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.)
Your body wants to move. Movement is so important to life that it helps to shape our brain and perceive our world. Movement is linked to expression of emotions and releasing energy. It is key to optimal health.
To give our body full range of its abilities, it is good to think about varying types of movement we do. Movement in modern life can become quite prescribed; I move when I workout, I move to get from here to there. Different types of movement stimulate and bring out different things in us. Here are some types to try and incorporate in to your active life:
Free Flowing Spontaneous – Movement that is inspired simply by what your body wants to do or express in the moment, no plan, no performance, starting from a feeling that emerges into action
Slow & Mindful – Yoga can be like this, or Tai Chi. The movements may be prescribed but you do them in a quiet, peaceful way that allows for listening to your body and tuning in to sensation
Repetitive Trance-Inducing – For some people running can take them to a trance like state, where the body hits a groove that doesn’t require thinking or direction. Other familiar repeated motions can bring this on as well
Challenging New Patterns – Learning something new that takes you out of a normal self-induced way of moving. Think dance classes or sports training which offer us this style of movement, where you consciously mirror and embody new patterns
Shared & Responsive – This is movement done with another person or persons, contact or partner dance, partner yoga or stretching, sex, this invites you to move in relation to another, seeking and sending feedback, leading and following
Micro Stillness Moving – Tuning in to the movements that happen within us all the time, feeling your breath, shifts in posture and tiny releases in tension, holding patterns, fluid cellular shifts, engaging all that is involved in sitting still
Want other kinds of movement have you experienced? Which of these feels least familiar or comfortable for you? How could you try each kind?
The other day I was trying to fix a broken figurine that had sentimental value for me. Applying glue, taking the two tiny pieces and fitting them back together, some chips still visible unable to be covered. I found myself pressing the two broken pieces together tightly, as though this would somehow get them to adhere more quickly. Now, I know this contradicts the way I understand glue to work – pressure doesn’t speed dry time. Yet, there I was pressing harder. It became clear quickly that all this was doing for me was causing the pieces to come apart was soon as the pressure was released, meaning I had to start over, more glue. After a few irrational tries, I settled into the realization that slow and steady pressure was the way to go. I needed to hold it gently in place just allowing contact between the two parts. I sat patiently in the sun, for a minute or two, just holding and breathing. Afterward I was unsure why I tried to rush the process.
But so often when things feel broken our impulse is to fix them quickly, to push into the problem so that it might yield under pressure. But like the glue, many repairs take their own time and need gentle handling. In therapy I see people come in valiantly committed to healing, getting past something, repairing damage of all kinds. Sometimes their commitment to fixing also includes a willingness to hurt themselves, to push past their own limits, to force something to happen. Meanwhile growth has its own pace. Sometimes healing takes gently holding something broken in our hands or hearts, bringing it out into the sun, and breathing slowly while we wait to feel something adhere, something unseen take hold again.
Healing does take courage and a willingness to face painful or frightening aspects of life. But it doesn’t require self harm and it doesn’t respond more quickly under pressure. I struggle with being gentle with myself, so I return again and again to lessons about allowing. When I can be mindful of this, there is a spaciousness that surrounds each problem and a sense that effort is not the answer, understanding is. Healing in a relationship requires gentle contact with one another, without force or rushing. Letting the two separate selves touch, close enough that the mysterious thing that holds them to one another can grow strong again, strong enough to hold them together invisibly. It takes time. Meanwhile things are mending, connecting again, becoming less fragile.
What do you need to make time to hold gently today?
I never had this sign fully explained to me.
The classroom in Uganda had cement walls and all the doors and windows open because it was hot. This let some chickens into the classroom which I had gotten used to. My highly intelligent and driven students were there getting their Master’s degrees in Psychology. We were having a tense morning, having conversations about cultural sexual norms and myths about masturbation. One of my students said, almost in passing, “America brought masturbation to Africa”. Now I admit, part of me, the hot, tired, kind of punchy with culture shock part, felt a bit delighted by this statement and wanted to make some jokes like, “wow, an export that we can be proud of” or some such. But I knew we were talking about something deeper - what we believe is natural sexual behavior.
Now the thing that was funny about this for me was that my perspective on masturbation was so different. I see it as a natural part of human behavior, not invented or exported or even necessarily taught. I believe that with this highly sensitive body that we are born with, it is natural to explore it. It is normal to find those super sensitive, nerve rich places and it is normal to want to touch them sometimes. Sex researcher Kinsey described masturbation as instinctual human behavior. Young kids touch themselves without being taught to do so. Adults with evolving sexual desire will find that masturbation can relieve internal and physical pressure. All over the world in all kinds of cultural settings people masturbate, though they may not tell anyone about it. I believe that without any cultural influence one way or another people will find masturbation for themselves. They may not get creative about it but they will do it. (And as far as creativity goes, there is a rich history of sex toys that goes way back.)
For all the concerns about masturbation, and they have been intense, research has been unable to document any health or psychological damage from common masturbation habits. (Like all other behaviors, masturbation can be done compulsively but this is not a common outcome of masturbating). In fact, many studies have found benefits associated with orgasms, which for many people may be most easily reached through masturbation at least at some periods in their life. In our class in Uganda, we were able to reach some agreement and what I might call respect for the possible benefits of masturbation, even in a cultural model that only wants to acknowledge heterosexual partnered procreative sex as “normal” sex. Together we honored the gifts of masturbation such as, a release of sexual tension that may allow someone to make other sexual choices more clearly, a way to learn how your own body works so you can take more pleasure in sex with a partner, a strategy to re-learn arousal patterns and help to relieve sexual pain patterns.
I doubt any of my students in Uganda are going to endorse masturbation and that is ok. But I think they were able to see that it doesn’t need to be feared and that the instinct to masturbate may come from some healthy internal drives, rather than of from external perverting influences. Masturbation, like other sexual behaviors, is a choice we have, a personal choice. Nothing to be afraid of.
Now you can join the Conscious Sexual Self community on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/ASexPositiveLife
What would it mean to really claim your own body? To experience it as truly yours?
Our bodies are our public representation, the first vehicle we have for people to see us. Body image pulls on deep concerns about being seen and accepted in the world. Because of the huge amount of images and commentary about bodies in our culture, (we all know at any given time which actress has gained weight, which actor is buffing up for an action film, and whose vacation was marred by cellulite whether we actively seek out this information or not) it makes sense that we all feel our own bodies are open to criticism and constant evaluation. Fear of criticism, questions about how our body shape relates to our personal value, plague many of us and can cause us to feel like our bodies are not really our own. Judging our body or constantly focusing on trying to change it can cause us to stop feeling our body is a friend. Claiming our body can take the form of deeply feeling into and enjoying our body now – not waiting to engage with our fantasy version of our body that may or may not ever arrive. It means being embodied, using our senses, strength, breath, movement, mass, to interact with the world and other people without shame.
Take a week to experience your body as a guide. Rather than focusing on what it looks like and how clothing looks draped on it, feel with your body from the inside out. Notice what it is telling you about the world around you, the world within you. Be aware that each emotion you feel is coming through your body, through the language of sensation, tension, heat, energy. We only get to engage with the world through our bodies. There is no time to wait for your body to be different, life is going on now. Claim your body, claim your life.
The body’s life is the life of sensations and emotions. The body feels real hunger, real thirst, real joy in the sun or snow, real pleasure in the smell of roses or the look of a lilac bush, real anger, real sorrow, real tenderness, real warmth, real passion, real hate, real grief. All the emotions belong to the body and are only recognized by the mind – DH Lawrence
Stay tuned for information on a upcoming group for women - Your Body is a Sacred Playground
Have a relationship with yourself in which you explore sensation.
Summer time and the living is easy. The perfect time for this challenge. Go and get yourself a juicy piece of fruit, whatever you like. Mangos, nectarines, plums, watermelon – all good choices. Set aside a bit of private time, preferably outside in the sunshine. Get naked – this is key. Then eat that fruit in the messiest, stickiest, juice running everywhere way. Bite into it slowly, really taste the fruit. Lick the juice off of your arms and hands and….wherever. Enjoy yourself, no one is watching. Be succulent. Be a part of the summer harvest. Appreciate that you can enjoy this, today, at this moment.
Fifteen minutes later, what is the worst that can happen? You will be sticky and take a shower feeling kind of silly. But on the other hand, you could feel alive, sexy, and a part of a yummy ripe world. Take the chance.
“To like myself means to be, literally, shameless, to be wanton in the pleasures of being inside a body…the way I’d felt as a child, before the world had interfered.” – Sallie Tisdale
Oh how we use shame in our culture. So much so that even the word shameless may make some of you uncomfortable with its implications of immorality, humiliation, even chaos. It is a word that has been turned against us as an insult. But really, what a wonderful state it would be to really be shameless, even for a few moments.
Think about how often in a day you have doubted yourself, rejected your body’s desires or criticized your own appetites. Think about how many times you have stopped a luxurious stretch that your body craved before it even happened. Or how often you turned away from the impulse to kiss someone, touch the curls in their hair, or lean into the solidness of a another human body. Do you even notice the moments anymore when something tastes so good you want to moan or exclaim about it? Do you notice when you body wants to rock, beating out its own rhythm? Have you shut out messages from your body that tell you “you are hungry for something”, whether that is food, touch, sex, rest, movement or any of the other options out there that could feed you? Notice how many times in a day you say No to yourself.
Now I am not suggesting that we could be healthier or happier if we always say Yes to our every desire or urge. But we could be happier if we didn’t feel shame for having urges at all. Shame may not serve us as well as we have been led to believe. We can still make choices about how we respond, what actions we take, what our long term priorities are, without needing shame to motivate us. It is more empowering to say to our self, “I know I want that, but I am going to choose to not have it right now so that I can ______fill in the benefit___” Rather than saying, “I am horrible for even wanting that, I am going to pretend I never has that urge and tuck it away somewhere to remind me of how bad I am”. And as we become more at home with our shameless nature, we may find that many of those desires and urges can be fulfilled after all. There are a lot of small and large pleasures out there waiting for you, if you are shameless enough to let yourself have them. Aren’t you curious to find out what they are?
So often we approach our relationship to our body from a place of judgment and striving. We look at our body from the perspective of an external critic – how does my body look, what size does it fit into, how is it performing? But our body has so much more to offer us, if we approach it with different eyes, a different mind. So today I invite you to approach your body more like a poet or like an adventurer of the senses. Explore your body in a new creative way. Believe that it really is worthy of odes, sonnets, time and attention. Think of this as an imaginative scavenger hunt…
What part of your body has the texture of a rose petal just unfurled? What place on your body crackles like lightening? Where are you cool and smooth like a pebble polished by river water? Where does your body flicker like beating wings? Where do you feel like a dandelion waiting for a breath to be blown apart? What part of your body could be best described as sweet like candy? What part of your body would be described as salty like the inside of a shell?
What kind of touch would polish your body to a shine like it was preparing a sacred altar? How would you touch yourself like a shadow of a cloud on a sunny day? How can you touch yourself like ice cream dripping down the side of a cone? What kind of touch feels like bubbling water in a fountain? If your touch left trails of colored paint on your body, what designs would you make?
What else do you find when you truly explore? Who do you want to share these discoveries with?
Think back to your first memory of seeing two people in love and expressing that love. This couple may have been your parents or grandparents, or maybe your next door neighbors or an older sibling and their date, or a friend's parents. Write down the story of what you remember from watching them. How did they show their affection? What did you witness? How did you feel about seeing this? Were there other people there - what did they do when seeing this affection? Was it approved of or not approved of? Were you witnessing a private moment or a public display of affection?
After writing the story of what you remember, ask yourself how this moment shaped your beliefs about love at that time. Did you decide something about how people express love? Was there judgement about what you saw? Did you want that for yourself? What were you feeling as you watched them?
Let yourself think forward to other interactions or stories about these two lovers you witnessed. How did their story unfold; do you know? Did their story cause you to develop beliefs about love? Did it impact how you feel about displaying affection now?
And now ask yourself, is there anything about this memory that you want to let go of now? Any childhood beliefs, formed from this memory, that you want to question now? How do you want to show love and affection? What, if anything, is holding you back?
Synonyms for Wildness from online source dictionary,com:
1. undomesticated, untamed, unbroken; ferocious. 4. barbarian, savage. 5. tempestuous, stormy, frenzied, turbulent. 6. boisterous. 7. insane. 9. self-willed, riotous, unrestrained, wayward. 10. uncontrollable. 12. reckless, rash, extravagant, impracticable. 13. grotesque, bizarre, strange, fanciful. 14. unkempt.
I believe we humans have an innate need for wildness. Not the “wildness” associated with drunk 20-somethings taking their tops off for a new reality TV show, but the wildness of freedom from being civilized, the wildness of nature. Our bodies yearn to be unrestrained by stiff chairs, pinching clothes, and polite postures. Our voices fight to let loose yells and yips and deep throated sighs. We want to see things growing without cultivation from unlikely ground. Our senses crave full reign over us, to not have the mind be running the show. Our instincts are saying, let us lead.
But notice the many negative connotations to wildness listed above. There is a fear of what will happen if we are truly connected to wildness – we might become savage, reckless, rash, uncontrollable, even grotesque and strange. Oh dear. This privileging of the civilized has been around a long time now. We literally and figuratively build walls to keep up from the power of the natural world. And it really impacts our sex lives. Wildness is a source for our sexual desire and natural sexual expression. Have you tried having sex without letting yourself get “unkempt” (come on you know you have)? It’s not very fun. Sex doesn’t always have to be sweaty or loud and it certainly doesn’t have to feel uncontrollable, but having those potentials is a part of the aliveness of sex.
What does wildness mean to you? When do you feel most connected with the untamed parts of yourself? How can you let a little bit more of that show up for your sexuality?