Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sacred Sexuality.

Last year Sacred Sexuality was the topic of choice at the International Conference on Shamanism. I was pretty impressed with the fact that it made topic of the year for people in the field. Once a year I too try to explore sacred touch on my blog. I attempt to bring up different perspectives because touch is crucial on so many different levels. For starters, I’m one of those people who believe that we can’t journey towards wellness without expanding our consciousness of touch. Sensuality, sexuality and affection is usually how we define touch in our lives; but what if I told you that touch is crucial in the development of self-esteem; helps in alleviating depression; and can prolong the life of a terminally ill patients etc…

In our Western society we’ve regulated touch through indoctrination. We’ve promoted monogamy and we’ve punished promiscuity through social judgments and persecution. Still, both adult men and women have difficulty staying faithful or being content in a long-term relationship. Why is that? I’ve noticed when speaking to couples in difficulty that more often than not the issue is about touch. The desire is always that the mate should fulfill all of the needs of his or her partner. In 75% of the cases this is an unrealistic expectation.

Last week I was watching how Bella, our Beagle puppy, loves to get her belly rubbed. She literally throws herself on her back in front of everyone and anyone until they get on all fours and give her a pat. When people walk in the house she loves to put her paws on them and give a little whine. She never says no to a little ear rub. Finally, when we go to dog school our trainer always pets her neck and looks at her in the eye when purring the positive reinforcement “Bella you are such a good girl.” Wouldn’t we all want to be a dog? They seem to be so open to touch and they can actually get whatever they want, whenever they want it. Why has it become so complicated for us humans? How did we get to be so uncomfortable with hugs and so prudish about touch?

Not too long ago massage therapy was frowned upon. These days you can go to school to learn the trade; open your own clinic; and for many clients, it’s even covered by most private insurances. People usually complain about muscle pain or back pain when consulting a massage therapist. You can still feel the old program that “touch is touchy topic” lingering in the background. It’s rare that you’ll meet people who will openly admit consulting experts for sensual massages. Just the mention of it makes most people cringe.

“Only dirty old men go to those places,” most people will say.

I’ve surveyed a few hundred people on the topic while I was researching people’s opinion on the importance of touch. I actually found it quite unfortunate that in a society, which prides itself to be media open on sex there’s still so many social misgivings and collective programs about touch. In 1999 - I picked up this article on Sacred Sexuality where an ethnologist was talking about the different rites of Love and Sex all over the World. I enjoyed the article because the ethnologist took a Shamanic perspective. He talked about tribal living and how people used certain rituals to teach each other how to be collectively healthy. Touch was useful to teach strong and positive attitudes; inspire community members to be creative and passionate; and brought people to be loving and generous towards each other. Touch wasn’t only about sexuality or procreation – it was about community building and about self-development.

In this article, the author talked about Greek ancestors (1700’s) and how adult men and women used to be publicly affectionate with each other to teach their children how to be open and intimate towards their own people. He also mentioned the worshipping of Aphrodite and how it influenced Greek people to be focused on pleasure. I am not Greek; but I’ve been fortunate enough to have many Greek friends. I don’t know if any of you have ever noticed but even amongst Greek people today, casual affection is visibly apparent. You can see within the Greek culture the affects of ancestral, ritual touch. I’ve seen similar behaviors with Cuban people.

It certainly makes us wonder about our modern Society… What are we teaching our children? Are we helping them develop as loving, caring, affectionate and functionally sexual individuals? Or are we simply showing them that relationships don’t last and that they should never trust their mates to be faithful? What are the sexual rituals of the 21st century and what do they say about us? 

This French journalist, Nathalie Dray wrote an article on Sacred Prostitutes in India. She too made a connection between the worshipping of the Goddess Yellama and the behaviors and the attitudes of the people. She seemed to be saying that "our beliefs" impact our issues or non-issues with sexuality, intimacy and touch in general. I came to notice that the idea of the Kama Sutra for example, seemed more interesting to men; but scared women. Most women in our modern culture seem to fear sexual abuse or disempowerment. Interestingly enough the concept of exploratory touch brought forth a vulnerability that was often plagued by social indoctrination.

From my point of view, touch is crucial to survival. I need to be kissed, to be hugged, and to feel pleasure. Without daily affection I would imagine that I would start feeling lonely, forgotten or as if I don’t belong. In my World touch is not something that I expect from others; but more so a reality. I make an effort to connect to my environment whether it be with my dog, the plants in my home, my clothes, the weather and of course the people. I’ve noticed through the years that the more I focus on how my body feels in the shower, out in the wind, or lying in the sun; the more touch becomes a natural phenomenon. I don’t feel shy touching people. The more sincere and genuine we become in our touch the more people want us to touch them and vise versa.

Who doesn’t seek companionship? We are physical creatures who need each other. Whether we are talking about a hug, a pat on the back, holding hands, the warmth of someone else's body in our bed, or SEX -- it's all about TOUCH and it's all about fulfilling a need; which isn’t only physical but also emotional, psychological and spiritual. If we can somehow work through our control issues and let go of attachment and possessiveness we can come to explore touch and truly understand how valuable it is to our personal growth, learning and healing.
When my kids were babies and toddlers, we often gave them massages. KT even begged for them after her bath to help her sleep. As she grew up she didn’t change. She continued to enjoy touch and what was impressive was how she didn’t harbor any scruples or taboos. Both my children didn’t have any qualms with sharing their bed with friends. When came time to speak to them about sexuality (around the age of 9 years old) they didn’t need a lengthily speech. They were the first one to tell us that they had noticed nuances in the way they felt when it came to certain people and certain touches. They could easily express what was right and what was wrong for them. By speaking openly about touch, they grew up to be comfortable with it and healthy in their own sexuality. It’s not hard to believe that our bodies know and intuitively transmit the information to our minds and our hearts.

I wish I could have been brought up like my kids because I had to work a bit harder at feeling comfortable with my body and my sexuality. It took a good decade of exploration and communication to finally reach a point where I was “touching wellness.” Both my husband and I journeyed together in sacred touch.
In our tradition this refers to the teachings of the sixteen mysteries on the Medicine Wheel. It’s an incredible journey into what it means to grow old together. We learnt to let go of the notion that “we own each other” and we let go of the many programs that indoctrinated us to fear the world around us. I can’t fulfill all of my husband’s needs and it would be incredibly arrogant of me to claim that I do or to accept that kind of burden. There are depths to masculinity that are just not meant for a woman to explore and vise versa. Still, we agreed to openly share everything with one another and work through the issues and the emotions that certain situations trigger. We’ve set rules with the intent of breaking these rules eventually; accepting that we will grow, we will change, and we will be more and more trusting of one another. We are approaching our 25th wedding anniversary and we are ready for yet another 25 years.

P.S. I’d love to hear your comments on this topic and please don’t be shy to ask questions. If you don’t want to post publicly – you can always send me e-mails at


Michelle said...

Indooctrination is a hard program to break through. I know I have some but I want to work through them. I trust to work through what I am feeling share and be open and honest. Your comment of depths of masculintiy and feminity sparked some searching in me I wonder what those depths are for me?

Brenna said...

I'm not a fan of being touched. I crave it. And if I initiate it then its ok. But for the most part I'm just not used to it. I'm never touched. I get hugged and that's great. But simple touch, sexual touch, loving touch is a mystery to me. I'm afraid of the rejection if I seek touch. I have been massaged a couple of times and when touched on my lower back, I panic. I tense up and feel pain. I don't understand it. I'd very much like to work through that. But finding a partner has proved unsuccessful.

Wapeyit Malsom said...

Michelle and Brenna,

What would you say makes it difficult for you to be open to touch or completely welcoming, comfortable with it? Is it something in particular?


Michelle said...

For me it is the western programs that somthing is wrong or you shouldnt do that or this (what I am not sure there is a whole lot of thoughts that go in my head) LOL..Being taught that you this is your space and thats my space. I think until I experience it and trust that what I do is not wrong or right I can not judge it shouldnt judge it. Touch is beautiful and I do believe its Healing and people do need touch, I think its about being comfortable in other peoples space...knowing that its not wrong its welcomed...does that makes

Lulu said...

Thanks for sharing Lisa.
My thoughts on touch...
I love touch, i love to touch others too.
My fear is the repercussions of touch due to programming or indoctrination in society.
I also believe that even in the dreaming because of the indoctrinations i have i stop myself within the dreamtime and stop experience because of MY programmes. I hate that aspect. I want that to stop i just don't seem to know how to stop it at present.


Brenna said...

For me it's about opening up to the vulnerability of being touched. Having someone that close. Being in my space.
Leaves me open and I don't enjoy that feeling. But I want touch. I want to be touched more. I think of Finn, I'm constantly touching him. And often I wish I could just go and lean on people or ask for touch.
When I was sick the other day, my skin felt so prickly and sensitive. I wanted sooo badly for someone to come and rub me. My arms and legs. But there was nobody here and the feeling of loneliness settled in. I want to journey with touch so I can be balanced and functional with it.


Emily said...

Cool topic. It is actually something I am exploring a bit, more through discussion than 'practice' lol. I have been talking about 'touch' with a couple of friends and noticing how my mind is opening a bit more on this.. I know my perspective has changed over time, and continues to change.. I have my own fears of course, but I am someone who likes to challenge my fears and experience something new. At the end of the day my objective is growth and healing. I dont mind being challenged to think another way, or to do things another way. Its a huge topic.. 'touch' is a journey in itself..

Emily said...

Touch and boundaries is another story.
For a long time my perspective on touch was wrapped up tight in boundaries - going to an extreme example - sitting on a bus,making sure no part of me touched the person next to me, this was more so me feeling that It was 'wrong' to touch off a stranger. My attitude was they didnt want me touching them. Almost to the point where I had to make myself small so I didnt bump off someone. lol I wasnt only thinking of the other person but I didnt want to be touched either. I like my personal space.. (i know going into another topic now but).. it would irritate me if someone was pressed right up against me when they didnt need to be, or breathing down the back of my neck standing in a queue.
Those are just extreme examples that I recall from years ago..
It is important to make sure your boundaries are clear though..
A lot of people take it for granted that its ok to touch you wherever.
In saying all of that though lol, I do love touch, I have grown to enjoy it more than I used to. And i have definately grown more comfortable and open about it.
I will be back...

Wapeyit Malsom said...


When you start looking at details like boundaries, trust, love etc.... in relationship to touch you are looking more in depth at the topic of mysteries behind sacred touch.

Perhaps my next blog on touch will explore more on mysteries.


Emily said...

Ok! :)

I have been exploring the topic of sensual massage with some friends. We have all studied to a certain degree..various kinds of touch in massage therapies.
I used to have my own judgements on this particular massage. I find now I am seeing new perspectives, I can see it as a need to be filled by both people. Obviously boundaries come into play again..once they are clearly established a healing exchange can take place. I see my own perception as a web/matrix in itself shifting, changing shape etc, the more I experience and the more I open myself up to new experiences and healing. It is pretty cool!


Fishrarr said...

Hi Lisa,
This has been a very interesting read for me. At first I felt like I was missing something, that I did not have all the facts in the right place, so I just kept it on the radar and watched what would happen. Today it fell together, well for me at least.
This morning in my bath, I realized (remembered really) that we are made up of 95% water, I was sitting in water, having an exchange of energy with the water, is that not what happens when someone touches us to rub a sore shoulder? Is it not what happens when two energies (people, animals, plants) touch with affection, I think so? Water touching water. Energy exchanging energy, to become one, at least for a little while. Is that not special?
Water is in the western quarter of the wheel, the place of mystery, the place of the color black or unseen with the physical eyes, but still there, still real. For the exchange to take place, it needs to be in a safe way, in a safe place.
All this is a bit of clown logic, one of the first trainings that I did was a clown workshop, and one of the things that we “played” with was clown logic. Sometimes there are a lot of dots to connect, but in the end it makes some kind of sense to at least one person, in this case me.

Hope that makes sense to you, Blessings for a wonderful Holiday Season, Tom.

Wapeyit Malsom said...

To everyone,

Touch is more than sexuality, sensuality and affection.
Perhaps I should speak more of the mysteries to illustrate the many different dimensions of touch... or the process of it.

I love the way each of you explored touch through my blog entry. We all come from different perspectives. Touch is impacted by the way we feel about ourselves; how we set boundaries; taboos or programs etc...

Obviously there's so much we could talk about.
Thank you for being so interested in the topic and in reading my blog.

I will definitely come back with the topic but from a different angle -- in the new year.


Jacques said...

Touch and sexuality are usually widely confused in this American culture. If there is intent to touch respectfully, sexually, there is intimacy. This is where the Creator comes to us, and we are asked to acknowledge him/her that way. Nothing is wrong, if the receiver agrees to acknowledge the "sexual" touch that way. If not agreed, then consciousness needs to be expressed, and that decision being respected.

We are human beings. When we do touch with the intention of healing, I feel freedom and depth, and its intensity, space, and a deep moment connection.

Watsu is taking place as a warm water shiatsu practice. It is healing form near birthing age until old age. There, the intention of the practitioner, is crucial. Telling the treated person beforehand is important. Two people meeting, almost naked, in such healthy ways. May we be blessed with it.

For the receiver, it counts to grow and opening up to be touched in healthy ways from others. It is a way to grow a struggle for people who do not have that experience in their earlier lives.

Cougar-D said...

Recently the topic of touch came up with a few
of us. We ended up realizing we
were talking about boundaries and collective
space. Someone said it is important to watch what you put in the collective
space. Then the idea of being too sexual when touching in front of others was discussed as inappropriate. This is were I got stuck. Is there really appropriate and inappropriate touch, boundaries....etc.??? I don't like these words- appropriate/inappropriate. It seems so western. As well a comment was made that a male friend was touching his new girlfriend incessantly because of his own needs. He was attaching something to his touch. I could see this but my question is- is it wrong or is it just about awareness.

I would love to hear more on touch from this angle .

4cougar said...

I would definitely be interested in hearing more about touch which isn't related to sexuality. I try to explain what I mean to people, about the 16 mysteries, about sexuality being 1/16 of the abundance related to touch, all the learning and healing possible, but I have trouble because even if I try to show someone what I mean, sexuality takes way more than 1/16 of the place...I think it has to do with programs, indoctrination which limits how we perceive of touch.
I like how you talk about touch related to clothes, and weather but would like to hear more about touch with people that is other than what we expect...