Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Where the F*CK is that music coming from? (hint: open your eyes…)

Last night I went to an amazingly turned-on event in Tribeca with lots of great men and women in the health and coaching business. Afterwards, since the night was warm, I decided to take a stroll north and see where the road took me.

I made my way to Soho, when I began to hear music: the beating of a drum and the clang of hand symbols. It sounded far off, but not so far that I couldn’t easily get to it by foot. I strolled on and as it got closer, I began to look in the distance. Perhaps if there were a crowd of people that would let me know where the impromptu concert was happening. I got closer and the music got louder and I could hear a call and response chant going on. “Oh! So it’s a kirtan,” I thought. Perhaps there is a yoga studio or large loft nearby and they have the window open for the whole neighborhood to hear the concert. Spring St…Prince St…I keep walking north. Step by step the music got louder (even to the point where I feel it almost next to me), but I can’t seem to find a location. Not just to the right or left, but all around. I look up in windows. I look for the crowd in the distance. And the music just gets louder and louder…I can feel it almost thrumming underneath my skin…I am getting obsessed with it by now. I have to know. Where is this fucking music coming from? I’ve been hearing it for blocks now. I should have come upon it by now!

I’m just about to get to Houston when it hits me…BAM! There are five people walking on the sidewalk. They have been ahead of me for some time and I have only just caught up to them. Four men and one woman. One of the men has a drum. The others have hand symbols and all are chanting. They are in regular clothes (not long white robes as I had envisioned), so they easily blend in with the crowd. In that moment I was literally shocked into how blind I was. The whole time I was looking in windows, looking for a the crowd, trying to pinpoint exactly where that damn music was coming from and it was right there…right in front of me the whole time. Yes, moving. Yes, blending in. Yes, not drawing a big crowd. But if I hadn’t been looking all over the place for the usual signs or staring off way in the distance, I would have discovered that the music and I were walking along the same path rather near each other for some time.

I thought it to be a great metaphor for our desire. There are times when we hear the music of our desire and we get annoyed. “How dare those assholes make such a ruckus in my streets,” and then we turn away (or call the cops, aka mind saboteurs that kill our desire). Other times we hear the music and we completely ignore it. We are too cool to care. “Ah, whatever…let the crazy people have their music. I’m fine right here with my nachos and margaritas and cigarettes.” And then there are those of us who hear the call. The music is the only thing we hear. But where we get stuck is in looking ahead to the future to find the source. Or we use other people or objects as a reference point for helping us to locate our desire. Or we have an expectation about how it “should” look, so we are searching all over the place rather than seeing its true form. In fact, we are always walking with our desire. It’s right in front of us in the present moment. We can have it now. Truly living a turned-on life means acknowledging that desire exists, being willing to approve of it without expectation and opening your eyes to beat inside of you RIGHT HERE AND NOW. It is your compass on the journey…

So slow down. Listen. Let your gaze relax into the stillness of the present moment. Can you hear the music within? Stay connected to that source and you will no longer have to strain your eyes or rush ahead to try to figure life out. You will simply be dancing…

Photo copyright Candice Holdorf. Masada, Dead Sea, Israel.

Friday, May 20, 2011

"You teach...WHAT!?"

I was at an audition the other day and they were asking me questions about who I was: my volunteer work, yoga teaching, what types of theatre/film I enjoy doing, etc. Eventually we got around to the question, “Do you do anything other than acting?” So, I took a deep breath and with a slight smile said, “Well, yes. I am also a Slow Sex coach and Orgasmic Meditation teacher.” It was like a thickness came into the room. No one dared to breathe. The auditors (3 women and one guy) stared at me as if I were this fascinating and terrifying mutant that about to unleash its power. I relaxed into the moment. Finally the guy said, “Ok, and, um, do you plan to continue teaching yoga?” In that moment, the thickness exploded into effervescent bubbles, like champagne uncorking, and the three women went, “Wait, wait, wait!!! What is that??!!” I just had to laugh and say, “Wow, that’s interesting how he just slid right over that one, didn’t he?!”

Later, I was outside the audition room and the woman monitoring the audition saw me with Nicole Daedone’s book, Slow Sex. She had this little hesitation, then asked, “Um, is that fiction or non-fiction?” When I told her that the author was my teacher, she was so eager to hear what I had to say. A few moments later, the audition door re-opened and one of the female auditors looked at me and said, “Oh good, you’re still here! We have more questions,” and pulled me back into the room.

The bottom line? People are HUNGRY for a deep, intimate, pleasurable experience. They want MORE, they just don’t know what “more” means or have been taught that sex is wrong, bad, only to be shared with “the one”, has to come with romance, expectations, blah, blah, blah. It’s like we’ve got this exquisite set of sterling silver flatware chucked in a box in the corner of our locked, flooded, roach-infested basements and we are scared to death to go down and get it.

In Slow Sex, Nicole talks about she’s at dinner parties and at the table, she will mention that she is a sex teacher. People will drop their spoons, politely wave it off, or say, “Oh that sounds nice for my friend, but me? Everything’s great!” But afterwards, on her way to the bathroom, people will flag her down and tell her their innermost secrets, hoping for some sort of answer. And that’s where we’ve relegated the topic of sex—the hurried whispers near the bathroom rather than in the frank openness of intelligent discourse.

I mean, we can’t deny that we have a cultural obsession with sex. Every song the radio is about trying to sleep with someone, getting angry at someone who slept with someone else, feeling sad because aren’t sleeping with the person we used to sleep with. Commercials and billboards display scantily-clad, pre-pubescent women (and men). And porn is a whopping $14 billion industry in the US alone. But when I ask someone to speak a simple desire, everything from deflecting, shame and giggling to feigned nonchalance and anger arises. It is one of the biggest shadows we have as a society. Only when we can cultivate a deep relationship and reclaim our OWN sexuality can we begin a healing process to integrate all of ourselves and live the life we so desperately desire.

So really, let’s bust down the basement door and start cleaning. Get out the Raid, grab a water bucket and some silver polish and reclaim our birthright to pleasure. A magnificent feast awaits, if we only dare to re-discover the tools to enjoy it.

Then maybe in the future, my auditor can freely and openly say, “Wow, a Slow Sex coach and Orgasmic Meditation teacher? Fascinating. Tell me more…”

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What Do You REALLY Want: Desire vs. Craving

I often get strange looks when I say that usher people into their orgasm and desire.  Some are fearful. Some are wary. Some are really excited, then get embarrassed after their effusive expression. Others have this painful look that says, “I wish I could live that life, but ____ won’t let me have it.” And then there is the inevitable righteous NO: Desires are bad. We should all aspire to be desire-less. Giving into desire is weak, drains you of energy and make you lose focus. There is no spirituality in the realm of desire.

However, I believe most of these people are confusing desire with craving. I agree that desire is a powerful force that brings up a lot of stored emotions, including fear, anger, jealousy and other emotions that we label “negative.” But this is just the debris that sits upon our power. Craving is a “quick fix” that keeps us from doing the dirty, hard work of digging through that debris to find the desire-treasure at the bottom.  

Below you will find my “Top 10” list comparing the characteristics of desire and craving. This is by no means all-inclusive, so feel free to add your thoughts!

1. Desire generates more of your energy, whereas craving steals it.

2. Desire brings you closer to your authentic self, whereas craving disconnects or numbs you to him/her.

3. Desire is internally motivated (i.e. comes from the need to express a personal value within), whereas craving is externally motivated (I have to have this thing so people will think I am a good person or won’t see my vulnerabilities).

4. Desire leaves you nourished and gratified, whereas craving leaves you bloated and hungry (the gourmet meal vs. Chinese take-out comparison).

5. Desire is motivated by courage and faith, whereas craving is motivated by fear.

6. Desire reveals itself as your life purpose, whereas craving reveals itself as addiction.

7. Desire encompasses the full spectrum of possibilities whereas craving looks like a rat hitting the same lever for the same food pellet.

8. Desire feels alive and organic, whereas craving feels frozen and static.

9. Desire is the bridegroom of orgasm (your infinite power source), whereas craving is in a co-dependent relationship with resistance.

10. Desire brings you to a state of empowerment, whereas craving has you feel like life is yanking you around on its leash.

How do we learn to discern the voice of desire from the voice of craving? The best way is to start to listen to your body (see a great post about Desire is Your Compass here). Your body has no judgments or shame about what it feels. It simply wants what it wants. Listen to the little hungers and notice what emotions come up for you when they speak to you. Another great way to tap into your desire is through OM, a 15-minute sexuality practice based on stroking genitals and simply feeling the pleasurable sensations in the body, without the goal of going somewhere or acquiring anything. Getting a coach that can help you unearth some of your lost dreams and discover what has value in your life is another powerful step.

Be grateful for your desire. It’s your ally, your friend, your one true north on this sacred journey. Do it now.

So…what’s one thing you are going to do for your desire tonight?

Photo Copyright Candice Holdorf. Odalisque Bleue ou L'Esclave Blanche, Henri Matisse. Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Freedom (Written June 1, 2009)


I was thinking about you
And her
Your new life

And I smiled
Invited the jealousy in
I sat with her

We became friends
I made love to her
Shared a cup of hot chocolate

Until I discovered
She was not here
To knock me down

But to teach me
To abide
In my own gifts

And in an act of great love
I released her

And here I live
Hovered on the edge
Of freedom

To the point where I have forgotten
What brought me here
In the first place

(Written June 1, 2009)

Photo Copyright Candice Holdorf. Tree after the rain, Clermont, FL

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

“I am a Selfish, Judgmental Bitch” (and Other Declarations of Love)

YouTube has a video of Pema Chodron discussing the 5 Slogans of Machig Labdron, which are instructions for waking up so we can alleviate the suffering of others. One of the slogans is “Approach What You Find Repulsive” (or as I like to say, “Love the Unlovable”). Well of course I am a loving, open-minded, spiritual person…until I discover that unlovable lives inside of me.

I was on the train the other day, playing the role of “devoted yoga student”, when I found myself sitting across from an obese, homeless, black man. Unfortunately, this is an all-too familiar scene in NYC, so my jaded self would have either surreptitiously covered my nose or moved to the next car once the train had stopped.  Except that I was instantly captivated by one fantastic oddity: he wore a set of neon green, acrylic, one-inch fingernails (with one nail missing from the middle finger of his left hand).  Afterwards, I couldn’t help but study him: the wooden cane slung over the seat railing, khaki linen pants and matching shirt, a navy-blue fringed flannel scarf over both shoulders, white tennis shoes with laces loose on the left one, a reusable Walgreens bag to his left, the smell of day-old garbage emanating from his corpulence.

And then I discovered his penetrating stare.  To my chagrin, I realized that for as much as I was openly observing him, he was observing me…and he could see that I was watching him. I felt exposed. I instantly wanted to contract in fear. I couldn’t let him (of all people) see me like that. Then I felt guilty for being judgmental…and I feared he would see that ugliness in me too. I thought to myself, “What can I do to help him? Food? Money?” But I recognized that thought came not out of service to him, but out of a desire to alleviate my discomfort. The most intimate thing for me simply was to sit and approve. I didn’t have to change or fix anything. Just notice his eyes boring into mine and allow him to look at me that way. And then it came to me: we were not separate beings. Not at all. This man. This subway car. This air. These rats trembling below. We were all part of the same universe-organism; we simply have our own unique roles to pla, like different organs within the same body.

Because the truth is, his path is perfectly designed for him. My path is perfectly designed for me. The rats’ path is perfectly designed for them. And what’s more: all these different beings on different paths make exquisite mirrors for helping me get to know the many (and often disowned) parts of myself. My guilt. My judgment. Normally I want to tuck them away. Give ‘em a spare dime, send ‘em packing and sit back in my righteous nobility. But it’s through creating a loving relationship with my guilty self that allows me to know my purity. Creating a loving relationship with my judgmental self allows me to know my tolerance. And by gently inviting a relationship with this curious being (even if for only two minutes), I walked away knowing a piece of my soul a little bit better. My impenetrable heart softened.

That is, until I unfurled my mat and rolled my eyes at the selfish, uppity, white bitch yammering on her phone (in the yoga studio of all places!) about her stupid, petty life.

I still have so much to learn about love…

Photo copyright Candice Holdorf. 2 train in Brooklyn.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Which Donkey Should I Take?

Stroking for 15 minutes vs. tantric sex for hours? Which is “better?”

In a recent FB post, Laurie Handlers, respected teacher and Butterfly Workshop leader, wrote “OneTaste is not really the forefront of the slow sex movement. It's nice to say that and position themselves as that, but really, come on now....stroking for 15 minutes is not the same as Tantric sex for hours and hours now is it?”

First, I absolutely adore Laurie, have taken her workshops (which have done a lot for me) and will continue to recommend them to people for whom they are a good fit. And I love that she tells it like she sees it. I admire someone who is not afraid to speak her mind.

So here I am, a OneTaste-certified coach going “Hmmm…?” I mean, I can see her point: tantra has been around for millennia and yes, feeling good for hours does sound like a better offer than for just 15 minutes. But when I looked closer I could see something deeper within her words. She presents two arguments—One: OneTaste is not really the forefront of the Slow Sex movement and Two: stroking for 15 minutes is not the same as tantric sex for hours.

I want to look at part two first. She’s right: stroking for 15 minutes is NOT the same as tantric sex for hours. Both are two completely different kinds of experiences. But to imply that one is “better” than the other seems limiting. It’s like asking, “Which is better: a breathing meditation or a hatha yoga class?” They both serve a purpose, get you in touch with your body and help to root you in the present moment. What’s so lovely about the 15-minute stroking practice (OM) is that it is a manageable, bite-sized chunk of time for most of us to build up, stroke by stroke, to the place where we can experience the kind of sex we want. Most of us in this culture push for some outrageous goal, i.e. sex for hours, get frustrated when our expectations are not met, cast blame and walk away. OR, we have a mind-blowing experience, freak out about how much we’ve opened and then run away in embarrassment. OM is a simple, sustainable practice that will translate to a deeper, richer sexual experience. So rather than pitting the two experiences against each other, why not expand and include? Do we not do a breathing meditation within the experience of a hatha yoga class? Why not have OM AND tantric sex (or whatever kind of sex you want)?

Which brings me to the first point she makes: OneTaste is not really the forefront of the Slow Sex movement. Yes, OM (and all its incarnations) have been practiced long before OneTaste and tantra has certainly been around to teach us about mindful sexuality for some time. What makes OneTaste unique for me is that it is consciously reaching out to people who have never even considered that an orgasm could last for more than a few seconds as well as puts the idea of female pleasure front and center of sexual/spiritual awakening. For those in the sacred sexual community, this may seem like old news, but to most people living in non-urban locales, this idea is rather revolutionary and can be very confronting. To introduce a practice in a safe, clean, well-lit environment that you can do in your own home with your own partner is a new approach expanding sexuality. The fact that OM and OneTaste were featured in a NY Times bestseller (Tim Ferriss' "The 4-Hour Body") is extraordinary. To return to my yoga analogy: yes, yoga existed for many years, but it wasn’t until Krishnamacharya (and his students, Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois and Desikachar, to name a few) brought the practice outside of its birthplace did we see a world-wide explosion of yoga. A small change within the DNA of one individual is mutation. A small change within the DNA of many is evolution.

True, OneTaste may not be the path for some. Then again, tantra may not be the path for some. My advice: Research. Experiment. Play. Test it out. Draw a hypothesis and then scrap it and try it out again. Remember: there are many donkeys that will take you to the top of the mountain, but the view looks exactly the same no matter how you got there.

Photo copyright Candice Holdorf. Donkeys in Petra, Jordan.