four men looking at sunset

04: Arjuna Ardagh [The Translucent Revolution]

Right at the heart of any practice that recognises the true nature of a person is the understanding of the difference between the practices which cultivate masculine energy, and practices which cultivate feminine energy. Silent meditation, for example like Vipassana, was developed in older traditions by men for men.

When a man sits still for a long time with his spine straight, his testosterone reserves are rebuilt in his body, causing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to reduce. So he has the experience of coming home to him.

Consciousness

Graham
Arjuna, you are an Awakening Coach, a teacher and a writer. You are the author of seven books, including the bestseller “the Translucent Revolution” and many audio and video courses. But most of all, you are an expert in Conscious Presence. So what I would like to do is, Arjuna, perhaps just start by asking you to briefly tell the story of your life.

Arjuna
Well that is interesting. I was born in England and from a pretty early age I felt a kind of a deep pull to something deeper and more profound, more conscious, more real, than the way that I saw my parents, my family, my culture living. I was born into a probably higher than average dysfunctional family. There was a lot of dysfunctional stuff going on in my family. So that kind of increased the pull to discover a more conscious way to live. And I actually got involved with eastern spirituality when I was fourteen, I learned meditation. In a way, at that point, it seemed that that was the best hope for a more conscious way to live.

I was not very impressed with psychotherapy, which is the other alternative. I suppose the story of my life really is that I have been finding the balance where the benefits of some of these eastern traditions and eastern teachers is that are you presented with a complete set of values. You are presented with the glittering prize of ‘enlightenment’ or whatever they call it. The downside is that a lot of that turned out to be hot air, not really viable and based on a lot of myth. So, over many decades,

I have been developing a way of cultivating spiritual maturity and conscious presence. But outside of spiritual hierarchy, outside the spiritual tradition, and outside of the concept of enlightenment, which I have come to see the idea of a final point of arrival where you are sort of graduated. I have come to feel that is a rather immature concept.

I coach people, we have developed a coaching method which really is focused not so much on achieving goals and making money and furthering your career, although those can be byproducts, we have developed a coaching method which focuses on the embodiment of Awakening Consciousness. And that is the Awakening Coaching that I teach.

Graham
I find it very interesting that you have rejected the concept of enlightenment, because I have always felt that that is something that is very tempting to people and it either gives them the false idea that they have attained it or the frustration that they never are going to attain it. It has never seemed to me that it actually helps people in their spiritual quest.

Arjuna
I think you are right. Holding the idea of a state better than this one, whether you project that into your own future or whether you project it onto a charismatic figure, the idea of a state better than this one actually has the effect of taking your attention away from what is here in this moment. It takes your attention away from what is happening in your body, and the relationships what are already there in your life and the feeling you are having and the thoughts you are having, I mean the very fact that we are having this three dimensional experience, the fact that I can be here whatever I am, but there is a body here in California able to make these sounds that are now heard in wherever you are, London, or England, somewhere. You are in England, right, is that true?

Graham
No, I am actually in Spain, I live in Spain.

Arjuna
Well, the fact that one English person, standing on a deck in California can talk to another English person in Spain and make these sounds which are transmitted down, well actually not even wires! And that they can actually make sense of these sounds and then have a conversation which opens up space and that other people can then listen to that on all different parts of the world. I mean that is already such an astounding miracle.

If we open ourselves to the extraordinary mystery of being alive, it is almost kind of bizarre that we would crave for anything more than this. This is already so rich, so incredible. So that is I think the downside of a concept of enlightenment. It takes your attention away from the extraordinary mystery that this moment already holds for us, just as it is.

Graham
I am glad you say that. I love the mysteries of this moment. As you say, the fact that we are having this conversation, and tussling with these concepts is phenomenal.

Presumably you started off at the age of fourteen looking for enlightenment or a guru? Was there anything particular that actually brought you to this realisation of a general consciousness rather than the hierarchy associated with enlightenment.

Arjuna
When I was fourteen I started to meditate and then I stayed with one Indian teacher until about ten years later, till about twenty three. Then I actually shifted my allegiance to a different spiritual teacher because the first system seemed a bit too traditional and conformist. I found another teacher who was very rebellious, wild and free. Everybody involved was looking to the teacher as the only enlightened person in the situation, so everybody else was somehow deficient, or still trying to get something.

Then I met what I would say is my true teacher, the man who really flipped it around for me, his name was HWL Poonjah (Papaji). He lived in Lucknow in India, he is dead now. He was really the first human being, as I look back on it, who had the kind of common decency to not enrol me in another treadmill but to actually point the attention to this moment. When I met him he was very gruff, he was an ex-army officer, he growled at me and said, What do you want? I said, Well, I want freedom, and he said, OK. He said OK like that was not a big deal, he said, OK, no problem. Show me the entity which is bound. Show me the entity which is trapped and I will set it free.

I thought that was a great deal. All I had to do was to show him this pathetic little ego and he would liberate it. But in fact, it was a trick question, because if you try and find the entity, you can’t find it. There isn’t really anything like that. It all exists in thought but there isn’t really an entity called the ego or whatever else we call it, the mind or something. So if you actually go and look for this separate entity that you have called ‘me’, you don’t find it and instead what you find is limitless consciousness.

He was really the one who pointed out what is already true in this moment, which is that form, which means sounds and colours and shapes and movement, is being experienced right now by formlessness. That is actually the reality of the situation. And if we check it carefully through paying attention, we discover that that is true, that form is being experienced by formlessness. And there isn’t really a separate me anywhere in all of that.

There is a story of a separate me created by thinking, but when you are not thinking, there is nothing like that there and that is really the meaning of Awakening. It is to recognise that, but that it is not a state that you experience any way. I would say it is not a state that you attain once and then bang, you are enlightened, it is a realisation that can be tapped into again and again and again, now and now and now and now.

Graham
Yes, in a sense it is continuous, because this present moment never ends, it never begins and never ends, it is just always here. But what isn’t here is the past or the future. They are always memories or thought concepts, but if you are truly experiencing what has happened, what happens? You can only experience it now.

Arjuna
Exactly!

Graham
But that is a very radical concept. You call it Radical Awakening, is that correct?

Arjuna
Yes, Radical Awakening, we use that term for the process we use to have this recognition.

Graham
So that is a process recognise it, not to achieve it, but to actually become aware of its existence, is that right?

Arjuna
Yes, it is rather like a fish in the water, who is complaining about being thirsty. So you have a series of questions that you pose to the fish, like:     Well, are you swimming right now?     Yes.     Well what are you swimming ín?     I don’t know.     Well, look around, what do you see?     Oh, I guess I am swimming in water.     So, are you really thirsty?

I mean that would be a serious of questions that would not change the fish’s condition, it would simply point out to the fish that the idea of being thirsty is not a valid question for a fish. Fishes can’t be thirsty because they live in water. So the idea of questing for liberation, or questing for infinity doesn’t make any sense because you only quest in that way when you are not paying attention to what is already here, and you pay attention to who you already are, you realise that what you are questing for ís that which is questing. And the whole thing collapses.

Graham
But isn’t that the most difficult thing for people, because so many people look for outside validation. They look for what is actually out there for them in the world. I think of, for example, that lovely story of the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, where Santiago spends the whole book looking for the treasure, which he eventually finds he was sitting on at the very beginning when he started his quest.

Arjuna
Yes, that is a very beautiful analogy.

Graham
People spend their lives looking for that outside treasure, if you like.

Arjuna
By the way, Graham, I am just going to complement you, it is a pleasure to have such an intelligent and vivacious interviewer. It is not everybody who comes to the interview with such a rich background, so thank you for that.

Graham
Thank you very much!

Arjuna
It is a really great point you made. I think we have to make the distinction between what is difficult and easy, and what is habitual and not habitual. Imagine that somebody is pacing around the room. Imagine you see somebody and they are pacing around the room, pacing around the room, pacing around the room. They can’t keep still. You say, Why don’t you sit down? The person could say, Well that is difficult. It is actually not difficult to sit down, it is easy. It is easier to sit down than it is to pace around the room, it is just not habitual. That person has got in the habit of pacing around the room, so they are not in the habit of resting.

Resting is not difficult, it is easy to rest, it is just not habitual. So, in the same way, to realise your true nature is limitless is not difficult, because it’s what is already true. It is just that we are not in the habit. We are in the habit of chasing with attention things that have beginning and end in time. Which means that we are in the habit of chasing, with attention, things that are all subject to death. And we are not in the habit of paying attention to that which is eternal, which doesn’t have death. That is the invitation, really.

I think it is really important to make not too big a deal of this, because this is really just the beginning of a sane life, you see, to have this kind of awakening. It may be the end of seeking, but it is the beginning of living, of loving life in a way that makes sense to you and that becomes of service to other people. It is when we talk about the embodiment of awakening that the whole thing becomes interesting.

Graham
But it is essential to have this beginning, because without the awareness you can’t move on to the more important things in life and the more exciting and fascinating things in life.

Arjuna
Yes, exactly. You know, just like you, I am not just limitless consciousness. I am also speaking from the body of a man, and you are speaking from the body of a man too. So when it comes to our incarnation, when it comes to that consciousness taking form and living life, then gender actually becomes relevant because awakening is going to express itself and live itself through a human body.

This is incredibly relevant to the evolution of masculinity. Just as there has already been a big evolution in feminine expression—which we can discuss in a minute—a really important part of the evolution of masculinity has to do with the embodiment of presence. I think that is really what your show is about, conscious masculinity.

Graham
It is and we’ll go on to talk about this, but what I am really interested in is beyond the consciousness, beyond the spirit, men live within the body of a man, as women live within the body of a woman, but the effect of that physically on men and men’s consciousness is the thing that I am really fascinated about.

Arjuna
Yes.

Masculinity

Graham
Arjuna, we have been talking about your life, about consciousness, and about your spiritual growth if you like. I’d like to go on to talk about masculinity. I’d like to start with where did you learn about masculinity, where did that come from in your upbringing, where did your sense of being a man come from.

Arjuna
I think, Graham, like many people, I didn’t have much of a sense of that. My father—God bless him—had his own challenges in the way he was raised. I don’t think he felt very well equipped to pass on any kind of model of healthy masculinity. I think he was pretty aware of that actually, that he was quite restricted in his expression of masculinity. One of the ways that we measure conscious masculinity is in the way that you meet the feminine. If a man is unable to love a woman, or unable satisfy a woman—I don’t just mean with his penis, but with his whole presence—if he is unable to bring himself to fully gift himself to a woman, that is a restriction. I think for most men, if they don’t know how to love, if they don’t know how to be with a woman, it feels like a restriction and my father definitely had that kind of restriction. So that was passed on to me.

I don’t remember when it was. I think what happens, for all of us, is that it is when a man—well, it happens in two ways—when a man starts to get interested in women, as a teenager, that’s when he discovers how much he can hold a conscious masculine presence that is attractive to a woman. But also, the same thing happens around the same time with other men, are you going to be the man who lays on the beach and has sand kicked in his face, or are you going to be the bully who kicks the sand in the face? Either way, your masculinity is probably restricted, whether you play the dominator or the dominated. So just as we have talked about with habit, I think very few people have been raised in a way that gave them a healthy model of masculinity. Most of us inherited very broken role models, so we had to figure this out for ourselves, in what does it mean to be a conscious man.

So there are really two things, one is what does it mean to be embodied as a man and the second, which is slightly separate, is what is the conscious expression of masculine energy, as opposed to the unconscious expression. You can be really masculine in a very unconscious way and that shows up as violence or in extreme competitiveness, or being very analytical, very rigid in your views. That could come across as very masculine but not in a very conscious, attractive way but there are also conscious qualities of masculinity as well. And the same thing applies to the feminine of course.

Graham
Yes, it does. I totally agree with you. It is when you become conscious of the teenage years, when you become conscious of your physical masculinity if you like, is often when people suppress or repress it or become screwed up for want of a better phrase. But do you think that men have a core sense of masculinity, that predates this conditioning. Do you think that in becoming a conscious man that we can be going back to more of a sense of masculinity that we were born with.

Arjuna
Well, I don’t know about ‘born with’, because a new born baby doesn’t really express the same qualities of defined gender because of hormones. I mean, literally, a little baby boy doesn’t have so much testosterone in the body as an adult man would and doesn’t have facial hair or body hair and so on. So a lot of what we are talking about as conscious masculinity is tied to the awakening of sexuality and, prior to sexuality, boys and girls play together without much of a feeling of distinction. But once they hit puberty, that’s when the real polarisation happens. So I wouldn’t quite say that we are born with it. This is something we focus on a lot in the Awakening Coaching, because our aim with the coaching is to help people to embody awakening, not just to have a taste of awakening. A taste of awakening without embodiment can be very frustrating.

If you have spiritual experiences but they are not lived in your life, it can be very frustrating. We do a lot of work with the embodiment of gender and the way that we look at it is not so much what you are born with, but the way we would say it is that everybody has a natural balance of masculine and feminine energy. We are not saying ‘male’ and ‘female’, we are saying masculine and feminine energy.

Graham
Yes I know that.

Arjuna
So, most men, almost all men have more masculine than feminine energy, because, masculine energy is tied to the release of testosterone into the blood. But it doesn’t mean that all men are 100% masculine and zero feminine, men have feminine energy as well. There is a balance and that balance, I would say, is unique to each person. So some men could be as close as 50-50 and that is not necessarily a gay man, but it is a man who is going to have a lot of feminine energy. Some men can be 98% masculine, but there is a balance for everybody. A good coach is able to, first of all, help you to relax into the natural balance so that you are showing up the way God planned you to, if you want to put it in those terms. But he also helps you to move into the conscious expression of masculine energy. There is a destructive and a creative side to masculine energy, so a good coach can support you to live into your fullest potential. With the fullest conscious potential, we can all give the gifts we were born to give.

Graham
Is that what a conscious man is? Is a conscious man somebody who truly embodies the balance of masculinity and femininity he has inside him and truly expresses it to the world?

Arjuna
Well, you know Graham, I think it is up to you and me and everybody on the call, it is up to all of us to stay in that dialogue about what is a conscious man, you know. I don’t think we can come up with a clear definition, it is an ongoing inquiry. Perhaps this might be a good time to just quickly bookmark the historical aspect of this?

Graham
Yes please do, yes.

Arjuna
I think most people are aware that prior to 1917, in some countries 1913, women were widely viewed, by both men and women, as a kind of secondary race, alright?

Graham
Yes!

Arjuna
The world was populated by men and then there were these kind of back-up human beings called women. They had children but couldn’t really make decisions or think for themselves. Consequently—I mean it is extraordinary to think of this now—consequently up until 1913 to 1917 women were not able to vote, because they were considered to not have the intelligence to make a choice like that. I mean it is extraordinary to think that...

Graham
It is extraordinary, I know!

Arjuna
Less than a hundred years ago the consensus among men and women was that women did not have the intelligence to be able to choose a leader. Extraordinary!

Graham
And they didn’t think there was anything peculiar about that.

Arjuna
Neither gender did.

Graham
Neither gender, that’s right

Arjuna
So, in the 1910s, in that decade, it wasn’t men who went, Oh my God, we’ve made a booboo here! Silly us, we shouldn't have ever assumed that women were less intelligent. It wasn’t men who did that, it was women who claimed the right to vote. It was through women chaining themselves to railings and doing all kinds of stuff, that women actually claimed their right. But at that point it was simply claiming their right to have a little more say in a man’s world. It still remained a man’s world.

Now we can move the clock forward to the 1970s where another change happened. Where women said, Wait a minute, I don’t just want to vote, I actually want to participate. So that’s the first time we saw women becoming ministers in the church, becoming judges, becoming police, going into the army. Up until the 1970s that did not happen at all. So now we had women claiming their right to participate in a game where the rules had been actually set by men over thousands of years.

Now, in my opinion, and I have been criticised for this widely, but I’ll say it anyway, in this last decade of the 2000s and 2010s, we are seeing another wave, where women, not men, women are saying, Wait a minute, we’re actually just playing in a man-made world, what about if some of these values were created by women? There a lot of men who are very frightened by feminism and I can understand why, because feminism can sometimes get very kind of militant.

I don’t think most women are trying to dominate men and create a sort of matriarchy. I think most intelligent women are looking for a balance of masculine and feminine energy—at least the women I know. People are asking now what would spirituality look like if it had a feminine face as well as a masculine face? What would ecology look like? What would finance look like? What would international relations look like if it wasn’t completely dominated by men and by testosterone? What we have seen then in the last hundred years in two very specific stages is a huge evolution in women becoming conscious of their identity, conscious of their gender.

Now, as you are an example and so are some of the other guests you’ve had on like Jeff Brown and Lion Goodman. So now many men are asking, What about us? Maybe we can actually also become more conscious of our masculinity, what would be a conscious expression of masculine energy. But the feminine has done this, had to do this just to claim a kind of equality. Now it is up to the masculine to ask these questions: what is a conscious man?

Graham
What?

Arjuna
I’ll say one last thing to illustrate this. If you go back to the 1950s—I am assuming that you were probably born in the 1950s, is that correct?

Graham
Late forties, 48.

Arjuna
OK, great, same timespan. If we go back to how we were raised—I don’t know if you remember your childhood very much—but it was very common at that time for a woman to stay home, do the cooking, clean the house, look after the children...

Graham
Yes, my mother did that.

Arjuna
...and the men would work. It was more than 50%, maybe even higher, at least in England. That was how people lived. The woman was there to serve the man, and, in my father’s case, I don’t think he ever knew how to cook. Maybe he could boil an egg under duress, but he didn’t really know how to cook food, he relied upon women to do that, right?

Graham
I never saw my father cook.

Arjuna
At that time, generally speaking, the father would not change nappies—I saw my father occasionally—but not nearly as much as I saw my mother. If you look back to the feminine aspect of that, which is that women were staying home, being subservient, following their husband’s lead, you can hardly find any instance of that at all any more. Maybe in some Middle Eastern countries it is still like that, but in America and Europe that’s gone.

In Australia it is very rare to find a woman who is willing to dedicate her life to being subservient to a man. But if you look at the role that my father had, and your father had, which was dominated by going to work, forming a career and having difficulties with feeling, you can find many men today who are still caught in the same stereotypical role that they were in the fifties.

That illustrates, if you agree with that, that we have seen more of an evolution of feminine embodiment than we have of masculine. Now men are catching up. Men are now asking this question: what is conscious masculinity? Is it really necessary to be violent or aggressive or competitive in order to be a conscious man. A lot of times when we ask these questions, a lot of men get really upset and say: Oh, you are a beta-male, or you are—what do they call that now—a men-gina...

Graham
A men-gina, that’s right.

Arjuna
There are all these words, for the terror of being dominated by women. A lot of it comes back to the relationship we have with our mother, if the mother was dominating? Really the question I am interested in asking is not how can we become subservient men to women, but how can we become conscious men? How can we embody a masculinity that is consciously chosen, instead of just driven by unconscious conditioning.

Graham
It is working through the confusion that men feel nowadays, because a lot of men sense this going on but they don’t know how to deal with it. At the same time they experience women who want men to be strong, not dominant or strong in the old fashioned sense, but they want men to be strong in themselves, strong in their masculinity. They in fact want men to find this new emergence. But men find it confusing because they haven’t yet developed the language to equate these two directions and I think that’s...

Arjuna
Yes,

Graham
...probably the problem you found in talking about conscious men in the manifesto. Was the language something that people fought against. that men, alpha-males, the traditional dominant man, fought against because they could only see it as their subjugation, as them being suppressed and pushed down?

Arjuna
Yes.

Graham
Let's go on and talk about the films and about the Manifesto.

Arjuna
Great.

The Manifesto

Graham
Arjuna, we have been talking about conscious men and about the emergence and development that is needed in men. You became famous amongst many men for the Manifesto you wrote with Gay Hendricks...

Arjuna
I think the word you are looking for there Graham is infamous...

Graham
At least ‘infamous’, that’s right.

Perhaps you would have preferred that that wouldn’t have happened, because you have earned a lot of criticism, particularly with the movie ‘Dear Woman’. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

Arjuna
Well, the way it happened was kind of interesting. I wrote a blogpost for the Huffington Post—Why It Is Wise to Worship a Woman —on why it is wise to worship a woman. The essence of that blogpost is really simple, that most men—I think, not all, but most men—are… frightened by, or have challenge with intimacy.

I would say it is more difficult for a man to get close and intimate than it is for a women. It is to do, once again, with hormones, testosterone is more of an accomplishing, a protecting hormone and a boundary setting hormone. Oxytocin, a female hormone, is more of a cuddling, merging kind of hormone, so women have an easier time with intimacy. The blogpost was simply saying that when a man actually dedicates himself, through a kind of a discipline, of really loving his woman and to putting aside the temptations—the flirts and window shopping—but really deeply loving his woman, there are great rewards in that. It said why it is wise to worship a woman. I wrote this thing and it got a lot of response, a lot men-gina/beta-male bashing from some people, but is also was appreciated as well.

Then my buddy Gay Hendricks—he has written a lot of books about conscious relationship—resonated with it and suggested, Really, women have struggled so hard to create equality, what would be kind of cool, as well as women having to fight to hard to express their own identity in the world, it would be kind of cool for men, if they feel able to do this, to acknowledge and express regret for so many thousands of years of male dominance.

I think is it a whole other topic whether that kind of apology or regret is appropriate, we certainly felt it and we knew that there were a lot of women who would feel healed and nourished by hearing men acknowledging this. So, we wrote a Manifesto, we actually wrote it with the help of… ehm… of Jeff Brown, and we got a lot of help from Bill Kauth, who founded the ManKind Project.

So, we wrote this Manifesto. It went on Facebook and I think it got maybe ten thousand likes, which is great but nothing that is going to hit the news. At that point it was probably 85% women—or maybe not that much—60% women who were appreciating the Manifesto and appreciating the gesture and they felt good about it. A lot of men said, Yeah, I resonate with this. Then we had the idea to make it into a movie, which we did in a very off the cuff way. We didn’t have any budget, we just went to a Christmas Party—I think this is in the winter of 2011...

Graham
Oh, really!

Arjuna
At the Christmas Party we just grabbed a bunch of guys, took them into the gazebo and filmed them speaking different parts of the Manifesto, then I did it with some of my men’s group in Nevada City and finally we were missing some pieces, so I went to a local grocery store, set up the camera in their meeting room and I was literally just grabbing men off the isles in the grocery store and saying, Hey, would you be willing—do you resonate with this—would you be willing... So we did it in this off the cuff way and we thought OK, we got ten thousand likes on Facebook, this video will be for the same people, so maybe we’ll get ten thousand likes’.

We got a hundred thousand views on YouTube in the first week.

Graham
Wow!

Arjuna
We were on national television, we were on Lopez Tonight with George Lopez. We were on national television seven times and Willie Farrell and his company—Funny Or Die—went to enormous trouble to film a parody. It got this huge amount of coverage—I think it is close to a million hits right now, I haven’t looked for a while where the counter is, but it got an incredible amount of attention. Now, because it got so much attention, it meant that it spread beyond people who were sympathetic to this kind of expression and it got viewed by lots of people who were not sympathetic at all.

Graham
Yes.

Arjuna
That is where—this is going to be the next book that I am working on now—it was fascinating for me to find out, just how alive and well misogyny is in the United States. I had no idea that there were thousands and thousands of men posting comments on this YouTube Channel, saying things like, Spread your legs bitch and make me a sammich. I didn’t know there were men alive today who talk that way.

Graham
It is frightening, yes.

Arjuna
There were thousands of men assuming we were gay. Either assuming we were gay or assuming that we had done this as a strategy to get laid. So I just realised ‘Oh my God’, the values that I thought had faded out in the fifties, they are actually thriving in America today. It was a strong reminder to me that we are not quite as far along as we thought.

Graham
I think that is putting it mildly, Arjuna.

Arjuna Yes!

Graham
What can be do about that? If we move beyond the accepted idea that conscious men are growing and emerging in men at large, in the general population, what is it that they need that will actually start other men down this road?

Arjuna
Right, well, that’s the whole dialogue really. I think it is important, in my opinion, to let this remain a question.

Graham
OK, why’s that?

Arjuna
The question being what is a conscious man?. To allow that to be a question and to not be in too much of a hurry to find an answer. It is a great question, what is a conscious man? And leave it like that.

Graham
Do you mean in the sense that leaving it as a question allows men, ordinary men, to start taking on the question, looking at it and answering it for themselves, rather than fitting into a cookie cutter response?

Arjuna
Well, we’re all ordinary men, my brother, every one of us...

Graham
Yes.

Arjuna
...we are all monkeys on the rock, you know!

Graham
OK, I’ll accept that.

Arjuna
I think it is a question we all have to find out for ourselves, because if we come up with an answer—especially if somebody authoritative, who’s eloquent comes up with an answer—it is not really allowing a man to live his authentic masculinity. It’s a really broad question. This is going to be my next book, that will come out next year some time. It is about conscious masculinity and I have identified so far ten qualities that many people will recognise as qualities of conscious masculinity and it is actually interesting to us men to ask women to tell us, not how a man should be, but what do you find attractive about the masculine? What she is probably going to tell you is the qualities she perceives as conscious masculinity as opposed to unconscious masculinity. If you ask what do you find unattractive about the masculine, she’s probably going to still describe masculine qualities but unconscious qualities. For example, violence.

Graham
Yes.

Arjuna
When a man is violent, it means that he is controlled by his anger. His anger has taken over his capacity to be conscious and to choose. In that moment, that is definitely a man who has become unconscious, because he is driven by emotional forces that have taken him over.

If a man gets very serious, if a man loses money, is insulted or something and takes it very seriously, he’s become trapped inside his small personal story. He has become unconscious of the game-like, playful quality of life. If a man sees a woman as an object of sexual prey, he has become unconscious, because he has lost contact with his love, he has lost contact with how beautiful women are and he has lost contact with the incredible deep gifts that can flow between men and women. If a man becomes competitive with his brother and starts to relish in his brother’s failures, so that he can accentuate his own triumphs, he has become unconscious of the possibility of collaboration, and brotherhood, which is such a valuable part of being a man.

So you can see that all of us, every single man, are all ordinary men and all of us, fall into unconscious patterns and sometimes rise into conscious behaviour. It is interesting, among all of us, to have dialogue about these things and to find out how do we instinctively recognise conscious masculinity.

Graham
It is interesting, because if you like step one in that process, it is what it says on the tin, that is being conscious of what you do with other people, how you are in the world and developing your own awareness of what you do no matter what it is. But the word conscious literally means being conscious of what you are doing and the implication is that the more you are conscious, the more you will live a more compassionate life, or a life that takes others into consideration more, a life that is not so self-absorbed. A life of anger or dominance is a very self-absorbed life.

Arjuna
Right.

Graham
The implication is that consciousness itself will ameliorate what you do.

Arjuna
Yes, there is another element, I completely agree with what you have said, but there is another element to this, which has to do with paradox. A great deal of what happens in the conversation about conscious masculinity has to do with paradoxical qualities that can co-exist. So a conscious man you know as a complex living organism can embody seeming opposites. So a conscious man, as you just said, he might embody compassion and being sensitive to other people’s needs, which would be one aspect of his conscious masculinity.

He might also embody leadership and seeing the direction, leading people forward in the right direction with confidence. If you had one of those qualities without the other, you would have an imbalanced man, but when you have the two together you start to have a complex, integrated person. In the same way, humour, I would say, is a really important aspect of conscious masculinity. When you are humorous generally you are able to see the game. You are humorous about Monopoly when you can remember it’s a game.

You get serious about Monopoly when you start to think that it is really about money and buying hotels. So, when a man loses his humour he becomes unconscious but if we only emphasise humour, he becomes superficial so the paradoxical element is that he is honest, he is sincere, he is willing to tell the truth, to himself and to other people about the actuality of his human condition.

Graham
Yes, that explains why I always find that one of the great qualities of a man is his vulnerability, is his acceptance of vulnerability.

Arjuna
Right.

Graham
But in a sense he can only do that once he has certainty about himself, once he is balancing certainty and uncertainty.

Arjuna
Yes.

Graham
If he has one and not the other, he either becomes a fairly weak man or a dominant man, but somewhere in the middle is that sense of consciousness.

Arjuna
Exactly, exactly.

Graham
We are...

Arjuna
We are, we are, tell us, we are what? We are conscious men!

Graham
We are conscious men.

We are drawing to a close as well I’m afraid. I have really enjoyed the conversation Arjuna and I have to say...

Arjuna
It has been an honour to talk to you.

Graham
Well, I’d love to talk to you again when your new book comes out next year maybe, perhaps we can talk about that.

Arjuna
Sure! That sounds wonderful, I’d love that.

One Last Question

Graham
I’d like to ask you one question though, what is the one thing a man can do today that will make a big difference in his life? What is something he can take away and put into action straight away?

Arjuna
OK... I don’t know there is just one thing, but if I had to choose one thing, I think the thing that actually unlocks masculine gifts most effectively is to really be with the question who is experiencing this moment.

So, when you have feelings, to start to differentiate. OK, feelings are arising, but the feelings are being experienced. Who is experiencing them? Who is aware of feelings? Who is aware of thoughts? Who is aware of beliefs? Who is aware of the body? When you just introduce this question—it is a question, not an answer—of who is aware, the attention starts to return to the dimension of yourself which is free, which is infinite, which was never born, which could never die, which is also beyond masculine and feminine. The more you rest in that freedom, the more everything can become conscious, because it is rather like re-booting a computer from, not from the hard-drive but from an external device. Now you can make changes to the hard drive. You can’t edit the operating system if you are booting up from it, if you understand what I mean by that?

Graham
Yes I do.

Arjuna
So in the same way, you need to be able to dis-identify to some degree from your conditioning to be able to recognise it and make conscious choices. I would say the most important step that any man can make is to recognise that he exists outside of his story. There is a story, but he also exists outside of the story and to wake up to that, to rest in that, to rest as that, allows the possibility of a masculinity that is a consciously given gift instead of an instinctively blurted embarrassment.

Graham
Thank you, that is very helpful.

If people want to keep in touch with you or connect with you on the internet where is the best place for them to go to?

Arjuna
I have a personal blog where I write and where you can find out more about me personally.

Graham
OK. Thank you very much for being with us Arjuna, and I hope to speak to you again next year.

Arjuna
It has been a pleasure, thank you.

Graham
Thank you.