John Wineland brings people together—especially men.
The LA-based teacher, speaker and entrepreneur marries experience in everything from business to Buddhism to help couples and individuals find enlightenment through intimacy.
Noticing a void for men seeking support from fellow males, he founded The New Men’s Work Project, an entity that helps men guide each other towards a more purposeful existence. (He was also a driving force behind LA’s The Way of the Superior Man men’s practice group, which includes over 300 members.)
In 2014, he launched the Aquarian Relationship Series with Kundalini yoga master, Guru Jagat, offering workshops around the world.
Here, he explains why, more and more, he finds beauty in the quiet and mundane:
Live The Process: What inspired you to found The New Men’s Work Project?
John Wineland: I love the process of guiding men into their bodies. It’s a beautiful thing to witness a man slowing down, dropping in and opening up to the incredible thickness of the moment. Sometimes there is intense grief, sometimes love, sometimes incredible stillness and peace. I can feel the whole room deepen and get still. And it is in those moments that I feel the presence of God.
I was inspired to found The New Men's Work because I felt an incredible void in resources available for men to cultivate depth and presence in their daily lives. Up until a couple hundred years ago, men gathered for spiritual practice, movement and breath. There are really no modern initiations for men in the West, and there is very little available in the way of men's circles and practice groups. What does exist has been relegated to the “playing drums in the woods” category.
Also, we are facing an unprecedented time in the world, where women are surpassing men in so many areas: IQ, medical school acceptance, college acceptance etc. We are, many believe, a generation or two removed from women leading the planet. Men are feeling that the value and roles they traditionally brought to relationships—as leaders, providers, protectors, procreative partners—are no longer relevant. This is definitely creating a bit of an identity crisis, as men look to redefine what masculine value truly is. I wanted the New Men's Work to be a modern forum for men around the world to connect and discuss these challenges, while having local men's groups that could meet regularly. To this end, I am not only traveling to teach men how to set up their own long-lasting groups, but I am also creating online portals, where men can connect with others doing the same worldwide.
My work is a mixed bag of Tantric men's work, Kundalini, meditation and mantra, as well as practices I have picked up over the years to help men forge a deeper relationship with themselves, the world, their lovers and what is. I have been leading groups for over 10 years and now, more than ever, I can feel men all over the planet yearning for a bigger experience of themselves, of other men and of the divine. We know we can go deeper. We want to make death an ally. We know we can love more.
In the weekly men's group I have been a part of for over six years, we are constantly challenging each other to deepen, pointing out blind spots, helping to refine what we want to create in the world. The results have been profound. There is something about having a group of powerful men holding a space for another man's vision. It does something. In leading men's sessions for my teachers, I have seen the profound effects of yoga, Qi-Gong and Presence practices upon men's bodies and psyches. Groups for emotional processing abound, but the ability to open a man's body-mind to a deeper relationship to the world and the moment is rare.
LTP: When were you first personally introduced to yoga and meditation and what benefits to you observe in yourself and others?
JW: My mother converted to Buddhism when I was 6, and so I began meditation quite early in my life. I have been on a pilgrimage to head temples at the base of Mount Fuji and sat for four plus hours chanting on a beach. I have spent hours in Kundalini meditations and practice, and the one aspect I keep coming back to is the beauty of stillness. As I have grown as a man, my desire to “get something” from my meditation has completely waned. Now, I am pretty much goalless, as there is nowhere to go and nothing to fix.
That said, I have been practicing Hatha, Tibetan and Kundalini yoga for over 15 years now and I know that, if the body is collapsed, so is the mind. The Yogi Bhajan quote I love is “shallow breath, shallow mind, shallow heart, shallow life....deep breath, deep mind, deep heart, deep life.”
I have men in my groups who have been practicing with me for two or three years straight and the changes I see as a result of dedicated daily practice are profound. The best way to put it is that men become more trustable. Their nervous systems become stronger. They are more available to hold space for the feminine. They have a deeper sense of purpose and a sense of presence that gifts the people around them.
LTP: What drives your passion to be an agent of positive change?
JW: To be honest, I am not certain. It doesn't really feel like a choice. And I wouldn't call myself “an agent of positive change”—just a guy doing what he has to do. My teacher used to say purpose is like an urge to go to the bathroom: you can only ignore it so long!
I do love the moment in my work however, when a man experiences a shift in awareness that leads to a deeper truth, or when I witness the relaxation that takes place when a man fully rests in his own consciousness. There is also great beauty in watching two people connect sweetly in a partner practice—quite sublime really. I have to say, that keeps me coming back.
My own wounds most likely have something to do with it too, as the men in my life left or died when I was young. I have heard it said that our greatest wounds become our deepest gifts. That certainly feels true to me.
LTP: Does modern life inhibit deep intimacy? How does your Aquarian Relationship Series address those issues?
JW: I am reticent to buy into a thought form that we are somehow less capable of deep love and connection. But modern life certainly presents some pretty profound challenges.
The Aquarian Relationship Series, which I co-teach with Guru Jagat, has three foundational principles:
Sex and love obviously are most deeply expressed through the body. And so we use Kundalini, Taoist and other Tantric practices to open our students physical, emotional and feeling bodies to more fully give and receive love. From this place, breath, eye contact, sound and touch all have deeper impact and effect.
Love, as spiritual practice, requires us to give when we often don't feel like, to feel into what another needs and push through our personal preferences or comfort zones to open their hearts and to put ourselves into our lovers’ shoes to see what is true for them. Generous loving is an intention that can be cultivated and gifted as presence, as energy, as attention, as understanding.
As a society, we spend thousands of dollars to learn skills for business, hobbies or physical well-being. Yet, we spend very little time investing in how to love more artfully. The best relationships rest on two pillars: The first is intimacy or the removal of distance or separation from another; and the second is sexual polarity, or the energetic arc that is created when masculine and feminine poles are enhanced and celebrated. We create and teach practices that allow for more appreciation and love through intimate communication and also, those which spark and foster the flow of sexual energy. When intimacy and trust are combined with highly polarized sexual energy, the results are immediate and profound.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
JW: More and more, I am finding happiness in the mundane beauty of life. Sitting in a garden, laughing with my daughter, deep, intimate moments with my love, being in the water for a good south swell. I also recognize that there is no peace without living my deepest purpose, which is constantly being refined in relationship to serving others. If I am looking for the answer in my own comfort, it is a gaping maw. I think now I am getting better at differentiating the happiness of achievement from the happiness of nourishment, from the happiness of just being human. All bring various forms of fulfillment. But more than these, seeing another have a spark of joy, realization, wisdom—nothing is fucking cooler than that.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process" and how do you do that every day?
In my tradition, there is a constant practice of awareness. We are either opening to a moment, a feeling or another human being or we are closing. The first step is to notice, moment by moment, that we are closing to what is, or we are opening to it as much as possible.
So living the process daily means to constantly be vigilant to the subtle restrictions or relaxations of one’s heart, body, mind and spirit. As we walk through the street, is there openness or tightness in our bodies? Are we feeling wide or reducing the beauty of life to some self-centered thought?
Every moment is a new possibility to make that choice.