually, I think I finished the last day of it, it was a four day course, I finished the last day, the day before I moved out of the country.
And it was a great send off for me for the next days of my life. So, that was over two years ago. And still to this day, I try to get the two sessions a day of meditation in. Without it, I feel a definite difference and it’s almost immediate. I could feel it within the 24 hours. But then when I do it, it’s almost like this superpower that I have.
So, I wanted to introduce it to everyone. And one of the things I do is, in our live coaching programs in Singapore, I’ve been able to– when you’re in town, in the country, able to bring you in. But you fly all over the place. Like, I fly a lot and you fly a lot. You are originally, for a while, I heard you were in Oregon. And right now, you’re in Florida. And we have met in Canada. You’re originally from Toronto, right?
Stefan Ravalli: Yeah.
David Tian: Cool.
Stefan Ravalli: From the suburbs.
David Tian: Oh yeah, me too. I’m currently in one right now. So anyway, that’s a lot of background info. Let’s dive into the question and we can learn more about your take on things.
Stefan Ravalli: Yeah.
David Tian: The question is from Max, and Max asks about masculinity in meditation. He’s heard me say that meditation is a masculine practice, or it’s a practice that develops your masculinity, and he asked why that’s so. Because he thinks of it as more of a letting go process. And if it’s so, how can he do it in such a way that it will lead him into more masculinity? Why don’t you start?
Stefan Ravalli: Absolutely, yes. And as you mentioned, there’s a lot of different kinds of meditation. I would argue overwhelmingly yes to at least the meditation modality, like the technique that I teach, is very masculine in a certain way. Not every meditation is so masculine in its nature. Some are feminine and that’s a longer conversation, but in this tradition that I teach it’s quite a masculine modality.
It just requires a different understanding of masculinity than we might have in our culture. I mean, we look at masculinity as this sort of outward expression, action, revatio, you know, controlling, dominating in one way or another. It’s not a complete picture of masculinity, but those might be the first things that come to mind. But in fact, those — in the ancient yogic or tantric view of masculinity do not define masculinity at all. That’s not a masculine thing. Those are feminine qualities, funny enough.
If you look at gender as a certain kind of primordial energy, as an essence– and these traditions that have been observing how this shows up in nature, for thousands of years, have determined this. And this is a philosophy, it is something that you can observe in your life through practice. Don’t take my word for it. Just have a look around and just see where this shows up. I never believed in just taking these for face value, these ideas.
So if you were to look at the essential nature, it’s sometimes labeled ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ as Shiva or Shakti. Shiva is a personification given to it. You don’t have to give it that, but for the purposes of this discussion I’ll look at that. Shiva is a god in Hinduism, but it’s just basically– consider it like an energy within you. Same with Shakti, it’s an energy within you.
Males and females both have both. Male bodies and female bodies have different distributions of it. Males might tend to have more masculine, more Shiva. Shiva, in India, is considered the ‘pure’ masculine representation, one hundred percent masculine energy, and Shakti feminine. When you are meditating, you are transcending; you’re going beyond your limitations, beyond your physical body. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, there’s a certain amount of letting go.
Letting go into that place of stillness and silence, and inner stability, is a masculine act. You’re going into the Shiva within. It’s not a feminine thing. And really, how could that be a passive act: letting go? It might seem outwardly weak, but who are you becoming passive to? No one. You’re becoming passive to yourself. You’re letting go and entering into yourself, and mastering and integrating with yourself in meditation. That is a masculine act.
And going into that silent place is the masculine place. The masculine energy is the silent one. So, you are, in a sense, not becoming passive or just abiding and fluffy, you’re becoming stable. And that’s the masculine energy; that’s what it does. It stabilizes. And it keeps everything else, basically, in a state of, in check, instability and doesn’t get lost in it. It is the awareness that sees it broadly.
And so, another aspect that comes with the act of meditation — and it’ll happen automatically in meditation and you’ll find in life, you’re able to do this more just spontaneously from practicing, is detachment. Detachment from all of your impulses and drives, and all of the lure of the material world and its seduction. Going beyond imprisonment of those desires is masculine.
And that’s what going into that silent place is. It’s plugging yourself in and seeding yourself in your inner stable awareness. And that gives you self-mastery, self-control, self-possession really, and able to therefore interact with life better; interact with the feminine better. So this is interesting, because what’s the opposite of that, right? Action, doing, expression. And we think those are masculine qualities: they’re feminine ones.
The feminine is the manifest. It’s the growth. It’s creation. Women are the creators of life, and traditionally the creative ones. The songstresses, the seamstresses, the everything-stresses. They make things.
David Tian: Giving of life, like the life comes out of their bodies.
Stefan Ravalli: Yeah, absolutely. Mother Nature, right? It is the whole field of creation; is nature. The creation of an ecosystem. And that is an action, that’s doing. Controlling action is also a doing, but yet men seem to be the ones responsible for that. Why is that? That is because we don’t have contact with our inner masculinity. We don’t, as a culture, regularly meditate. It’s not like an everyday thing. It’s becoming more prominent, but it’s less common to see. You and I are exceptions. We have a certain drive to evolve and grow, and everyone in your student base does too.
But the average person doesn’t, so what do they do? They compensate. They compensate by appropriating the feminine qualities and misusing them. When you have an absence of masculinity, femininity comes in and you latch onto that and you just overuse it, basically. So basically, everything that’s looked at is male aggression, male greed, male all-of-that, that’s actually male abuse of feminine power.
Which is kind of radical.
David Tian: Yeah. This is a really interesting theme. My experience of meditation is often not of letting go as much. If you think of it in terms of letting go, the opposite would be holding on real tight. And it’s definitely not a male thing to hold on real tight, if you know what I mean. So, this detachment, I think it’s like– so an imagine I have when I meditate is, and I’ve heard it described as like the monkey brain or something like that; the brain keeps swirling around in thoughts and there’s a lot of chaos, of thoughts.
Especially if you’re a cerebral guy or an intellectual guy. And you’re in the world of the mind and the abstract a lot, that there’s just a lot of ideas floating around, and meditation allows me to center myself and not get caught up in these thoughts, and following them all over the place and getting spattered. You can see I can walk down the street physically with my legs, but my head’s just going all over the place.
Stefan Ravalli: Yes, absolutely.
David Tian: And meditation allows that to be centered. So, a feminine energy, for me, is when I’m engaging in the creativity of music, or of drama, or especially of dance, is losing myself and following those ways of– like, the streams of thought that suddenly pop up and just reacting. And sort of reacting to the moment, in a sense of diving into the moment and dancing around it.
Whereas when I’m meditating, it’s like I’m centered. So, there’s like this pillar that’s unmoved, and then the feminine energy is dancing around. And so, I have all these thoughts swirling around, and then it sort of settles around this thing, which is my center or my core. And in a way, letting go is, I suppose you can say… I suppose that’s one way of describing what’s happening.
But if you don’t let go, you’re depending on the outcome, and that’s just never a good thing for a man to be in.
Stefan Ravalli: Absolutely. That’s a feminine quality but not a healthy relationship to one, I think; the dependence on anything external to yourself: being lost in the external.
The masculine, that hand motion you did right there, is how Shiva is represented in Indian iconography, the Shiva lingam. It’s not like penis waving, like dude-ism. That’s a representation of being still and centered, and that sort of beacon of stability within the ever changing, and exploding, and chaotic physical reality that we live in.
And even though it’s really hard to represent this as a symbol, it also represents limitlessness. That’s the limitless form of Shiva. That’s the form that cannot be expressed as an embodied person. It’s something that’s way beyond all of these physical– like the identity, our hopes and dreams even, our desires, all the problems and hiccups with our body, all of the stuff that are inner narrative. All the remnants of the past that’s latched onto our minds and bodies.
Going beyond all of that into your realm within of anything being possible is masculine. That’s the Shiva and that’s what this represents, basically: freedom from that. Freedom to self-create as you please.
David Tian: And I think for my own reflection, the more intellectual I am, the more intellectual the person is, the more they need meditation.
Stefan Ravalli: Oh yes, I can speak from experience.
David Tian: The more thoughts are just going all over. Yes, and the more you read and the more you think, the more you need meditation. So, this Man Up: Masculinity for the Intelligent Man, so that’s you, you need it. And I really believe in it so strongly that I recommended it to all of my life coaching clients, that they need to do a meditation practice. Now, one thing before we go. I wanted to make sure that I address this other question that’s related.
Because some of the other guys in the group have asked about presence, or being present in the conversation with a woman specifically is the context that usually comes up. But being present in a relationship, just being present as… And we know this is the basis of charisma and charm, is being fully there, present in a person. How do you see the meditation as contributing to the practice of being present?
Stefan Ravalli: Absolutely. When women, for example, would say they want a man that’s more in touch with their emotions or more emotional or more feeling, that’s probably what they mean. They probably mean they want a man that’s present. That’s not lost in the abstract sort of storm of their brain; who’s there for them. It doesn’t mean you have to cry, it doesn’t mean you have to be this sappy, gooey guy. It just means be there and take in what’s happening in a very compassionate way.
That doesn’t have to be an emotional event. Even though, of course, emotions definitely have a role, Shiva’s also beyond the emotion. It’s beyond the emotional realm. And in fact, taken into its extreme, it might seem cold and detached. But in correct proportion, it is being competent and masterful, and not swept into emotional intensity; being able to just be there and be present and not be triggered.
So, you can be present without having to be a sappy, emotional person. Even though emotions have a role, of course.
David Tian: That’s a great example. I haven’t thought of it. Like when a girl becomes super emotional, or the guy’s woman becomes super emotional, most guys will withdraw and– they either withdraw completely and stone wall, or they withdraw and then force forward and assert themselves. Like, “These are my boundaries! You’re crossing boundaries!”
And then it just escalates into this big fight. And then he goes into his feminine rage. He actually does that, right? He think it’s masculine but it’s not. And part of it is because he withdrew, that first step of not being present but going into your own head and thinking about yourself. “What does this say about me? How is this offending me?” And the fear around not being respected and all this shit comes from the stepping back and thinking about their self, and actually not being present.
Stefan Ravalli: Yes. As soon as you bring your ego into it, you’ve lost your connection to your stable Shiva. You’re just beyond all that.
David Tian: I know guys who will ask, they’re just like, “Okay, I know this theoretically, I shouldn’t be in my ego. But in the moment, how do I practice this?”
There are three things. Before I got into meditation, I learned how to practice being present with a woman in only one context: sexual. When I wanted to create lust in her– this was several years ago when I put out a program just on that one aspect alone. But to transfer a sexual state or to be contagious emotionally through the science of neuro neurons actually forced me to be present with her in that limited capacity at the beginning of the relationship, or prior to the sexual act.
And that was fully focused there. There weren’t other thoughts. There wasn’t like, “Oh, when’s the game on?” or “What are we going to eat later?” or “What do I do next?” or “What do I say next?” And the only other time before that that I had experienced that feeling was when I was engrossed in some kind of physical activity, like a sport or playing computer games; like lost in the flow.
And I was never able to tap into it regularly or consistently until I started practicing meditation. And then that led into relationships that were deeper with women. When I started to be present emotionally in all kinds of context, beyond just the sexual, but just being there with her. The only thing that really prepared me for that was meditation. And in fact, it was just like the meditative practice, except there was another human being that I was engaging in it with.
So meditation, for me, was like pure presence. Because you’re being present with yourself, which is the most challenging. So, have you seen that meditation helps relationships?
Stefan Ravalli: Absolutely. One thing about, really any practice, there’s going to be a masculine element to it if it’s healing you. If it’s improving something about you. Because to improve something, you need to get rid of what’s not working, and that is Shiva. That is why he’s looked at as this bad guy, God of Destruction, right?
What’s he destroying? The stuff that’s getting in the way, the stuff that’s not working. In nature, if you don’t have scavengers getting rid of the corpses, then all you get is decay and stagnation. You don’t get room for more growth, and that’s what a practice like meditation is going to do in a very automatic way, and it’s just this autonomous system that happens. And that’s why you don’t need a goal, you just simply initiate the process, which I teach, which takes a bit of a shift of understanding to be able to just initiate the process and get out of the way.
And it’s going to naturally cleanse your physiology of all of this gunk, all of these past experiences, stresses, all of the overwhelming sensory input and explosions that happen from this crazy, modern world we live in. All of our negative experiences, all of the endless times where our nervous system is overtaxed. All of that stuff. That all gets cleansed out, bit by bit, systematically the more we meditate.
And that is the art of Shiva, that’s what he does. He just gets in and he sweeps. What’s not working anymore? What don’t we need anymore? The answer is everything that’s happened in the past, we don’t need anymore, in our physiologies. We’ve learned our lessons. We can now get rid of the physiological signature. So, that’s a Shaivite function. So, that happens in meditation.
And these things living in our bodies, they have a mind of their own if they are sitting there nested, and they get triggered. You know, the word triggered. What does that mean? It means a memory in the physiology is getting, somehow, stimulated by the environment. And it is creating a mental signature, because that’s what happens, a mental event happens any time there’s a physical event, and there’s just automatic, “Blah-blah-blah, I’m not good. I hate this person. Get me out of here.”
That’s the body telling the mind to shout its way out of presence, taking us out of the present moment. So, it’s just simply a natural Shiva-like sweeping that happiness, that will just simply allow automatic presence. So, you come out of meditation, you’re just automatically present because there’s less getting triggered that’s going to make you not present.
And that’s what makes it so simple. It’s an investment of time, that then it just pays off for the rest of the day automatically, without us having to actually do anything. Without us having to physically manipulate our behavior and our perceptual ability. It’s really hard to do that. However, that’s also a good practice once your eyes open. A way, a popular movement that distills this is the mindfulness movement, right? How to be more mindful, right? How to be present and how to be, in everyday life, just come back to really what’s happening.
That can be cultivated. It takes a lot of work, though, if you’re not automatically scavenging all of the crap that your life experiences have left in you. So, that’s an important combination to have.
David Tian: Yeah, that’s something I never expected from meditation. I thought it was, my issues are all up here because this is what I felt like was causing the problems, all these thoughts and things, from the past or whatever. They’re all mental. Like, I looked down, I’m like, “I’m healthy.” But one of the greatest benefits for meditation, I found out quickly, was that stress cortisol and other physiological benefits, to the point where I found that I could get by on two hours a day less of sleep.
I know it’s like– I got to stop saying that as much because your mileage may vary, but that’s something that I continued to find just fascinating, that I could build more muscle with less sleep because of meditation, and its effects in cleaning out the body of that corrosive cortisol. I remember a couple years ago, when I was looking up Navy SEALS and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Don’t ask me why I was looking at it, but anyway there’s this thing that they do. It’s like a trance-like state when they get rid of their cortisol, and the scientists were showing wild animals, a bear being hunted. And when the bear feels like he’s safe and the hunter’s gone, he shakes, just [SHAKING] and just shakes out the cortisol. And then he just ambles on like nothing happened.
But we, as human beings, we don’t give ourselves permission to release all of that stress. It builds up.
Stefan Ravalli: Yes, absolutely. You raised a good point. And in fact, we used to. It’s believed that any culture had a way of getting rid of that stuff, and we’ve lost touched with it. Because a lot of the reasons is, we’ve lost touch with our bodies. We are a culture that lives in our heads and our intellects are so loud now. Our minds… Intellect is kind of the wrong word. Our linguistic mental function is so loud and we think it’s us talking.
We think this is the whole locus of who I am, this is the thing that makes everything happen and that makes all the decisions. In fact, it makes none of the decisions. And there’s whole leagues of psychologists called intuitionists that say, “We do very little that we actually have conscious control of. It just simply emerges from basic physiological things that are happening.”
We get this mental printout and we think, “Oh, I did that. I did that through controlling my mental behavior.” But in fact, it’s all happening underneath the surface and in a very dark, shadowy place. As we’re meditating, we’re going to be more and more integrated with that place that just kind of hits us out of nowhere a lot of the time, either emotionally or with this thought stream that we think we’re creating.
We’ll become less a mystery to ourselves and more a master of these things that are happening in our bodies that are creating mental results. And more in tune with our intuition, our deep sense of knowing. That is really what makes the decisions. Collect all the data you want in life, like, “Oh, I’ve read all these books. I know all of these things. I’ve done the research.”
But what really makes the decision? Your intuition. Eventually it’s got to say, “This data works and this data doesn’t.” That’s an intuitive thing, and that comes from a place that’s much deeper than just some neuronal arrangement in the mind. It’s a full-body experience of knowing.
David Tian: A lot of people, when they think of meditation, they think of some old man in the mountain who is skinny, emaciated and daydreams all of the time and is absent-minded. But it’s really the opposite. Meditation brings you into the present and enables you to not daydream, and to focus and be clear. And then it also actually strengthens the physical body. It’s the opposite of the caricature.
Stefan Ravalli: Yes, that archetype is a Shaivite, by the way. Going way beyond the body, way beyond worldly possessions; anything material. Going high up in the mountains where the air is really thin, where there’s deprivation of any stimulus. There’s not even any heat. It’s like absolute minimal silent, inner and outer environments. That’s very Shaivite.
However, there are also amazing people that have done amazing work, but human lab rats basically. They are not the average person, nor would they suggest the average person does that. They’re going to extremes to do work and make discoveries so the rest of us can take them into our lives and have a functional, actionable practice that leads to greater health and integration. And experience of this big, wonderful world we live in without having to just relinquish it.
It’s a totally integrated thing. That was like a lot of Shiva happening there. What we want is Shiva plus Shakti, and that’s really the only thing that gives Shiva is power, is the feminine. Shiva energetically integrates with the feminine. So with that awareness we have, now we can use that awareness to make our physical selves healthier and more thriving, and our physical, external reality is more healthy.
It is believed without that, Shiva is just inert. He’s just watching wisely and knowing, but we need doing as well. We need color, and sound and life happening. This is the age we live in now where all of that’s getting put together. All of these ancient ideas that were considered just for those very special people that are willing to put themselves through that, now that’s all available to us to use however we please in our daily lives.
David Tian: Yes. So coming up to the end, we’re actually over time, how can they find out more about you?
Stefan Ravalli: I’ve got a website, WWW dot ForwardHarmony dot com. It is a place that I’m building with my writings of meditation and just modern spiritual life and its application. I teach and come to where you’re at in Singapore and Southern Asia as much as possible. And of course teach here in the United States and Canada as well.
But if you’re not in the same location as me, I teach over at Skype as well. It can be very effective. There’s never a replacement for having a personal teacher, but it’s helpful. And I’m coming up with a video at some point soon, a video series of just meditation and how to cultivate this stuff in everyday life.
David Tian: Awesome.
Stefan Ravalli: And understanding it as excessively as possible, which is really what it’s all about.
David Tian: Yes, much needed. Okay guys, so go look that up, ForwardHarmony dot com. We’ll make sure there’s a link below the video. We’re going to wrap things up. Make sure you also join the private Facebook group. Lots of stuff in there, you interact with me personally there, ask your questions there. This question came out of that. And also release limited-time programs through the group, and sometimes some live shows. So, make sure you join the group.
Thanks for listening, thank you to Stefan for being here.
Stefan Ravalli: Thank you. Great chatting as always.
David Tian: Yeah, it’s a pleasure. Alright, until next time, Man Up![MUSIC]