• Michael Pietrzak

Ayahuasca & Tantra, Sex & Spirituality. A conversation with Ontological Life Coach Alex Campbell.


Ayahuasca, Tibetan Tantra, spirituality, goals, focus, sexuality, semen retention and becoming a multi-orgasmic man. Imagine how much I enjoyed this conversation with Alex Campbell, Ontological Life Coach, musician, and sexologist in training! Watch the video interview (don't call it a podcast!) or read the transcript below. —MP


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*** Video Transcript ***


00:00:00 Mike Pietrzak: Hey everyone, I'm Mike Pietrzak, Mindset and Habits coach, and I'm on a mission to help you become your potential. Today, I'm speaking with Alex Campbell, an ontological life coach, professional musician and a student at the Institute of Authentic Tantra Education, where he's training to become a certified sexologist. I'm sure we'll have a lot of fun diving into that one. Alex is also a talented musician, and after spending more than a decade pursuing that passion, Alex now explores the meeting points of spirituality, sexuality and ontology. And as a coach, Alex, you work with people who are trailblazing their own path in life and their spiritual purpose meets embodied human living. I think one of your taglines is heart, meet brain, brain meet soul, as you say. So I love that. And you can find Alex or contact him at alex@ihitthings.ca, is that right?


00:00:49 Alex Campbell: That's correct. Mainly drums. I don't hit people.


00:00:54 Mike Pietrzak: Can I assume I hit things—Is that... you're a drummer?


00:00:57 Alex Campbell: That's correct, yeah, yeah.


00:01:00 Mike Pietrzak: I had this amazing drum kit when I was in high school and into university and I think it's my only regret in life is selling it. And I think I got 800 bucks for it. And I have no idea where I blew the money, but I wish I had them at this moment. So I keep talking every year about getting a new kit, but just in an apartment, it's tough to start smashing on the drums one day.


00:01:24 Alex Campbell: Yeah, especially with the kid too. Yeah, it's a great day.


00:01:28 Mike Pietrzak: And, you know, it's life gets more complicated as you go I think. But you work it out. Humans are very adaptable. So let me start by asking you, what's an ontological life coach? I know the term and the meaning. We studied all these interesting terms, ontology and tautology and empirical and normative in my undergrad. But it's been a while. So maybe you can refresh our memories on ontology.


00:01:55 Alex Campbell: Yeah, totally. Yeah, I remember hearing that term initially and being confused and curious about it. Yeah. I guess maybe a simple way of diving in is that ontology is kind of a fancy way of saying the study of being. So in a coaching context, like being is separate from doing and a really simple analogy of understanding that is that you can imagine yourself driving 50 kilometers, 50 miles down the road or 50 miles per hour down the road in a 30 zone. And it might be because your being is a state of anxiety. You're late for a meeting just broke up with you. You're distracted or you might be doing the exact same thing and you're feeling carefree. Maybe you just got promoted like your favorite music is playing like you're feeling good and you're not noticing this being on the same. Doing an ontological coaching, we focused on our work there on the inner world of the client, listening for their inherent beliefs about themselves and the world and how they show up in it. And by creating a shift there, you can kind of radically shift someone's life rather than slow incremental changes in it.


00:03:10 Mike Pietrzak: One hundred percent agree. I think those beliefs about what the world means and beliefs about money or about relationships that sort of determine our destiny don't they?


00:03:22 Alex Campbell: Totally. Yeah. You create the world from that place, right?


00:03:27 Mike Pietrzak: We do, and I can relate to the driving over the speed limit thing for a lot of my life, it felt like I was driving too fast, not just in a metaphorical sense, but literally on the highway and have several speeding tickets to prove it. But I've been I've been noticing lately that tendency to do too much, too quickly. And for me, there's been this real lovely epiphany that I can do less but better. And the second thing, and I just printed this out and posted on my wall is focus equals power. And so I'm starting to shift my beliefs on that with the help of a coach, actually. Yeah. And so tell me, how did you get into the coaching world?


00:04:15 Alex Campbell: Yeah, initially, just through a friend of mine who he was finishing the program that I ended up taking, so she was at the end of the program and. Just hearing and seeing what it was changing for her and her life was really interesting and intriguing to me, and she had an interesting kind of set of language around talking about all this stuff and these distinctions that are really interesting. And for me, my background is more like in spiritual exploration and plant medicines. And like that was kind of the angle that I related to exploring the inner world. And she had this kind of almost like the boardroom version of transformation or something that the office version and it sat at the other end of the spectrum. So right by that. Well. It's funny, right, like we have. You know, people talk about transformation or growth. And in my mind, it's a pretty large spectrum and on one side is like Burning Man or plant medicine or a silent retreat for 10 days, deep dive experiences that could potentially radically change your world view. Your relationship to yourself could offer healing overnight and on the other


00:05:38 Mike Pietrzak: A type of radical change.


00:05:41 Alex Campbell: Yeah, yeah. And on the other side is like slow, steady, continuous growth. So kind of like equivalent to working with a personal trainer week by week. You have gains and change so. You know, seeing that the two sides of the spectrum really intrigued me because there's absolute beauty in both sides and the two marry together is where it gets really juicy. And in my mind,


00:06:06 Mike Pietrzak: I assume this is your M.O. for coaching is how you how you coach people on both halves of those equation?


00:06:15 Alex Campbell: Yeah. I mean, you know, I don't I'm not going to, like, go to a retreat with a client, but an awareness of those two sides is really useful. And that's part of why I think I tend to attract clients that already have some sort of spiritual path or inner work because there's kind of that fertile ground to do ontological work within. And they have a context of like extreme shifts to kind of the more weekly, regular, rigorous.


00:06:45 Mike Pietrzak: And I find there's almost like a magnetism or some kind of polarity at work where we attract into our lives the people that we need at the time, or especially if we're looking for people to work with. We tend to find that people that we can help the most. And so it sounds like you're really on that track.


00:07:06 Alex Campbell: Yeah, I mean, and this me 10 years ago was struggling very hard with all this stuff. And so to help people that are a few steps down the mountain is like really rewarding for me to be in that.


00:07:19 Mike Pietrzak: That's I guess that's what makes you powerful coaches. I found that the best coaches I worked with are the ones that have had like the toughest journeys and probably some trauma, I'm guessing, in your life like everybody else. And yeah, that you have to go through yourself a little bit to be able to help people through those same periods.


00:07:41 Alex Campbell: Yeah, I mean, you know, I'm sure this resonates I assume this resonates for you, but like, if you're not doing the work in your own life, who do you stand as the facilitator for someone else to do it in their life?


00:07:54 Mike Pietrzak: Yeah, that's right. It strikes me there's this image of the doctor who smokes telling you to stop smoking. Right. And that could be similar to where there's a coach who's not doing the work. I've had single sessions with coaches who I just didn't gel with because they didn't seem to have that energy about them, that they really know what they're talking about or that they're living the they're walking the walk essentially or walking the talk. So you do want someone who's done the work themselves and maybe has read a few books and maybe done a few courses of their own. And yeah, it sounds like you've been doing that. So maybe let's some let's dive into your past a little bit. Tell me about your journey of spirituality and what happened. You mentioned the arbitrary point of 10 years ago. You started this path?


00:08:45 Alex Campbell: Yeah, yeah, probably a bit arbitrary, but. Yeah, I mean, years ago, I was geeking out and like reading Eckhart Tolle and meditating and was probably like pretty depressed, profound spiritual journey, but like, totally unhappy human. And, you know, I was playing music at the time and just like trying to figure life out. And at some point started, I drank way too much ayahuasca and, you know, arguably had lots of growth and healing and some trauma from that experience.


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00:09:22 Mike Pietrzak: Did you do that with a guide or was this like a solo journey?


00:09:27 Alex Campbell: It was with a guide and in retrospect, not someone I would choose to work with again, not out of disrespect to them, it's just the ethos was like, if you are even doubting if you've had enough, you should drink more. If you're in your head at all, you should drink more because it's a journey of the heart. So, yeah, and there's also the idea of like minimal dose, minimal effective dose.


00:09:51 Mike Pietrzak: There's a biological point where your body just is not in your mind is not benefiting from this.


00:09:59 Alex Campbell: Totally. Yeah. I mean, to have your nervous system completely overwhelmed is like that's what trauma does. Right. So you have to do it in the name of healing and growth. It might not actually be what's useful.


00:10:12 Mike Pietrzak: So this was one of those you describe these more radical experiences. This was your first your first experience. It was like a sledgehammer experience into the area of spirituality. And you you've returned to ayahuasca since then.


00:10:27 Alex Campbell: Yeah, I think it was about six or seven years later, actually, it was in the start of 2020 right before the world shut down, so lucked out on timing and spent a lot of time finding the people I wanted to work with. And that, for me, made all the difference. And I felt like after three, the first three ceremonies, I had to clean up the mess from the three that I did many years ago. And then there was there was more after that.


00:10:52 Mike Pietrzak: Yeah. You raise a good point. I have many friends and just associates who have participated in these ceremonies, and some have been once, some have been I think one one friend of mine says you've been 40 times. And there is seems to be like a range of quality out there in the guides. And there are some people holding themselves out as shamans who probably shouldn't be leading somebody in these exercises. So, yeah, it kind of it helps to do your research first, I suppose.


00:11:24 Alex Campbell: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's a tremendous responsibility to facilitate that work. I mean, even without plant medicines, like to facilitate someone's growth or change or healing is a huge responsibility. And then if you add like this, the power tool of this concoction of plants, which can literally change someone's life in a night, it has that potential at least. Yeah, yeah. It's super important to find good facilitators.


00:11:51 Mike Pietrzak: A friend of mine in particular, who I'll leave his name out of it, but he came to my birthday party was probably about five years ago now and I haven't seen in a long time. But when I when he came he came along and he was all cleaned up. He looked really healthy and happy. And he had this shining out of his eyes, you know the type? And I was like, why don't you sit down? So I'm not even up to. And he sat beside me on my birthday. We talked the whole night. It was amazing. I was kind of like maybe neglecting a few people, but it was just a fascinating description of his journey. You went to a very high end clinic in Costa Rica. I think it was paid more money than he wanted to do this. But there were it was very well managed. And he says it was by far the you know, the pinnacle experience of his life to that point helped him to understand a lot about himself and his behaviours and very soon after that rearranged his life entirely. And no, it's not that this is was the silver bullet, right? I'm sure. Sure. You've figured that out, too. It's not a silver bullet. Right. It's a it's a story. Yeah. The jumping off point, isn't it?


00:13:07 Alex Campbell: Yeah, totally. There is no panacea, right? I mean, I think that's the... That's when that whole conversation of, like boardroom transformation and jungle transformation gets really interesting because, like, I'm sure we've all seen the examples that someone comes back from the jungle all shiny eyed and glowing, and then a month or six, they've kind of gone back to their old self and their old life and nothing has really actually been accomplished.


00:13:36 Mike Pietrzak: Is it just that the experience wears off or what's happening there? Do you think?


00:13:43 Alex Campbell: I think, you know, I mean, I think the trap would be to think it wears off because then you have to go do more. And I think what actually happens is look at the structure of your life, the one you left to go to the jungle, then came back to creates you in a certain way. And it's the same thing we're talking about with beliefs and ontology. Right. Like your structure or your life is the result of your views and beliefs about the world. So even if you go to the jungle and puke your guts out and change your beliefs about yourself and the world, when you insert yourself back into the lifestyle that reinforces those beliefs, unless you make changes, it's going to push you back into that whole way of being a form of existence.


00:14:26 Mike Pietrzak: And so it's both an environmental and a mindset thing, is that right?


00:14:33 Alex Campbell: Yeah, yeah, I mean, we get to work at both, right, and only working at one is ineffective in my.


00:14:41 Mike Pietrzak: I found that too. I mean, in my work I always start with the mindsets. You know, I call myself a Mindset and Habits Coach because I think it's 80 percent mindset and 20 percent habits. And in those two things alone, really set the direction for your life. It's what you think and what you do. And those things have been echoed by spiritual leaders for thousands of years. The Buddha, there's some of religion, Islam, even Jesus, saying similar things like what you think is what you get. And so you're right. I suppose if you if you go to some southern place and do the ceremony and you have this epiphany, there's a tendency to go backwards almost because you're still living in the same mind.


00:15:28 Alex Campbell: I mean, it could be painful, right, to come back and see with fresh eyes all the things that are wrong or painful or uncomfortable about life and the world and your relationships... can be overwhelming.


00:15:42 Mike Pietrzak: Yeah, my experience is all second hand. I have on my list of things to do once the pandemic opens is go go have an ayahuasca ceremony and going into it, not thinking it's going to radically shift things in life, but as just another tool almost in the tool kit. I remember similar to what you're talking about, I went to see Tony Robbins in 2016 or thereabout to San Jose, spent five days with ten thousand other people in an arena. It was a mind blowing experience. It was fantastic. I did all the pre work I read all the books before, watched every video I could find on YouTube. And I was I was a Tony Robbins fanatic. I still am, but came home and was on this monumental high for a long time, made all these wonderful changes, started spouting off all these wonderful philosophies. But you sort of return to your old ways of being if you're not careful and it's like a path of least resistance. On the other side of it, however, did the virtual event years later, this was last year and I notice in hindsight how much of this had already started to apply to my life. And so it's almost as if it's working in a very subtle way on you.


00:17:04 Alex Campbell: Right, yeah. So I'm curious, like, do you know if you want to share, if you're clear, like if you did go south and jump into the ceremonies, like what would be... Is there a clear intent of what you want to get from it? Maybe it's the same as the Tony Robbins thing, or maybe it's totally different.


00:17:23 Mike Pietrzak: I think that's why I haven't done it yet, is because I don't know exactly what I'm looking for out of it. I hear all of these wonderful stories from people about how it's been such a positive experience. However, I don't know... they say it has to call you, right. I don't think I've called yet. To do it today, it would be almost like I'm just going to try it. I'm just going to dabble with it.


00:17:48 Alex Campbell: Right? Yeah.


00:17:51 Mike Pietrzak: I mean, and maybe there's value in that, but I suppose there are other tools maybe that they need to process and work with first.


00:17:58 Alex Campbell: Yeah, well, it's funny, right? Because like in the West, we hear a lot about ayahuasca, at least in the spaces where that sort of thing gets talked about. There's like thousands of plants and there's like sun on Garos [spelling?], not just ayahuasca. And you can work with... There's so many plants they work with depending on the illness or why you would do it. And in the West, we're just like, oh, like spirituality, medicine, healing, let's go!


00:18:26 Mike Pietrzak: It's almost like another pharmaceutical, but hipper, cooler, way hipper. Yeah, it's very is very popular right now. And I know a lot of folks like Tim Ferris, big proponent of of psychedelics, et cetera. And there's a lot of great research coming out of a very prestigious universities, great science on how something like psilocybin is now having amazing, almost silver bullet like results on patients who are depressed or have PTSD or things like that. So I'm pretty excited about it.


00:19:06 Alex Campbell: Yeah, I think it's a it's about time that there's, like formal study of this stuff, too, because it's been used for thousands of years in certain parts of the world in a very therapeutic sense. And kind of finally, the Western world is bringing the rigor of science to how do we use this? Well, what support do you need before and after to have it actually sustain those results, too, which is that's really cool.


00:19:30 Mike Pietrzak: Well, whatever is right in my mind is what works. And so if that works then let's do it right. I mean, there's this weird. I don't know if it's a it's a puritanical or a holdover from the Protestant ethic that just don't do drugs, period. So comically laughable, like I remember vividly being probably seven or eight, driving home from school with my mom who taught there, and my brother in the backseat as well. And she was giving us the lecture. Don't do drugs, don't do drugs. Drugs will ruin your life, drugs will kill you. Obviously, the conversation should have been a bit more nuanced, but my mom was the most straitlaced woman you've ever met never touched even pot in her life. Love to drink, but no, no, that wasn't a drug. Right? Right. And so I grew up with this this almost a terror of drugs or it was is actually more accurately almost like an elitism that I'm better than that. I hate those drugs. So it was years. It was I was 24 before I smoked my first joint. Luckily I had a great woman in my life who forced it on me, which was great.


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00:20:45 Mike Pietrzak: And my thinking quickly evolved in this. And I and I do see it as a tool. Obviously it's a tool. It can be abused, but it's such a helpful bucket of tools, essentially. What was your upbringing on drugs and what brought you to ayahuasca?


00:21:04 Alex Campbell: Yeah, you know, I mean, compared to that story, like relatively lax, and I think I heard all the same stories, too. I remember I like the presentation at the high school and, you know, the person that rolled up and talked in front of the class about how their whole life was ruined by cocaine or whatever drug. And I was like, oh, I don't want to be that guy. He was a musician, too. That was the funny thing. He was starting to have some studio music career, which was my dream in high school. And it ruined his career and was like, OK, never touching cocaine, got it. But in the West Coast, like, everyone smokes weed, that was normal. It was weird if you didn't. Being in music, everyone smoked weed. There was lots of people who played with psychedelics. They would do mushrooms on the weekend. And, you know, I think it was like I was like in my late teens before that became a reality for me. But it definitely opened up a lot of curiosity and I was already really curious about like. About reality, about the world, about what is actually going on here underneath just the things we talk about, and at some point I went to see a presentation by an organization called MAPS, and you've probably seen their work. I think it's that mindful application of psychedelics or something. I forget what it stands for. But Rick Doblin is one of them. They've done lots of great research and discussion around like therapeutic use of psychedelics and Gabor Mate was there and he spoke about ayahuasca. And as a random aside, he was our family doctor when my brother was born. So there's this weird, trippy little through line through all of this.


00:22:52 Mike Pietrzak: There's a bit of synchronicity. Wow.


00:22:56 Alex Campbell: Yeah. So saw him speak and I was like, holy shit. I have to do that in this life, like I have to do that at some point. And then it was a couple of years before I found I connected with the people that I can do it with. And then that's when I had that first. The first experience and experience. Yeah, yeah.


00:23:17 Mike Pietrzak: Yeah. Is there anything you would recommend for people that might be listening in and what they should look out for, how to find someone who's responsible with this or qualified?


00:23:30 Alex Campbell: Yeah. Well, a couple of things, I mean, first of all, like nobody needs to do ayahuasca. Just because it's trendy and hip and people have cool stories doesn't mean you should do it. And there is a long list of reasons not to. If you like, if you're if your familial history shows like predisposition to certain illnesses, that's a good reason not to do it and find other methods of healing or growth. There's dietary restrictions, medication restrictions like that stuff is really important. Don't mess with it. And beyond that, like, you have to really, really invest or investigate who you're going to work with. I think that's probably the single most important thing and know that there's always a risk. It's not a light weight experience to enter into. Yeah. So really, as you say, like set yourself up for success and that includes preparing and then integration afterwards. And now people are starting to talk about that. But even 10 years ago, nobody talked about integration. It was just like kick you out of the retreat and "seeya" and that's where some issues show up. It's not just in ceremony that you'll go through really heavy stuff. It's afterwards, too. So, yeah, set yourself up for success. So be prepared. You ready to integrate afterwards?


00:24:46 Mike Pietrzak: You do the work before and after so that you're getting the best experience possible. I like that.


00:24:51 Alex Campbell: Yeah. And making use of the medicine too, right? It's like we were talking about earlier. It's when you make changes based on your learning that like that's when your life actually changes. It's not in the ceremony that you transform, it's when you're actually back living life and you're...


00:25:07 Mike Pietrzak: Apply the things you learn. Right. Right, right. Yeah. I've known some people who they're reading one hundred bucks a year, but I don't know how much of that knowledge they're applying to their life. So there probably should be some kind of balance between the learning and doing as you know, balance is called for in every situation.


00:25:27 Alex Campbell: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.


00:25:29 Mike Pietrzak: So you're doing this amazing spiritual work. And I agree with you. I think the conversation about what is really what's going on here, what what's it all about? I have this, you know, someone I forget where the story comes from, but it basically goes imagine yourself. You wake up, you're dropped in a field. You don't know how you got there. There's nothing around. You can't see anybody. There's no signs of civilization. What do you do? Right. A lot of people, they live their lives. They just I'm going to sit and wait and wait for someone to rescue me, tell me what's going on. Whereas those explorers, the people that are doing the spiritual work, they're the ones that, OK, I'm going to go off in this direction and climb the mountain and see if I can see something from the higher ground. Right. And I love that idea of actually taking your spiritual evolution into your own hands and doing the work. And so clearly you're doing that, which I which I love. You're actually doing this in a more structured academic way, aren't you? You're part of what is it called the Authentic Tantra Education Institute.


00:26:24 Alex Campbell: Yeah. The Institute of Authentic Tantra Education. Yes. Yeah.


00:26:29 Mike Pietrzak: So tell me, what what's it all about? What are you learning? What's the purpose of doing that work.


00:26:37 Alex Campbell: Yeah. Yeah, it's a brilliant school. Is kind of a funny thing, maybe not so dissimilar from ayahuasca in terms of how it gets talked about and how it gets taught in the Western world, because a lot of people talk about Tantra, but they're actually teaching neo Tantra, which is a similar thing to how yoga shows up in the West. Like we go to stretch class and we learn how to breathe a certain way and it's great for our IT band and whatever. But that doesn't make you a yogi and doesn't mean you actually follow the path


00:27:15 Mike Pietrzak: I see, so in a lot of cases the spiritual element has been taken out.


00:27:20 Alex Campbell: Yeah. Or, you know, like you cherry pick a little piece and then think that's the path. Right. And so, like something that's often missing is lineage. And part of why I love this school is that it's actually based within the [inaudible] lineage. And there's a Lama who endorses the way this school is teaching and it teaches a specific modality. And the modality is focused around sexual healing. But Tantra is not about sex or sexuality. It's a complete set of spiritual practices, some of which can be done sexually if you choose to.


00:28:00 Mike Pietrzak: Yeah, I think that's a big misconception since the whole Sting fiasco, he was having tantric sex with his wife for hours and hours and that got poked at endlessly. But I don't think there's been a lot of understanding of authentic Tantra and on my part as well, I don't really understand it very well. Can you give us a bit of a basic primer on what's involved?


00:28:28 Alex Campbell: Yeah, so the school that I'm part of studies Tibetan Tantra, so Tantra originated in India, spread to Tibet, in Tibet, it was mixed with Bon or at least in our lineage it was. And Bon is the indigenous religion of Tibet, pre-Buddhism. It's more of a shamanistic religious spiritual path. And Tibetan Tantra mixes those again, or least in our lineage it does. And Tantra means to weave. Right. You're weaving visualization light, form, sounds like you're chanting, you're visualizing yourself as deities and stuff. It's pretty esoteric in a lot of the practices, but it works. That's the thing. Like same as ayahuasca. Like we don't really know how it works, but it fucking does something. So I don't know if that gives a clearer picture or not at all.


00:29:28 Mike Pietrzak: Well I guess maybe another way to get at this is who would benefit from doing some Tantra? Or studying it. What kind of problems would you bring to Tantra?


00:29:42 Alex Campbell: Yeah, well, I mean, like. You know, within the modality I'm trained in, it's really useful to heal any sort of sexual dysfunction, but it's not just to heal what's wrong, it's also to cultivate and develop. So there is that there is that component of like how crazy orgasms have sex, like for three days straight, like you can develop all these capacities and that's why some people get into it. But like the the bigger picture is that it's a complete spiritual path. So anybody who wants to experience spiritual growth and progress would be a great candidate for Tantra, at least potentially.


00:30:23 Mike Pietrzak: Yeah, I came to this knowing very little about it. But I guess it's interesting how deep some things go when you when you start to poke a little bit.


00:30:32 Alex Campbell: Yeah. Yeah, totally. It's a massive subject. It really is.


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00:30:38 Mike Pietrzak: Yeah. I'm I'm quite familiar with meditation. Started meditating at I think age 19. I got this great book called Awakening the Lama Within, I believe it was—Awakening the Buddha Within by an American lama who studied in Tibet for a long time. And it was so... it made so much sense for me at the time. It was how to cultivate more calm and centredness and to... really it's one of those foundational habits that you can build a lot of your other actions on top of it. To this day, I try to meditate daily, at least ten minutes, and I find when I don't do it, especially for a few days in a row, things start to go funny in my life, right? You start to have fights with the wife or you're little less patient with your daughter or you're not as focused at work. And these spiritual practices are extremely practical. And there's a ton of great scientific method studies on the benefits of meditation. You know, it's like great for your heart. It's great for your sleep, it's great for your lifespan. It's more focus, more energy, et cetera, et cetera. I don't feel like there's the same kind of understanding of Tantra in the West at that level.


00:31:57 Alex Campbell: Yeah, well, it's quite funny because there's a woman named Spring Washam and she's one of Jack Kornfield is one of her main teachers, but they're talking about how, like mindfulness has become Westernized. And there's all these like you can go on retreats, you can study like there's all this like info and books and Instagram posts and whatever. But it's through the lens of, like, how to be a better functional Western person, which is missing out on, like, why they do those practices in the first place, which is to advance on the spiritual path or... say that again?


00:32:36 Mike Pietrzak: It's become another life hack almost.


00:32:39 Alex Campbell: Yeah. And like, yeah, it works as a life hack. Yoga is great for your body. Meditation is great for a calmer mind and lets you do more things in the day. It does. And there is. There is that. You know, it's kind of like going to the that cool doorway and taking a picture instead of walking through.


00:32:58 Mike Pietrzak: Right, interesting metaphor.


00:33:00 Alex Campbell: And that's fine too, the doorway is great. Why not? It's ornate. Take the picture. Great. And if you want, you can go through and there's a whole other realm to it.


00:33:08 Mike Pietrzak: It does seem like people are not going deep on many things these days in general. I mean, it's hard to generalize well, but I would say in 2021 in the West, people are doing so many things, but not in any kind of focused deep way. Right. There's all kinds of Facebook posts about how can I multitask effectively? The answer is you can't. You can't multitask effectively. You can smoke a cigarette while you're backing out of the driveway, talking to your friend on the phone. But it's not a good idea. Right? Like, you want to probably focus on one thing at a time and go deeper on it and you'll get more value out of that. But it's a lesson I'm learning right now, actually.


00:33:53 Alex Campbell: Yeah, I mean, I hear you and that's the world we live in, too, right? Like we're so encouraged not I don't mean this in a victimized way, but just like recognizing the space that surrounds us, like we're so encouraged to accomplish to do 18 things at once, to have five careers. That's the world we live in. So it's totally understandable that we're looking for like, yeah, I need to be able to do more because I need to pay rent. And like, we have valid reasons. And that's also part of the whole thing of like, you know, if you're going to do any sort of inner work, the real work is to have it not be different from our outer work. And the world we live in is one that demands people or encourages people to be busy and to accomplish all the time. And that itself is not necessarily very healthy, actually, to see how that's like can be traumatic. And that can really encourage people to operate over top of the stuff that is there for them to deal with. If they have the space for it.


00:34:51 Mike Pietrzak: So what is what's the solution to that or what's a practice you can use to sort of fight against that tendency of the external pressure to do more and achieve more?


00:35:02 Alex Campbell: Yeah, I mean, I love what you said in the in the very beginning of doing less and doing it well. And, you know, and drawing in this whole, like, ontological thing, too, like a lot of this is getting out of our own way, right. I guess, you know, we can look at how the world tells us we have to be busy and we can also take ownership of that. We've internalized that.


00:35:25 Mike Pietrzak: Yeah, that's true.


00:35:27 Alex Campbell: Right. And look at the experience of life. We actually want to have not just society's standards of success and like the goal we're supposed to meet, we get to actually be a choice for which ones we want to play in.


00:35:40 Mike Pietrzak: Exactly. We are in control of our lives completely and we get to create the reality that we want. It's not it it's not like we can snap your fingers and have that happen. But you start to change your beliefs, change your habits, and then you'll start to notice the effects after a period of time. And one of the biggest challenges of my clients is they are stuck in this idea that I have to do this, I have to do this. And why do they believe that? Well, their parents have taught them this. You know, my parents taught me you got to you have to be at the top of your class. You have to... I want you to your best as long as your best is like 90 percent or greater. Right. Right. My dad taught me, hey, money is important. I remember telling him one day, oh my God, I just discovered Leonardo da Vinci was like, did you know this guy did this and this and this? And his response was, yeah, but he died piss poor and like as a child who's impressionable, I'm like, OK, maybe I should then focus on money. Right? So what you tell yourself or what you tell your children, it has such a... these ripple effects. Yeah. And that's hard to root out sometimes, isn't it.


00:36:54 Alex Campbell: Yeah. I mean and that whole like parent child dynamic, you never know like how it will play out. Right. And we can try to be responsible and be good parents and stuff but like. You can't control 100 percent how those things will land now. But, yeah, I mean, so with you, though, and I think. Like, we have strategies, right? But underneath those strategies is like, what are you feeling and what you're feeling? It's like, what are you needing? Like, what needs are met or unmet. Yes. And busy success money. It's like, well, what do those things actually get you? Do they like have you feel validated or important or successful, like we have a need to feel or to be validated, say, and having money is one strategy to meet that need.


00:37:46 Mike Pietrzak: Whereas I might have a different strategy? Yeah, yeah. Maybe they're doing Tantra or something, right?


00:37:53 Alex Campbell: Yeah. Frickin’ weirdos go into the jungle and...


00:37:58 Mike Pietrzak: Yeah. I guess that's a beautiful thing, right. We all we're all running our own spiritual path, whether we know it or not. I mean, there's this wonderful book by Rob Bell, who I just love. His podcast is amazing. He was a pastor at a megachurch in California. It was huge, huge operation. He got sick that, he got out of the game. Now he does just podcasts and their wisdom is just off the charts. I love him. And he just released a book recently called Everything is Spiritual, fantastic book. And the whole premise is you can find spiritual evolution in everything, you know, cleaning up dog crap off the sidewalk is a spiritual act. Raising kids, doing the dishes, exercising. All of this is just fodder for your spiritual journey. And whether you know it or not, everyone's on the spiritual path. Just some are more dialed in than others, I suppose.


00:38:50 Alex Campbell: Yeah, I love that. Like, you know, I think there's the monastic ascetic approach to spirituality. Right. Remove the things in life that distract you from your spiritual path so that you can progress deeply in it. And then on the other side of the spectrum is the like yogic path, the path of inclusion... dogshit, sex, drugs, like whatever. Bring it on, like bring it. It's all fuel,


00:39:13 Mike Pietrzak: That side of things. Have you ever been drawn to the monastic life?


00:39:18 Alex Campbell: What's funny is we're talking about busyness and like my life is so busy right now and part of me is like, fuck, I would love to just, go to retreat, do these practices all day long because they're amazing, like catch up on my reading. So there's that. But no, I think like I love living as a fully human embodied experience that has spirituality woven into all of it.


00:39:43 Mike Pietrzak: Yeah, there's this image in my head of you're walking with one foot in the material world and one in the spiritual world. And I kind of like that being in both worlds. Right. I don't think you can really separate those things. Even the monks in a cave somewhere have to get food, food and water somehow and take care of their bodily functions. It's just you can't escape it, right? We are here. We don't know why. We don't know how we got here. But there is value in kind of. Pursuing both of those paths.


00:40:19 Alex Campbell: Yeah, and who says was in the way...


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00:40:20 Mike Pietrzak: ... go and live in the community somewhere, just my wife and I talk about this like let's go to some kind of community where we don't have to worry about possessions or just some kind of commune, but not too many of those around where we live, so we'll have to move.


00:40:33 Alex Campbell: So, yeah, yeah. See you at Burning Man for one week of the year and then.


00:40:41 Mike Pietrzak: Yeah, mini-monastic retreats I suppose.


00:40:48 Alex Campbell: Yeah.


00:40:50 Mike Pietrzak: You, you brought up sex and drugs and all this stuff, which is a wonderful part of any, any life. You are actually studying to become a sexologist, right.


00:41:02 Alex Campbell: Yeah. Not something I would ever say I was doing, but yeah.


00:41:06 Mike Pietrzak: This fascinates me. So tell me, what is a sexologists? I have a basic understanding of what that person might do, but I'm so intrigued by what it actually entails.


00:41:16 Alex Campbell: Yeah, so, you know, just the nuts and bolts side of it is that through the Tantra program, we meet all of the requirements through ACS, which is American. Americans Certified Sexologists or the community of. Yes, I can we can double check that in the notes, but they normally certify sex therapists and therapy is like a different discipline. I'm not a therapist and not in training to become a therapist, but our modality, which is more like a somatic sexual healing practice meets all the requirements. So some of the training that allows us to have that is like we're trained and in [inaudible] theory and trauma and like proper understanding of anatomy, which is not as common as you might think. And then also the sexual yoga side of it. The Tantra side of it and weaving all that together is it's an amazing modality, it's really potent.


00:42:24 Mike Pietrzak: So when you're when you're fully certified and you start working with clients, what types of clients will you work with, what will be their concerns? What will you do with them?


00:42:40 Alex Campbell: Yeah. So, I mean, there's a range right there that could be the people that are drawn to it because they have an issue or problem. So whether it's like erectile dysfunction or like there's pain with penetration every damn time or the relationship itself isn't working. These practices are really well, they're really good at bringing up and healing trauma, for one. And there's still that distinction of like we're not trauma therapists or trauma specialists, but by doing these practices, things will often come up if they're to come up. So we have some training to be with that. And it's also really cool path if you are drawn to spirituality and sexuality, especially in mixing the two, because even if you have nothing, well, everyone has stuff to address and heal. But even outside of, like fixing what's wrong, there's so much beauty and depth and connection and power in learning these practices just for like, deepening your relationship with self and then in relationship.


00:43:49 Mike Pietrzak: Absolutely. I want to I want to maybe push a little bit more on that or scratch the surface on the intersection of spirituality and sexuality, which is an interesting thing to say, because in the West, at least, we have this idea that those are two polar opposites. Right? This of course, comes from our Christian, Judeo-Christian history in the West. You don't talk about sex. You know, it's a dirty, sticky, sinful thing. Right? Right. Obviously, that's not helpful or healthy at all. And so elaborate for me on that intersection between spirituality and sex or sexuality.


00:44:26 Alex Campbell: Yeah, yeah. I mean, there's so many angles to look at that from. Like, I feel like that's such a massive, beautiful conversation. One really grounded, simple way of looking at it that I don't often hear talked about is that, aside from the fact that in the Western world, we all need a lot of healing around how we relate to sexuality, putting that aside for a moment, sexual energy is a way to elevate spiritual practice in the same way that when you're going to the gym, you can add more weight. Or you can do something while you're balancing, right, you can lift 20 pounds above your head or you can do that on one leg, on a balance, on a bouncy ball. Right. And how it changes, how you do the practice. So, you know, we learn to meditate with your eyes closed. Well, can you meditate with your eyes open? Can you meditate while you're doing sexual practice? And so you're or using plant medicines like you are elevating the intensity of the container or the space you're in. And by practicing in these different spaces, you're developing your capacity and spirituality.


00:45:39 Mike Pietrzak: So I've heard whispers of this type of I suppose as a practice you can call it... you know I read a fair amount of books about, you know, positive masculinity and sexuality and how to take that sexual charge, that sex energy that normally you expend by either having sex or masturbating, then put it into something else. You know, and I have trouble competing that sometimes because, you know, I find like if you're if you're horny, all you can think about is sex. Right. At least for the average guy. And so to transmute that into something more productive or powerful or spiritual healing, I'm on board. I'd love to know how to do that. So are there techniques or practices or...?


00:46:32 Alex Campbell: Yeah, I'm so with you. Like, sexual energy is energy. Yeah. Right. Especially thinking back to what you just said about how we separate spirituality and sexuality like go rub one out real quick in the bathroom with the door closed. We hide it, seclude it. It's no it's just like it's part of our human energy and yeah, there's so much power in our sexual energy. And that's part of why it's useful in the spiritual path. So part of our training for men is to become multi orgasmic, meaning that you orgasm without ejaculation. So the typical thing is like we literally like shoot our energy, shoot it out. Right. And, you know, it's really interesting. The differences men notice when they stop, when they practice semen retention in order to learn this like semen retention is just the first step. It's not to be confused with the no-fap movement, like semen retention as a complete thing. Like that's just the first step.


00:47:37 Mike Pietrzak: In this case you'd be referring to you're still orgasming, just not ejaculating.


00:47:42 Alex Campbell: Yeah, right then you're now able to actually move your energy through your body in a different way and you don't get depleted. And like one of my teachers, when he first practiced semen retention, he gained 10 pounds of muscle, with the same amount of physical activity. Yeah, because he's no longer, like, depleting his body of those nutrients. At least that's Taoist perspective, some Western science thinks it's bullshit. But in my personal experience, it makes a huge difference in your energy levels.


00:48:14 Mike Pietrzak: And Western science is usually a little bit behind. Well, in a lot of cases it's been behind on a lot of the Eastern... they call it philosophies, but some of it is just knowledge that we've had for thousands of years.


00:48:28 Alex Campbell: Totally. Yeah. I mean, there's so many cases in Chinese medicine of like, cool. They made this discovery eight hundred years ago that just got validated. Two hundred years ago that just got validated. Yeah. There's a huge trend of that.


00:48:40 Mike Pietrzak: Well, so give me the give me the lifehack. How do you actually do this? Is it a matter of just Kegels or is it breathing exercises? How do you become a multi orgasmic man and not ejaculate?


00:48:53 Alex Campbell: Well, I think the thing is that there isn't a hack for it and you can go on the Internet and people will talk about exactly that, like how many Kegels do I have to do? And that's part of it. They help. They're great. There's nothing wrong with that. But I think it typically takes people like a number of months or over a year to actually fully learn this. So you actually need training. Some people might be able to do it on their own, but I think that's very rare. So there's actually a number like there's a series of steps that we lead people through and I've been led through in order to learn this. And some of it's pretty esoteric and weird, some of it's all about moving energy through your body and all of these meditations and visualizations. But they work, esoteric or not. They work.


00:49:38 Mike Pietrzak: It works if you put in the time and effort. Yeah. And I think that's what's missing in a lot of people's practices. I love Tim Ferriss, but he's all about the lifehacks and he doesn't talk a lot about the what can you do long term that will be a beneficial practice in life. And maybe he does, but and I'm just not dialed into it. But I'm finding that it comes back to this focus thing. If you invest a little bit more time in something, it will it will grow right? It's the same when you plant a seed. If you're not going to water them, they're probably not going to sprout and germinate. So you make a really good point about you've got to invest the time. Yeah.


00:50:18 Alex Campbell: Yeah. I mean, if you want to do something radical in your life, that means investing radically, whether it's money or time or energy or all three or whatever. But yeah, I think we're so caught up in I don't have enough time. Therefore I need a lifehack instead of we actually just need to look at our needs and our priorities a little more earnestly and then create the experience we actually want to have.


00:50:43 Mike Pietrzak: I really like that line you just used. Can you repeat it? It was about radical change.


00:50:53 Alex Campbell: Yeah, If you want to create a radical change, you might have to radically invest in yourself in your life.


00:50:59 Mike Pietrzak: I love that. I've kept you on for a while, so maybe we'll call it there. It's been absolutely amazing. Can you can you leave us with maybe your what are you reading right now? What are you learning about outside of the Tantra? What's on your mind these days?


00:51:16 Alex Campbell: Yeah. What's on my mind is. Feeling like I'm finally starting to see the water I swim in, that we're all born into. This this whole year with COVID has been on one hand tragic, on another hand quite beautiful. And like we're finally talking openly and commonly about systemic racism, talking more about gender inequality, talking about trauma, talking about our wounds, and that creates the possible space to work on them and. Yeah, so for me, I don't know, it's just really, really opening up, seeing everywhere the remnants or not the remnants, but the. The enduring effects of colonialism, patriarchy and unhealed trauma and how it shows up in every day for every human and that it really comes down to like know we have this the spiritual path or the inner path, but it's really no separate from the other path. So inside, outside, same. If you're going to work internally, unless you're going to spiritually bypass, that means being in conversation about the world around you. So. Yeah, I'm just looking. Trying to be in more conversation about all this stuff with more people, not because I know the answers, but because the conversation needs to be had.


00:52:43 Mike Pietrzak: Well, when we spoke—and that's absolutely beautiful. I love that philosophy. And when we spoke the last time, I really got that sense from you that you're on this amazing spiritual journey and doing it for the right reasons and really just interested in helping people along the way. And I'm sure you're doing this as a coach and I'm really looking forward to our next conversation. So this will be our first one, but not the last for sure.


00:53:11 Alex Campbell: Yeah, well, thanks. Thanks so much for inviting such an open conversation and exploring all this great stuff.


00:53:18 Mike Pietrzak: I love these conversations. Let's do more. So thanks, Alex Campbell. And people can find you again at alex@ihitthings.ca. Is that right?


00:53:27 Alex Campbell: Perfect, yeah. And Facebook's great too.


00:53:31 Mike Pietrzak: Great, we'll find you there as well. Thanks for the chat today, my friend. We'll talk soon.


00:53:37 Alex Campbell: Thank you. Yeah, chat soon, absolutely.


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