Monday, 25 February 2013

Forgive Me Father, For I Have Most Definitely Sinned!

...and I enjoyed it! 

Today's blog post sees me rattled and I'm not afraid to admit it. Over the last months we have seen ever increasing revelations about sexual abuse, endemic in various institutions it would seem and historically covered up and then even 'justified' (i.e., the cover up) on some levels. Today, I log into my my lovely laptop to see a random number of comments about Kevin Le Vell, mostly joke oriented comments, just like those I'm sure we've all heard now about Jimmy Saville and the now de-moted pope Benedict (with a small p....). 

As the Vatican prepares to appoint a new Pope, it is staggering to me that those who knowingly concealed this abuse are being afforded the right to vote for the new pope, on the grounds that "wisdom is not (God)-given just to saints but also to sinners," and "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."* Well now, surely there's sinning and there's sinning, and who am I to judge? Well, In this case I do! Violating my rights to speak out about, and negotiate healthy consenting adult sex whilst hiding the distortions? Perpetuating the myths about the kind of sex we want or we're having and making inaccessible the bridges to moving towards a healthier attitude, that's where the true immorality lies.  

It's true that humour can be a really good way of taking the charge out of things. Only recently I had to give my young son some life lessons in managing bullying, suggesting that when bullies don't find a response, or emotional charge for you in what they come at you with, they usually leave you alone. Make light of it, turn it into humour or act mad, three top tips for dealing with crazy or aggressive behaviour. You can always try reason of course, and as an adult this will often work, less so with kids who generally shoot from the hip. But is it always appropriate to use humour in talking about really serious issues such as sexual abuse? No, I don't think it is really and here's why. 

It seems that something is going on, has been for years in fact, that is distorting our perspective on healthy sex. We peep into the lives of others, wondering if our own drives and desires are 'normal' or 'ok'. We have feelings we don't always understand and often can't manage, and without support, a friendly ear or an outlet, all too often the Ugly Sisters of secrecy, scandal and shame appear. We have come to confuse our feelings with our emotions, all too often acting on emotional triggers which are residue from feelings unexpressed in the moment, frequently childhood. As adults, its critical we start taking responsibility for our feelings and our actions, and the way to do this is to find our courage and support, our love and our honesty. Distorted behaviour comes from a marriage of fear and habit - simple, but it's not so simple to change that when we live in a society that generally jokes about or vilifies sex, sexuality and the body. 

My work focuses on moving into a healthy view of sexuality but it's way bigger than that really. It's about moving into intimacy and love through awareness and accountability. Now don't get me wrong here, people get twitchy when I speak about intimacy and accountability as if assuming that fast sex, hard sex, dirty sex and fantasy all get thrown out in this new age 'sacred sexuality', which it's fair to say they sometimes do, however my brand of coaching and bodywork most certainly doesn't jettison the baby with the bath water. Sex should be fun, it can be lewd and rude, funny and irreverant, or tender and soulful, sensual and aware. Actually, I am purporting that the connection and awareness is always there, but not at the expense of the bawdy irreverence. 

I believe (as does my mentor and teacher Hilary Spencely of Shakti Tantra) that if you can't play with it's got you, but the problem is that so much about sex has well and truly got us by the metaphorical balls, and it's just not fun to be there. For me, rather than making jokes about Saville, Le Vell and the pope, why aren't we taking it seriously and looking at the cause not the symptom? Why aren't we asking ourselves what judgments we hold that contribute to this dis-ease, and it is a sickness we're looking at here. Health does not use the bodies of non-consenting people for their own pleasure. Women who get attacked because of the way they dress, or act, children who get abused because someone else is bigger than they are and just who are smaller or slighter than other men, it doesn't matter what age, gender, culture or size you are, NO means NO! And guess does silence. 

I can only give my consent when I give a voice to my feelings. I can only give my consent when I am old enough to make choices for myself. I can only give my consent when you allow me to negotiate and/or change my mind whenever I want. We are not in charge or runaway horses, wild stallions of no-mind, but in charge of brains and a capacity to evaluate, think and respond rather than react in any given moment, and if I can, you can!

And so to my next point. Many people find an open communication about sex to be 'distasteful' and yet it's in our secrecy that sickness is born. I think it's the height of hypocrisy to declare judgment on those who do, whilst all the while doing it yourself behind closed doors and with those who haven't even consented. Ironically, my lifelong commitment to sex work rights and campaigning for changes in the law is based entirely on the premise that what consenting adults choose to do with their money, their bodies and their sex combined is nobody else's goddamn business! If you or I want to pay for it, and if you or I want to sell it, please...a golden ticket to Nirvana for the person who can give me one good reason why this should be any different to the sale of our intellect, our creativity or our skills? 

Whilst you're considering this, take a moment to laugh in the face of this distortion, recognising it for what it is, all smoke and mirrors.  If we're going to make light of the symptoms, then at the very least we need to acknowledge the cause, and do something positive to change it. Change the dialogue around sex and the body, change the way we see intimacy, challenge the messages we give and receive about the body, about romance and love. THINK! Let's engage our brains, for they are beautiful and have immense capacity. And while you're at it, remember:

"Pleasure is medicine and love has the power to heal" and then ask yourself how you can love better and experience real pleasure.  

...all roads lead to the heart. 

*Source - Deccan Herald, Monday 25th Feb 2013.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Lessons of Living (according to the regrets of the dying)

This morning, in my early meanderings, I came across several things of interest. The first was an article in the Guardian newspaper listing the five top ten regrets of the dying. This article was re-posted from the blog of palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware, so I will post the original here as it seems only fair that Bronnie should have the web traffic directed to her as author. What Bronnie Ware came to observe was that the dying consistently held the same regrets about their living, and wished they had the foresight to change these things before meeting death, so what are these things?

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
2. I wish I didn't work so hard (mainly men quoted this one, not so hard to imagine why)
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier  

Expanding upon these, an overarching theme emerges. People's key regrets seem to hinge upon that which was felt but never expressed. The individuality that was concealed through fear, conformity or negative beliefs about what would happen if people truly allowed themselves to be themselves. So many of us temper our behaviour, thoughts and feelings using firstly our own 'JUDGE', the beast who resides within distorting our version of 'reality' by presenting us with a false one that is based upon illusion. Secondly we allow the 'judge' that belongs to another to hold court, and thirdly, the 'judge' that belongs to the collective, again an illusory construction. That judge is powerful (but not infallible) and I am inclined to think maybe he looks mean, spiteful and possibly a bit like this? But we'll all have our own versions of our inner and outer 'judges'.

Recognising when it's too late that personal freedom and happiness are CHOICES, we are left with the empty shell of regret, usually brought to us on the glistening carriage of its ugly sister bitterness. So how can we ensure that whilst still very much alive, we don't carry with us the baggage that will end up becoming our legacy? One of my teachers (Hilary Spencely) recently quoted this African saying: "When you are truly you, I can truly be me" - I love this. Do you get it? I mean really get it? Do you understand that when you stop self censoring, holding up the masks, hiding behind false fear and judgement, and step into your courageous, beautiful self, I too can do the same, and I can do this as the space that is created between us then contains truth, courage and respect. Doesn't that sound better than fear and loathing, bitterness and regret? What a gift we give each other in speaking our personal truth. Venturing into this it's important also to be speaking from the heart, but what does this mean?


 Marriage guidance counsellor Hedy Schleifer (pictured above) gave a remarkable TED TALK on the power of connection that really dives deep into this. The absolute clarity with which she speaks, takes us into the terrain of the power of what is is to truly listen to, and hear another. Of what it means to stay in the heart (compassion), and to speak the truth whilst remaining able to accept another's truth which may be totally opposed to our own. It may be that there is a cost in speaking your truth of course, but if the price we pay is deep regret in our dying moments, surely it's a cost worth paying, for if we never risk stepping out, we can be certain of one thing, that we will never find out what could have been had we taken that step. In terms of my sexual freedom activism and coaching, it's all about being true to who you really are. Finding a voice, finding your courageous heart and your full potential. Life is sweet, so let's make sure we're living it whilst we have it!


Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Making the world sexier one step at a time!

Good evening gorgeous readers! This week sees us just beginning to step into the first glimmers of spring (in the northern hemisphere at least) and I can feel the life pushing back up through the earth once again in her desire to renew and shake off the shackles of winter. Winter has been a tough one for me; many demons to slay, and as many stories to put to rest which required a willing surrender into the bowels of the underworld for my very own version of Persephone's dark night of the soul.

The thing with demons is this - until we know them and are willing to face them, they control us and we are effectively puppets on the strings of what my lovely friend Charlotte calls the 'pretender voices'. Over and over we return into our very own 'underworlds' driven there through false fears and outworn beliefs, most of which emerge as basic survival mechanisms in early childhood, and like some old Vietnam veteran who has never been told the war is over, we crouch in our self-made caves, all guns pointed out and ready for action. I have just spent a winter facing many of mine, retreating in order to really listen to my own body and soul, my spirit crying out for new ways of being.

In my retreat, I came to recognise something quite exciting and really liberating, that being that the things which have sometimes felt were my cross to bear are also my gifts. In other words my lead was my gold if only I could find the Alchemist's Key, and the key was simple actually - mastery of the ego mind and integration of experience. I'm blessed in my work, and I've come to recognise that 25 years of sexual freedom activism has not been a fruitless pursuit. A peach cannot be picked from a tree before it's ripe or the result will be hard, tasteless and lacking in juice, and just like life, when we move towards things before we are ready, the results will likely be the same. But when we are reedy, do we dare to eat the peach and transform the lessons into the teachings?

What can we do with our essential naturalness when it comes to sex? Sex is the grand theatre in which all of our deepest fears and insecurities are acted out, the body being the vessel for the drama. My life work has been crafted in assimilating lessons in sexuality or so it would seem. I truly believe that this is what I came here for, what I was contracted to bring to this planet - sexual healing, and boy do we need it! The more I work in this area, the more I see how many of us are crippled with fear, doubt and deep unmet longings for intimacy and connection. Bombarded by images of romance, love and sex, we race around like the proverbial headless chicken in pursuit of non-existent states of sexual and emotional fulfilment, all too often approaching prospective partners with a begging bowl of sorts, asking 'fill me up please' in silent and unacknowledged co-dependence.

Tantra provides a platform from which to dive deep into delicious and ecstatic states of union, starting exactly where we need to, with the self. My pledge to my clients, my self, my partnerships and my relationships on every level is to make the world sexier one step at a time. Not the 'sexy' of lacy knickers and huge valentines day displays of love of the kind that is sold to us, but the 'sexy' of the breath, the mind and the spirit in union, the sexy of the planet being healed through our consciousness, the sexy that can play with bondage but not be held captive to it, the sexy that can look as good in camouflage boxers as an Agent Provocateur basque, the sexy that just is rather than tries to be. I'll be coming back to this subject. It's a big one! Tell me then dear readers....what is sexy to you?