Relationships, jealousy and insecurity are only the tip of the iceberg for best-selling author, powerfully insightful teacher, and provocative master of his craft, David Deida. For relationships, jealousy, insecurity – as well as intimate connection and spiritual union in sexual loving – he is arguably your man if you are looking to study sexuality as spirituality.
In addition to countless students, David’s work has inspired the likes of well-known achievement coach Tony Robbins, Ken Wilber of the Integral Institute and minister and spiritual spokeswoman, Marianne Williamson. For as many hearts he’s inspired to ecstasy and minds he’s blown wide open to divine love, there are just as many who’ve come away pissed off and disillusioned, hurt and burnt.
I first encountered David Deida’s work when my fiancée handed me the book, The Way of the Superior Man. Just the title set off alarm bells to my neo-feminist sensibilities, but I read it anyways and became hooked on Deida’s heartfelt prescription for erotically-charged harmony between the sexes. I’ve since read most of Deida’s books, heard him speak numerous times and have placed myself (and fiancée) in Deida’s masterful hands during a week-long intensive. The heart of Deida’s work is about living your deepest truth and giving your greatest gifts, in the face of pain, broken hearts, confusing partners, and your own personality maze. He offers information, skills and energetic/body practices so as to be of service to the force of divine love in the universe, through your loving, love-making and relating.
In a moment, you’ll meet two other couples: Kendra and Decker and Bryan and KC, who have recently taken a week-long intensive with Deida. One couple finds their marriage deepening and opening; the other broke up as a result of the workshop. What is it about Deida’s sensual and spiritual truths that have the power to send two hearts more deeply aflame in connection, and for two others, sears their relationship to cinders?
Deida offers potent definitions of the essence of – and the interplay between – the divine masculine and feminine. He describes the masculine as depth of presence; archetypically and energetically it is piercing presence, stillness, purpose and will, a penetrating force by which and through which the world and all experience is felt and known. The feminine is all possibility, all movement and dynamic creative energies; fire and fury, sweetness and comfort changing on a dime, the fierce beauty of life and experience itself. The feminine is attracted to depth of presence and the masculine is attracted to that which is flush with energy.
Deida positions the romantic relationship as a means to understand and be in service of the divine feminine and masculine within your self and within your partner; it is a way of continually opening to more love and appreciation, and for sensuality to be divine prayer. I dive deeper into how to align the masculine and feminine aspects within ourselves, as well as the other vital keys to having an extraordinary relationship – with yourself first.
Many people can misunderstand Deida’s work and assume simply that women should be more feminine and men more masculine. As Deida says in an interview with Bodhi Tree Bookstore, “We’re multidimensional and fluid beings. There’s nothing wrong with any of us identifying with more masculine or more feminine, more consciousness or more light at any particular moment except when it creates closure or problems because we’re not using it wisely.”
Another important principle in Deida’s work is that of polarity. As with magnets, there is the most irresistible pull between distinctly different charges – negative on one side, positive on the other. Deida adds, “Any time one person is in their masculine and one person is in their feminine, it’s like a magnet or electricity happens between them, and it doesn’t matter if they’re committed in a relationship or total strangers.” Much of Deida’s work is about cultivating polarity – with masculine on one end of the spectrum and feminine on the other, to maintain and deepen sexual attraction.
Another important aspect of Deida’s work revolves around his three stages of development: “Any time you’re doing something for yourself, for me, me, me, it’s the first stage. Any time you’re doing something on the sense of equality and sharing making sure you’re both safe and okay, it’s the second stage. And any time you’re doing something for the sake of all beings, it’s the third stage. You may die in the process. Martin Luther King, Jesus Christ, and Mother Teresa are third stage people, but we could all have those moments every day. All you have to do is be in a disposition of serving, regardless of the outcome to yourself, and that’s the third stage.”
It was for this and more that we all came. Kendra and Decker, recently married, were well aware of the potential to get bored and take each other for granted over the span of their marriage and they decided to fix it before it was broken in 5, 15 or 50 years. The wanted to be able to continue to appreciate and truly know each other as well as deepen their sensual connection; they wanted to be able to have moments of tantric merging at will, rather than at random. The urging of their good friend and business partner, Bryan, was the deciding factor to dive in. Bryan is a coach and leads seminars for men – the Authentic Man Program – along with Decker and Kendra, and KC is a meditation teacher and sensuality coach. KC and Bryan decided similarly to do the workshop for similar reasons: a more solid relationship and deeper sexual practices. A long time student of Deida, Bryan wanted to receive the direct benefits and transmission possible through being with him personally.
The week-long intensive I attended with my partner was called the Yoga of Sex and Relationship. Obviously confused at the outset, we thought we were going to do a little yoga and learn some sensual practices that would amplify our connection. When we got there, we were all told there was to be no touching, kissing or exchanging bodily fluids for the whole week, not even with our partner. The next morning we found out that yoga in Deida-land doesn’t mean familiar stretchy, sweaty, feel-good asanas.
Deida draws a distinction between therapy, yoga and spirituality: therapy is past and healing-based; the whys and hows. To use a metaphor of a hole in a panel of stained glass, therapy is fixing the hole. Yoga – disciplined practice, a means and a way – is the polishing of the colored glass, regardless of the hole, making beauty out of the hole. It is the ability to take whatever you’ve got, whether or not it’s what you like or prefer, no matter how ugly, and transform it into art, surrendering to the divine, regardless. Spirituality? Well, everything’s perfect, as it is; there never was any hole in the stained glass. Deida defines his work as yoga with the goal of making art out of sexing and loving. Although it can be useful to at times go back and do some therapy on stuff, and his work does rub up against spirituality, Deida is about yoga. Attending his yogic workshops for most is like an interactive, intense, challenging co-creation of art – and a certain level of comfort can’t be your priority. At then end of each break throughout the day, I had to gird my loins to go back in and continue to do yoga and make art.
Relationship is as good a spiritual vehicle as any to experience divinity – but possibly the most challenging. For those of us who haven’t committed to being celibate monks and who choose relationship as spiritual path, Deida offers a map. In addition to a greater appreciation for herself, Kendra’s greatest take-away was to see how the masculine and feminine naturally clash and to not take it so seriously when it comes up in life. The problem isn’t over there with the opposite sex; your partner will continue to baffle, annoy, anger and disappoint you; it all comes with the territory. The feminine can often appear as volatile and unstable and the masculine can often appear as dense and inconsiderate. In a moment of humor, Deida says, “Ask yourself, is this the crazy b** I want to be with?” or “is this the stupid a** I want to be with?” Rather than bemoaning it, or assuming the next one will be less wacky or less of a jerk, the key is to learn how to dance with the essence of feminine and masculine, as an expression of your greatest truth in each moment.
All of us who took the workshop are facilitators and coaches and represent a younger generation of teachers working with men and women who want deeper relating, the ability to truly connect with others, and greater authenticity. One of the things taught in the Authentic Man Program is how to cultivate connection, to really “get” where another is at, often called resonance. Decker walked away from the week with Deida with the profound distinction of polarity versus resonance. The choice of when to go for resonance and connect with another, and when to choose polarity in order to retain powerful presence and purposeful separateness, has changed his life, relationship, organization and marriage – forever. Rather than always defaulting to being intimate and close, he is grateful for the choice of being able to bring his best, no matter what ride his partner is on.
With tears in her eyes, KC attempts to convey the depth of gratitude for what she got from the challenging workshop and the fallout – her breakup: a space of profoundly valuing herself, the gift of opening heart and body to another, and an understanding of her “blueprint” for attraction. When we take things we think are ugly, dark and wrong and shine light and love through them, they have this miraculous effect of being able to open the heart and body. Deida’s work can be remarkably transformational because he isn’t afraid to go to the dark epicenter and make art by finding beauty everywhere, in every moment. And then we become no longer afraid of ourselves, nor of living fully.
Bryan left with a deep sense of what he is and what he is not; getting himself as perfect, yet wanting more for himself. The workshop compounded issues between him and KC and broke them apart. Although the type of solid masculine man of deep character espoused by Deida is something that Bryan aspires to, he realized it just isn’t him. It’s like going against his natural strengths of fluidity and movement. One of the unfortunate pitfalls of Deida’s work is that many try to become “Deida-bots,” adapting postures or behaviors, developing an exoskeleton (of the kind Deida is actually trying to dissolve), and never make it back to themselves. Although not totally Bryan’s experience, he still says, “For the month after the workshop, I was raking myself over the coals, trying to become someone I am not. I am still sorting through what is true for me,” After periods of mourning and grieving the year of being together with KC, he is still left feeling infinitely deepened. As he says, “Can you stay open in the face of some of the most painful emotional experiences you’ve ever had? The cup of your joy is carved by your sorrow.”
Although Deida’s workshops are not inherently unsafe or dangerous, it is up to each participant to honor themselves. It can be important to separate teacher from teachings, since some masters or enlightened beings still have a shadow side and could do with a little therapy themselves. Deida is the first to acknowledge he’s far from perfect. Deida has profound mastery of his topics, lives much like a social recluse and shirks any markings of being a guru. Whether or not participants make him into a guru is another matter. His workshops are designed as a microcosm of real life and relationship; they are designed to push edges, because this is really how it’s going to feel and be with your partner. If you are not strong and supple, upset in the relationship will just be another excuse not to love.
Looking back at the experience, we all agree: being in the room with Deida for a long week is inherently beneficial for anyone hungry, aware or developed enough to receive it. He’s the real deal. With a bent more toward rigor than compassion, Deida’s work is still that of a living master. It’s not for everyone. Most wouldn’t trade it, but there aren’t many who are clear they’d do it again. As KC puts it, “You have to be kind of crazy to do something like this, but crazy in a really gorgeous way, so hungry for the most beautiful, raw living – and that isn’t always what you think it is.”
Deida offers us an avenue to meet the dark stuff – that we all share, teachers and students alike – with love. It is about cultivating discipline and ferocious intensity, but for the ultimate goal of living in beauty and union, of striving toward the divine through sex and love. Deida offers a way to open your heart, give your greatest gifts and love as fully as you can this lifetime. Yes, he’ll urge you to push your edges in yoga and in practices, when you have a week, weekend or hour set aside for it. But the rest of the time, he reminds us to make our lives as kind as we possibly can for this gentle soul we find ourselves in relationship with. David Deida offers a demanding path to become strong – so that we can be sweet.