” The soul feels unsafe in a frightened body. The Bodywork is to breath courage into the frightened body, to feel pleasure in its own edges again. It is a way of preparing the body to be a home for the soul again”

( Mehdi Darvish Yahya, with thanks to Caffyn Jesse)

The first time I came across trauma in a visceral way was about thirty years ago. I was a young lawyer. A client had just been telling me about appalling abuse she had suffered as a child, and suddenly became very upset. I reflexively put my hand on her hand to comfort her, and it was as if I’d given her an electric shock. I immediately withdrew my hand, unsure what to do.

When the body has experienced something which makes it feel radically unsafe, two responses to touch are common: startle and freeze.

It seemed obvious to me when I started out in this work that, in Bodywork, the key to untangling the trauma was to re-empower the body, to give it agency again. So, I would agree with the client exactly what we were going to do, maintain constant dialogue, tell the client what I was going to do before I did it, ( and then, not to do it without specific consent), be very aware if the client was going to zone out, and so on.

I don’t think that working in this way is wrong, but I think it’s incomplete, because it places insufficient weight on relationship and active autonomy: the client doesn’t just need to reduce the grip of historically based fear, they need to actualise their capacity for active relationship and joy. There’s a difference between the body feeling safe and the body feeling pleasure, joy and connection. The first is necessary for the second, but not sufficient. I think I thought that if the body is free from fear, it will find its own way to joy, but I now think that isn’t necessarily so.

To this end, I’ve been working in a much more flexible, client-led, experimental way, enabling the client to decide when there’s contact and when there isn’t, and the form which that contact will take.

For example, the client might want to embrace, but feel anxious about what sort of touch they will receive. A way round this is to allow the client to lead the touch, and for the practitioner simply to mirror that, at first in the physical movements and then, as confidence builds, in the intent which informs the touch. The client is always in control, and can decide when they’ve had enough.

One client said to me that I was a surrogate. She didn’t mean that I was a sexual surrogate, because I don’t have sex with clients or engage in sexual acts with them, but rather, in one of my modes of working,  I use my body and my intent for the benefit of the client. So, where a client’s body has been traumatised in an experience where they had no power, perhaps involving a man, that trauma can be gradually unravelled by an empowered and autonomous connection with me, and then the body, because it’s safe, can gradually feel pleasure and connection.

This is still quite a new approach for me, and I’ll write further on it in due course.

When my first Zen teacher, Nancy Amphoux visited me for the last time, nearly thirty years ago, she was suffering a recurrence of the cancer which would kill her a year later. Although she could feel it eating away at her bones, she wouldn’t take painkillers while she was teaching, because she felt that her temporary pain was insignificant compared to the risk of imparting error to her students due to befuddling sedatives. I remember talking to her in my living room. We were both standing up. She was behind me. I was pontificating about something or other, when I was suddenly aware of her launching herself towards me, flying through the air, legs first, grasping my hips with her legs. Her response to her impending death was joyful, playful exuberance.

I’ve always been frightened. For years I disguised it with my intellect, my studied vagueness, my capacity for distracting myself, but more recently I have been able to see it plainly. And because of that, I can see other things more clearly: the courage and generosity of my teachers.

Other than my dear teacher Michael Eido Luetchford, who gave me Zen transmission, all my teachers have been women, particularly in the fields of sexuality and dance. And I think this isn’t an accident because in my experience, generally, there’s a crucial difference between men and women teachers. Men tend to want to share their knowledge and wisdom. Women share themselves: how it is to be them, and what they have learnt and understood through that. And because that is so, with these teachers, I haven’t learnt how to become like them. I’ve learnt how to become myself.

In that spirit, I honour my teachers not by copying them, but by doing my best to be completely open to them, to take it all in, and then carry on with this mixture of them and me in as open hearted a way as is possible. To follow and honour them, not by repeating them, but to understand and express how each human heart is transformed by another. So something both new and not-new can arise.

And through my wish to honour my teachers, it appears, from the outside, that I diverge from them. My zen teaching is nothing like Eido. In fact, it often sounds contradictory, but I don’t think it is. It is like dancing with someone. Both persons are unbalanced, but in their unbalance, they create a greater balance, a dynamic one, which can move through time. Not like an object, or an institution, but like a person.

And for the same reason, although I deeply respect and love my tantra teacher, Hilly Spenceley, I don’t want to teach her structures, brilliant though they are. I want to hold them in my heart and then birth something from myself. Likewise, I feel that while I have engaged – and continue to engage – in a deep way with Betty Martin and her Wheel Of Consent teachings, I don’t want to become a certified member of her School. Not because I disrespect her, but because I love her.

Our teachers don’t want us to walk through the world wearing a mask of their face. They want us to take off our masks. They don’t want us to have confidence because we carry their certificate in our hand. They want us to open our hand.

And our heart.

 

How should we touch? When I was a kid in the late sixties, watching Man From Uncle on the telly, the bit I liked best was Napoleon Solo going into an innocent looking basement shop in New York. He would casually press a few buttons on the back wall and then a door in the wall would open, revealing a completely different world.

Men are encouraged to believe that women’s sexuality is like that wall. All they need to do is find out where the buttons are, and they can be Napoleon Solo too.

So, they’re eagerly receptive for material that will enable them to make a woman ejaculate, or find their g spot, or their third gate.

I say they’re mistaken. Why?

Four reasons:

First, Touch which is future orientated isn’t good touch. If I’m touching you to produce an effect, you’re going to know that. If you sense me thinking “is she there yet?”, you won’t be able to relax. In fact, you may feel somewhat irritated. You may feel somewhat done to.

Second, there isn’t a secret inner world. Our eroticism is completely available to us, and those who love us. It isn’t hidden at all. There aren’t silos of pleasure in an otherwise numb world. The world of the body is completely alive. All of it.

Third, good touch is heartful, not technical. When people tell me they don’t know how they want to be touched, that arises from the deficient notion that touching is just something my body does to your body. But that’s not so. I touch you with my heart, through my body. If we can include the palette of emotions, touch is never repetitive, because it’s always expressing ourselves at this moment.

Look how animals are, how comfortable and easily affectionate they are with each other. Yes, we’re different because we have tools and artifacts and self consciousness, but our intimate connection with all beings remains. And those species developments needn’t determine our nature. When we’re assembling a watch we need to be technical. When we’re expressing ourselves, we don’t.

And lastly, we don’t want to be manipulated. We want to be adored. Lusted after. Be the ravished summer orchard for the hungry hordes. All that stuff:

simple

 

I lost my virginity to a nice woman at an office party when I was 25.  I was working in a huge antiquated office, like the House Of Usher. I worked up in an eyrie. She worked down in the basement with people who rarely saw the sun (it was Glasgow; few of us did). When I first saw her, I was holding a brass door handle, and my first idle thought was that someone must have wired it up as a practical joke, as I felt what I assumed was an electric shock.  Completely out of character, I took her by the hand and led her to one of the partner’s rooms, where we did the deed on an uncomfortable nylon carpet.

 

I suppose a lot of men have had similar experiences. It just comes as such a relief. You don’t assess the quality of the sex, you’re just glad to say to yourself you’re normal. Although in my case that would have been a bit of a stretch.

 

The funny thing was, that didn’t open up a path for me of carefree sexuality. I don’t think I had sex again for another 5 years, and this lingering sense of there being something wrong eventually took me into therapy when I was 29. The therapy itself didn’t do much, but suddenly, a year or so into the therapy, I suddenly started having sex with a lot of people, I assume to give me something to talk to my therapist about, who had significant shortcomings as a conversationalist.

 

Much later in my life, I became a sex coach and Bodyworker, and one of the reasons for this was that I didn’t want people to go through the many years of confusion and unhappiness I did. There isn’t much we can do about many aspects of the human condition: we get ill, we die, the people we love die, horrible things happen for no reason, but we can do something about sexual unhappiness. The tragedy is, we don’t know we can. But we can.

 

I started with my virginity recollection, firstly because I’m aware that many people’s reaction to the sex they’ve had is “Is that all there is?”. And also, that many of us have an anxiety or shame around sexuality which may stop us having any encounters at all.

 

I particularly want to work with people like that, because in healing them I also feel that I’m healing myself: my younger, frightened self.

 

And second, because the idea of “losing your virginity” has a particularly masculine perspective. I wonder if it might be more helpful to think of the significant, inaugural thing as being not the particular configuration of our body with another, but rather, the quality of what we feel.

 

Redefining the experience of ‘losing my virginity’

 

So: a modest proposal. Let’s re-define losing one’s virginity as having a significant body feeling in the presence of another. It may well be an orgasm, but it needn’t be. I may then have lost my virginity with the ‘electric shock’. You in a different way. So we’re all like a million spots of light in a dark erotic sky. And fuck normal.

 

 

 

 

Real Tantric Massage

 

One of my friends worked in the sex industry for a while, and she once gave me the menu for the place where she worked. It was very specific. It went something like:

Massage £x

Topless Massage £x + a

Nude Massage £x + b

 

And so on. If the same place is still in business, it will probably be offering “Tantric Massage”, and what it means by that is that the [male] customer will get a cursory massage, focused on his genitals which ends with a happy ending; ejaculation. The [female] practitioner will probably be naked.

 

In this context, ‘Tantra’ simply means ‘pricier’, but essentially it’s still the same as the purchase of a sexual service has always been: The customer pays for a familiar experience, and [hopefully] gets that experience.

 

And that’s absolutely ok, but it’s a pity, because it’s a travesty of what real tantric massage is, and it’s one of the reasons why we don’t use the term; whilst we do genital and anal massage [although we remain clothed], we come from a different position, a position of love, expansion and shared exploration.

 

We’re not offering to give you what you already know: we’re offering to help you open up to what you don’t know: that’s the difference. And it’s a big difference.

 

So if you want something familiar, we’re not the ones for you. But if you want to explore and expand…

 

Hello

Learning with love and sex coaching takes many directions

Many of us are interested in increasing our sexual desire and learning to please our partner more.  Shouldn’t this just be easy and fun, and be a positive change, you would think so wouldn’t you?

Going through from Glasgow to Edinburgh at 6.00 on Saturday morning I am struck by my reaction to getting a new car that would save me money and support me in developing a new practice that I love.  It is dismay!  I had grown used to being carried into town and home again by the train driver.  All I had to do was turn up and I could sleep on early and late journeys and study and reflect during the rest.

Now I would have to concentrate on working out new controls and navigate the whole journey.  I would have to avoid bad drivers, make calculations about extra time for bad weather and road works.  I would be sitting in traffic jams and trying to avoid those pesky traffic cameras.  All this seemed like stress and anxiety to me!  I didn’t know the route in and I missed my comfy old executive saloon car with the roomy boot!  So I drove in the first few times at the maximum speed limit, hands clenching the steering wheel hard when I hit difficult situations and road conditions.

A month later I marvel at all the self-induced stress.   My response to the new is rather perfectionist.  How do I do it right?  What problems could come up that I can avoid or be prepared for by planning in advance?  How can I make this new situation work best for me?  Like many people my approach to the new is not the childish glee of a child with a new toy but starts with adult worry.

Relaxing and reconnecting

When it comes to changing our sex and love lives we can interrupt those habits of stressing when trying something new. It can be as simple as relaxing and reconnecting with the original nature of our bodies. Taking this approach gives opportunities to find easy and enjoyable ways to learn new things that you can practice at home and in your relationships.

John’s attitude to driving a new car is exactly opposite to mine and reflects a large part of the dynamics of our relationship.  He just rolls up and drives off gloriously oblivious of anything that could go wrong.  And we both get there!! Each of us can be impervious to the other’s good driving points and loudly indignant if our partner ‘helpfully’ suggests any driving hints (or forgets to help when navigating in John’s case!)  How we navigate these differences is what gives surprise, challenge, energy and sometimes joy to our partnership.

The joys of sailing

Still driving, I started to wonder what type of car would describe my sex life and to see how it has varied over the years from a low-slung speedy roadster to a regal Bentley and all points in between.  I have discovered the joys of sailing along at only 60 mph on the motorway.  Then my mind can be happily engaged with things of interest rather than on overtaking and the racer tailgating me in the outside lane.  I have found that in an older model I can turn off and go down side roads where I will see new landscape and arrive in a different frame of mind.  And when I’m feeling wicked I don’t need to worry about the paintwork so much when I am making a cheeky manoeuvre!

When an Aston Martin was my dream car I couldn’t image many other choices.  Happily, every make and model of car has its surprises and detours and as I navigate the different stages of my life, energy and interests I appreciate the slow as well as the fast.

So I wonder, what sort of car would best describe your sex life right now and what type of journeys do you usually take?  What would you change if you could be a different model and what type of roads and scenery would you enjoy in your life if you had the choice?  Maybe you do.

Image: Paul Bica Nature’s Painting (Flickr)