Friday, June 24, 2011

Embracing the Spiritual Paradox: The Sacred, The Profane, The Mundane

All right. I can feel it. This is going to be one of those entries that tries to mash up 15 journal entries into one barely coherent post. I apologize in advance. I’m not a writer. I just play one on the internet.

So, what does spiritual mean to you? Is it something high in the clouds? Pure? Is it deep and connected? Is it trippy altered states of being? Is it devotion to one omnipotent being? Is it being in nature? Or something completely different?

I say yes. Just yes. Whatever your answer is, yes. And your answer, yes. And your answer, yes. Because the bottom line is that ALL THAT EXISTS IS SPRITUAL. PERIOD. To deem one area of your life as being “spiritual” (i.e. when I do my meditation) and another as non-spiritual (i.e. when I drive my car or scream at my child) is to create divisions in your life, namely, the good, the bad and the boring. And this division leads to an underlying tension in all that you do. When things are good, fear of losing them creeps in, so you must grip, lest they slip away. When things are bad, you must reject and shut out the world. When things are boring, you must constantly seek out anything to fill the emptiness. All of these are ways to escape the present.

We’ve all felt “sacred” moments in our life. The sun making its first appearance on a fresh spring day. Sculptures of beautiful men and women. A baby being born. Our first kiss. A song. A group in deep prayer.

But what about when you are sick on your knees and hanging over a toilet? How about when you are washing lettuce? How about when your anger and jealousy consume you? How about when you are unlocking your door? How about when your marriage ends or your mother dies or you see people killing each other in foreign countries because everyone has a different name for “God”?

This post is not just about “sacred sexuality” or “sacred prostitution” (which is where most people go when they hear the union of sacred/profane). Indeed, what the hell is “sacred sex” anyway? What makes intercourse that is done with breathwork/chanting/eye-gazing anymore spiritual than a fingerbang in the bathroom of a nightclub? True, participants may be more conscious in one scenario than another. Participants may be more in alignment in their personal integrity in one scenario than another. Maybe not. But all experiences stand alone on their own as spiritual and opportunities to plug into ourselves deeper. It’s just our idea of that we believe spirituality to be that keeps us grasping for certain experiences in life and avoiding others (which is the fundamental nature of suffering).

What if we explored the possibility that THE UNIVERSE DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES. Can we expand our perspective and hold the paradox that everything, from Wall Street tycoons to rapists to priests to crack addicts to paint drying to the Dalai Lama to George Carlin’s seven words are all expressions of Spirit and offer an opportunity for connection and self-reflection.

Doesn’t mean life is easy. Or pretty. Or nice. Or exciting. Hell it downright sucks a lot of the time. And yet if you can slow down and simply feel what is (underneath your history or expectations), you would see the miracle it took to bring you here. Mel Robbins has a great TEDxSF video where she says that the odds of being born in this moment in time are one in 400 trillion! Now imagine those odds coupled with another person being born in this moment AND the odds of your two sharing the same energy field. Now imagine more miracle-people moving in and out, like threads on a loom. What an incredible tapestry of life you weave. And you are an expression of Spirit. And so is the chair. And the floor. And the cockroach. All these pieces coming together for you to interact in service of self-realization in your one miracle-life.

Furthermore can we begin to see that pain is actually a gift on the journey. Your anger and fear provide valuable information as to where you are out of integrity in your life and where your desire lies. Your grief in losing a loved one is a chance to crack open your heart and cleanse your soul of past residue. War is a reminder that there is still so much work to be done in the INTERNAL landscape of our spirit (as Osho says, “You cannot change the society first and hope that individuals will change later on”).

So notice where you are fixed in your perspective in life and try to invite in a new way. Notice who or what you deem as “worthy of your attention” and who is not. Notice who you blame for all the world’s problems. Bush. Obama. Republicans. Corporate America. Porn. Hollywood. The Government. Your Parents. Whatever. Then invite the possibility that all that is just is. Begin to take responsibility for your own life. Begin to accept the challenge made to you on the miraculous day of your birth: to come to know yourself and your soul’s purpose through self-discovery in relationship and integration (not in avoidance, rejection or “rising above”) to all that is.

You chose this life. Really. If you don’t like it, you can bitch and moan and blame and try to run away from it and into the “sacred.” Or you can choose to accept responsibility for all that you are, find the Spirit that already exists in this moment and move forward empowered to create the life for which you were born.

For a brilliant (and more succinct) view on the topic, check out Ken Wilbur’s talk on Beauty and Spirit, where he explores the Good, the Beautiful and the True (in my language, the Sacred, the Profane and the Mundane). Shout out to Jason D. McClain who brought this stunning video to my attention.

Photo of Titian's Amor Sacro Amor Profano. 1513-1514. Galleria Borghese, Rome

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Take Responsibility for Your Orgasm (for Women Who are “Too Much”)

…and really, what woman isn’t too much? Even the mousy, little librarian types at some point in their lives got the message that they were “too much” and to manage that, they squashed their orgasmic energy down into this tiny little thimble that they try to tuck away in the back folds of their skirts.

Ladies, the cat’s out of the bag. I see you. You have a volcano of raw, potent power just aching to be expressed, no matter how many times you try to sweetly deny it, act out in anger or run for the box doughnuts. Not only do I know you are powerful, it is in fact your sacred RESPONSIBILITY to cultivate that power and use it in service of evolving the planet.

So, go ahead, do us all a favor and add ‘orgasm’ to the top of your very busy to-do list (no, not after picking Billy up from soccer and making dinner…to the top).

Because when you don’t come from nourishing fullness, deep desire and pleasure, you are running on empty. Dry. Drained. Irritated. And it’s painful to watch. And because you are trying to hide the mountain of orgasm that you do possess, your energy leaks out in some very unhealthy (and often addictive) ways. Some more socially acceptable than others, but none in the best interest of your creative potential.

Maybe you constantly seek out relationships in order to quiet that nagging hunger you feel when you are alone and use seduction as a tool for the attention you crave. Maybe you try to stuff it down with binge eating or numb it out with the latest reality TV show. Maybe you use self-deprecating humor to deflect from the pain of your void. Maybe you lash out and blame everyone around you who you perceive as trying to ‘hold you back’ or ‘violate your rights’. Maybe your passive aggressiveness seeps out the sides like a sticky tar that keeps you frozen in fear and fury. Maybe you starve your orgasm to get the ultimate prize—weighing under 100 pounds (yeah, that one almost cost me my life).

The list goes on. Ladies, the time is now to recognize our power and take responsibility for it. It’s as if we women are the size of the Atlantic Ocean and we’ve been trying all our lives to fit into Lake Michigan. We dam up our waters, keeping them tightly reined in, but eventually we spill over and all the people we love get washed away. So we feel guilty and try to suck it in even more. Or we tell off those motherfuckers who just couldn’t handle us.

But now (thankfully) you know the truth. You are an ecosystem, teeming with vitality! Expand your container. Create the space to hold your bigness. Flow out to the edges of your known world so you can discover the life that is meant for you. And from your vast fullness, you can now carry sailors to new shores. Be part of the cycle that will nourish life on the planet. Provide a home for the myriad of sea-dwelling creatures. Your feminine energy is the planet’s greatest untapped natural resource.

You might be going “But HOW do I do this???” Great question. Start with slowing down and making a gentle inquiry as to where you are in life. Are you living a life of pleasure or just hoping to make it through the day? Where are you out of your integrity? What are the little ways you cheat yourself of the fullness of your life? Where do you cast blame on others for your problems? Do you wake up in the mornings excited about your life, or dreading it? Is your sex life fulfilling or empty (or non-existent!). Stay curious and compassionate as you ask yourself these questions, as they can bring up a lot of feelings of anger, shame, fear and guilt.

Other tools you can use are creating gratitude lists, practice speaking your truth (I recommend responsibly enrolling people you trust in that game), closing open cycles, doing anonymous acts of service, taking time for self-care and letting go of toxic relationships. But the biggest piece of advice I can give any woman is to OM. Setting aside 15 minutes per day to surrender in a safe container that is created purely for the exploration of orgasm is nothing short of miraculous. You will alchemize your energy into pure gold.

It may seem selfish and weird and awkward and you may fumble on your journey towards grace and power. And that too is part of your beauty. The hiccups. The slips, trips, falls and imperfections are what make you so unique and devastatingly irresistible to all who come into your sphere.

So laugh. A lot. And have courage. Trust in who you are and what you know. The world awaits you…

Photo copyright Candice Holdorf. Red Sea, Eilat, Israel

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dressing for MY Pleasure: A New Look at the World of Lingerie

I’m a simple girl, fashion-wise. Functional. Perhaps it’s the German in me. I mean, I love to play dress up as much as the next starlet. But when it comes to my everyday life, if it’s scratchy, pinches, rides up intimate crevices or just plain hinders my progress in any way, I won’t wear it. This especially goes for lingerie. How can I feel good, sexy and free in something that feels uncomfortable. This also hits upon my notion of being a turned-on, sexual woman. I mean, shouldn’t I want  to like to dress sexy all the time? I mean, if it’s on the outside, of course I want to look nice—but to get all dolled-up with clothing that no one’s going to see?

And that’s where Margaret Shrum comes in. The self-proclaimed “Lingerie Goddess” (who began her personal lingerie journey at 14 with her mother) entered my life a few weeks ago and graciously offered to give me a complimentary consultation. She is a personal lingerie shopper—and with 20 years in the lingerie fashion business, I knew I had to take advantage of her wisdom.

We began by pulling out my collection of “unmentionables.” Bras that were 5 years old, but that still, you know, I might wear at some point in the future. That negligee that I only wore once because someone gave it to me. The mound of underwear that goes from two strings tied together to giant granny panties for when I’m on my period. I have to say, I was a little embarrassed to display how little I really knew and how I don’t really take the best care of those articles I wear closest to my body. But Margaret was extremely understanding and non-judgmental. I felt almost guilty that I had a lovely lingerie set that I had never worn! I thought it was like a tragic waste or something. Be she casually accepted by hesitancy with a gentle “Oh, yeah. Well if it’s not your style, you won’t wear it.” And that’s when I realized my huge judgment: that lingerie only fits into the world of occasionally dressing up to please someone else. But I never really thought to dress to please myself on a daily basis!

And really, my everyday style is pretty simple. Classic lines, delicate, sleek, satiny, seamless…and very little lace. I have to admit, I’ve never liked lace. I feel like a trumped-up, Victorian doily. The Europeans have a relationship with their intimate apparel which for many years baffled me. I can still remember my Francophile grandmother buying me a Wacoal bra at the department store because that was the best brand. I was mystified at how this could be so important to her and just not that much to me. Should I care more? Are bras more than just stretch-mark preventers, as my mom had told me?

In a word, yes. The lingerie you wear has a vital impact on how the rest of the outfit looks on your body. Many a lovely ensemble has been undermined by seams sticking out or an ill-fitting bra that doesn’t hold your shape or squashes you down to an amorphous uni-boob. Plus, you can tell when a woman is wearing something she truly adores…it’s as if she is carrying a sexy secret that glows off her skin and lights up the world. There’s more to it than just pretty underwear. It’s about knowing my worth and consciously and exquisitely adorning my body with pieces that reflect my inner Goddess.

So when we started looking at the pieces she brought based on my style preferences, I discovered a sweet, little French bra that lifted me up, had the classic, sleekness of elegance…and the lightest accent of lace that was feminine, yet young. Another judgment challenged. Lace could feel classy, yet updated (and non-scratchy—BONUS!). I actually liked the shape of my body then. It felt natural and, well…me. It was so satisfying to be seen and met at that moment. Met by elegant, sleek French lace. It totally started to break down all my thoughts about lingerie is somehow different or more elevated than my everyday attire. You can, in fact, feel sexy, comfortable and authentic in your everyday basics—especially when you are dressing for your pleasure. That’s the mark of a truly turned-on woman—one who let’s her personal taste and desire guide her. And if it looks (for the most part) simple, sweet and comfortable, that’s just perfect.

So if you are looking to cultivate a new relationship with your inner lingerie goddess, check out Margaret’s website. It’s full of advice, recommendations and all sorts of fun finds. I appreciated how she listened to what was important to me and offered me her twists and inspirations on what I liked. She was patient, let me try on lots of different items, but most of all, she guided me towards loving my body, which is already a complicated relationship for me (and no doubt the majority of women).

Now, if only we can get to a place where I discover my love for the boy short…

PS- Margaret is also generously collecting unwanted lingerie items to pass on to low-income girls and women who can not afford high-end pieces. I happily passed on a bagful of garments that were only seeing the inner d├ęcor of my dresser.

Photo of Simone Perele bra from the Romance collection

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bah Humbug! (The Porn Scrooge has her say…)

I recently had a Facebook exchange with someone who was shocked to hear that my take on pornography is that (for the most part, but not always) it is a reflection of our cultural shadow regarding sex—a result of our own cultural sexual repression.

Um, ok, what?! In plain terms a shadow is a part of ourselves that we don’t claim or own. The best way to discern your shadow is to notice the characteristics in other people that you can’t stand or hate or vilify or claim as “wrong” or “sinful.” This usually stems from some sort of shame or desire to fit within an acceptable norm. However, if you get in relationship with your shadow and integrate it, you develop the ability for compassionate living with all beings because you have a compassionate relationship with all parts of yourself.

OK, so back to porn. We in the US have this thing where what we practice in our daily life looks a lot different than what eeks out in the entertainment and media industries. As “open-minded” a society as we like to think we are, we are still “one nation under God” and for most of us, that means living in accordance to a religious dogma that tells us that sex before marriage is wrong, homosexuals are sick and that anything that happens in the bedroom should stay there and not be talked about in “polite company.” But all that tamped down energy has to find a place to go; so it comes out in sexy models gracing ads for cars and beer, scantily-clad teenage pop stars being our icons of femininity and, as I mentioned, porn.

OK. So let me just say this. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH NUDITY, NAKED PERFORMERS OR PORN. OK? I am not going to take your porn away or condemn anyone who wants to perform a sexy song onstage or watch some fun-time sex play. I myself do burlesque and will be the first one in line to do a crazy, sexy, fetish-inspired photo shoot or intensely erotic film scene. What I am asking from you is to take another approach to exploring sexuality. Much of what we see as “sex” is only one tiny sliver of the whole pie, but we come to think that this one tiny sliver is all there is. And this sliver is, for the most part, a highly-exaggerated, masculinized version of sexuality. Its focus is on sensationalism. On shock value. On money shots. On selling. On going for a goal and producing results. And that’s ok AS LONG AS YOU ARE CONSCIOUS OF THIS DYNAMIC. That it’s a business. Entertainment.

Where we can really damage ourselves as sexual beings is when we being to equate ourselves with what we see on the outside, and if any part of our sexuality deviates from that, we are somehow “wrong” or “broken.” If we as women aren’t ready give a blow job to our husbands the moment he comes home from work, we are frigid. If a man has a cock measuring less than 6 inches and can’t blow his wad within two minutes of a hot woman breathing on him, he is impotent. If our sexual appetite isn’t hearty in the “right” moments and is a raving lunatic in the “wrong” moments, we are very, very bad people indeed. And since we as a culture, tend to have a difficult time understanding the depth of our own sexuality (much less talking about it), how can we possibly teach our kids what it’s like to have a healthy relationship with their sex and their bodies? If porn (and very stifled, clinical lessons in 8th grade health class) is the only education for kids and the sexually curious, is it any wonder that shame and secrecy cloud our most intimate parts? Is it any wonder that men walk around bragging about how virile they are but freak out the moment he has a woman alone in a room (believe me, I speak from experience on this one)? Is it any wonder that women constantly beat themselves up because they don’t look like the images they see?

Another reason that our relationship to porn can also be damaging is that it all-too-often takes the place of truly nourishing sexual experiences. It’s like you see this act of perceived sexuality, you feel your hands on your genitals and there is some sort of release. So it feels like you’ve had sex. And you have. But this kind of experience lacks the very heart of what we do desperately want from our sex—intimacy and vulnerability. You are a voyeur on the sexual ride, rather than an active participant. I mean, every once in a while, you just wanna get your rocks off. You wanna go to Mickey-D’s, order the Big Man and fries and stuff yourself with dirty, greasy goodness. But if this taste isn’t balanced with nourishing, quality meals, you are going to walk around sexually starving and feeling angry, ashamed and confused about why you seem to have an active sexual life, but are somehow still terribly unfulfilled.

The antidote to the shadow is to turn right around and face it. Cultivate a relationship with your sexuality. Learn, stroke by stroke, what your own orgasm feels like and from there discover the nuances that make your sexuality unique. When you climax, it may not be a loud, crazy, screaming fit—and that’s ok. It might take you a full hour of stroking before you even begin to feel the tiniest spark of sensation in your genitals—and that’s ok. You may have thought you would never like anything that was a little too on the fringe, but have a secret desire to be blindfolded and tied up by the Starbucks coffee girl—and that’s ok (talk to your partner first before acting out on that last one).

Ultimately, it’s about shifting our secret, shadowy preoccupation with sex from one with a purely external gaze to one that looks inward towards our personal desire compass. A relationship with sex based on curious inquiry about what I truly want, not one based on what I think I should be. About connecting to ourselves, our desires and the present moment, rather than distancing ourselves from it. About slowing down, stripping away our beliefs, paying attention and moving from the instinctual body. This is a gradual process, but one that is much more fulfilling in the long run.

I am aware that there is a movement to create different kinds of porn—for women by women and based on true eroticism rather than purely profit-driven sensationalism. Cool. Fantasy is sometimes a fun choice. Not every sexual experience has to be a David-Deida-claim-your-woman’s-open-heart-and-soul-and-bring-her-to-God event. Just stay conscious about how you’re spending your energy, where your attention is and what is your true desire. If you are not sure, keep coming back to the sensation in your body. Let your orgasm be your guide and your fuel on your journey towards your sexual self.

Who knows. You might find infinitely more pleasure in the experience of pink silk slowly slipping down the length of your inner arm than you ever could have found in Alien Midget Gang Bang 4.

FYI: Check out NYU professor, Chyng Sun’s intelligent documentary on the porn industry, The Price of Pleasure, at http://thepriceofpleasure.com