Tantra Blog

Monday, June 13, 2011

Scotland: Tantric witches and dancing merlins

Scotland, what a surprise you are. I am sitting in a gorgeous stone church in Glasgow, having Scottish salmon for dinner. Downstairs, men are enjoying a pint. A gold bicycle is tied to the railing of the church building. And the roof of this temple-restaurant is gold.

I am talking to a priest from the Church of Scotland who believes that Merlin was the heralder, the bard of the goddess in Scotland. He finds it his mission to introduce the wild wisdom of this ancient druid back into the spirit loins of Scotland - through movement and sound. A dancing priest with silver hair, participating fully and with glee in my workshop on Releasing Sexual Trauma. In my introduction to this workshop, I mention that often our cultural and religious conditioning contributes to the suppression and distortion of our sexual energy. Each participant introduces themselves, and the priest says: "I am a cleric from the church, and therefore one of those who cause sexual abuse in this country." What delightful frank - and slightly disconcerting - honesty.

I am surprised, honestly surprised, by the depth to which the group work in Scotland went. A few nights ago, Glasgow had its first taste of BlissDance. After two hours of dancing, I close the circle and put on a piece of funky Latin music just for fun. And finally, the group wakes up and begins to jive. A tall skinny farmer in black long-johns and with long black hair falling over his well-wrinkled face explains this to me: "This is Scotland, my dear. We are on the same latitude as the North Pole. We take long to thaw".

But boy oh boy, do the Scots thaw when you give them the opportunity.

Saturday's workshop is called Beloved. It's an exploration of the relationship between our inner masculine and feminine, as mirrored by our outer relationships. In the build-up to this event, Gillian, my gorgeous hostess, speculates that people feel some resistance to the topic. Who wants to believe that there is a beloved within if in stead we could hold on to the dream of finding the perfect beloved outside? And yet, as the day comes closer, more and more people submit to the call of truth. We have a lovely group in the thick carpeted cozy yoga room for the day.

By the end of the day, the group looks very wide-eyed. A young German man finds is still incredulous at how is outer relationship dynamics present a direct mirror of his inner tendencies. Three young women are elated and astounded about by the discoveries they have made about their relationship with the inner beloved. One lovely woman from South America is crying with joy; she has found her father, at last - inside herself. When I see her a couple of days later, she shares with me how this discovery has radically transformed her relationship with her partner, as she now no longer need to project father on to him.

Sunday, I facilitate Scotland's releasing sexual trauma workshop. The cultural dynamics here are similar to those in England, but perhaps just more heavy and directly connected to ancestral patterns. The country is strongly influenced by religion, and there is much shame about sexuality. Here too, various versions of incest seem to be common, and also neglect of children by parents who struggled to keep food on the table or for whom alcohol became a lifestyle.

What surprises me is the depth to which the groups take the work. There are some really committed seekers here, and some of them have been traveling the world in search of new perspectives on the truth. The other factor is that there is a strong sense of community here. Gillian is the organizer of Sacred Heart Tantra Meet-up in Glasgow (see wee.meetup.com/Sacred-Heart/Tantra. Also present is James who orchestrates Awaken Scotland, an innovative project involving a bi-monthly 'conscious nightclub for the senses that happens, can you believe it, in a church hall in Edinburgh. Check out www.awakeningscotland.com.

But apart from these specific initiatives that create a social context for me to step in to with my work, there is also a general sense of friendship and sharing. Gillian was an astounding hostess. I hardly had time to think about a need I may have - from fixing a piece of clothing to tea in bed when I wake up - and she was there to provide. The warmth and generosity with which she gave to me was telling of the Scottish way.

The flair for social networking has gone 21st century for Amy Palko, who prides herself on having 5000 twitter followers, and being greeted in awe by fellow twitterers and monthly twitterer gatherings in Edinburgh. Never before have I had as many facebook mentions by people who attended my events as in Scotland. Thank you for the support, you rock Scotland!

And then there are the witches and the Merlins. They are powerful women and men who have inherited the spirit power of their Celtic mystical ancestry. Many years ago, I had an intense journey with my own witch heritage, that led me to Scotland, where I felt the pain of the witch hunt most intensely, and also the power of those women who were so accused. So they are not difficult for me to recognize. Red-headed Gillian and goddesswoman Amy run Reclaiming Delphi, which includes priestess gatherings and women's ceremonies at the equinoxes and the solstices. Also check out Gillian's private practice. And there are other women too - they are young, but they recognize the truth with fiery eyes, and they will scream into the face of what opposes the essence of love. Their consciousness is piercing and their love is fierce. They remember death and loss and betrayal. And they remember what they stood up for lifetime after lifetime. They are the women - and men - who will transform the world, when they become fully embodied again. This work I share with them, I know, is part of what will help them find their way back into fully trusting their embodied spirituality - their sexuality, and the truth of their desire, again.

So Scotland. Slow to start, but an exhiliratingly powerful yes once that fire is lit. At Glasgow airport on my way out of Scotland I find a magical massage chair. Feed it a pound and it starts to vibrate your perineum. Fellow travelers can't help but smile as they walk past. I put in another pound and have another three minutes of celebrating heaven on earth. This fire is lit, for sure.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Releasing Sexual Trauma

Releasing sexual trauma through Tantric practice

This article appeared in the Natural Medicine of June 2011.

It is remarkable how many people have had some traumatic experience around their sexuality. Typically such experiences leave the deepest imprint when they happened in childhood, but even more recent events can be so traumatic that they get suppressed into the subconscious. For us humans, this is most often what happens with our traumatic experiences: At the moment when the incident occurs, it feels like too much to process, and so we block or suppress the emotions and sensations felt. Very often, we even suppress the memory that such an event occurred, or lose our conscious memory of what the event meant for us.

What causes sexual trauma?

Our nervous systems can register sexual trauma from a wide range of experiences. Here are some:

Direct sexual invasions

This happens when a person’s genitals or anus get penetrated without his or her conscious consent. Such incidents can occur with strangers, such as a man luring a girl to him in a park. They can also occur with familiars such as family members or friends of family.

Sexual touch

Sexual touch, such as feeling the breasts of a woman, can be very traumatic if unwanted.

Non-sexual invasive touch

At any age, the body can register invasive experiences such as enemas or gynecological examinations as a sexual invasion and remember it as such.

Sexual innuendo

Sexual suggestions and associations can have a profound impact on a person’s psyche. An example is where a parent projects his unfulfilled sexual desires on to the child, and the child unconsciously takes responsibility for these feelings.

Emotional incest

When emotional relationships become inappropriately entangled, this can register in the body as sexual invasion. In energetic language, we talk about an invasion of the etheric or emotional body. Since this experience is so intimate, the body can remember it as sexual intimacy.

Response to sexual experience

Very often, the trauma is caused by someone else’s response to the person’s sexual experience. An example is when parents severely reprimand children for sexual exploration that happened quite innocently.

Signs of sexual wounding or trauma

As stated before, the memory of sexual trauma often goes unconscious in us; we forget that the event ever happened. What signs are there in our lives that may hint at a suppressed sexual memory? Here are some patterns associated with unconscious sexual trauma memory (please bear in mind though that these patterns are not definite indications of sexual trauma):

• Premature ejaculation for men

• Tight or dry vagina for women

• Extreme sensitivity or nervousness about intimacy (emotional, physical or sexual)

• Withdrawal from life

• Extreme shyness

• Compulsion to please, impress and perform

• Over-achievement, perfectionism and drivenness

• No sexual boundaries

• Intense projection on to partners

How unconscious experience becomes conscious

Our body-mind has ingenious ways to remind us of experiences that have been suppressed in us, or put away for later.

Body/ cellular memory

Whatever we have not fully experienced or integrated remains in our bodies as cellular memory. The body will remind us of what has not been properly felt. This can happen through body symptoms such as a tightening or over sensitivity of sexual organs. The body can also hold traumatic memory is through freezing, numbness, lack of sensitivity and coldness.

Associations in sexual life

Much of our sexual experience in relationship is associative. We come to associate one experience with another. For instance, many women experience any tenderness from their partners as a potential sexual approach, and so they freeze up immediately. Associations run deep and can be very primal.

Fantasies and taboos

Consciously working with erotic fantasies, especially those that involve taboos, can offer a gateway to releasing what is in the unconscious.

The wise body: trusting the nervous system

Our nervous system, as that of any animal, is structured in such a way that it can release trauma rapidly. When an animal runs away from danger or gets caught, the sympathetic nervous system get activated. This is our body’s “fight and flight” mechanism; it brings the organism to maximum alertness and focus. It the buck escapes, the animal will involuntarily start shaking. This is the parasympathetic nervous system taking over - the body’s system for relaxation and release.

We humans are the same as animals, except that we have conscious reasoning faculties. In a moment of crisis, our reasoning faculties will try to control, solve, change or suppress the experience rather than letting it pass through us. Consequently, we stay stuck in the “fight and flight” mode of contraction, tightening, freeze, over activity and over alertness. Especially “civilized” humans will hardly allow their bodies just to shake. Indigenous cultures like the San have shaking as a ritualized part of their dancing, since they intuitively sense how it frees the body-mind from its constrictions.

In a healthy nervous system, energy moves in a figure of eight from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system. The body is continuously moving between focus and relaxation, attention and release. It is possible to release sexual trauma from the body by supporting this natural flow in the body. This method has been developed in great refinement by Peter Levine, and is called Somatic Experiencing[1].

When trauma surfaces in a client’s body during a session, I support and guide the person to fully allow both the contraction and the shaking-release phase of the nervous system response. It is remarkable how rapidly the trauma memory releases from the body in this way. What it takes from the client is a deep commitment to awareness and willingness for energetic transformation.

Feeling your emotions

When trauma memories come up, either consciously or through the movements of the nervous system, this may open a flood of emotions. It is very necessary and healing to let yourself feel any emotions that surface.

Finding your NO

It is very important to find your “no” – to learn when something doesn’t feel good to you, and to say “no” to it. Practice saying “no” in a way that can be felt by others, and that sends out a clear signal. Be clear on where your “no” lies.

Finding your YES: Becoming embodied

People who have experienced sexual trauma often resist being fully embodied. Staying unaware of your body is a way of remaining in the “fight and flight”/freeze mode. It may feel familiar and therefore comfortable, but it doesn’t help you in the long run. Notice what happens if you start to move – stretch your body – dance – feel. Take time to gently explore new realms of experience for the body. The psychologist Wilhelm Reich[2] said that we try to protect ourselves from the outside world by creating body armoring. This armoring is a tactile and movement defensiveness that keeps us rigid and separate. Through gentle, loving, conscious movement you can move through these stuck energetic patterns and start to enjoy the bliss of being in a body again.

When you say yes to your body, you may find that unnecessary protection in the form of fat drops off. If you are too skinny, you are likely to gain weight and feel more vitality.

[1] Levine, Peter and Frederick, Anne. 1997. Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma : The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA

[2] Reich, Wilhelm. 1986. The function of the orgasm. Macmillan