“Where are all the Conscious Men hiding at?”
A Conversation with Amy Baglan, founder of MeetMindful & Waylon Lewis of elephant journal.
Waylon Lewis: Okay! Honored to be with you, ol’buddy. What you been up to?
Amy Baglan: Hola Waylon! Life has been damn amazing, feeling good over here in Denver. You?
Waylon: I’m getting my butt kicked by work, as usual—and loving it for the most part.
I’ve been dating off and on, since that’s the subject of today’s convo—”keeping it real around mindful relationships”—some amazing relationships that are generally cut short by folks living elsewhere and/or my work, which is all-consuming schedule-wise. Folks don’t find me very attractive or fun to date after a few weeks, generally.
Amy: Is that what happens for you? Something starts off good, then fizzles because of your work? I totally get that. I’m having a lovely time practicing the art of balancing the hustle of a growing startup…and falling deeply in love with a man I actually met through my site, believe it or not!
Waylon: Awwww that’s quite a testimonial! Congrats to you and yours.
Amy: It’s been a challenge: but for the right person, they should love that crazy entrepreneurial part of you in all its glory, too.
Waylon: Generally. It works better if whomever my partner is, is independent, has their own passion and work. IE, they don’t want to have a life, either. I wrote about this in “Date a Boy who Serves.”
I look good on paper—a good guy, decent, fun, wildly charismatic and deeply humble [derisive laughter in the direction of Waylon], home, dog, meaningful work. Then, if you date me, you just find that you’re living with someone who works night and day. Pretty boring.
Amy: Do you really want them to be all-consumed by their work? Or just generally be able to “get it” when it comes to hustle and hard work?
Waylon: I don’t mind if they work a ton or not, but just that they don’t pressure me not to work. I honestly want to change the world and am doing my best, and the guilt of not being there for someone I care about is painful, so I’d rather just be single.
Amy: I know Way, you’re quite the catch on paper! And off, methinks [said in charitable tones]. When you’re in a relationship do you find that you can stick to your practice? What are your practices, by the way?
Waylon: Yes. That’s fundamental to my life and being able to function drama-free and intelligently.
I grew up Buddhist, though Buddhism is the kind of thing you need to actually want to do, so doesn’t really matter if you’re born in it or not. At around 17 I’d practiced a ton of meditation and programs and retreats and months of silent meditation and such, but hadn’t made a deeply personal relationship with meditation, which is really all Buddhism is on some level. And meditation is a confusing word—it can mean a lot of things. So meditation in the sense of Shamata, or Shambhala practice.
At around 17 I got deeply involved in meditation and study and am pretty grateful to that anchor of sanity, the humor it gives me about my ridiculous self, and a great way to deal with stress and difficult emotions, challenges in my life.
So I meditate first thing every morning for a few minutes, then again at night. More if I need it, which is often.
Amy: Got it. So your primary practice is meditation. Lucky you for having that as part of your upbringing. I know you also do yoga, too, yeah? Do you consider yourself a yogi?
Waylon: Not sure about that. I’ve practiced yoga somewhat intensely in the past, now do it for maintenance. I don’t believe that yoga, as taught in the U.S. generally, is “spiritual,” whatever that means. I do believe it’s good for the mind, heart and body, and stress, and the emotions. But I don’t think it’s a spiritual path as most studios and teachers present it. Of course it can be—and should be, perhaps: I wrote about that in “the Future of Yoga” and have talked about it or asked about it extensively with many great teachers on our Walk the Talk Show series, which is honored now to feature you!
Climbing, hiking, bicycling as commuting, real food, conscious consumerism, community—these things in addition to yoga, and primarily meditation, keep me sane.
And you? What are your daily practices that help you be sane, grounded, open, and of service to others?
Amy: Oh man that’s a whole other conversation, I feel you on the U.S. yoga though. After spending time practicing in India and with a handful of teachers here in the U.S., it’s a very different experience than the typical practice we have access to on a daily basis at studios.
It’s interesting, for me it started with yoga about 10 years ago, so I can see how yoga tends to be the “gateway drug” for many people who start their spiritual path. Then shortly after I began a daily meditation practice that I’ve more or less stuck to ever since. Those are my primary practices, however, as my path has evolved I’m finding more and more that I drop in during things that are not the typical “spiritual” pursuits as we might think of them.
Cycling is a big one for me too. I figure out all my life problems on my road bike.
Clean, whole food is a must. My mind doesn’t work when my body is lagging.
Waylon: How do you keep your stress and relationship in balance while starting up a big mindful business?
Amy: Community for sure. You know that statement that you’re the sum of the six people you hang out with most? That’s something I try to keep in mind a lot, because I’ve been in a place in my life years ago where I felt like I had toxicity all around me and just needed to purge a lot of connections and friendships. Now it’s all about surrounding myself with positivity and authenticity.
No petty bullshit.
It’s funny, my first two years of starting MeetMindful, I was all over the place. I went from a crazy relationship to swearing off dating for over six months, in order to focus on what I was building. I told myself I wouldn’t get involved with anyone else unless it felt truly right and aligned. It took a long time to find that.
If I’m not grounded, nothing works. Not my relationships, my body, or my team and company. So that’s priority #1 always. I know you can relate.
Another thing I’ve really had to learn is unattachment to expectations, while still working toward big goals. It’s a weird dichotomy sometimes.
Like, last night I came across a sheet of paper from a big brainstorming session I did last year. I saw the numbers I wrote for October of 2015 and just had to smile at how off my expectations were compared to what is real today.
Waylon: So…for others in the MeetMindful or elephant communities, would you say that you can’t really luck into mature fun love until you’re grounded, ready, open because of your work on yourself?
Amy: Yes I would absolutely agree with that, Way. I think there are many, many ways people can fall into other types of relationships that aren’t necessarily mature, fun or conscious, but unless you’re willing to do the work before and during the relationship, the chances for lasting love are slim.
Waylon: Okay, so…you had a tricky topic you wanted to touch upon, Amy?
Amy: One thing I will mention about the notion of “doing the work” with regards to relationships…both people have to be willing to do this, and at a similar pace. Now that Joe and I are past that three month “honeymoon” period, things are getting real. Our stuff is coming up, our past, our childhoods, our fears. And at this point a lot of people don’t feel equipped on how to deal with it. You’ve got to both be willing and able to look at your own shit and compassionately work through it together. It’s not easy, but with the right person it’s worth it.
Something that we hear from the women on MeetMindful is where do they find the conscious men? The question is usually something like, “How come there are so many more conscious, spiritually-awake women than men in the world?” I’ve run this question by a lot of people. My friend and advisor Arielle Ford said something to me the other day that I can’t stop thinking about.
She said that spiritual women are fucking it up for all the good, conscious men out there by expecting them to be like them. Expecting them all to go to yoga with them, do kirtan, kundalini, drink green juice, etc.
Waylon: It’s tough! Relationships, I always feel, are like walking down a dark corridor just feeling your way forward. It can be fun, but it’s hard work and you don’t know what you’re going to run into. Some guidance is helpful.
Cheers to Arielle. Men are not women. Women are not men. Women are not always women. Men are not always men. Gender is relative. Even for those who identify one way or the other, we’re all infinitely different. And that’s wonderful.
Amy: Totally. That’s why at MeetMindful and elephant we both have hundreds of articles on how to be a bit more mindful and aware in how we approach dating and relationships. Guidance can make all the difference.
Waylon: I think what Arielle said is true: there’s a lot of projection from women, here in Boulder or at yoga conferences that I attend—an expectation that we’ll wear flouncy white capris and run around namasteing and playing acro on the lawn for a few hours. Nothing’s wrong with any of that, of course, but that kind of projection, if it went the other way, if we men expected women to dress or act a certain way, that would feel insulting.
And some of us do, of course, and that can be a problem.
It’s best, as Rumi said, if we meet in a field and just see what we find. Open-hearted. Vulnerability is wildly underrated. Game-playing is wildly over-rated.
Amy: Right? So true. What she said shook me. The conscious man you are looking for just might be donating to charity, brewing his own beer, buying local, working to make a difference in the world.
Waylon: Amen. Awomen!
Amy: Awomen! It’s so true…I never see the conscious dudes telling us women to be more goddess-like, do they?
And nothing wrong with the man doing acroyoga at Wanderlust, for sure. And sometimes I just want a man to buy me a good tequila and talk to me about something totally unrelated to spirituality.
Waylon: Women have a long track record of being far more concerned with learning and nurturing than men, who have a well-deserved reputation for war and horrible, horrible things.
Amy: Men have had to be the fighters and protectors, indeed. Now that we’re done with the caves and housewives eras, it’s time to bring back the balance a bit.
Waylon: But fundamentally we’re all human. We all have clinging, aggression and ignorance—what the Buddha called the three poisons or root neuroses.
That said, I do think the women on MeetMindful, if we are generalizing, are onto something: there needs to be some kind of mass migration on the part of we men toward meditation, working for peace, environmental responsibility. There’s a reason 75 percent of elephant’s readers are women: we men are busy fighting about politics and the Bosox.
But many of the articles on elephant, in my view as a man, are almost downright sexist.
Amy: How are the articles on elephant downright sexist, in your opinion?
Waylon: Some of the articles on elephant imply that men are lesser and women get it and men are all patriarchal jerks who, given the chance, would oppress or even rape women. There’s a lot of fear and prejudgement and anger, and that’s fine and understandable—and we have to deal with that on a personal and societal basis, and work toward equality. But it doesn’t help if we just further the stereotypes, it just perpetuates oppression and stagnation in its own way, sometimes.
Amy: Sadly I don’t think us women even realize that we do that.
Waylon: We just have to swim beneath the waves of identification as men or women or LGBT or straight or trans…or race or class, sometimes—and reconnect with our heart, our fundamental humanity, our basic goodness. As MLK Jr. said toward the end of his life, it’s about character, not race or anything else.
Amy: I don’t think we realize that the moment we chastise our men for watching their football and drinking their beers with the guys, we are punishing them for something that truly does no harm. It’s just not our way of “filling up.”
Waylon: And, football and beers are just one more go-to image, though many of us, and many women love such. For example, in Boulder, men generally prefer to road bike or climb, and I see couples and mixed partners doing such every single day.
It’s pretty fun! It’s more fun to get past such gender roles, and just enjoy whatever we like!
Amy: Totally agree. I think Boulder is a bit more balanced in that regard. Like, Saturday, Joe and I chanted for hours with Krishna Das, it was a blast. Then he cooked an incredible meal. I love that man.
Amy: Do you think men have a harder time being vulnerable, perhaps?
Waylon: I was raised by a woman, an amazing mother, and have always had an easy time communicating and being vulnerable. But I’m probably less tough and cool and manly in some other ways that some women look for, so who knows. I’m no expert on being a man, certainly.
A basic comment about how to meet mindful, conscious men: don’t look for style. Don’t look for superficial stuff like does he do yoga, does he drink green juice, etc—as you already said. Look for a decent, kind heart. Look for a man with kindness toward himself and animals and a healthy relationship with his own stress.
Amy: So Waylon, here’s my question then…if we’re not on elephant or MeetMindful, where else do we find the conscious men? How do we identify them? This is the burning question that MeetMindful ladies (and our marketing team, frankly), want to know.
Waylon: Don’t look at the package. You know the expression Nice Guys always Lose? Men find that to be true, way too often. We need to reverse that.
Many men might find conscious women’s strength and community intimidating! There’s a lot of power, there. So just be welcoming. There can be a lot of prejudgement of men in women’s circles of power, which is understandable but not welcoming for those kind-hearted men who don’t want to just be spiritual locusts, spiritual sleazebags—men who actually want a loving, patient, fun relationship with meaning.
Many “normal” guys distrust “spiritual guys” for a good reason—there’s some douchebags in the spiritual world. I’ve known some real jerks-to-women in the yoga world.
Amy: Yeah I have seen it first-hand too. Sadly.
Waylon: I think the good guys are everywhere—all around. Probably the way to find them is to incentivize male readers on elephant and male members (er) of MeetMindful to invite in other “nice guys” who they vouch for as being decent.
I could recommend five, boom—every man could. And if that recommendation were tied to me, in some way, then I’d be responsible for their behavior in some way.
Amy: Love that idea. Endorsements or vouching helps to vet the community in big ways. Maybe we need to bring a Nice Guys Finish First campaign out into the world. I also think having women vouch for the good guys is a big one too. I have five I could easily name, too. It’s our best friends, our love-you-like-a-brother guys.
Amy: So we’re touching on both how spiritual women and men both alienate each other. Fascinating.
Waylon: Right! Great point! Community vetting. That said…I know some shady women and men who somehow get away with pretty bad behaviour because folks don’t want to get involved, talk shit…and because of that silence, they continue to get away with bad behaviour.
Amy: So how do we fix that part? Do you think the community vetting could play a hand in solving that shady behavior?
Waylon: Well, I know I wouldn’t recommend bad boys. But I’m sure they’d sneak in, get friends to recommend them. So, just like community, there’s no easy fix except for direct interventions.
Amy: One thing we’ve even thought of doing is give people an option to “review” their dates or people they’ve been communicating with. We humans love feedback, ya know? But we’ve never pulled the trigger on anything like this because it seems like a recipe for disaster, just given how petty people can be. Although I would hope that the MeetMindful community would be a little more elevated than the general public…
Waylon: Yes, I think if there’s a way to really make it constructive, reviews could be helpful. Like, Instagram is generally constructive, but can get dark fast. PS: funny, speaking of evolving gender roles: here’s a headline from today: MI6: James Bond ‘wouldn’t be given a job at MI6′ today due to his lack of ’emotional intelligence’ (telegraph.co.uk)
He’s a heavy drinker, a serial “dater” (to be generous), and well loved for his ability to repress his emotions. But, other than that…great guy. It’s a kinda serious question, now that we humorously touched on it—women find him wildly attractive! I mean, of course it’s fiction, but is being a bad boy/a jerk/a cad somehow attractive to women who claim to be seeking a conscious relationship?
I mean, we all have dear women friends who are beautiful human beings, intelligent, and yet all too often date jerks not worth their time.
Amy: I have historically always gone for the bad boy. The heavy drinker. The guy who drives too fast. The one who my mother probably doesn’t like but won’t tell me. It’s an addiction that I finally put an end to recently.
There is a relationship expert out there who puts it beautifully: If you have a crazy strong chemistry with a man, run the other way. If I’m remembering correctly, she says they are the ones your body wants to make babies with in order to keep them around, not because they are actually good guys. When thinking back to all relationships that didn’t end well, it always started with that crazy-making chemistry. Not the sweet, loving kind. The super intense, can’t-think-of-anything-else-but-you kind.
The unsustainable kind.
Waylon: I’ve always felt, when I see intelligent lovely women such as yourself go for bad boys who are really not very kind or together, available, ready, deserving…that there is some hidden wisdom in your searching them out.
IE, there’s nothing less attractive to women than clinginess, immature “love” and too-soon attachment. So you go the opposite direction, and find someone who doesn’t buy into your stuff, doesn’t follow you around, doesn’t try to fill your heart. Someone who gives you space. And that’s beautiful!
The un-beautiful part is that, sadly, such men are mean, all too often.
So the $66,000 dollar question: is it possible to find a man or a woman for that matter who gives our hearts space, and yet who loves us? Who is present, fully, but doesn’t make us claustrophobic? Who has their own life and passion and craft going on, but is not distant or mean or having affairs?
I do think wild passion can be kind and mindful, though.
Amy: So to your theory as to why we choose the bad boys, I think you’re onto something.
For me, I know it was that I hadn’t done the work I needed to in order to be truly ready for a deeply fulfilling relationship. At that point it’s entertaining, at best.
Once I was ready, it became a non-starter. I truly believe that love is why we’re here, and relationships are our fastest path to evolution. So if I can do my part in helping the world understand that and get a little closer, I’ll be thrilled.
Waylon: I think that sounds good, but I think service is why we’re here…
This is super interesting stuff.
For me, in my dating life, I love dating as opposed to long relationships because it has space for work and loneliness built in. Both of which are preferable to being made to feel guilty for not being interested in or available for most barbecues, movies, etc.
Amy: But what about when you crave deep connection? Do you get that from just dating? And, Waylon, you do know that no one “makes” you feel guilty, that’s your stuff my friend.
Waylon: Mmmm, yes and no. When we enter into a relationship, we agree to be there for someone. So if I’m working, and I’m not able to go to their “thing” that they want me to be at, for them, I do feel bad. Maybe that’s my problem, but I do feel responsible for missing things. A relationship is a duty, and like children, you have to show up.
Amy: You do have to show up, for sure. One of my mentors always tells me that guilt is a useless emotion, only one notch up from shame. I find that fascinating.
Waylon: Trungpa Rinpoche would slightly disagree. He said regret, or you could say guilt or shame, is a vital emotion, a feeling that acts as a check or balance on our actions and karma and their effects. Then, he said, it’s important to only focus on it for three seconds—and then move forward!
Amy: So Mr. Lewis, what kind of woman do you think it will take to win over your heart, and you to win over hers?
Waylon: Well, where I’m at…my mom just turned 70, today, and she’s been waiting a good 10 years for me to settle down and have children. I love children, and am impatient to settle down. But I’m pretty loyal to the idea of being of service, building up elephant to the point where we can reach beyond the choir and actually help this world a little bit. So I’ve basically just said, at this point, it’s easier to commit 100 percent to elephant, and our mission, and wait until we have enough success and staff and delegation happening before committing to a relationship.
Amy: You gotta be ready, I totally get that. And it’s not easy to do both. So hopefully with lots of happy advertisers and subscribers and staff to manage it, you will get to that point sooner than later. Happy birthday to your Mom, by the way!
Waylon: Aw, thanks! She’s a schweetey. Raised me single-handedly while working various jobs, broke. Super sweet, wise, dorky Buddhist teacher.
Amy: Makes total sense that your Mom is a badass, dorky Buddhist teacher. I love her already.
Waylon: Oh I bet.
Photo: Amy Angelilli
Amy: So maybe when you’re ready to meet someone special we can get you on MeetMindful! Maybe she’s on there just waiting for you.
Waylon: Hah! I’m in. That said, I have a happy and healthy dating life. I think what’s missing is someone who, as we touched on, is both independent and loving. And that’s something conscious women and men alike are all looking for.
Well! That was super juicy. (bow)
Amy: Thanks Waylon!! Love talking with you always. That was a big one for sure.
Waylon: I’m joining! I joined!
Amy: Joined what?
Waylon: Joined MeetMindful 😉
Amy: Ohhh yes!!
Waylon: Your site was gorgeous and easy and fun to join> really seamless.
Waylon: Denelle! Melody!
Waylon: I already “saved” a girl.
Amy: You’re gonna have fun 🙂
Waylon Lewis: I just messaged you 😉
Waylon: I think my username is just Waylon. Yeah I should use it and figure out how elephant can help and vice versa, fun. For years folks have told me to start a mindful dating site. Of course I’m way too busy to do a good job, and now looks like you’ve done it. So they should be embedded with one another.
Yay. Alright lady, well congrats on everything. Great talk—it’ll be a great thing to feature and share up. Can you feature it on MeetMindful in a cool fun way? Could be preview of how to work together content-wise.
Waylon: I’m off! Mwuah!
Amy: Yeah I’m excited!! Great to chat, Way. You rock. And yes, we’ll definitely feature it all over 🙂