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For over a decade, David Tien, Ph.D., has helped hundreds of thousands of people from over 87 countries find happiness, success, and fulfillment in their social, professional, and love lives. His presentations – whether keynotes, seminars, or workshops – leave clients with insights into their behavior, psychology, and keys to their empowerment. His training methodologies are the result of over a decade of coaching and education of thousands of students around the world. Join him on the “DTPHD Podcast” as he explores deep questions of meaning, success, truth, love, and the good life. Subscribe now.
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Stefan Ravalli bio:
Forever studying masterful humans and the art of service the world over to bring their practices to our (sometimes “service-deficient”) culture, Stefan Ravalli combines all that with his expertise in meditation, mindfulness, and communication/listening to raise the game of service professionals – and anyone looking to upgrade how they connect with others (and themselves).
Learning meditation was a game-changer for Stefan. It gave him the inner strength to be his unique self (without the negative self-talk!), connect with others better, and live a healthy happy life. Meditation also makes you realize your potential and gives you the fearlessness to pursue bigger and better things you never thought possible, so Stefan left a leadership role at a high-profile bar/restaurant to India to teach meditation.
After doing that for years and deepening his tea ceremony practice, Stefan realized that the art of service was the richest path of self-cultivation available to him. Serving anything anywhere was the best way to apply and accelerate all the upgrades he got from meditation. So he started Serve Conscious to bring these tools and practices to anyone where service is part of their life – to awaken us to the power of service as a means of growth and self-mastery.
Learn more about Stefan Ravalli here:
Episode 18 Show Notes
2:53 Is meditation related to the other aspects of our lives?
6:00 Differentiating mindfulness from meditation
9:50 What is a meditation practice?
13:33 Mindless versus mindfulness
17:41 David shares his mindfulness meditation experience
19:38 The benefits of mindfulness and mantra meditation
23:04 Introducing transcendental meditation
27:12 What true awareness should be like
31:22 Mindfulness and Gary Vaynerchuck’s dichotomy of clouds and dirt
34:14 Delving into ascendant and descendant philosophies
38:28 Reflecting on what makes life meaningful for you
42:14 Summing up what mindfulness really is
Dr. David Tien: Welcome to the DTPHD Podcast. My name is David Tien, and for over the past 12 years now, I’ve been helping hundreds of thousands of people in over 87 countries attain success, happiness, and fulfilment in life and love, and I’m joined today by a good friend of mine, Stefan Ravalli who is my very first meditation coach and teacher. I’ll let him introduce himself. Stefan, how are you doing?
Stefan Ravalli: Hello. I’m Stefan Ravalli. I teach meditation online and in-person, and I coach people on mastering the practice and also applying its principles to life to live a fuller, happier life. I just launched an education project that talks about applying meditation and mindfulness principles to service, any aspect of professional or personal service, which is kind of like an underserved part of that world. So yeah, that’s what I’m up to right now.
Dr. David Tien: Awesome. We’re going to be talking about the difference between mindfulness meditation, which is really hot these days, and a type of meditation that I really enjoy which is a mantra-based meditation. But before we do that, I just wanted to say, how do we know each other? Stefan and I met in a bar. It’s one of those auspicious beginnings of many great relationships, and in the bar where you are a manager of this amazing bar at the time. And one of my best friends and still a very good friend of mine was also working behind the bar and has now gone on to be one of the top 20 best bars in the world, I think, and best bartender in Asia. That was all under your helm back then at Speakeasy. That relates to meditation and what you’re doing now, right? Maybe you could just tell us a little bit about your time behind the bar and how that relates to what you’re doing these days.
Stefan Ravalli: Actually lately, it’s all been coming together. Like meditation, Eastern principles, and like service, that’s really what I noticed elevating. Because I was always like a hospitality guy ever since I was a very young man, and that’s what I was really obsessed with. In fact, bartending, which isn’t just the art of making drinks but the art of serving people and making them happy, that was a path of self-mastery for me. I had a lot of issues and obstacles to that. And when I discovered meditation, it tended to make those obstacles much more manageable and really opened up my ability to grow as a hospitality person.
And then that turned out to just perfectly also elevate my life in exactly the same way and I found life, service, meditation, it’s all related, it’s all one thing. And so now, I’m especially trying to bring these principles to people that are in that situation in service, or in any job, or in any aspect of their life that might be frustrating, and applying meditation and mindful principles to thriving better in those environments since it helped me so much.
Dr. David Tien: Awesome. So, we are going to start in on mindfulness. You’ve already gotten there with mindfulness, and then there’s mindfulness meditation and introducing those concepts of the contrast between mindfulness meditation and maybe… I’m not sure the best term for it, but mantra meditation, mantra-based meditation. I’m going to leave that to you. You’re the expert, but it’s something that I discovered along the way over the few years because I first got my instruction in meditation from you. This was way back like 2014, so several years ago now. And along the way, I got into these apps. So, there are these multi-million dollar valuation app companies which are, I think, Calm and Headspace are the biggest ones, and then there’s another big one called Insight which is almost entirely free. They started introducing some paid components now.
But in Headspace and Calm, right away when you’re using the app, there’s very little that’s free and then you’re prompted to buy the subscription to access everything else. And the free courses are almost exclusively on mindfulness meditation. So, for many people, that’s what meditation means for them. And I have a lot of friends who have tried to get into meditation because you hear about it in self-improvement circles a lot, and they all get into it with zest, with fervour, they’re really into it. And then after a few months or maybe even quicker, their practice peters out. They try to keep up with it in the app, but usually, the apps that show you a progress bar kind of thing, a streak, like, “You’ve been meditating for 30 days. Congratulations!”
Some people just try to keep the streak up by showing up for 30 seconds, or like the minimum amount of time needed to check that checkmark on that day streak. Eventually, they just forget about it because at that point, it’s pretty meaningless. I just wanted to provide a counterpoint to those who might’ve struggled with keeping up a meditation practice or getting anything out of meditation, that there are different types of meditation and some of them might be more suitable for other goals that people have, especially when it comes to masculinity. A big part of my audience is men, I think more than 90% of the audience currently, and many of them increase their masculine energy or get in touch more with their masculine core. These are all themes that are connected to exploring the difference between mindfulness meditation and mantra meditation, and I’ll leave it now to Stefan to introduce how we would set that up. What’s mindfulness meditation, for one?
Stefan Ravalli: I guess to divide the two realms, I’ll simplify the names a bit. There’s mindfulness and there’s meditation, and then sometimes they kind of intermingle a bit. Let’s think about them like two sides of the spectrum. Because meditation, there’s lots of different kinds. Mindfulness is just sort of a really broad term that generally seems to mean living our lives with awareness, clarity, and being conscious. It’s actually derived from the Buddhist concept sati. It’s kind of a rough translation of it, which is like that sort of applying these present, aware, clear principles to just like everyday life.
That actually comes from smriti. That’s a Sanskrit word from Indian philosophy which goes farther back. Smriti means to remember, to recollect. What are they remembering? They’re remembering ancient teachings of wisdom, and passing them on, and teaching with them. But actually, where the nectar of that is is being able to call to action, being able to remember and bring forth wisdom when you need it in life, having it available and applying it, applying it to every aspect of your life so that it is elevated, basically.
Smriti is actually where we got the word ‘smart’ from. There’s a lot of Sanskrit-influenced English. But just calling it being smart isn’t as useful of a thing to do because of how we think of the word smart now. Now, the word mindful came about to mean like you’re now a modern, conscious being. You’re using Buddhist principles. You’re using all kinds of ancient principles, but mindfulness is a way of making it a lot more applicable to modern life. Since if you were to read a lot of these texts, you wouldn’t really know how to actually map them on to everyday experience. Mindfulness makes it really clear and practical. There’s lots of ways to do it. It’s a never-ending journey, being mindful. It’s a never-ending process of self-discovery.
Think of that. Mindfulness is like in action, principles applied, and you’re always doing it. Meditation is like the training camp. It’s like if you wanted to get better at a sport, there’s the practice of the sport that gets you better at it. That’d be like mindfulness. You’re practicing life and getting better at it. And going to the gym and training for the sport in a really targeted way, that’s meditation, and whatever meditation you use. It’s kind of like, sure, certain areas of your body are going to be strengthened by a sport, but when you go to the gym, you can really take it beyond what the sport can offer in terms of building muscle.
But if you only went to the gym and didn’t play a sport, then you are not, in theory, using your body to its full potential. So, you want to apply how you build your muscle. So, that’s why gym and sport are essential, two parts, the yin and the yang. Same with meditation and mindfulness, you need both. You need a meditation practice, you need mindfulness. So, what’s a meditation practice then? It could be so many things. And sometimes, if you think about it like a spectrum, sometimes, mindfulness is like more on the action, like living a wake side of the spectrum; meditations on the shutdown reality, like control the flow of sensory input somehow, at least streamline it and go within. And you get a total change of brain state, and that is like plugging into the charger.
Mantra meditation will take you way away, way within yourself. And let’s say more presence or more mindfulness-oriented meditations, you’re more like here on ground-level reality and you’re just paying attention and refining your ability, refining your perception, refining your ability to perceive. And sometimes, meditations are like focus meditations where you’re really dialing in on the focus aspect of the mind. But there are so many things you can do to meditate. There’s walking meditations, like you’re actually awake, eyes opened, walking in a certain way that’s very specified. Your environment’s still really controlled, like by definition, it would have to be in a meditation. You are controlling your environment in some way.
But it’s a very specific way of doing it, and you’re still though in motion more. And there’s many different types of walking meditation, but I would say that would be like an example of something that actually straddles like meditation and mindfulness. I would call that a mindfulness meditation. I would call sitting in a Japanese tea ceremony in silence a mindfulness meditation. You’re doing something but you’re silently attentive and totally experiencing reality in a different way very deliberately.
There’s a lot of different ways to go about this, but I guess just a good way to break apart what all of these terms mean, I would say meditation is like a certain retreating from life by definition, which is really important. Because we just spend too much time headlong into life and it just wears us down, so you got to plug into the charger again. Then after meditation and it’s time for mindfulness, that’s now when you’re like out in life, and now it’s like, “Okay, I just retreated from life. Now, give me all that you can. Give me all the sensory input I can handle.” Give me all the challenges that I can handle because I’ve strengthened myself, strengthened my awareness to have a deeper, fuller experience of it, remained stronger and calmer, and more aware of everything, and just achieve more growth from the living experience. That’s mindfulness. You’re growing and learning better from being aware of your life, observing it, and paying attention to what matters.
That’s a constant process of learning. Meditation is simple. You just do it, it happens automatically. A lot of the processes are subconscious. Don’t really worry about what you’re experiencing. Mindfulness is rigorous. You’re living with rigor. You’re living with attention to everything, and improving and mastering yourself in the process.
Dr. David Tien: It’s a good contrast with how most of the world lives as adults, kind of mindless, where they just have a routine, go to work, clock in, turn on the computer, stare in front of the computer and just do whatever it is that they do sort of in a mindless state. Or you might not think it’s mindless if it’s a very intellectual or cognitive work, but what you’re not aware of are all of the other senses that are going on. And over time, you might’ve actually gone through school that way, and then over time you find it difficult to let’s say tap into or feel certain muscles in your body, so that you end up not being able to dance, or not being able to be very fluid, or do any martial arts, you’re very stiff, and that would be from years and years of a relatively mindless type of existence.
So, mindfulness as a practice is to get you back in, at the very least, to get you back into your senses so that you’re actually feeling, tasting, hearing, seeing things that were… Because there are millions of things that you could attend to, but because in most of your life, you’re just told to do one task or a series of tasks for school, or whatever it is, or for work, you just ignore everything else. Nowadays, a lot of people are just mindful of their phones as they walk across the street or as they’re driving and they’re mindless about everything else.
So, mindfulness is an amazing concept for men and people, men and women, who are trying to get back in touch with their emotions. A big part of that is to get in touch with how your body is feeling. That was something that… So, in my therapeutic practices, I learned that I was actually relatively high on mindlessness. I was very focused on tasks at hand. If I had to work out, I was very focused on that particular muscle group, or if I was doing cognitive work, I was very focused on that. Everything else disappeared from my sensory realm or my focus.
That made it hard to actually feel emotions that would’ve been more vulnerable or painful. The natural training over the many years of being mindless in this way is to flee from those emotions. And mindfulness actually helps you stay in reality, stay in your senses, even when it’s uncomfortable or when you’re used to, from decades of fleeing, from fleeing. You stay in it. I started recommending method acting alongside meditation as a great practice. And one of the basic techniques, or habits, or practices in method acting is to pay attention to how you do something that you do on a regular basis.
Usually, they’ll say something like, “Do you have coffee every morning or tea every morning? And if so, for the next 7 days or 14 days, every time you take that coffee or tea, try to stay as mindful as possible about how you pick it up, how you drink it, what you do when you drink it, how you savor it, what you do alongside it. Because when you come back to the class, you’re going to mime it.” You can have it eyes closed or eyes opened, but you’re supposed to be… And everyone watching you is supposed to believe that there’s a cup there and really buy it. And it’s actually really hard.
It’s easy to mime like you’re a street walker in a funny way, but to mime something simple that you do all the time and take for granted, and then to be able to recreate that experience, that would require that you’re actually paying attention. So many of us in the mornings mindlessly do things like turn on the coffee maker, and then to actually turn on — it was really difficult for me, but that got to me to realize that, holy, I suck at this. Then alongside therapeutic recommendations of “Try mindfulness meditation”, that got me into paying attention to the breath and doing breath-based meditation. I was already sort of doing that alongside my meditations of the mantra meditations.
But then with the mindfulness, let’s just start with that, from the minute you hit the timer or the second you hit the timer. That was really helpful. I was also able to track my brainwaves through EEG devices. So, I used the Muse headband at the beginning and it was showing me… Whenever I was very mindful of — because my eyes were closed, I wasn’t seeing anything, but I could hear things and I could feel things on my skin. I was motionless, but that really made it easier because there wasn’t so much noise for the signal to figure out. So, one channel was gone, so I was able to pay even more attention to the sounds and the touch.
And just those two senses alone were so rich. Especially if you’re doing it in a park or something, or on a bus, or on an Uber car, you hear traffic going by, there’s a lot actually to listen to. It was sort of like my daredevil experience. Suddenly, I was able to hear all of this stuff and feel all these things. That was great, and that helped me get into the emotions. It also helped me get into my body awareness. So, it was like 360, 180 awareness around who I am, like the body, and the reality, and the life going on around me. But after a while, I lost some things that I used to get out of meditation that I really missed. I started noticing this after about a year of doing Muse headband type of mindfulness meditation. It wasn’t always with the headband.
And that was where, now, I mix it with… And I basically just have experience with two types of meditation, the mindfulness meditation and a mantra-based meditation. The way you’re defining meditation is very capacious. So, I realized theoretically, I’ve read about and heard about lots of different types of meditation, I just don’t have experience on them, but I can speak about the differences between these two and why especially guys that I’m helping get better with women, improve their relationships, get more in touch with their emotions, develop their masculine energy, can really benefit from both because you’re saying they’re partly two sides of the — or two polarities.
One is you dialing down into your senses, and that’s mindfulness, paying attention to even the way like in a tea ceremony, the way you turn the cup, the way you sip, the way, the temperature of the cup… There’s so many things that you could pay attention to. And then on the other side, what I was missing was an ethereal feeling of being removed from the situation. Because on the one hand, there are people who are numb to their emotions. They are so used to fleeing from painful emotions and feeling vulnerable. They’re scared of that. And from decades of putting up those walls, it’s so difficult for you to not have those walls come up.
So, my method acting coach was saying it like, when we get right to the edge of that vulnerable emotion that I want you to feel, it’s like a bank vault. Suddenly, you trip the vault and boom, all of these walls come down and you don’t get to access the security vault anymore. It just comes down and you just pull back all of a sudden. Even just a little bit of breathing, your eyes go in a different direction and boom, you’re back out of reality into a safe reality. And for the people who are used to doing that, mindfulness is going to help you get back in touch with that. Of course, with various levels of it, everything that you do can be done mindfully. If you need help blocking out certain senses and focusing slowly, gradually, building your ability to stay present, that kind of close eyed sitting in one place mindfulness meditation is a good beginner’s way of training.
And then there’s the other side which is where guys are overwhelmed or people are overwhelmed by their emotions. So, they get triggered, and they can’t handle it, and they get angry, or they get sad, or they get offended, or whatever it is and they have to do something neurotically, or compulsively, out of control, to deal with that. I’ve been saying it sort of like in a Hulk, Bruce Banner kind of experience where they fly into a rage or whatever the overwhelming emotion makes them do, and then they look back on it and they regret what they said. They regret what they did. They’re like, “Man, I can’t believe that I said or did that.” And it’s sort of like Bruce Banner waking up and saying, “What did I do? Did anyone get hurt? What did I do?” It’s sort of that out-of-body experience.
And for people who are easily lost in their emotions, who aren’t able to regulate, who need to learn how to dial it back, who need to learn how to float out of the overwhelming emotion for a moment to get control again, I found that getting into the… I’m not sure what the family of meditative styles is, but for me, it seems to be marked by a mantra.
Stefan Ravalli: You can say transcendent if you want.
Dr. David Tien: Stay transcendent.
Stefan Ravalli: You can say transcendent. So it’s not like a… It’s a kind of a spooky-sounding word. It just means to go beyond the baseline. That’s what you’re doing.
Dr. David Tien: So, there’s a very famous and popular type of meditation called transcendental meditation that has been very commercialized. I tell people, “Hey, that’s a good type of meditation.” And everyone says, “It’s so expensive.” And in fact, they raised their rates since I looked into it five years ago. It used to be $1,000 for the four sessions. And now, I see people forwarding me where it’s, for the same thing, four sessions, it’s $5,000. That’s a 500% increase. Talk about inflation. So, I guess it’s just gotten popular. Anyway, that’s another type, transcendental or transcendent meditation. You don’t have to go through the commercial route and pay $5,000 to learn this technique. But anyway, that’s the same thing, is a mantra meditation.
That helps you be able to regulate your emotional state. And a lot of it is just realizing the moment will pass, and just… If you just flowed out from there in your mind, it’ll just pass like waves. And then when you feel like the wave has receded, you can come back in. So, this really nice contrast, yeah.
Stefan Ravalli: That’s the aspect of mindfulness that is important. What does awareness mean? What are you aware of? Well, if you’re mindful, you’re aware of everything happening around you. You’re aware of all the nuances of reality. That’s why the Zen masters, as you were saying, they realized that actually, all of these little banal moments, these everyday moments that we think life isn’t… It’s just like throwaway stuff for most people. “Oh, I’m getting my coffee. I’m performing a boring errand. I’m standing in line somewhere.” That’s not life. Life will happen at burning men. Do you know what I mean? Life will happen during these heightened moments of happiness and celebration.
But in fact, in these little moments, that’s where life is happening. And actually, the same level of bliss and gratification can be experienced from them if you just pay attention to what’s happening. But that’s like paying attention to what’s happening out there. But what you also have to pay attention to is what’s happening inside of you. That’s also mindfulness. What’s filtering and conditioning your reality? It’s your own mind and the whole legacy of experiences you’ve had before this moment. And that takes even more fearlessness. That takes guts to always pay attention and question where these responses to reality are coming from. Where is this anger coming from?
Very hard to do when it’s happening, which is why it takes continued showing up to actually paying attention to that. And eventually, you get good at it. And eventually, you are able to be mindful from a stable place and you can see anger happening on top of it, from this calm, still, aware, and maybe often amused place. It’s not like self-hating like, “Oh, you suck. Why are you so angry?” It’s not neurotic. It’s just calm and aware. And the more you’re able to do that to just pay attention to stuff and where it’s coming from, the more you smooth it out, the more you master it, the more you integrate yourself. Rather than just being carried away with it, you’re in control of yourself.
So, there’s an internal and an external awareness that is very much required, and all of it at the same time. You need to be aware of a lot at the same time. Sure, being locked into a task is important and focusing on it is important, but that doesn’t mean you swat away everything else including your own health, including your partners, including people that are important. You need to make space for everything and that requires a certain capacity. That’s why mindfulness is important because it’s a practice of it. That’s why meditation is important, whatever meditation you use. If it’s a transcendent practice, not to be confused with transcendental, just a going beyond practice. It’ll automatically — that process of just sitting down and going beyond the usual baseline state of consciousness, it automatically cleans out these obstacles, all these stressed imprints, all the stuff that’s glitching out our reality and making us react in ways that we can’t control.
All of a sudden, you’re just angry, and locked, and closed up. Why? Where’d that come from? I didn’t want that. It now makes your consciousness able to occupy the state it wants to. “I want to be like calm, and present, and aware, and compassionate, and at ease.” That’s what a meditation practice will build from the ground up. And then the mindfulness is the living, and the practice of it, and the continual attention to what still needs to be worked on. There’s like a common, I guess you can say, criticism of like anyone who is like spiritual, whatever you want to call it, anyone who is using conscious or Eastern practices, and they do a lot of what’s called spiritual bypassing.
Meaning, “Oh, I don’t want to put attention on negativity. I just want to float above everything. I don’t want to be like, yeah. I don’t want to face all these aspects of myself. Because I’m meditating now, I don’t have to worry about it. I’m a spiritual person. Everything’s going to be perfect. I’m just going to follow my bliss, follow my heart.” Well, what about examining what your heart is and why it follows, why it wants to go in that direction? How about examining all of these things that are still there even though you meditate?
That is where, really, I think you need to apply the most important thing you can apply, and that is fearlessness, the unflinching ability to look at yourself, and recognize yourself as flawed. Not hate yourself for it, just recognize it, and not give yourself… and not like let yourself off the hook and say, “Oh, I’m perfect now because I do all of these things” or “I’m perfect now because I’m just following my intuition.” We’re all perfect, right? We’re all perfect, beautiful beings. Let’s just… “Oh, I have an intuitive impulse to go drink a bottle of Jack Daniels and do a line of coke. I better follow my bliss.” No. Always look at things and say, “Where does it come from? Why do I have this impulse? I know I’m not going to feel good after, so why do I want to do these things that I don’t feel good after?”
It’s always that constant examining that does require not only practice but fearlessness, because a lot of this stuff we don’t want to look at, because a lot of it we’ve just let it do its thing for a while and it defines us probably more than we think it does. Actually recognizing that is scary.
Dr. David Tien: Man, that’s a great way to put it. In terms of people dealing with their issues and their problems, they often just stay in the middle of where they’re neither able to take a bigger perspective and they’re not present. They’re just shut off to everything, just sort of mindlessly going about things to avoid either extreme. They’re just staying in the middle. There’s a guy who’s been very influential over me and my thinking in business and in life, Gary Vaynerchuk, and he has this dichotomy that he calls clouds and dirt. In fact, he made a whole shoe with K-Swiss, the clouds and dirt shoe.
It’s sort of like, to me, that’s sort of like mindfulness and being present in the moment. That’s the dirt, like you’re in it. Whatever is happening, you are in it and you are in the present moment. And then there’s the clouds where you’re able to take that God’s eye perspective or closer to it. You’re able to have perspective on whatever issues you’re dealing with at the moment. That was the thing that I was missing the most along with other things like cortisol release, which happens a lot more, for me anyway, with mantra meditation. But getting original ideas and solutions just by closing my eyes and sitting for 20 minutes, I used to get tons of amazing ideas and lots of solutions to all my problems that I was dealing with in work, in personal life, just through mantra meditation.
And then when I did mindfulness, I wasn’t getting these solutions anymore. I was staying present and I had a blissful experience and all of that, but I didn’t come out of it with ideas. I realized that those are actually different parts of the brain that are being activated. A lot of it is like clouds and dirt, being able to stay in the clouds, knowing when to dive down into the dirt, knowing when to rise up to the clouds level. In philosophy, the history of philosophy is taught in the same way. There’s either a clouds way of teaching, or the dirt way of teaching it, or the way they usually call it is mountains and valleys. So, you can either take the mountaintop view, and in a four-semester course you’d teach them all the top philosophers for 200 years that are being covered in early modern philosophy, or you can take the valley perspective where you read two or three major works by Hume, by Locke, and you go deep into it.
You come out of the course in the end and you don’t know the broad sweep of things but you know one or two treatises very, very well. And then the mountaintop view is, you know everything, sort of, but you don’t know anything in detail. And ideally, you do both, like an ideal sequence of courses. In life, ideally, you’ll be able to go up to the clouds and get down in the dirt whenever it’s necessary for whatever it is you’re trying to do.
Stefan Ravalli: Yeah, you’ve got to be able to face, and recognize, and sort out your problems, but you also need to be able to recognize that they’re not actually there. It’s actually kind of a fragile line to walk. Like, when are you denying and bypassing, and when are you actually going beyond your limitations? That’s always been a point of contention, and there’s been nothing but argument about it probably for thousands of years. I’ve heard these two schools of thought be divided into ascendant and descendant. So, you’ve got, in terms of Eastern philosophy, there’s ascendant schools which are any transcendent meditation, any Shiva-oriented tradition, like followers of Shiva in India are like have nothing, no possessions. “You don’t need anything. Go onto the mountaintop. Be in isolation. Be silent.”
And interestingly, you know what Shiva represents? The masculine. It’s the masculine approach: go beyond it all. It’s like abstract. It is technical, it’s analytical. It is silent. It is not expressive. It is still. And then the descendant tradition, traditionally, feminine. Get down into the dirt. The shamanic traditions: death, blood, guts, nature, like birth, creativity, that’s all feminine. There’s always been historical tension between the masculine and feminine, of course, which I hope to see unified. In ways it is and in ways it’s really butting heads, still. It’s always been the question, “Do you go beyond or do you dig your feet in deep?” There are pratfalls to both.
And really, just being conscious and mindful is really what can prevent you getting too wrapped up in the delusion of either, the delusions that either can bring. And so, a really good way of keeping that awareness real is to be married. My wife is the feminine, and she reminds me of what’s happening here on Earth when I like to get up there and look down at everything.
Dr. David Tien: In the men’s space, there’s a great fear of the feminine rage. Because when the feminine loses it, it’s sort of like there’s no end to it. That’s because that’s actually their home in sense of like down in the dirt. Whereas when a man loses it, you really got to run because then he’s not in his energy. So, a lot of the times, the masculine is holding back for a good reason. But we’ve talked about the masculine energy in relation to mantra-style meditation or transcendent meditation in a Man Up show. So, I’m going to reference that, see if we can put that in the show notes, a Man Up show we did a few years ago, I think.
Stefan Ravalli: At least a couple, yeah.
Dr. David Tien: Yeah. That’s going to be on masculinity and meditation. And in a course I’m doing now called Freedom U which is my main course, it’s the one that every time I do it, it’s fresh. We put up new material, new recordings. A big part of it is live. There are a few modules where I’m covering masculine and feminine energies. And ideally, to get on especially in the modern world, you need to have a mix of both. So, you can be a masculine man but you need to counterbalance that with some a familiarity or a facility with accessing your feminine energy. Because otherwise, you’re not going to have any place. There’s not going to be much place for you in the modern world.
Also, it’s very taxing on your body in many ways. No matter whether you’re a woman or a man, you want to have a balance. So, if you want to be a masculine man, you can have a 60-40, 70-30, 80-20 balance between masculine and feminine, but you’ve got to have that counterbalance with the feminine. A lot of guys who have trouble attracting women, or finding a mate, or keeping the passion in a relationship going have too much feminine energy for the type of life they want to lead. So, we help you and guide you through both of those things, masculine and feminine energies, and they’re both necessary. One thing I want to say as we end off is I also have a section in my courses, especially Freedom U, on thinking about the meaning of your life or what really makes life worth living for you.
And whenever we run these exercises and have people reflect in a meaningful and deep way, rarely do they ever say “What makes life meaningful for me” or “What has made it meaningful for me so far and looking back in my life…” Rarely are they those capstone events, like I graduated from university, or I made that promotion, or I made X amount of dollars. When they look back, rarely is their happiness ever tied to one of those types of moments. It’s almost always, there’s a 99% of the time, in the little things, little things that when they look back have deep meaning. But at that moment, they were in the moment, they were in the flow of it. It could just be the feeling of the wind on your face as you’re writing a motorbike down the freeway or whatever it is, or through the mountains, or that feeling you got when you woke up in the morning in the country and the dew was still on the grass, or whatever it is, these simple things.
And very rarely are we ever grateful for these simple things, the little things that we call them, but the little things are actually often, we’re evolved to be grateful for the little things. Because if you were only grateful for those big things that came about once every 5 or 10 years, you’d have a lot of stress in your life, and that would eat away at your body, and you would not live a very long life. And a lot of people lose, especially people below the age of 40, a big part of my audience, have trouble being grateful for the moment and staying present. They’re always aiming for something more, because they think if they get that, then they’ll be significant. If they get that, then they’ll finally have love. If they get that, then they’ll finally have certainty, when you can actually have all of those things in the moment if you’re grateful, and are able to stay mindful, and present, and pay attention to what’s actually happening in the present moment. Living in the present.
Stefan Ravalli: Yeah, and if you think about it, all of these things that we want, it’s not because we actually want the thing. The thing in and of itself, once you acquire it, it’s like the sense of like that payoff, that dopamine rush, that’s going to diminish. And we found out it’s really not the thing, it’s how we imagine that thing will make us feel. And how do we think it’ll make us feel? Just more present, like less worried, more at ease, more actualized. And so really, that’s what we’re after. So, why don’t we just go after that and cut out the middleman? Cut out the middleman of stuff. Because if you depend on stuff for that feeling, that just creates addictions and that just creates false identification with superficial things.
So, just cultivate that state, and that state, yes, as you said, available now. That’s available from mastering yourself and your mind, and that’s available from just paying attention to the nectar that’s everywhere; not just dripping out of a job promotion, that’s a siren. And this will not kill our ambition, this will only strengthen our sense of who we are and make us more effective at achieving and doing all the things we want to do in life. That doesn’t switch off. It’s just like tuning us into where the juice is, and really paying attention, that’s mindfulness to sum it all up. Paying attention to where you really do get your happiness from and your gratification from.
And then once you realize that, then you go in that direction, not the sirens, and you find yourself on the correct course. Really, that’s the whole point of mindfulness; not wasting your time in the wrong direction.
Dr. David Tien: Absolutely. One of the biggest mistakes and most common mistakes I see are people who think that — they’ve heard ‘enjoy the journey’, ‘enjoy the process’, that’s what really matters. And they’re like, “I can’t enjoy the process, because if I do, then I’ll never get to the goal.” That’s just the wrong way of thinking. Enjoy both. Enjoy the process and then the goal, you won’t need it. You won’t be so desperate towards it anymore. And everything that you wanted from the goal, you can actually have in the process because what you really wanted, like you were saying Stefan, is the result that you really want are the feelings that you think the goal, getting the goal would give you, and you can have those now if you reorient your mind.
And then it’ll be a lot more enjoyable. You’ll be able to outlast the competition because they’re all beating themselves up in the process to try to get the goal. You’re loving the process. That means you’ll stick with it a lot longer and you’ll probably come up with new insights. You’ll be much deeper in it, so all-around is the best way to get to the goal. It’s also the most enjoyable way and really the only enjoyable way to get to the goal. Meditation! That’s one of the best ways to train yourself to enjoy the process and to be present. How can people get a hold of you?
Actually, one thing before we introduce how to find Stefan on the internet, is that Stefan and I are doing a project together with the potential to be a big thing for us, hopefully. It will include courses, online courses, on these types of meditation that are less available in other places, like these other apps, that are very important types of meditation and ones that I’ve not found courses on them but have been major parts of my own practice. So, look out for that as it comes out. Stefan and I will be talking more about it as we get that ready, hopefully in a month or two. We’ll start releasing some of the courses and you can avail yourself of those and learn how to be in the clouds, and the dirt, and the mountains, and the valleys, and enjoy the process, and journey, and get the goal, all the goodies and the feelings that you’re actually looking for.
So, Stefan, how can they find you on the internet, get in touch with you, and learn more about your work?
Stefan Ravalli: My home base right now is www.serveconscious.com. I’m just posting as much knowledge as I think is relevant to my current focus but it can be applied to anything in life, all kinds of meditation and mindfulness knowledge is up there, blogs, podcasts, and just kind of you know, guides. And then from there, you can contact me and learn directly, since that’s always the best way to specifically dial-in to what you need and where you want to go in your life. I can see how I can serve you there. Or you know, just reach out and chat. I just love talking about this stuff. So yeah, that’s the best way.
Dr. David Tien: Awesome. We’ll link that in the show notes. I highly recommend working with Stefan and getting some training on meditation the right way. You can find more about me at DavidTianPHD.com. We have an assessment that’s free. Sign up for that assessment, just a few questions. Actually, it’s several questions that’ll dial down into what you need to take, the best next steps for you to optimize your relationships and succeed in your lifestyles and so on. Check that out, DavidTianPHD.com, and we’ll look forward to seeing you again soon. Thanks so much, Stefan, for being on this podcast. It was a lot of fun.
Stefan Ravalli: Totally. Always a good time and lots more to talk about, so see you next time.
Dr. David Tien: Alright, live free.
Stefan Ravalli: Live free.