00:00:00 Introduction

00:00:42 Intimacy Essentials

00:02:51 Working with resistance to the journey of intimacy 

00:05:07 When a relationship is workable and when it is not.

00:05:58 Projections 

00:07:24 Conditioning, erotic wounding and sexual habits.

00:13:10 Vulnerability and safety for trust

00:14:59 Reactivity and deep listening.

00:22:33 Our inner critic and self-worth.

00:26:13 Hoping and potential, fear of aloneness

00:29:00 Connection as the aphrodisiac

00:30:23 Radical subjectivity

00:33:00 Men and the need to work with shame. 

00:39:19 Healthful anger and freeing one’s expressive capacities. 

00:45:51 On reflecting on death, enlivenment of death

00:47:22 When Robert nearly died in 2016. 

00:49:21 Robert reads a poem, “Which of us will die first?”

00:51:59 Ease and connection over spark

00:54:16 On gratitude and faith 





Robert Augustus Masters



Free music from Robert’s wife, Diane Bardwell




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RAW TRANSCRIPT Please excuse any errors

Olivia Clementine: I’m Olivia Clementine, and this is Love and Liberation. Today our guest is Robert Augustus Masters. Robert is a psychotherapist and relationship and psychospiritual guide with a doctorate in psychology. He’s also the author of many books, including Transformation through Intimacy, Spiritual Bypassing, To Be a Man and Bringing Your Shadow out of the Dark. 

I thought we could start with a more general question around intimacy. Specifically what do you find are some essentials for cultivating an intimate relationship? 

Robert Masters: Well, for starters, becoming more intimate with ourselves. All the elements to make us up, all the various parts, the aspects, and, and right from the start to realize that intimacy and fusion are not the same thing.

Like when we say we’re at one with somebody, often that means we’ve lost our boundaries, we’re refused with them. It’s a romantic bubble. We’re not really close to them. We’re, we’re close to fantasy. So intimacy requires a certain subtle distance from the object of our intimacy, you know, person, a certain state of mind, a certain quality, certain emotion, and then we can keep it in focus.

We can see there’s some self-reflection implicit in that. Like real intimacy is not just this thing anyone can do. It requires some, some work on oneself requires the capacity for self-reflection and, and to also have faced our fears of getting that close. Cause many of us don’t want to get that close.

Cuz you know, there’s a sense, oh, I’m, I could disappear into him or her or I may lose my autonomy. It was a healthy bond. Of course, both people support each other’s autonomy. So intimacy’s a huge thing. I mean, it’s basically means relational closeness, but there’s so much to that. Mm-hmm. . 

Olivia Clementine: Yeah. And, and in terms of, you know, I’m sure you see this, I certainly see it where there’s a lot of resistance in a couple, like they want intimacy, yet there can be resistance to the journey itself of becoming intimate and then just resistance to the fact that there are things that have to be worked on. And I’m wondering from your perspective, what do you think you could say to offer a, a shift in perspective around the goodness of the journey and how one can actually work with that resistance?

Robert Masters: Well, first step is become intimate with the resistance. Not treated as an obstacle or something that shouldn’t be there. It’s there for a reason, perhaps because of unresolved wounding from our early years. But it’s there and it can’t just be blasted opener or removed or dissolved. It can be, but that least does a lot of damage.

So becoming intimate with our resistance, with our capacity of saying no and very situations, varying levels is really important. That means nothing gets excluded from the path of intimacy. We include all of it and we work with it. If it’s difficult or not difficult, we still work with it, with equal vigor, presence, commitment, and a good relationship.

The bumps in the road, the hassles, the reactivity, the fights don’t have to be in the way of getting closer. If they’re worked with, then unfortunately, most couples don’t work with ’em. They, they want to be right and the other person admit they’re wrong and it, it gets stuck at that level a lot.

Positional energies. So it’s about using everything as a vehicle for awakening the prayer being in some ways, may all things awaken me. May I allow all things to awaken me all things. Doesn’t mean we like them or put up with them. We may have, we may take strong stance, but we’re opening ourselves to the whole shebang, the whole thing.

See, I’m gonna let all of this awaken me. Even when I feel incredible resistance. I don’t feel grateful. I don’t wanna do this. Something’s wrong with him or her. That’s just grist for the mill. And that has to be gotten not as an intellectual notion, that as a living reality, we fill in our bones, our marrow, we actually get it.

And to do that, we need to be in relationship with someone or others who want the same. They want to go deep, they want to use relationship as a vehicle for awakening and healing. Unfortunately, many of us will be with partners that don’t want that, and we spend most of our lives trying to get them to want that, and we get overly invested.

And that, that leads to something far from intimacy.

Olivia Clementine: And if somebody’s in a situation like that, that they’re spending all their time trying to get their partner to be on the same page. Yeah. When is it workable and when is it not? 

Robert Masters: It’s workable when that other person wants to get on the same page and they, they not just to please the other, but because they know on their heart of hearts I need this.

And in that context, they’re, they’re willing to do the, the work required, whether they’re with a partner or not. See, here’s the beautiful thing, the best, the preparation for being with the true partner, really good person to be with is the same work that we have to do in ourselves. Anyways, healing, awakening, it’s lovely to share the journey as long as we’re with someone who’s a peer.

Olivia Clementine: Mm-hmm. Really love that. Yeah. Yeah. I feel like that’s so relieving just to hear. Cuz so many people are searching for the other forgetting how much they have going on already, they get to work with.

Robert Masters: – – and there’s so much projection on the other, not just the, the, the bad qualities we don’t own in ourselves, but also the good qualities.

We may not be in touch with our own beauty, true size, presence, spirit. We may project that onto another person and they’ve got all that and then we look up to. There’s a problem either way. So seeing that when I talk about projection, if we don’t know we’re doing that, there’s a problem. If we don’t know we’re being reactive.

When we’re being reactive, there’s a problem. So many will go into relationships saying, well, I, I know he hasn’t, he or she hasn’t worked on themselves. Like, but they read the books and they’ve done this and that. And I say, that’s a problem there cuz if you’re doing the work and your partner isn’t, you’re gonna end up walking at their pace if you wanna walk together.

And the goal here is not to twist their arm to get them to shift is to invite them aboard. But if they’re not ready for that, what do we do? Then we’re stuck And then, and, and hopefully at some point we realize we didn’t pick this person, our conditioning, pick this person cuz they, their, their current behavior, sense of character, et cetera.

Perfectly mimics what we’ve suffered from as a child with either parent or sibling or schoolmates or whatever. We’re just reliv reliving our wounding. We’re sizing our wounding. 

Olivia Clementine: Will you say a little bit more about that? The eroticizing the wounds, the living from the conditions? 

Robert Masters: Yeah. If we have a charge with a certain situation from we were young, there’s excitation in that. Even if it’s highly abusive, a lot of excitation, it’s not positive, it’s highly negative, but it’s still excitation.

There is a charge in our system of being around someone who’s unavailable or someone who speaks harshly to us or overpowers us. We get older and we may end up eroticizing, sexualizing it so that that increases the intensity. It gives us some break from it if we’re being sexual in that context. There’s a, a bit of relief, but we’re just acting out the old wound and distracting ourselves from it at the very same time.

That’s why it’s so important for any, any couple, to know their sexuality inside out, to see to what extent are the non-sexual parts of my sexuality dominating me or running me, my wanting to be wanted, my wanting to be overpowered or overpower, et cetera, et cetera. A lot of this is the foundation for porn. Porn habits many men have,

Olivia Clementine: And if somebody’s listening right now, and is curious, are there – a few questions they could ask themselves around that. 

Robert Masters: Yeah, they, they would start with them, what are the non-sexual dynamics that are present in my sexuality? And they look at thoroughly history. What did I not get? What was I given too much of whatever it was when I was young, and to what degree is that entered my erotic functioning.

And I have a chapter in my book to be a man called taking Charge of our Charge, which means, Hey, you have a charge man’s a woman. You may have an instant hit of sexual possibility. There’s an instant hit. What matters though is what he does in the succeeding seconds. Does he feed that? Does he undress her behind his forehead?

Does he fantasize or does he see through it? Does he self-reflect enough to see through that he’s acting this out? And in doing so, he’s, he’s subtly or not so subtly dehumanizing her and keeping himself removed from the, the deeper truth of what’s going on

Olivia Clementine: What do you feel like we’re not asking in the realm of sex? 

Robert Masters: One thing we should be asking is to what degree am I really into this For connection? Not sexual connection, but just connection.

Connection. Cuz what I’ve seen is many of us, especially us men, will get sexual in order to feel connection. And I’ll say to the men, I think you got it backwards. Why don’t you make connection priority. Make it be the initial factor. If so, sex then becomes an expression of ready, present connection.

So there’s no pressure then for sex to produce the connection. It’s more like, okay, connect first, then if sex is natural, go ahead. There’ll be a beautiful celebration of that. But there’s no pressure then and there’s no desperation then like we see in, in porn, things that are related to that. The desperation to have that for, for a few seconds of relief, a bit of a break from the, the miserableness of our daily life.

So it’s a great place to investigate and it’s also the area most people are least willing to explore. It’s like, here’s this one area of life that feels good in some ways. Why should I mess with that? And yet if we don’t, cuz in sex what’s neurotic in us, unhealthy shows up in an exaggerated form.

If we look closely. if we open our eyes. So it’s a fantastic arena for growth to examine that. It’s not actually a sexy thing to do. It’s actually very sobering. Mm-hmm. , it’s also very humbling to go, oh my God, you look back at our history and go, that’s what I was doing with him or her. Oh my God. And everyone can look back with some degree of embarrassment.

My God, yeah, I was younger. I forgive myself for that. But look what, look what happened. Look at the unacknowledged ego and what was happening or the, or the drive to get something I didn’t get from my parents. That’s why a lot of the focus is on the non-sexual dynamics that drive it, and they’re big. And if they’re not examined, they run us.

Olivia Clementine: Many of us don’t take the time to investigate the ultimate aspiration of why we have sex and how to actually come into it from a place of two beings coming together in a full way. 

Robert Masters: But imagine if you’re already connected to the other, already loose, already relaxed. You don’t have, there’s no desperation. So the sex doesn’t happen. You’re still connected. You still have that bonus, and if it does happen, it’s a celebration.

Yeah. It just simply celebrates connection and it has spiritual dimensions. Many people have had their first profound spiritual experience through sex out of the blue. Often a non-dual sense of awe reality through that. So there’s all the possibilities, but the thing is, We don’t have access to that.

Ordinarily, if we’re not working on ourselves, not looking at ourselves, we might now and then have it happen all serendipitously. There’s this, here’s this beautiful moment or time, but that’s not enough. 

Olivia Clementine: And what do you think in terms of cultivating vulnerability in a partnership? I think this is something you and your wife are great examples of. –

How can a couple start to create the safety to be vulnerable and honest? So then, you know, as they’re, if even speaking of sex, right, that’s so essential but regardless of sex are not just everyday life vulnerability. 

Robert Masters: Yeah, yeah, right. The vulnerabilities crucial. I’m working with couples. First thing I’ll do with ’em when they’re had and face each other is get ’em, both get vulnerable. I’ll do some work with ’em on their own. Each until, not necessarily there’s tears, but there’s a sense of openness, vulnerability, empathy. Then we can dive into this stuff that’s difficult to look at and vulnerability is, is, has to be stripped of us negative connotations, like being weak or whatever. And we over associate it with female as opposed to male. I think we have to be vulnerable. And a good relationship is both people are vulnerable without losing their spine or their power, but they’re vulnerable and that makes it safe. That creates safety along with a number of other things.

And without that safety, we can’t, we won’t go deep. We’re gonna be always in the outlook for the other person attacking us, putting us down, hurting us, betraying us in some way. And I see so many couples, if I ask them and they’re honest, do you trust the other one? They very few. You can say a hundred percent.

Some can, but not very many.

And we’re not about to let that guard down just because the person says they love us or they’re, they’ll never do that again to us. Or they’re sorry about something that we know they’ll do again. And it’s hard to feel safe with someone who’s not, who’s not a peer who hasn’t worked themselves, they don’t know their own darkness.

Olivia Clementine: Yeah. Will you speak to that, that piece of knowing your own darkness as a way to actually be intimate? 

Robert Masters: The simple step there. It is not so simple in some ways. Turning toward it. Yeah. A little bit at a time. And one way of doing that is whenever there’s any pain in your life, emotional, physical, whatever, you take the counterintuitive step of moving toward it a bit at a time, just stepping toward it.

And that way you get a clear view of it. You see it up close. It’s like with fear, if we move closer to our own fear, It doesn’t go away necessarily, but we see it, we understand it more. We understand it’s workings. Then we may personify it as a younger part of ourselves and we start to feel more protective and loving toward it.

But that begins with turning toward it. That’s the biggest step we can take in a way in our evolution is when we start turning toward what’s unpleasant, difficult, scary, one conscious step at a time. And that brings us closer to it.

Olivia Clementine: So in terms of darkness and our experience of turning towards what are some signs that we are acting out of our shadow, that there are unseen forces at play in, in a moment in our life. 

Robert Masters: Reactivity, top of the list. I mean that, that’s, and we have to know what reactivity is, know what it feels like in us and know that it’s difficult in the midst of it to admit to it.

There’s a lot of shame in that and there’s pride may all have mixed together. So if we’re friends and you’re being reactive or I am, the gift we can give each other is saying I am being reactive, then we stop. We shut up, put a period at the end of the sentence. Breathe, connect. Don’t keep talking. Don’t keep being righteous.

And that’s difficult and it is doable. And when you’re reactive, reactivity to me, is activated shadow material pretty well all the time. Something’s coming out of the dark as we’ve kept either in the dark fully or partially and suddenly we’re in it. We’ve, someone asked us, how old do you feel right now?

And we’re being honest. We probably say a young age, like 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, maybe early teens. But we’re not our current self and we’re using all the tools that we have to support our reactivity, rationalization especially, and we can get so busy being right and we make being right better, more important than being happy, being connected, being plugged in and we get a chance.

Most of us get reactive to some degree, quite commonly. Not just to people, but say your computer’s not working, or an extra long lineup or traffic’s slow. There’s a whole list and we can feel that triggered-ness in our system, like we’re triggered and our heart is not open then, and we, we have a sense of injustice.

Something’s been done. It’s not fair. As if we didn’t sign up for this to be in this realm or, and things aren’t fair and there’s a lot of stuff that isn’t fair. There’s a lot of awful stuff. But we don’t have to get reactive about it. We’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.

And I don’t think we outgrow it fully. I mean, Diane, I still get reactive, not very often, but we do. But we name it quickly. I hear it is being reactive. I don’t name it, she’ll name it for me and vice versa. And that can infect a relationship if it’s not seen for what it is. To me, if you’re reactive, you’re, you’re not, you’re not in a position where you can be intimate..

And to get intimate with your reactivity would mean getting feeling close to that younger part of us that’s just crying out of the unfairness, the injustice, et cetera, of, of, of reality or how it was, maybe it was horrible. We may have an abusive childhood, we’re feeling that again and we just rail against it, but we don’t see that that’s what we’re railing against.

We see the other person as the problem and we can project that. It can happen on scales per personal, familial, even collective countries, cold War, Russia US, I mean, projecting their worst qualities on each other and be completely caught up in that. It goes on and on

Olivia Clementine: And that one moment that you are speaking of, with your example of Diane, where she just names or you name, oh, you’re being reactive. And then you mentioned earlier this potential righteousness, defensiveness. Yeah. Can you speak to that piece of just how, how do we start to come out of the need for rightness and, and the willingness to support each other?

Robert Masters: By practicing keeping our connection alive and well. Cause the more connected we are, the safer we will feel to say something that’s painfully self-conscious as I’m being reactive. Yeah. And this, I, I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but here I am. There’s that, and that when there’s enough safety, that becomes easier and easier to say.

There’s not safety. Two people can get reactive and they spent hours back and forth till they’re exhausted or they finally have sex or something. But they’re, they haven’t solved anything.

Also there’s a, there’s a deep mutual listening. The opposite of which you say you watch republics and Democrats debate. Neither side is open to being shifted by the other person’s view or speech at all. They’re just parroting their own talking points, talking over each other.

It’s, it’s so common and it’s a sign of wounding immaturity. We don’t listen. In a good bond, you watch a couple that’s close, they’ll fight periodically, there’s some hassles, but there’s a sense of listening deeply both to what’s being said and what’s not being said. And there’s a quietness in the person listening.

If I’m in that role, I’m not filled up with what I wanna say? I’m pretty empty. Like in my work with people. I, I feel kind of empty headed in a way. Like I don’t have thoughts running through me. I’m just open space and I’m very receptive to my intuitive hits I get and I, that guides me along with that person’s energy.

Same in a really good conversation between intimates, there’s a sense of not being wanting to have your say. It’s more like, ah, you listen and your listening draws them out more.

Olivia Clementine: That piece feels so connected to what you’re saying in the very beginning. Like, if somebody doesn’t know themself, it’s so impossible to be a deep listener. – It feels like that’s kind of the essence of beingness in a way of like just willing to be here and to be so comfortable in oneself that you’re willing to not look for something else.

Robert Masters: And that’s why self-reflection is so essential. Cause that’s part of it. And also learning to meditate, not to make it some fancy Eastern term, just simply being present moment to moment, practicing that, doing that and being with someone else who does that too. So you’re doing that together.

Olivia Clementine: One thing that I wanna talk to you about is the topic of self-worth and low self-worth. It’s something that can really compromise relational choices. And what are your thoughts on some root wounds around low self-worth and also returning back to that wholeness? 

Robert Masters: Well, I think the very start. We all have an inner critic, but very few of us recognize our inner critic or work with it, once we learn to work with our inner critic, that toxic internal voice of heartless self shaming, we all have that, that’s so inextricably as tied in with our, our, our lack of self worth.

And when you, when you listen to the inner critic, its basic message is not reinforcing self worth. It’s lowering it or crushing it. And once we get that, instead of saying to others or to yourself, oh, I’m so pathetic, you would instead say, my inner critic says, I’m so pathetic. Huge difference. Sounds simple, semantically, but huge difference.

We start to become aware of this, this activity we call the inner critic, and we stop feeding it with our attention and we stop letting it have free access to the child in us. So that’s crucial. That will shift one’s sense of self-worth very quickly. But that requires naming this, naming your critic.

Give it a name. You may have to say it’s name 20, 30 times a day. Take a few deep breaths each time, shift your attention away from it. And that’s work. But if one, as one does that more, it becomes much easier. And the inner critic starts to fade. It becomes more like a mosquito in the back corners of your psyche somewhere.

It’s just making a little fuss, you know? It’s irritating, but it’s minor cause it’s, it’s not in your ear with a megaphone. So that’s part of it. 

And there’s also our attachment to low self-worth too, which is a little embarrassing to look at. Like, what do we get out of low self-worth? Do we, what do we elicit from others? Cause we don’t, we feel like we’re not very good. We’re this, that and the other. We’re critical of ourselves. We may draw a lot of sympathy from others, or people wanna fix us. We get attention. So it’s good to see that too. And we self, are we talking about, see as this also gets into the spiritual realms, like who are we?

I mean, are we the singularity? No, we’re, we’re like a community of, of selves, parts, aspects. Each of which takes turns masquerading as us, until we wake up a little and we realize, ah, That’s my child. I mean, that’s the critic in me. That’s this, here’s my ambition, whatever it is. And we start to sense ourselves as that which contains and transcends all these parts.

So see this is a multidimensional approach where you have to bring in your, there’s a spiritual dimension to it. Psychological, emotional, psychic, sexual, physical, social. It’s all mixed together. Mm-hmm. 

Olivia Clementine: I appreciate you saying that too, cuz hopefully it allows somebody to feel more compassion for their process.

Robert Masters: Yeah, like having a lot of compassion for our weaknesses, but not to the point where we excuse them or, or, or condone them. If we’ve done something that requires us to apologize, we apologize. We don’t do it groveling on the ground, a puddle of guilt. We do it with some dignity, but we’re still apologizing, we’re vulnerable, we’re open. Mm-hmm.

Olivia Clementine: I’m glad you’re holding both. Yeah. I mean also just going back to the workability, what do you think in a relationship is workable and what is not? Like, are there some fundamentals? Obviously we know abuse and, mm-hmm not workable but anything else that you see that is a little more subtle or we just let slide. 

Robert Masters: Well, there’s also the sense of, of what arises for me when hearing that the question is around hope, or we can be seduced by hope cuz we keep saying to ourselves in so many words, well, he or she has potential.

I’ll just hang around a little longer. Give them more time. Something a decade goes by, nothing’s shifted. I see so many couples that are stuck in that. And the hope is a romance with tomorrow, nostalgia for the future. It’s, it’s not now. Mm-hmm, it keeps us hooked. And often we have a huge investment in that person getting through, getting through to that person.

Just like we wanted to get through to mo mother or father in a way when we were little, but we couldn’t, so we’re trying to act this out. And the other person, of course, is resisting us doing that. And it’s, it’s a struggle between conditioning and conditioning. It’s not really a relationship, it’s an association between dysfunctionality and a different type of dysfunctionality.

And people struggle. I’ve seen people who have abusive relationships and they just hang in there hoping it will shift, hoping he’ll finally stop this or she’ll finally become this. And they’re waiting and waiting and waiting. And they’re often, their, their bottom line is I don’t wanna be alone.

I’ll say, well, you are, you are very alone in this. They’re probably lonely. How lonely it is to be beside someone you don’t feel connected to.

And it’s also important to say, whose eyes am I looking through when I see this other person , or see people I want to be with. If you say, say if you’re single and you see an attractive man, you can also say, what’s the little girl let me say about this man? She may say, oh, it’s like candy. Like just go for it in a way.

Whereas the adult woman and you go, you know what, he’s got some nice qualities, but I, I, I know the energy. I can always smell the red flags. I can sense and feel them. No thanks not going there. And so we have to be aware of what lens are we putting on when we look at someone one.

Olivia Clementine: I appreciate that step looking through the lens, who’s seeing the person that we’re drawn to and that really common fear of aloneness. I mean, in a world of nearly 8 billion people, there’s a fear of being alone and can you speak more about that? 

Robert Masters: Yeah, I see it getting worse cuz I, when I say, for example, I, when I go to the local gym for a workout, I’m always astonished, I’m usually the only one in there is not looking at their phone the entire time they’re working out.

These people their head down between sets, sometimes even while they’re doing, doing a set on weights, they’re doing that, or on the treadmill, they’re, they’re, they feel like they’re connected. They’re not really connected to any, maybe very superficially, but they’re not really plugged in and they’re missing so much by looking down, looking away. And they don’t, not aware of nature when they’re walking, they don’t see the trees. It’s just what’s, what’s on, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, texting. Is so lonely.

And it’s so separating. And I think going back to square one, I think to connection. Many people have asked me what, what to do to get turned on? I’ll say, make connection the aphrodisiac, not some erotic ritual or some body part you focus on, but connection, that’s the aphrodisiac. When in doubt connect, and that includes sharing when you’re disconnected. If I feel a little cut off from Diana, she from me is disconnection. We share that and that creates instant connection just by, by sharing that rather than acting and well I don’t wanna tell ’em that or they’ll go away. No, speak it without shame. I’m feeling a little cut off now. I know if I’m very close to you right now, that shifts things very quickly. But again, that type of honesty requires the substratum of safety, deep safety, deep trust. And you can’t, you can’t force that.

Olivia Clementine: And will you speak more about the word connection? What does it mean to really be connected with somebody? 

Robert Masters: You feel them and they feel you feeling them. It’s to do with feeling, it’s not so much, it’s not mental. It’s more and being, it’s a sense of presence being plugged in. You’re reading them, you’re with them, and you’re not distracted by anything else.

They have your full attention and that’s intimate. It’s another way of saying being intimate. You’re, you’re connected, you’re plugged in, but not in some dramatic fashion, like in romantic love where you, you’re plugged in too much. You’re plugged into the extent where you’ve lost touch with who you are.

Just like with working with people, if you get. You’re too removed like a clinician. You’re, you’re gathering data, but you’re further back. You, you don’t see as much. You get in too close, you get overly empathetic. You feel the other person too much. You, you lose your boundaries. It’s a problem there.

It’s what you do is you cultivate that place where you’re really close, but just far enough away to keep them in focus. I call it like a radical subjectivity. You’re in close, you’re gathering a lot of data, but you’re not losing sight of the bigger picture. Mm-hmm. So, you know, it’s an art. Intimacy’s an art, and it’s something we can choose, but you can’t just decide one day to do it. You gotta say first step, turn toward my pain more understand my shadow. No realize I do have a shadow, a container for my unwanted as or disowned aspects of myself, and start to explore it. If you don’t explore it, what’s in there will run the show.

It will run you from behind the scenes. You won’t even know it, but you’re possessed by your own conditioning. So it’s, it’s about awakening, but not awakening in some dissociative, spiritual way. It’s about awakening in a full-blooded way.

It’s about feeling more, feeling others, feeling nature more, being more tuned in and getting to know your emotions inside out. Emotional literacy. 

I mean, I think of men, especially here being stuck in shame and not knowing they’re in shame. It’s so unpleasant. What they’ve done instead is when it kicks in, they immediately tr shifted to either withdrawal, emotional withdrawal, dissociation, numbness, or more commonly into aggress.

So they just seem aggressive. How dare. And they’re angry at the person that made them maybe me feel this in the first place as far as they think.

So shame has to be explored, fear, so-called darker emotions me aren’t really darker, they’re just, they’re more difficult to deal with. So you see how the whole approach is actually multi-dimensional. It’s naturally integral. You can’t leave out your sexuality, you can’t leave out your emotions or your body, your spiritual dimensions, your psychic capacity.

It’s all, it’s all there. And if you’re with someone else who has the same passion to know these dimensions of themselves as you do in yourself, magic can happen. Still work has to be done, but it’s magic as you’re building something instead of tearing down the house every week and then have to rebuild it, you’re, you have a lot of momentum.

Olivia Clementine: I’m thinking of a listener that’s like, am I doing that? Am I really feeling able to really be here and able to feel another and, and what are some of the tendencies that they may be experiencing but aren’t quite clear that’s actually inhibiting them from connecting? Does that make sense? 

Robert Masters: Yeah. Well, It’s important to start with just things, basics, like fear.

What do I do with fear? Do I get numb sometimes? Most of us do. What do I do with my numbness? What did I do as a child when I, when I was, went numb or what’d I do with my anger? You get to know that things you should have been taught in school, part of emotional literacy 101, but we didn’t learn.

And you become an investigator. You start, to you, that’s a big jump. It’s an existential leap into wanting to know yourself. In the sense the unexamined life is in many ways not worth living. That you start to dive into that and it’s messy. You fall flat on your face. You, you take breaks from it. You still mess up a lot, but you’re, your, your feet are finding the path.

It’s muddy, is tricky as stepping stones are slippery, but you’re starting to do it. I don’t think anyone has a smooth journey from knowing, being completely outta touch with themselves to getting in touch. It’s a, this has a lot of circuits, a meandering river. It’s all over the place, but we start to feel our way and a certain point comes where we can’t go back.

I think it’s a wonderful thing when that happens. I see it in people. They come too far to go back and just be a caterpillar munching the leaves again. And they’re not far enough out to fly. They’re in the cocoon. They’re in the chrysalis, and they’ll be there until they’re ready to emerge. But they’ve actually started the process and it’s very mysterious how it begins.

Some people never seem to take that jump no matter how attractively packaged it is to them. Other people are so eager they may start when they’re very young. I have people in the early twenties, somebody come to groups with me and they’re so going for it. It’s, it’s, it’s a revelation for those that are in the fifties and sixties in the group.

They can start early. Sometimes it starts very early or we get, or we get shut down. We may have a very open view of reality when we’re very young and it may be squashed by unhealthy parenting. Stays underground for a while, then we’re in a safe environment later on and it starts to emerge.

But it is an existential jump when we take that, take that leap, and often being close to death, does that extreme heartbreak, suffering, feeling what’s going on in place like Ukraine and Burma and without any buffers where we just let ourself feel it fully. Someone dies close to us, dear friend, has some horrible thing happen and we sit of numbing ourselves.

We feel it. That’s part of what I think is required now culturally is de numbing, but it’s very difficult cause most leadership is displayed numbness, arrogant shame, unhealthy shame. But there’s a lot of numbness, a lot of cutting off from real vulnerability.

And yet here we are. We get to go ahead and make a difference maybe in very small scales, which is a few people, maybe in one other person, small groups. I dunno if it’ll turn the corner humanity’s at now, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Olivia Clementine: And will you also elaborate a little bit on the shame piece that you were speaking of earlier. 

Robert Masters: I think shame is the most hidden emotion in psychotherapy and spiritual practice. It almost always is misconstrued as something else or becomes something else. And, and there’s literature like well known authors like Brene Brown have pathologized shame. They don’t see the positive side of shame. The shame has a purpose. It’s, I think there’s healthy shame , there is unhealthy shame. But we need to turn toward our shame to even find out what the differences between the two and realize here’s this thing we’ve lived with our whole life since we were very young and we, most of us have not examined it very deeply.

And I think for men especially, it’s really important to, to do their work on their shame. Otherwise there’s too much aggression from them. Women don’t feel safe with them. It feeds their porn habit. And even the shame of, of coming for help, of admitting they’re, they need help, women come more readily to groups than most men.

Some men do, but a lot of men feel a little bad about doing it. Like, I shouldn’t have to do this cause I’m a guy. Yes, you need it even more than the women, come, you need to do it. But so I, I appreciate the men who come. I tell them that, takes guts to be here, takes balls to be here, show up and do the work.

And when I have mixed groups, like for training. Women when they’ve watched the men’s work and they see the men do really deep, heavy work, they often will say, in so many words, I feel safer with you now, including when the men’s gotten angry, but angry in a way that’s not dangerous. So scary. It’s just intense. But it’s, it’s healthy.

Olivia Clementine: And will you also talk about anger. I mean, especially shame and anger. – there’s so much misunderstanding about also the, the wisdom of them or the okayness of them, but also the power that they take – away from us. 

Robert Masters: We’ll see anger as a resource rather than as a problem.

A lot of, lot of spiritual paths denounce anger. Often say like God of Buddhism will say, well, anger’s a unhealthy, some emotion, it’s unhealthy. One moment of anger can destroy a thousand eons of merit. Stuff like that. It’s like, wow. But they’re confusing anger with aggression and ill will and hatred.

They’re using the same word to translate all of them. And anger needs to be reclaimed. I mean, there’s things that anger can be misused, which gives it a bad name becoming violence, aggression, but also as a resource. It cuts through relational deadwood. It cuts through the bullshit. And if it’s done with some heart, it can do magic. 

Like you or I could be angry at each other if we’re in, in healthy anger, we could be red-faced, heated, fiery, and still have some degree of heart in our delivery. So the other one will feel safe hearing that, if someone’s angry at me and their heart’s involved, I feel safer than they’re just attacking me way safer.

But having your heart in doesn’t mean, doesn’t mean you have to cut out its power. Make nice. We say it quietly, you get to be fierce and our world needs more. 

I just finished women’s group a few days ago, one of the themes was how much the world needs women’s fierce anger, fierce compassion, and the fierce is an appropriate term, like where it’s not tiptoeing trying to make nice, don’t wanna hurt his feelings.

It’s, it’s outrage. There’s things that are worth being outraged about. At least we’re not numb then.

Olivia Clementine: Yeah, as you share that, I, I feel again into a situation where somebody wants to express themself fully and there is walking on eggshells and – how to start to come out of, out of one’s contraction in that way, or lack of expression in a way that is healthful 

Robert Masters: some ways it’s good to practice alone for a bit because we’re a little messy at first.

Like to do some conscious rants where you think of something that really angers you and you just go get really angry to the point where you’re over the top with it. And if you can’t find words, you make sound, you roar, you scream a minute later, you’re probably done. Once you start doing it with another.

It’s really important to start on with small angers. You’re angry, but it’s not a big deal. You, say I’m angry, period. Breathe. Let them feel you. Eventually we can apply this to the big angers. We were really, really pissed off about something. We don’t do damage because we’re pissed off.

We’re just fierce. We’re loud. And if we cross a line a little bit, we recognize it, we back up. We clean it up. Maybe a little later, I’m sorry I went a little too hard there. Or say your children are, you know, you, you get too angry, you apologize, you clean it up, but you keep going cuz it’s a bit like riding a bicycle first.

You’re gonna fall a lot. Anger’s such a powerful, fiery thing that very few of us are gonna handle it skillfully in, in initial stages. But, but once we learn, learn how to be healthy in our expression of it, then we can clean it up more quickly. 

If I’m talking with Diana, I have a bit of an edge in my voice. I’m a little angry. She’ll pick up instantly and I will shift that. I don’t go, I won’t defend myself for doing that. I’m angry. Don’t try and you’re interfering. I’m just expressing myself. None of that defensive bullshit. It’s more like, ah, you’re right. There’s an edge. I’m tired, I’m frustrated by some other things. I don’t wanna take it on you, but I was. That makes a big difference. Huge difference. 

Olivia Clementine: It’s really inspiring hear the, the quick pivot in that moment. – And that takes a lot of practice for many people. 

Robert Masters: This all takes practice. You know what it is? It’s about being, being, being committed to, to practicing, practicing, practicing your meditative capacity, emotional expression, a deeper honesty with partners and friends. It doesn’t just happen, laziness won’t work. We have to do it. We don’t wanna overdo it. We can, we can get too therapeutic with it, but we can simply give ourselves permission to just go for it, take the risk, but with suitable others. 

Olivia Clementine: Yeah. And will you share some of the gifts of putting all this energy in? 

Robert Masters: Yeah. To do it without ambition that this, this will guarantee me having a partner say if I’m single, knowing that doing the work is good, just as an act unto itself. If someone else comes along, we can partner with who’s on the same page with us. That’s a bonus. That’s beautiful. That’s a gift. It’s a bit like having a sense of, of the entire long journey.

And, and just not slogging along, but here’s this journey of discovery that goes on and on and on. It gets deeper and deeper right to our death, maybe beyond our death. And we’re doing it not to earn brownie points from God. We’re just doing it cuz it’s, it feels right to do it and also it makes us be of more service to others deeper.

You work on yourself, the more authentically you’ll be of service to others without trying to be, oh look, I’m helping others. None of that egoic programming is more, it just feels natural and it’s loving and it’s compassionate.

Olivia Clementine: Well, why don’t we talk about death towards the end of our time to together. A couple aspects. First, if you’re, if you’re willing, I’d love if you could read this poem that you wrote “Which of us will die first?”

Robert Masters: Oh, that one.

Olivia Clementine: Are you interested in reading that? 

Robert Masters: Sure. Let me speak about death first. First of all, I’d love talking about death. – I focus on it every day. It’s not morbid, it’s, it’s sitting with my mortality and not intellectually, but in a feeling way, a visceral way. Not just, you know, I’m older, I’ve been close to death many times, but I think the more aware we are of our mortality and death, the deeper our lives go.

My short statement around that would be avoiding death, deadens us. Death is not the opposite of life. It’s the opposite of birth. It’s simply, it’s part of life and there’s a sacredness to it. And who knows what happens. Many people still won’t use the word death or die. They’ll say Someone transitioned.

They passed away. They passed. I lost them. There’s an avoidance. They died. They died. They’re so naked, and we all die. Whether or not we continue on in some form after we die it’s a great mystery to me. And I’m super close to Diane, so we’re aware that one of us dies. It’ll be devastating for the other one, and we accept that.

So I, I can read the poem. 

Olivia Clementine: Well before we go there, would you share some of what you do to be close with death on a regular basis? 

Robert Masters: It’s more plugging in or I’m walking along and I’m being grateful for being here, for being alive and, and so that my life becomes bonus. Bonus days. I almost died from heart attack in 2016, June, super, super close to dying. Had a few minutes left to live and the ambulance suddenly was there and it was wonderful. I mean, I’m here. It was after that, it was like, this is all bonus time for me. And if I’m doing a prayer around death, I do it very slowly so I can feel each word.

If I go, may I die a peaceful and fully liberating death. I want to say it until I feel each word. So it’s not just mechanical.

Or may I move through my time of dying, releasing all that I took and take to be mine. I’ll say it over and over again. Releasing all that I took and take to be mine. 

Cuz my sense of mine is getting thinner and thinner as I get older. Not just older, but it’s a deliberate choice in my part. I don’t wanna go to my, my death hanging on to this and my legacy, my books.

And it’s like I, I, I surrender it. I surrender it. So death is the ideal state to be in is wide open surrender, plugged into the divine, gazing into infinity, awake. 

Many people I ask say they want to die in their sleep. I’m the opposite. I, I wanna die awake.

And this puts everything else in perspective. If you ever feel your perspective’s a little narrow, focus on your death for a little bit and then look at some hassle you’re having with someone doesn’t necessarily go away, but the perspective you bring to it is so helpful.

Olivia Clementine: Yeah, definitely. 

You wanna read your poem? 

Robert Masters: Okay. 

Which of us will die first? We talk of this at odd times, the moment flares bare and bright across the dinner table or somewhere else. What will the one who is left do? No sure answers here other than a bedrock knowing that it’s okay with not being okay. How easily we shift into marveling that what happens in just one day For most of our days, so much to navigate as we sail into tomorrow’s wilds, our horizons near and far pouring into our shared being, like holy melting gold, finding new ground and fresh color.

In the boundless ease of our gaze, the mysteries of the obvious, illuminating our days. Another shared breath does its rounds. If you die before me, I will recognize you everywhere. And if I die before you, I will be everywhere you look inside and outside. Our aching and our love holding us as we come apart undone yet respun, the end that’s insight is not the end.

Olivia Clementine: Thank you for reading that. 

Robert Masters: Thank you. Thank you for asking me. 

Olivia Clementine: Mm. Yeah. I loved the journey through the poem and the “I will be everywhere you look” inside and outside and this unraveling of self So felt through your words. 

Robert Masters: Yeah. I deliberately, I put all those poems at the end to Diane in order, they’re in order. The very first ones when I first met her airport Blues and the final one was probably more more to add. I, I’ll probably do one or two every year. 

Olivia Clementine: Mm-hmm, She’s lucky to have a series of poems. 

Robert Masters: Well, she loves having them. 

Olivia Clementine: There’s also this other part: ” what will the one who is left do no sure answers here, other than a bedrock knowing that’s okay with not being okay. How easily we shift into marveling.” – That openness. 

Robert Masters: The openness can come in very surprising ways.

Mm-hmm. , sometimes it’s life. Our life is very easy. It’s just effortless. Other times there’s struggle, there’s things, big decisions, there’s things to do, but the connection remains solid. And that’s not just a good fortune on our part. It’s, that’s from a lot of work. Like it’s been the easiest relationship of my life by far, yet the most growthful, the most challenging in a way because it was so easy, and as I have such trust in her, I can show all of me and vice versa.

And implicit in that is some degree of healthy challenge. There’s been, that’s lit by a lot of compassion, care and safety, not a deadening safety. This is a safety that makes things more alive. And it’s interesting to note that we began without a romantic, big romantic spark. It was actually, we were talking about a, a collaboration based on one of my homes.

She found online. I’m in Vancouver, bc. She’s thousands of miles away in Ojai, California. And we started talking, but there was an ease right away when we met physically after a month in ease, and then the connection got stronger and stronger and stronger. That ease has always remained. I always say to people, don’t look for sparks, look for ease and connection.

It’s not as seductive in the beginning press, but it doesn’t need to be seductive. Cuz if you’re ready, like we are both ready, we’ve both done our time having all kinds of relationships and we are both content to not have another one and yet the door is opened, we stepped through, so it can be like that. Implicit in that as a deep trust in how things work and a surrender.

Olivia Clementine: I think that piece, a deep trust in how things work and a surrender. Will you say a few more words as we close.

Robert Masters: You know what helps with this is gratitude. If I’m a little stuck and I want to get back and, and center quickly, I’ll do gratitude meditation, gratitude for being here, for being alive, for being with Diane, for having the capacity to work on my stuff, for the work I get from working with others.

All of it. That will hit me very quickly, very quickly, and that keeps, that keeps me very sober. I would call it a sobering joy. It’s a sobering joy in that, and is a faith too. There’s a deep faith. I mean, to me, faith is radical trust in now, in the, now the need to know the answers. It’s like I don’t need to know what happens at death or after. Every religion has has its own viewpoint. They’re all stories to me. For me, it. I open to the mystery on Diane’s chance under second one of Mr.

By the way, free on, on my website. I open to the mystery. That’s a practice for me too. I open to the mystery under all conditions at all times. I can do that prayer always. There’s always a deeper opening.