After a wild chaos, the music finds its way to stillness. As the music slows and softens, the blood pumping, sweat dripping that was chaos still vibrates throughout the room.
Stillness brings me face to face with the intensity of my own aliveness. In stillness, while the body might barely move on the outside, inside planets orbit in wide arcs, the ground shakes, and oceans break against shores. In stillness after chaos, there is no doubt I am alive.
And, I am aware of just how alive I am when my skin touches his skin and electricity sparks. We are dancing near each other; yet, it is when our arms barely brush against each other in response to the music that a new channel opens between us, between his soul and mine.
As our forearms slide alongside one another, something within me communicates with something within him, and it happens through our skin. Fluidly, where arms were merely meeting, hands come together and clasp. We are not looking at each other, but we can ‘see’ each other. It’s a seeing that doesn’t rely on eyes. And I am a witness to ‘this dance that is the two of us’. And, he is a witness to the same dance.
I can sense where I end and where ‘this dance that is the two of us’ begins. My fingers begin to travel this new terrain.
A more shy part of me emerges with fur standing on end and hunger whetted. My heart hungers to touch because it is through touch that my heart can navigate this wise flesh and what lies within it.
And so, I make my way out of my own dark forest and meet him under the moonlit sky.
I am amazed to feel my heart beat against his skin. We are not that close; yet, we are incredibly and intimately near each other. My heart beat travels down my arm, through my fingers, and pulses against his skin. My heart wants to know him but I can never really know him. I can only navigate the land where we come together, where we both feel ‘this dance that is the two of us’.
As this last song of stillness meanders from beginning to end, our bodies move together – arms around waists, cheeks touching cheeks, front to back and back to front – and tears begin to form below the surface of my eyes. They never fall down my cheeks. Instead they flow from ‘this dance that is the two of us’ back up and into my heart.
I can feel ‘we’ in me.
Something in me has had the incredible chance to know something in him. In the depth of a dance. For the length of a song.
And then, the music stops and ‘this dance that is the two of us’ ends. But, I am now different, changed. I know more of myself because I opened and touched and listened. I know more of myself because I navigated the terrain of us. In a few short minutes, I’ve remembered unseen realms and listened to ancient stories.
And, while I can never know what it is like inside of him, maybe, just maybe, out of the shadows of soul I’ve seen a glimpse of my own face.
I’ve come here to live in my skin. Not to hide away from life, but to shimmy right up to this ever-so-thin layer of dermis so I can truly touch and be touched.
I’ve come here to live in my skin. To relate to life, caressed by breeze, by sun, by dew.
I’ve come here to live in my skin. It’s the only thing that separates what I sometimes believe is me from what I sometimes believe is not me. It’s a tender line, isn’t it? This thin skin – a membrane so thin it defies rationality.
I’ve come here to live in my skin. A soft wrapping around the tender-most flesh, it gifts me with what many only speak of in hushed tones – one of the most joyous experiences of life – that of being touched, deeply, reverently consciously.
I’ve come here to live in my skin. To know the true intimacy of life is to know the sublime interaction that happens here. It is so simple, yet so profoundly mysterious. We can describe these bodies in scientific, physiological terms. We can say, “Oh yes, I know how it works.” But when we touch another with our whole being, our whole awareness, at the point of connection there are no words to describe it. Nothing we can say can capture this moment of exquisite intimacy.
I’ve come here to live in my skin. To be alive, fully and vulnerably, is to offer this skin to the world. To do so is to allow yourself to be touched by what greets you.
I’ve come here to live in my skin, yet along the way I learned so well how not to live in my skin. Each of us has moments when what we experienced was too much, too painful, or too frightening to feel the immensity of the sensations of those experiences.
Over these past many years, I’ve been taking this long journey back into the body. Along with many things, one thing I’ve discovered is that sometimes what I long to say can only be said through my body. Sometimes, there is no way to say with words what the body longs to say. It must be said with touch, with movement, with song or dance.
Maybe that’s our journey, to come back into the skin. We are here in bodies. We are alive in these bodies, in this skin that was created to know the sublimity of touch and sensation and life.
Why are we alive if not to fully live in this skin?
“What if you knew you’d be the last to touch someone?”
~ Ellen Bass*
I read these words. My mind flashes back.
I was the last…as he was dying; then, as he lay dead.
So many times, I’ve wished I could have known what was coming so I could have said what (in hindsight) I would liked to have said.
My mind flashes forward. I no longer touch him and I am not the last.
I find endings so damn hard.
Some sweet part of this personality hates letting go of those I’ve loved…those final letting goes that happen when I must part from the bodies of those I’ve loved.
Some dead. Some alive.
In the hardness, I go a little unconscious and do things that (after the fact) I wish I hadn’t done. I tighten up against the impending ending and leaving.
Yes, yes, I know they stay with me. In my heart. Their spirits always here. Yes, yes, I know. And, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about how my body will never be with their body in the same way.
Body to body… touching, connecting, loving, making love. So many times, my touch on the skin of my lover has been unconscious AND so many times my touch has truly been a prayer in motion.
“…before you make love to a woman or to a man, first pray — because it is going to be a divine meeting of energies. God will surround you. Wherever two lovers are, there is God. Wherever two lovers’ energies are meeting and mingling, there is life, alive, at its best; God surrounds you. Churches are empty; love-chambers are full of God. If you have tasted love the way Tantra says to taste it, if you have known love the way Tao says to know it, then by the time you reach forty-two, love starts disappearing on its own accord. And you say goodbye to it with deep gratitude, because you are fulfilled. It has been delightful, it has been a blessing; you say good-bye to it.”
“…you say goodbye to it with deep gratitude, because you are fulfilled. It has been delightful, it has been a blessing; you say good-bye to it.”
These words are so foreign to this sweet part of me that has such a hard time letting go. It has been delightful. It has been a blessing. Can’t it continue? Forever? Can’t I hold you through eternity?
My soul knows the answer is, “No”. My soul knows this No. To know the deepest joy in a moment of touch, I must know the ending of that touch. To know the deepest joy in the full inhale, I must know the letting go in the exhale.
Life in the body is life in limitation. Learning this makes it all the sweeter. Not necessarily easier at all, yet all the while sweeter.
Knowing touch is a momentary kiss of skin to skin sweetens the magic.
I can hover over the past (I do) as if I can still touch it…but that touch is not touch, it is remembering how it was to touch.
This sweet part wants to hang on, fingers curled; but, fingers curled tightly can’t touch… again, … anew.
Uncurling brings open palms and fingertips ready for new skin.
And the old loves still breathing? I’m learning to touch with the tenderness of friend.
In the end, touch is prayer in motion. It comes and it goes, as everything that moves does. And it all moves.
To touch hearts. To touch skin. To touch the moment with breath.
I love touch and I miss being touched. Just having left my relationship of seven years, I miss that day-to-day connection of the skin and heart: the morning kiss, the spontaneous sharing of a moment in the day, climbing into bed together at night, and the sudden swell of sweetness that arises from brushing my body against his in the wee hours as the night moved toward morning.
Touch is such a beautiful sense. In a most intimate way, through touch we can lose that sense of solidness and separateness that we so often think we experience inhabiting these human bodies. Through touch, we can begin to let go of the need ‘to other’ and realize we aren’t separate at all.
I recently wrote about longing for a deep and reverent kindness, a touch from my lover that transmits an aware, divine conscious seeing of self as self. Some of the most awake moments of my life have been in the midst of touching the body of another, whether it be lover, child, or friend.
I also recently attended a summit (of sorts) in Portland – The World Domination Summit (WDS) with Chris Guillebeau. I’m not a fan of the word domination, and I don’t know why the summit was titled this because my experience was far from what this might imply. My experience was one of connection, creativity, action, and joy. I was able to touch, physically touch, many of the people I’ve met and come to know online. When I arrived in Portland, I had no expectations for the weekend other than to see and hug my (up until then) virtual friends.
As the weekend unfolded, I became acutely aware of how important it is to be immersed in life, not virtual life but real life, and real life with friends and colleagues. It is so easy to forget this when I spend so many hours of my day on the phone with clients and on the computer writing and socializing through social media. I have never been fond of networking, but now I’m realizing an entirely different way to network, by way of touch – touching heart, and touching soul.
The first speaker of the weekend was Pam Slim, who spoke of roots, the power in greeting another with the Navajo greeting: Ya’at’eeh (everything in the universe is beautiful), and the understanding that a mother’s role is to prepare her children to be independent,
‘Giving them the feeling of no matter what happens, I have the capacity to get through it’.
Pam’s talk was beautiful, inspiring and heart opening. And, it was practical, in that she offered very real ways of rooting ourselves in life, in knowing our capacity to get through whatever comes. We touch another deeply when we know and acknowledge their beauty. In doing so, we also acknowledge our own beauty, and the beauty inherent in life as it unfolds.
For me, the most experiential presentation of the entire weekend was offered up by Andrea Scher and Jen Lemen, co-creators of Mondo Beyondo, a wildly successful e-course. Drawing upon foundational coaching expertise, Andrea and Jen brought the house down with their ability to connect through the heart. They had us work with a partner to re-experience a peak experience. As a CTI trained coach, I’ve done this exercise many times in the past; yet, this time, the experience was very different.
In the past, when it comes to peak experiences, I’ve always considered things I had done that were successful, moments when I felt on top of the world, or had reached a dream I had longed for…some of the languaging that can be used in setting this experience up.
This time, however, it was different, perhaps because my awareness was on simply being with the very real sensations of connection and touch. As I shared with my partner, the peak experience was actually three combined. They were very similar in feel and sensation, and all involved touch, stillness, warmth, water, sun, skin, love, connection and the body.
As I relived these experiences, and then shared them with my partner, what showed up was nothing about success and achievement, but was all about being completely and utterly immersed in the erotic field of life, where sensuality and sexuality are part of the beautiful dance of being conscious in a human body.
At the end of the exercise, our partner spoke some of the key phrases or words that we had said aloud back to us. Then, we were to pick one of those and write it somewhere on the body. My word?
Slithering doesn’t have to be about snakes, yet this is what I, and many others first think of when we hear this word. Seeing as how I have quite a fear of snakes, not nearly as bad as it used to be, but still near phobic proportions, I felt a tinge of ‘yuck’ when I considered writing this word on my body.
But, I also knew how clearly this word articulated something very important to me, because it is more about a way of being in life. There’s a sense of flow, of ease of movement, of softness and groundedness, and of feeling one with life, with the ground, with the sensuous nature of being alive…
out of the water and
up onto the
confidently and tenderly
A snake doesn’t move with stiffness or rigidity. It moves with the land, propelling its body in connection to the earth.
A snake is powerful and has all sorts of baggage attached to it, especially with regard to women and apples.
As I moved throughout my day, wearing this word on my skin reminded me of those moments when I felt so at home in my body, so fed by the earth, water and sun, so close to my lover. It reminded me of touch, and of slow, delicious movement.
As WDS drew to a close, the last speaker, Jonathan Fields, asked us all to take what we’d learned over the course of the summit and put it into action. Yes, this is important; and, for me that action is important because of touch – how we touch others’ lives, and how we allow ourselves to be touched by people who are not different from us at all.
In my 2001 thesis on Spirituality and the Internet, I concluded with the understanding that even though the Internet would become such fertile soil for connection that couldn’t be made in the physical realm because of the limitations of space and time, the connections we make in the virtual world must ultimately serve to deepen the gifts we are here to give in the real world.
We can be touched online in very real ways. Our hearts can be opened.
Our souls can be seen.
Our consciousness can become more aware. And, our physical bodies still need physical interactions with other beings.
I can get complacent about showing up in the real world, yet what I experienced that weekend in Portland by coming together in flesh and blood incited a joy in me that I only experience in the physical world. Looking directly into eyes, smelling personal scents, feeling skin to skin, hearing the sound of voices I’d never heard before, and even sharing VooDoo Doughnuts with Marjory Mejia, Tanya Geisler and Kate Northrup Moller are all experiences that come out of this erotic field in which we live.
Eros is so much more than the slim sense of eroticism our culture focuses on. Underneath the surface of speakers, break-out sessions and events, there was a field of connection and intimacy that underscored the WDS experience. Eros was sublimely present at WDS, and is in each moment of existence.
Serendipity was a big part of my experience at WDS.
On the evening of the first event, my friend Marjory and I were leaving the hotel to head over to WDS. As the elevator door opened, we were suddenly face-to-face with Jamie Ridler and her sister, Shannon Ridler. I’ve wanted to meet Jamie for some time now, and voila, there she was!
On the bus that would take us to the after-party, I met Veena Kumar, a kind Pediatrician from the east coast. We introduced ourselves and shared a little bit about what we do.
I told Veena the name of my site, Unabashedly Female. I asked her what the name brought to mind for her and she responded by pulling out a piece of paper. It was the post-it note from Andrea and Jen’s talk. They had put over 500 post-its with messages for each of us under our chairs. Under Veena chair was this note.
She said unabashedly female makes her think of the freedom to be yourself without fear.
This is exactly it: finding the true freedom that comes from being yourself fully, femaleness and all, without apology; enjoying the sensuality of a life lived in a human body, connecting with others without hiding your true nature; touching life fully in each moment.
“Anytime you think of sexuality, you’ve got to think of your whole life.” Cornel West
Reverb10 Day 06
Prompt: Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?
This year has been about making love. And, I’ve used my heart, my body, my mind and my soul
Now I know most of us have been taught that making love means having sex with someone we love. But, I want to break open the tiny sliver of a way in which we see sexuality, sensuality, the erotic.
The way we currently see sexuality is limiting, yet it is so much more.Collapsed and hidden within our culture’s definition of sexuality are sensuality, longing and desire, passion and beauty, and touching to deeply connect.
Let’s take women’s sexuality today – so many women see pole dancing as a way to find their sexy selves. Connecting with our fire in this way isn’t a bad thing at all. It has helped so many women tap into a part of their nature and give it breath. And, yes, it is just one way. And, it can be limiting. It is also a way that can fit into this culture’s view of women – as sexual creatures, even objects, that are here to serve men’s erotic fantasies. The pornography industry is big business. It has a particular view of women, and it isn’t a pretty one. This industry has become ubiquitous in our culture. Its perspective has infiltrated mass media.
When we see ourselves through this perspective, is it serving our wholeness, is it serving how we see and value ourselves? This doesn’t mean trying to eliminate this view, but rather opening up to our whole lives, a sense of wholeness as souls here to love life, to serve with our whole being
I want to open up our view of our sexual energy so we see what’s been hidden. There is a fire in the erotic, a fire that can serve our work in the world.
What if our sexuality could be informed by our intentions, not our conditioning?
I see the possibility for a profound shift for humans: to open our point of view around love-making from an act in the bedroom to all of our acts in the world. To know ourselves as erotic beings in a way that is whole, loving to self, and in tune with the whole of life.
A story that captures the essence of what I’m wanting to convey:
This man in India is a man of the Brahman class. As a Brahman, he is not supposed to touch people who are beneath his caste. What he does is feed the poor, the homeless, the destitute, the old people who have no one. He cooks each day, then delivers the food, even feeding some people by hand, the ones that can’t feed themselves. He also explains how he loves these people. He is shown bathing them, giving them haircuts and shaves, even massaging their feet. His actions show great love. His voice speaks great love. He is showing these people great love in each action. His touch seems to indicate that he is loving them with tenderness, true compassion and caring.
His actions so clearly show what I am trying to convey. His love infuses his actions.
You might ask why I call this making love, and not simply doing good works. You might find it confusing to mix up sexuality, sensuality and the erotic, and doing work in the world with great love.
All of this can be confusing, because trying to communicate with each other through words is limiting at best. Words come with baggage. We collapse distinctions around words, causing them to point to a mixed-up jumble of conditioning, experiences, beliefs and desires.
For me, this opening up of our minds to our own soul nature is crucial if we are to rediscover our whole nature as sensual, sexual, erotic loving beings, and find the fire and passion to unleash our greatness.
I’m wanting to explode open our limited conditioned ideas of sexuality and making love, for buried in them is our fire, our passion, our power. We are so much more than objects that can be sexy, if we do all the ‘right things’.
Here in our culture, many times when we see people touching we immediately think in terms of sex and sexual attraction. We make up stories about touch. Yet, touch is one of our most amazing senses, and one of the most amazing gifts we can give another. To touch and feel in the heart at the same time, brings a closeness unique to the sense of touch.
Somewhere, eros and sex got mixed up.
Somewhere, love was thrown into the mix, making things downright messy.
Éros (ἔρωςérōs) is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. The Modern Greek word “erotas” means “intimate love;” however, eros does not have to be sexual in nature. Eros can be interpreted as a love for someone whom you love more than the philia, love of friendship. It can also apply to dating relationships as well as marriage. Plato refined his own definition: Although eros is initially felt for a person, with contemplation it becomes an appreciation of the beauty within that person, or even becomes appreciation of beauty itself. Plato does not talk of physical attraction as a necessary part of love, hence the use of the word platonic to mean, “without physical attraction.” Plato also said eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty, and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth. Lovers and philosophers are all inspired to seek truth by eros.
eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty, and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth…Lovers and philosophers are all inspired to seek truth by eros.
This is one reason why the erotic is so feared, and so often relegated to the bedroom alone, when it is recognized at all. For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.
She adds this:
When we look away from the importance of the erotic in the development and sustenance of our power, or when we look away from ourselves as we satisfy our erotic needs in concert with others, we use each other as objects of satisfaction rather than share our joy in the satisfying, rather than make connection with our similarities and our differences. …
But this erotic charge is not easily shared by women who continue to operate under an exclusively european-american male tradition. I know it was not available to me when I was trying to adapt my consciousness to this mode of living and sensation.
We can choose to see what perspective we are operating under. The European-American male tradition has choked the life out of women’s eroticism, out of our sense of our erotic, sensual selves. It’s put it all into narrow confines and wrapped the words sexuality and sex around them. Everything points there, and yet in reality, that simply isn’t so.
A soul that can give of itself to the whole of life.
2010 has been about discovering for myself, what it is to be a sensual, erotic being. In making love to life, I am beginning to re-member the sensual and erotic nature within my being that I cut out because it didn’t fit into the cultural tradition in which I was raised. I began to earnestly make love to life, to let go of the small narrow ways I see myself, so I can open to the erotic nature of the soul and of life itself.
What is it to be a soul in a human, female body, a soul that longs to remember its wholeness, the beauty of the world in which it lives? A soul that can give of itself to the whole of life?
Bringing our whole selves to our work, to helping give birth to this new paradigm means re-discovering our nature, a nature that can bring the joy, the eros, the love back into a world starving for what we have to give. We can unleash a passion that fuels our work, so we give our whole selves to it, not just our small, timid egos.
I am in the midst of this making, a making of how I live in this world, how I see myself and what I can truly do, so that it isn’t quite so overwhelming, but rather a natural extension of my nature.
Let’s allow ourselves to notice the fire that was hidden, the passion and joy for life that have been tucked away in the bedroom, or that have become non-existent in our lives, because we believe they can only come out when we’re having sex, or feeling sexy.
Let’s allow each other to discover this for ourselves, to not judge how we do so, but to know we’re all on this journey together, in service to the emergence of the sacred feminine within us.