Mind-Body-Spirit, Self Love

Talking Freedom, Power and Masculinity with Transformational Teacher David Wagner

I’ve sought out the services of many “inner work facilitators”: hypnotherapists, meditation teachers, yoga instructors, psychologists, the eccentric old lady next door- pretty much anyone who would listen. I partook in all this wisdom seeking in the hopes of feeling like less of stranger to myself.

All the forementioned facilitators were lovely, providing open ears and sage words, but I usually left my time with these folks feeling confused, like I needed a wisdom decoder.

My desire for such a decoder persisted, until I met David Wagner. David is a transformational teacher and author of the book Backbone: The Modern Man’s Ultimate Guide to Purpose, Passion and Power he aptly describes himself as “a combination of a healer, life coach, and life strategist.”

As a friend, David exudes a refreshing transparency: precise with his language, and unafraid to express love . . . or raw humor, or curiosity, or whatever the heck he feels compelled to express. As a teacher, David fully shows up for the individual he’s working with. Every time I’ve experienced David in a professional capacity, he seems to enter the space holding a proverbial clean slate – having no agenda but to support that person (or group of persons) through whatever they’re navigating, and to support them in finding their freedom and power in the process.

David’s responses to my scattered thoughts and emotions, during a private session, were so uncontrived and clear I felt them strike me in my core, then resonate up to my mind, where I experienced dozen of ah-has in the span of an hour.

Because of this clarity and candidness, I thought it best for David to speak for himself – so, I sat down with him in his cozy office in Ojai, CA to get a better glimpse of what it’s like to be David Wagner.

Bailey Gaddis: How would you describe what you do?

David Wagner: People work with me on whatever they’re navigating; I’m like a midwife of freedom and power for people. When people are at that point where they’re ready to break free, where they’re ready to unearth some inner power that was previously jammed up, then I can help them to do that – to create space for them as they do that; I can assist that, I don’t do it for them.

I have made it my work to understand people, and to understand the way people live a life of wisdom. Basically, I help people to have a relationship with God; God in the broadest sense, meaning a relationship with Spirit, or something greater than themselves, or some unseen element of life. In some cases, that’s a matter or training people in practices like meditation, self-inquiry, etc.

BG: Why do you think it’s important to approach spirituality in a straight forward, no-BS manner? Or is that even an intentional choice?

DW: It is intentional.

Many teachers talk in that soft “spiritual voice” and create a certain environment (chanting, incense, etc.): they have a certain style. Maybe it’s useful, maybe it’s not, but you feel better when you leave because you’ve been bathing in a vibe, which is great; but, that’s not natural for me.

There’s a place where spiritual teachers can talk in a really ordinary language. I live a relatively ordinary life, so it’s natural for me to use sort of ordinary language.

BG: How are you affected each time you lead a retreat, or work with a private client?

DW: Every time I teach it’s different. Whenever I’m doing whatever it is that I’m doing, I’m not completely in it the way I would be if I were only a participant, but I’m immersing myself in the content I’m offering. Often, when I’m teaching, I’ll hear myself say things that are much more enlightened or wise than I think of my actual experience being. So I’ll hear myself teaching and I’ll learn from listening to myself.

Also, being in the experiential process with people, I’m right there in it with them. So if we’re meditating together – the way I do it – we’re going into a shared psychic space together; I’m experiencing what you’re experiencing.

The other piece of it is, it’s just incredibly moving for me to see people interacting with grace, and to see people going through the process of transformation – when they do it.

BG: What were the primary catalysts that led you to teaching?

DW: It’s my dharma; I was born to do this. So, in some ways it’s one of the only things I’ve been able to do well and feel like “yeah, this is my thing.” So that’s part of it, but the way I first got into spirituality was in AA when I was very young, a teenager. There was a heavy emphasis on service, and we had this expression, “you’ve got to give it away to keep it.” So, that was a general orientation and I discovered that was a really good way to stay sober and assimilate the work of transformation if I knew that I was going to have to help other people go through that process.

I also had a moment when I was in college [an art student.] I took a course called Mystical Consciousness, East and West, and it was a really cool teacher who was exposing us to all these different mystical traditions. One of the things he exposed us to was mystical Christianity. He showed us a documentary about mother Teresa, and there’s a scene where she and some missionaries have to go in and rescue children that are abandoned in a hospital in a war torn area. She enters the hospital and picks up an emaciated baby and looks at the baby, strokes the baby and says “beautiful child,” with so much love, and poise, and steadiness. She’s radiating so much love. It hit me in that moment; I realized that I could be whatever I want to be in this life. I could be a vehicle for God’s love on Earth; that was an option to me. Once I saw that I could do that, the realization erased all other options; there was nothing else I could do, as my main thing in life.

The way that I’m teaching right now, something that I’ve settled into over the past 15 or 20 years, is the most natural expression of that calling.

BG: When men complete Backbone, how do you hope their life (or their perception of their life) has shifted?

DW: It depends on the man. I wrote Backbone because after many years of teaching I realized 95% of the people I was working with were female, and the other 5% [the men] were already very open. There was no Oprah for men; so women had this huge expanse as a group, and men stayed out of it.

I wrote Backbone, and some of the men’s training that I do, to answer that. I wrote it in a way so a man that’s already on a spiritual path, could read it and find a masculine expression of his spirituality; and for a man who has no idea about his spirituality, the book can act like a primer for having an inner life.

A lot of men don’t really have a conscious inner life, and so if a man reads Backbone it can be confronting – they may need to take breaks. They’re confronted with the knowing that they can create themselves; they’re confronted with the idea that their life is theirs and the way that they are is their choice. If they get some tools about how to that from the book, I consider that an extra bonus.

To learn more about David, visit his website DavidWagner.com

This interview has been condensed.

Family Entertainment, Travel

How to Have the Ultimate Christmas Family Vacation in Downtown San Francisco

I’m addicted to the spirit of Christmas – so much so that I would happily pull up roots and move to Santa’s Village if the big guy extended an invite.

 

This ever-present craving for all things jolly, cheery and evergreen-y pulled me to downtown San Francisco two weeks before The Big Day. I wanted a chance for my young son, husband and I to get away for a mini and merry trip before we were absorbed into the loving chaos of our extended family.

 

While most Christmas themed areas leave me wanting more (more mistletoe, more lights, more hot chocolate, more classic holiday tunes, more wreaths, more red, more green, and more cheer) I left my holiday getaway to SF full of joy, wonder and peppermint flavored spirits.

 

Have a hankering for your own holiday themed sojourn? Here are events and activities in downtown San Francisco to help you create the ultimate Christmas family vacation.

Read more on Huff Post!

Guilt & Forgiveness, Parenting

Nobody Told Me Weaning Would Be So Damn Hard

I felt a heavy ball of mourning in the pit of my stomach the last time I breastfed my son; physically, it felt like there was a cheese grater scraping over my nipples (I knew it was time to stop), but emotionally, I felt like we could go on forever. My body had been weaning him for the previous six months, supplying less and less nectar, requiring heightened sucking and ample nip-soreness.

I began the cold turkey weaning with the white lie, “Not right now,” when he would ask to nurse. I was lying to us both, giving him the illusion that at a time that wasn’t “right now” I’d let him nurse, and I was giving my self the illusion that the most intense form of bonding either of us had ever known wasn’t really over.

After a week of “not right nows,” my son and my emotions caught on and we cried hard. Our relationship had forever shifted, and my relationship with my self was thrown into a blender.

Breastfeeding was like my parenting “fail safe”; what I could rely on to make myself feel like a decent parent even if I’d been distracted and totally un-fun that day. It was my mommy reset button.

Read more on Babble!

Guilt & Forgiveness, Mind-Body-Spirit, Self Love

Honoring Our Need to Hibernate

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I love being out in the world. I love connecting with people. I love getting out of my head and tuning into my heart: it lights up when I’m with people who make me smile.

But after awhile, I don’t love it, and I need to reset.

After I burst my introverted bubble and observe myself with others, questions begin to percolate into my awareness as I step out of the socializing: “Why did I say that to this person? Why do I feel nervous in those situations? I wonder what that person thought when I said this thing? Why am I such an awkward hugger?” Ugh.

My time in my nest, my time for resetting, isn’t really about answering those questions, but letting them flow through and out of me. Sure, I could sit for days analyzing every social situation I flubbed, but that much time in my head makes me nervous.

So, I let those questions do their thing, I avoid human interaction for a few hours (maybe days), and I reconnect to myself. For me, that reconnection looks like writing, meditating, staring at my Christmas tree lights (happy holidays y’all!), watching TV shows that do nothing for my intellect but are so yummy, napping, playing with my son (who could care less how smart or witty I am), and engaging in other fail-safe activities for my soul – and ego!

After a solid period of hibernation, I crave a flight out of my coop.

I used to resist this hibernation. I used to have difficulty enjoying my alone time. I used to think that avoiding humans made me a less functional member of society.

But, hibernation actually makes me better at being a human who interacts with other humans. My well runs dry when I try to push too much socializing out of myself.

I’m starting to find my balance, and it feels really nice: I’m working with who I am, instead of who I think I should be.

What about you? When does your “socializing well” run dry?
Maybe it happens after an hour of small, medium and big talk at a party. Maybe all your wells fill up when socializing and you could do it all day er’ day. Maybe you can only handle a few minutes at a time.

Let’s honor our individual limits and care for our authentic selves, instead of trying to fit into that one-size-fits-all “model self” society has fashioned for us.

Happy nesting!

P.S. Have a child? Begin noticing when their little well runs dry and let them cozy up in their nest to refuel: the tantrums (for all of us!) usually start to fade when we honor our boundaries.