BY: CAITLIN ROBERTS
Featured photo by Adrianne Pennings
“How would you like to be touched?”
I take a fulfilling breath and exhale loudly. “Mmmmmm. I’d like you to lightly trace your finger tips all over my entire body. Very slowly. You can graze over genitals, but avoid the nipples and the bottoms of my feet.”
I feel my practitioners hands begin. “How is this pressure? Would you like lighter or harder?”
“The pressure is perfect, but try a little slower?”
I feel the fingertips slowing down like molasses. “That’s perfect.”
“Thank you for guiding me.”
I am on the table nearly every day, in a room full of almost 30 other people; we are in practicing mode. With each session, the more confident we become in creating the container, noticing our clients breath, movement and reactions.
“How can I make this better for you?”
I take another long deep breath and exhale with sound and wiggle my whole body on the table. “Hmm… I think I would like you to begin using your full palms and rubbing the coconut oil onto me now. Really slowly, but with deeper pressure; like you are trying to get it beneath my skin.”
For the past 2 months I’ve been learning to ask for the exact kind of touch I want. I’ve been learning how to help others discover their voices to ask for the exact kind of touch they want.
The people around me are everywhere; some are having their legs pulled from their ankles, some are having their hair played with, some dive right into genital touch or external anal strokes. Everyone is breathing in the variations we have been taught, everyone is wiggling their hips, their toes, their hands. We are this years cohort of Somatic Sex Educators.
“I think I’m ready to move onto some genital touch now.” My whole body is awake. The sensations of the feather light tickles sparked my nervous system into delight and the pressure of the coconut rub brought me into a state of eros; a deep awakening of energy within. A sentence I would’ve read a year ago and thought “oh yes, tantric, spiritual nonsense” – but this is exactly what it is… For the first time in my life I notice what is happening inside, I can feel the blood moving through my veins, I can focus in and concentrate on any portion of my body and notice the pleasure of just existing. I am vibrating, I am throbbing, my chest is cracked open and I am both radiating and magnetizing. I am both the sun and the moon and I can feel so much more than I have ever felt.
“Begin with the inguinal crease, just take one finger on each hand and trace it upwards from my bum cheeks right to my hip bones. Start with lighter pressure and move to deeper.”
My legs are open and my 50-something year old female colleague is affirming my movements and my breath, “Beautiful! Any sounds you make are welcome here. How is this speed?”
Our days are 12 hours long, if you exclude those who get up two hours early to do a group yoga session every morning.
We begin each morning with science. All of us bodyworkers sit on the floor with backjacks, or yoga blocks, or just on the hardwood floor soaking in the sun streaming from the massive windows overlooking the West Coast mountains. We’ve been encouraged to move and doodle as we like; movement enhances learning (real fact).
We learn about the nervous system, about the mind-body connection that is becoming ever more confirmed by Science. We learn about trauma, we learn about variations in how we (who are not therapists or trained trauma-practitioners) can hold space for those who are triggered. We learn what happens in the body and brain when trauma occurs. We learn about rewiring the nervous system, resetting the brain. We learn about neurotransmitters and pleasure. We learn about pain management. We learn about practicing pleasure; this practice of pleasure is how my bodily awareness increased, how my capacity for enjoyment increased, how my day to day mood became self-regulated.
There are five people on the teaching team; each person is vastly different and brings a unique voice to the space. The container they have created is the safest I have ever felt in a community of people. Our mistakes are not scolded but held and given affirmative advice and consideration; the course began with a teaching on the downfalls and errors of perfectionism and how harmful it is. Every time someone fumbles, every time someone spills, or slips up, it is met with a group chant of “Together We Fly!” and everyone tosses their arms in the air in support. The message is clear: together, as a community, we can lift each other instead. It is the first time I’ve felt this Held In Community; my fuck ups are part of the whole, my fuck ups are where growth happens.
I follow rules well. I am a little magical pixie girl of Doing A Good Job; I want to take care of people and make them happy. Away on this training, I broke a rule in a big way. Sitting around the table with all five members of the teaching team, bringing to light the truth of the slip-up, I was met with So Much Love. “Thank you for your transparency.” I was met with sage words and food for thought. “People don’t do what they don’t normally do.” For the First Time In My Life, I was not scared that something precious would be taken away from me because I had erred.
Every day we communally masturbate together. It is a practice called Orgasmic Yoga, and it emphasizes that it does not need to be orgasmic or yoga. It is just paying attention to your body in ways that break up your patterns and simmering in it. The simmering can be enhanced by the pleasure of touch and genital stimulation, but also movement, breath, sound, laughter, by Being Weird.
I discover quickly that while communal masturbation is fascinating, it does nothing to turn me on. I also quickly discover how much deep, deep pleasure I get from dancing naked in the sunlight streaming through the West, with my heart-shaped sunglasses on, watching myself in the reflection of the window. Surrounded by the gasps, the moans, the laughs and the music; this is something that feeds me, this is how I spend most of my orgasmic yoga sessions with the group.
Once, the exercise we did around Ethics, immediately before moving into OY, triggered something in my heart and I could not stop crying. It took everything in me not to leave that room and get a breath of fresh air. “I am safe here. I can change this feeling.” I did not do much that night except breath deeply, write a letter to myself in my journal, and stand in mountain pose, with my arms open to the world and my neck exposed; grounded and rooted in my body.
We all waltz into our temple room and sit in chairs in a circle. Each person has the opportunity to talk about their relationship to their gender and do a little dance or catwalk in the middle to show off their outfits. We are a room of people training to be sexological bodyworkers. One of the biggest lessons I keep re-learning in all of these trainings is to Undo The Stories We Write About Other People In Our Heads. It is so easy to look at a person and write their story; we make immediate judgments based on how each person looks and this is so deeply, incredibly problematic because it ignores all of the important details of that persons truth. Some of the masculine presenting people tell us the struggles they have had with wanting to embrace their femininity but are terrified. Some of the most feminine presenting people stand up only to show off their strap-ons or energetic dicks. The clothing and mannerisms we use to engage with the world are such a poor example of what composes someone’s gender.
We begin doing private practice sessions with each other – one practitioner, one client. We are ourselves, there is no roleplaying or acting.
I have two practitioners; one of them I am working on anal pleasure with. The other I have a deep affinity for and make a bold, vulnerable choice to change the course of our work to a more emotional space… I would like to work through the anger and resentment that I have towards my father; it feels there is no better time than this, surrounded by support, held completely. We are not therapists, so we do not seek out stories, but I share that my father had left the country to live elsewhere two years ago and I have been mad at him ever since.
My practitioner guides me in forgiving my father. He asks a series of questions interwoven slowly into the hour we spend together: How can I support you? Is there a touch you would like to receive right now? With each question I turn towards my body; There is a tightness in my chest and throat, like something is lodged inside of me and all I want to do is get it out. I lie on the ground, my head at his knees, he runs his palms continuously up from my chest, hard along my throat.
I ask him to say things to me as he touches me: His happiness is my happiness. He doesn’t have the tools. It’s okay. It’s okay to be sad about it. It’s okay that he’s not in your life right now. He deserves to be happy.
I feel rocks and sticks poking into my back. I feel small insects crawling over my skin and I choose to leave them be. I cry and feel my own tears spilling down my cheeks. I am overwhelmed by this thing in my throat trying to get out, I scramble my body down along the ground out away from him and I scream. I scream into the ocean, loudly, trying to get it out. My practitioner put his palms on my back, on my request. Strokes my hair on my whispered request.
I am topless from the chest stokes and we are sitting on the prickly ground behind a tree, out of the wind and in the sun. The light of the sun penetrates my eyelids and I am Glowing White. I ask him to pluck away the air around my heart; he pulls energy off my chest and asks if I want to be smudged — it is the solstice and one of our classmates is dancing naked on the cliff 30 metres away, sage smoking around them. We run and start dancing. I feel like I am celebrating and mourning all at once.
I am smudged and the beat of the music is trance-like, I have left my little corner of sadness and have entered a party. I run over to the ocean. Standing on a rocky cliff, feeling the power of the wind, watching the expanse of the ocean.
I am shedding, I am ecstatic, I am aching.
My practitioner comes up behind me carrying a log – long and heavy, “Do you want to throw this?” And together we heave and push the tree up and out from our hands and down the rocks into the ocean. It breaks. One part stuck on the rock, the other drifting out to sea. “May I make an observation?” He asks. “That piece here on the rock is you, and that part drifting out to sea is your dad.” A drum booms in my chest.
We run back to our corner in the sun. I sprint. The speed, the electricity feels good in my body; I can feel everything, I want to feel the power of my own heartbeat escaping from my chest. I am barefoot, covered in dirt and moss, tears dried on my face. There is a fire going for the solstice ritual we will all have later. “Do you want to put something in the fire?” he asks.
I find a splinter of wood nearby and toss it – it misses, but is close enough that it starts smoking, eventually catching. I quietly say aloud to my practitioner: “If I am the log, then this little piece is the part of me that was angry.” Caught in flames, disintegrating, gone.
Together we have made magic happen.
An hour later, I am sitting in the sunshine eating lunch made by a gourmet nature chef. I am sitting in the sunshine beside someone who makes my heart sing. There are tears still dried on my cheeks, but I feel release. I am watching these two beautiful, sleek, masculine and feminine men dancing naked on the coastal cliff; they are being ridiculous and miming fucking the earth. It is the solstice and this is their celebration. I Am Full Of So Much Joy. I keep checking in with myself because it feels too good to be true, like someone is playing a trick on me, or that my brain is accidentally high on some magic wonder drug… but this is Real and it is all coming from inside me.
My chest is open and expansive, there are no limits and edges to my heart. I want to dance almost always. Everything is giving me pleasure: the coffee I am drinking, the feeling of the clothes I am wearing, the sensation of the tautness of my skin where my tears have dried, the immensely beautiful teacher sitting beside me: she is radiating and stunning and sweet and powerful. Even the prickles still stuck to the bottoms of my feet are bringing me joy.
I start realizing this is how I used to feel. I was a happy-go-lucky child, I was just made of love and sparkles and joy. And throughout life, as I got older, people kept making me feel guilty about how much joy I was having, about how much love I wanted to give. It was not “appropriate.” I needed to “reel it in” because other people were suffering and I seemed unempathetic. In our community, in my friendships, this joy seemed to start to annoy people, so I toned it down. Even toned down it was a lot.
I came back to this Joy in this training. This training that was a thorough and deep therapy, a decadent and ecstatic vacation, and gave me the most useful tools I have ever gained in an educational setting. I can feel it in my body.
This Ecstatic Bliss that is generated from the inside, from savouring and imprinting Things That Feel Good.
I am Home in my Body.
To find out more about somatic sex education and bodywork visit Caitlin here.