I take in a deep breath. Deep, all the way down into my pelvis. I hold it there for a moment and then slowly release. I look in my daughter’s eyes. I take another breath, this one not as deep, this one involuntary. A smile starts to form at my lips where moments ago I was holding back a scream. I ask to listen to her heart. I hold her in my arms and hear the beat, beat, beat of her life booming into my ear, grounding me deeper, helping me find my center, my Self.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines sensual as: 1. relating to or consisting in the gratification of the senses or the indulgence of appetite; 2. sensory; 3a. devoted to or preoccupied with the senses or appetites; 3b. voluptuous; 3c. deficient in moral, spiritual, or intellectual interests.
Psychology Today defines sensual as: in essence, how in tune you are with your senses. Do you notice smells, textures, sounds? How sensual you are plays a key role not only in your sex life but in your overall ability to derive pleasure from life as a whole.
Honestly the “official” Merriam-Webster definition pisses me off. It has a puritanical overtone to it that encourages us to be alienated from our bodies, from our senses, from both pleasure and pain. It labels being sensual as an “indulgence” and states right out that it equals being “deficient in moral, spiritual or intellectual interests.” It may as well say, if you are a sensual being (which every human on the planet is) you are a harlot, a whore; you are depraved and non-spiritual. I have a LOT of issue with this. The definition screams of oppression, to me, and well that just doesn’t sit right my body, or mind, or spirit.
Psychology Today (PT) takes out all of the judgement when defining the word sensual and says exactly what it is: being in tune with one’s senses. There is no puritanical judgement involved and in fact PT states that being in-tune with your senses allows you to “derive pleasure from life as a whole.” And deriving pleasure is a Good Thing!
Because isn’t this what we all want? A pleasurable, joyful life? Isn’t this part of being alive — to feel, to smell, to taste, to hear, to see; to take in and put out beauty? To feel good in our own skin, to be present in the moment, to release shame from our Selves? To tune into the spirituality and connection to the world that being into to our senses allows?
For me, the answer is a resounding YES. This is where my course Savoring Sensuality grew from: a place of connecting to the present moment, to my own body, and finding pleasure and joy, right now. This course is a course in self-care, a course in connection–to our Self, to our world, to the present moment, to those we love. It is a course in slowing down and learning to savor what we have right now. It is about gratitude and seeing the abundance that fills our lives now.
As those of us in the northern hemisphere start to settle into fall, to get cozy, to move inside our homes, our minds, our bodies and spirits as the days become shorter, it is a perfect time to start to deeply tune into our bodies, spirits and selves. We are surrounded by the comforting smells and tastes of fall and winter foods, by the feel of warmth and smell of earthiness of a fire in our fireplace, as we curl up in our cozy sweaters and fleeces and under fluffy warm blankets, our senses are coming alive and it is the perfect opportunity to slow down and savor those perfect moments.
For those in the southern hemisphere, your world is coming alive from a long sleep. As the flowers bloom and days get longer, now is the time to take those moments and savor the beauty, the re-birth and to open yourself to your own re-birthing process by connecting to your body, to nature, to these perfect moments as they unfold.
Any time of year is the perfect time to connect to our selves, to the present moment. At any time we can start the journey of slowing down and savoring these moments of beauty and grace before they pass us by.
I would love for you to join me on this journey and participate in Savoring Sensuality. The special celebration pricing is available until midnight pacific standard time on Wednesday (that Tuesday night/Wednesday morning) and now is the time to take advantage of this deep discount and join the amazing community that is growing around this program. We begin on November 1. For more information and to register click right here.
There is a place, the in-between, that can be passed by so quickly. It is the space of anticipation – right before the Next Thing becomes reality. It is the space of fear and not knowing – waiting for test results or a decision that is out of our hands to be made. This in-between place is often not comfortable, in fact I would say it is almost always filled with discomfort and we humans like to avoid discomfort in the present moment at much as possible.
I’ve been learning to live and be present in this in-between place. I have many things that are in the future: my husband coming back from a family visit, my birthday, the release of my new course, Halloween festivities, starting my clinical training, graduation, starting a private brick-and-mortar practice and so on. Many things that are far off, some that are just a few days away, and yet I have little to no control to making them happen sooner and so I sit in this waiting, in this in-between the last thing and this next thing, in this anticipation, and in some cases in this fear.
I get frustrated that I can’t make time move more quickly so I can get to that next thing. This frustration, this desire to leap ahead, blocks my ability to savor these now moments, the moments that are happening within and outside of the anticipation. I miss the quiet moments that pop up when I am too focused on the Next Thing and not paying attention to the now. I miss the joy of noticing what just made my girl giggle or feel proud. I miss connecting to the feelings behind the words my husband is sharing with me. I miss savoring the quiet before the chaos, the replenishing time to simply be and not worry.
So these past few weeks have been filled with excited anticipation while I try to not be totally focused on the coming events of this week, month, season and year. I’ve been putting away the laptop and phone more and snuggling with my girl as much as possible and listening to the feelings behind the words of my husband. I’ve been working on quieting the monkey chatter in my brain about All The Things That Must Be Done and letting there be moments of simply being in the now.
It is a balancing act: trying to find the right amount of space to focus on my future projects and staying in the here and now and not worrying about them. It’s a practice in balance for certain and I would argue that most of us are very unbalanced with our focus on the future, our worry about the yet to be, the long To Do list of things that may or may not be very important and yet are excellent distractions from the now. We, as a society, are obsessed with being and looking busy; it is a status symbol. I was caught up in this for years with my career and early motherhood and ultimately it cost me my health not to mention the time lost to connect with the people I loved in those now-gone present moments.
It is a process and a practice and I’m not sure I will ever get it 100% right. Yet, I practice to obtain this balance by continuing to practice being more and more present, bringing the now back into my life and not focus so incredibly much on the future. I continue to practice to recognize those moments of joy as they happen and to feel deep in my bones the pleasure and bliss of those moments, in those moments.
My mindfulness practice has been the center of helping me to be in the moment, to finding this bliss and pleasure of the now. Mindfulness has helped me to release worry about the future and stay present and focused as I need to be in the particular moment. Mindfulness has allowed me to tune into the anxiety or fear I may be experiencing and to get to it’s root and start to heal some deep-rooted pains. Practicing mindfulness has given me a way to appreciate and fully enjoy my life, as it is, right now.
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I was raised to be a Good Girl. You know, the kind of girl who is always polite, never argues. The kind of girl who always obeys her elders and plays by the rules. The girl who rarely stands up for herself and when she does she is punished, scorned, ridiculed. The girl who never questions the status quo and lives in the little box that others created for her.
I was raised to be a Revolutionary. You know, the kind of person who doesn’t care what others think, who follows her heart, does what she wants. The kind of girl who rebels against all the norms that don’t fit in her skin. The girl who stands up for herself and debates and fights back, with or without the support of those who surround her. The girl who brings the status quo to it’s knees, changing the world, one small piece at a time through her own strength and vulnerability.
My maternal grandmother raised me to be a Good Girl. My mom and dad raised me to be a Revolutionary. The irony being, the more of a revolutionary I became, the more my maternal grandmother approved of me and the less my parents did.
One of the lessons taught by both my grandma and my parents was to not hurt other’s feelings. To be kind. To understand the other’s perspective. And depending on if it was my gram or my parents, I should then either bow to the whim of the other or stand my own ground regardless. Ultimately though, I should be kind and thoughtful.
What I’m learning now, is that being kind and thoughtful IS revolutionary. That thinking of others, considering their points of view, being open and willing to bend or change my own mind is revolutionary. To seek out my own opportunities for growth, release and healing is revolutionary. That caring for others, their thoughts, their feelings and guiding them to growth and change is revolutionary.
However what has really been coming home to me this last week, is that it is only revolutionary if we do all this while holding true to who we are. It is only revolutionary if we listen to and follow our Soul’s calling. It is only revolutionary when we understand that sometimes the only way to be kind to another is to stand firm in who we are, to defend ourselves, to open the space for the Other to step outside his or her own box and grow to become the person he or she is truly called to be.
Let me repeat that:
Sometimes the only way to be kind to another is to stand firm in who we are, to defend ourselves, to open the space for the Other to step outside his or her own box and grow to become the person he or she is truly called to be.
This is a tough one for me, to be honest. It’s Truth resonates through my entire being, however I truly struggle with conflict. I don’t actually like making people I know and interact with regularly uncomfortable. I have often thought that this is because I am a highly sensitive person, and when others are in discomfort I feel it as my own. What I come to realize is that the Truth is not actually the other’s discomfort that has me in a state of discomfort — it that I was given a double message about standing up for myself and being True to who I am and to my own values. The discomfort I feel isn’t about the Other, it is about owning who I am, accepting and loving who I am, and knowing deep in my soul that I am truly a good and kind person and that a kind person is also strong in who she is.
When we feel discomfort it means there is a lesson there for us to learn about ourselves. I have been triggered, pretty severely, this week by people in my world. They have tried to silence me, not allow me the expression of who I truly am. They have done this in such a way that my first response was to disregard who I am to make a situation easier on these other people, actually creating more stress and work for myself. However after this initial betrayal to my Self, the others demanded that I betray myself even more. My physical response was shaking and nausea and conflicting fight-and-flight reaction. I could not betray who I was any further, I needed to step back into my own Truth and values, to stand firm in who I am and what is right for both me and my family.
I struggled with this, standing firm in who I am. I believe in being open to change, to growth. To finding the opportunities to dig deep when another triggers us and to figure out the whys and hows of it all and to grow. I always focus on my own growth in this respect. I see my growth from the events this week to be that of calmly and comfortably standing firm in who I am. My growth is to be comfortable with another’s discomfort. My growth is to be who I am so that space can open for the others to go deep, to grow, to adapt, to explore their own discomforts and disappointments, to let go of desperate attempts to control and to find ways to simply Be. Be their own Selves, be part of a community, be in the world with others.
I wrote about adaptation the other day. The importance of my own ability to adapt, my own ability to spin my internal messages around to a more peaceful and loving way of being. I am being revolutionary in opening the space for others to find their own way towards adaptation, by not “fixing” things for them, by allowing them to sit in their own discomfort and find their own inner growth.
It is an act of kindness to act as a rebel, a revolutionary, to open the space for myself and others to find growth, adaptation and liberation. It is an act of kindness to stand in my own strength, my own truth, to Be fully me, as my soul is called to be.
And of course, Green Day says it best.
Those of us who stand in our Truth, our Strength, our Vulnerability are rebels. We are saints. We are dangerous. Dangerous to the status quo. Dangerous to stagnation. Dangerous to dormacy and inactivity. Dangerous to those who do not want to own their own stuff, who want others to bend to their will and not be questioned. Dangerous to those who are afraid of their own growth, their potential, their own healing.
Let’s embrace our rebelliousness. Let’s embrace our sainthood. Let’s be dangerous and let’s bring forth liberation, for our selves, for each other, for the world.
Sitting on my deck, looking out into the green of the fairy forest and our yard, the sun starts to fade from view and the light behind my screen dims. I still hear the creek gurgling along its way and tonight my neighbors are on their deck enjoying the beauty that is our shared backyard. I hear her grandchildren giggle and laugh while the adults talk.
When they first came out onto their deck I felt annoyed. I had been enjoying the quiet gurgling of the creek and the last tweets and chirps of the birds who live in our little forest. I debated moving inside and being grumpy because now I couldn’t enjoy my deck and yard, now I couldn’t concentrate on my writing. My body felt out of sorts. My brain too full.
I did go inside, however I left the laptop and my books on the table. I got a glass of water and went pee. I grabbed a cup of cherries to nibble on. I put on a pair of cozy socks. I took a deep, slow breath and literally shook my body, releasing the annoyance, the tension that had been building up and opening the space for the Truth that my neighbor and I can both enjoy our decks, our shared yard at the same time.
When I came back to my chair outside I felt lighter. I smiled at the children giggling. I breathed in the night air and started to write.
Then she came.
Each night I’ve been out here writing, I get a visitor. A red-breasted robin hops and runs along our yard, pecking and digging for food. When I see her, I feel the smile that grows on my face fill my entire body. She’s my friend. I stay quiet and watch her and then I try to get a picture of her, to share her with you, but she flies away into the trees.
I smile and accept that today is not the day to share her. Today I get to savor her for myself.
Then my daughter yells down from her bedroom “MOM!!! I saw your robin!!!”
Okay, maybe I do get to share her a little.
This is how life goes isn’t it? When we start to get comfortable, something happens to force a shift, to move us into discomfort even if only momentarily, as my neighbors did. My neighbors had done nothing wrong, they had no malice towards me, they were simply enjoying the beauty that we live in. And yet I internalized some message, that was never spoken or meant, that now I couldn’t enjoy our yard. Taking those moments to get some water and take time to breathe opened back up the space for both of us to exist, to share in the beauty of our space, separately.
And my friend the robin. She makes me laugh with the reminder she gave of how quickly one moment moves into the next and when we think an opportunity is lost, it is found.
Adaptation. Opening the space for things not to be exactly as we had planned or hoped and allowing what is to be. Rejoicing and relishing the moments, even when they bring annoyance or frustration. Breathing into the beauty of the now, knowing it will soon pass into the next now-moment, and the next.