Monday, December 9, 2013

Erotic Lessons from The Nun

Photo by Sequoia Emmanuelle
“I believe in loyalty. We should respect our Church, but never believe that the Church has the last word. The Church is saying “this”, but I believe that sooner or later “this” will change. “This” is not the mind of our Lord. God is all love. It’s a delicate balancing thing. The Church has changed its position over the years, and because the spirit is with the Church, in the end the Church will always get it right. But in the end. The spirit of the Church is the meaning of love, which hasn’t yet, perhaps, been fully understood,”
~ Sister Wendy Beckett on the subject of gay marriage
Most of us rarely hear the words “erotic” and “nun” in the same sentence.

That is, unless, you had a Catholic-school crush that permeated into the current kinks of your daily life.

However, whether you believe in God or not, we all have some form of the erotic nun archetype within ourselves. And while it’s true that nuns do not have sex, that does not mean that they do not have an erotic life.

To the contrary. I believe that many nuns have a rich and powerful connection to their own erotic energy. They’re married to Jesus Christ, for…well…Chrissakes!

First, let me define erotic. Its root word, erosis Greek in origin and one of its meanings is “love as a fundamental creative impulse.” So while sexuality can be erotic, not everything erotic has to be sexual.

Eroticism is simply an experience of the  world that is alive, vital, flowing, present and deeply connected to the powerful creative energy always surrounding us.

Some people may call that energy orgasm. Other people may call that energy source. Still others may refer to is as kundalini. Nuns call this energy The Holy Spirit. And to devote your life and your creative force in service of this divine energy is truly erotic indeed.

The nun archetype experiences the erotic as God revealing his/her self in every ecstatic moment. In every face. In every sunrise. In every routine chore.

When I think of the embodied erotic nun archetype, I look no further than Sister Wendy Beckett. She’s a South African-born nun who currently resides in England and is best known for her PBS specials where she shares with the audience the history and technical analysis of various paintings and sculptures.

What is evident in her voice is how much awereverence and passion she has for art. She speaks with pleasureand delight as she describes the sensual curves of the sky, the fruit, the women and all manner of subjects that the artists choose to express through their work.

“He’s not interested in the static, but in the moment, when things are moving and happening,” says Beckett, almost defining eroticism in her description of Bernini’s sculptures.

In fact, every word that comes out of her mouth seems to be a gourmet delight that she can not wait to share with her viewers. She does not balk in shame or disapproval when sharing the sexual ardor of the nude characters depicted in the paintings.

And the seemingly limitless well of wonder from which she draws is unconditional love for all God’s creatures.

We are, of course, familiar with the unintegrated, shadow aspects of the nun: spiritual narcissism, delusions of grandeur, disgust for things of the “earthly” realm, etc. And though we may be used to associating those aspects with women wearing the habit, they can often show up in our everyday lives: anorexics, sanctimonious “enlightened” gurus and even many “seekers” who can barely take care of their everyday needs all deny themselves pleasure in the pursuit of “purity” and condemn anyone who does not walk their perception of “the right way.”

Our work is to neither reject the nun nor uphold her as the sole source of guidance in our lives; but to listen to her, love her and honor her wisdom with balanced ears.

So let us learn a thing or two from the erotic essence of the nun, such as awe and passion for the greater powers that surround us, no matter how mundane or trivial they may seem.

Let us bow our heads in reverence to the mysteries that influence and guide us every day. Let our work be a prayer for more compassion and an act of service in honor of the divine. And may we all heed her invitation to dance with each other in the name of universal love.

The Nun’s Poem from the book “From 6 to 9 and Beyond: Widening the Lens of Feminine Eroticism.”

Play on, God.
Play on, Mother Mary.
Play upon the instrument of my rich and fertile body,
So Ripe and Pluck-able.
Play until I sing your praises
In cries of terror and ecstasy,
Forgetting myself
In the remembrance of all that I am,
All that I was,
And all that I will ever be:
Your Divine Grace.

Completely in Tears After Reading this Sweet & Heartbreaking Comic.

“Animals don’t hate and we are supposed to be better than them.”

~ Elvis Presley

 It’s often said: that which we despise in others is what we despise in ourselves. We see this kind of hatred all around the world: warring religious factions in The Middle East (descending from the same ancestry) fighting over what’s the “right” name for “God”; Christian leaders who preach against homosexuality while having affairs with male lovers; even just the everyday battle of the sexes between women who think all men are pigs and men who think all women are b*tches—when really what everyone wants from the other is simply love and acceptance.
“In time we hate that which we often fear.”
~ William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra
We are more alike than we like to admit because that means we have to do the hard work of accepting all of who we are, especially the dark and shadowy bits—the bits that we fear will prove that we are unlovable. This is where the power of unconditional love shines the brightest.

Imagine truly loving ourselves without having to prove our worthiness.

Imagine if just our very existence merited that we are lovable? What if we are, in fact, love itself? And what if that radical self-acceptance inspired the same in others?

Animals exemplify this concept with such touching purity. There have been numerous studies to suggest that living with pets helps with health and happiness. Animals are empathic creatures and can feel us. They know when to come near when we need them the most. They offer companionship and love, while asking for nothing in return.

The Brazilian comic below deeply touched me with its message of compassion and self-acceptance. May we continue to heal and grow from the unconditional love of animals and may we humans soon be the face of unconditional love itself.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New Website Devoted to My Book, "From 6 to 9 and Beyond"

Hello all,

It is with great pleasure that I unveil my latest project, From 6 to 9 and Beyond: Widening the Lens of Feminine Eroticism." You may recall all those videos blogs I did in July and August, as well as the Indiegogo campaign I ran.

Well, as the book unfolds, I am posting excerpts from the stories and poetry and pictures! You can find them all at one place at the url below. Be sure to check back for more updates as the book unfolds!

"From 6 to 9 and Beyond: The Virgin"
Photo Credit: Sequoia Emmanuelle

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Max J. Van Praag: Bringing Sexual “Private Matters” to the Public.

When was the last time you had a frank and multi-perspective conversation about G-spot orgasm?

How about porn addiction? Or being an “ethical slut”?

Virgins over 30? Power play? BDSM?

While, for many of us living in mainstream America, the answer may be “never,” it’s simply a day in the life of Talk Show Host, Max J. Van Praag, founder of the Private Matters TV show.

Private Matters is a San Francisco Bay Area-based series (though episodes are available to watch online from anywhere in the world) that interviews sex and relationship coaches, teachers, therapists and experts with a variety of specialties.

The show’s mission is to awaken men and women to their erotic potential through raising awareness of the many aspects of sexuality and bringing these kinds of topics to the mainstream. The belief is that through raising awareness of sexuality, intimacy can arise, shame can be released and old wounds can be healed.

Mr. Van Praag is so passionate about his mission that he has personally financed the first 40 episodes of Private Matters. Now, he wants to go bigger. More episodes, higher profile guests, a greater reach of people and broadcast on major television networks—which is why he is ambitiously raising $150,000 via Indiegogo to improve the quality of his show and to develop a website portal with advice, products, workshops and links to sexuality teachers.

In the following interview, Mr. Van Praag delves deeper into his inspirations, desires and personal relationship to his own sexuality and reveals why he is so passionate about bringing Private Matters to the public.
1. Who are you and where are you from? What did you do in your “previous life” (before starting Private Matters)? 
I was born in Holland, and have lived in several countries growing up. I am a polyglot (fluent in five languages) and consider myself a citizen of the world. After my studies in the performing arts, classical music and psychology, I came to the US from Holland in the mid-nineties to study and do research in human development and spiritual growth. I first lived and worked in a large workshop retreat center in the Catskill Mountains, then settled in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1996. I have also facilitated seminars in self-expression.
2. What inspired you to create Private Matters? 
My own life journey and learning with women and the awareness that both of those may serve a greater purpose. [I was also inspired by] watching the movie Bliss in the nineties. This profound and beautiful movie brings potent knowledge about sexual healing into the mainstream. I shared the movie with hundreds [of people] and decided to create art and media with similar messages. As I explored various possibilities, I finally settled on the talk show format. 
3. Why are these topics so important to you and how do they affect you personally? 
I am passionate about bringing messages about intimacy and sexual awakening into the main stream. I love to take people to new places and I know that I am extremely comfortable in some of these controversial, edgy, taboo areas where most people are not. Nothing shocks me. Also, the quickly growing interest in these topics in our culture is apparent. Look at all the TV shows and movies coming out: Fifty Shades of GreyThanks for SharingThe Sessions, etc. 
4. Describe your relationship to your own sexuality. 
I am a romantic at heart and am deeply moved by powerful love stories and by people walking their own path. Many of my relationships and connections with women have been powerful, catalyst experiences for healing and growth, both for her and myself. I think I am a very good communicator and I love that about myself. I am also really comfortable with who I am sexually as a man and I make it a point not to label myself but to stay open to what is most loving and fulfilling in any particular situation. 
5. Who has been your favorite interviewee so far? 
One of my favorites, because of her niche, is Marion van der Stad in Holland, an intimacy coach who only works with virgins over 30 years old. There are more people in their forties, fifties and sixties who have never had sex. This is news for many viewers—just watch the new feature film The Sessions. 
6. Whom would you most like to interview (the person can be living or dead)? 
David Deida. It will happen! I remember when I had just moved to California in 1996. I had the trunk of my car filled with the first version of The Way of The Superior Man in spiral bound format to give away to all my friends. 
7. What has Private Matters accomplished so far? 
40+ episodes about different topics, viewed by over 100,000 people worldwide, [along with] many letters from people thanking me for influencing the way they relate and communicate. 
8. What is your desire for Private Matters in the future? 
A high-caliber show that is trusted and watched by millions worldwide, and that changes peoples intimate lives. A show that networks want to broadcast, with a live studio audience and bigger sets in the US and Europe.

Inspiring 97-Year Old Woman Makes Me Want to Dance.

My grandmother always told me “Age is just a number.”

She doesn’t let society’s view of “age-appropriate behavior” get in the way of her fun. Which is why I believe she looks incredible and has the energy of someone half her age (I won’t reveal how old she is, since another one of her mottos is “A lady never reveals her age“).

As a woman rapidly approaching her mid-thirties, I take a great deal of comfort in this. I am not immune to societal beliefs of “women” and “age”. We hear about 40+ year-old Hollywood actresses going to great lengths, i.e. plastic surgery, crazy dieting, etc, to remain “leading lady material.” Several of Maxim’s  ”Hot 100 List of the World’s Most Beautiful Women” are barely old enough to buy alcohol. And how many hot, senior sex scenes have you seen in TV shows lately? Not many.

Even the medical community is in on it. What’s the number of diseases a woman is prone to get once she’s reached menopause? How many more annual medical checkups should I be getting past 35? And should’t I be pregnant by now?!?!?

While there is scientific validity in the need to put more attention on one’s health past a certain age, the “fear of death” and “age-shame” that often comes with “the science” is something I’m choosing to leave behind.

Which is why I am so inspired by the woman known as “Dancing Jane.”

She was recently featured in one of The Good Line’s mini-documentaries.

At 85-years old, she discovered she could do “the splits,” after years of erroneously thinking she couldn’t due to a casual comment made by a high-school classmate, and even made an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to demonstrate her abilities.

Now at 97, she shares her story and the many things she chose to do because she wanted to do them, regardless of what her circumstances told her was “possible.”

She mentions that fear is one of the biggest things that keeps us back and advises us that there is nothing stopping us from doing what we want to do with life.

So thank you, Dancing Jane, for bringing your elder wisdom and teaching us that love, fun, humor and compassion are really what this life’s all about—and that getting older is an opportunity to cultivate more relationships in which to share those gifts.

Let’s dance.

4 Tips to Keep Passion Alive in Long-Term Relationships.

Those were the days my friend—we thought they’d never end.

We’ve all been there. The start of a relationship. That crackling, electric time when you can’t help but just soak up every drop of your new infatuation and every private moment is spent in the throes of passion.

Until it’s one year, five years, 10 years (or more) later. You’re now more concerned about whether he or she picked up toothpaste from the store rather than what position you want to try tonight.

You know which foods give him or her gas. You’re harboring a secret (or-not-so-secret) resentment towards his or hercleaning habits. The mystery has shifted to TMI.

But you still love your partner. You still think they are gorgeous and awesome and you want to rekindle the spark.

So what do you do?

Of course, simply admitting the truth that you are both hungering for more intimacy (as well as any other withheld communications) is a huge step towards increasing the turn-on, but where do you go from there?

In the following video, I’ll share with you 4 of my favorite tips to help rekindle the passion in your long-term relationship.

6 (Non-Linear) Steps to an Orgasmic Life. (Part Two)

In my previous article, I described a new definition of orgasm and talked about what it means to live an orgasmic life.

In this piece, we’ll dive deeper into the 6 (non-linear) steps to an orgasmic life.

Why non-linear? Great question.

First, orgasm (like life) isn’t linear. One minute we are up, the next we are down. Last week we went right, but this week we may be called left. One great success can turn into a massive failure and one embarrassing failure can morph into our greatest success. Through orgasm, we are cultivating a very dynamic and paradoxical way of seeing the world. To slap linear construct on top of that would limit our perspective of what’s possible.

Second, the first two steps are more like anchors that help us through each of the others. Anytime we feel our resolve getting shaken or the voices of fear overtake us, steps one and two are there to help us anchor into the present. Also, the steps themselves aren’t like climbing up a ladder, but more like walking in a spiral—the moment you find yourself at “the end,” you discover you are actually at a new beginning.

Finally, the steps themselves are simply guidelines for possible experience. The moment you step into Step 3, you may find yourself back to Step 1 or catapulted into Step 6. You may be experiencing Step 2 all the way though Steps 3-6. And this is by no means the complete and definitive list of how to live an orgasmic life. There’s lots of room forimprovisation and innovation. Ultimately these “steps” are about gathering tools and using them when the moment calls for it.

So, without further ado, I offer you 6 (Non-Linear) Steps to an Orgasmic Life.

1. Attention
This may be the most difficult for most of us, especially in an iPhone addicted, Facebook skimming, TV watching world—which is why it is so important to get this concept first before moving on. So much of our lives is spent obsessing over the past or trying to control the future. We look outside of ourselves to inform us about who we are rather than looking within. We are rarely here and now. We are worrying about how we look and what people will think. We hide from our power through any variety of subtle (and not so subtle) addictions.

Orgasm demands our full attention on the present so we can actually feel what’s here. Bringing your focus to the present, perhaps on your body, your breathing or some truth you want to speak, helps us connect directly to our desire, which is the mouthpiece of an orgasmic life.

2. Approval
Just as important as attention is the concept of approval. Approval is the ability to say ‘yes’ to what is happening in any moment and is the key to ‘turn-on’, i.e. the capacity for us to allow orgasm to flow freely through our bodies. Approval isn’t about being a pushover or a milquetoast. You can set a firm boundary of “No” and still be in approval of that which is happening, because you are a “Yes” to yourself and a “Yes to loving” to whomever you are speaking.

Approval is the radical acceptance of all that is happening as absolutely perfect. Approval is the willingness to let go of the struggle to “be right” and simply just “be.” Even in the midst of our pain, can we open up and say ‘yes’ to all that we are feeling? Can we approve of our anger? Our tendency to blame? Our judgments that things should be other than they are? Can we even be in approval of our disapproval?

On the flip side can we approve of our pleasure? Can we open ourselves to the divinity that we are? Can we approve of our power and desire and allow it to guide us, even when it means being vulnerable? In order for us to move in the direction of our desire, we must first be in approval of where we are.

3. Ask
Once we have our attention on the present and are in approval of it, desire naturally arises. So what do we do with it? We ask for what we want, of course. Desire is vocal and if we sit around just waiting for life to happen to us, chances are we aren’t going to gather a lot of steam. So often we resort to subtle manipulation and sideways tactics and blaming people for not being mind-readers, when all we have to do is ask. Asking for what we want is a HUGE risk. It means the possibility of rejection and ridicule and being told we aren’t “good enough” to have it. It also means taking responsibility for ourselves and placing a stake in the ground for our desire.

Oftentimes, we don’t even know the specifics of what we want. All we can do is ask for help. This is just as good a prayer as any. Surrender to that unknown (or known) desire. Ask with sincerity. Be willing to go on the ride, even though you have no idea how it’s all going to turn out. That’s part of the fun, right?

4. Activation
Activation is the spark that occurs between us and life. It’s the ignition of orgasm and the gracious reception of it. It’s the sweaty palms as you lean in for your first kiss. It’s the beating of your heart before you go onstage. It’s the quickening of your breath as you sign your first client. Simply put, it’s the moment your mind, body and soul click into place and we are in total acceptance of our lives.

Activation is a key moment and one that requires the help of attention and approval. Oftentimes, when the energy gets high and we let go, we lose our focus or start to struggle for solid ground. This is where faith comes in. The universe has got it handled. Just breathe, soften and open.

5. Allowance
Once the spark of orgasm starts to flame through our lives, we must resist the urge to contract out of fear or the belief that we are undeserving of this amount of energy, be it attention, money, pleasure, etc. Allowance is the capacity to open wider and receive more. In sex, we often rush to the climax to try to expel the energy out of our body as quickly as possible. We do this in life too. Perhaps we rush towards anger or victimization or binging or going on a shopping spree.

Allowance holds us in the truth that we are capable of feeling so much more and that if we simply ride the edge,unfathomable amounts of pleasure are possible. Be willing to ride that edge, rather than rush to climax (unless climax is what is authentically being expressed in the moment—then ride that all the way down to the bottom).

6. Acknowledgement
Acknowledgement is a skill that automatically flips any perspective from suffering to celebration. Acknowledgement is recognizing just how much the world is conspiring for our success. It’s gratitude in the face of tears. It’s the willingness to share your orgasm with humility and generosity. Acknowledgement fosters compassion through its ability to see how connected we are. My success is your success. My pain is your pain. My healing is your healing. It’s the ability to simply name what it happening and love it as an integral teacher on the journey.

So rather than complain, acknowledge the blessing of life. Give profound and unabashed thanks for the miracle that it took for you to be alive in this moment. From this place, we can truly be of service to humanity and give back from a place of joy and fullness, which is the ultimate gift of an orgasmic life.