Conscious Sexual Self

Connection Requires Consciousness

Warning : Hazardous To Your Sex LIfe

 

I had a thought the other day – how many people in America right now have never sat and watched a sunrise or sunset? I’ll bet the number would make me sad.

 

I read recently that the Chinese pictograph for “busy” is made up of the characters for “heart” and “killing”. Take that in for a moment (if you have one to spare). At this point in time, in the culture I live in, I believe that the trance of busyness is one of the most hazardous things to a happy sex life. There is little space for our hearts to fill with wonder, for our bodies to rest and replenish, for our minds to clear, for our sexual energy to build. I see clients everyday who are exhausted, believing that the solution is adding more to their days. They look at me with hope that I can help them find a way to squeeze in some satisfying sex.

 

The thing is, most often, what needs to happen first is to really look at your daily schedules and get serious about what you truly want to be included in each day. There is a point where increasing our velocity is just not possible and adding one more thing to the “improve my life” list not feasible. But we are told again and again that there is more we should be doing, more we can be doing, more, more, more. And at some point, the only sane response is to reorient and say, “I can’t do it all”. This is not failure, this is sanity.

 

Do you want more sex in your life? Then you will need to make time to not only have sex but to allow yourself to be relaxed and happy enough to be inspired to have sex. You may have to make choices about what you no longer want to spend your time doing. Let some things go. Don’t let yourself forget that this is important. Rest is valuable. Spaciousness is invigorating. Connection requires being present to each other.

 

Contemplative Thomas Merton wrote, “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence.” As you hear the siren song of “Do More”, be sure to ask yourself, “what might be harmed, in myself or my relationships or health, if I add this to my list. Some things that you want more of may come from doing less.

 

Nothing Wasted

 

In my twenties even the idea of patience irritated me. I’m just being honest. I liked things to move fast and be interesting to me, preferably at all times. I remember taking yoga classes, back in the day, and I hated rolling up my yoga mat. Yes, just this 30 second task annoyed me and seemed like something to be rushed through. I avoided classes that used props – too much time wasted setting up and adjusting. Wow, I was impatient.

 

At that time I imagined patience as learning how to put up with annoying things, a sort of mild martyrdom of smiling through gritted teeth. Not very appealing.

 

Thankfully over the years I have been taught a different version of patience, one that actually feels good. Now I have come to see patience as being able to find the value in whatever you are doing. Patience, for me, is linked to appreciation. If I see rolling up my yoga mat as a valuable ritual that closes my practice, if I can do it mindfully and not rush through, it is enjoyable – and, as a great side effect, I feel patient!

 

I remember one of my true teachers in life, saying “you can have a great insight while in line at the post office, if you are awake to it. You can think just as deeply there and be just as aware there as anywhere else”. This blew me away. The idea that I could stop separating my life into categories of meaningful time and non-meaningful time, valuable time and wasted time. Time waiting, for someone or something, or transitioning from here to there, is still your time. There is still a world swirling around outside you and some incredibly interesting worlds moving around inside you, sensation, breath, thoughts, daydreams.

 

So here’s a challenge : Don’t spend your life waiting to get to the good parts. Find ways to create more good parts in previously unappreciated moments. Expand what is exciting to you. Don’t just rely on the tried and true entertainments and distractions available out there. Pull back from always searching and let something find you. (And, oh yeah, this relates to sexuality too.)

 

Do You Have Sexual Independence?

 

Have you granted yourself the sexual freedoms you deserve? How about these aspects of sexual independence:

 

 

 

Do you know how to give yourself a satisfying orgasm (at least most of the time) when you feel like it?

 

Are you confident stating what you like and don’t like sexually?

 

Are you informed about how your body works so that you can make educated decisions and advocate on its behalf?

 

Have you freed yourself from other people’s opinions about who you should be or how you should have sex?

 

Are you done chasing other people’s reactions to you and your sexuality, whether their reactions are lustful or shocked or anything else?

 

Can you look at your body clearly as a natural human body without expecting an airbrushed perfection?

 

Have you let go of that mean thing that your ex or the school mean girl or your brother said to you years ago?

 

Can you define your own sexuality based on how you feel rather than on who you are partnered with or not partnered with at the moment?

 

Can you honor and accept that your body is not meant to function like a machine but is affected by many variables and this is ok?

 

Are you familiar enough with your own values, beliefs and hopes that you can let them guide you, not require them to be reflected in the world around you?

 

Do you let yourself enjoy fantasies even when you would never want to enact them in real life?

 

Can you celebrate difference without telling yourself that you have to be different?

 

Is your open-mind excited about what might come next for you in your own pursuit of happiness?

 

 

 

What other elements make you feel sexually independent? Do you want to get more of this for yourself? You know what I am going to say, right?...Get The Conscious Sexual Self Workbook and claim your sexuality. Start with yourself.

 

How to Want

 

There is a word in the Yaghan language of Tierra Del Fuego – mamihlapinatapei. While I have no clue how to pronounce it; I really like this word, which means a look exchanged between two people who both desire to initiate something but both are unwilling to offer themselves. This may sound like a depressing thing, but I think we could stand to get more comfortable with the idea of mamihlapinatapei.

 

We Americans are not so great at longing. We are conditioned to focus on getting. But over the course of human history there has been a lot of longing, and there will always continue to be unrequited, unsatisfied longing. We can see this as failure, as a problem unsolved. Or we can see it as a part of the human experience and proof that the world is full and abundant – so full and abundant that we cannot HAVE it all.

 

There is a long literary tradition focused on long suffering yearning and unexpressed desire. I admit I found much of this irritating, too many high neck Victorian dresses, too much pining and martyrdom, too much repression. And I certainly don’t want us to return to hidden sexual drives, hidden bodies, or social structures that enforce separation and make so much loving impossible. But as I have gotten older, I have realized that there is something to learn from expressions of yearning, especially the type of yearning mamihlapinatapei speaks of – when one part of our self wants one thing and another part feels in conflict with that.

 

How many damaging sexual choices might be avoided if we grew up with an awareness of this concept? What if we were taught to expect moments of desire that we will not choose to act on? What if we actually enjoyed the tension of longing for something? What if the wordless exchange in a glance between two people that contained possibility but not action was considered a valuable, even beautiful, experience?

 

I want people to have full shameless sexual expression and satisfying sexual efficacy. I want people to get what they want. But I also want people to be so turned on by life and the world around them that they will experience some overflow, some sense of just taking it in without taking action. And I would like us to see that as potent, capable of building us up and filling us with energy of potential and private wonderings, rather than as a sign that life is passing us by. Life is here for you, with more than you can experience in one lifetime. And that is okay. Sometimes a passing look is creates a powerful memory of another version of passion manifest simply inside of you.

 

How to Want

 

There is a word in the Yaghan language of Tierra Del Fuego – mamihlapinatapei. While I have no clue how to pronounce it; I really like this word, which means a look exchanged between two people who both desire to initiate something but both are unwilling to offer themselves. This may sound like a depressing thing, but I think we could stand to get more comfortable with the idea of mamihlapinatapei.

 

We Americans are not so great at longing. We are conditioned to focus on getting. But over the course of human history there has been a lot of longing, and there will always continue to be unrequited, unsatisfied longing. We can see this as failure, as a problem unsolved. Or we can see it as a part of the human experience and proof that the world is full and abundant – so full and abundant that we cannot HAVE it all.

 

There is a long literary tradition focused on long suffering yearning and unexpressed desire. I admit I found much of this irritating, too many high neck Victorian dresses, too much pining and martyrdom, too much repression. And I certainly don’t want us to return to hidden sexual drives, hidden bodies, or social structures that enforce separation and make so much loving impossible. But as I have gotten older, I have realized that there is something to learn from expressions of yearning, especially the type of yearning mamihlapinatapei speaks of – when one part of our self wants one thing and another part feels in conflict with that.

 

How many damaging sexual choices might be avoided if we grew up with an awareness of this concept? What if we were taught to expect moments of desire that we will not choose to act on? What if we actually enjoyed the tension of longing for something? What if the wordless exchange in a glance between two people that contained possibility but not action was considered a valuable, even beautiful, experience?

 

I want people to have full shameless sexual expression and satisfying sexual efficacy. I want people to get what they want. But I also want people to be so turned on by life and the world around them that they will experience some overflow, some sense of just taking it in without taking action. And I would like us to see that as potent, capable of building us up and filling us with energy of potential and private wonderings, rather than as a sign that life is passing us by. Life is here for you, with more than you can experience in one lifetime. And that is okay. Sometimes a passing look is creates a powerful memory of another version of passion manifest simply inside of you.

 

Sweet Contact...and Separation

 

Good sex can make us feel as though the world has stopped and touch and movement and contact is all that exists in the moment. Intertwining physically, we can also feel intertwined as humans, connected like instruments in song, responding to each other’s rhythms, rising and falling together, sharing something without the effort of talking or explaining. It can feel as though veils of appropriate public behavior are lifted and there is an honesty that comes out in privacy. You can feel joined. Witnessing and being witnessed in the trance of pleasure can create a closeness that is unlike any other. It can make you feel connected and seen, basking in what you just created together.

 

And then we need to disentangle and go about our lives. We pull apart, literally and otherwise. It’s necessary, we cannot sustain immediate sensual connection at all times. We humans have the capacity to feel merged and connected, but also the need to function as individual beings. We cannot live on strawberries seductively inserted between our lips by an ardent partner. Nope, we have to have a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal and get on with our day eventually.

 

There is an ongoing discussion out there about how to create this focused erotic trance-like connection with a sexual partner. As a sex therapist, I have plenty to say on that subject and know lots of people are yearning for those moments of intensity. But we don’t often talk about the de-escalation that comes after good sex, the necessary separation. And yet, many people struggle with these true after-the-after-glow moments. How do we experience disconnecting?

 

Some people feel a mild sadness or an unexplained sense of disappointment. Some people feel distrustful of their own intensity and feelings. Some may feel lonely or displaced somehow. Some people feel checked out. And, since we don’t often talk about the separation after the connection, many people may have no idea what they are feeling or why.

 

The ability to come together in sensual intensity requires the ability to be experience being apart. We can be apart but still allied and we can sustain ourselves through difficult times of distance by remembering the deep and earnest closeness that sex can bring. Couples who believe in the potency of that contact, even when separate, have a secret source of desire and intimacy. Remember how open and naked you can let yourself be, even as you dress yourself for your day out in the world, miles apart from those moments of skin to skin contact. Let yourself flush as you think about coming together again. How beautiful it is to be separate so that we can discover each other again and again.

 

Getting Comfortable With Uncomfortable

I am dismayed to hear about a trend in higher education in which students are expecting to be given “trigger warnings” if a lecture or piece of literature might be upsetting, or in therapy speak – triggering- to them. This will allow them to opt out of learning from content that emotionality challenges them.  I believe that protection from things that make us uncomfortable limits learning and growth. There is a great big world out there and much of it will make us uncomfortable. And the only way to get more comfortable with all those different or challenging perspectives? Face them, learn about them, try to understand them.

 

One reason this makes me very concerned is that we know from studies (recent ones focusing on attitudes about gay marriage) that exposure to difference is the best thing to reduce discrimination and negative beliefs about a different group. It is easy to hold on irrational beliefs about something you have no first hand knowledge of. Being exposed to that which makes us uncomfortable is a huge component of growth, without it we stagnate quickly. The education system should be a series of uncomfortable events, each designed to open us to new ideas and perspectives. We need to face the realities of the world we live in, much of which we might prefer to blissfully ignore.

 

And that is another reason I don’t support trigger warnings, the world is full of triggers. Getting stronger in the face of them is empowering. Hiding from them is not. I work with clients who struggle with PTSD and part of treatment is to identify triggers, things that send messages to their brain that they are in danger. Once they are identified, we can talk about ways to avoid some of those triggers, sure. And that can be helpful in reducing stress in the short term. But I never guarantee to a client that they will be able to arrange their life such that they can avoid all triggers. That would most likely be a very limited life. Instead we work to build up strength and new responses to triggers, so that they have less power to through someone into fear.

 

I see the affects, big and small, of people believing they cannot handle things that make them uncomfortable. And I know that the healing for that is, almost always, facing those things and finding that they do not have to damage you. I see the arguments for discrimination and reducing our rights being made on the basis of “I shouldn’t have to be witness to their life/behavior/art/ideas/sexual expression/choices/religious beliefs/ and on and on”. I have seen people not say something that was true and important to them for fear of upsetting a partner and the ways that reduces intimacy and connection. I have seen my own biases and blindspots change as I find myself in brand new territory, even as it scares me.

 

So let’s commit as conscious sexual selves to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Let’s let it strengthen us and inspire us. Let’s understand our own ability to honor and accept difference without having to let go of our own self. Let’s get excited about the stuff that makes us go, “what the X#*?” or “ick” because it means there is more out there than we can fully grasp, and that is ok. And let’s never let the world convince us that we are not strong enough to face it. 

 

 

Creating What We Expect

 

I recently heard about a great study. Researcher psychologist Bob Rosenthal took a group of average rats and put signs on their cages saying that some of the rats were very smart and some of the rats were dumb. He then assigned people to work with the rats, getting the rats to run a timed maze. So… some of the people believed that they had special smart rats and some believed that their rats were dumb. The effects were intense – the rats assigned to people who believed them to be smart ran the maze nearly twice as fast as the rats who had been labeled dumb.

 

Rosenthal’s speculation is that the people assigned to the rats touched them differently, more gently if they were proud of their smart little rat, and that affected the rats’ performance. So, if subtleties of our touch can affect rats this drastically – a species with little incentive to care what we think about them -imagine what it might do for our human partners.

 

What messages are you sending to your partner as you touch them in bed? What expectations can be transmitted through your skin? What patterns have you come to expect, so much so that your body unconsciously reacts in anticipation of them?  

 

As a sex therapist I work with people as they make changes to the way they interact sexually, changing patterns and expectations. Often we have to address the subtle, even unconscious, ways we are reacting to one another. While it is freeing to imagine that anything can happen, that we don’t know what to expect, with longer term partners we rarely have that mindset. And so we co-create a dance, feeling each other’s lead through our bodies and responding, feeling and responding, expecting and responding.  People who do partner-dancing know that if the person following begins to anticipate the lead’s move too early, it will throw off the rhythm. Moving together means responding in the moment, not forecasting the moments ahead.

 

So how can you drop expectation and truly see what you and your partner can co-create sexually? Approach touch and sexual play from a blank slate perspective. Imagine that you can ask for anything. Try not to brace for a YES or a NO. Expect fun and connection and pleasure and see what happens.

 

And, we know from our maze-running rat friends, that touch which broadcasts loving support, excitement, pride in your partner (what a smart rat, you are!) may bring out the best in them. Touch mindfully.

 

I will have an ecstatic year

 

Some many resolutions, so few that enhance our sexuality. Let’s change that this year, shall we? Here are a few ideas…

 

I resolve:

 

To welcome my own desires, sexual thoughts and fantasies

 

To treat each sexual experience as a something new with unknown potential

 

To get deeply curious about myself

 

To say yes with more enthusiasm

 

To say no with more confidence

 

To have sexual pleasure, because I deserve it and am worthy of it (even on “fat days”)

 

To get more comfortable talking about sex and what I want

 

To try something new without feeling like I have to “get it right” the first time

 

To find a way to channel my sexual energy into _________

 

To schedule time for sexual pleasure because it is a priority for me

 

To speak up when I hear someone say something sexually derogatory, discriminatory or damaging

 

To release old stories or fears that no longer serve me

 

To learn something new about my partner

 

To bring more ____(love, risk, reverence, play, sassiness)___to my sexual play

 

Did any of these inspire you? Create your own that feels right for you. Just don’t forget to include your sexual self in that list of resolutions. Happy, healthy sexuality is a part of a vibrant life. Give it the attention it deserves.

 

Of course a great way to bring new life and energy to your sexuality – Work The Conscious Sexual Self Workbook! Buy it on Amazon and start exploring in 2015. And for Santa Cruz locals, you can join Melissa Fritchle at Pure Pleasure on Jan 7th for the workshop, Your Sexual Resolutions for 2015.

 

Express Your Gratitude, Sensually

 

Telling someone we are with how wonderful we think they are and how happy they make us is important; we all want to hear that we are noticed and appreciated. But sometimes words only go so far. Gestures of love and thanks are good too; but sometimes they can get lost in the daily chore list and not have the impact we intended. Expressing love and gratitude for some amazing someone’s role in your life, and your bed, should feel yummy. It should give both of you a rush of love, heat and intimacy. So here’s an invitation :

 

Bring your partner to a private place where they can lay down and be relaxed. Make sure it is warm so that they can be comfortable being naked or wearing very little. You will be seeking out their skin. Let them lay back and close their eyes. Now you re going to express gratitude for them as a sensual partner. Starting wherever you like, place your lips just touching your partner’s skin, not licking or kissing at this point, but close enough that they can feel your breath. Now whisper something you love about sharing sexuality with this person. The goal is not necessarily for them to hear what you say, giving you a lot of freedom to express your personal gratitude without worrying too much about how it is received. The goal is for them to feel your lips moving gently against their skin and your breath, carrying your words, warming that spot. Then move to another area of their body and do the same, expressing something different you love and appreciate. Keep moving until you have covered their whole body in whispers of your gratitude.

 

Then, of course, they may want to express some gratitude of their own…Enjoy and remember to stay creative and conscious! Happy Thanksgiving!

The Conscious Sexual Self Workbook is now available. Buy it on Amazon today!