Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Kate’s suggestion was: “Lisa, wondered if you would write something on intimacy. What is intimacy? Where does it "live.” I have approached it mentally, as in, I let you "know" me or I "know" you. But what is it beyond physical or mental? Magic/Mystery? I am discovering in myself, my avoidance of intimacy. I guess what I always "thought" (mental again) it was -- really isn't the case.”
If you look through my blog archive you’ll notice I try to write on the topic of essential, sensual, healing or sacred touch at least once every few months. Sacred Sexuality as far as I’m concerned is a crucial part of Shamanism. Amongst Westerners sexuality is often a dirty word or a taboo. It’s used to shock or meant to hide. If sexuality isn’t about guilt, fear or shame; it’s used for entertainment. Ironically, I’m not more comfortable in circles where touch is understood as healing or a tool for transformation even though I’m the first person to admit how incredibly healing sacred touch can be. Whether we trivialize the topic or overcompensate with seriousness – I tend to understand sexuality as a natural phenomenon. Almost a decade ago, I journeyed to BB to meet up with a First Nation elder and teacher who surprisingly opened me up to explore intimacy and sacred sexuality from a mystery perspective. I learnt from EC how to value myself as a sexual being; naturally share it with others; and understand its value at the cosmic level.
I hope to convey this message each time I write about sacred touch…
Twenty five years ago when I started to walk a Shamanic path I was told by my teacher and guide to connect to Mother Earth. I wasn’t too clear on what that meant. I had read a few books on Shamanism and figured LD was asking me to pray while bare feet out in nature. I remember putting the kids down for nap and heading out for the back yard. The windows were open so I could hear them when they would wake up. It was a hot, muggy, summer day…. And it was raining. I actually stood bare feet on the grass under the pouring rain with my eyes closed for a few minutes. It took a little while to get over a sense of embarrassment. As soon as I was able to let go I started feeling the roots of the young poplar in our back yard; stretching out from under ground as if willing to touch my toes. At first I thought I imagined it; but I soon noticed during the course of the summer that roots were actually surfacing at the exact spot where I had been standing.
“Wow!” I thought, “the tree was consciously trying to reach me and touch me.”
LD often talked about intimacy as “awareness.” LD would often put his hand palm down over our hearts and encourage us to listen with our hearts rather than our minds. I quickly came to understand that each time I would connect to my heart beat I would stop listening to my fears, my programs and my expectations. My first shamanic tool was obviously a drum. My heart beat always brings me to simple details in my environment; bits and pieces of the world that I wouldn’t usually notice. Synchronicities. With the help of silence and balance (two mysteries) my heart brought me to a space where I felt blessed. A feeling I understood as profound love. I began to respect my story and the people within it as well as the roles they played. I started to enjoy these experiences and started to seek them out - not unlike what people do when they search for lovers …
On the Medicine Wheel intimacy is understood within the realm of mystery. It’s about clear and profound knowledge of a place or person. In 2001, G and I traveled to the South of France, to give a workshop. In Lyon, we were pleasantly surprised by the presence of Roman ancestors. With our drums, we showed the workshop participants how to connect to their hearts. Strangely enough during the first few days people increasingly felt pain in their shoulders. At first we couldn’t explain the phenomenon until we went for a walk in a nearby park. There, we found an archaeological landmark of an ancient Roman, farming cart. After reading up on it, we discovered these carts were pulled by men. Apparently we were connecting intimately to an ancient memory.
I believe similarly to our ancestors that intimacy, sensuality and sexuality are different steps within a process; which helps us connect to the Earth. For many primitive societies sexuality is neither dirty or obsessive it is central to living. “Sex” (so to speak) structures their social, religious, and political/economic life. Taboos are useful rather than being rigid limits. They simply limit access to certain partners. In certain societies the geometry of the their village is based on male and female principles. Women don’t become pregnant from men; but are impregnated by nature: The rivers and forests. Where most people would understand these beliefs as somewhat ignorant or lacking of scientific knowledge; I see a wisdom through these rites that is beyond understanding. A true experience of mystery.
In India, in the early 1920’s ethnologists reported dormitories where young men and women were initiated to the idea of eroticism by older men and women. These places were called: “Ghotul.” From my perspective it just seems to make sense that we should be taught about intimacy, sensuality and sexuality. It’s an inner power; which needs to be triggered and awakened.
Flirting, seduction, sensuality and sexuality are different words to describe the process of “sexual awakening.” In our home as I was growing up we were three women: My mother, my sister and I. To be honest we couldn’t have been more different. My sister was a natural flirt. She knew how to smile; how to tilt her head and sigh; and how to use her eyes to attract men. She was 10 years old when she started using these skills. For me it took decades before I even had the hang of it. On the other hand, I was very comfortable with my body. I didn’t mind the skimpy bathing suits and tight t-shirts with no bras. My sister was a lot more critical of her body. It was LD who told me one day that teasing and flirting was connected to early moon behaviours.
“Young children who look for approval, recognition, and to belong learn to flirt early on,” he explained, “whereas children who search to connect to nature tend to be more sensual.”
LD’s knowledge of the Sacred Circle helped me understand how important it is to have access to the wisdom of elders. It makes our journey so much clearer, and simple. I certainly benefitted from the teachings. They helped me let go of nonsense and move to another level of “sexual” awareness. I came to understand intimacy as a survival tool. It was once used to connect to the environment. It allowed people to have a deeper knowledge of the world around them. It’s with the help of intimacy that people learnt about medicinal plants and how to survive in habitats filled with predators. It’s amazing how some tribes learnt to live amongst snakes or tigers as if they were kin.
Remember intimacy is about acquiring a deep knowledge about a place, an animal, a plant or a person etc… Intimacy brings us to respect and ultimately trust and love.
I’ve always said: “Foreplay is so much more pleasurable than intercourse.” This statement is only one of many details which defines me as a sensual person. Qualities I developed in childhood. I often find the Western perceptions limiting. They put our children at a disadvantage. Rather than naturally developing into sexual beings Western children are often shocked into it and insufficiently informed through adolescence rather than thoroughly educated all through their life. It is so important to teach our children about the role our nose, our mouth, our eyes, our ears and our hands play in the scheme of intimacy and sexuality. It’s not all about genitals. In the South of Africa there are sexual rites where women bathed themselves in perfume oil and then, approach potential mates with the objective to awaken their sense of smell. We each have a unique body odour. To intimately know your mate by smell is a valuable survival tool but it is also arousing.
My children were toddlers when I showed them how to meditate. I remember when I taught them about breathing. At first I gave them an example by showing them how to breath and then, I talked to them about the lungs. CT and KT didn’t seem to care about the lungs at all. They kept imitating the way I used my nose, the way I relaxed my jaw and allowed my mouth to be somewhat lightly opened. Soon CT was guiding KT and helping her tilt her head slightly backwards. CT loved to meditate and I learnt by watching him how much breathing resembled a moment of ecstasy. It all seemed to make sense to me how in this simple most natural human attribute we could find the mystery of life: The full circle of our sexual awakening.
Intimacy implies us being impressed with the mystery of life; feeling called to care for it; protect it; and inevitably love it. After having my children my sexuality completely changed. It wasn’t because my body had changed. It was because of the whole process of breathing; labouring to have someone else breath; and wanting to always be in constant connection to the breath of life itself. It seems like ecstasy can be experienced at so many different levels.
For years I tried to bring the sacred traditions to local schools. I put together small workshops; which attracted adults who found them informative and interesting; but not “befitting children or teenagers.” I understood it would be close to impossible to “convert” (so to speak) Church goers into believing that open honesty would help their children grow into healthier sexual beings. Unfortunately, too many people make a separation between themselves as religious individuals, good providers or parents and sexual individuals. On the Medicine Wheel we are shown how each of these fragments come together to make us whole. We even refer to them as our inner community. It would be wonderful if we could somehow adopt some of the tribal traditions and help our children / teenagers grow into a strong sense of themselves. Intimacy and sexuality has always been one of the most empowering experiences for man kind.
To Kate, Kimby and others who are presently exploring intimacy -- I strongly suggest that you start your journey by connecting to little things like a tree, a small river, a bird etc.... Allow yourself to consciously connect and learn from these creatures. Humble yourself to them and become part of their world. Believe me when I say -- that little by little you'll collect more and more intimate moments in your life and learn to let go of mistrust. Eventually, you'll surpass your limitations and be open to intimacy of all kind. See it as "an awakening."