I’m aware after 38 years of dancing I’m past the prime of my physical abilities. I returned from my latest tour to attend yoga at my favorite home studio yesterday. My body responds differently after 10 days on tour, sitting on airplanes, adjusting time zones… As I stood at the front of the mat and closed my eyes I had a sweet moment of realizing that I am rebuilding strength, I am always tending to my body, my instrument, but I’ve already passed my peak. I’ve just visited my parents and I’m tenderly aware of aging and instead of feeling sad I started to sense something other than physical strength in my body. I started to sense this warm soft compassion in my body. I started to feel so incredibly grateful for the ride I have been on with my body. There was a sweetness in not back bending as far. There was a gentleness in not stretching as deep. I have not hit the peak of my compassion yet, it’s growing stronger now than ever. My body has been my greatest teacher for devotion, focus, resilience, healing… and now it is starting to teach me about savoring, aging, dying, limits and a whole new kind of love.
Dear ones most of my life I’ve focused on how I can be an ally for others, people of color, elders, people with different abilities, people who are neurodivergent… It’s new, tender and vulnerable for me to ask for support from you as an ally. I kind of wish we already lived in a culture that sees and honors who I am. After touring many places and cultures this year I’ve become aware that I need to ask for your support with this because my liberation and your liberation are the same thing. So I made this list because I’d love to have more success experiences in my relationships and it feels easier to write this here than to interrupt our conversation to make a request.
- My pronouns are: They/Them. Use them. Please don’t call me a girl, woman, ma’am, daughter or other gender assigned noun. I’m gender transcendent. If you notice other people misgendering me please interrupt them and remind them.
- Remember that gender is a social construction. There’s nothing new about gender diversity. On 6 of the 7 continents there are cultures who have recognized and honored more than two genders. Begin to learn about them here and be willing to dismantle what you have learned about the gender binary.
- Be more interested in who people really are and the gender expression that empowers them, rather than maintaining a familiar construct of only men or women.
- Don’t assume someone’s pronouns, including your own. Ask.
- Get curious about how you’ve been socialized as a man or woman and how that may be shaping your sense of power, safety, sexuality, how you share your voice, and the kind of social impact you can create. The more you can re-educate who you are, the more possible it is for you to see who others are.
- Be mindful not to make sweeping statements like, “men are…women are…”
- Notice when spaces are superimposing a binary (ie men and women bathrooms or having to pick man or woman on an ID) and imagine what it might be like to be asked to choose between two identities that are not yours. Then say something or do something that reflects human beings are way more creative and diverse than those options.
- I didn’t choose to be an activist around gender. Sometimes it takes up more focus in conversations than I want it to. If you’re curious to learn more read my books or take my workshops. I love supporting others to explore themselves through those offerings. I don’t always want to have a conversation about gender. Please check in and ask if connecting about it would be energizing for our relationship in the moment.
- Be mindful that sex and gender are not the same thing. Your sex is your physical bits and your gender is your how you experience and express your energy. Gender may be fluid and dynamic moment to moment.
So you’re going to Touch&Play, or Burning Man, or Dark Odyssey for the first time… and you want to know what conversation to have with your partner(s)? Awesome, I love that you’re already considering the desires you have AND how to create clarity with your partner.
These questions can open a courageous and compassionate conversation. This can also support you in discovering expectations that you may not have realized you have. As you enter the conversation be mindful of distinguishing together what is an expectation and what is an agreement. An expectation may be a frustration or disappointment waiting to happen. So if you discover an expectation celebrate that you are seeing it now before it becomes a reason to make your partner wrong. Then look at it together and see if there’s a request you’d like to make or an agreement you’d like to create.
- What’s your intention for exploring with new people? Is there a way you would love your partner to celebrate and support that intention?
- Is there a specific juicy exploration you would like to have with your partner during the festival? Sometimes scheduling sexy time together gives you something to look forward to and affirm your connection amidst a more improvisational flow.
- Consider that sharing intimacy can mean many creative ways to connect including sharing a sensual dance, running sexual energy with clothes on, letting someone witness you when you are experiencing eros, or sharing words with romantic intention… Clarify what your desires and fantasies are so you can see what agreements will support your partnership.
- Would you like to share a bed or tent? Or would it be easier if you had your own space. Consider how it might be if one of you wants to play with someone new in your shared space. Or would you like to designate this space as unique to your partnership?
- If your partner has sex with a new person clarify what safer sex barriers and communication would have you feeling considered and respected. Consider if you have a specific request if the new person is someone who also knows you (as a friend, a client, a previous lover…). Read my guide to communication with a new playmate.
- Are there specific people you prefer your partner not play with? Or play with in a more contained way? What is the concern underneath this request? What’s the best way to address this concern together?
- How much would you like to know about your partner’s experiences of intimacy with others? Is there a specific way that would make it easier or more fun for you to hear about? Remember you can always use a safeword if you want to pause or slow down the sharing so you can stay present.
- Recognize that it’s normal for you to have moments of discomfort or contraction. Consider who are some of your support people (friends at the event, friends back home, therapist, coach, or mentor) who can be waiting in the wings if you want some support to show up as the person you want your partner to be in relationship with. Would you like to make an agreement that your partner can interrupt you having a connection with someone else to get support from you? If not, when would be a good time for your partner to check in? How would you like your partner to let you know that support is desired?
Thank you for having the courage to have this conversation with your partner. What a powerful way to support each others’ desires and growth as loving erotic adventurers.
It’s 1:30 am after the community grief ritual. The song of the grief ritual is so resonnant in my body. My body is the song more than it is sleep. I feel softness, exhaustion, a tender heart in a way that gives me strength.
My body is more alive and connected after a day of grieving. I’ve been in a village space that I crave deeply in my soul. I feel close to Sobonfu Some and to my ancestors. I felt a peace I didn’t know I could feel after she left.
I’ve been to 4 grief rituals since her passing this year looking for the medicine she carried. I felt a solidness and peace in me. The altered state of the rhythm and voice held us for hours. Where does the energy come from to sing for hours? The energy to sing keeps coming. There’s a buoyancy and steadiness in it while the rise and fall of deep emotions and pain move through us.
It’s like tapping a heart beat on the root of a tree while saying a prayer, it changes our brain to have that rhythm. I feel I’m not alone in a really deep way. That’s why I hunger for this ritual. There’s somthing so ancient in us that this ritual acknowledges. There’s an altar for ancestors, an altar for forgiveness, an altar for grief, an area for drumming, an area for resting, an area for welcoming people home who are returning from grieving… It is a “playground” of different energetic states and we deepen our intuition as we move between them as we feel called. We are in trance. It’s not a trance that moves us away from physical reality. It is a trance that brings us closer to connection with each other and to steadniess in the face of the things that hurt us the most. It’s a compelling and gentle space.
As I heal from feeling violated I find a softness. It is not a softness that makes me small, it’s a softness that makes me bigger. It’s a groundedness of knowing my body, my space, my land, my relation to the earth and to who I come from and to my village. This deep sense of belonging and orientation allows the pain of those moments to be with me in a way that doesn’t shake me anymore.
Thank you Briony Greenhill and Carolina Grace Lorenzo for holding this space. Thank you to everyone who showed up this weekend and who has shown up to this courageous ritual over the years. Thank you Sobonfu Some for dedicating your life to bring this medicine from the Dagara Tribe to the West. I dream of having a grief ritual in the Bay Area every month. Who wants to create this with me?
The field of intimacy, sexuality, and community building is not a regulated field. There are many facilitators who desire to cultivate leadership skills and hunger for a place to develop your unique content, to develop meaningful offerings, to create results for your community with consistency. This is a 45 min recorded workshop introducing mindset and somatic tools to get unstuck! Fill out this form to view the Facilitator Monkey Mind document.
I’ve been to many play parties, facilitated a few, and most recently had the privilege to host play parties in communities where connection is more valued than sexual acts. For years I’ve used Reid Mihalko’s Safe Sex Elevator Speech. I found it really effective for vetting people who take care of their sexual health, have clarity about their own desires and limits, and who are part of a culture of de-shaming STDs. I’m incredibly grateful for this tool.
As I enter communities where people are building chosen family over years and desiring long term connections more than short term oxytocin rushes, I’ve expanded the “safer sex elevator speech.” It has become 8 things to share when creating an intimate connection in community. And for those of you who are wondering what is a play party, the definition just got bigger! Often a play party is a space people come to explore sexual desires and connections. There are usually some guidelines, bowls of condoms, gloves, lube, dental dams, and washable surfaces. It’s a place to experiment with voicing your desires and expanding what could be possible. For some people, it’s a powerful place to explore who you are meant to be erotically without having to navigate long term relationship skills. For some people shifting the focus to connection (which may or may not include sex) can feel more aligned. If that’s you, then this list is for you! It has been evolving from a collaboration with ZigZag Panther Peery-Wolf.
- Are you in an altered or distressed state in this moment? Are you clear and present to make aligned choices in this moment? Consider if you are using substances that may impact your choices. Also consider if you are in a life transition, perhaps ending a relationship or just moved or lost a loved one or simply didn’t get much sleep last night. Look and see if this is the moment to make a clear choice about connection. If so, is there something you would like to name about your state of mind that would be valuable for the other person to know before connecting? For example, you might share that you had a recent break up and you’re still grieving and would like to connect with gentleness and a slow pace.
- What’s your intention for connecting? What would it mean to you if we…? Big energy likes clear intentions. Perhaps your intention is to expand your confidence that your body can be turned on and feel safe. Maybe you are looking for a life partner. Or you want to expand your connection with your own eros, or dismantle how you relate to gender or power. Perhaps you are interested in spiritual connection, increasing a sense of possibility and play, finding a friend, bringing a new level of eros to your dancing… What would make this meaningful for you? It really helps to know what intention is motivating each of you. It reframes what success might looks like and it also gives you a heads up if you have incompatible intentions. You might decide not to proceed or to redesign what you’d like to explore. Sometimes simply sharing your vision for the partnership you would love can be deeply vulnerable and intimate.
- What do you desire? What’s on the menu for intimacy that you would enjoy? This is where specificity can be really sexy and gives your playmate a better chance of providing what you desire. You might say, I love my hair pulled, my neck bitten, I like impact play if you start soft… I’m curious about anal penetration but I don’t know if I like it yet so please wait for me to ask for it. Or you may say, I’m a seasoned poly slut and I’m really desiring a deeper heart connection where I feel seen. I’d love to cultivate a long term relationship so I’m desiring to move slowly in the physical realm and really sense into where our life passions intersect because I feel you and I could really be important people in each others’ lives.
- What are your limits? It’s important to name at least one thing you are NO to, this creates trust and demonstrates that you know your limits and can speak them. For example, you might say parts of your body that don’t want touch or names you really don’t want to be called. You might also express your time limit so you are on the same page about when you need to close your connection. You might also have a limit around only playing with people who have a spiritual relationship to their eros or only playing with people who will be available for a follow up conversation the next few days.
- What would you like for integration? Some people call this “aftercare.” Many people are nourished by stillness, embracing, or dropping into a deep peace together before getting verbal. It can be powerful to share gratitude, moments of highlights, new things you discovered you love or you now know you don’t like. You may experience the ripples of the connection over the next few days or weeks and ask to have a follow up conversation to share how you are feeling about each other after you have time to rest, talk about it with your friends, and journal. Sometimes the integration and reflection is the most intimate part!
- What is your health status? When was the last time you were testsed for STDs/STIs? What specifically were you tested for? What were the results? Have you been sexually active since then? (Remember it takes 3 months for most STDs to show up in many tests.) What barriers have you used and do you want to use? This essentially communicates to your playmate that you care about your health and their health enough to have this conversation before intimacy. It’s also a good time to share if you have other injuries that would impact your mobility, or your mental health. Consider if birth control is needed, how you’d like to address it and how you might respond if you conceived. (And hey, if you’re kinky make sure you check in about asthma or pacemakers, any health information that may needs to be considered before diving deep. This article won’t really cover the full scope of kink negotiations.)
- How do you experience gender? Will you introduce me to the body parts you want me to touch and what you’d like me to call them? It’s really awesome to ask this no matter how your playmate presents or appears. It gives them the opportunity to step into a supportive space of no assumptions. I’ve had the delight of witnessing many people explore an energetic cock or energetic pussy for the first time. It’s really liberating to share what experiences you have or would like to have rather than limiting the conversation to your “identity.”
- What relationship agreements do you have? (Here’s a guide to creating relationship agreements with your partner.) Do we overlap in intimate partners or relationships such that we may want to create different choices? Consider the impact on your community of people seeing your connection. Do you know each others’ past lovers, bosses, or clients? Would it be valuable to the community to check in with specific people before connecting? Also consider if there is a power dynamic present given your relationship to the community. For example, is one of you a leader in the community? If so, is there anything to consider about this connection that may impact your leadership? Or is one of you newer to the community. If so, would it support you to arrange for someone else in the community to check in after connecting so your main support person isn’t the one you just went on the ride with?
Consider that you may have a clear and empowering conversation and you still may not enjoy the connection or you still may get an STD. This is not a violation of consent, this is simply a risk you are willing to take if you say YES to exploring together… a well informed risk. Regardless of if you chose to play together from here, simply having this conversation builds intimacy and community.
Years ago I was taking an embryology class with the amazing Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, founder of Body Mind Centering. I remember her showing us an image of a fetus at 8 weeks with an enormous heart and tiny arms just starting to sprout around it. She passed the photo around the room and asked us to look at how huge the heart is.
She said we start out this way and we spend the rest of our lives trying to return to this state. I’ve never forgotten that image. I found a similar one for this blog.
For years I’ve been teaching pelvis workshops and everytime I show images of genitals I always include this one which shows how all genders start with the same structures. (I love how it’s color coded to make it easy to see the correlations!)
Last night as I experienced my erotic energy moving through my whole being something shifted. I often feel energy move through my pussy and my energetic cock simultaneously. But last night my body “remembered” the experience of being undifferentiated. Just as I remembered being a huge heart with tiny twigs of arms, I had the felt sense of existing before my genitals became “differentiated.” For a moment it felt that everyone, regardless of how we identify now, had some common experience of being a huge heart and having all the seeds of all the genders in our blossoming body as our soul started to inhabit this space that has become us now. Nothing to explain… simply remembering.
“If the labels don’t shame you enough,
We have medication to numb you,
If that doesn’t work we’ll entertain you…”
These words took my breath away. They came from Sobonfu Some during our 3 day grief ritual. We came together to cleanse our hearts, to name, feel, and release the things that eat at our soul and yet we rarely speak about. It was one of the most courageous and honest groups of people I have gathered with. I share this experience with you because I want to include you in the healing in the “not alone-ing.”
Many of us in the room identified as “black sheep.” We are the ones that see and say what is often avoided and although we may not create the problems, the discomfort that voicing them brings to others can often create tension. I related to this deeply and over the 3 days I started to see how common this role was for many of us in the room. I mean who else takes time to go grieve? What was so inspiring was that Sobonfu shared how for the Dagara people of Burkina Faso this role is recognized and honored. The entire community will have a grieving ritual for 72 hours on a regular basis! Wow, this is how they tend to their “faucet” of the heart. Let it flow!
The ritual included 3 altars, one for ancestors, one for forgiveness, and one for grief. We sang a song, played drums, and the waves of the rhythm washed our grief from our memories and hearts onto the grief altar. Each time we were ready to grieve we simply walked toward the grief altar and someone from the group would have our back and sit with us to witness. Sometimes they simply sat behind us and sang. Sometimes they held and rocked us, or we crawled into their lap. They stayed with us until we were done… and if they needed someone from the group to replace them they simply signaled and a new person came in. The feeling of having full permission to grieve in the loving presence of a witness until we were done… that was one of the most profound parts of the ritual for me. So often I interrupt my grief because I’m worried I’m burdening the other person or the community. Yet here the structure of the ritual was such that the witness was fully in choice to be there. In fact they were honored, we were all honored to bear witness to each others’ grief as it returned our spirit back to us. As I took in the gift of this community support I grieved the times I have felt isolated or I have hidden the deep distress in my heart thinking I was sparing my friends or loved ones.
I started to have a taste of what it feels like to be in a community courageous enough to hold and transform our global history so our children can be free to live and to love!
Sobonfu said “pain gives language to what the soul is still carrying.” We were unloading our pain. We are asking “What did my ancestors know how to take responsibility for? What did they not know how to take responsibility for that I am willing to grieve?”
What were we grieving? We each had a story and the more we shared them the clearer it became how similar our pain was. I was grieving the loss of my partnership with my fiancé, the loss of our dreams to start a family, the loss of the false hope that our partnership would somehow protect me from ever feeling isolated in a way that haunted my soul. This separation opened in me a river of grief, an access to personal and collective grief that I had not been able to release before. Sobonfu told us “grief is not an individual experience, it comes from the source we all drink from, and you have been chosen as a voice.” Making the world a sustainable place is deeply connected to our ability to grieve together, because this is what creates sustainability for the human soul. The Dagara people do not ask if you are done grieving. They ask “have you grieved enough? If not, there’s something in you that needs to be brought back to life.”
“Tears are for love.
Tears show I care.
Tears show I’m standing by you.
Tears say I want to be alive.
Tears feed the ancestors.
Tears cut unhealthy ties…”
On the third day we started to call out collective griefs. “I’m grieving domestic violence,” half the room raised their hand. “I’m grieving someone who was murdered,” about a third of the room raised their hand and suddenly a wave of heat rushed through me as I remembered two dear friends of mine who had been murdered. “I’m grieving addiction,” almost the entire room raised their hand. Wow, so many people have been carrying this too. “I’m grieving mental illness…” I have never been in a group so available to feel, not just think about, but truly feel the pain and commit to transforming it. What stunning courageous souls gathered here. Thank you for being one of them by reading and feeling in this moment.
There is so much more to share. Here are some seeds I will plant soon:
• Intimacy for entertainment vs. opening the “faucet” in purposeful intimacy (polyamory, addiction to pleasure)
• Artists are one of the few socially acceptable ways to open the “faucet” in the U.S. A.
• Anger based identities that limit social change movements and how grief can transform our wounds to gifts for powerful leadership
• Healing our ancestors’ relationship to time and money
• Gender transcendence: how grief dissolves limitations, opens possibilities and allowed me to move beyond “female.”
Sobonfu Some has generously given us the blessing to share about this experience and wisdom from the Dagara people of Burkina Faso. Please check out her books, rituals, and magnificent soul at http://www.sobonfu.com.
I had the recent pleasure of meeting Rachel Dwight, a radical self-love advocate and the founder of Validity – the first body-inclusive sex-gear store. What is “body-inclusive?” For years I have trained to teach yoga, pilates, tantra, dance, and to give bodywork. While I would like to feel confident in working with most bodies, connecting with Rachel made me aware of some of the blind spots in these professional embodiment trainings. For Rachel “body-inclusive” means providing resources for people of all sizes, physical abilities, ages and anatomies to have great sex.
Listen to our interview here as we explore: What is the role of healthy sexuality in social change How can I be more aware and inclusive as an educator, lover, or friend of people of all sizes and abilities? The creation of a new store that provides education, resources, and gear to a radically inclusive audience. Check it out and support RespectOurSex.com!
Amy Baldwin and her mom, Janis Baldwin, co-own Pure Pleasure, a sex shop in Santa Cruz, CA. Their mission is to provide a comfortable place where people can shop for sex toys, as well as access resources to enhance sexual pleasure and wellbeing. I had the honor of interviewing them for Mother’s Day. Listen here as they share their story and inspiration for mothers and daughters who want to have empowering communication about their sexual lives.
A spirited thread of fb posts ignited after I posted the Alchemy of Sex & Spirit for Women. I made this video to address some of the core concerns that came up in a way that does not polarize the dance community and the sex positive community.
You may see the fb thread here. Thank you for all the support and love that emerged in this conversation.
What?! I thought self care was supposed to be crucial to relationships. This summer I moved from New York City to the Bay Area. It’s taken me a few months to notice and put into words how the culture is different out here. As a healer and teacher I’m fascinated by the way people’s learning styles, energy patterns, and local language are so different. For example, in New York City I found that many of my friends, clients, and students were very driven, direct communicators, and focused on impacting the world. (Now yes, that reflects my values and the circles I live in.) I noticed the simplicity of slowing down allowed so much healing and rebalancing.
The same process for healing sessions does not have the same effect in the Bay. I’m noticing that many people are more laid back, value socializing, value taking time in nature. These are the very things that attracted me here! And yet, I also notice that many people are not clear what their life purpose is, motivated by clear life goals, and consistent in their motivation to act on their goals to completion. So as a teacher and healer I’m finding that simply slowing down is not always balancing. I’ve been redesigning my offerings to serve the culture, energy patterns, and values of this new place. A big part of this has been focusing with clients on their life goals and creating time sensitive actions to stay accountable to them with sustainability. Another big part of healing work in the Bay is examining “self care.”
Let’s break it down for a minute. How can you tell when self care is working? I notice that when it’s working I have more energy to connect with others. I am a better listener. I feel more grounded and clear in my intentions for the day. I am aware of how I’m using my time and it feels like a valuable choice. Do I feel more comfortable? No, not necessarily. I do not equate comfort with self care and this is the key!
One of the things I’ve noticed since moving to the bay is that people mean different things when they say “self care.” Sometimes they are using this term as a way to prioritize their comfort. This is how it can damage a relationship or the progress of a life goal.
There’s a fine line between feeling good and feeling comfortable. Learning to regulate our nervous system from anxiety to presence is a core skill. In fact the Bay Area is filled with amazing somatic and meditation resources to teach this skill. However, there is more to self care than releasing anxiety.
When I consider the biggest most rewarding experiences of my life (for example writing, producing, and directing a performance on sexual empowerment in the mother daughter relationship; performing as a dancer with Katherine Dunham, Danny Glover, Mikhail Baryshnikov these were NOT COMFORTABLE experiences. But God they were thrilling and self caring to my soul.
So now when I feel resistance to change (a very human thing to feel) I ask myself what could be more valuable than comfort? I learned this question from Victor Lee Lewis in his amazing workshop on “How to talk to a racist.”
Love. Growth. Connection. Healing… Are all more valuable than comfort. So this reframes self care!
Rather than asking what will make me more comfortable I can ask myself what can I do to show that I value myself, I value my relationships with others and with the world?
The root of unintended privilege is when we prioritize comfort at the expense of how we impact other people. This is how we can use “self care” in way that damages our relationships.
It may be more comfortable to throw compost and recyclables in the trash can, and it’s not self care for the Earth or anyone living on it. It may be more comfortable to take space alone and it’s not self care to do it every time the same challenge comes up with a loved one. It may be comfortable to rest and it’s not self care unless we balance it with things that energize us and engage us as contributors. Let’s do this self care thing in a way that makes us undeniably valuable to ourselves and each other!
Want to go deeper with Coaching? Let’s do this together!
The first time my body experiences something it has never felt before, I feel wonder about being. Last night was one of those firsts. My body opened with a profound trust I had never experienced before. My hips, my lips, my vulva, the walls of my womb, my heart… and as I expanded open the universe held me, welcomed me to this bigger me. Awe, complete awe, and then, I wondered how many people get to feel this loved, this open, this full. I knew from the look in their eyes, and the joy in their laugh, and the way they dreamed about what was to come… now I could understand that some of them had felt this too. I knew that as my body opened, my life was opening. I lay there wondering if I could truly receive all the love that my partner embodied and offered me. I started to drink it in slowly and with more ease than I expected in deep long inhales that could only be accompanied by cooing exhales and gentle nods of silent yes.
I remember the first time I pirouetted. I remember learning a new move in the hip hop dance class I attended last night. I remember my first bee sting. Part of it is the sensation that draws me so undeniably into my body, and part of it is tasting a little more of the collective human body experience. Somehow I feel like I belong here that much more. I trust everything more, because this is one of those things that I did not know to wish for and yet as it happens oh universe, how did you know this is exactly what I desired?
An open letter to sex educators and the sex positive community who are white like me
Sheri Winston is an amazing sex educator. She demystified the g-spot for me. She made my partner feel safe and even laugh when he showed up for his first sexuality class. She sat with me as I iced my pussy, patient as ever while we talked about contraception and the three different kinds of sperm!
I love her classes. They played a pivotal role for me in transitioning from educating myself to educating others. I still remember years ago how she lit up when she shared the analogy of playing the piano like having sex. It goes something like this… It would be absurd to expect yourself to just be able to play the piano with no lessons or experience right? Imagine if we never took piano lessons because we thought there was something wrong with us for not already knowing how to play. That’s how most of us approach sex. What if we took the time to learn together with no shame and compassionate curiosity?
That’s also how most of us approach race. Anyone else out there think we are already supposed to know how to not be racist? Does anyone think white people should know how to suddenly see privileges that society has been training us not to see? Think we should know how to handle when people call us out? What if we took the time to learn together with no shame and compassionate curiosity?
Sheri Winston is also one of the contributors to Secrets of the Sex Masters, co-written & edited by her partner Carl Frankel.
Let’s put it this way, we (as white sex educators) just got the opportunity to play a more beautiful song on the piano when the Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN) reached out. And we may not instantly know how to play it yet. In fact it has a time signature we haven’t seen and there’s no written music, this one we are learning by ear.
Maybe you heard about this new opportunity. All sixteen contributors to the book, “Secrets of Sex Masters” are white. To which the WOCSHN responded with this brilliant statement packed with resources worth reading: You Didn’t Send For Us So We Came For You: The Infestation of White Supremacy In The U.S. Sexuality Field. This situation raises questions, hopefully not just questions like “how do we fix this one mistake?” but questions like “why are our closest friends and colleagues not racially diverse?” “What makes us position ourselves as authorities?”
I’ve been watching a lot of people that I love navigate this. (I waited a few days to post this because I was having conversations with them and I don’t want us to just post AT each other and not have real relationships.)
When Sheri taught me how to use a cervical cap I felt so empowered I wanted everyone to know how to do this. When I learned about how whiteness was impacting my emotions and beliefs I wanted to share this with everyone. I want us all to have the tools and loving people around us to hold us accountable when we make mistakes, just like they hold our hand when a condom breaks, or when our relationships fall apart.
In my experience sex positive communitites love transformational big energy (aka mind-blowing-identity-expanding orgasms). We know about grounding, setting intention, breathing, building energy, connecting even when things feel uncomfortable, not getting attached to an end goal, being curious about sensations, and accepting our emotions so we can be more present with each other. These are the same skills that we can use to transform emotions that come up around race.
Here’s an emotional “climax” cycle. It’s not a cycle for orgasm, but it’s a cycle for transformation and similar to orgasm it has the capacity to generate more trust, love, and passion in ourselves and in our relationships. It’s the emotional cycle of detoxing our internalized superiority.
Pause… Anyone thinking, I don’t have time to deal with this? When do we ever have time to recreate our identity? Yes, ok so that’s a sign that we are at the beginning of the cycle.
In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book called “On Death and Dying.” It outlined the emotional stages of grief a person moves thru when someone dies. So let’s imagine that the identity that “whiteness” gave us is dying. Which means there’s something better coming, trust me on this one for a minute. Here’s the anatomy of the cycle. (I’ve created examples for each stage. I cannot say this is how Carl or Sheri are thinking but it gives an example of what the stage might look like.)
1. Shock & denial (i.e. What do you mean we published this amazing book and all you can focus on is the fact that we forgot to include contributors of color?)
2. Guilt (i.e. I can’t believe we reached out to so many sex educators and we totally didn’t see that we were only choosing white contributors! I feel bad, what if I am blind in other areas of my life too?)
3. Anger (i.e. I already apologized and proposed a way to remedy the problem, I’m so furious they are still angry. Now what?)
4. Bargaining (i.e. Well maybe we weren’t diverse racially but at least we were diverse with men and women, kink and vanilla, able bodied and disabled…)
5. Depression (i.e. It breaks my heart that race is still dividing us, I wanted this to be an empowering resource for everyone. How do I hold this sadness?)
6. Acceptance & hope (i.e. Ok, I moved thru my emotions and I take full responsibility for my oversight. I forgive myself for not having this awareness earlier and I’m ready to listen to others. I realize this book did not cause a division but revealed one that was already present and I’m grateful for the opportunity to address and heal it.)
Having these emotions is a normal response when our whiteness gets pointed out AND we have to move thru them to our humanity on the other side. So if you’re wondering if there’s a way to just jump to step 6, I haven’t found it yet. But I can say that with practice we can move thru these stages with more awareness and in a shorter period of time. When we know we are still in the first 5 stages it’s usually not the best time to respond, it tends to come across as internalized superiority. They are not always in this order and sometimes we visit them a few times, like 1, 2, 3, 2, 4, 2, 5… let’s get really good at loving each other while we practice. By 2040 (when my children will be in their 20s) there will be no racial majority in America. We as white people will need to become more and more accountable as the new minority. Side effects include: deeper heartgasms, sexier communication, and perhaps playing a new instrument that isn’t western like the piano.
See additional posts from Zahava addressing race including: Michael Brown Meditation, White Folks Soul by Any Dance Necessary, Togethering from the Heart of our Roots, How Sexual Empowerment Intersects with Healing Racism, My Story, Getting Your SEXXY ON While White. Join the Love Making Dances Newsletter for upcoming events and articles to heal racism.
White Folks Soul by Any Dance Necessary is an experimental dance company founded in 2008 exploring the incompatibility of wholeness and the race construct for white people. The co-founders are Zahava Griss, Alexis Halkovic, Alyssa Lynes, and Jesse Phillips-Fein, who share the following intentions:
* To cultivate trust in ourselves and in others, independent of the ways white culture teaches us self definition and self worth.
* To re-explore our personal and ancestral histories acknowledging the impact of white privilege.
* To develop and evolve an intimate improvisational creative process as a group that can be used to address the construct of race and that engages us as whole people: communal, sensual, emotional, powerful, loving, expressive, visionary, spiritual beings.
* To bring our process into relationships we already value including our families, friendships, workplaces, classrooms, anti-racist & activist communities, spiritual communities, and dance communities.
* To use creative process and performance to remind ourselves and our communities of how institutional racism has but no longer will constrict our wholeness.
* To confidently articulate our process with transparency for self reflection as well as a way to network with similar consciousness.
* To receive funding and appreciation for our work.
Learn more about us here.
Michael Brown Meditation (works best in Safari browser)
This is a meditation to connect to our hearts. This is not about getting rid of anger or sadness, but rather how to not be consumed by our emotions. For those of us in the sex positive and tantra communitites we often explore cultivating big energy (orgasm) for transformation. We can use these same skills to transform big anger and big grief.
Many of the posts I share in this blog relate directly to dance, healing, healthy sexuality, and transformational rituals. At the root of these is a great awe for life and a love for people. Nobody has inspired this awe and love more deeply in me than my grandma. She is one of the main reasons I spent 15 years in New York City and I want to share this with you, having just visited her at the age of 96 and not knowing if I’ll see her again. (Written during Yom Kipur, the time of year when the veil between the worlds of life and death thins.)
This afternoon as my plane ascended I got a glimpse of NYC from heaven…
While visiting midtown Manhattan with Grandma I was tickled by how much she LOVES people. She waved, her smile beaming, “Hello Mistah,” waving her whole hand from the wrist. Purple nails, red hair, blue rimmed sunglasses (over her reading glasses.) She tilts her head back, “I’m going incognito.” “Barely!” my aunt chuckles.
She can’t go three minutes without exclaiming, “Isn’t it beautiful here?!” We drive down Fifth Ave. The sidewalks are packed and bustling. “Look at all the people, nobody’s hurting each other, nobody’s hating each other. We don’t need policemen or soldiers…Isn’t it beautiful here?!”
We had come to say goodbye, bringing Grandma to the love of her life, Manhattan, the city that would never die, not even sleep. And she waived all day, but it wasn’t a goodbye… “Hello Mistah.”
Grandma is already in heaven right here on 42nd st and Fifth Ave. She’s innocent and mischievous. She seems both older and younger that everyone we pass. And she’s so delighted they are here.
She loves the buildings because people made them. She loves the traffic because so many people have come to this place everyone wants to be. “I’m so happy I could die right here on this block!” My aunt says, “at least wait til I part the car.” I can’t tell if Grandma knows this is her last visit to the city. We are her caravan of angels today taking her to visit one of her last living friends this morning, and now to lunch at the Bryant Park Grill.
“No, dying is too expensive in the city,” she says. “Yeah, let’s just go for lunch Grandma,” I say. “Oh look at the trees in Central Park. They’re older than me, they’re so tall,” she says. I ask if she wants us to bury her ashes in Central Park. “Or Bloommingdales,” my aunt chimes in from the driver’s seat. “Bergdorf Goodman!” Grandma names the big stores along Fifth Ave. Yes, we can sprinkle your ashes in all these places.
It feels like Grandma already owns the city. There’s nothing like a woman on her land who will soon be returning to it. Grandma belongs. She belongs in the ritzy stores. She belongs at the protests in the street. She belongs in the communist bookstores. She belongs in the 4th grade classrooms “teaching tolerance,” and she belongs at City College auditing political classes. Grandma taught me to belong to a world of abundance and a world of the working class. She belongs right here with us and she belongs in heaven with Seymore, her beloved husband. And this afternoon Grandma has made New York City and heaven become the same place.
In response to my recent article, Getting Your Sexxy On While White, featured by the Body is Not an Apology, I have been receiving many questions and comments, thank you! I would love to engage this dialogue by sharing more about why I created Love Making Dances and how I see connections between sexual empowerment and healing racism.
I want to celebrate the love and sexual energy in women’s bodies. The World Health Organization reports that more than a third of all women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence in 2013. Mind you, this is counting only the ones that have been reported, not to mention the violent experiences of other genders including men. This is an epidemic that begs the opportunity for us to not only end sexual violence, but to discover and respect the power we have as sexual beings.
The media and pop culture set the tone for our self-exploration. But the incredible nature of our sexuality is much more expansive, cosmic, and regenerative than most of what we see. Love Making Dances is about recognizing sexuality as the intersection of body and spirit — that set up this agreement for us to be here in a body — and that can be resourced to deepen our purpose and our passion for it.
Earned sexual power (the soul gifts, discipline and expression we cultivate) is distinctly different from Unearned sexual power (socially constructed privilege, which is dictated by visibility in the media/pop culture.) Love Making Dances focuses on our Earned sexual power, because this life force power is independent of the power systems based on class, race, and gender! The potential here is much greater than amazing orgasms.
I want each generation of women to have increasingly more trust, love, and passion in their body and in their intimate relationships. I know that this can “refinance” our inner resources and by doing so increase our external resources. When we have an open heart and personal power in our sexual energy, we have more energy available to give to our friends, family, community, and financial ventures.
I have yet to meet someone who felt their family was a healthy model for sexually, spiritually, nourishing relationships. So the opportunity for us right now is to change the legacy of the next generation by cultivating our true expression.
When a woman can listen to the wisdom of her womb and her body, she can transgress society’s messages not only about her value, but also about every aspect of her life because she now has a felt sense of her ALIVENESS. The heart and womb know how to heal, how to create life, how to connect. When we honor these regenerating organs we are transforming the future of our healing, creativity, and connection. This is the world I cannot wait to share with you!
Love Making Dances moves people into the highest energy states of gratitude and ecstasy. The archetypes of the victim, oppressor, and martyr cannot co-exist when we are in states of gratitude and ecstasy. I have seen (in years of activist and anti-racism work) what happens when women try to shift the power dynamics solely from a political or theoretical place. Love Making Dances is a visceral way to transform from the inside out, from the body, which directly changes the beliefs, relationships, and visions that we live.
What I see in my own journey (as a white woman) and many of my clients is that until we truly learn our roots, accept them, forgive our family for all the things they didn’t teach us that would have made it sooo much easier, we aren’t going to clean up all this cultural appropriation. Believe me, it’s easier to be angry than to take responsibility to accept our white history no matter how much we would have wanted to write a different story. But there is nothing else to do but that, ACCEPT our history. Sometimes we need to experience the wisdom of other cultures to understand what needs healing in our own culture. Not just mimicking the dances, but learning their source and intention and creating relationships with the communities that choose to share them with us.
West African dance was part of my realization about the lack of sexual expression in ballet, modern, and yoga (often appropriated when taught as fitness and divorced from its traditional roots). These were all movement cultures that white western culture had directed me to.
Different West African dances have unique purposes and cultures of origin. Sunu is a rite of passage into adulthood, and it’s also a courtship process amongst the Mandingo people in Mali. Dundungba is a demonstration of strength by the men, as the women support (traditionally in a hetero-normative context) and a harvest festival dance in Guinea. Mandiani is an initiation for adolescents and also a wedding dance in Mali, Guinea, and Senegal… to name a few traditional dances. These examples already demonstrate that there is a value of coming into your adult body with celebration, with ritual, and in the presence of community.
Let’s just say that after 20 years of ballet I had not learned these values through my community and nobody had taught me how dance can be engaged for a powerful initiation ritual. It wasn’t just the movements of the hips, but the comfort and acceptance people in the classes had with their own sensuality that allowed me to realize how I had been socialized to not express this energy. As I traveled to different continents and cultures dance became how I experienced the values and possibilities a community created. I realized that Love Making Dances could use dance to create the values and possibilities I want to live by: celebrating the love and sexual energy in our bodies to deepen trust, passion, and creativity.
And yes, for the white folks reading this, unless you are an emotional virtuoso that probably means moving through the stages of grief (credited to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.) They are the same stages when you lose a person and when you lose an identity – which is what happens when we break down whiteness. The goal is to acknowledge and move through these stages with commitment, dance and community ritual is a powerful way to do so! This is part of the collective cultural racism detox!
1. Shock & denial (What do you mean once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination for employment/housing/right to vote/educational opportunity/food stamps apply, just like these same discriminations used to apply to being African American?!)
2. Guilt (I feel bad my family paid for most of my college, and I’ve always had a safety net.)
3. Anger (ok, I hate that the black men my age don’t have role models in their family because everyone is either dead or in prison by their 30’s and so now they haven’t been dreaming about what’s next! Trayvon? Don’t even…)
4. Bargaining (well, maybe racism is in full force but it’s also hard being a woman/queer/Jewish…)
5. Depression (maybe this is breaking my heart, how come everyone else seems to be ok?)
6. Acceptance & hope (got it, I’m paying attention, it’s time to cultivate trust in ourselves and in others, independent of the ways white culture teaches us self definition, sexuality, and self worth)
While this is some of the journey for white people with this work, the Love Making Dances community is very diverse across race, age, body type, sexual orientation, relationship lifestyle (poly/bdsm/monogamous…), experience (virgins, professional dominatrix, sexual shamans). By nature of who comes and the shared commitment to authenticity it provides a space for us to get vulnerable, honest, and courageously curious about each other in a way that cuts through invisibility politics and main stream messages.
Some of our recent community conversations have explored the complexity of how pop culture represents the sexuality of African American women. Some voices spoke of feeling hyper sexualized experiencing a dual narrative of the pure white under expressed sexuality and a narrative of the impure sexually deviant person of color. While other voices spoke about the minimization/reductionism of African American sexuality being underrepresented in the kink community, in the adult entertainment industry, in the sex worker professions. The visibility of white sexual identities and lifestyles (i.e., queer, kinky, sacred prostitute) being more prevalent in media and pop culture than of other races represented with a variety of sexual identities and lifestyles. Part of what we do in Love Making Dances is create erotic self portraits to express how we want to be represented, and to discover what sexual fantasies we are most thrilled and terrified to own…and why?
Exploring our true sexuality, not the one we are socially or racially dictated to express, but the one at the core of our humanity is the focus of the Love Making Dances movement! My goal is to support women of all racial identities (without being color blind to the complexities of race) to reclaim our sexuality and its representation in connection with our heart and spirit. Love Making Dances is about reconnecting our sexual energy to source energy and healing the fragmentation within us and between us. The true power of sexual life force is independent of the power systems based on race, class, and gender. I think that’s part of why the old paradigm is afraid of sexual empowerment because knowing our Earned power (the soul gifts and discipline we cultivate) will make our Unearned Power (socially constructed privilege) irrelevant.
The Love Making Dances community is committed to the next generation having trust, love, and passion in their bodies and relationships. We can heal these lineages, I see women doing this work every day. Nothing turns me on more. We would love to invite you to the conversation. Join our newsletter for articles, upcoming events, and learn more about performances, coaching, dance classes, workshops and bodywork with Zahava Griss.
So grateful to be featured as a guest writer for the Body is Not an Apology, fostering radical unapologetic self love and transforming the politics of invisibility. Check out my post here! Thank you Sonya Renee Taylor for being a visionary in this movement and inviting my voice!
I’ve spent a lot of my life believing that people are busy and I’m lucky if I get their attention because other things are more important than me. I grew up as an only child, latchkey kid (came home to an empty house and my parents got in late.) Now I live in New York City, where the rhythm of life often means I don’t see dear friends for months. So this story started to really feel true. I believed it’s safer not to need other people emotionally because they aren’t emotionally available.
The incredible men in my life have started to crack open this story. They have been vulnerable enough to need me. They have pointed out when my “independent feminist persona” comes out as a guard to shield my heart and push them away. And it often gets expressed as “I’m busy.”
Cracking this open has been uncomfortable. It feels awkward when I don’t know how to receive what I’ve asked for. Why do my eyes dart to the ground, my breath stop? Why do I back off my requests or suddenly leave the room because staying feels too vulnerable? And when I come back in the room, and he’s there looking into my eyes… how do I release my pride… because being right is so much less fun than being loved. I wish I could write the answer. All I know is that when I breathe and I remember he loves me, the discomfort feels less relevant.
The things I remember are not necessarily the orgasms. They are the ways my beloved sees me. He sees where I stop myself from receiving love and he gets angry at me. It’s the most loving anger… because he’s actually on my side, he’s speaking for my heart. He’s trying to get my fear to back off so I can receive his love. The things I remember are not necessarily the orgasms, no, I remember where he listens from when he asks me how I’m feeling before and after the orgasm.
A lot of men have been asking me “how do I fit in to women’s empowerment?” Well, I want to acknowledge that you already are! (Many of the women I work with learned about me through the men in their lives, thank you!) While I offer courses that focus on women here are some ways all genders can engage:
I offer these because when I see clients connect to their body and emotions it invites the loved ones in their lives to do the same and it makes us get more real with each other. There’s a difference between Earned power (the soul gifts and discipline we cultivate) and Unearned power (socially constructed privilege). When I hear men asking what do I do (with my unearned power) it’s really not as relevant as you discovering and expressing your Earned power.
I’m not so interested in speaking on behalf of women about how men can “help” us. I’m DONE with the flavor of feminism that has allowed women to remain small, to blame men for our dissatisfaction and the cultural permission for us to avoid forgiveness and taking responsibility. The truth is we NEED EACH OTHER. (and I’m not just talking about heteronormative relationships.)
I want to break down the belief that women are the only ones doing personal work. It’s just not true. So what feels most authentic for me is to introduce you to some of the incredible men in my community who I love, respect, and see as valuable collaborators in co-empowerment to continue the conversation:
Meet Micah BlackLight: “I sat in a rocking chair daughter in my lap.. singing her to sleep while my unmarried wife readied for bed. And I thought in that moment, of the sight I must make: black father, in a rocking chair.. singing his baby girl to sleep, and I wondered how rare a thing that might be. I almost choked on tears at the thought of how many fathers must have wanted to show their children that kind of love, but felt they could not, because they were trapped within the confines of the “manbox” they were raised within. How many wounds am I healing within our collective conscious every time I sing my lil baby to sleep, every time I kiss her precious little forehead and whisper that I love her, and I’m incredibly happy she was born?
How many children would have given a limb to hear those words from their fathers? I sat and let the tears stream out of my eyes and down my cheeks and took a moment of gratitude for the opportunity to raise my child on love; to address through my family, so many of the rifts of pain that etch our collective past.. to be an intentional beacon for people who have been given too few.
This is what the beginning of change can look like. This is where shifts begin: in our homes. with OUR children.. one questioning step at a time. Love…
I think a males’ single biggest role in co-creating an empowering community at present, and I stress the words at present, is to work his hardest to foster an environment where females and males alike feel safe-from other males. In other words, I think the first thing we as males can do to co-create EMPOWERING communities is to strive to comport ourselves in ways that leave no one feeling threatened. This necessarily creates the need for us to let go of ninety percent of what we’ve been taught it means to be a “man”, particularly in urban environments, but also beyond.” Learn about Micah BlackLight and his Empowerment Coaching at I-Am-Catalyst.com and contact him at Speak@I-am-catalyst.com.
Meet Tony Rezac, creator of Body and Soul for Men, writes of the Hero`s Journey, men`s personal growth, and planetary transformation. When I raised this conversation with him he responded…
“I see more wisdom being brought to the masculine body. Rather than just taking a conventional approach to fitness, I`m seeing more interest in the subtle aspects of the body. Things like chi hung and movement and the “felt” arts are no longer off limits for men. Men are discovering what women have been gently pointing to for years: that if we could slow down, breathe, and feel what is happening, health and grace can naturally unfold…The archetypal Hero is available to both men and women. The Hero leaves the herd to find the spiritual truths that will allow the Kingdom to thrive. Hero`s transform the world. They stare down the status quo and say “not on my watch.”
…Every day you ask yourself, “What does my human family need? What is my Hero`s call today?” Because our human family needs everyday Hero`s. Because women are counting on us. Because it is honorable and dignified to play this game with as much heart and guts and tears as you can muster. Because this is what you came here to do.” Read more in his post, “Women are Counting on Us.” Visit Tony at www.BodyandSoulforMen.com and contact him at email@example.com.
Meet Emile Svitzer: “As an African American, the question of how I see my role as a man in empowering women evoked in me an immediate response. I imagine the answer to this question would be the same as if one were to ask of white Americans, at any point in history, how they see their role in empowering blacks: Basically, stop being in the way.
Power can be granted, bestowed or taken by others. But Empowerment can only be realized and enjoyed by one’s self. The only genuine empowerment is self-empowerment. More clearly, I believe the best way a man (or woman) can participate in co-creating an empowering community is to develop his awareness of where and how his thoughts, words or actions are disempowering or obstructive to the inherent, already held though perhaps unrealized, self-empowerment of others and work on changing these causes and their manifest effects.” Emile Svitzer, co-facilitates with Anton Richard Diaz www.NYC.manevolve.com.
Meet Josh Van Vliet: “The purpose of my work as a life and leadership coach is to empower men to live authentic, joyful, connected lives. I support men to identify and live from what’s most important to them to create relationships they love. As men, the first step we can take to support the empowerment of women is to courageously shine a conscious light on all of the places in our lives where we are acting from old scripts and outdated ideas about who we should be as men. This means intentionally, actively questioning the traditional definitions of male gender roles, and lovingly interrupting patterns of oppression, as we observe them in action in our own behavior and in the behavior of the men around us. The moment we are willing to be in this conversation is the moment new possibilities open up – for ourselves, for our relationships, and for our society.” Josh is a life and leadership coach, visit his site at ExpandWhatsPossible.org and contact him at Josh@ExpandWhatsPossible.org.
Just in case your heart isn’t overflowing yet with these beautiful souls, here’s some awesome resources shared via Josh:
Men, I love you. I love co-creating what’s powerful for all of us. I love being here with you as we all grow and heal one profound connection at a time. (For this conversation, I chose to stick with the gender binary language knowing that gender is far more fluid. And that my friends, is a whole other blog post :)) Until then, I hope to dance with you, share bodywork, and please…I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments welcome!
Over the past year I have had the incredible opportunity to join the Artist Dream Family, a performance ritual group that reminds the audience we are all creators of our lives. This IS the dream. This weekend we experienced a powerful exchange with a community, watch a clip of it here! I am realizing that they showed us the dream. I have always dreamed of the ultimate performance ritual where the audience shows up as complete collaborators in a celebration of life. Last night I was sharing photos of our performance this weekend with a dear friend of mine… and then started to talk about my life long dream to ultimately have a touring dance company that leads community rituals for transformation. My friend stopped me and pointed out that it’s already happening, “you just showed me the photos.”
I got still. Every little piece of me that questions if my dreams are possible was poised and I realized that while I had been carrying a very specific idea of what this would look like in the future, I suddenly could not explain the difference between my dream and what had occurred. I received the magic of the performance on a deeper level.
This happening that occured this weekend had every aspect of my dream… I am totally in love with the performers, they are my spirit tribe: Evan Worldwind on the didj, Kevin Nathaniel on the shakere, and my dancing sistars DeeArah Wright and Sunder Ashni. (And in spirit with us Zen Marie Holmes, co-founder of Arstist Dream, and Rajeeyah Finnie, the fourth member of our Goddess Manifest Circle.)
I have known each of them for years, and we each LIVE for our art. We all have a relaxed and deeply committed relationship to our dance or our music. We truly truly want to see empowerment in communities through art. Oh, and I kept dreaming that we would be outside. We were under the sky, I kept watching the stars as my spine arched and the air moved through the bamboo leaves. We were in the Healing Spirit Garden at Wall St. International. Now let me just say, that entering this community was a pure gift. There were golden lion statues in the vegetable garden, what?! Ok dream casters, you really know what lights me up. (Can I even tell you how nature moves me with the existence of this creature!)
There were tables of crystals, and people who knew their healing properties. There were beautiful clothes, mudclothes, jewelry and lavendar sandalwood massage lotions. There were several massage tables positioned over the garden where people were giving and receiving life energy. All of this was happening while the music medicine moved through the garden. As we arrived, a family of 3 young brothers performed together. The youngest was 4. Impeccable. Clear, singing, playing the guitar, spitting words about the world we have given them and their readiness to take it on. Now when a 4 year old is singing about the life ahead of him with these positive vibes… the world changes, and we adults are looking at each other with wet eyes, trembling lips, the light shining so bright. We literally had a rainbow over the stage, Goddess/God, thank you for your light design and I don’t just mean in the sky.
When we went into the audience to invite them to dance, a circle formed. They entered one at a time, and bathed in the life force of the community, it was ON. Gravity was playing with us as men flipped, hips shook, cries of ecstasy rose percussively from our mouths, babies came in some with Mamas and some solo. The ancestors danced through us, the future generations danced through us. “Heal thy self, heal thy self, heal thy self!” The circle chanted, not because we lead them, but because the healing gave us these words to join our voices. One of the “audience” members came up onstage and took the mic and started rapping, 2 drummers came up onstage with a djembe and conga, one woman started playing Kevin’s shakere. There was no “audience” and “performer,” there was no “dream” and “dreamer,” we were One.
One of my sisters Dee Arah, has been organizing her community for years with such devotion and I’ve been watching it change her dancing. We joined some of the “audience” members on the stage and I don’t think it was a coincidence that they pulled Dee Arah into a duet. It was a true embodiment of the “audience” and “performers” co-creating. At one point the 3 of us became the “back up” dancers to the “audience” solos. Watch the video of the audience taking over the mic!
When we brought our sweating, breathing, healing bodies to a stillness the organizer of the event, Professor, called us into a healing circle. He orchestrated the energy that was buzzing through us into a circle of our 50 bodies and we positioned our hands, our hearts, our chanting for community healing. What blew me away, was not only the power of the energy moving through our bodies, but the fact that the entire community was participating. So this is what it feels like when the whole community knows how to ground, how to intend, how to breath together and connect with spirit. Then Professor invited those who wished to receive healing to enter the circle. The healing of the community came from within us, we became stronger, more focused, more powerful as we channeled our energy into the center.
A few days have come and gone since this event, and I am feeling closer and closer to those that I experienced it with. Rather than thinking the Dream will be happening in the future. I am tingling as I realize the power we are and the way dance and music become the medium of our life force and the artistry of being together.
Thank you Michelle Jolene for taking photos and videos of this magical night!
Several people have been encouraging me to explore Continuum given it’s similarities to my work. I’m discovering that Emilie Conrad, who founded Continuum in 1967, engages the same elements of breath, sound, movement, sensation, and pleasure. We also share a background of dancing with Katherine Dunham, feeling the incredible undulations and rhythms Dunham shared from Haitian prayers. I’m thrilled to discover the similarities and look forward to studying with her this Fall. I am also reminded once again of how consciousness moves through us collectively, even when we think we are discovering something new in our own body.
I’ve been reading and watching some of Emilie’s videos and my experience is already starting to shift. During a sex meditation it occurred to me that the “opening the chakras” vision I often play with was taking on a new dimension. I have been focusing a lot on breathing this week, including assisting the amazing Barbara Carrellas in a full day workshop on breath and energy orgasms. I’ve been feeling the movements of the breathing diaphragm and realize that when the chakra “opens” there is a felt sense of the breath moving more and more of the body in the area of the chakra. For example, the belly (power chakra) swelling with energy literally became heat and the diaphragm started moving in a bigger range of motion, the ribs were moving more, the inner organs gliding with these deep impulses. The nature of life moving through us started accessing my body in a deeper way and this naturally increased the orgasm.
These are different than the voluntary musculoskeletal movements but rather have the healing and reorganizing power of a deep cry, laughgasms, and perhaps the most commonly identified physical experience that connects us to life force itself… orgasm. Emilie is one of the few somatic educators I have seen who understands the profound role of pleasure and spirituality. She says, “Sensations of pleasure create an inviting climate for self-renewal.” I’ve also noticed with my daily practice and when my students create a daily practice with pleasure, that the “pain body” Eckart Tolle describes as “the accumulation of old emotion” cannot thrive. We develop a new point of reference, we are not our emotions, thoughts, or even our movements. We are the exploration and experience of life energy. We have infinite creativity as we surrender to this mystery.
Often after a performance people will come up to me and share, not about the movements they saw, but about my spirit. I was really moved at a recent performance when a woman ran up to me repeating “There is no limit on your spirit! There is no limit on your spirit!” It is such a blessing to be witnessed this deeply. Dance across time has been medicine for self renewal, embodying the spirit, preparing for birth, healing… not because of the physical range of motion but because it restores our relationship with possibility and awe.
This weekend I got a taste of the world I have been visioning. Dancers came together for healing and raising feminine consciousness.
There was an honest conversation about money and how to create a group…each panelist had a really different perspective on this topic but hey, I was so relieved we were discussing it! We also spoke about social change, bringing dance and professional mentorship to women who become leaders in their communities. There is a larger context for women with eating disorders, women who have experienced sexual abuse, women who don’t have a strong visceral connection to their cultural identity… and dance, yes, DANCE, as a way to reconnect and heal.
I was deeply moved to hear one of the panelist, Hanan, speaking on healing our maternal lineage. This is the first time I have heard other dance teachers focusing on healing trauma across generations. I was trembling with gratitude. Since I started Love Making Dances in 2006, I have not found the companionship in values that I experienced at the Pure Bellydance Conference. I’m so grateful to Kaeshi Chai for organizing this inspiring weekend with a team of phenomenal teachers.
One of the teachers, Antonina Canal, from Columbia has a school with over 5000 students! She offered a workshop on the Chakras. We spoke our intentions and engaged the consciousness of each chakra through movement. She really called on us to use our eyes to communicate the essence of the chakras. She embodied a lightness, an ease in her beauty. She kept speaking about the lifestyle, not just the dance, but living as part of a revolution of feminine consciousness.
What is becoming clear for me is the direct connection between our emotional, spiritual resources and the external financial, social, community resources. What an incredible time to be a woman right now and feel the international movement that recognizes the medicine of dance.
The body is a map for our consciousness. The first chakra (just in front of the anus), is the physical place in the body where we hold the victim archetype which releases us from feeling responsible for our feeling, healing, and actions. I was so heartful to see the weekend focus on feminine consciousness without being victims!!! The dances cleanse our energy system, including the first chakra, and give us the vitality to feel responsible. Our power is proportional to our sense of responsibility.
I just had an incredible time performing and teaching at the Theatrical Bellydance Conference meeting dancers from around the world. Over the past few days many dancers came to me with questions about the pelvis, sexuality, and the difference between moving the body and being present in the body… I was drooling over these questions. I know what it’s like to train the body technically. My first 20 years in ballet really gave me the opportunity to “control,” my body. When I started working with energy healers, Sufi dance meditation, and Esalen massage, I began to actually tune into the sensations in my body. It was more of a surrendering and listening, rather than telling my body HOW to move. I started to experience that sensations know how to complete themselves and heal when I put loving attention on them, AND that sensation brings us into presence. This is a big key for performance!
I’ve really been watching how dance has the power to connect us to ourselves and the divine, just as much as it has the power to disconnect us from ourselves. It all depends on how the dance is taught or performed. Dance is healing if we heal our connection to the dance. (I would say the same of sex.)
When I was originally training there was a value placed on a specific kind of beauty, strength, flexibility, and ability to memorize and perform choreographed movement. In my attempt to excel in these ways I often chose to override my body’s intuition and creativity.
Many dancers where I trained were struggling with anorexia, bulemia, depression, and deep self criticism. I sense that these are indicative of the culture where there was no emphasis on exploring our unique body and creative spirit. These are not just about food, this is about seeing the value in WHO we are feeding. Now, decades later I see that most dancers started to follow 1 of 3 paths…
One, dancers left dance and went to yoga for healing and for the most part left the creative process. Two, dancers just left moving all together, but never resolved their dynamic with dance. Three, dancers started transforming and using dance for healing, restoring the power of dance and of ourselves! This is the sweetness of LOVE making dances and I can tell that it’s happening because we all start falling in love when we see a dancer move from the depth of her soul.
My pelvis has been on a journey. I asked her to externally rotate and lift for the better part of 20 years while I was immersed in ballet. I didn’t know the energetic repercussions of these actions. But I did know that I cultivated way more sexual energy than my personality was comfortable expressing at the time. I also started having tendonitis in my feet.
Now I have no injuries, which is rare for someone who’s been dancing 30 years. I now understand the connection of the feet and the pelvis. I also have learned that the pelvis is a tremendous gateway to intuition and heart opening, not to mention the next generation. I’ve worked with many sexual abuse survivors, pregnant women, midwives, sexuality educators, and I have witnessed the ability of the pelvis to alchemize wounds into ecstasy, pain into forgiveness, tension into trust.
This weekend I’m so excited to bring this work to the Theatrical Bellydance Conference! We will be looking at the physical and energetic anatomy of the pelvis. I am starting to call this the “psychic hokey pokey.” Energy follows our intention!
I love sharing how the intricate muscles of the pelvis support our vital organs and weave with the same complexity as our facial muscles. I’ve heard too often that “kegels” are about stopping the flow of urine. But that would be akin to saying that facial expressions are like squeezing everything into a tight pucker and then releasing… and missing the nuances of happy, stunned, surprised… We can move our tailbone, we can isolate the right and left halves of the pelvic diamond floor, we can lift and tilt our womb. These deep gestures of the regenerative organs flood us with sensation, and sensation brings us into presence.
Our time together at the conference will be brief, as there are many incredible presenters sharing the day. So I will be offering a longer workshop in the next coming weeks. I’ve created this blog to gather your questions and comments so I can address them in the next workshop.
The first retreat in my Sacred Woman Alchemy 6 Month Program was dedicated to a full day of Grounding. I am inspired to share some of it with you here as I witness the impact it has made in our group. Look out NYC, we are about to engage with the Earth on a whole new level!
I am noticing that many of the clients coming to me right now are deeply passionate, high energy, highly intuitive, and that Grounding is important for them to have ease in their physcial, sexual, and financial life. Grounding supports a consistency in their priorities that brings ideas into real actions. Faith is inspiring, but grounded faith is inspiring and accountable.
I remember that several years into my “shamanic” and energy trainings I started studying bioenergetics with Teeni Dakini. She pointed out how many trainings explore the advanced energy skills without first mastering basic grounding. My life has not been the same since. Thank you, Teeni!
Grounding is a state that becomes easier to access the more we practice. In fact, it’s worth noting that some things like drugs, alcohol, compulsive sex can feel enjoyable and the more we engage them, the more we want more of them. Now with Grounding, it may take a while to really drop in when we start. But once we learn this new state, it takes less and less to access this rejuvenating state. You know the feeling when you are running around the city in rush hour and you feel hungry, you have to pee, and then you finally get to your doorstep, and you are HOME. Imagine if we could feel at home in our body at any time. This is Grounding.
Nobody can tell you what it feels like to be Grounded. Each of us has a unique felt sense of Grounding, and it can change from time to time. Often when my clients experience Grounding for the first time they have a lot of uncomfortable sensations that their body has been waiting to communicate with them. I consider Grounding energetic hygiene. Think what you might discover if you clean your room for the first time in a few years.
While it can seem safer to tune out and disassociate, especially in response to trauma, we are actually the most safe when we are present in the sensations of our body here now.
Grounding is the foundation for cultivating attention and intention. In this information age, especially for those of us living in an urban setting, it is revolutionary. The things we can collectively envision and transform will be completely different in a Grounded society. The trauma’s we can release from our bodies, and the pleasure we can be present for in our lives will be on a whole new level. I have been hearing that we collectively are becoming more intuitive. If this is true, we need the skills to integrate in our physical being, relationships, and actions this new “download” of energy and information.
Our relationship to the Earth will become an embodied experience, rather than a strategy we sometimes think about when a “natural disaster” hits.
This is the subtle revolution.
As the founder of Love Making Dances, I am interested in how we need to stand on the Earth together to evolve the legacy of love and sexuality. I am struck by the recent statistics demonstrating a rise in c-sections and breech babies resulting from the computer posture our mama’s have today. This trend in major surgery upon the birthing of the next generation has stemmed from the narrowing of our pelvic cavity as a culture, tucking our tales under in seats at a desk. Fetuses are actually flipping so they have room higher in the torso which leads to a more challenging birthing process. Imagine that when we ground, when we broaden the basin of our pelvis and allow our energy to descend all the way down our legs… not only can babies have space inside us, WE can have space inside us.
Now that was the big picture. I’m going to drop down into a very concrete voice as we venture deep into the soles of our feet.
How can we tell when we are not grounded?
Often we will feel headaches, spacy, tranced out, disoriented in our life. This can feel enjoyable temporarily but then it’s difficult to transition to the next activity after a peak experience. We can also feel a sense of energetic collapse after ungrounded ecstasy. I’ve noticed that without Grounding we can lose a sense of a container and this feeds consumerism and materialism because we lose the felt sense of having and being full.
In the Grounding Training
In the Grounding training we work with the 26 bones of each foot. We venture deep into the architecture of our bones, our breath, and our dynamic relating with gravity. We release tension in the physical body, unclumping and refining our experience of each muscle. We feel and surrender the muscles so they can be supported by the bones. We learn the muscles that habitually come to the rescue to hold us up and redirect that extra energy as they learn to release and trust. Grounding changes the neuromuscular system and the energetic body to be more efficient and supported. It taught me that I had been confusing adrenaline for life force energy.
I feel inspired to share this quote from Anodea Judith whom I have had the pleasure of studying with:
“Many people who cannot find their true path in life have simply not yet found their ground. Sometimes they are busy looking up instead of down, where the feet meet the path…”
To learn about upcoming trainings, online courses, and teleconferences on Grounding and Energy Skills visit www.LoveMakingDances.com. A powerful way to Ground is Esalen Massage, to learn more about this art or schedule a session click here.
I recently attended a day long conference with the most inspiring creative entrepreneurs. This “Mastermind” event was hosted by Move the Crowd, an entrepreneurial training company dedicated to helping the next generation “stay true, get paid, and do good.”
Now let me tell you that most of the folks in this room are like me, artists, healers, social visionaries, activists… This is not your regular business training crowd. AND let me also say that the presenters and facilitators have been selected because they speak their truth and they are undeniably living in alignment with their soul gifts. To say that my relationship to money has transformed since joining this community, would be an understatement. My relationship to… who I am, my awareness of my soul gifts, and my refinement of how I want to create an impact on the world around me… have transformed.
What moves me the most about this community is the genuine curiosity about who each other are. Now I’ve been teaching naked yoga classes for years. And the level of trust and vulnerability in this room is a whole other level of naked. This is when we show up and share what we dare to care so deeply about, the essence of why we are here. As Barbara Stanny posed the question, “What would give me the greatest pleasure to be remember for?” This is not just a financial revolution happening amongst my peers, this is our new spiritual practice, Barbara says. The room was listening from our core, we knew that the legacy opportunities before us were about to be taken to the next level. My God how we listened. We became so beautiful as we shared our ventures, our challenges, our goals, our feedback and creative suggestions. I felt like a kid in the candy store and we are the candy.
I want to say something about Love. I am more clear than ever that Love moves people and touches people through me. This is why I am here. I am restoring the lineage of dance as a ritual for transformation and community health. I am restoring the lineage of sex as the intersection of body and spirit — that set up this agreement for us to be here — and that can be resourced to deepen our purpose and our passion for it. This is the root of my offerings through LOVE MAKING DANCES.
I have been reflecting on my communities of performing artists and sexuality educators. I am contemplating the 3 stages of financial development that Barbara mentioned:
I’m realizing that these stages are not just about individuals. These stages can also be applied to my communities. I would say that often we have been relating to each other from the Surivival paradigm. I’m visioning deeply what we can offer when we are living with affluence. I’m visioning the performances we will create and the presence we will have with our clients. I am visioning the commitment we will have to each others’ success, the time we will invest in getting to truly know each other, and the creativity that will abound in our curriculum.
Thank you Rha Goddess for creating Move the Crowd. Thank you for showing me a template for community with deep inner resources and such love.
I’m noticing that the women in my Sacred Woman Alchemy program are shifting. What started as a personal journey about self care has evolved into a converesation about how we want to share and direct this life force energy we are cultivating. I trust this process so deeply.
I am seeing 3 parallel stages:
- Survival in the body
- Safety in the body
- Body as an instrument of life force and creative expression
As we release the impact of trauma on the nervous system and learn how to direct our energy, we are naturally stepping into a generous inquiry about what we are here to contribute.
Last night we had our first Love Making Dances Class at Solstice Studio.
There is warmth in my body. My muscles feel supple. My feet are relaxed and held by the tremendous Earth. I feel a profound innocence in our circle as we stand here with closed eyes. We’ve been dancing the past 50 minutes and here in the silence between songs we are seemingly still. Our breath is deep and in harmony with the rhythms we have just been hearing. The taste in my mouth has become sweet. My mind is clear and gentle with me. My intuition is tuned to high and the things in my life that I desire to serve are present and simple… touch and move people to experience love and awe.
The music starts, Miriam Makeba sings with us through the speakers. We sway our hips side to side and drop our heels down into the Earth. We are harvesting from the land. We could be transported from the inncense and latern lights in this manhattan Solstice Studio to the sunny artichoke fields of California, or the sandy gardens in Dakar, Senegal where I danced years ago. This is the universal body bowing to the Earth and harvesting that which nourishes us. I am not really “teaching” these steps. I am remembering from one culture to the next, and pointing out the instincts we embody. We know ourselves more deeply when we dance our dances. Planting, harvesting, coming of age, courting, mating, birting, healing, dying… Love, makes all these dances for us.
I open the circle to ask the dancers why they have come. A man speaks about watching the children dance at a party. As he speaks he starts dancing, his excitement cannot be hidden. “I want to be free like the child,” he says.
I look around the circle. We are big kids here tonight with such laughter in our eyes.
Everything seems possible in this vibrant space. The fatigue has dissolved. It feels like a first date with God/Goddess. I am giddy. I can’t wait to be touched and yet I am, every part of my body is touched by Life.
If you would like to join us Mondays in March at Solstice Studio, 8:30 – 9:45 pm, you can sign up here! Drop ins are welcome.
I am discovering something I am now calling a “connection point.”
One of my clients told me that the night after receiving bodywork from me, she experienced me working on her body throughout her entire dreamtime. “That’s wonderful!” I said. I’m noticing that the deep receptive place we drop into through Esalen massage often has “connection points” with our dreamtime. The visions and experiences actually have a continuity when we drop in through activites like orgasm rituals, massage, dream, and meditation.
I used to experience these visions in a random way. But I am starting to experience a thruline between them. I am noticing that my clients are as well. For example, the same scene with the same people appears when I drop in through dream as it does when I drop in through a yoga posture. It is becoming conjurable and more integrated with my conscious mind.
Yesterday while giving bodywork I started having flashes to dreams from several years ago. After the session my client said that she was remembering dreams from several years ago as well. It seems that we tapped into the same dream timing.
I am fascinated by these “connection points.” My understanding of yoga is that the asanas originated from poses that people discovered while in meditation. These became physical anchors for certain consciousness. Similarly the “connection points” seem to be anchors for certain states of the psyche.
I am curious how many of us are having these experiences. I’d love to hear what you’re noticing. Today my client got off the table after I explored the landscape, mobility and energy of his being and said, “Zahava, if you were living in the 1700s you would be exploring the Amazon. You are an adventurer.” For me, today’s frontier is how we embody our soul and our love. I am amazed at how vibrant and creative people become after receiving an hour or two of love through bodywork.
Esalen is the heart chakra of the Earth, for me. I remember the first time I sat on the grass near the sweat lodge and the ground vibrated. The connection between people and the land felt so alive. For nearly four thousand years the Esalen people have been coming to this land of the sacred waters, the salt water ocean, the fresh water spring that runs through the canyon, and the hot sulphur springs. They have come here to heal and to die, they did not live here year round.
The intentionality of their relationship with this place is profoundly tangible. After the Europeans came and took over this land it remained a place for healing and transformation. Very few people live here even now, most come for a weekend or week to enter the next phase of their life in a new way. There is still a place on the land, around the sweat lodge that is reserved for the descendants of the Esalen tribe who lead us in a beautiful ceremony at the end of our month long journey. They shared with us the medicine of being here, grateful, connected…they remember and forgive the history of this land in a way that moved me.
This land called me back. This is where I learn and live in true intimacy with nature. I had the pleasure of living here a month while training in Esalen Massage.
One night I came down to the big stone tubs at the edge of the ocean. I stepped into the hot sulphur water and lowered myself slowly. The stars were brilliantly clear in the dark sky. Tiny cool droplets of rain were starting to caress my face. I heard a male voice singing. I could tell there were 4 other people in the tub with me, though we could not see each other. His voice greeted me, “would you like to float?”
Yes. I wasn’t sure what that entailed, but I knew I was a yes. He guided me to lay back in the water for a “pseudo watsu” journey. Four sets of hands came under by floating body. The warm water filled my ears and vibrated with my heartbeat. The rain cooled my face, my nipples, and the tips of my toes. “See IS small!” I heard from the people holding me, and I laughed, for we could not see each other. I was being discovered. As I floated I could feel the patience in their hands. I could feel that we were going to be here until… until I let them know we were complete. How much love could I receive? I asked myself with amusement.
That night all 4 of us rotated floating each other, interspersed with conversations and silences. We spoke of returning a soul through intention based abortion. We slithered over each other and made dolphin noises. We talked of our dreams in motion now and the women’s circles we have on the full moon.
A few days later I saw a man in the lodge at lunch, with a peculiar white hat. Are you Gabe, from the tubs the other night? “Are you Zahava?!” We laughed, taking in the new information our eyes offered to us. I wondered if this is how Oneness experiences us, as voices, life paths, energies, playing by the ocean.
- movement that helps feeling safe and happy in the body
- movement that leads to openess, agility, mobility and fluidity
- movement that energizes, uplifts
- movement that makes me feel alive vibrant and ecstatic
- movement that is s delicious that i can’t help doing it every day !
- movement that gets me in touch with my beauty and power and radiance
- movement that makes me take the full space that is mine
- movement that makes me express all that i am without fear or passive range !
- movement that makes me naturally align with the innate wisdom and intelligence of my own body !
- movement that doesn’t feel like exercise but instead organic language of my being!
How can I serve you?
She knows how to win…something. It’s something she doesn’t have, she needs, she lacks. And her winning does not restore balance, although it may bring her (and her lover) pleasure.
Yesterday I was coaching someone who told me that since she stopped eating sugar she experienced “hunger” for the first time. She realized that she had only known “craving” before. Wow! I asked if she could explain what hunger and what craving feels like. She said craving is when you have to have something now, compulsion.
My God craving is exciting, pleasure filled, even more fun when others are craving it too. Craving is the tool of Seductress. Ok so for someone lacking passion Craving might be a step up from numbness, but when you’re done you’re still…Craving.
I’ve had Craving sex. How can I tell? Cause when it’s over all I want to know is if we can have more. I can’t transition to the next place I need to be. My “leave the house for work” alarm has already stopped itself and I’m still not dressed. I can’t focus. It’s like a bliss hangover. Sound familiar?
And I’ve had present sex. Now let me pause a minute. It’s possible to have some fucking powerful orgasms and feel a lot of love, and it’s still Craving sex. Guess I’m not done describing that one yet. Craving sex is when we forget about birth control, when we don’t ask about STDs, when we yell out like we’re in the Applachian mountains under the full moon but we’re actually in our friend’s bedroom (and next door are some people freaking out who haven’t come to a workshop on erotic soundscapes with Zahava…yet.)
When sex is habitual, we are just asking to feel Craving. When sex is present it’s creative. We hear sounds and requests we’ve never voiced before. We are in no rush, we’ve already arrived in the connection and I could stroke your earlobe for 12 amazing minutes.
“This is as good as it gets,” I remember my lover saying to me with light eyes and eyebrows lifted. It was kind of relaxing, it’s subtle. Nothing is happening. It feels like meditation. I think, this is it?! But then I’m struggling every time it’s not this.
There are people who will ask to be seduced. And the Seductress uses it as a reason to get what she wants…or at least what she thinks she wants. Do I want to seduce a man who wants to be seduced and then…then what? How else can we connect if that’s not the game anymore?
photo by Monique Torok in our Ayurvedic center one late beautiful night
In the desert of Tucson, Arizona I walked with Kenneth Ray Stubbs and a small group of amazingly perceptive folks. We had all gathered for a training course in the Sexual Shaman Path. Ray started this morning by reminding us that extraorinary things are always occuring, are actually quite ordinary, it’s just that we don’t often hear people sharing them. I knew this to be true as soon as I heard him say it.
My intention in this blog is to share some of the less shared “extraordinary” experiences of being human. I trust many of us are on similar journies. I’ve been so grateful for the stories and responses to my new blog, and the conversations it has opened. I look forward to sharing more and to hearing the magic that is living in your bodies too!
Often I will journey into orgasmic meditation. The orgasm will root into the basin of my pelvis and spin life energy up through my body. It’s not really through the spine, but in a spineward direction. I have learned when I move from my bones it’s distinctly different than moving through the water of my organs. I have discovered that listening to life energy during orgasm is more of a water listening: a rounder, fuller, reverberatory listening to life energy. The water listening fills the insides of my skin rather than traversing the directionality of my bone-snake-red-blood-cell-hatching spine. This water listening hears the orgasm as it expands to the inner surface of my body and then shifts into a lighter form, one beyond the unit of the individual. The orgasm is simply radiating from a point in space that happens to be the same point where my human form exists, but no longer contains it.
I feel the orgasm reach Her fingers (it’s not always a Her, but this one was) into my gut and only then do I remember how much I can trust. My belly opens. It almost tickles to loosen this constant reflex of holding, harnessing my identity to my snake spine with the deepest layers of my transverse abdominals.
I guide my attention to the Wisdom rather than to the pleasure. The Wisdom speaks through the language of pleasure, rather than on the topic of pleasure. When I ride the Wisdom the pleasure continues. Sometimes my attention shifts to chasing the pleasure, like listening faster than a friend is speaking, waiting for what I want to hear. I squeeze my feeling and my wanting until I remember to ride the Wisdom and my attention starts to expand like my belly.
Then the heart flying begins.
For years I would Wisdom Ride but did not know how to express what was occuring to the world outside my body. I could kiss these digital letters, the gaps they are now bridging!
ON 3? CHOREOGRAPHING ORGASMS?
Yesterday my body gifted me with an amazing surprise. I stood in my temple studio rolling my heels off the Earth, coming onto my toes. I focused my attention into my heart. My arms clapped in front of my heart and opened in a rhythmic 3 beats. In this moment I experienced the deep heart opening I had only before felt during expanded orgasms, tribal weddings, and deep grieving after death.
The immensity of love popped in on the third beat, my mouth opened and I fell to my bed laughing like a young girl who just discovered the doorway to the magical garden I thought was a 4 hour hike from here. Running my hands over my head turning side to side in disbelief, I laughed with waves of joy. This is the joy I felt seeing Grandma’s face at her 90th surprise birthday party.
I used to clear the screen of my awareness when joy flooded me. It felt like what I imagine my desktop experiences when I click the “Spaces” icon on my mac and slide into a new space knowing the clutter of my projects is hiden in a virtual pocket one click away. But now, there is a trust that does not need the messes and challenges to disappear for me to feel it. It is all here, the alarm clock for work that will go off in 13 hours, the death of my parents years into the future… it is all here with me as I feel this joy.
Irene has passed through this morning. The birds came back to the trees around 11 am. I watched a squirrel carry her tiny baby in her mouth as she ran up a tree to her nest. The baby’s tail was no bigger than a green bean. The mother perched at the edge of the nest watching me with quick breaths and swollen pink breasts. I had witnessed her intimate act. As we looked at each other, I sensed how similar we were protecting our Loved ones from the storm.
Irene, comes from Greek origin, meaning “Peace.” The calmness of Sunday afternoon has been escalated in our attention. We’ve stopped bracing ourselves, we can unpack our emergency bags. She surrounds us, this incredible presence reminding us we are alive and safe. The water in the glass jar on my kitchen cabinet looks precious today…our gratitude has been reset, and everything is registering as a gift.
Today I journey in my body. I celebrate Irene’s gifts by clearing my midline and surging her magnificent power through my yoni, into the cave of my pelvis. My belly is swelling with laughter and a sense of purpose: to Love. In this moment I ask to experience all the deepest pleasures we as humans have shared with each other in orgasmic bliss, through out time. This energy is here asking to be called upon! She is as eager as I am to meet. The trembling begins. It is the physicality of awe. But what strikes me most is the softness in here, the sweet embrace that lovers exchange after climaxing. It is as if all these happy souls are embracing me through my own arms. It is the same LOVE energy and instinct of the mother squirrel carrying her loved one to safety.
Irene, I believe you have shaken some guards from our hearts today. Our simple needs for food, water, light, shelter have brought a tenderness to our being. You could have made heroes and mourners of us today. But instead you have graced us with this curious calm afternoon. Thank you.
My body felt warm and relaxed after two hours dancing in the studio. Each week for the past 4 weeks I had come to open my body with new movement and to untangle the memories and definitions that constricted who I am when I dance. As I left the studio I touched the elevator down button and turned to my phone. A young blonde woman leaned against the wall smiling at me. “This may be strange but…” I looked up to see who was speaking. “Did you dance at Arlington Center for Dance?” she asked.
“Yes.” I answered simply, summing up ages 6 to 18 of professional ballet training 3 to 8 hours a day, 6 days a week in a small school 5 hours away in Virginia. “I know who you are,” she was beaming. I didn’t recognize her face but I started to open as if I had, knowing that she was aware of such a huge part of my life before I moved to NYC for dance.
Just 3 weeks prior I had called a Healing Circle for Dancers in this very studio after many burning converesations with dancers who had left the dance world and in some way left a part of themselves still in it. “You probably know my father more than you know me,” she gave me his name and then hers. Her father used to fly the scrims in and out during our tech rehearsals and performances. Yes, I believe I had heard the director calling his name for years. Here his daughter stood before me at the doorway to the dance studio.
“Are you dancing now?” I asked. She explained that she had left when she was 12. She “walked out,” her hands gestured a sweeping “X” across her body. “I mean I walked out completely.” She went on to say that she recently started social dance, swing, but it wasn’t “real dance.” Her eyes and tone suggested that I would agree, having shared the same strict definition of dance from our backgrounds. But I didn’t. I was so happy that she was opening a new relationship with dance 15 years later. “And now these crazy people,” she swung a hand toward the studio already filling with the next group of dancers, “actually convinced me to perform.” She looked undeniably happy.
She started to repeat again that she “walked out, I mean walked out” on dance. “Yes,” I nodded, “that’s very common. I’m so happy you are reconnecting to the part of you that loved dance before our studio defined it.” She had no idea the syncronicity of her seeing me in this studio at this time of the week where I come regularly to “walk back in” to dance, whole. “I’m so glad you said something to me,” I said as she turned to enter the studio.
I have always loved dance more than anything, even when someone else was describing what it was and what it wasn’t. But these days there is a phenomenal choreography of dancers dispursing for 10, 15 years, and then slowly turning to face back to the center. “Steve, can you fly the scrim in for the next scene? Raise the lights on stage right, we want to see their glowing faces.”
There is some part of me that is not delicate and not physical, that I live from in these moments.
She touches me as air surrounding my warm skin. She tosses my spine at times just to assure Herself that I am not bracing or defending my posture. Ninety minutes into rehearsal She pops me out of the studio to sit and recognize Her with these words. I hope to receive Her again. I want Her to take me. I plan to go home and turn on the music and wait for Her to join me again. She is mentoring me to serve.
We are approaching Samhain, more commonly known as Halloween, when the veil between the living and the dead is the thinest. The wisdom that evolves us across generations is more readily available to us during this season and so is our resistance to this wisdom.
The costumes, the glucose spikes, the masks, the characters we let ourselves become at Halloween may deepen our journey or they may become an entertaining distraction from it. Perhaps we’ll have the best of both worlds, we’ll entertain ourselves with the truth while looking out from the costumes of the familiar! That’s exactly the intention behind the ritual I am offering tomorrow on the New Moon,Celebrating the Artistry of the Dark Goddess, Wednesday, 6:30 to 8 pm, at Red Bean Studios. Register here! (please note this is from 2011)
I am often asked to lead Kali inspired rituals during this season. This year I’m recognizing that the ritual of the Dark Goddess is intimately connected to my studies of healing trauma with Peter Levine, author of “Waking the Tiger.” The tiger in the nervous system is the one who pounces when someone attacks me. She is the one who pumps my heart fast and steady when I speak loudly. She is the one looking through my eyes when I trust that who I am is valuable. When she sleeps, people can smell it on me. The boundaries get fuzzy and protection feels like a draining task that fear has asked me to perform.
I recently joined a room of mental health professionals and therapists for a training with internationally recognized trauma expert, Peter Levine. He works with the children in Japan who survived the tsunami. He works with veterans returning from war and adults who grew up in concentration camps. I dare say he works courageously close to the Dark Goddess. Kali Ma, the hindu form of the Dark Goddess, destroys that which is untrue. For thousands of years people have invoked Her energy to destroy the energetic imprints of the events which did not honor our true value.
I’ll be integrating the somatic technology that Levine uses to Wake the Tiger. He defines trauma, not as a result of a situation, but it is the result of the tiger sleeping during the situation. Kali, like rage, is often misunderstood and feared. Her limitless unapologetic freedom can be presented out of context, falsely legitimizing our unconscious lust and unexamined envy. We invoke her in this ritual with great respect and purpose. She is the Mother Nature energy at its most powerful-civilization-rumblin-core, she is the Goddess of death. She kills illusion. She expects us to be courageous and we have the opportunity to make her right.
Dark and Shadow are Not the Same
There is no Shadow inside a Mother’s womb or in the Earth, there is only fertile Darkness, possibility, and transformation. The Shadow exists where light is actively obstructed. The energy we expend to prevent this area from seeing the light of day is energy that is no longer available for trust, love, and passion. Dark Goddess, we ask you to awaken the tiger inside us, to unfreeze the memories our body has accumlated as we grow our emotional and spiritual resources. We ask for psychological rejuventation that allows us to break cycles that have replaced trust, love, and passion.
Come adorned in black, ready to dance, come ready to release a part of you that is no longer you!
Chocolate and fruit will be served.
On Wednesday, Nov 16, we gathered for a beautiful ritual Sister’s Honoring the Sexual Priestess. The conversations in preparation, post class and the mornings after have been tremendous. I was excited to hear men wanting to create a men’s circle to honor the Sexual Priestess and inquiring of the template of our ritual as a point of reference. A dear psychic friend has been downloading intuitive information very similar to myself and what I keep learning through this process is the communal nature of how the Sexual Priestess is sharing her love and wisdom through so many of us today. When we gather the clarity of this healing amplifies!
Many of you have asked for details and recordings. While I did not choose to film our ritual I’d love to share some pieces of it here and look forward to sharing the next one with you.
We entered a saged and cedared room to cast a circle with our intentions. I lead a womb and breast centered dance meditation drawing us deep into our physical bodies and the Earth body. This allows us to connect with the spirit realm and intuitive downloads heightened by the group matrix in a way that grounds our wisdom and integrates it into the physical plane. Together we created a beautiful altar over a plush velvet shall. Each woman made a creative offering to the Sexual Priestess through songs, sacred plants, drawings, texts from contemporary Priestesses and a gorgeous painting.
One of my favorite parts of the night was a beauty adorning ritual. Each woman became encircled, honored, caressed with our hands and devotion through our gaze as we expressed the love and reverence we feel for the Sexual Priestess through the woman’s body. I experienced it as a decorating of her body, through energy and intention, just as intricate as laying rose petals and jewels.
From this fully present and love filled space we entered an inquiry, sharing a question we are living in right now as we connect to this archetype.
The question present for me, “How do I connect people to the consciousness of the Sexual Priestess and not just my embodiment of her, not just my body?”
Thank you for being in this inquiry with me and for all your loving support and curiosity. I am creating a performance piece to communicate how much the Sexual Priestess archetype enhances the spiritual pleasure we can give and receive with each other. I look forward to sharing more rituals with you as I develop this artistic offering.
Tonight we were invited to channel spirit through the crown of our heads and into our sex. We were reminded that dance is the core practice of igniting our life force energy. I know this deeply and I often find myself teaching this, but to hear it from teachers around me, and especially those older than myself feels unbelievably nourishing. Most of my students are older than me and explicitly comment on their desire to connect to their youthful sexual energy through my age. But I know that this wisdom is ageless and the transmission of it across generations is becoming restored.
What I’m so moved by is that the healing is happening everywhere. In our dancing tonight we sat in a circle where a young woman gifted us with her trust and her story of rape and depletion. The room felt more relaxed and present than I have ever felt when hearing this story. We gently spoke our questions our experiences and moved into prayer for her wholeness. I intend to share this here and now without revealing her identity holding the intention that more dance classes penetrate us so deeply and so collectively. Banafsheh reminded us that we are not whole if one of us is not whole. This sisterhood feels incredible, it trembles me with love. It feels so different than the unconscious competition or comparison that can so easily slide between gorgeous women.
We all rose from the Earth to Dance for God, because that’s what you do on a Thursday night in the city. It’s becoming simpler. Being whole, being sisters…is becoming simpler. Thank you for reminding me tonight.
The past four days I have been nourished by the rituals and compassionate conversations of those occupying the new paradigm. Many of the Occupy Wall Street folks have joined Starhawk in trainings for co-empowerment and leaderless groups this past weekend. What is becoming clear to me is that the culture of the new paradigm is liberating us. It’s different than the old paradigm of activism where we have a lot of work that may or may not be effective and if the revolution happens then we will be liberated post revolution. No, it’s the relationships and CONNECTIONS that are forming in this soil of Occupy that are liberating us. It’s who we are being, who we are occupying that is liberating us… occupy to me is an invocation to be here now in our Earth bodies fully present and connected. In light of that I have retitled my blog, Occupy Passion.Our relationships and connections are the ecosystem of our Love and Life Force Energy. When we nourish them with the rich soil of boundaries and accountability, water them with our sacred love fluids, and heat them with the fire of our passion, we have the energy to contribute to the world we envision. This is the tantra of politics my loves.Grace Lee Boggs, a legendary activist for the past 60 years, has just published her new book The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty First Century. She calls our attention to the paradigm shift happening now, it is as transformative as our paradigm shift from hunter/gatherer to agriculture. She reminds us that as this new MOVEMENT is beginning to emerge it is less about critical mass than it is about critical CONNECTIONS.MOVEMENT and CONNECTIONS is exactly what we’ll be exploring tonight at the Tantra of Contact Improv. Connections includes the oneness between people and it also includes connecting the parts of us that have learned not to know each other, like sex and spirit.
And where does the revolution occur? It’s right here baby, in our bodies and our relationships. When I pay attention to where a MOVEMENT initiates from in my body, I feel that deep life impulse that comes from the channel of energy running Earth to Sky through each of our bodies. To align with it does not always bring peace, to be in nature is not always comfortable, but it is pure.
In the new paradigm security is rooted in our nervous system and our reverence for our bodies, including our Earth body. In the new paradigm our resources are:
- social responsibility
- conscious communication
Returning from Ceremony with my sisters, I am overflowing with Gratitude. On the snow dusted grass, at the edge of Lake Joseph, we gathered for 24 hours, a full moon and sun cycle to share our gifts. The Shift has started. Looking into each others eyes, harmonizing, shimmeying, storytelling, meditating, mmmm….and the kitchen, Goddess! The kitchen overflowing with more delicious roots, berries, lentils, salads, chocolates, berries… than we could eat. We have such gifts, our intution is ripe, our voices clear, we are ready. Our histories are blessing us more and more as we bring understanding and love to the same stories that used to torment us. Thank you Queen GodIs for helping me hear this tonight.
I return home to my sex meditation under the orange waning moon. Today I have heard stories from wombs ready to release traumas and energies no longer serving. As I spread my legs, freshly bathed, I focus my mind on a pleasure prayer.
God, Goddess, may this pleasure spill up my spine and runneth over from my heart and breasts. May the universe experience its deepest pleasures through my human form. May this joy set the frequency for my life. May this laughter and ecstasy cleanse me. May this sex purify me and my Sisters. May this fullness fill our holes. Love, love is being made. May we see love, hear love, be love. I am making love out of the form that is my body. Thank you Spirit, oh thank you for making us life creating. Thank you for making us Life, creating. This life force swelling in my yoni, in my third eye, may it widen the straw of our love. May it awaken any parts of us that are not turned on, so we may be trully grateful for life.
I bow to the sex in me, it is Spirit, it is Creator of life, love, healing. I am trembling. Sex appeal is Life Appeal. May my capacity to feel this full, this happy, this nourished expand in my life as it is now in my body. Each inhale is opening me. Sisters, our wombs are the Source of our Healing, our wombs are Source in human form. These are the portals through which ancestry is brought onto the Earth, when we touch them with devotion we are touching Spirit.
“Hello. Just say hello to the new being,” Roy Capellaro reminds us of the the simplicity of greeting a new soul in his workshop on Neonatal Craniosacral Intervention for Midwives.
|Artwork from the NYSLAM Conference|
- Sexual energy is a creative energy. Yoga for the Sexual Priestess engages the following of our body’s instincts as a Creator. This deepens our awareness of how we are feeling.
- Cultivating life energy is an erotic and spiritual experience, the full expression of the sacred body and sensual spirit is welcomed through breath and sound as One with the Great Everything.
- The language guiding this practice spans systems in our body including the skeletal, soul, organ, sexual, chakra, muscular, collective and ancestral anatomies expanding our personal practice into a whole context. We enter different states of mind by focusing on specific systems, the language of Yoga for the Sexual Priestess intentionally weaves sex and spirit in the ancestral web for the evolution of trust, love, and passion.
- Anchoring awareness in the Love and Sex centers, the two hearts that heal, create & nourish life, creates awe & ecstasy.
- Rocking, undulating, and vibration are qualities of movement not usually found in a yoga class. They deeply access our life force energy and naturally occur during embodied transformations including orgasm, deep grieving, and soul shaking laughter. We use them to invoke transformation.
- We visit the animal spirit of the poses to remember our resilient and sensual animal instincts.
Divine Costumes. That was the name of my first naked solo dancing onstage. I was in college. My parents, grandparents, cousins, aunt and uncle were in the audience. I had credited Mom and Dad as the costume designers.
|Photo by Jennifer Maeve|
I remember the stage manager asking if I wanted to put clothes on for the bow. I remember thinking he missed my intention… to honor the body. I remember how moved I was that night to hear people’s responses. My female housemate came up after the show and said my dance made her feel like a Goddess that night. I remember my male housemate saying he wanted to sexualize it, but he couldn’t, it was so much more. I remember grandma’s cousin sat behind some young children and she thought they would laugh. But when I started dancing they were silent and mesmerized.
I remember the email grandma’s cousin sent me 10 years later, “Beautiful Cousin, twice removed, you are out of this world! You have created a field of exploration that is all of you. I am sorry to be such an old lady, about to be 80, or I would be participating in all your events.”
I remember the dancer who was going to perform the duet with me before she developed a back injury. I remember her surprise that I encouraged her to rest and take care of her body. Our professional training had taught us to be martyrs more than sacred bodies. I remember the moment I chose to do the show anyway and to improvise a solo based on the duet we had started to create.
I remember rehearsing in the dance studio naked and covering the windows with pink foam boards. I remember my friend who sat filming me, baring her breasts in solidarity. I remember the security guard who walked in and asked us what we were doing. I remember thinking he felt more like an insecurity guard. I remember the badge I made the next day as I experimented with being a soul security guard.
|Painted by Rainbow for the Sacred Sex Round Up|
I remember the awkward moment of disrobing in the “dressing room” while everyone else put clothes on. I remember feeling the most comfortable on stage. I could get away with things in the spotlight that caused discomfort off stage. Maybe it was because the performance gave people permission to look… there’s some magic about performance that gives us permission to show and to see more intimately. Or maybe people like to look out from the dark.
I remember performing naked again years later at the Sacred Sex Round Up with my friends, a djembe player and an opera singer. I remember a couple came up to me after the solo crying. They said it was the first time they could share the experience of being turned on while watching a naked woman perform. They said they felt I let them see all of me. I remember the woman of the couple chosing to transform that night. She began to study with my sexual shaman teacher.
|Earth held, the sky has never explained infinity so clearly.|
I remember hiking naked in the red rocks of Sedona with my soul sister and best friend from kindergarden. I remember laying with our legs open, sunning our yonis. I remember how delicious the fire of the sun felt on my clit. I remember thinking, “how have I never spread my legs to the sun before?” And then thinking, where else could I? I remember the couple who came along the trail and the split second of wondering if we should move. I remember the man tripped as he came upon us. I remember inviting him into our comfort rather than joining him in his awkwardness. I remember as he passed the blessing I called out to him, and really to myself, “enjoy your life!”
At New Years I lost a dear inspiring friend, Kibibi Dillion. Her spirit told me to stop fucking around and do what I’m here to do: perform, teach, coach. MAKE A ONE WOMAN SHOW.
I’ve fantasized about doing this for years. Every time I saw a performer create a one person show it felt like a coming of age ritual and I sensed it was a matter of time before it would be my turn.
What stories will I tell? What dances….songs? Ok. I wasn’t expecting that. This piece is growing me.
I decided at New Years that I wanted to perform my show in Kentucky and New York, the two birth places of my parents. I took out a calendar and highlighted labor day weekend, this is when I want to perform I told myself. A few months later I was at a party and a man asked me, “aren’t you Zahava from Appalachia?” He recognized me from a performance I had attended a year prior in the Bronx. Yes.
Now Appalachia for me has been a deep secret. My roots there seem to be the core of my sense of not belonging to the world I see and feel around me. He turned out to be the director of the Clear Creek Festival, an incredible annual festival for healing, performance, and cultural transformation. After a beautiful conversation that brought me to tears he invited me to come perform. He said he would email me the dates.
When I returned home I opened the email to discover that the festival was on…Labor Day weekend! Oh, universe I think I asked for this. But I was so terrified that I didn’t respond for months. In the past few weeks I have met 3 people who had been to the festival or were from Appalachia. Suddenly the reality of Appalachia was showing up in my NYC life. As much as I feared going back HOME it seemed the greatest fear would be to say no to this invitation I had requested.
I sat in the park with my soul sister, Chelsea, who is also Appalachian and Jewish and had performed at Clear Creek in 2010. She said to me, “you’re going to feel at home.” At which point I lost it. I cried so deeply — What if I don’t like it? She looked at me, “you and I are the kinds of people who go everywhere, we have such an expansive experience visiting other people’s cultures and realities. Sometimes the scariest thing is to go home.”
I called the director this week. I want to come, is it too late? I borrowed a tent, I cleared my schedule…it’s official universe, I accept.
Making a one woman show has been a journey. At first I was just trying to find language for my memories and what I felt was important. Then I started doing showings for my dear friends, lovers, tribe. Yes, they sometimes gave feedback but I really was at the stage of needing to be witnessed and seen in my story. Reading your life story aloud every Sunday is an interesting ritual. Some weeks it’s really emotional, and some weeks it feels less so. Just this past week I felt a shift. I am really ready to hear how its occurring for others.
What I’m learning is that a one woman show cannot be made by one woman. I need my community and friends to tell me what it looks like from out there. There is an intimacy in asking for feedback and really receiving it. There are parts of this show that I edited out this week because I realize they were for me. There’s something generous about knowing what not to share. And generous about this stage of the process, because this show is for you. Just like living is for ourselves, AND for each other. Performance is the HOW we live for each other.
And! I don’t have a venue for NYC yet. Universe? If you want to produce my show, sponsor it, have recommendations for festivals, venues, performance opportunities to apply to, please email: Zahava@LoveMakingDances.com.
Sex, Earth, Ancestors
A multimedia solo performance ritual created and performed by Zahava Griss.
My roots bridge religious, cultural, and class lines gifting me with the ability to be and to communicate Love across socially defined realities. I am the child of a New York Jewish sociologist and the Appalachian mountain woman he was assigned to “study.” I was raised by the ballet community and the African diasporic dance community. I learned how differently cultures define dance, the body, sex, the soul, and our relationship with the Earth. This performance ritual is about their evolution and how
our personal life story plays a part in it.
Orgasm. Deep grieving. Belly laughter. Muscle spasm.
The moment after each of these, we often feel a deep release and peace. They are all forms of vibration…holding on, letting go, holding on, letting go until we really let go. They are all bridges into the involuntary nervous system.
In Orgasm the physical body literally has a spasm through the musculature of the pelvic floor and the womb flutters. In deep grieving and belly laughter the diaphragm contracts and releases with rapid energy and breath. In muscle spasm the muscle contracts and releases and contracts until it surrenders and lengthens. We surrender to the trembling and our voluntary nervous system stops controling the process.
We can have a consciousnessgasm too! Just before our awareness expands we can feel disorientation. My whole life I thought it was hard to make money, wait I can make money? no it’s hard, no wait there are lots of successful passionate people….and then our reality surrenders and the beliefs expand.
What I’ve noticed in the last decade of supporting people through physical and spiritual transformation is that before the transformation there is a vibration. It may not feel good, transformation as much as we seek it does not always “feel” good while it’s happening. But then afterwards there is an expansion!
In the last six months I went to study with Peter Levine, international trauma healing expert and creator of “somatic experiencing.” I also trained with a group of dance therapists on healthy embodiment for trauma survivors. In both of these professional development settings the theme of vibration, trembling, shaking emerged.
Animals do not retain trauma in their systems. Ok, imagine we’re field mice and we gather for dinner. I’m not going to be sitting there petrified telling you, “wow, I almost died 3 times today there was a huge hawk overhead and he came swooping down and I think I’m never going out to the field again!” No, animals tremble and shake until the fear moves through their nervous system and they continue living. Somewhere in our great human evolution we interrupted this process.
So while I was at these trainings with trauma specialists I kept asking why don’t we shake each day and rinse out our nervous system?! Do we have to wait for a trauma? And they were intrigued. Now, this is not new in other cultures where drumming and shaking is a daily practice.
As a yoga teacher and dancer I’ve noticed that a lot of folks try stretching but they are still tight. Sometimes deep stretches actually make them more tight. Recently I saw a rolfer and she was surprised to hear that I’ve been dancing intensely for 30 years and have no injuries. I mean dancing 2-8, sometimes 12 hours a day, and no injuries. She let me know that most dancers and yogis she works on have a lot of chronic injuries and I started to wonder what my body learned and how I can share it with others.
Shaking! Every day I put on music and I shake and let it rattle my breath and recreate my body on a cellular level. Really deep shaking so that sounds come from my throat, the world around me becomes blurry, every part of my body is in motion. Then I localize the vibration and literally shimmey down my legs inside of the hamstring stretchs, IT stretches, inner thigh stretches…I tremble. I remember when I worked with Anodea Judith, a pioneer in chakra health, that energy can move more deeply through a vibrating leg than one with contracted muscles. Later when dancing with Egyptian Priestess, Leslie Zehr, the same theme came up.
So I have started to teach vibration inside of yoga poses. I’m reframing the goal, it’s not so focused on physical flexibility as much as charging the energy through a muscle and oxygenating the tissue. The muscle contracts, releases, contracts….and then transforms. In fact sometimes a really limber body has the hardest time finding this shaking. But the shaking actually repairs, heals, and strengthens our embodiment. It prepares us for what Peter Levine describes as trauma proofing. I would say it integrates the soul body into the physical body so we can live at ease and playfully in a present body.
I’m thrilled to be sharing this approach in my classes and private sessions. I’d love to hear about your experiences with this process too! What are you noticing in your bodies, with your clients, and students?
For years I have been offering Sacred and Naked Yoga. And yes, many of you have noticed that my performances often share the same transparency, honoring of my parents’ sacred costuming if you will. My mom recently asked me on my way to the Clear Creek Festival if I would be performing with clothes on this time. She said to be honest she’d be more inclined to invite our relatives if I had clothes on. “Mom, I’ll be more naked than I’ve ever been but with clothes on!” We laughed. She knew I was speaking of the vulnerability, the rawness of the content of my one woman show, Trust, Earth, Ancestors…
|Photo by Monique Torok
Last week I taught at a conference for socially conscious entrepreneurs. We were focusing on the third chakra and I invited folks if they felt comfortable to lift their shirt and work directly with their bellies. I heard a sound next to me. “Ok, ok, we’re courageous enough to change the world, but lifting our shirts might be too much. Well we’re taking baby steps, let’s start with where we are.”
Naked. So for some folks this seems like a big ordeal, noted. I want to share something. I know that I’m petite. I know that my body is proportionate and that society endorses a beauty that I am lucky enough to fit into. I am not oblivious to this privilege. And I’d like to share this…
Being naked sensitizes the body and makes it easier for us to really feel. It creates a dynamic of trust in the room. It is only because most of our daily social interactions create a norm of clothing the body that coming together in the nude becomes an opportunity to live beyond social norms. This is particularly true when we honor our body and our sexuality as sacred. The context for how we come together to celebrate our wholeness is what gives our nakedness power. Deep breathing, remembering how similar we are. These are the smells of our human forms. These are the scars, this is how our inhales move our ribs. This is how tension has sculped our necks and feet. This is the exquisite living design. For these 90 minutes we join the baby animals and freshly born humans in comfort inside our bodies. There’s an innocence under all those layers.
On Sept 6, 2012, I had the honor dancing Swing Us Sky Rain(bow) at the American Dance Guild Performance Festival. The piece was choreographed by Shani Collins-Achille and focused on breaking the generational cycle of domestic abuse.
Shani facilitates women’s circles for empowerment and this was the perfect intersection of the healing and performing we are here to create. When the lights come up I am the only one laying on the ground, representing those women who have fallen. My 5 sisters are walking softly around me dropping rose petals with compassion and starting the first moves of a dance that will ignite all of us into our fierceness.
During tech week I had the honor of facilitating our cast to get more connected to the work and to each other. The piece centered on Ursula Rucker’s poem, The Return of Innocence Lost (see below.) The dancers were so strong, so embodied, so passionate during this sound scape.