Friday, 24 January 2014

Dropping The Veil - What Can Tantra do for you?

Tantra, an ancient practice for modern times. Tuning into the body, the soul, releasing, letting go, surrendering and communing with the Spirit.

I hear so many people express how tired they are of hiding their truth around intimacy, the body and sexuality, and I share that because it's good to know you're not alone. Isn't it? What I've noticed in my practice is the absolutely inescapable flood of relief that crosses people's faces when I simply reflect back "yes, I hear you, that's normal" or "oh that's common."Usually a smile crosses their faces, followed by a genuinely surprised "really?" This myth that it's only us, the myth which keep us so small, well it's a potent jailer and we are taking a first step towards freedom in understanding that we are not alone after all.

More people come to me with that opening sentence than any other - "I'm tired of hiding, of not being able to be myself," or "I'm tired of feeling stuck and limited in my relationships when it comes to sex and intimacy." So, when we start our tantric journey, the first thing we look at is how to identify who that 'self' actually is, and get clear on our intentions for transformation. Starting with the goal and working backwards we will begin to take apart, or paradoxically, construct, a strong sense of self around our unique maps for pleasure.

For many of us, we have lived carrying messages, beliefs, energy and ideas that are not even ours, and these freeloading hitch-hikers have occupied so much of our lives that we often times don't even know what the possibilities would be without those beliefs. Who would I be if I could let go of….(fill in blank)?

In my practice, when a client steps through the door, I first off acknowledge their courage for getting there; true tantric practice is not for the faint hearted but it is for the Warrior of the Spirit. Recognising the courage required to get there, we then enter into sacred space, co-creating what those sessions will look like. I work quite intuitively once the process is started, acting as a vessel for receiving any clues or keys into unlocking that which is ready for change. To see a client begin to understand what may have been a challenging block, or a sticking point, and to see a client leave feeling encouraged to try to change things out there in their daily life fills me with wonder. In releasing armies of loved-up, conscious, open people, the ripple effects can only be good yes?!

Using a combination of bodywork (massage with intention), breath work, visualisations and other tantric structures, we begin wherever is fitting to the person sitting in front of me. Some clients are clear about where their blocks are and others have no idea. Some come knowing what they want to work on, others go with the flow of trusting the process. Some are very shy, others ready to dive right in. All are good.

It's important to say here that living in a tantric way is not about just sex. Tantra may utilise the powerful force of sexual (creative) energy but it's so much more than a manual of techniques about how to get great sex, in fact in essence that couldn't be further from the truth, though in finding its essence, great sex is usually a guaranteed outcome in my view. What makes it great? The truth makes it great. Integrity and authenticity make it great.

When we release shame, guilt, fear, anxiety and trauma, we create space for pleasure, real embodied pleasure to occupy that empty seat. I invite your questions about my work, my sessions, my one-to-one and group work possibilities. I invite to to step into freedom from the restraints and restrictions you have been given, instead offering up the change to place yourself in the drivers seat. Not all restraint is dull!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Life and the lessons of Walter Mitty

I'm six cocktails in. I've learnt that life does to adhere to six cocktails. I've learnt that life squeezes out of the confines of life, and that if you let go, then life has its way of showing you different perspectives.

I went out for tea. But then this dynamic started up. Someone told someone I was seeing them, just to stop another someone from feeling something that previous someone did not want to, or know how to, deal with.  So I sat there wondering how the hell I found myself in this Walter Mitty moment. I kinda like the guy who was laying claim to this lie, he's a friend, he makes me laugh, he is vulnerable, he is real, and so I sat with the lie watching it unfold, despite my discomfort.

Many years down the line, many stories later, and life just has this way of showing me that it's never as simple or straightforward as it seems. It's all just us making the best of each moment. Were we animals, we would most likely accept this without needing to understand it, just be in the moment and let it go. But being human and having an ego driven intellect, we need to understand and compute, well I do at least, and yet there are times when emotion is rough and ragged, when we don't know what else to do but lie. Save me father/brother/sister/mother for I have sinned!

So this guy tells someone else he's seeing me, but he's not, and in truth I'm raw in that emotion myself, but he tells it to stop another someone from entering into the illusion of emotion, of hope, and therein lies the issue, hope; one motherfucking cruel bastard that occasionally has us by the balls. You see - what if we dare to believe in hope? You live this life and it's only as 'real' as the hope that the unfulfilling reality you may find yourself living in, will pull you out of where you are, to take you to where you desire to be, and that destination - love, contentment and comfort, well who would not want to be there right? It may feel like a long way from home and sometimes it can most certainly feel like the magician's trump card, the ultimate illusion, for if we do not create the life we desire and live in conscious creation, then hope may as well be the genie in the lamp. 

Life sets us challenges. It creates tasks on a par with those of the princess locked in Rumplestiltskin's tower (or if you're a man think Hercules with his monumental challenges), tasks that call us over and over into truth. And I must be frank when I say I don't really live in that duality world of consciousness any more. I love life. I've walked the path of messy chaotic versions of truth and for me, it's just too much to manage, it breeds toxic emotions and confused people. So now, I choose the simple, honest version of life, the one in which the ego is no longer the King. The one in which the ego, recognised for its weak and futile grasping style of leadership, is banished to the deserts of shame and insecurity, and can lie amongst its fellow thieves of fear, confusion, unfulfilled longing and the like. Me, I hold no court for these petty pirates of authentic living. 

I arrive home humbled once more. I know that the older I get the more I see people hiding their true desires which then become distorted, for in hiding, the masks of illusion gain power. We are all walking our individual hero's journey. Walk tall and choose truth. Or be fallible and accept the mess. Both have merit. Both contain wisdom. The best we can do…maybe summed up below! 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Does My Vulva Look Big In This?

Following on from the seemingly very popular theme of writing fairly explicit blogs on taboo subjects, we come to today's frankly titled piece 'does my vulva look big in this?'

The reason I chose this somewhat direct title was manyfold, but first and foremost it is to serve to blow the lid off another extremely taboo area for open discussion, the wonderful diversity of women's genitalia. Now, you may wonder why so, and why the play-on-words title? We've all heard the question "does my bum look big in this" which has become an almost ironic statement in it's chronic overuse, yet it masks something deeper and far more distressing, the fact that so many women suffer body dysmorphia to some degree or another. 

Body dysmorphia is a condition in which you see yourself as disproportionately different to how you actually look, and how others see you. "Oh my god, I'm so gross" "Oh my good look at my arms, I can't wear that" etc, and yet it would seem that this works mostly one way, in the way of women wanting to be slimmer, skinnier, more toned, more lean, and not so with slender women wanting to be bigger. I don't think I've ever heard an 'oh my god I look too skinny in that" and yet I'm sure as many naturally slim women struggle with their body image as do larger, more curvaceous women, largely due to the 'public gaze' and the common icons of perfection presented to us as our aspirations and ideals for beauty. Ultimately, the female form is massively diverse and yet the mainstream media work hard to convince us that any shape outside this perfect ideal is unattractive, and what absolute bollocks that is! 

Today's post is not to focus on this subject though, it's to go one step further into the no-go zone of the discussion of women's vaginas, labia and vulvas, and how here is one area we would rarely be able to joke about or say out loud (as with the bum question) despite the fact there is a pit of hidden insecurity around it.

Whilst on my tantric path, I have heard so many women voicing deep dissatisfaction and self hatred over the subject of their labia and vulvas. All this pain and yet the truly sad thing is that the diversity in this part of our bodies is as different as the colour of our eyes, and some of us do indeed need a map to find out own way there, never mind a way into willingness to share this part of ourselves joyfully with our lovers. 

In tantric teachings, good ones that is, I've been fortunate enough to witness many women really transforming the way they feel about their genitals. Women with large labia discovering they're not the only ones, women with really hairy pussies facing off women with neat little shaved ones, discussing and understanding the differences and the commonalities. How they look, smell and taste. Discussing and airing our true feelings and recognising just how much of that is a product of the perfection model we're all made to believe exists but is actually an absolute and utter myth. I recommend the book below as a starting point for conversation, currently available from Amazon; basic but helpful. Tell yourself, tell your daughters and your granddaughters, tell your mothers (they often came from generations where it was even harder to talk about this stuff). 

I also recommend that women start to seriously blow the lid off these subjects of taboo conversation by getting the truth out there, by replacing the lies with the wise! Some women, like my friend Thea (who has shared this in her recent book 'Growing into Myself' so I'm not speaking inappropriately about her private stuff here) undergo surgery on their labia for real reasons of physical pain. Some of us are seduced into considering it simply as cosmetic beautification and this is where it gets truly disturbing. Surgery to tighten our yoni's, replace our hymens, cut our labia, or remove our clitorises, this is where my temperature starts to rise really rapidly. STOP! Refuse this affront to our womanhood, and dive instead into the pleasure to be experienced in our bodies and our naturalness when we finally begin to realise that there is no such thing as a 'normal' vagina. No such thing as a 'normal' labia, normal vulva, normal bum or normal body. They're alien constructs a bit like those baby charts that give new parents endless reason to worry where none is necessary. It took me three children before I started ignoring those dots on the charts telling me my baby was 'out of normal range' - "Great! I'm so glad to hear that" would be my response now, "and tell me, what is normal anyway!"

So let's start this dialogue, the one about our less than perfect bodies, for we look more like this:

than this:

And as we can see from the image above, 'this' doesn't even exist! Our genitals are as diverse as our genetic blueprints so try this one out for size too, another great book for changing the way we think about  the gentitalia (women and men), their appearance and how differently we experience pleasure according to our intimate  body shape, size and form. 

And whilst you're at it, let's try giving them some positive messages. Tell them how FABULOUS they are and if you can't do that, at least try and befriend them just that tiny bit more, as step by step we heal our wounds. And you could start by visiting this wonderful bunch (click link) - workshop coming to Manchester very soon…register your interest here! 

*painted image of two women above by Aleah Chapin

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Self Pleasure Versus Masturbation

Good evening all and welcome to 2014! My second post of the year sees me contemplating an altogether different subject, the subject of pleasure and how you get yours.

I was well into my fourth decade before I first heard the term 'self pleasure', and when I did, I admit that it didn't sit comfortably with me. It reeked a little too much of good-girl-squeaky-clean syndrome and somehow seemed a bit 'icky'. Personally speaking, I'd always preferred my fucks to my made loves, my cums to my climaxes and my wanks to my self pleasures. And I'd always chosen words like cunt over vagina, pussy over the euphemistic lady-garden and perhaps the worst one ever, front bottom!

So for me, coming across the phrase 'self pleasure' was a tantric exploration as much about the semantics and their message as it was the form and structure.

Many of us grew up either being told that it would make us blind, it was dirty or it was just something for dark, silent corners that we all knew about but no-one ever discussed, perish the thought. And yet we also knew from an early age, damn this feels good! So for me tantra blew the lid off all of that negative collective consciousness around sex and sexuality, intimacy and the body, and as someone never too backwards at coming forwards, I didn't even know how much further I could go!

I'm still a tiny bit twitchy when I use the phrase self-pleasure as it's just not really me, but I'm getting better at it, you could say that the 'L' plates are off and I'm on the road but not there yet, wherever there is. However I also feel that masturbation sounds so damn clinical, so somewhere in between the two I guess I sit on the proverbial fence waiting to see upon which side I 'cum' down (pardon the pun).

Some of my heroines, women like Betty Dodson and Annie Sprinkle really broke through so many taboos in their work. Betty's famous books Sex For One, Celebrating Orgasm and the like, and Annie's absolutely seminal Public Cervix Announcement really broke the mould when it came to smashing the silent barriers of shame, guilt and fear.

Using her own body, Annie offered up to her audience the chance to see and discuss the deeper, darker, mystical caverns of a woman's body, pleasure and psyche. Her openness encouraged that in others. Her work inspires me to this day and I salute her contribution to sexual progressive thought, feeling and action. Annie's book 'Post Porn Modernist', was one of the first books I ever bought, read cover to cover and have treasured ever since. 

I'm more comfortable with the term self pleasure since discovering tantra, as I can now relate it to the many different ways of experiencing pleasure, and I guess the key for me has been one of taking my pleasure back for me. It's not about me giving it to anyone else, performing or feeling obligated to some reciprocal deal in the bedroom, but how I can give and take pleasure by really owning it, understanding it and revelling in it. Self pleasure could actually be about anything, eating, sleeping, running, gazing into the eyes of your beloved, running a soft bath, resting, whatever it is so long as the intention is there to pleasure the self. In receiving well, we learn to extend that and in turn, to give well, and I'm not sure its possible to give well if you can't receive well. How can we ever hope to do that whilst masturbating silently, quickly and under cover of darkness? So yes, I am beginning to love the term, and to relish my private moments of bliss, and in those moments, masturbation seems far to limited a terminology. 

The french call orgasms 'la petite mort' or 'the little death' and it's true that in my personal moments of ecstatic bliss I probably come closest to that infinite zero point of nothing-ness, the primordial soup, the essence of a small death. The website Beautiful Agony is worth a browse and Clayton Cubitt's highly erotic 'Hysterical Literature' project is just another orgasm waiting to happen to be quite frank. Beautiful, erotic and intelligent, it also opens doors into how we witness pleasure and where that witnessing can take us. There's so much out there, go explore and have fun! It's all about the bliss and nothing about the shame. 

Get orgasmic, its good for you! 

For more teachings on tantra and sexuality, I highly recommend Shakti Tantra

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Working With Moon and Year Cycles.

Today sees a new moon on the first day of the new year. Evidently a rare combination especially as there are two new moons in this month, both 'super moons' a term used to refer to a moon which is closer to the earth than usual making it appear larger and brighter. A fitting metaphor that for this year, from what I'm reading, we are really being called to 'walk our talk.'

Now, I've never been one for shying away from processing my 'shit', although it's also true that I've spent my fair share of time digging deep holes in futile attempts to bury it for just a bit longer! But this new moon, on a new day, in a new year, well it seems to have strong resonance for me.

New moons are all about setting intentions, not the kind that every January 1st sees (resolutions) based on not being happy with aspects of ones weight, smoking, drinking or excessive habitual behaviours, but more about actually taking time to really sow seeds about what you invite over the month to come, and if you expand that by 12, the year suddenly becomes consciousness epitomised.

When working with moon cycles you can effectively amplify your intentions by bringing into awareness the cycles of nature and her ebbs and flows. Everything around us is in a state of constant flux and transformation and we are no different. Once upon a time, women who worked with moon cycles (outside of our monthly bleed) and nature were labelled witches, and yet we all live in a cyclic nature of renewal and rebirth. So how can we begin to harness the power of this omnipresent waxing and waning of both the moon, and the energy of the year.

Time it seems, is speeding up. I don't know about you but 2013 seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. My previous blog post lists some of my personal achievements through the last twelve months, and this year my intention is to continue harvesting my goals, values and visions for this beautiful planet, and to sow the seeds that will make my contribution worthwhile. I have children. I consider what legacy I am leaving them. What will they know of me and speak of me when I am old and gone? How will they describe me to others? Hopefully as inspirational, as a person worth emulating, as a great mother and a worthy role model. When I look through the eyes of my children I am humbled and I am motivated beyond the ego dramas, the distractions and the pitfalls and so it makes sense to see the world reflected back at me through their eyes. A perfect silent witness.

Each month at new moon, write a list of around 8-10 intentions. Keep them clear and simple. Write them as if you have achieved them already, no ifs, buts or maybes. No barriers or hesitations. Keep the list visible. At full moon, take your list and reflect upon it, cross any off that have already manifested, and perhaps keep the list under a candle or bowl or other sacred object. Full moon is the time for going deep within and letting go, for releasing that which is not serving us. New moon energy is like the in breath to the out breath of full moon. Multiply this with awareness of the earth cycles and the old pagan festivals, the solstices and the equinoxes, the cross quarter markers, and you can really start to tap into the energy of nature and her natural waves and tides. Get conscious! One love, one life. Live it!