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Exploring Men's Work
November 22, 2022
In this episode of One-Degree Shifts, we speak with Devon Walker, a psychedelic support guide and mindfulness teacher. We explore the concept of masculinity from Devon's perspective, men's work, healing the masculine, and more.
- Some of the cultural and historical markers of what masculinity has traditionally meant
- Ways that men can shift from a history of mass destruction to mass regeneration
- Stories and ways that we can take to help heal our wounded masculine
- The benefits of a supportive men’s circle
- How the polarities of universal energy might manifest themselves in psychedelic experiences
00:00 - Introduction
02:00 - His personal journey with psychedelics
32:38 – What masculinity means to him
38:13 – Feminine and masculine polarity growing up
46:23 – The rise of women's and men's circles
54:00 – From mass destruction to mass regeneration
1:04:03 – Pascal's psychedelic experience with healing the masculine
1:07:23 – Points of cultural reference to masculinity in medicine spaces
1:19:37 – His experience working with women and their masculinity
1:23:59 – Exploring masculinity in the context of a romantic relationship
1:33:04 – His greatest hopes for the psychedelic space
I was born in California. My mother is a Bolivian immigrant of Spanish and Indigenous lineage and a survivor of generational trauma. My father is a 12th-generation American from a working-class family in rural North Carolina.
When I was 5 years old, we moved to a suburb of New York City. I saw my first therapist when I was 7 years old, I was diagnosed with depression and started taking antidepressants at 9 years old. By the time I was in high school, I was diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disability (NVLD) and “ADD” (Attention Deficit Disorder).
I spent the next two decades trying to fix myself, others, and the world around me…
I first started meditating when I co-founded a social impact startup in NYC. I was 25 years old, working 100 hours a week. I felt stressed, busy, and mercilessly driven to perform by adrenaline, cortisol, or ritalin. I started with the app headspace, it was a struggle to do the 10-minute meditations. When we ran out of money and the company crashed (I had to fire all 40 of our people including myself), I felt like I lost my identity. My ego had been so attached to the success of the company, that, when the company no longer had any value, "I" had no value. It started me down a dark spiral into the worst depression I have ever known.
A year later, over the course of one month, I lost my “dream job” at the world’s largest hedge fund, I went through a terrible breakup, my grandfather died and my mother checked herself into the psychiatric ward at a hospital.
I broke down.
At the very bottom of that depression, I found myself on thanksgiving day at a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Massachusetts. At that time, it was the most painful and profound experience of my life. In that meditation hall under a blanket of snow, I hit "rock bottom" and guess what... I bounced...
When I walked out of that meditation hall, I was still depressed, feeling broken, alone, and terribly afraid, but I knew that underneath all the ego-pain, down through the story of self and the darkness of my mind there was a place inside me where everything was okay. That knowledge would give me the strength to walk the rest of the long dark tunnel to recovery. I didn’t know anything else, but I knew that if I could get myself meditating every day I was going to survive the depression.
After decades of psychiatry and psychotherapy, a degree in philosophy, thousands of hours of meditation, and years of coaching, yoga, dance, men's work, psychedelic therapy, and ceremonial healing... the only thing left to fix was the story that I (or anyone else) needed fixing. It was my work with the grandmother medicine Ayahuasca that truly allowed me to transcend the old ways of negativity and brokenness.
When that illusion passed, I knew everything had to change.
I left my career, home, and relationships behind and went on a year-long journey of learning how to live in my new reality. The reality in which all the parts and forms of myself were accepted, loved, and perfect.
It was a life-changing journey. Partly because I had to completely dismantle “my life” to begin the journey, and partly because the experience of walking the road itself altered me. The people I met, the land I lived on, the food and water I drank, the ideas I absorbed, the music, the dance, the oceans I swam in, the dangers I confronted... all these things changed me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. They wore "me" down. The experience of flowing through life without attachment sloughed off the emotional armor, the old stories, the physical and mental images of my identity, and infused me with a sense of impermanence.
When I returned I felt reduced, lighter, more essential, simpler, and more connected with life at large. I felt closer to my authentic self. This is to say I was more able to BE more, DO less, and live in the enjoyment, acceptance, and enthusiasm that arise from it.
First, I learned to love myself. Then, I learned to love my family. Finally, I learned to love everyone else. So now, that's what I do…
This is my mission: Helping you unfix yourself. So that you can live fully, love well, and let go of the rest.
Pascal: Hello. Welcome to Nectara’s Conversations. I’m your host, Pascal Tremblay, I’m the CEO and co-founder of Nectara. We're an online platform helping people find belonging and meaning on their psychedelic wellness journey. Today, I’m talking with my friend Devon Walker, he's a coach and a mindfulness teacher and a psychedelic preparation integration guide. He's part of our Nectara team of guides as well. I first met Devon about, I would say, a year ago, right Devon, something around there?
Devon: Yeah, I guess, right.
Pascal: I was quite impressed immediately with his maturity and his emotional intelligence and his kindness and his good heart, and the way he also approaches his work with really high integrity. So Devon's been a good friend since then, and looking forward to getting to know him a little bit better today. Devon lives in between Toronto and Florida, and he's getting married soon, which is awesome, and would love to hear Devon, first of all, hi, welcome.
Devon: Thank you. Thank you, Pascal. It's such a pleasure to be here.
Pascal: Likewise to have you. What's your mission in the world, what are you up to?
Devon: Yeah, so I’ve been working – actually, I’ve been working with a coach recently. One of the things we've been working on is my mission statement, what is the thing that I can wake up in the morning and say and use that as my guiding force. And so, it's obviously work in progress and these things change and evolve, but yeah, my mission is to bring help – do my part to bring humanity forward into alignment with what I call the spirit of nature, and, I mean, that literally with the laws of nature and the natural world and climate and these kinds of things; and then also, I mean, in terms of spirit, which, I mean, the unknown or something bigger than ourselves. And I believe that is the proper – that there's healthy relationships with those things and ways of being in relationship with those two things that are, shall we say, in alignment with reality, and they aren't.
And in my life, my level of suffering, my level of thriving is determined by that alignment, and it's also what I help people do in many different realms of life. So I do that, as you mentioned, through coaching, where I work with just kind of life coaching as well as leadership coaching, and also work a lot with masculinity, and I also do that through teaching mindfulness for organizations and working with Nectara as an integration guide. So that's what I’m up to.
Pascal: Beautiful. I’m a big fan of always having kind of anchor points for what we're up to in the world, like a mission statement, a purpose statement, values that help guide you, and the guiding principles that help guide your life, cause all those things eventually shape your destiny. So I’m a big fan of putting that on paper, so kudos to you for looking at those statements and really helping define in a more clearer, more embodied way, like, what you're up to in the world, and that leads to more clear action and more powerful actions as well.
Devon: Yeah, it does. And the thing I would say that's been really helpful about this is it helps me know what to say no to, which I think is one of the hardest things to do in the world, especially now where there's so much coming at us and it's even things that I would like to do or like to engage in and like to explore, sometimes I just need to say no in order to stay focused on my mission. And that's a super helpful tool for me, so yeah.
Pascal: Yeah, well said. So now you're having to develop, or looking at your mission statement and it's 2022 now, and take us back to how it all started, like, the first step in this journey, or like a very important step you had along the journey of being here today and being able to say that you're helping people walk their own journey and, at the same time, of course, like, walking your own at the same time, and always learning and having a beginner's mind around these things that you're exploring in your own life, how did it all start?
Devon: Yeah, well, I think it's good to start here because, as you say, there's the idea of a beginner's mind and my work is to help people on their journey, right? But I try to keep it grounded in my own experience, like, what I will talk about today, what I’ve learned through my life, the practices that I teach people, the ways in which I help people are basically the ways in which I’ve learned to help myself. And usually, I’m maybe a step or five steps ahead of people, or even right beside people, on the journey that they're walking, but there's something that I have to offer, and there's something that they have to offer me.
And so, I like starting here, because that really is the frame that guide – that houses my work, is that I’m working with things that I’ve used to help me on my path. And typically, the things that have actually been beneficial for me are also things that other people can find useful as well, and the other things that I know the best. So all that, just to say, I’m a learner, and it's a continuous learning journey. I was born in California, sunny Southern California, and I think that's kind of baked into my climate preferences. I’m up in Canada a lot. My partner lives in Toronto here, and I can feel almost like the part of me that was born in the sunshine and by the ocean.
And so, that's, you know, connecting with that was an early part of my experience is just being on the water, and being by the ocean and hearing the sound of the ocean you live, like, five minutes from the ocean in Dana Point, California. And when I was five, we moved – we moved across the country to Connecticut, and that was a really, really difficult thing for me. I think I was just highly sensitive, I come from a family that – my mom's side were immigrant immigrants from Bolivia, and there's a lot of generational trauma, a lot that was experienced in that immigration, in the leaving of home, and that was experienced ancestrally.
So I already had a lot of sensitivity going in, and when we made that move, it really affected me. And so, by the time I was seven years old, I had a lot of, what they would call in the nineties, behavioral issues, anger problems; these kinds of just disruptive, running away from school, you're coming home from school and just sitting on the steps and screaming unconsolably until I was too exhausted. And so, by the time I was seven years old, that's when I started seeing my first therapist, and by the time I was nine, I was on antidepressants, and that kind of began my journey of struggling with wellness, and seeking wellness, and seeking these kinds of things, and was diagnosed with lots of learning disabilities, and had a very tumultuous journey through childhood.
But one of the gifts was that I did start this kind of introspection when I was seven years old, and continued that for 20 years, and as part of my way of dealing with the instability of my circumstances growing up in my home, I found I had a pretty sharp mind, and I learned that I could protect myself using my mind, using rationality; that I could essentially, through rationalizing, through saying you make sense or you don't make sense, or you're rational, or this is not rational, or that's not rational, I found some kind of grounding in my life and through high school, and this was really rewarded in school. This was, critical thinking was like my jam, right? I was so critical, and I was so sharp, and so, over the years, by the time I was in college, I was studying analytical philosophy and really honing this rationality, this hyper-rationality, this really living in my mind, and over time became pretty disconnected from my body and disconnected from my heart.
And I don't think this is a totally uncommon story, I mean, I think our society rewards this. Right? And actually, this was the thing that was valued, and [inaudible] said you should go to law school, you're going to be a great lawyer, or in business as an analyst. And so, I went into my 20s into the workforce, disconnected from my heart, disconnected from my body, and with a, what I would call, highly weaponized intelligence. My intellect was weaponized, in a way, it was seeking the weak spots in things that people would say or ideas or structures or companies or whatever, and finding those and revealing them; and that's what I got hired to do, essentially, to like find problems and diagnose them essentially in people, in places.
And so, that was my identity, right? And as I went and I – I had a real powerful desire to make public change, and then, I studied political philosophy, in particular, and I really felt growing up that there was so much wrong with our society and government, and I just felt that things weren't the way that they should be, and I endeavored to change that. So I started a company, a social impact firm after a couple of years of consulting, and long story short is, I burnt myself out – probably like the third time in three years that I had burnt myself out, and in that process of burnout and then subsequent depression, I realized a couple of things. I realized that this way of living in my head wasn't working for me health wise, it wasn't effective at doing the good that I wanted to do in the world.
And yeah, that I was suffering, and my body was suffering, I didn't really know how to take care of myself. And that's when I started meditating, that's when I went to my first Vipassana retreat, and that started me on this whole different journey where 18-20 years of therapy, talk therapy helped me understand in a really clear way what I was – why I was the way that I was. I understood my early childhood influences, I understood psychology, I had an introspective practice, but it was all intellectual, and it was all understanding; and what I found was that no matter how well I understand my patterns, it didn't actually help me change them or shift them. Like, I had an addictive pattern to say video games or something, and I knew that I was running away from these feelings. So I knew these things, but it didn't help me actually change it. Right?
And so, after this period of depression and suffering, I found – I started coaching, I hired a coach, and we started to practice, and we practiced through mindfulness based practice, how to begin to open my mind, to change my mind to come down out of my head and into my body. I moved to Los Angeles, I started getting into dance and music, I started DJing, and I stopped with the burnout basically. And I was working at startups, tech startups in a product role, and my goal at that time was like just focus on taking care of myself and focus on my personal development and work, my career became, number two, number three on my list of priorities, which was a new thing for me. And I did that for a couple of years, and I found that I got to basically a neutral good place.
I was able to take care of myself, I held down the job, I was productive there, I enjoyed it, I enjoyed the people, I enjoyed the city. And I got to this place in my life where it was like, oh, I’m doing pretty well. And at that point, I realized that because of the antidepressants that I was on, I was also living life within a smaller range. Right? Like, the lows were not that low and the highs were not that high. And I thought, wow, like, I’m doing well, I'm stabilized, and I would like to expand my experience of life.
So I went through the whole process of going off these antidepressants, having to learn how to deal with the extremities of life through things like meditation and yoga and all of this. But I still had this, I would say, frame of reference, that the world was basically a scientific materialist kind of view of the world, that things were things and it was all about science, and I really didn't believe anything that couldn't be provable through an experiment. But as I started to become well, I had this underlying sense that like there was something about my life that didn't fit, it was like, I had transformed on the inside, but I was still in the same body, and I needed to go into a cocoon and transform, and that's when plant medicine came into my life in a significant way.
Well, I had been going to [inaudible] and doing some psilocybin and LSD experimenting, recreationally for a while. But then, I felt a call to work with ayahuasca, and it came into my life in a really clear way, in a way I just – it was that instant yes, like, oh, I’m interested in that, and I really feel like I need to do that. And my first ceremony was absolutely extraordinary, it was like I popped out of that cocoon, and all of a sudden, I had a completely different worldview where I really started to view the world as multilayered, multifaceted, and really just acknowledging that there's so much beyond what I could know and see.
And that is what opened me up to the journey that I've been on these last, five, six, seven years, which is the journey of finding my purpose in the world, and finding partnership and exploring and understanding that multifaceted nature of reality. So that's kind of my story, and I would say before that psychedelic experience, there was a me, and then afterwards there's a me. Right? And it's like AD, it's like BC and AD, that's how I kind of feel in my life. It's like before Devon and after Devon in a way.
Pascal: Never heard that one before.
Pascal: That's good [inaudible] analogy.
Devon: That's truly how I think about my life, I was like, oh, is that like before or, yeah, okay, yeah, that was like before, cause I really felt like a different person. And yeah, so I've just continued – continued that journey of looking deeper and deeper inside myself, and learning more and more about the nature of reality. And I’m really interested in the ways that the things under the surface, or the things that are not visible, influence what we see, and how we behave, and the culture that we're a part of, and the society, and our relationships.
And a lot of my work is helping people go inside and direct the gaze, the attention, the awareness inside as a way of looking at some of these inner forces that exist within them. And my belief is that if we want to change the world, we have to change ourselves first, it's the thing – we basically have almost no control over most things, but we do have influence of where we put our attention.
And so, a lot of my work is helping people use that influence and develop the capacity to influence where they place their attention in order to transform the way they move, and see the world, and see themselves. And that's where I am now, and I work with psychedelics as allies; I work with plant medicine as allies to help achieve that mission, because that's what's helped me move towards wellness and wholeness and synchronicity with nature and with reality.
Pascal: Thanks for sharing. I heard someone call psychedelics karma accelerators one, and I thought that was pretty accurate. And while you were sharing your story, I was nodding a lot, because I was like, oh that's like my story, oh that's like my story. I was very similar to you growing up, like, my brain was my protector, it did serve me really well, got me through some pretty intense family things.
Pascal: And that became my mode of operating until I was maybe 35-36. I'm almost 42 now, and I’m curious, like, from just in terms of understanding and sharing, like, your story relative to mine, when I was going through that phase of being super brain heavy, I also had this deep awareness of my heart inside, as being like a very strong energy for me, and yet, it seemed like my brain was consistently overriding that knowingness of what I had inside. I'm curious like how you navigated that as someone growing up, like, you started very early in the therapeutic world, like, seven – did you have that deep awareness of your true essence at that point when you were growing up, like, going into your teens and early adult lives, and how were your relationships before the psychedelic experience, how were you navigating that world?
Devon: Yeah, that's a very complex question. I think that I was not aware, as you describe, of my core essence. I think I felt emotions, I knew I was highly sensitive, but I believe because of the antidepressants that I was on more or less consistently since I was nine, those helped me manage my emotions, they helped me fit in. And so, then anything that was like on the outer edges of that range of emotion that I could experience, I could rationalize, and I could disprove, or I could disregard or regard. I was very emotional for sure, but I had all of these systems keeping me within the bounds, so I was able to exist in society, exist in the school system to perform, to be in the – and I grew up with a lot of privilege too.
So if someone says they go to therapy when they're seven years old, it means that they've grown up with an immense amount of privilege. And I think that also played a part in insulating me from having to feel fully, I'm always on the antidepressants, but I was also on stimulants for attention deficit disorder, and I had all sorts of support in school to help me manage my emotions and learn skills about how to communicate and navigate through. And God bless my parents, cause they really did the best that they could without the tools of knowing how to do that themselves within themselves, to help me be at their image of what success would be for them.
And so, yeah, I would say, no, I think largely it was cut off from my heart, and I didn't understand that my true essence was below my neck. I was really identified with my ability to rationalize, and it was not in a soulless way, I mean, definitely, I was attracted to Aristotle, and for a long time, I memorized this quote from Aristotle. It was like the good life for man is the attempt to seek the good life for man, and then, virtue is necessary for the seeking or those which enable the good life, you know, the person to seek. And that was my guiding essence, it was this very philosophical point of view, and I really wanted all of my actions to be aligned with articulated principles, and that was useful, and it provided a channel for my inner desire to have integrity, and my inner desire for truth, which I would say is part of my essence, and what I do now.
And also it was constraining because so much of my awareness, so much of my love is in my body, so much of the way that I express love, so there's so much of the way that I receive love is through my body. I’m actually a very physical person, and one other thing that I do is I teach dance, and a kind of improvisational contact dance. And when I found that, and when I started to move in my body is when my heart really started to open, and my relationships started to become more emotional, with more depth, yeah, that's what I would say to that.
Pascal: And then, ayahuasca came in and kind of transformed, made you blossom really.
Pascal: Can you tell us a bit more about, like, my first ceremony was also transformative. I also felt like I was a different person after or more of myself, and what transformed me is the morning after, like, the ceremony itself was beautiful, she took me through different ecosystems, and I flew over rivers, and it was very earth like Pachamama kind of connecting thing. And that to me was like, I’m not alone, that was the biggest insight I took from my first ceremony. I just felt connected. And the morning after I remember getting up and looking into people's eyes, and for the first time, feeling connected to other people from the heart and not the systemic analytical mind that I had, and that to me changed my life is that feeling. And that to me has been the guiding force of everything I do now is shared humanity and how we can collect and connect, and how much we share together, and how much we can create together, that's my driving force. So what changed for you that day or night?
Devon: The way I think about it is that it was – I had been doing very intense work with my coach for three years, and I had a deep meditation practice, and I was learning how to take care of myself, and learning not to just trust my basic – not to trust my unconscious completely, and to become conscious of the patterns and these things. So I’ve been doing this work for a long time, and my experience of it was like when I did that first weekend, so I did three ceremonies in that weekend the first time.
And the first one was exactly like you said, it was like coming home. It was this big, open, loving, almost like these African mama arms that said we've been waiting for you, and took me through ecosystems, and all this thing, and just that feeling of coming home, that feeling like that I was held, that I had – someone was watching out for me, that I was connected to the earth, I was of the earth, I was a child of the earth; my mother was my mother on this earth, my biological mother, but also my mother was the universe, was the world.
And, I had been working with a mother wound for a long time, and so, that learning to relate to the earth and to the environment as my mother, as the provider, as the nurturer, was a deeply healing thing for me. It allowed me to feel safe in myself, and that was the transformative thing, cause I felt safe to then become vulnerable to other people, to open myself up, to share, because I wasn't afraid of being heard or having I think it's a good time to talk a little bit about the maturation of what I would refer to as masculinity, because there is this – I felt like that was the beginning of my transition from a child to an adult, in like a deep sense. And it was also the beginning of my opening to what I would call the inner feminine in myself, the flow of emotion, the connection with nature, the receptivity that I learned that I had and was available to me.
And then for the next few years after that experience, that opening was really a letting go of the sharpness of the weaponization of my intellect, of the judgment, of the criticism, of the life of the mind that I had – it was a letting go into a growing spirituality. It was a letting go into this notion that things are okay, and going to be okay if I don't manage and control it all the time with my mind. And as a man, that was an opening into what I would call like my inner feminine, and the flow and the dance and the music and the beauty, and all of this came through me in a big way. Right?
And then now, in the last year or so, I feel that I – I felt at a certain point that I needed to come back to a kind of center, that I needed to reintegrate my mind, reintegrate the rationality, reintegrate a decisiveness, a planned – a planning, kind of, a vision, a stability, a sense of wellbeing – a sense of, you know, like, I think about the mountain instead of the river, or I [inaudible] the banks of the river again, in a way. It's almost like I went on that flow inside myself, and I had drifted off into the ocean, and it became too expansive for me as I want – as I said, okay, well, now I have a purpose, now I want to go build something in my life. I want to build a business. I want to build a family. I want to build a relationship.
And I found that after letting go into the flow of my heart space for a long time, I needed then to take that, include that, and integrate the healthy aspects that I had left behind. So my story is one of one extreme to the other extreme, and now primarily what I work with, and what I’m studying, and what I’m interested in is the convergence of those two things in myself, and what does it mean to be balanced when it comes to mind and body, what does it mean to be balanced when it becomes between making decisions and being planful and being intentional and being open to the flow of how things work. So I’d love to chat a little bit about that, and also hear a little bit about your experience in that sense as well.
Pascal: Yeah, sure, and I’d love to share, and I’d also like to ask, you know, the words masculine and feminine, there are so many different perspectives on what that can mean in terms of definition, but also in terms of, like, where the definition comes from, which for everyone will come from lived experience or social norms or like cultural norms or even spiritual or religious norms as well. And, of course, there's like the gender and physical aspect of things, and so, what does it mean to you, cause everyone will have their own perspective on what does masculinity mean to you?
Devon: Yeah, I think it's a really good question. I think it's something that is worth starting a little bit before that. There's one writer, Ken Wilber, who's a brilliant philosopher, he talks a little bit about this. I thought he put it in a really good way in terms of breaking it down. He talks first about sex, and he says sex commonly refers to the certain aspects of the human reproductive system. And probably, like, I don't know, like, I think the statistics are like 98% of us are born in either a female body or a male body, and that's what we mean when we say sex. Right?
And then, there's something different, which is gender, as I understand it. Gender refers to the acculturation of basically the learned acculturated effects of being raised at a specific time, in a specific place, in a specific culture, in a female or a male body. And as we know, like, gender changes, and it's shifting and it's flowing and it actually shifts and flows based on time and place, and now, based on conscious decision and other things like that, and then, I would say that when I think about masculinity and femininity, that there are aspects of gender in one sense, on one level that, when we talk about masculinity, we're talking about a specific acculturation from male body people that were raised in a particular culture. Right?
So like a particular set of the way that they were treated, the way that they were taught, as a result of being in the male body, as a result of being identified with as a man or a boy. And so, that's one level where we can talk about, you know, and then, you get into things like, okay, well, what was masculinity in the 1950s in America, what was the image of that, how did people try to align with that social norm, and how has that changed – how did that change in the 70s, in the 60s, and then, evolved into the 90s, and there's a whole cultural perspective that it takes a look at.
And then, the other way that I speak about masculinity sometimes is referring to what you might call divine masculine or the traditional masculine archetype. And this is, I use the word archetype, because we're talking here about something that doesn't actually exist in a human being per se, but it's like taking the points of extreme of a certain persona, and idealizing it so that we can illustrate a type, a character that we may see in ourselves or in culture or in the collective.
And so, that happens in spiritual realm, and then, also happens in cultural realm where you have stories about the king, and what does that mean, what are the aspects of a king, or you have stories about the wild man, what is that, what are the aspects of a wild man, how do we see that in ourselves, you know, you have people like Young and Robert Bly, and these writers that talk about that. And then, on the more religious-spiritual side, there is a long tradition in many different cultures of dividing the spiritual force into masculine and feminine. You have in Hinduism, you have the whole host, every masculine God has a feminine God associated with it.
You also have this concept even at a higher level of yin and yang, so yin being the receptive, the flow, the inward, the river, and yang being the externalization, the sun, the borders of the river as a way of describing phenomena in reality, but also describing the way that different religions and people interpret spirituality, and it's useful because these archetypes point out dynamics that happen within each of us, and within each of our relationships, and then, also within society as a whole. And my belief is that a lot of the turmoil that we're experiencing in our culture and society is a result of changing positions, changing polarity within these forces at large. So I think that's a long winded answer of what I mean by masculinity. Does that make sense?
Pascal: It's a complicated subject. No, it totally makes sense, and it is a very nuanced and diverse and expansive domain that there is even like a New Age, modern definition of these terms that has evolved over time. And there's also the scientific aspect of this, which is, of course, in the atomic world, that you can see in the microscope that different polarities are physically like attracted towards each other, until they finally collide or connect together. It is also kind of the indigenous aspect of it as well, which talks about the sun and the moon and all those different kind of elements of the world and kind of attributing feminine and masculine qualities to them.
So it's a very wide expansive topic, and it's also the ancestral as well, like, where is their lineage coming from, and how their social norms and cultural and religious norms, how were they when they were growing up. And that gets all passed down into our DNA, of course. And I’m curious from your own personal perspective, like, how was your relationship to the masculine growing up, and how has it changed since. And I can share a bit about my story, my dad was a very kind of 1950s man, in the army, on top of that, so he was very rigid, very kind of straight to the point, very direct, not super warm.
You know he loves you, but he doesn't say it, like, maybe once every decade he might say it. And I love my dad and he loves me, but that was a great teacher for me growing up, because as I was walking my own healing journey, these attributes that I saw in him, I saw in myself, and they were the grounds from which I could develop myself and reimagine, like, what it means to be a man in my context, in own personal context. And since then, I would say like you, like, I’ve really healed big parts of my relationship to the masculine, but also the feminine as well, which was out of balance because of my upbringing really, and the way I was brought up in my household.
And so, a lot of my work has been to, you know, bringing down from the mind to the heart and to the body like yourself, but also adding more feminine aspects to my practices and my philosophies and the way I conduct myself in the world, more gentleness, more creativity, more dynamism, those kind of things. So how did you grow up in your household and how was your relationship to those forces?
Devon: Yeah, I think we grew up in a – with traditional gender roles. My mom I think started staying at home when my brother was born. I was three when my brother was born. And my dad spent 35 years, 37 years at the same company, climbing a Corp, like a large international corporate ladder. And he traveled a lot, he brought home all the money. I maybe saw him cry once or twice, three times, that I can remember, I’m sure there were more, and those were like big deals, very rare kind of, oh my gosh, did you see, like, dad cry, like, what's going on.
And yeah, my grandfather was that 1950s guy. He was in the Navy in World War 2. He came back and he worked as a trucker, and he was a bear knuckle boxer on his Navy tanker, and he has a little, you know, we still have his silver gloves that he won, boxing, and he from the south, and he was a leader in his community, but a very traditional southern working class man, and very little communication, very little – not asking a lot of questions, it's mostly watching sports and doing logistics.
And probably the only emotion that I saw on a regular basis was anger, that was the allowed emotion, I would say, in my grandfather and my father. And that's the version of masculinity that I grew up with. And when I started doing men's work, it was an absolute revelation for me. I went to a men's retreat, I remember, and I was sitting around this circle, I was like in my 20s, and next to me was a 65-year-old potato farmer from Idaho, and a 37-year-old psychoanalyst from Manhattan to my left, like, all dressed in black with black glasses.
And then across me was a black man and someone who had immigrated from Pakistan, and someone – so there was this, all these men that I hadn't interacted with yet were around the circle, and they were like feeling emotions for the first time in their lives in front of me, crying for the first time in decades, like, in front of me about – just about life, about their relationship with their father, about their relationship with their wife or their partner, or the confusion and the anxiety that they felt, or whatever it was. It was like these very human problems that I just literally never heard a man talk about. We didn't know we were allowed to have problems, right?
And so, that's the context that I grew up with, it was a revelation for me, and I was so taken by it, and I felt so good to express, it felt so good to express as a man, and that's what started me on men's work was seeing the healing and the decompression that was happening, and how the walls break down. And it was like we were all wearing these massive plates of steel armor, and we could hardly move; and when the armor started to fall off, you could see people start to become free and feel joy again and feel connected, as you say, like, looking into those people's eyes. And that was a beautiful, beautiful thing, and that got me hooked on the transformative power of just providing a safe place for men to express without being judged or not feeling ashamed.
Pascal: Yeah, I've had a very similar experience too as the first men's workplace that I was to, at first, when someone invited me, I was like, there's no way I’m joining a men's group, that's not going to happen. I had this aversion to men's work, men's group. And after I joined, I became kind of like you, like, really, I felt the power of these spaces. And for me, like you, the power of community for reflecting back and mirroring back to share together and be seen and witness together. That was really the element that helped me understand, and helped me understand not just myself, but like the masculine in the broader sense, like, what it means.
And I’ve seen a lot of men's group and affinity groups and women's support groups popping up, and we actually have lunar and solar circles on Nectara as well for people to join. Why do you think the terminology around this, and the discourse around these energies have been growing so much in the last 10 years, like, what is it feeding on a societal level?
Devon: Men are suffering, by and large. I would say, you know, we talked a little bit about the models that we had, but if you didn't have fathers like we had, a lot of people didn't even have fathers that were around, that should be acknowledged is that most people growing up in North America over the last 50 years, like, either experienced the type of masculinity that was violent, absent commonly, or just disconnected from themselves, and from what they're doing, but basically upset, angry, in misery.
And so, I think that's something that's very alive for men, especially as times are changing. So on one hand you have the models of masculinity that clearly don't work, the patriarchy, the immature masculine that has produced a world that was – it produced slavery, global oppression of women, weapons of mass destruction, endless tribal warfare, shameless exploitation of the environment, the obliteration of indigenous culture, language and people, like, most of the problems in our world, you can point to a series of masculine, usually white dudes who are behind it.
And so, on one hand you have that model, which is the only real model we got, or you get people like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods or some of these other stars, these celebrities that are a model which show a type of an image, or like a movie star, Tom Cruise or whoever it is, and it's all incomplete. Right? So when you combine that with the disconnection that we had with our fathers emotionally, with the models that were provided, and not to speak of – don't get me started on like national leaders and presidents, like, Nixon, and all of these figures that – and Bush, and all these figures that led war and destruction and oppression.
And so, you have this model and then you combine that with the disconnection that we have with our fathers, and where are men left? If you are someone who's conscious that the modeling that you're given – if you are conscious, most people aren't – if you are conscious that the modeling that you're being shown is unhealthy and isn't working, and as most of us, you don't have that mentor figure in the form of a father or a teacher or an uncle or someone, where are you left? Where is your direction about how to manifest this masculine essence in the world?
And the part about masculine essence is really important, because people who identify as a man or just identify with a masculine essence, which some women do too, have certain characteristics, they tend to value freedom, they tend to want to have a mission in life, they tend to have a vitality to expend in a way, like, towards something, they tend to want to do work, and they tend to want to be in action. And that's what also our biological programming is telling us to do, telling us to fight, to protect, to reproduce, to run, to build – these are kind of the traditional male, like, you have testosterone, which is basically have sex and/or kill, which is the primary masculine hormone – masculine hormone – the primary hormone in male bodied people.
And this is the cocktail that most men are sitting in, and then, also then you add in the corporate structures that many people work in, which for years and years and years, just basically train you to say like you got to put all that under wrap, you got to be buttoned up, you have to fall into the system, you can't get angry at work, you can't – so then you have kind of a repression, because some of these things that masculine essence people are compelled to do have no place. They have no model, but also no outlet in the world or in relationship. And so, then that's a pressure cooker, you know, when you add all that up, it's a pressure cooker for a lot of energy that has nowhere to go, but in on itself.
And so, you look at the skyrocketing and absolutely astonishing suicide rates in the United States, among young men is no surprise. The concept of the midlife crisis, the shootings, the mass shootings that happen primarily from men, like, the question is how do we make sense of such enormous suffering that's happening below the surface, that seems to be pretty masculine in its nature. And there's a whole another, you know, feminine suffering in a deep way, right, of course. But this is why I think – and in a deep, and I would say equal way, right?
Because on the other side of God like technological power and political power in the hands of people who are in this kind of situation we just described, are the people who receive the decisions and the behavior that comes from this suffering, where when you say hurt people, hurt people. And so, I get passionate about it, because that's what I encounter in my clients and with people that I work with, and it's the source of a lot of instability in the world that I really believe that we as men have to take a part in changing, because we've caused it. And yet, it's a very difficult position to be in, because we're just bushwhacking through the jungle on it, because the old models don't work, or the ones that we were taught are the ones that are easily accessible.
Pascal: Yeah, of course, when we talk about masculine/feminine energies, it's in both men and women, and then, there's also the divine feminine and the toxic feminine as well, and the toxic masculine trying to rise into the more mature form of the masculine. And I’ve heard a lot in circles I’ve been a part of recently that it's – and it's also my view that it's time for the divine feminine to rise into the world, like, more of the femininity, the mature version of it, to rise into the world in terms of positions of power within our circles, within our communities, to start addressing the imbalances that we've seen with the masculine having so much say and power over the last hundreds of years.
And I love how, when we had a call yesterday, you talked about channeling weapons of mass destruction into creating weapons of mass regeneration within the masculine. Can you talk a bit more about that transition, and what are you seeing in terms of like, yes, we are bushwhacking, and, at the same time, there's this emergence of the feminine, and this emergence of support systems and circles and psychedelics obviously are helping move the needle forward, like, what are you seeing in terms of the transition there, like, what do you imagine is possible for us to step into as, in terms of the masculine energy in the world?
Devon: Yeah, I like the model of a writer named Richard Rohr, he talks about these, what he calls, like, the five aspects of male initiation. But for me, the thing that's always in my mind are these qualities that an immature or wounded masculine is destructive. When you transmute that energy and turn it into something that's positive, when it matures, when it's healed, then that energy is generative. The spiritual correlation of that or the, you know, would be like the archetype of Shiva, and then the archetype of Brahma, the creator, the destroyer, two aspects of – two sides of the same coin, right?
And on a different layer, there's the form of masculine that's very devoted to himself, to the ego. Right? These are the many, you know, this is the Trumps of the world, the lots of different examples out there, Harvey Weinstein, all these people who are, for a lot of people, villains, because why, why are they perceived that way, because of their seemingly devotion to their own egos, to themselves. They use their power, their influence, their everything for self-serving means. Right?
So the second piece of what it means to evolve as a masculine as I understand it, is that you move from being committed to yourself, to being committed to something greater than yourself. So for right relationship within a masculine essence is that all of that energy, all of that power, all of that testosterone, all of that drive is channeled in service of something greater than yourself. When it's channeled in service of something of yourself, then you get the destruction of mass destruction of ecosystems and mass extinction. When the child then services something greater than yourself, you get a generative quality where you're working to build something. Right?
So then the other element is the mature masculine is safe, and what I mean by that is like it's safe within itself, a mature masculine person is safe within themselves, like, everything that happens within here is okay and accepted. And also, the mature masculine creates safety for other people, so it's like, I don't know if you ever had this, sometimes it felt like when my father walked in the room, I could let out a sigh of relief, cause like, things made sense.
Pascal: Yeah, I had the same experience of just like default fear and tension in the body, when he was stepping into the room, and then, yeah, when he would leave I would be, oh phew, like, he didn't say something aggressive or he didn't have the opportunity to tell me no right away, and it was great, like, I felt more myself. And it was only when I started joining psychedelic community groups that I got that reflection of the safe masculine, like, embodied, not having that external kind of co-opting energy, but more of like it's a tree, like, that to me, the divine masculine to me, the mature masculine to me is a cedar tree or a Douglas fir tree, it's flexible and strong and rooted, but it doesn't try to invade the other trees.
Devon: That's right. In fact, it provides a whole ecosystem, this generative quality, it provides a whole ecosystem, a whole shelter, a structure for everything else to flourish underneath it. And so, like, you can recognize someone who has a mature masculine, because when they walk in the room, you feel safer, things make sense, like, they're not going to react, it's like you kind of just feel like, oh, like, I can be how I am, and if something crazy happens, this person's going to be on it.
And so, that's the transition as well, it's like when we – and it starts within, are you creating safety within yourself. And then, that safety within yourself becomes solid enough to where other people feel it just by you being around. And then, I would say, like, the final quality is that I use the archetype of the king a lot for this quality, because it's super useful, like, I was in ceremony one time, and kind of working with this, and asking the medicine about these kinds of things. And one message that I got was that the primary, the true primary, or what was it, it was like the highest task of a king is to create other kings.
And I really thought about that for a while, and then, I connected it with this concept that the mature masculine is empowering. So not only is it powerful, but it is empowering others that the divine masculine is someone that gives power to others and instills in them a trust in themselves that they can do it, they can use that power responsibly, they can provide safety, they can use that power with devotion to something higher themselves, and they can be generative with the power that they're bestowed upon.
And I always think about Marcus Aurelius, the famous Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius. Well, he was like the best Roman emperor on paper that you could argue this is probably one of the best people in terms of how he managed the empire and all this kind of thing. But the one thing with Marcus Aurelius is that his son Commodus was the worst emperor in the history of the Roman Empire, like, arguably the worst. There's a lot of bad ones, but this guy was pretty nuts, like, he instigated like the decline basically for the next couple of hundred years, it started with him.
So what happened there with Marcus Aurelius? We don't know. They made the whole movie Gladiator about what could have happened there. But I always think about this because it's like, oh, Marcus Aurelius seemed to fail at his actually most important job, which was to create other kings that were mature. And I think that story of Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus is a really apt story for this day and age, because we seem to have a bunch of Commodusus – people who didn't get the nurturing necessary, and are living out a life of unlimited power with devotion to themselves, and creating lack of safety and destroying things instead of creating things.
Anyway, so that's the frame, right? And then, I would say that the way that men change the world is by leaving those qualities out and developing, cultivating those qualities within themselves, and within each other. And then, what happens is you don't need to go and do something. A masculine essenced person will simply just be doing that, because there's so much energy in the body which is designed to protect and to grow and all these primary functions within the tribal, and kind of like a tribal primitive state that it's got to go somewhere. So it's either going towards one of these directions, either on the side of that, like, kind of, generative side or the side of the mature side.
And my philosophy is that if we do this work together as men, of making the transition bucket by bucket, step by step, then it simply filters down in our relationships, in our work, in the way that we lead, and the way that we empower others to lead. Yeah, and I focus on that as the core effort, and I wonder, Pascal, like, you've had a lot of deep psychedelic experience, I'm wondering if any of those concepts are things that have come up in your own journeys, in your own learnings through psychedelics?
Pascal: Yeah, that's a good question. My exploration of these energies has been, for the most part, it always constantly is in relationship to my father. But it's when I had my son that the concepts really became at the forefront. I remember holding Noah, who's my son for the very first time, and just being like, oh my goodness, I am a father to this being that just came into the world, I am now responsible for him.
Devon: Yeah, responsibility.
Pascal: And having a son was very special for that, because for me it's an opportunity to pass down some of the teachings I've received, and some of the lessons I’ve learned, and not only that, but like the most beautiful thing has been learning from him, like, he's my greatest teacher in terms of not just a healthy masculine, but also in terms of just a healthy, joyful human. And he doesn't quite have the – he hasn't fallen in the trap of like either way or extremes of the feminine or masculine. He just is, and you mentioned the healthy masculine is just being, and not so much doing externally.
And so, he teaches me a lot about that in terms of presence and in terms of joy and connection and balance as well, like, he's extremely balanced. So he's been my greatest teacher on this path. And then, the other kind of teacher I’ve had around this has been just psychedelic communities in general, and interfacing with the plant medicines. And one thing that became quite clear to me as I was stepping into this space was there was a lot of shamanic containers, and a lot of shamanic medicines and practices that were talking about the grandmother and the grandfather, they were, like, grandmother ayahuasca, grandfather wachuma, and even wachuma sometimes is called grandmother in certain circles.
And so, that was a completely new interface for me to explore these things within myself, it gave me an additional context, a different kind of perspective on the feminine and masculine through the language that were used in the containers, but also in the ways that the language used in the container would influence my experience with the medicines. Like I did a diet with tobacco last year that was transformative in terms of me relating to the masculine and having a healthier kind of archetype to relate to and learn from.
And we talked about this yesterday on our call as this idea of there's traditions in the psychedelic space, and there's points of reference in the psychedelic space, in the lineage from which the medicines come from regarding the masculine and feminine, and indigenous people sometimes have a very strong sense of femininity and masculinity as a point of origin for us to be able – when we step in the container, there's a certain frame of reference there, and I’m curious to hear from you, like, as we're inviting those mindsets as a frame of healing that molds are experience, how do we explore them and interface with them and how can we understand them in relationship to our own consciousness and others in our field?
Devon: Yeah, beautiful question. The thing that's coming up for me is my practice of – I practice qigong and taichi, and that's been a relatively recent thing for me. I had a deep Buddhist Insight Meditation practice for a long time. And as I started, I talked about – as I started to integrate the feminine inside of me, and bring back some of the masculine elements using my mind again a little bit more, wanting to be more decisive, wanting to be more stable, future focused, these kind of elements. This I started becoming very attracted to qigong and taichi, and the basic element – the basic teaching often is the concept of yin and yang, and this is the most essential description of polarity of the masculine and feminine that I’ve come across.
And when you're doing it in a taichi exercise or qigong practice, it's embodied. Right? So we'll do these practices, like, you bring the chi up, and you bring it down, and it's simply – or it's something like this, yang and yang, yang and yang, out and in, out and in. And I bring that up because when I think about the indigenous spirituality as I understand it, it's highly, highly influenced by the natural world, by environment, by nature.
And in nature, when you're learning from plants and animals in the seasons and the way that Mother Nature works and Father Sky, and these concepts in the sun and the moon and the stars, the way that that works, there's always this element of yin and yang – the moon rises and it falls, the sun sets and it rises, the seasons change. Summer is this time of yang and flourishing and action, and these very, what you might call, masculine traits, energies in the winter, there's a coziness, the quiet in the snow, the introspection, the going inwards, the gathering, the nurturing around the fire, like, very, what's it called traditionally, feminine, right, the time of night versus the time of day, when you're out doing stuff at night.
So to me, that's where this all comes from, is like learning from nature and developing our sense of, when I say spirituality, I mean, like, your relationship with something bigger than yourself, which in indigenous cultures a lot of times is developed, it's more closely aligned with the source of all spirituality, which is the source of all knowing really, which is our relationship with nature and where we came from. And so, yeah, I think it's useful to think about that because this idea of the yin and the yang pervades all aspects of reality as far as I can see.
Now, you can go beyond it, and the Buddhist teachers and certain Tantriks and different traditions will say, well, yeah, that's the fundamental division, some fundamental separation, but then beyond that, there's the oneness. Right? And, of course, there's non-duality as well. But as someone who personally is not actively seeking enlightenment, I had a – in my dieta, I realized – did a plant medicine dieta almost over a year ago, and I realized that actually I’m not seeking enlightenment, I’m just seeking a sense of equilibrium and wellbeing, and a healthy, joyful, purpose driven life; and if enlightenment comes along that way, that would be wonderful, and if it doesn't, that's okay too.
But as someone who's not seeking enlightenment, I'm a little bit less concerned with the non-dual, because the yin and the yang is how I interact with the world, and interact with the rising and falling, the inward and the outward flow of the emotions and my energy and my thoughts inside myself, the flow of energy between a relationship, the giving and receiving that's happening in life, the reciprocity that happens in business. And these concepts are the concepts that are resonant within me, and my clients who have real world practical – they're focused on real world practical goals, like, how can we have less reactivity in my relationship with my wife, or I get angry at my child, how can I deal with that without hurting somebody. Or my business is – I’m struggling in my business, how do I become focused on what is actually valuable, and how do I change my mindset of how I’m relating to money in order to relate with that.
And to me, it's like, that's all the same teaching, it's all yin and yang, it's all masculine and feminine, and it exists in all beings and all things. And so, I’m mastering a deep understanding of polarity in this way is the key to navigating phenomena – phenomenal reality, which, of course, the Vedas would say like, the reality, the Maya, illusion, what we live is essentially like the body of the goddess, and everything that happens in the body of the goddess, and all of that is happening in the mind of the God, of Shiva, who's consciousness is the container for all this.
And yet, we live in – we're living life, whatever you believe, somehow we ended up here living life in this body connected to the yin and the yang, the flow, the destruction, the birth, the death, the life. And so, that is what I’m here to do, I'm here to live life in a way that feels meaningful. And so, this practice of yin and yang, this practice of masculine/feminine, and the ways that it shows up in your psychedelic experiences, which takes you to that zone, that liminal zone, where you're not so much in your body and in your head and in the illusion, but you're not disconnected from it at the same time.
I think that's one of the beautiful things about a lot of psychedelic experiences, they take you far enough outside of the whirlwind of things, that you get perspective on it, so that when we can come back into the whirlwind of our life, we come back with that perspective of, oh, this is actually just the separation, this is actually just the yin and the yang. And that allows me a little bit more mastery as I co-create this reality. And I feel that when we, in psychedelic settings, when we use the frame of the grandfather, the grandmother, the masculine, the feminine, it's helpful because it points to that.
And so, then when we're in integration, which is really the important part, in my experience of peak experiences and communion with these consciousnesses, these plant medicine consciousnesses, that we have that frame that we in some ways are pointing to the yin and the yang, to the masculine and the – in a familial way. That's what I love about the grandfather and the grandmother, because it's taking this abstract concept of yin and yang, or, we talk about the psychological or cultural concept of masculine and feminine, and it puts it in terms of family, which I think is so apt, and so brilliant, and so human, because...
Pascal: And connecting too.
Devon: It connects us to what's happening in life. Oh, that's grandfather tobacco, oh okay, well, it involves – it's integrating the fundamental yin and yang, it's integrating the masculine and the feminine, and it invites that consciousness in my own life and in myself. And also, it's saying, you are connected, we are family. And in a funny, circular way, the awareness of that ends up breaking down separation, which is funny. It's funny to me that the consciousness of the fundamental separation yin and yang ends up breaking down our sense of separation.
Pascal: It can even heal relationships in your own life. When I’d done work with grandfather wachuma and grandfather tobacco, and my grandfather, bless his heart, he was an alcoholic, and I saw him only twice in my life, and working with these reference points and these energies with the plants in a subtle and powerful way at the same time, like, helped me heal my relationship to that archetype of the grandfather. It helped me heal my relationship to my grandfather, and the teachings helped me bring in more compassion to that relationship, helped me bring more understanding, helped me bring a lot of forgiveness.
And so, in a very real way, I'm glad you bring that up, it really does help heal relationships in your own life. And we've been talking all this time around masculinity, and you started talking about your work just now, and it's important to know that you also work with women, you work with women and their masculinity.
Can you tell us more about that in terms of, like, what did they come to work on, and, like, I’ve heard a lot from, especially this year around the wounded feminine and how there's this emergence and this kind of expression of the bumps on the role that they're facing and the heavy shouldering of many roles at the same time, and the masculine kind of getting in the way, and so many different things, like a lot of women are going through transformation just like we are as self-identified men, what has been your experience working with women?
Devon: Yeah, thank you so much for asking that question, I almost wish we would have said that at the beginning of the podcast. But yeah, the women that I work with, especially in the context of psychedelic integration, many of them are, shall we say, in their conditioned masculine, meaning, in order to live in a man's world, to succeed, to make money in these corporations, to do that, and with the absence of mature masculine fathers and role models, and people who are holding space for them, they've had to learn – these women have had to learn to do this for themselves. You can't trust the men in your life to do the things that traditionally a man would do or a mature masculine archetype would provide, then you have to do them yourselves, even if that's not your preference, even if that's not your core, your essence, where you really feel at home.
And so, a lot of the women that I work with are seeking a reconnection with a feminine. So learning to let go, learning to trust, learning to reignite the creativity, the dance, the music in their life, and in doing so, they have to let go of the conditioned persona of the masculine that a lot of women have been inhabiting for a long time. And so, my understanding, I think David talks a little bit about this, it's like, when you're operating outside of your, what you would call, like, your core essence, so you can think about it maybe as a continuum with the masculine archetype on one side of the feminine archetype on the other, and people fall all along this continuum.
And if you are more to one pole and you are operating in your life more on the other side, it's taking energy from you. You have to really spend a lot of energy to operate outside of what is natural for you. And so, I have one client in particular who we've been working for the last nine months on this, but it's been a beautiful, beautiful coming back home, a homecoming for her to reconnect with the feminine inside herself, and psychedelics have been a huge part of that. She did a psilocybin journey a couple of weeks ago, and with the intention, right, with the intention and the pre-work that we're doing of letting go, and feeling safe enough to let go.
And so, it helps to have a – one of the, maybe, the skills that I have or the things that I can offer is that I can speak to both sides because I’ve been to both extremes within myself. And so, someone who walks in my door with a masculine conditioning and a feminine essence, I can see that and feel that, and I can speak to the masculine – speak in ways that they'll hear, both parts of them will hear and not reject. And a lot of my work is just helping people begin to have an open communication between the two sides of themselves, and have the courage and the safety to experience coming back to what feels normal, what feels home for them, in the way that they're operating. And I think psychedelics is a huge, huge help for that, because it usually just gives you – it usually often will take you – it often will invite you to inhabit that home space, once again, in my experience.
Pascal: It removes the mask, yeah.
Devon: Yeah, removes the mask, that's a good way of saying it.
Pascal: You're getting married soon. And I’ve been married for over 10 years, and been with Elaine for around 20, and that relationship itself has been, just like my son, a very powerful relationship of continuously navigating life together, reflecting stuff on each other, sometimes one person moves a little bit faster than the other, then there's a bit of tension or energy around that.
And she has been, you know, we've always referred to ourselves as the twin flame concept, which is a modern day kind of spiritual archetype around the idea of, like, very deep polarity in a relationship and how there's a lot of potential for growth in that relationship. And also, it's a very challenging one, because the polarity obviously invites eventual harmony, but it requires a lot of effort and dedication to getting there, because the initial kind of polarity is tumultuous, and it can be challenging and it can trigger you basically.
Pascal: And so, our path has been like this dance, and we've had the privilege to be able to dance that for a long time, and so, we've basically grown up together in a real way, and I feel like, now, after all this time, like, we're really stepping into a new phase of our relationship where we've done a fair bit of work, and we feel more confident in ourselves and just kind of more present, and all those kind of good things, and yet, there's still more work to do. We're stepping into this new phase of our life, and I’m curious, like, from your perspective, what that polarity has been like for you and your relationship and how you've navigated the more masculine or more feminine side of yourself in relationship to your partner and how that's been for her as well, and, finally, as a couple, what that dance has been like for you?
Devon: Yeah, first of all, thank you for sharing your experience. I bow to you, and I honor you both for walking that very, very intense path. And yeah, and that's the path that my partner and I walk as well. I mean, what can I say – I can say we're in process, we're definitely in process. And one of the things that we've been working with recently is that we are, as you say, evolving together. And we talked about the mask, and the more core essence, and as someone who was raised by my mother, and who let go very deeply into the flow of the divine feminine, as I have my kind of spiritual awakening and homecoming, I tend to have a conditioned feminine, but a masculine essence; and my partner tends to have a masculine conditioning, and a feminine essence, and that's exhausting for both of us.
So what happens in a relationship, as I understand it, is that there's always – someone always has to occupy one of the poles. And I think same sex couples know this well, you have top and bottom, and butch and femme, and all these different ways of describing who is currently or in this situation or, by default, taking what role in polarity, in energy. And someone with a feminine essence, according to David Deida, he talks about that the person with a feminine essence wants more than anything, their highest good, their highest thing that they want is the flow of love to be surrounded by, and the love to flow and know that it's there, and it's coming, and it's flowing, and that's what they want.
And the person with the masculine essence wants freedom, more than anything – freedom, consciousness, space, clarity, that kind of thing. And they want more, maybe even more than they want that, they want each other, because one lacks what the other has, and one provides what the other needs. And so, this is the nature of attraction, as I understand it, and as I’ve experienced it in my relationship. In some sense my condition feminine was attracted to her condition masculine, that's why we work at the outset. But as we're growing and healing together, both of us are wanting to come more and more to our authentic selves, and just be able to just be more easily in our relationship, in our life.
And so, what that requires is it requires me to step more into the masculine, which would be impractical terms, like, doing more logistics around the house, all of these kinds of things that take a little bit of the pressure off of her, trying to keep it all up, and it'll provide for our freedom. And it requires her coming more into the flow of love, taking better care of her body, like, leaning into her sensuality, her sexuality. And there are reasons why we're not at our authentic states, and it's usually, it's because of often trauma or early life experience.
And so, that's the tension, and that's the journey that we're on, and a lot of my clients are on, and a lot of – most of my coaches and my mentors are on as well. And it's also, you can see it as maybe the journey that we're all on as a collective, in terms of our relationship to place, our relationship with nature, our relationship with each other, the way that our systems work. Yeah, and so, it's a difficult path, and it requires healing, it requires going into, in our case, it requires confronting trauma and integrating traumatic experiences that are causing us to be out of alignment with ourselves, and that's really challenging and requires a lot of love and a lot of support.
Pascal: Yes, and gentleness, like, to me, the word gentleness has come up a lot for us as a couple too, is, no, we haven't quite worked out all the kinks, but it's the gentleness along the way, and being like, you know what, like, we're moving towards something and we trust in that. And being gentle when the hiccups do happen and they do happen, and that's – I've had this relationship to hiccups these days that I'm grateful for the medicine that they bring, like, I’m grateful for what they're teaching us.
And whenever we have a hiccup, then I try to look for the lessons underneath that, I try to understand, like, and that comes from a space of like, kind of, having excavated the deeper ones, parts of my trauma where I don't get ignited right away. It's taken a long time to get to that kind of calm state of not falling into the trap, but that space offers so much lessons, and so much understandings, and, as a society, we're going through that in a big way these days, in terms of, like you said, relationship to nature.
A lot of people suffer from solastalgia, which is the deep felt sense in your mind, body, and soul, that your home is being damaged or in danger. And a lot of us don't quite know how to name it, but it's called solastalgia, and that's a relationship to nature. And society is moving so quick these days that there is a lot of moving parts and there is a lot of work that we need to do, and one of the ways that you engage in the world is through your psychedelic integration preparation work.
The space of, the psychedelic space or the – I don't like calling it the psychedelic industry, but the movement of the emergence of psychedelic back into the world, what are your greatest hopes for that in terms of having it move the needle for us as individuals, as couples, as communities, and as designers of societal structures really, like, what is your greatest hope for the space?
Devon: I think my greatest hope for this space is also related to what you just mentioned about what's needed in a relationship of this kind that we're talking about. You said gentleness is so important, and I think that's so right. And the thing that I would add to gentleness is honesty, cause we have to be honest with ourselves, and honest with our partners if we're going to actually deal with the things that hold us from – separate us from ourselves, from being our true selves, and if we're going to help one another. And you have to be gentle in the way that you're honest as well, I think which is what I’m learning. Right?
And then, a mature masculine is not only truthful, but also gentle and considerate in the way that they're truthful. And I think the same is my hope for this space, for the psychedelic healing and therapy space, which is that, I believe plant medicine in particular has the opportunity – has the gift within it of honesty, of, as you said, taking the mask off. And my hope is that we have more and more of us are willing to do the work of reckoning with what I would say reckoning with reality as it is in this moment.
When you reckon with what's happening in the environment, when you reckon with the way that you are being towards your partner, when you reckon with the way that you treat certain parts of yourself, this is a big one for me – how do I treat the parts of myself that I don't like? And I’m not always honest with myself about that. When I take plant medicine, I'm strongly, strongly invited to be honest. Right?
Like, these parts of myself stand up in front of me, and I get to have a conversation, and my hope is that through the inner work of honesty and taking the mask off and seeing ourselves more honestly and more clearly, and not shying away because we don't want to experience the pain and the disappointment of reality, that becomes the platform, that becomes the foundation for choosing differently.
I don't believe that we can actually choose differently unless we come to reckoning with what is, and I think most of our problems – a lot of our problems stem from people as individuals, all of us as individuals, not having the courage to reckon with what is within ourselves, because there's no collective or societal or social problem that, we, as a part of the collective are not in some way bearing partial responsibility for creating. So my message is that, like, anything that you see outside of yourself that you don't like, your first job is to look for that inside yourself, and start by changing that, cause it probably exists inside yourself in some way, if you're experiencing it in your life.
Pascal: Yeah, beautiful. And in terms of relationship, there's a saying around relationships and couples around standing for each other [inaudible] .
Devon: I love this, I’m interested.
Pascal: Yeah, my friend Richard from the Sentinel he said that a couple of years – and he's been in relationship too, his wonderful wife, Jillian, for many years, and they shared that to me and Elaine when we were at their house once. And I thought that was so wise to approach it that way cause it's so easy to get triggered not only from your couples – your partner's shadows, and then like trigger that more, but it's the same in terms of society, like, when we're seeing these things happen in society that we don't like.
I dealt with climate depression for many years, which is getting triggered by the actions of what was happening and the feelings I was feeling. And it's when I heard that saying that, things started to transform, and, of course, with psychedelic experiences, I started to change my relationship to the external in terms of non-attachment and permanence and those kind of ideas, but also standing for where people are at, and reflecting that back on me and asking myself, where am I at right now, and continuously bring it back to myself.
So I love how you phrased that in terms of the psychedelic space, I think there's a lot that people are navigating through as we're building a spaceship in midair right now in terms of the space. And my greatest hope is that we can operate from a space of love and compassion and kindness, that's my greatest hope; and as well maintain the sacredness of the medicines, I think that's very important.
Pascal: So thank you, Devon, for the conversation. It was beautiful. I love your – I feel like we can talk for probably five or six more hours around different things.
Devon: We may do another one.
Pascal: We'll have to do another one, I’d love to invite you again. Where can people find you, and what's coming up for you in the [inaudible] these days?
Devon: Yeah, you can find me on deeplightcoaching.com, that's my website where you can see my offerings on – mindfulness offering for organizations and companies, one-on-one coaching, and also men's work. And then my psychedelic integration and preparation work, you can find me on Nectara, nectara.co, and in the guide section, you can find me, it's Devon Walker, and you can book right on the app.
Pascal: And finally, last question: what would you like to say to the person listening to this right now?
Devon: I would like to say that no matter how you feel in the downtimes, you're whole, and you're exactly where you need to be, even if it doesn't feel that way, and ask for help.