Here in my body…

Why is being in our bodies so subversive?

Every day in my work, I ask people to be in their bodies and give them space to explore. In doing that, my clients often find power, self-love, joy, pleasure and all of those in exactly the body they walked in the door with.

It’s all there already, inside you waiting for your attention and awareness to open and wake up. It’s been there the whole time.

And guess what? The more you have lived, the deeper it gets. That’s subversive. That’s throwing conventional wisdom out the window and challenging the Madison Avenue Abercrombie and Fitch “status quo” subversive.

Bodies that tell a story of life and loves and hurt and joy are like reading a great novel. Bodies that have mileage feel more and have more of a context for feeling. Bodies with wrinkles are more interesting because they are more individual.

That’s one of the things I love about my work, I get to read amazing things. I like to read out loud, share what I find, show my passion in exploring. I like to open doors and stand in wonder at what’s inside, what maybe has been hidden for decades, buried behind messages and products and the stuff that accumulates in our lives to distract us from ourselves.

Jean McLaren of the Gabriola Island Raging Grannies taught me a fantastic protest song…

I am here,
here in my body.
I am here,
and all is well.

In my body I have myself without spending a dime. That’s subversive.

Time for ME, opening to sensuality

Next week I am going to the mountains to recharge my spiritual batteries. It’s been a long and challenging summer, and it’s time for me to sharpen my tools. For the past six years I have taken this week to work on myself. I retreat into space held by my community and my teachers and let go. This year we are diving into creation stories, into the mysteries of beginning and birth. My days will be spent reconnecting to my own body and spirit and my nights tending erotic space for the alchemy that happens there.

My body will be the crucible where I burn away and transform the lead of the past year and find the gold. I will no doubt feel pain and pleasure and sorrow and bliss. I will walk the ecstatic path into my own heart and shadows, connect with my guides and with the healing power of the earth. I will connect deeply with my body and my desires and come back into my world renewed.

My erotic rebirth is an ongoing process of experimentation and curiosity. My journey has taken me deep into my own senses, my own ideas and notions about who I am and how I “work” in the world, and has dwwpened my relationship with myself and with my loved ones.

My journey followed four “stages,” which I continue to revisit because sometimes it’s useful to have a little bit of a map.

Stage 1 – Internal Awareness. This is where I woke up. Where I became aware that I was brimming with sexual energy and arousal. This is where I battled with my stories about how sex is bad and the feelings I have are wrong, and my desires are best hidden away. This is where I awakened my body to sensation again and re-framed my relationship to myself and my desires. This is also where I learned to breathe, to feel sensation and broaden my sensual palette (see Erotic Skillz 1 and 2).

Stage 2 – Seeing myself as an Erotic Being. I mean “seeing” literally. Looking at myself in the mirror, in pictures and in print. I started journaling and watching myself. I realized that I was beautiful and sexy and desireable…that was not easy. I watched myself and talked to myself and coached myself and touched myself…and once again fell in love with my own erotic uniqueness.

Stage 3 – Being seen as an Erotic Being. You know how children run up to you and say something like “look how amazing my … is!” Fill in the blank, you get my point. This stage is about confronting shame: body shame, sexual shame, thought shame and learning how to be seen. I struggle with this and the best way through is to let go and do it. Carol Queen has a great book “Exhibitionism for the Shy,” which is full of stuff about this.

Stage 4 – Experiencing sexual energy and touch from another. This was really difficult for me and I still struggle with receiving pleasure. Receiving asks me to put all of these pieces together. I have to be aware of my body and my own arousal, I have to let go into being an Erotic Being and be vulnerable and seen by someone in my erotic bliss. Fortunately this is a delicious stage to practice and I encourage you to practice frequently!

In November, Pamela Madsen, Ron Stewart and I are creating a space for sensual discovery. “Back to the Body: A Sensuous Retreat for Women” will be a place for vunerability and erotic rebirth. I am more than excited to see what can happen, and I am deeply humbled knowing that I may witness and celebrate transformation there.

As I head off to my own retreat, I am holding these stages in my intentions as keys to self discovery. In the upcoming “Back to the Body” retreat, we will be working with all four stages and I can’t wait to see what unfolds there.

I invite you to take time for you.

Back to the Body -

Pamela Madsen of beingshameless.com has asked me to join her in creating this fantastic event! November 1st through November 5th, 2012. See a flyer located here for details!

Erotic Skillz - Part 5 Sexual Energy

I was recently at a workshop doing energy and trance work. I am interested in sexual energy and the connection to my essential experience of life…woo woo enough?

Call it tantra and kundalini if you like. It’s the force and connection to the universal that reminds me that I am alive and unique, and at the same time that I am a tiny part of the universe.

A lot of my focus in sex is on this energy, moving it, raising it, opening to it. I can do that in many many ways from a simple touch, to breathing to … well, fucking.

My workshop was not on technique, but I thought that I would share some, so here goes. First of all…try being in your own body. If that sounds familiar or like territory that you are comfortable with, then imagine doing/being done by someone who is aware of you, and also centered in themselves. That leads to great sex because you are connected to each other, present to what is working and what is not.

Try doing what you like to do from a place of curiosity and desire. I like exploring with my mouth because I like sensation and taste. If I am blindfolded, then I can hear as well as feel responses more acutely because my eyes are covered. Curiosity and play create intimacy too because it becomes a shared experience.

Breathing is key also. Better breathing increases circulation, awareness and pleasure. If you can breathe deeply during stimulation, you will last longer and enjoy more. Try it, practice it and see.

In summary, a lot of “good sex” is in being present to your lover, being curious and playful and breathing. Now it’s your turn. What memorable sensation have you given or received during sex? How did you do it?

Fun with ass...a response.

In answer to a question about anal exploration with a reluctant partner…

I encourage you to explore anal on your own too. Making friends with your own butt is a wonderfully pleasurable experience and is best the first step. As you learn how to feel there and how to dive into the erotic sensations, you also gain confidence in being able to relax and open. (Did you know your butt has a HUGE concentration of nerve endings just waiting to be awakened? YUMMM) Oooh and this is critical…the ass is not self-lubricating…USE A LOT OF LUBE.
Once your ass knows what a good time it is in for, and you learn how to prepare yourself, then you can teach him more easily.
Here’s a little nutshell anal outline from one of my classes. I hope it is useful :)
Remember The Basics!
Safe Space – Create a comfortable safe space to play with all the lube, condoms, gloves, towels, toys, water, blankets, and anything else you may want close at hand. Is the room temperature good? Is the bed/floor/couch/bathtub/kitchen table you are playing on comfortable for everyone?
Personal Care – Take care of your personal body needs such as drinking water, using the bathroom, filing your nails. Are you hungry, uncomfortable in your clothes, or in need of anything? Is your phone turned off?
Connecting – Take some time to connect with the other person/people/yourself. Practice some eye-gazing, gentle touch, breathe together, last minute check in, cuddling, and anything else that will help you feel connected and ready to play.
Warm Up – Foreplay is crucial to pleasurable anal play (especially in the beginning). Start with whatever your favorite types of foreplay are and bring your erotic awareness (and blood flow) to your ass. Warm up the person and their butt.
Insert slowly- Go slow when inserting fingers/toys/cocks into the butt. Give the receiver time to adjust to the sensations.
Relax – Take some deep breaths and relax. If things start to get tense or difficult, take a minute and go back to connecting and warm up.
Experience oriented – Try being experience oriented rather than goal oriented. Explore and enjoy whatever happens.
Start small, work up to big – Insert small things first- a finger up to the knuckle, a small thin toy, and work up to multiple fingers, bigger toys, cocks, etc. Give the butt time to adjust and open to larger penetration.
Communication – Keep talking! Continue to check in about how things are feeling, how the speed, size, pressure level, textures, are working out. If you are the receiver, be sure to speak up about what is and is not working. Do you need the activity to go slower, stop for a second, or maybe go bigger, faster, harder?
LUBE – Continue to check in about lube levels. Lube often needs to be applied multiple times during anal play and the more lube the better. USE MORE LUBE.
Pull out SLOWLY – Pull toys, cocks, fingers, and anything else you have inserted into the butt out slowly. Just as the butt needs to adjust to things going in, it also needs to slowly adjust to things coming out.
Aftercare – Take some time to care for yourself and your partner/s after play. Cuddle, drink some water, get cleaned up, and check in.
Savourez tout!

With thanks to Andrew Schiffer for co creating this class with me!

Erotic Skillz – Part 4 Developing Sensate Awareness

Stop thinking a minute and just breathe, close your eyes and feel what it’s like to be in your body right now.  In the last exercises, I have been asking you to be aware of sensations, now let’s put those skillz to use.  I want to share some thoughts about conscious touch and awareness in your fingertips.

Lots of things happen when our bodies begin to get aroused.  Our heart rate changes, our chemistry changes, breathing changes and so on.  Slowing down and noticing how those changes occur takes concentration, and for some can be a trigger to escape.  By becoming aware of touch and sensation we can bring ourselves back into the experience, enhance our pleasure and connect more deeply with our partners.

A great way to start is by learning the differences between giving and receiving, taking and allowing touch, what Dr. Betty Martin refers to as the “four quadrants” of touch.  You can use these quadrants to drill down into your intentions with touch, and by doing so, you will be able to connect more deeply to the sensations at your fingertips.

Giving and taking refer to how touch is delivered. I can touch you for your pleasure, giving, and/or for mine, taking.  when I give touch for your pleasure, my intention and focus are on you, on your responses whether verbal or through sound and motion, to your instructions and to your guidance.  When I touch you for my pleasure, I may be curious or intrigued by the texture or temperature of your skin, by the softness of your hair or the curve of your hip.  My intention is to explore for my own sake, to learn your body and how it responds.

Receiving and allowing are how I interact with sensation.  To receive, I must ask for or communicate what I would like, how and where and in what way.  Receiving intentionally empowers me to guide and seek my own pleasure in my own way.  I often work with this quadrant in sessions because it is the most difficult for many people, but ultimately one of the surest ways to erotic empowerment.  Allowing is when I give permission for my lover to explore me.  Done intentionally, it is when my lovers asks permission and I give them access to my body to play.  ”Asks” can be verbal or non, but it is key to allowing with intention.

A dark side of all of this is tolerating, when I “put up” with touch that I don’t want or in ways that I don’t enjoy, or when I give touch that I am not interested in.  Please don’t tolerate touch.  Take these ideas and experiment.  See if you can really get a handle on the sometimes subtle differences between each quadrant of touch.  In doing so, you will develop more tools to engage your body in intentional and embodied ways.  I bet you will also have a lot of fun.

Remember, practice practice practice!

Wanting and longing

Yesterday was emotionally volatile.  Seems like everyone around me was in turbulence and feeling powerfully intense emotions, myself included.  Keeping centered and in my body was challenging, and staying present to what was mine and what was theirs was the task of the day. In the midst of it all, a client spoke about wanting versus longing and it really helped me frame what was happening.  This is a client I have been seeing for a while and I love her insights.

Wanting to be sexual, wanting a relationship, wanting to be loved but letting go of longing for it.  Is that giving up, or is it more about reclaiming herself?  I think the latter.Wanting is “to feel a need or a desire for; wish for.”  I am all about desire and wishing.  I celebrate that I can want.  It feeds me to want.  I feel empowered and alive and capable.

Two of my teachers, Dawn Isidora and Ravyn Stanfield emphasize a particular self-awareness that strengthens and relies on my relationship with myself in all of my parts.  By keeping myself aligned and recognizing my own boundaries (physical and energetic) and my desires, I create tools and awareness about what I want and need.  There is peace and contentment there, even if I don’t have what I want because I am taking responsibility for my own emotional and physical needs. I can get what I want, or at least try.

What is longing?  A dictionary definition is “strong, persistent desire or craving, especially for something unattainable or distant.”  Craving…something unattainable or distant.  Longing requires that you give up before you even start.

Longing is reaching out, looking for a reflection and affirmation of my needs from someone external.  It’s painful and difficult to long for something or someone.  Longing seems to require an inability to be satisfied.

Longing is at its core about my own insecurity and hopelessness, and therefore it is all about me.  If I am longing for someone, I am actually mourning my loss of them or what they stand for.  I have made them a source of my pain, which is probably neither kind nor fair to them…and certainly affects how close I can feel to them.

Longing is also about giving up my power. Getting back to desire from a place of longing requires strength and hope.  Rekindling desire is about taking responsibility for where I have given up power, and taking it back.  I am responsible for my own needs, wants and desires.  That feels right.

 

DIS your relationships!

I have a tool that I use to define and create relationships. I coach people to use it to create good boundaries and I want to share it with everyone!  Relationships and boundaries are “complex sets of thoughts and emotions bundled together in a confusing way” and fall nicely within my “Desire – Intimacy – Sex” (DIS) magnifying glass.

Relationships are about boundaries and agreements. You and your partner are writing a contract. I suggest that you both think and imagine what is possible and what you want, and look for solutions that support the intimacy and love you have with your husband. Few people take the time to do this, and those who do can have a much better relationship agreement if they approach things with intention and a little planning.

First figure out what you really want. My DIS tool can help you tease things out a bit. I’ll nutshell it for you and invite you to try it out a little and see if it helps you break this down.

Desire - What is in you. These are your fantasies, hungers, thoughts, secrets (dirty and otherwise). This is you wanting more. This is good stuff, but not all of it is practical. This is where creativity starts though so no holds barred here.

Intimacy - this is what happens between you and your partners and friends and family. This is actually something you share with your husband in your long talks, in the 21 years of marriage that you don’t want to leave. This is what you have with your besties when you huddle late at night over a bottle of wine and plot and scheme. This is where oxytosin is made and connections are built and you see reflections of yourself in the context of another. Intimacy is never monogamous.

Sex - I was facilitating a workshop on sex…and one of the attendees said this:

“Sex is what’s happening in my body right now.”

I have not found a better way to put it. Sex is not only about procreation or orgasm or genitals or nakedness. I have had incredibly sexual moments barely touching fingers and just feeling the charge of another person’s desire there. Sex is about bodies and sensation and touch. Sex is holding hands or cuddling or getting a massage. Sex is solo or paired or in groups and it’s always about what is happening in my body right now.

How to use DIS - DIS is a tool, not a fact. When I am coaching people on relationships, I ask them to use DIS to get clearer on what they want and what is happening. It’s useful to clarify because then you can really understand and create BOUNDARIES (those pesky things).

What do you desire from a relationship, what are your fantasies and imaginings, what’s in it for you? How much connection and intimacy do you want there, and how will you relate it to your other relationships? How much sex do you want? Holding hands only? Kissing? Making out and groping? You get the picture.

Use each element in relation to the others. Make a one-to-ten scale for each element and imagine how that might look. Try to define some current relationships this way. With your best friend it might look like D-2, I-8, S-2. With your cat it might look like D-6, I-6, S-1 (though since my cat insists on sitting on my keyboard while I type, one could argue D-1, I-6, S-4). With your new lover it could look many ways and the more you get clear on what you want from them, the more effective you will be at having boundaries.

Once you have an idea of what you want from a relationship, you can construct the boundaries that will be kindest to your other relationships. In Shameless, Pamela Madsen tells the story of how she and her husband construct boundaries where her exploration can run openly and benefit her marriage. She is able to journey deeply into her sexual exploration with Dakas and Sacred Intimates and Sexological Bodyworkers (*finger pointing at me…*) and still maintain and enhance the intimacy of her marriage because the boundaries (bubbles I think she calls them here) are good.

So…you are not alone. You are not in uncharted territory either. You have DIS to use and create intention. Create your own bubbles and explore!

Erotic Skillz Part 3

We are born intensely sensual and sexual creatures. My experience growing up was being taught to hide, ignore or numb out my erotic awareness, to hide arousal and desire and to “be cool” about my sexuality. At some point those teachings failed me and I refused to repress my desire any longer.

At that point I had been married for a long time and had no clue how to live into my own sensuality and eroticism. I was intensely frustrated and felt betrayed by my marriage, my lifestyle and my own self. I knew things had to change and I made some pretty radical shifts in my life. Fortunately for me I had experience and supportive community, and some amazing teachers to help me figure out where I was headed.

Through my years of studying and coaching intimacy, I’ve developed many ways of breaking complex emotions and patterns into bite-sized pieces that make them easier to chew on. Today I am thinking again about what I call “The Four Stages of Erotic Awareness.”

My journey into erotic awareness went something like this:

Stage 1 – Internal Awareness. This is where I woke up. Where I became aware that I was brimming with sexual energy and arousal. This is where I battled with my stories about how sex is bad and the feelings I have are wrong, and my desires are best hidden away. This is where I awakened my body to sensation again and re-framed my relationship to myself and my desires. This is also where I learned to breathe, to feel sensation and broaden my sensual palette (see Erotic Skillz 1 and 2).

Stage 2 – Seeing myself as an Erotic Being. I mean “seeing” literally. Looking at myself in the mirror, in pictures and in print. I started journaling and watching myself. I realized that I was beautiful and sexy and desireable…that was not easy. I watched myself and talked to myself and coached myself and touched myself…and once again fell in love with my own erotic uniqueness.

Stage 3 – Being seen as an Erotic Being. You know how children run up to you and say something like “look how amazing my … is!” Fill in the blank, you get my point. This stage is about confronting shame: body shame, sexual shame, thought shame and learning how to be seen. I struggle with this and the best way through is to let go and do it. Carol Queen has a great book “Exhibitionism for the Shy,” which is full of stuff about this.

Stage 4 – Experiencing sexual energy and touch from another. This was really difficult for me and I still struggle with receiving pleasure. Receiving asks me to put all of these pieces together. I have to be aware of my body and my own arousal, I have to let go into being an Erotic Being and be vulnerable and seen by someone in my erotic bliss. Fortunately this is a delicious stage to practice and I encourage you to practice frequently!

In my coaching experiences, I often work in one specific stage. Building skillz one at a time allows me to focus and let go of chatter and shame binding. Stuff comes out like memories, experiences and doubts. All of the dirty and shadowy stuff that you really don’t need to share with your lover is welcome and celebrated. Giving full expression to your erotic being leads to confidence and mastery.
Erotic awareness and expression are you birthright. To quote Lady Gaga “Rejoice and love yourself today, ‘cuz baby you were born this way!”

Erotic Skillz Part 2

In Part 1 I asked you to learn how to “presence,” how to ground yourself in your body and feel stuff.

Once I am adept at being in my body, being present to how it feels to be alive in this place right now, I can begin to explore sensuality. I can bring awareness to my senses and through that awareness, begin to interact with the world in ways that please my senses. Part 2 of this series is about opening up sensual experience and creating a sensual “language.”

Part of the function of language is to bring experience into understanding. Learning a language allows me to refine and add detail to experience, and to increase my ability to interact effectively. If I am in an unfamiliar country and I need to pee, I have a better chance of interacting effectively to achieve my release if I speak the native language.

Is your body “unfamiliar country?” I was raised to believe so, to ignore or avoid parts of my body and to keep away from “dark places” many of which are highly sensitive and delicious areas to explore. My colleague Nekole Shapiro of EroticBirth.com calls these areas “tissues rich with sensational opportunity,” which I find delightful and intriguing. In Part 3 of this series, I will challenge you to go into your dark places and explore. Before we take off though, I want to review some stuff about operating your controls.

Remember when it felt really good to touch yourself? Perhaps you were just entering puberty and your hormone flooded body began to demand your attention. Perhaps it was earlier even, or later…maybe it was just before you joined this conversation. I want to evoke a time when your curiosity overcame the resistance of fear and you were rewarded with absolute pleasure. Maybe that happened when you first self pleasured, maybe when you first ate sushi. Find the place in your body that feels excitement, curiosity and joy and let’s practice.

We have, depending on who you ask, five or six or more senses. In the “presencing” exercise, I asked you to enter your senses and become aware of your body. For this exercise, I want to practice isolating one sense at a time and exploring. I will walk you through it with taste, and then you can expand as far as you wish. Don’t worry, in a later installment, I will get to touch too, and if you want to skip ahead, I find Barbara Carellas’ book “Urban Tantra” to be a wonderful resource.

Ready?

Nope, not yet…

First, some ground rules for erotic exploration:

Give yourself the time. You are worth it…make an appointment with yourself. “Today from 3-4 pm I am exploring.” Turn off your phone, shut down Facebook, make sure the dog has peed. If you are like me, you will resist this and get distracted, have “forgotten” to check your email until 2:59 and need to respond to something for just a sec. If you are seriously distractable, get professional help…give me a call. I have ways…

Create an intention. This is pretty critical because it’s the step where you let go. Intention gives you focus. It can be as simple as “I want to explore touch” or as complex as you can imagine.

Create your space. This is about clearing distractions and setting the mood.

Let go of expectations. Anything that is inconsistent with your intention may be a distraction, so let it go. If you are exploring touch for example, achieving orgasm is a goal and a distraction, so let go of it.

HAVE FUN.

Now you know how, so let’s try something.

Follow steps one, three and four above, then get a strawberry or something similar. Let your intention be “I am going to listen to this strawberry.”

Give yourself enough time that you think you will struggle to fill it. Fifteen minutes to eat one strawberry for example, or half an hour.

Try to let go of everything you know about strawberries.

For the first minute or several, get presenced. Really practice being in your body and completely present to the strawberry. Notice whatever comes up for you with interest and curiosity. Maybe it’s a memory, maybe it’s feeling silly, maybe it’s hunger or a feeling. Notice everything.

Once you are in your body, explore the strawberry in whatever way comes to you. Practice using each of your senses. Notice everything. Notice in particular how each sensation feels in your body. When you smell it does the back of your neck tingle? When you close your eyes and slide your finger over it, can you feel the difference in temperature between the seeds and the fruit?

This is both about pleasure and about expanding your vocabulary, so really pay attention to the details. Let the strawberry teach you new words, new sensations, new connections.

When your time is up, give yourself a few minutes to reflect, to write perhaps and to integrate whatever happened.
If this was useful to you, make a practice of it. Every day or as it suits you, do something similar. Take a bath, go to a concert, or for a walk in your favorite park. Notice how your body feels.

I have done this as a practice for many years now. For me it never gets old and I continue to learn new things. Savor everything!