May 13, 2023

Podcast Transcript | Men and Mindfulness with Dr. Ty Mansfield

Written by

Ty Mansfield

The Manspace Podcast

with Matt Brown, Rob Porter & Mike Porter 

Men and Mindfulness with Dr. Ty Mansfield

— October 13, 2022 —

Opening: Welcome to the Manspace Podcast, a show for dudes and people who care about dudes. On the Manspace Podcast, we talk about issues that affect men and their relationships, issues like depression, anxiety, communication, and sex, and what these issues look like specifically for dudes and how to work through them with integrity and purpose. 

Find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @ManspaceTherapy and on our website “”. We're your hosts doctors Matt Brown and Rob Porter and clinical therapist Mike Porter.

Rob: Spacemen, grab your pantaloons. We're ready to do the show. Matt, you said, my openings are strong. I'm like well watch this one. I'm just going to veer this thing right off a cliff.

Matt: I think it's your voice. And I think it's that I don't like I don't like my voice. I don't think anybody does it listens to their recorded voice.

Speaker 1: Oh no, that's not true. I love my own voice.

Matt: Well, there you go. That's why you always do it.

Speaker: This is like when I was…

Matt: Listen your voice while you edit.

Rob: This is like when I was in middle school and we were doing layup drills and I did this apparently a perfect layup and my coach said, “I want Rob Porter up here and these three other people, and I want you guys to show this, show us how to do a perfect layup”. And I was like, ugh, I got all in my head. It was the ugliest layup I've ever done and the coach goes, “What was that?” I was like, “What? I got nervous”. So that's what just happened to me like Matt Robbie have strong openings. I'm like well not tonight. Which is too bad.

Matt: It was too strong. Everyone's unique. Everybody imagining pantaloons.

Rob: Well, that was beautiful. It's because I'm nervous. I'm not but I am very excited because people haven't heard this yet, but we have a guest on our episode tonight. Someone who I don't know if I've ever told you this Ty. We have with us tonight; we're recording this tonight. Doctor Ty Mansfield. And Ty you I think Matt and I went to—we were both at Texas Tech with Ty. And I learned a lot about Ty. Like we were friends Matt and Ty were, I think you guys were, I think closer than I was you guys were in the same cohort. But I would watch you Ty and thought man that guy has like a clear direction of like who he is and where he's going and it was mind blowing and then I went and saw you at one of your conferences North Star. And when you spoke, I was like, he's blowing my mind that that doesn't happen at conferences. Man, your intelligence through the roof. Not to not to gush too much. But one of the reasons I was very excited is because of the way your brain works specifically. And we had talked about who some of the people we wanted to bring onto the show.

One of the reasons that I wanted you on was because I thought I want more men to have a, I guess a brain that works that way. That is deeply thoughtful and very deliberate about the things that they think about and how they go about things. So, I'm particularly excited tonight to talk about some of things we're going to talk about specifically mindfulness and how it relates to for me a number of topics. But I kind of mentioned this earlier, we want to introduce you. But I do like to hear from you your own introduction. Like maybe tell us a little bit about where you are currently, like what you're doing professionally. 

You can mention some of your history in terms of organizations that you've co-founded or started if you want to or you can leave those off and just say my focus really right now is here and this is where I'm trying to go.

Ty Mansfield: Yeah. No, I'm happy to be here with you guys. So, right now so as you mentioned I did my doctoral work at Texas Tech and now you were a cohort ahead of us.

Rob: I think I was too ahead of you

Ty Mansfield: Two cohorts ahead of us. So, I guess that's right. That makes sense. So finished up my doctoral work at Texas Tech and then while I was there, I was invited to come up and teach for a summer at BYU and so I started there but we just kind of felt like we should make the move and I didn't need to be there at course work and everything we needed to be in Lubbock for and all of my wife's family is up here. So, we've just moved up here. They kept inviting me to teach. just each semester it's just adjunct. So, this is my 10-year, 10th year of teaching. I teach marriage and family classes at BYU. And then started once we realized we were going to stay because I wasn't really quite sure where we would land permanently but once we decided we would stay transferred licensure here and I've been practicing. We had a full-time private practice up here for about 6 years now. And my focus is a strong focus on relationships generally. With an overlap of healthy sexuality.

So, that's it of relationship work, just relational work but a lot of kind of a strong sex therapy component to that as well within this healthy sexuality umbrella. Work a lot with individuals navigating pornography and sexual identity questions sexual trauma of various kinds. So just that sexual wholeness whether that's individuals looking for sexual congruence, wholeness, or within marital relationships. It's a pretty broad umbrella but I love it. It's my passion.

Rob: You had mentioned when we talked a little bit earlier that you and this is where my brain goes and Matt this is going to veer things off slightly.

Matt: Sorry, I’ll bring us back.

Rob: The agenda go good. I veer everything off. But you had mentioned that like all of that with an underlay you said of mindfulness.

Ty Mansfield: Yeah.

Rob: I guess like when you said I thought oh that's a cool way to phrase that. I guess I because I thought I don't know that people usually associate those two things. And so, can you what do you mean by that? Like how do those two go together?

Ty Mansfield: Well so mindfulness as a whole. Right? As we have it in mental health is a lot about being and present. So, it's more of a stance toward the world or a stance towards self. So, it's the way we hold ourselves, the way we approach. And it's a more about being in presence and compassion and curiosity and openness where I think a lot of our western approaches like with a lot of things tend to be, kind of behavior oriented, technique oriented. So, when you're navigating issues like pornography, a lot of approaches to overcoming or outgrowing pornography tend to be through this western frame of just don't do it, right. How are we going to help you not do it?

Rob: Right.

Ty Mansfield: And I think it kind of an eastern a lot of eastern contemplative approaches as a lot of western mental health has been informed over the last, 30/40 years with starting with mindfulness and some work that John Kevetzin who's a physician at University of Massachusetts Medical School. He started doing some work with chronic pain patients about 45 maybe even almost 50 years ago now, and it was so revolutionary it's so helpful that it just sort of United this movement of mindfulness in the west. And then you have mindfulness based and mindfulness informed models of therapy, but they're a lot more about acceptance. Like acceptance and commitment therapy. Like coming to a place of acceptance and then choosing from a place of values rather than this kind of western. I think a lot of our approaches like we use a lot of war metaphors, right. Like conquer, overcome, fight your battle, like there's all of that puts us in a power struggle, right? With some of the things we're wanting to change and I think mindfulness invites us out of the power struggle and into a stance where we can just look at it from a place of acceptance. But also, curiosity, learn from it and then as we learn what various things are trying to teach us, we can come in from a much more intentional place and a less combative place. But I think it really does transform the way we look at anything but especially working with a lot pornography issues where it does just become a lot of conquer your Goliath in ways that I don't think are ultimately very helpful or sustainable.

Rob: Right.

Ty Mansfield: I think anytime we're in a behavior, behavioral focus more than a, let's get underneath this and figure out what's going on, right? But you have to stop hating it enough to get curious about it, right? And I think that's where mindfulness and some of the sub components of mindfulness can be very helpful.

Matt: Yeah. That's awesome. I know I was curious about this too because I talked to you about it, I guess a little bit but you spent some time in China. Was that it or did you travel at other places in Asia?

Ty Mansfield: To me? Are you talking to me? Or?

Matt: Yeah.

Ty Mansfield: Oh yeah. So, my undergrad was Chinese studies. But at the time I thought I was just going to I was planning on working for the State Department. I thought I was once I graduated, so I graduated in China in Chinese studies in business. By the time I graduated, I think that moved a little bit more from a business focus to more of an international relation. Move to Washington DC was working for a consulting company there and it was, but then started doing some of my own healing work with a therapist. Kind of fell in love with healing generally and that was when I felt kind of moved to go back to school and in some therapeutic field, I didn't know whether it would be psychology or social work or family therapy. But ultimately, we landed in family therapy because of the relational focus. And but that history is I spent two summers in China and I don't know how much, I mean it's interesting how it all kind of circled together because I thought I was moving away from it. But when I was in China, we visited some Buddhist monasteries.

I remember, I didn't really know anything about mindfulness or meditation then but I do remember being really impressed by how present everyone seemed and or these monks at least the monks that were guiding us through. They just seemed so present and so grounded in self. Like it was really kind of magical, right? And but that was it. I was just I remember being really impressed and then that was it really until once I got to my master's program and started learning more about how mindfulness and various contemplative or meditative practices were integrating into mental health that it started to circle back together for me.

Matt: Nice. Yeah, and you actually introduced me to it. I don't know if you remember this, but we went to lunch in Lubbock and then went to a guided meditation with a monk after that. And I had like no idea what to expect as we're sitting there and this monk goes into a Louis CK bit for a while. But it was like instructive. It was the one about like everything's amazing and no one's happy.

Rob: Yeah.

Matt: And then he like led us through a meditation. I can't remember if that's, I mean you had started your practice before then or you were kind of maybe just starting.

Ty Mansfield: So, I started practicing on my own when I was in my master's program.

Matt: Okay.

Ty Mansfield: And then when I to Lubbock they had that Buddhist Sanga that met there and so I started attending this Buddhist Sanga and these I do this the Saturday meditations with them. And then you came to me or came with me for that.

Matt: Yeah. So that was masters was like 2007ish when you started.

Ty Mansfield: 2009. Yeah so, I started I started kind of an introduction to mindfulness through John Kevetzin. And then started to kind of intersect with some kind of some Buddhist teachers, right? And then in all of the kind of sex. A lot of the western teachers there's a very strong mental health focus more than kind of spiritual focus even does the practice mindfulness and like Kristin Neff who's there in Texas.

Matt: Yeah.

Ty Mansfield: She identifies as a Buddhist but a lot of her work is on kind of operationalizing compassion and research and compassion and the mental health benefits of self-compassion and other compassion. So, there's just a really kind of rich conversation in that kind of Eastern approach to life from this like western research frame, right? Looking at the mental health applications and operationalizing variables and like just really making the discussion much more sophisticated in ways that I think westerners tend to want.

Matt: Yeah, so you're speaking to that a bit and I'm curious, you've been, I remember conversations at tech that I guess the integration of those two cultures and ways of being kind of was a thread throughout everything you did. I think when we were there.

Ty Mansfield: Yeah.

Matt: And one thing that I find is like in western language. The word acceptance, right? Like a lot of my clients like let's say you want me just to like roll over and take it. It has a very different connotation. So, what like as you've integrated those what have been some of the maybe the difficulties in kind of communicating and facilitating what you saw in those as you were interacting with monks and things like that and maybe just the general population in Asia. Like how are you translating that? What are some of the difficulties for people that come from a western culture in getting the essence of what you're talking about?

Ty Mansfield: So, acceptance is one of those as you said in that it kind of feels like acceptance is like resignation. I think sometimes people think of those as similar or that if I accept it then I won't want to change it and I'm here to try to change it so I can't accept it and it feels like again this kind of tug of war this tension. And one of the things that and this is where I think it's interesting that that Kristin Naff who has pioneered this research on compassion. One of the things that she was looking at was barrier. Why do people resist self-compassion? And one of the strongest barriers to self-compassion was that people think that if I'm kind to myself, right, that somehow, I'm just going to decide that I don't, I don't want to change, right?

So, I need to stay in inner critic mode, right? Beating myself up mode, to motivate me, to want to change, but it actually has the opposite effect, right? And as we think about relationships with others, usually we give ourselves a pass when we're kind of in this kind of internal critical dialogue, right? Kind of an abusive voice, but it's our own voice so that's okay, right? But if we were to talk to other people that same way or if other people were to talk to us, we would feel kind of abusive but we still just had a lot of people just get stuck in this idea that if I don't stay in this mode of tough love or just critic that I'm not going to ultimately change, but what she found was that people who were able to make. But at least if they were to imagine other people talking to them, right. If someone was kind and gracious and encouraging rather than just critical, would that motivate you to want to be better or would that inspire you to want to be better or would it inhibit that desire to be better?

I think we all can relate to the teacher who is kind and encouraging versus the teacher who is just critical, right. Criticism kind of shuts us down but it's kind of like a Chinese finger trap, right. The thing that we think most intuitively is going to help us to be free so we pull right actually makes us more stop. So, we have to think counterintuitively in order to be able to truly figure out how to get free from this thing, right and self-compassion is the same. Like they have found that the once people get past those some of those initial barriers and actually start Practicing self-compassion. It has a stronger impact on wellbeing than like affirmations right, or positive self-talk that often kind of fall short. So, because sometimes we can offer some positive self-talk, but at the end of the day we all know that there's times when we betray ourselves and we fall short and we don't measure up to what we'd like to be and to have those resources to just be compassionate figure out where we are where we went wrong and kind of step back up and step into it. It's a lot better for mental health than what we general.

Matt: Yeah.

Ty Mansfield: But there's just a lot of there's this kind of this western, and especially among men, right? We, I think we're still kind of dealing with some of the residual John Wayne cowboy masculinity where you just kind of suck it up and be tough and that often is works against wellbeing. Undermines wellbeing.

Matt: Yeah. No, when you're talking about that too, I think I think a lot of men just like your example, think of a time maybe where somebody was compassionate and caring and did that inspire you versus somebody who's maybe more like the coach that's screaming at you or something like that, right? And I think a lot of men and our listeners probably in particular probably have experiences there too where they felt like that inspired, right? Somebody kind of like yelling at me. But kind of going back to your point about behavior. Usually what happens is it inspires a particular behavior and historically us men have been like expendable and kind of objectified in a weird way, right? Like you are meant to be useful and you should devalue your life because you could lose it in defensive country, family, any number of things. So, I think it is hard, particularly hard sometimes for men to do this, because I'm not supposed to be worth anything. I'm supposed to be expendable right? So, why would I have compassion on something that ultimately is just going to be used out and used and wasted and worn out and that's an interesting point, yeah.

Ty Mansfield: Yeah.

Rob: What I think it's interesting too just to jump in real quick about that idea about acceptance is there is a degree of not even necessarily Matt as you're saying roll over and take it but like I accept that my life is expendable. Like their acceptance like I don't want you to accept that, because I really like Ty that use the word curiosity that to say, I can accept this thing and then I become curious about it and even if I because sometimes I think well how do I translate this into something that you would accept. Because one question that I have I want to talk about is how men sometimes see mindfulness as a weak stance rather than like a powerful stance. But just that idea of like if I accept this thing and if I actually became curious about it that helps me understand even if I said, well, now you can fight it right? If I said, fine, we'll use your western culture that says fight and I think but you can't really fight something you don't know.

So, you'd have to be able to come and say let me take this thing in and understand it in a way that says now what do I do with this thing?

Matt: Yeah.

Rob: And I think that's an interesting because what you're pointing out Matt that men do kind of accept that this is my lot in life and I am burdened. It's my job to be burdened and I'll just swallow it, which I think is different than the acceptance that you're about Ty.

Ty Mansfield: Yeah. Well and what I would add to that, right? There's this awareness precedes power, right? And especially in a culture where the number one man rule is that you can't be weak.

Rob: Right.

Ty Mansfield: But there's a difference between a lot of our more aggressive control-oriented ways of trying to reclaim power which is not power but there we do want a sense of power in our lives but we have no power to change anything that we don't understand, right. So, awareness precedes power and a lot of mindfulness approaches are about really getting into becoming aware. Aware of what's happening in my body. Aware of these of the emotions that are coming out from me. So, here's another example of where I think some of this language and I think with men you kind of have to speak through that lens of this is going to increase power in your life. But it's not this kind of tug of war power struggle, right? That we often go into.

There's so another key principle of mindfulness is non judgement. This is going to be a very practical application, right? Because especially when we think about things like addiction or depression, a lot of which is rooted in emotional dysregulation, right? We don't feel our feelings. We fight our feelings, we stuff our feelings, we indulge our feelings, right? And this principle of non-judgment sets us up to be able to look at things. So, we use language like I feel good. I feel bad, right? How are you doing? Right? Yes, I do well. And we use judgement language to describe how we're feeling, right? So, there's no feeling called good and there's no feeling called bad. What that means is that I like it, so I'm judging it as good or I don't like it, so I'm judging it as bad, right? But there are emotions that I might like that are not necessarily healthy from it, right? I can smoke a joint and feel really nice but that doesn't mean that it's an adaptive behavior, right?

Or I could feel sadness. I could feel fear. I could feel anger. All of which in their core state are adaptive purposeful emotions. But if I judge them as bad what I want to do is get rid of the bad right? Less bad and more good, right?

Rob: Right.

Ty Mansfield: So, there's a teacher--actually one of the earliest teachers that I got turned onto when I was still working on my masters is Tara Brach and she's a psychologist by training. And has done a of translating kind of Buddhist teaching into a lot of mental health language and frame. But she introduces this acronym of RAIN, right, and its RAIN and it's Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture. So, I can recognize that right now I'm feeling some anger and but if we understand the adaptive or the evolutionary function of anger is an emotional boundary it's purposeful, right. Now just like if we were to use hunger as an analogy, right? None of us say, oh, I just have this problem called hunger and if I could get rid of it, my life would feel so much better, right? Because we understand that hunger, we don't like it, right? There's no rule that you have to like any of this. You just have to respect it. So, I may not like the feeling of hunger but I understand that hunger has an adaptive function and I can respond to hunger healthily by giving my body nutrients and energy that it's calling me for, calling for, or I can go, grab a Diet Coke and a box of Twinkies, right?

So, I can respond to hunger in healthy or unhealthy ways, but the hunger itself is adaptive and it's the same with each of our emotions including anger, right? So, anger isn't again an emotion of boundary when there's a sense of injustice or unfairness or boundary violation and anger calls us or moves us to restore boundaries to restore justice to restore fairness and there's healthy ways of doing that. There are constructive, adaptive or there are destructive maladaptive ways of expressing anger. So, what this kind of mindful frame invites us into is particularly with this allowing. Right, allowing I didn't even heard that word. Other than like you're allowed to go kind of permissive right?

Rob: Yeah.

Ty Mansfield: But in mindfulness this idea of allowing there's one actually one of the earliest books that I got turned on to two was called How to Be an Adult in Relationships, by David Rico. And the subtitle is 5 keys of mindful loving, but one of these principles, he has the five A’s as he refers to but one of them is allowing. I didn't even know how to, I had no idea what he was talking about, right? At least initially, like what would allowing have to do with love. So, but it's this idea of it's a capacity to be with to be present with, right? And to be with another person, to be with myself, to be with my emotions from a stance of non judgement and compassion. So, in order for me to get curious about what my anger is trying to tell me I need to have a capacity to be with it, to explore it, to learn from it, right? What is this anger about? Or what is this sadness about? And then the nurture the N is the self-care response, right?

So, once I understand that this anger, right? If I walk in on somebody abusing my child and I feel angry. Anger is a very productive emotion, right? And there were times at Texas Tech, they did a lot of work with lot of research around like intimate partner violence or family violence. I had a number of individuals that were in abusive relationships that would not leave an abusive relationship until they could access anger. When they're in other emotions, right, sadness or fear. Often, they just, there wasn't enough motivation to get out. But once they Access anger and start setting some boundaries, that it was wasn't until then that they were really willing to start moving away from the abuse. So, anger can be very adaptive but a lot of times our kind of frame of reference for anger is this more destructive, contentious, aggressive expression of it, but that's not the heart of true anger. That's an unhealthy manifestation of it. Or an unhealthy response to it.

So, people who have anger problems don't really have anger problems, they have boundary problems. Anger is not the problem. They just don't know what it means and what it's trying to communicate to them in a productive way and so they end up responding to it in unproductive ways. But in order to get in to understand that we have to have a capacity for acceptance, non judgement, and compassion, right? For ourselves for the anger itself, what's coming up. So, then we can explore it, investigate it, learn from it, and then we can act on the knowledge, right? That awareness precedes the power to act to nurture, right? And that's going to be true with any emotion that we feel or any thoughts that we might have. Stories, beliefs, destructive thought patterns. We have to be able to stand back and get curious about it but the curiosity isn't just a skill, it's a capacity.

Again, it's a stand and I can't be curious about something that I hate that I'm in a kind of a power struggle with. I just want to get rid of it. I don't want to understand it. I want it gone, right? So, some of these dynamics are really key and I think this kind of these contemplative practices really invite us into these stances that help us to have a much healthier much more mature relationship with our emotions, with our bodies, with our minds, with each other right, in any kinds of relationships. Relationships with a spouse, relationships with children, relationships, friendships, right. So anyway, that this kind of this my whole point in all of this is that there this idea of non judgement is a very mindfulness-based approach that has transformed the way we think about and approach mental health and physical wellbeing in a number of different medical and mental health disciplines.

Rob: Man, you are blowing my mind and my sister's actually sitting in a room right now listening and she's like oh man. But I think it's interesting because the stuff you're saying I think man I love this stuff. And maybe this is a question. Maybe it's just me commenting and Matt and Mike you have some other questions you're going to chime in with. But it's I get frustrated sometimes with the way we approach things. In mental health in general, because I mean I Could say there's that kind of combative thing that you're talking about overcoming those sorts of things. Then we're slipping into I think as a field this other side of affirming, I think sometimes to a fault where it's like whatever you do it's cool. I think but my job as a therapist is to kind of challenge which is again western with some of that western language of like how do I push you in this direction. Boy, I can't use any words that are not. But what you're saying I think it is like I wonder about men who listen to this podcast or just like show up in our office and I mean I can't tell you how often I get kind of eye rolls or like yeah mindfulness or meditate. Yeah. It's like that it's dismissed so quickly.

And I think largely in in some ways and I have to tell people like someone literally this morning I mentioned it. She's like, she says, do you mean like sitting there going like, oh, I was like no like there's much more to this than yeah it could be that but there's much more to this than that one thing. And as you're describing this, I think man if we really understood even what you're describing in terms of our emotions and what these things mean the feelings we have. And what we have learned to attribute them to or how we react to them or let them how we let them drive our behavior. But if we really understood some of these things even in terms of saying, can I take this thing in and really allow it and nurture it. Because I thought a lot of men, they hear the word nurture us like I'm out. That's not my thing. And I think but it's such a powerful thing to think. Well, pause for a second and consider how much the way you're approaching or looking at this is really informed by the way you grew up and the way your family and friends and culture around you informed you or your coach informed you and is there a different way of looking at this that could be equally as powerful. It was one of the questions that I had, but I don't like I'm not necessarily asking this question or maybe I am.

I don't know but kind of the overlap of mindfulness I was thinking about and how much, I guess I'd say self-control there is related to it and actually as you're using this word power. I think there's a lot of power, it makes me think of Murray Bowen and differentiation of self and the ability to kind of I can feel what I'm feeling and not be reactive not make decisions that are poor based on I have to react to this or get this away from me, but I can feel this. There's a certain power that comes in saying I don't have to move. I can allow this space and I can nurture it in that way and that's okay. And that to me like when you're saying this stuff, I think boy, that is like I said I guess in the analog it says, you blow my mind. So, anybody respond to that?

Matt: Well Mike why don't you take a question?

Mike: Well, we've been going and talking a lot about mindfulness and meditation gets thrown in there and just for the sake of someone because like all of this was very new to me. My early experiences I we've talked about it on the podcast before with meditation were seventh grade Spanish class and a tape that said imagine you're in a hot air balloon floating high above the earth and I thought I'm out. Like my brain does not do that kind of thing. And so, like, how would you explain mindfulness and meditation? How do they work together? What's the difference?

Ty Mansfield: Yeah, the really good question. So, meditation is more of a genre, right? So, to talk about meditation is like talking about sports, right? Mindfulness is pickleball or basketball or football, right? So, mindfulness is a kind of meditation, and there are a lot there are number of different kinds of meditation. Some of which you have Zen meditations and transcendental meditations and so some of them really are sitting in a lotus position and how many mantras, right? But mindfulness one of the reasons that it has I think really and there are other things too like yoga right, is obviously both kind of a physical health but a Harvard Medical School. They had, just a few years, they've had two or three different conferences on the Science of Yoga, right? How yoga benefits mental health.

So, there are a number of different ways in which our western approach wanting to kind of operationalize some of the stuff. We're more interested in the impact, and the effect of it than we are in just the practice of it, but mindfulness is a form of meditation. So, let's define mindfulness. One of the things that, one of the ways that John Kevetzin, again, kind of the pioneer of this sort of introduction into the medical and mental health. He defined mindfulness as having some key, there kind of four key components but it's to be fully present in the moment on purpose without judgement. So, it's really just about presence ultimately. Being but presence from a particular stance. So, being with somebody, right?

Imagine you're in a conversation with somebody and you're talking and they're not really listening to you. They're just trying to figure out how they're going to respond to you. You when somebody's with you and when they're not. Like they're engaging but they're not really with you. They're not present. And there's a Mennonite teacher who said that, to be heard is so close to being loved that to the average person they're indistinguishable. We want to be heard, we want to feel felt, right. But we can't do that unless we can really slow down and be present with each other. Daniel Siegel he's a prominent researcher he's a psychiatrist at Stanford he's written a lot on, he's written a lot on human development. He pioneered a subfield of neurobiology called interpersonal neurobiology. But it's basically how relationships shape the brain.

So, a lot of human development across the lifespan, trauma, how that impacts development across the lifespan, attachment theory, how that kind of the ability to attach but then this kind of mindfulness piece threads through a lot of his work too but he in looking at attachment and mindfulness. He coined the acronym part, right? That if we're going to truly experience connection in relationships and we're wired for connection. We know this. We know we want it. We often just don't know how to get it, right? And so, but part is its presence, attunement, resonance, and trust, right? Because you can't experience safety or attachment in relationship without a feeling of safety and you can't feel safe if you don't have trust. So, how do you get to trust? And it and this idea of really learning how to be present with each other in a way right, that our nervous system start to resonate with one another, right?

This idea of if you're from a mirror neuron that are kind of this neurological Wi-Fi system and we're picking up on each other's energy and we're starting to resonate. And once we're resonate, once we're at tuning, we get present, we then start to attune to each other and then, we start resonating and that's where kind of these mirror neurons and come in and we start we're feeling each other. Then we build this this kind of sense of trust and we all want that but we often kind of hustle for it or we, what Brene Brown calls, hot wiring connection right, where we try to get into it in sideways ways that just don't that aren't really sustainable or truly satisfying at its heart. So, the capacity to just to be fully present, so you've got mindfulness, you got mindful approaches to addiction to eating where it's being mindful eating is just about kind of being with your body rather than just kind of mindlessly kind of throwing down food and indulging. How do you really kind of be with this, right? And if you think from an attachment standpoint, a lot of times in relationships we either kind of get lost in relationships, we get this kind of a meshed codependence or that's painful. We know that doesn't work very well, so then we just cut off cut people out. But what we call differentiation, right? Self and relationship, the ability to be to whole our sense of self in relationship to others is a mindful capacity, right?

And mindfulness can help nurture this capacity to just be fully present, fully present with myself, fully present with others. But again, just without judgement but it's on purpose, right? And so, there's this kind of gentleness. This kind of a gentle approach. So, he wrote, Daniel Siegel wrote a book called the mindful therapist. But the idea is like if this could approach to it could, there's people who talk about mindful sex, right? Where it's not just about like trading orgasms about, it's about being really present with each other, right? And feeling with each other and so but the but the mind, right? We have in Buddhism they call the monkey mind, right? Our mind gets distracted and it's kind of wandering all over.

So, if I'm with somebody, right? And I want to be really present with this person in in a conversation and my mind all of a sudden, I'm trying to think about remember what time I was supposed to pick up my kid from soccer practice, right? The mind has wandered and the idea of this on purpose in this definition of mindfulness is that I have a point of intention, and whether that point of intention is being with this person in front of me or being with this food or understanding this anger that I'm feeling or the sadness or fear that I'm feeling. Whatever it is, it's just a gentle reconnecting, remembering my attention back to this point of focus, but again without judgement, right? The mind wanders. The mind does what it does. Don't judge it. It's going to wonder again in a minute. You just but that moment you become aware that your mind is wandered. You can gently compassionately invite it back. You have power to invite it back to where you want to be. So, that's kind of, so it's a form of meditation but it's a little bit of a different quality than what we often think of as sitting in the lotus position, humming mantras.

Rob: When you're talking about this, there's a really common experience When you're talking about like the presence and closeness in sex just in general intimacy in a relationship, things like that. I hear men say this over and over and over again and I feel it and I would like to say that I'm maybe further along in this than I was maybe when I started my training as a therapist. But there's like this there's a few guys that have said it this way that I'm like that cap it. It's so basic. It's just like it just feels uncomfortable. And it's like that if I am receiving that presence from somebody particularly that I'm close to. And I guess it's more on the receiving end than it is on the giving end, but if I'm sitting there kind of like allowing somebody to fully be seen by me, there is like this discomfort. 

And if I'm allowing myself to fully be seen right, and behaviorally it's like eyes wandering, little kind of nervous ticks that we all have, find myself chewing on my cheek. Just kind of like it's just I'm trying to regulate, right. And I think how would you say this can work for men that might experience kind of that discomfort when intimacy is present and really like intimacy as you're defining it is being in the presence of somebody who is allowing themselves to be fully seen or you are allowing yourself to be fully seen or maybe that's happening together but there's kind of like this pullback right? What would you say about how mindfulness can kind of facilitate deeper intimacy in relationships when people are struggling with that?

Ty Mansfield: Yeah. There's a Christian writer Tim Keller he said that to be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. And to be fully known and fully loved is what the heart hungers for, right?

Rob: Yeah.

Ty Mansfield: And we do but to be seen what you're describing to be seen is vulnerable. We hunger for it and we're deaf we're like deathly afraid of it, right? Because if me and you don't love me, I don't know if I'm willing to take that risk. So, we have all the sorts of protective things that we do as much as we want to be seen. We have all these protectors that come in that keep us from being seen, right? And so, I think part of mindfulness is even being curious about that process. Like, okay what's coming up for me? What am I, why am I feeling so uncomfortable with this right now? And getting curious about that, right? And I think a lot of westerns, there's a lot of things. I mean again we're doers. We kind of earn our bread by working for it and we get out and but I think a lot of people struggle with this capacity to just be with discomfort, right?

A good friend of mine actually one of the co-authors of the Power of Stillness. He his mom passed away from cancer. And a lot of women would want to come and just sort of kind of be with her to comfort her but they didn't really know what to say because what do you say to somebody who knows that they're dying from cancer. So, they've just was a kind of awkward and then she found herself trying to comfort the people who were there to comfort her and it was she's like I just don't have the energy for it, right? And so, at the end of the day she's like just nobody come to try to comfort me, right? This I can, it's better for me to just be by myself. And so, just developing a capacity to be with people and not know what to say. It's like we don't really have a discipline in which we talk about that much, right? Or to be with uncomfortable emotions or to be with somebody who's suffering in a way where we can just be and not know the right thing to say and that's okay. And even be able to say that. I don't know what to say. I just know that I want to be here with you. Tell me if I'm doing it wrong. You know what I'm saying?

But it just, so this sort of this capacity to just be with and even if we're trying to be with but we notice some of these barriers are coming up be with us first. Get curious about where this defense mechanism is coming in. What's it this protector part? What's it trying to protect? What's the vulnerability underneath it. Get curious about that, right? And just kind of follow it all the way through till we get to that core self where we can start to have enough safety, enough trust to start opening up in a more core way.

Robb: Yeah.

Matt: I think this is, I think through this stuff on my own, because some of the stuff you're talking about Schnarch doesn't necessarily call it, I don't know maybe he does. Passion mayor call it mindfulness, but it’s that similar idea uses differentiation of self and being able to hold your own capacity in that space and the idea of being present like in a sexual or intimate encounter to be able to just kind of sit there and be with somebody. It like you're saying is extremely vulnerable enough that matters. You're saying that dude you're like it's just uncomfortable. For some people it's intolerable. It feels like no that is beyond my capacity period. And that's what I think is so powerful that I wish I understood better. Like I can grasp the concept but I have not passed the barrier into like oh I'm incorporating this. I've made attempts and I'm work I work on it. But just that the power that comes from being able to say I can just be here. It's one of the reasons actually in at Tech Y I signed up for like the medical family therapy and I wanted to do as much with grief as I could because there was, I remember thinking there's nothing to do here.

My job is to somehow be with you in this moment and I can't change this for you, but I want to go through this process with you. It for me kind of felt like a freeing experience of saying, lets me and you have some sort of shared experience. And I think in some ways that's the idea that sometimes I try to communicate to clients is saying, hey, one of your goals with intimacy is saying let's have a shared experience. And one of my clients was saying that one of his sex therapists he saw said, sex is a playground. You don't have to play with all the toys and like you can just ride down the slide and that's fine and then you can come back again the next time. I was like, oh, I kind of like that metaphor, like I'm just here to have an experience to be in the moment that I'm in with you. And if we could, but it's if we could reframe some of our thinking and I think sometimes I feel like that's a struggle I feel as a therapist and I feel as a man is working against things that have felt so ingrained to me about how I'm supposed to think and how I'm supposed to approach this so that even when clients will say yeah, I know sex isn't about orgasm. Well, some clients don't know that. They're like, what? But when they say that it's llike but it's harder for them to cross into that space of practically speaking. How do I just be okay that last night my wife and I would say we had sex but all we did was we had our clothes off and we just looked at each other for 45 minutes. It's like, well, you didn't have sex. That was like barely foreplay. It's like, no, that was like our most intense emotional intimate experience we've ever had.

But because it takes so much work and that's I don't know if any of the three of you have the answer to this. How do we help men reframe their thinking to say there is actually so much not only more power but just more I could say beauty or meaningfulness or fulfillment in just kind of allowing things to be what they are and being present in that moment? I don't, sometimes feel like that's my job as a therapist is to try to reshape a way of thinking that is just so deeply ingrained and I think that's one of the reasons why actually we do this podcast is saying maybe we can offer a different way of looking at this from people who hopefully know what they're talking about. You do Ty. The rest of us hopefully know what we're talking about.

Ty Mansfield: Well, and I think part of what you're saying is that I think in our culture I think we're kind of socialized to think of success as an outcome, right?

Matt: Yeah, absolutely.

Ty Mansfield: Then we get attached to outcomes which is where we become really vulnerable to control and to manipulation and coercion and right? So, power I heard once there was a power mantra and I teach this to a lot of my clients, but a power mantra which this is what differentiates power from control is that this power mantra is that I know what I want, I know what I don't want, and I communicate that lovingly and clearly with that attachment to the outcome. That's power, but it's that non attachment to the outcome and that's a very kind of mindful or mindfulness-oriented phrase, a non-attachment, because if I do need that outcome, then the ends justify the means, right? And so just being able to, as you were saying, to be in process, to have this experience to know what we want and know what we don't want and just show up, right? And ask for it. We may not get what we want and that's okay too, right?

Matt: Yeah.

Ty Mansfield: But there's power in being able to ask for it, even if we don't necessarily get it. And there's power in being okay. With not getting it, right? So just to be able to say, we're just going to show up whether it's in the context of a sexual experience. Let's just be together and there we don't have to predetermine an outcome to this experience. Just the process of being together in this intimate knowing way. Seeing and being seen. Knowing and being known without needing to lead to any place in particular. Can be very intimate. I mean that's the definition of intimacy. And just very powerful and healing.

Matt: Do you have and maybe I'm jumping ahead again. I like to do that. And this is me asking for a friend. But I think do you have I literally for people who listen to this I think this I know will resonate for lots of people who listen to it to feel like yeah, I want that. I don't know even when they as you're saying it's like I don't know that I've thought of it that way but that's what it's something I want. What is something that like whether it's a book or an article or a YouTube video. Somebody was like go to these places. This is like the beginner's way of getting into mindfulness.

Ty Mansfield: There's I would say, I mean there's some really good there's a lot of good stuff and a lot of and a and a growing body of good stuff. I think John Kevetzin is always a good place to start because he was a physician, right? So, he's thinking about this in very kind of practical terms, but also like very kind of true to the spirit of mindfulness. But what does that look like as far as healing goes and then and he has a number of books and maybe if you have shown us or something, we could even put some links to some of these. Tara Brock, I recommend to a lot of clients. She has a book called Radical Compassion and that's where she introduces this process of rain but again, that process can, rain can apply to the way how I kind of show up in a sexual experience or how I kind of sit with problematic beliefs or how I, sit with emotions or whatever. And then, yeah, there's just so many mindfulness-based approaches to anything from eating to mental health. We probably just put a bunch of links, but one thing I wanted to say is that one way to think about mindfulness is that it's kind of a skill and it's kind of not. It's kind of a capacity.

Matt: Yeah.

Ty Mansfield: Because and I think the best metaphor I can think of is strength training. So, in kind of the mindfulness field they differentiate what we call state mindfulness from trait mindfulness. So in in the context of strength training state mindfulness this would be I went to the gym, had a really good workout, that awesome burn, and it just felt really good, right? We know how that feels. And then if I never go to the gym again, nothing's going to change. Does that make sense?

Matt: Yeah.

Ty Mansfield: But if you think about when you go, but when you're consistent and you're going back to the gym again and again and again. All of a sudden over time I could slowly start to see my body changing. My form is changing. I feel stronger, right? And so, as my body is changing over time, I'm developing, as my muscles are growing and I'm developing strength. There is a substantive change that's happening to me, and that would be the equivalent of trait mindfulness. So, when I practice mindfulness enough, right, enough of just that, inviting my, gently inviting my mind back to presence with the person that I'm with. I have to do it 100 times, I do it 100 times. Over time, it begins to become who I am, right? There's this Vietnamese Buddhist monk Tiknot Ham who is one of again a kind of an early thinker that I was turned on to. Just this beautiful soul who passed away about a year ago. But anybody who knows him or knew him or was trained by him. They're like you, I mean you when you're just in his presence you just feel like the world is now, right? I mean it's just so powerful the way he showed up and that's what I noticed and in hindsight looking back at these Buddhist monks that I was so impressed with. Their capacity to just be with such depth.

It was powerful, right? And I get, but a lot of mindfulness teachers will say or prominent kind of mindfulness. People who have been practicing for a long time will say it was about two years of consistent practice before they really felt like they kind of really kind of stepped into more of a landed in a place more of like what we call a trait mindfulness.

Matt: Yeah.

Ty Mansfield: It's easier to just be there because you've been doing it so long, you're just kind of fluent and it's who you are. It's like a muscle whether you're using a muscle to carry groceries or lift a bench press or move furniture or whatever it is. The muscle's there. You're going to do anything with it, right? And again, whether I'm eating or whether I'm in a conversation or whether I'm having sex or whether whatever it is I'm doing, when we've developed this capacity for mindfulness. It's who we are. It's how we show up.

Matt: So, I'm curious about that because that two-year period, let's say, right? For it to develop into kind of this way of being, but you probably then manifest some kind of micro presence moments. Like in your book that was one of the things that stood out to me the most was that this doesn't need to be this blocked chunk of time at the beginning of my day, and then I go about my day because I checked my mindfulness box, right? Like it's this micro and I've shared from the book with clients the example of LeBron James and like the amount of time he spends in rest during games and that's how he's able to sustain. So, what is this look like for a guy like yourself who has 5 kids right is super busy? Where do you see it, like where has your practice evolved to now compared to maybe when you first started maybe it was a little bit more solid chunks of time, I don't know? What's been the evolution of your practice of mindfulness?

Ty Mansfield: Yeah, I think early on there was, well and I still try to have time for silence and I think there's a place for I think just really practicing because there's a deepening that happens, like couple years ago I went to I did a Vipassana retreat, it's a 7-day silent retreat. It was one of the most rewarding, healing experiences that I've ever had. Like it's amazing how there's probably about 200 people that were at this retreat that I was and you're not supposed to look anybody in the eye and you don't talk to anybody. So, for 7 days we're just all kind of sitting in silence structured meditations and walking meditations.

Matt: I have it.

Ty Mansfield: So, there's structure to these retreats but it's amazing how intimate you can feel with this group of people at the end of 7 days whose eyes you haven’t looked at, right? But there there's a place for that but most of the time for most mindfulness is going to be a daily practice. So, when I'm with my kids, well, you could even practice, if you go out to eat, you're standing in line, right? And there's no to talk to and we just kind of I'm not sure what we're doing. So, what do we do?

Matt: Pull our phones out.

Ty Mansfield: Pull our phones out. Something to distract us. That alone can be a practice in mindfulness. I'm just going to sit here and observe. I'm just going to look around me, right? Be present with what is. And I might just be people watching. I might just be curious about what's going on around me. But that can be a mindfulness practice. If I'm eating food, right? I mean I kind of grew up in a home where we didn't have a dishwasher so the last person eating had to like do the dishes. So, I just learned to like throw it down, right? And there's times where my mom was like, did you even taste your food? I'm like, it doesn't even matter. I don't have to do the dishes. So, but so mindful eating is about being present, right? And kind of a mindfulness one-on-one exercises giving a group of people like a raisin and having them just sit it, sit the raisin on their tongue and just kind of sit with it and maybe feel the texture and move it to different parts of the tongue and we just want to like, when we eat, just give me the raisin. I'm just going to throw it down, right?

We just get through and this practice of being with it whether it's a raisin or a piece of chocolate. I mean, there's people who are like, I had no idea like how like marvelous a raisin was, right? Or this just sitting with things. So, that or being in with my kids, because it's easy to get distracted because I've got like 30 plates spinning all the time that I'm trying to keep going. So, when I'm and often when I'm with my kids, I'm actually not with my kids. I'm thinking about all the things I have to get done. So, a mindfulness practice is I'm just going to be with you right now, right? And just being with them and playing with them or just sitting with them while they're reading or talking. If they're trying to share a story right just really listening and getting curious about what happened in school that day. That can be a mindfulness practice.

So, there's just so many different ways to practice being and a lot of times with clients. It's easy to my mind is starts thinking about who I'm with next. And as soon as I notice that that awareness, I gently invite my mind back and being fully present with each person that's sitting in is a mindfulness practice. It is also micro moments as you're saying.

Rob: Yeah, I think that's really helpful and valuable because so many people find the idea, I've talked about the skill. I don't think, I've ever call it trait versus state but that idea that you are developing a muscle over time that no one's quote unquote good at when they start. It is something that you become really it just becomes part of what you do, but it sounds much less daunting I think for people to hear or you can do it. I mean, it's funny. I've done, I've sat in the doctor's office law and thought I'm just going to not bring my phone out. And literally I was the only person. So, people watching…

Mike: It’s like a weirdo.

Rob: Yeah, it's like and you feel kind of like this is kind of boring. I'm watching people watch their phones. That's it. There’re not even any interactions I can see. But it is kind of it does feel I think part of what's helpful to me is it does feel deliberate. Like I'm intentionally trying to just sit here. And so, I think for people to hear that, it's like no it's a much bigger thing than just saying sit down with headspace or calm and turn on LeBron James talking to you so you can meditate. There are ways to just be present and Mindful of what's going on around you. It sounds much less daunting than I have to become a Zen Buddhist. That sounds like well that's not going to be me.

Ty Mansfield: Yeah. Well, there's a prominent contemplative Ramdas, right. He said that as soon as you think you're enlightened go spend a week with your family, right? Because it's easy to be enlightened on a mountain top or on a yoga mat.

Rob: Right.

Ty Mansfield: Like it's hard to be enlightened in relationships. And so, to be to practice mindfulness which is again like this just the idea of enlightenment just being staying in self and being fully present and not being reactive right to practice that in relationships that can be really hard. But it's really going to work that muscle in a way that we just can really grow in strength.

Matt: Yeah. Man, we could go on for hours.

Ty Mansfield: Yeah.

Matt: Oh, I seriously. It's been so long man. I just this is like brought me back to Texas Tech and all the awesome time we had there to talk about stuff like this. Now everything's just busy, busy, busy. Now we really, really appreciate you man and I want to be respectful of your time and your family's time and let you get back to them. What's the best place for people to find you if they want to connect with some of this stuff and get to know a little bit more about what you do?

Ty Mansfield: I mean right now I would just say I don't really have a website but I'm working on one but it says just go to “” that takes them to my psychology today profile. But I'm going to have in, I'm working on a professional website right now and have resources for mindfulness and things like that there. And then there's just I mean however you do show notes or whatever I think we could include a number of links to places that will help get people started that are really good introductions to it. But that also have a lot of that the depth that comes from this sort of kind of eastern lens on being, but also this kind of western, we like things to be practical right and there is a lot of practicality to it once we really get into it and just see how it impacts day to day life.

Rob: Yeah. Definitely. We'll include all that stuff. We really appreciate it man. It's great to see your face again.

Ty Mansfield: Yeah. Good to be with you guys.

Matt: Yeah. Look at that beautiful hair. Well and Ty I will say this you're talking about being just being around these other people who are really into it the months you're around and realizing they have a presence. I was thinking during this episode, I think this is one of the things I've always admired about Ty is whenever I'm around him I feel like I just feel a little more like I just want to be here forever. Like I just want to be in this state and the way you describe things is so intelligent and somehow so understandable that it's like oh I don't know want to leave. So, kudos man.

Ty Mansfield: That's the skill of trying to translate things to 21-year-olds on a daily basis, right? Education. Trying to make sure that everything's accessible. But yeah, I love this stuff. I can talk about it forever, but it's been an honor.

Rob: Yeah. Thanks again man.

Matt: Well Rob, I got nothing. Send us off.

Rob: Well, then catch us next time on The Manspace. We hope you enjoyed the episode. Please remember to rate and review. Please, we desperately need it.

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Podcast Transcript | Men and Mindfulness with Dr. Ty Mansfield


Podcast Transcript | Men and Mindfulness with Dr. Ty Mansfield


Podcast Transcript | Men and Mindfulness with Dr. Ty Mansfield