Masculine Depth and Power—from the Core

Tami Simon: Welcome to Insights at the Edge, produced by Sounds True. My name’s Tami Simon. I’m the founder of Sounds True. And I’d love to take a moment to introduce you to the Sounds True Foundation. The goal of the Sounds True Foundation is to provide access and eliminate financial barriers to transformational education and resources, such as teachings and trainings on mindfulness, emotional awareness, and self-compassion. If you’d like to learn more and join with us in our efforts, please visit

In this episode of Insights at the Edge, my guest is John Wineland. John is an LA-based men’s group facilitator, speaker, and teacher who has been guiding both men and women in the realms of life purpose, relational communication, sexual intimacy, and embodiment. Drawing from intensive study with David Deida, who wrote a book with Sounds True, The Way of the Superior Man, as well as the deep lineages of Vajrayana, tantra, kundalini, and qigong, John seeks to create a profound experience for men and women longing to express their deepest desires with open, fierce, and loving hearts. With Sounds True, John’s the author of a new book. It’s called From The Core: A New Masculine Paradigm For Leading With Love, Living Your Truth, And Healing The World.

John makes a direct connection between the inner practices we can do to connect with emptiness inside awareness, consciousness, inside at the physical level, the energetic level, and then moving further out as spiritual beings, and how this enables us to be truly ourselves and live our purpose in the world. Listen to this conversation from the core with John Wineland.

It’s great to be with you, John, and to have this chance to get to know you a bit and for our listeners to get to know you. And in that spirit, can you share a bit about what brought you originally to do men’s work in the first place and then how you became a men’s work facilitator and how that work became so important to you?


John Wineland: Yes. Thank you. It’s great to be here, Tami. Thank you for having me. So my journey is one of desperation and attempts at trying to figure out how to live in relationship, both with myself and with women and with the world. And so I came into this about 20 years ago, first through 12-step recovery programs. My first soiree into really getting to know men in an intimate level was through 12-step recovery work. And every day for a good 10 years, I ate lunch with about 50 or 60 guys and really allowed them into my world, which at the time was very tumultuous, because I had a daughter with special needs who was constantly in and out of the hospital. And so it was the first time in my life that I had men showing up for me.

My father was not one of those men and both my grandfathers died when I was young. So like a lot of men I see come into men’s work, I came in having a very skewed relationship with men and the masculine in general. So it was a healing journey at first and then, at some point, I wanted to move more into a deeper spiritual understanding of life. And so that brought me to some spiritual work, Buddhism, and that originally… Then my failed relationships, I thought that I had everything that I was supposed to have. I was married. I had, literally, a picket fence in Westwood, California. I was in a community and yet I found myself to be really lonely in a certain way and unfulfilled in a certain way.

I started to just sample teachings, everything from Tony Robbins to Thích Nhất Hạnh. And then I found David Deida, who I know you know, and I started to do a lot of work, a lot of men’s work through his lens and followed him around for many, many years and learned sort of this language, this framework of the masculine and feminine. And as I got more and more into it, men started to come to me and say, “Hey, why don’t you lead a men’s group?” So I just kind of fell into it out of a desperate need to be a better man and to be and to find some semblance of happiness in this world and to have better relationships. And then, ultimately, it just kind of grabbed me as I started to see more and more men feeling this kind of existential crisis, which is amplified in the last few years.

Eventually I put up my own shingle and just started to lead men’s programs. The book became a compilation of sort of my boots on the ground on the front lines, what I was seeing, what I was working with, where I feel that men got sort of trapped in their attempt at applying David’s work for a long time. And so the book really became, “This is what I’m seeing. This is what works worked for me. And this is what I’m trying to teach.”


TS: It’s amazing how much our failed relationships kick us in the butt, huh?


JW: It’s a great pain for most humans, yes.


TS: Yes, and a great driver, evolutionary driver. Now, for people who are hearing about David Deida’s work for the first time, they’re not that familiar and the subtitle of your book, A New Masculine Paradigm, and you mentioned the masculine and feminine energies. And you’re very clear in the book that when you talk about masculine and feminine, you’re not saying men are the masculine, women are the feminine, but that these are energies we have. So explain this notion of a masculine paradigm that is going to enable us to live with more empowerment, more heart, more purpose, and how you understand masculine and feminine energies in all of us. A big opening question here for you, John.


JW: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And I’ll do my best. Again, this is just my best shot at this of trying to apply a framework that seemed to work for the men primarily, and women, because I work with women too, and I do coed stuff, that were coming to me and struggling in relationships. David’s framework was a really handy and well-known, at the time, framework to jump off of. And the way that I like to describe it in the book is to consider a spectrum in any human, from more solid, more still, more connected to emptiness, spaciousness, consciousness, to a spectrum, to the other side of the spectrum, which is highly energetic, filled with light, filled with movement, filled with, let’s call it emotion or thought, or you could say love. 

You can really, if you want to overly simplify those terms, masculine and feminine, you could just break them down into consciousness and love. Or you could break them down into emptiness and fullness, or emptiness and energy, right? Pick the polarity term that you want, but these are really representations of the natural world, the universe. And so even in atoms, they’ve discovered that most atoms are empty and they’re energy. So at the basis of all natural phenomena are these polarities, and I think they exist in humans as well. And they become tools, I think, or energies, you could call them like you did, that we can access and amplify in order to expand our human experience.

So I like to think of that spectrum in any moment, any human—regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of gender identification—can transmit, because that’s the word I use, just a deeper masculine transmission, more empty, more solid. You think of a black hole, think a mountain, think… Or they could transmit something that is much more filled with energy and movement and you can choose or—emoting, for example, is something that I think a lot of men struggle with. So they could fall in that spectrum and choose to amplify either polarity more as both a way to understand themselves better, to expand their range, their yogic and meditative range, and to relate to themselves and others in new ways.


TS: Now, of course, we’re living at a time where more and more people are raising their hands and saying they’re nonbinary.


JW: Mm-hmm.


TS: They’re both, right in this moment, both. And I think… I know you mentioned your Buddhist training, form is emptiness, emptiness is form. And so why do we have to separate them like this, John? Why? What’s the value of this if actually they are the same in some ultimate sense?


JW: Right. Well, I think that they… Well, I don’t actually believe they are the same.


TS: OK. Well, take it… Let’s… We’re having a dialogue, so please.


JW: Yes, Yes. So I think actually that they’re, ultimately, if you look at yin and yang, there’s a unification of different forms of energy. And ultimately, I like to think of the mystic law or the divine as having both a latent aspect and a manifest aspect. And either of those aspects can be, for lack of a better term, dropped into and amplified more. And I think what I see in people, as they practice these things, because they are practices, there’s a certain part of themselves that they touch and it could be, so for example, the ability to emote fully. I’ll speak about men because I work with men a lot, but the ability to emote is a certain way for them to drop into the energy that’s flowing through their body. 

And again, this is gender nonspecific, but so in amplifying their feminine, they’re basically amplifying their capacity to emote or to express or to feel… be more sensitive is a term I use a lot in the book, to amplify sensitivity. And then on the other hand, they can amplify awareness, which falls under the masculine spectrum in my jargon. And if you just think about awareness on one side of the spectrum and feeling, or feeling sensitivity on the other side of the spectrum, I think that every human can practice amplifying both.

Now, your point, I think, is really well taken—that you don’t have to label it, the masculine and the feminine. You can pick other language to wrap around it. And I think people should. If these words sort of trigger something or don’t feel, like you said, native to your experience, then I would ditch them and think about emptiness and fullness. Practice going deeper into emptiness. Practice going more into fullness, and you’re going to get the same sort of experience as if you labeled it masculine or feminine.

Now, as David has pointed out in a lot of his books, there is a relational aspect. There’s a sort of energetic arc that gets created in relationship when one partner amplifies emptiness and let’s say emptiness, consciousness, and the other partner amplifies, let’s call it energy and motion, or pleasure. And when that happens, it creates an arc of connection that deepens experience. And I’ve just seen this now over many, many years. And again, it doesn’t have to… One of the things I like to do in workshops is flip it and have a woman amplify her masculine, drop deeper into consciousness, use breath to transmit it through her eyes, through her body, and then have the man begin moving and they create the same arc of polarity. People get tripped up because we have all this suppressive history behind the terms masculine and feminine.


TS: Well, I don’t want to get tripped up in the language. I want to understand your framework. So in any given moment, we can be embodying more yin energy or more yang energy in any given moment. Is the goal, in your view, for a person to have an integrated yin-yang nature where they have equal access to both, or is that not the goal?


JW: That is absolutely the goal. And where I think I differ from David’s framework is that because he’s trying to amplify sexual polarity, that’s a huge outcome of his work. One partner amplifying the masculine fully, and one partner amplifying the feminine fully creates this great arc of sexual polarity. My assertion is that humans in particular can benefit from developing capacity in both, but ultimately bringing both in an integration. So the perfect moment of practice could be something like a connection to consciousness, to the infinite, to the awareness behind awareness and amplified sensitivity.

And as we do both, we are integrating these two polarities, whatever you want to call them, and we’re felt differently. We feel differently. We’re more aware. We’re able to lead a moment better, understand a moment better, feel a moment better. And so, yes, I would say absolutely the goal is to… But the problem is, Tami, that sometimes people will get tripped up in being a certain way more, let’s call it just a denser nervous system, and they won’t actually do the practices that amplify their capacity to be more sensitive or be more feeling. And so part of their human evolution and development would be to spend a lot of time developing that and bringing their awareness, their identification with awareness to more sensitivity.


TS: Now, I want to make sure that our listeners are all tracking with us. And I think a personal example would be helpful. And maybe if you could just share from your own experience on this yin-yang spectrum, where you sort of found yourself and the development work you needed to do to come into greater wholeness.


JW: Yes, that’s a great question. So I, actually, after many years, found myself more naturally on the feminine side of the spectrum, meaning, I was much more emotionally intuitive. I was much more sensitive. I just felt more… I was more at home in flow than stillness. And so part of what I had to learn, so that I could round out my yogic capacity and my relational capacity, was to learn stillness and to learn grounding and to learn slowing everything down to the point where I could actually feel more of a connection to consciousness than a connection to experience.

And what I see with a lot of men today is that—and I see the opposite in a lot of women that I work with—is that they’re highly connected to experience. They’re almost prisoners to their experience. And so teaching them the capacity to separate from experience, become witness to experience, become the field of awareness that their experience is emerging from is a really valuable tool to help them both in their own life and their own living, their relationship with themselves, and also their relationship with others.


TS: Now, for people who… It does. And I’m going to keep going with it because I think it is very helpful for people who are hearing connect more with consciousness, not feeling sensitivity. What exactly does that mean? Because you said words like awareness and I just want to make sure people know exactly what you mean. Like when you’re connected with consciousness, what’s that like for you. Describe it.


JW: Yes. And myriad spiritual traditions go into this, right? The part of me that is aware I’m having this conversation with you, but is not actually having the conversation with you, would be the field of awareness, or you could call it consciousness. That part of me never changes. That part of me is the same before I had a name and it will go with me when I die. So that part never changes. And that I do by, David’s definition of that, being the innate masculine in all humans. The part of me that is connected to sensation, connected to feeling, thought, emotion, that is always changing. That is always different. And that part of me, I would also agree, is you could term it the feminine. You don’t have to. Again, these terms are arbitrary.


TS: Sure, sure.


JW: So when I, in a meditative state, learn to become more aware of the field of awareness  that all of my experience is emerging from, I’m creating that relationship with the great “I am,” you could call it. The great I am. The me that is not inexperienced. And the more I do that, and the more I bring that awareness to experience, the more I’m experiencing what I would consider an integration of those two polarities.


TS: OK. Very helpful. Making it personal like this, I think, really communicates clearly. Now you mentioned that you encounter many men like yourself who benefit from spending more time and energy connecting with consciousness, connecting with the I am, with awareness. But you also said that you work with a lot of women who could very much benefit from the opposite. And I was like, really? Women need to connect more with their sensitivity? That’s what your experience is?


JW: Well, let me rephrase that. I think what I’ve seen is that… Actually, I’ll come at it from the opposite direction. What I’ve seen is that women have found more of a home in their, let’s call it superficial masculine, the directionality drive, success, creation, creating purpose, mission. And in that space, they have a hard time with their sensitivity. So what I will often end up teaching women in women’s groups is grounding and stillness and a deeper masculine that will ground their sensitivity. Because I agree with you. I think women, at least many that come to me, are highly sensitive, highly intuitive. And they’ve sort of, in the postfeminist world, found a pressure, let’s say, to take on the old masculine paradigm, which is succeed, conquer, win. And so what ends up happening is that I end up teaching them a deeper ground and a deeper connection to consciousness, which actually helps ground their own emotional body or sensitivity or energetic bodies.


TS: Now your book From the Core: A New Masculine Paradigm for Leading with Love, Living Your Truth, and Healing the World, you start out by saying that your sense is that many men today want to bring forward more of their purpose, more of their gifts. They want to manifest, if you will, at a higher level, bring more to the world, but they don’t quite know how.


JW: Yes.


TS: So given this model, how does this model help those men specifically?


JW: What I would term the old masculine paradigm is really centered around doing, winning, accumulating, breaking through. I mean, you can pick the way you want to describe it, but it really stems from this idea that’s grown out of the last century in particular about what a man should do. And my assertion is that in staying in that strategy-driven paradigm of masculinity—how do I win more, how do I accumulate more, how do I win in my relationship, how do I win in business, how do I win in the world—they’re missing a really key component of capacity. And that capacity requires them to go inward into the body, into consciousness, and make a home there that then becomes what they create from, what they love from, what they experience the moment from. 

And so it’s less about strategy, which I would consider a key component of the masculine paradigm that does not work, and it’s more about dropping deeper into awareness and sensitivity, if I’m just going to simplify it. Training your body and your mind to be more aware and more sensitive are the unsung tools of great leadership of yourself, of any moment, of a business, of a relationship, of parenting. You name it.


TS: Now, explain “from the core.” You’re referring actually to the core of our energetic self, or how do you understand it?


JW: All the above. I mean, you could go into martial arts, right? And one of the first things they’ll teach you is to connect to your pelvic floor to your dantian, because that is the center, the core of your body. So part of what I spend a lot of time working on in the book is teaching men how to go into that space, bring their awareness from thought—How do I win? How do I win? How do I win?—into that grounding space of the lower abdomen and using breath and using some meditative tools. I try to make the argument that is where their greatest impact will come from.

And so there’s the physical core, there’s the core of the heart, right? The core of the truth of your heart, whatever that is. So going into their emotional core and then going into the core of who they are at the center. And that I would label is the part of them that is unchanging and infinite. The whole point of the book is to make the argument that going inward and making a connection to the deepest parts of you—physical, emotional, let’s say energetic or spiritual—is the best, the deepest way to live and the deepest way to create impact.


TS: Can you give us an experience right now for people who are like, “The core, the physical core? I don’t know what you’re talking about. Pelvic floor, yes, something down there. I’ve never been inside.” Let’s do something right here that’ll give people a sense.


JW: OK. Whoever’s listening, if you press the soles of your feet down into the floor, or your sitz bones, if you’re sitting cross-legged, and you open the soles of your feet and you open that energetic space that is connected to the Earth, and then begin to breathe, preferably through the nose, down into the base of your abdomen as slowly and elongated as you can. And you do that, let’s say, for 30 seconds. Might just be three breaths. Maybe a little hold at the top of the inhale. Maybe a little hold at the bottom of the exhale. And just slow the moment down by taking your awareness down into the base of the abdomen. And you might actually feel the abdomen expand in all directions. You might actually feel the abdomen start to ground. You can actually breathe as if you’re grounding the abdomen.

And as you do that, you’re going to find that your nervous system, your thought processes, literally your heart rate, your nervous system begin to slow and connect more deeply to the moment. And in those, the more that we can do that, day by day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, the more we’re going to occur in the world. Not only are we going to retrain our own nervous system into that space of the lower abdomen that is grounding by nature but we’re going to regulate our own nervous systems and we’re going to occur to the world around us as more grounded, stable, trustable. So it has an immediate impact on our relationships. It has an immediate impact on how we’re felt in the world and how deeply we’re trusted in the world or trusted in a moment.


TS: And what’s the connection between living from the core, having a connection, an inner connection to the core, and what we might call true masculine power, not the surface masculine that you were talking about of ambition and stuff, but true, genuine masculine power.


JW: That’s a great question. I think the connection, I would define it as it’s a deeper space within. Now, there’s this interwoven connection between the physical body, the energetic body, the spiritual body, and the capacity to train the physical body immediately impacts our capacity to feel consciousness. So for example, if I’m thinking and thinking and thinking and thinking, it’s more difficult for me to track that field of awareness, that great I am that is always there. But the moment I deepen my breath, I take my awareness from my thought and place it down into a deep space in my body, which yogis and martial artists have moaned for years that this is the key to connecting to consciousness. The easier that connection can be made, and the deeper my sort of sense of… It’s sort of a centering. We talk about being centered, but we rarely talk about what that means. And so a centering, I would say starts with that deep breath connection to the lower abdomen.


TS: Now you write in From the Core, if you can master focusing your awareness on the core spaces of your heart, lower abdomen, and the central column of your body, you will be felt as more still, more relaxed, more confident, and ultimately, you’ll be more attractive to others. And you call this the magnetism of depth. And I thought to myself, “Well, people want this. People want to be more attractive.” And also, I think, I found in my own experience that when somebody does have that kind of sense of stillness inside, and you can feel it when you’re with them, for me, there is a kind of attraction, like I want to be near them. I want some of what they have, some of that space inside. So I wonder if you can comment about this, the magnetism of depth.


JW: Yes. Well, let me just say that what I’m talking about is a deeper form of attraction, like you mentioned. This is not necessarily about physical attraction. This is obviously about an energetic attraction, a deeper attraction. What I have seen, and some of this is just anecdotal from years and years and years of watching people in workshops, is that I notice that as any human finds that space of depth, they become an invitation, just like you talked about. They become an invitation because people, I think, people are longing to experience that. People are longing to experience both a deeper understanding of themselves, a deeper experience of themselves. But they’re also longing to find a connection to that which does not change, that is not swayed by the phone, or experience, or politics, or the trauma of daily life. And I think people just naturally want, like you said, naturally want to be around that more. And it actually relaxes them. It relaxes their nervous system. I think this is—


TS: Oh yeah, yeah.


JW: —the moment that I drop into that space, people around me now actually experience a relaxation in their own nervous system. It’s a sort of a mirror neuron effect that happens. And I’ve just seen it now, over thousands of hours of seeing people in workshops.


TS: Let’s talk more about the nervous system, because you devote a whole chapter to it in the book. And I think it’s so important about how, when we can strengthen our capacity at the nervous system level, we have greater capacity for both awareness and sensation. So talk about that and this clueing in at the nervous system level.


JW: Yes. Our nervous systems are sort of… Literally, our bodies are columns that run energy, right? The energy of life, vitality, sexual energy, emotional energy, even thought. And our capacity to run more energy, to be able to hold more experience in this kind of meat body is absolutely determined by how stable our nervous system is. And what we notice is in that meditative and yogic practice, we literally will move from a sympathetic nervous system state into a parasympathetic nervous system state. Now, that might take two minutes, three minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes. It doesn’t take that long to really get into a deep parasympathetic state in your nervous system.

When we do that, all kinds of beautiful things happen. We’re able to actually hold more energy, more sexual energy, more of our own experience. We’re able to transmit that experience through our bodies in a way that feels more, let’s call it grounded and stable. So the impacts on sex for example, are pretty evident right away. And we’re also able to, I think I would call it hold others’ experiences more fully. So the deeper I am in that grounded sort of stable nervous system space, the more your emotions or the more life’s challenges become more easily handled and just more easily digested.


TS: And part of why I wanted to talk here about the nervous system is, when you were sharing how living from your core, people are drawn to that, and then they feel it with their mirror neurons. It’s also possible, if you’re not that deep and stable in your own inner stillness, somebody comes up and they’re a little crazed or disheveled or anxious or depressed, and before you know it, you’ve taken on their state. They haven’t taken on your state that you started with. So talk more about how you deepen at the nervous system level. You make this really great point in the book that when you strengthen your nervous system, you can even better receive strong feedback from your partner. And I thought, I need greater strengthening for the kind of strong feedback I’m getting.


JW: Yes. So I relate and part of my journey was to learn how to do this. It’s really quite simple. Elongated breath, deeper elongated breath. I mean, the Tibetans have been talking about this wind training and they make the point that much neurosis tends to come from lack of lower belly breathing. And whether you buy that or not, it’s obvious, at least in being with people that the more you can pull your energetic center from here. Most of us are living from here.


TS: You’re pointing to your head. Yes, from…


JW: Yes, from my throat to my head, right? You can pull it down so it lands more between your heart and the base of your body. You’re actually closer to ground, your nervous system has sort of stabilized in a way, and you are more able to receive what the world is giving you, what life wants to give you. Good too. But you know, people have a hard time receiving love, praise, joy. And so it works in both directions. And I think what I would want anybody who reads the book to get is that these are not skills that are really difficult to master. They just take… No one taught us. At least my generation, no one taught us, hey, one of the great success strategies is to learn how to ground your lower body into the Earth and deepen your breath into your abdomen, and then soften and relax your heart. 

No one taught me that early on. That’s certainly not what I think gets taught in schools. But the processes, and I think I go through a pretty… Like a five- or six-step process of grounding, of breathing, of relaxing the heart, of relaxing the body. And that that actually has the impact to both take what life is giving you, good and bad, and also stabilize the moment. Stabilize the moment. And from that place, what I think happens is that we detach. And this is a big piece I see in men, especially. We detach from the patterns of needing to win, of needing to get, of needing to succeed, and we sort of plug into something greater than our own thought patterns, or our own history, our karma, let’s call it. And we make ourself available to wisdom and energy and nourishment that is always available.


TS: OK. Let’s bring it, again, back to you, because you started by sharing how part of your journey was launched by difficulties in relationship.


JW: Yes.


TS: Intimate relationships. And I’m curious how building this capacity in your nervous system, through the types of exercises that you now teach others, how has that changed intimate relationships for you?


JW: Hmm. Yes, that’s a great question. I was on with Connor Beaton, who I also know is writing a book for y’all, yesterday. And we talked about ROI, how men need to know the ROI of doing practice or any kind of work. And the immediate impact is that, suppose my partner is in a state of anxiety or even trauma, and her nervous system is lit up—and this obviously applies to any human, my practice has the ability to down regulate her nervous system. So the ability to actually now use your breath to  access the states we’re talking about, and then using hands on the legs to just ground their nervous system, using eye contact to feel into a deep sensitivity, to feel into a deeper space of whatever they’re experiencing, and then literally using my breath to help ground both of us in that moment, has an immediate impact on her nervous system. And I’ve just seen this now, that this sort of nervous system regulation is an immense gift that we can give each other that goes highly underutilized and can change moments that could be hours of disagreement into a very deep, heartfelt connection and hopefully softening. So that’s an immediate, immediate way to work with this. 


TS: Now I know one of the things that you teach, one of the topics that you teach on, and this is a question I think that in popular literature, people really want to know. What is it that men really want? What is it that women really want?


JW: Right. Right.


TS: John Wineland, he’s going to share from his perspective and all the work he’s done with men and women in relationship and granted, this is… We’re referring mostly here to a heterosexual paradigm, that the work that you’ve done, what men in that paradigm want and what women want. Go ahead. Tell me, John.


JW: Yes, OK. This is a good moment to bring back the feminine in all of us, versus the masculine in all of us. So the masculine in all of us craves nourishment through all kinds of energy. One of the things that I see in workshops is when a man is receiving, let’s call it devotional energy, from a partner, there’s an almost… Many times they’ll burst into tears. Many times they’ll weep, and they’ll have this really deep reaction to receiving that, let’s call it a texture of energy, or a form of nourishment. And of course it’s different for every human, but what I’ve seen over the years is that… To be recognized for the good that they are trying to do, to be recognized for the stands that they are trying to make, to be recognized as a good human who fights for love, fights for consciousness, protects his family, tries to, that recognition through the body is a major piece of nourishment.

And there’s oodles of other kinds of nourishment. There’s certain kinds of sexual energy that are very nourishing. There are certain kinds of playful energy that are very nourishing. We work a lot with archetypes and textures because these are just easy ways to access those pieces of nourishment. For example, let’s call it sorcerous, so the magic. So if a man… And I’m just using heteronormative terms now. If a man is feeling magic move through the body of his feminine partner, it occurs as magic in his body. And so we have this capacity, and I think it’s one of the great tragedies of modern relating, we have all these gifts that we could learn to give each other, these pieces of nourishment we could learn to give each other.

And on the feminine side, I just went through an example, which is to be grounded, seen, felt in the truth of her heart. That occurs to somebody in their feminine as nourishment. And so I’d like to frame it as that. It’s not something that you have to do to be loved. It’s not something that you need to weaponize. Please, I see people weaponize these terms all the time, but these are… We have the capacity to nourish each other in very deep ways that really aren’t that difficult. And that, I think, is the real gift of embodiment practice, in general. We learn these pieces of nourishment that you can see. I mean, you can just see it in people that it just lands very deeply in their body, in their soul, in their heart.


TS: Part of what I heard you say is that what we all want, actually, is a type of recognition and being seen. So the masculine in us wants to be recognized for how hard we try, again and again, and the feminine in us wants to be recognized for how true and full our love is. And it’s like, huh, we see each other. We recognize each other.


JW: Yes. Yes, that’s a beautiful way to put it. I think that’s very true. And I think what I would like people who read the book to get is that these are just some tools that I’ve seen work over the years that have an immediate impact on not only romantic partners, but children, right? The ability to ground your child, or be able to hold their truth in your heart without being reactive, the ability to burst into play. I think I talk about currencies, the currencies of presence and the currencies of play. And these new currencies are gifts that… Not just the masculine, but just, I think we can all give each other more, but it requires that we break out of the habit of our body minds. The habits of thinking and the habits of closure, to use a term David uses, and just be more fucking generous. Right? Just be more generous with each other in these ways that are immediately impactful.


TS: Now, you mentioned presence and you make a really interesting point in From the Core that being present and having presence, manifesting presence, offering our presence, they’re not exactly the same thing.


JW: No.


TS: So say more about that, because I think a lot of people think, “Well, I’m being present. I’m chewing the raisin and I know I’m chewing the raisin, being present.” But having presence has a different way of impacting people. So talk about that.


JW: So let’s think about the being present to the moment, right? Which is just a simple awareness practice to be aware of the desk under my hands and the room that I’m in and the breath and the sound of your voice. I can expand infinitely into feeling this moment more fully and that’s beautiful. Now, when I actually take that experience of feeling the moment more fully and I transmit it through the body, through my breath, through my eyes, literally through the pores, through the energetic, subtle body, I’m now experienced as having presence. It goes from a personal experience of being present in the moment to an interpersonal relational experience.

And it’s tantra. It’s tantra. It’s basically taking the divine as I’m feeling it in the moment, whether it’s just the sensitivity of the hum of life all around, but now when I start to give that, I’m now being experienced in a different way as having presence, as I fill with that. There’s a difference between having a mind awareness or even a subtle body awareness of the present moment, but my capacity to use breath and to use chi, to press that awareness of the present moment into the space I’m in, or into the partner I’m making love to, or into the eyes of a child or a man that I’m working with, that’s a different ballgame. 


TS: Now you mentioned the currencies of presence and play. If someone wants to increase their play bank account or whatever you want to call it, have more access to playful energy, what do you suggest?


JW: OK. So something I’ll do with men in particular—I’m running a group now—I’ll have them go out and sing. Go out into public and practice busking for…


TS: Oh, wow.


JW: Pick a song and go out and actually express themselves fully. Or I’ll have them take an improv class. I’ll literally have them practicing play so that their body and their nervous system gets the felt experience of improvisational expression in the moment. So these are things… And this is a big point I try to make in the book that look, these things are available, but you have to practice them. You have to train. It’s almost like a martial arts training in a certain way. So play requires to learn how to be more playful, requires you practice being more playful and you get it in the body and you practice it outside of a moment that you think it could be useful. It becomes like a paint in your palette. It becomes a tool in your kit and to liberate others. Because play is a very liberating currency, I would call it.


TS: I know. And I want to be more playful, but I notice when you say train in being more playful, part of me is like, really? I’ve got to practice this? Something seems off. I mean, it seems more like something needs to get removed, that’s inhibiting play.


JW: That happens. That happens. The reason we practice is to get to the real practice. So when I send somebody out to sing a song on the street, the practice is actually going to get them to the block and they have to actually move the energy through that block and the block eventually dissolves. And they’ve, in that moment, created a deeper capacity for play, which they can access at another time when it really counts, so to speak. And that’s why improv or using some of the master techniques that people have to drop into the moment and express in the moment, or play in the moment, they’re out there and they’re definitely worth checking out.


TS: Now you talked about David Deida’s work a couple of different times, and you mentioned this habits of closure, habits of closing ourself. I hadn’t heard that term, but I’m curious about that. What is informing our habits of closing down, especially when we’re with the person we supposedly love the most?


JW: Yes. Yes. Normally it’s some trigger that some stimulus in the environment, in the relationship, that triggers a childhood pattern or childhood wound, which then makes us self-referential in our thought. And as we get self-referential in our thought—I’m not doing it right. They don’t like me. They’re going to leave. Or they’re critical of me. Whatever the thought is, as we get self-referential in our thoughts, our energetic bodies immediately begin to turn inward. What happens over the course of years is, our physical bodies start to take the shape of our energetic bodies and will start to—you’ll actually see it in people—their heart space will actually collapse. Their sternum will come in. Their shoulders will round. Their belly will get tight. Yes, it’s a constant checking.

And so as we get triggered, the habits of our childhood and our programming throughout our lives will show up in our bodies. And that is, sometimes, a very subtle closure, a very subtle closure, but it’s almost always accompanied by self-referential thought. So the habit will be take my awareness off of the self-referential thought, put my awareness on expanding the belly and relaxing the heart, maybe dropping the shoulders, maybe lifting the sternum, maybe planting the feet, planting the sacrum, and put my awareness on opening, on opening the body. And that immediately changes the thought pattern. It immediately opens up channels of energy and it immediately changes the… So the possibilities of the moment become more apparent, not just the same old default possibilities that we find ourselves in, especially in relationships.


TS: Now, John, something I really want to understand, and I don’t want to presume that our listeners have any knowledge of David Deida’s work, because they very well may not, which is you said earlier when we were talking about polarity, that in David Deida’s work it’s a big emphasis when it comes to sexual fulfillment to work with polarities, but that you see it differently. So how is it that you… You talk about, in the book, sex as an art form, but how do you see it differently from David’s model?


JW: Yes, well, there’s a lot that I agree with and a lot that I practice and teach. So it’s not that… I think where I diverge a little bit, in a significant way I consider, is that David is more interested in expanding the polarities to create a sacred union in the moment. And it’s highly effective and he’s built a whole career on aspects of that. I really want to think the modern human requires much more integration of those expanded polarities in most of the moments that they live in. Not just sex. So in sex, the capacity to say, “OK, in this moment, I am choosing to drop deeper into consciousness, to still my body, to really deepen into my body and access my masculine…” I’m using quotes for those of you who can’t see. “… as a gift to my partner’s nervous system, my partner’s heart,” that kind of thing.

But what I see is that most—staying there, for most men that I’ve worked with and including myself, staying there is really, really hard. And so there’s this whole middle ground of life that I feel needs to be touched on. And that, I feel, is more in the integrative space than the actual polarized space. If that makes sense.


TS: Yes.


JW: So that’s a big argument that I am making in the book. Not necessarily to refute anything David’s done. Just my innovation, I would call it, on those topics.


TS: Well, once again, just bringing it down into everyday human’s experience, I think that a lot of people discover in long-term relationships that the kind of play and presence that was perhaps there in the beginning, isn’t there after 5, 10, 20, 30 years.


JW: Yes.


TS: What do you have to offer in terms of coming from the core that will help in those relationships?


JW: Yes. Well, what happens from the second to the fifth to the tenth year is that the patterns of our childhood and of our life, let’s call it our karma, because I think many of your listeners will understand that, our karma begins to manifest in our relationships. And so breaking that, breaking those karmic vines, I argue, is a moment-to-moment practice of presence, of awareness, and sensitivity.

And so let’s pick the moment that your partner says the thing that they always say to you that causes you to say the thing back that you always say to them, and then you have the same fight that you’ve had. That is our karma. That’s the karma of our relationships. And so the moment that any human can drop deeper in, access a new possibility from a connection to the moment and choose a different approach or a different response, they’re changing the karma, they’re changing karma, I would argue. And it’s a moment-to-moment practice. Like you said, to have the body open, to have the breath deep, to have some awareness of awareness, to have a sense, to train the feeling body, to feel in 360 degrees. These are all things that we can learn. Never master, really, or never complete. They’re gestures toward continual practice. But those are the moments that change the direction or the solidification of our karma in relationships, in particular.


TS: And then apply that specifically to sex in a long-term relationship.


JW: Yes. So the pattern in long-term relationship—I mean they’re intimately linked. Our emotional safety and our sexual safety are intimately linked. So that moment that I just described gone awry has an impact on your sex life, on our sex. But that moment, properly transmuted into something new, something more playful, something more loving, will have an immediate impact on the trust level in sex. So you can’t separate that emotional intimacy from the sexual moment and, yet, in the sexual moment, to have sex from the deepest parts of our body, so from the core, the whole idea in that is to deepen the sexual experience.

So I’m not just having sex from the physical body, but I’m having sex from the energetic body. I’m taking my connection to something deeper than my physical body or my thoughts or my desire, and I’m giving that through my breath, through my eyes, through my voice, through my practice, to my partner, and that deepens the experience. And what I’ve seen in couples time and time again, is that once they move out of the realm of having the habitual sex that they’ve had into a deeper sort of exploration of what sex could be, all kinds of new possibilities develop.

And there’s one other piece to this I’d add, which is that expanding our range. The range of our—we talked about play and I would add from the masculine side, this sort of fierce love, this capacity for men in particular to connect the heart to the genitals, that is a yogic practice and your capacity to do that, it deepens the sexual moment and deepens what’s possible in sex.


TS: OK. One last thing I want to talk to you about, John. You end From the Core on the note of conscious warriorship, conscious warriorhood. What do you mean by that? And why introduce the warrior archetype? I mean, it has the word war in it. Really? Do we really need that? What makes it conscious?


JW: Well, I try to make the point in the book that the idea of “warrior” has been co-opted by the film industry, just Rambo or whatever, has been co-opted. And so warrior is seen as a killing machine, is seen as an instrument of war. A fierce instrument of war. So conscious warriorhood is to make your body, your presence, an instrument of consciousness. The warriorhood aspect of it, which is something I see in men a lot, is proper use of their fierceness. What would they die for? What would they die to protect? What would they die to create? What would they literally give the depth of their heart to expand or liberate? That’s the way that I’m terming warriorhood, that it’s to make your body an instrument, a fiercely loving instrument of consciousness, I think, if I was going to put it into one sentence.


TS: And when you ask that question, “What would you die for?” How would you answer that?


JW: Ooh, I think that it would be liberation, liberation of hearts, liberation of love, liberation of consciousness. So when I see that in the work that I do, when I see somebody break that pattern that we discussed and actually have a moment of liberation that also liberates another, that to me, is worth dying for.


TS: I’ve been speaking with John Wineland, he’s the author of the new book From the Core: A New Masculine Paradigm for Leading with Love, Living Your Truth, and Healing the World. It’s a beautiful book, John. Thank you for pouring yourself out and into it. Thank you.


JW: Thank you, Tami. Thank you for having me.

TS: Thanks for listening to Insights at the Edge. You can read a full transcript of today’s interview at That’s If you’re interested, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and if you feel inspired, head to iTunes and leave Insights at the Edge a review. I absolutely love getting your feedback and being connected. Sounds True: waking up the world.

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