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This basic practice of setting aside time for embodied, sensual pleasure, is the scaffolding that we will build on for the next 100 days. Print it off and keep it close.
awareness, breath, touch
So often, with self-pleasure, we jump right in, going for what we think we want or what our habit is, rather than waiting, listening, and tuning in to what our bodies want in this particular moment, and then the next. For this first week, I want to invite you to focus on awareness, breath, and then touch. Listen in to this guided practice to get you started.
The best thing? You can do this practice anywhere, at any time. When you're working, or sitting at a stoplight, or waiting in line for coffee. You might be surprised how much of an impact simply putting your attention and your breath into your genitals can have.
Self-Pleasure tends to be one of our most habituated behaviors. Changing our habits is easier said than done! So, here's a gentle way to harness the power of your pleasure habits to help you for new capacities and possibilities. I call it Pendulation Practice, and it's quite simple: alternate (or pendulate) between your habit (whether it's watching porn, fantasizing, using your left hand, lying on your back, etc), and something new. This way, you get to feel pleasure too, not just the frustration.
Check out the two audios below: the first is an introduction to this practice, and the second is a full 30+ minute guided self-pleasure pendulation practice.
We often set intentions or goals and expect that simply making the decision with our minds is sufficient, and that paired with enough willpower, determination, and a clear action plan, we'll will stick to it. Might work some of the time. It certainly doesn't work for me.
You have to get your body involved. The best way to do this? Pleasure. There's something about the altered state of pleasure and orgasm that allows intentions to sink deep into the very core of our beings. I don't know why this is, but I've watched over and over again as I do versions of this practice with clients, myself, and friends, that hearing or claiming something while you are in a state of pleasure brings it into every cell of your being. You are harnessing the power of your life-force energy, your eros, to bring whatever it is you are envisioning, calling in, affirming, remembering, or longing for, into form through your being.
This simple sex-magick ritual, whether done solo or with a partner, can have a profound impact. Enjoy! And, let me know how it goes.
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Light some candles, turn on some music.
As if you were touching a lover.
Set the mood. Create the mood.
Invite yourself in.
You’d be surprised how far a soundtrack, good lighting, and a little chocolate can go.
And, here's some music, curated by yours truly, to get you started. I choose music based on what makes me move. You know when you hear a song, and notice that without even trying or thinking about it, some part of you is moving? That's your life force, your eros, your generative energy getting a move on. Follow it!
If you like my music selections, and want to find more, follow me on Spotify. I have many public playlists that were designed specificallyfor self-pleasure practice.
exploring muscle tension
One of the most interesting physical experiments I've run in my self-pleasure and partnered-pleasure has to do with the tension that I hold, or the relaxation that I lean into, as I'm building toward orgasm. Tension, especially in the legs, hips, abdomen, and pelvic floor, can make me climax faster than relaxation. I've known women who can climax simply through the concentrated muscle tension for a period of time. It can also shorten my orgasms. Relaxation throughout my legs, hips, and genitals, leads to a different experience. Slower, quieter, softer. My most satisfying orgasms come with a combination of tension and relaxation. What combination, I wonder, is most satisfying for you?
If you have challenges with orgasm, either reaching them or slowing them down, you might find this experimentation quite helpful. I'm not going to send you an audio guide for this one because so much depends on what you habitually do. Simply tuning in to what happens in your body "naturally" is the best place to start, then explore from there.
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I'd also like to invite you to notice how you carry or don't carry tension in your pelvic floor as you move through your day. Some of us have an unconscious habit of continually pulling our pelvic floor up and in, which can lead to hypertonic muscles. This means that they're actually weak because they are essentially in a constant state of tension, and are more likely to be injured, can cause pain, and even scar tissue (If you want more information about this, I highly recommend checking out Ellen Heed and Kimberly Ann Johnson. They are seriously brilliant.). You want to be able to both contract your pelvic floor, and relax and release it. It is possible to feel it gently expand with the inhale, creating more space for your breath. Here's an audio guide to help you practice this.
working with resistance
It's unlikely that you have not met with resistance at some point during this process so far. Perhaps you feel it every day, or maybe only occasionally. No matter the frequency, resistance is important. It's not something to ignore, reject, or denigrate; resistance is an invitation. In fact, it makes us stronger, more resilient, and is an integral part in reclaiming our wholeness. Meeting up with resistance is like coming up to a locked door in your body-mind: You don't know how to unlock it, or what's on the other side. You have options here. Pick up an axe or some explosives, and BLAST through it. But you might find, on the other side, that the door was there for a good reason, and now you can't put it back. Or blasting through might actually make it stronger, more armored and fortified, and even harder to work with or open.
Might I suggest something more nuanced and subtle? Study the door. Learn it, feel it, touch it, taste it. And then coax the door open, pick the lock, find the key. How do you do that? Here's some ideas:
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It lays out a few different ways to work with resistance. Note that you can use this in general in your life, and, of course, when it comes to sex and pleasure.
exploring the shadow
Before we can explore the shadow, we have to talk about what it is. My favorite understanding of shadow comes from Robert Bly: the long black bag. We come into this world with a full array of possibilities, and slowly (or sometimes, quickly), it becomes clear to us that there are right ways and wrong ways to be in the world. So we start putting things into our long black bag. Most of it isn’t intentional, some of it is helpful. It keeps us safe, alive, and in connection to those we love. Of course, all of this happens implicitly and unconsciously.
The problem is that, what you can’t see, what you’ve disowned, can be running your life, or at the very least, having a sizable impact on it. A lot of power and energy goes into keeping those things in the bag. Add to that the possibility that some of our brilliance gets thrown in into the long black bag as “golden shadow,” and we need to find ways to carefully pull things out of the bag, and integrate them back into ourselves.
One of my favorite ways of doing this is the 3-2-1 process. I learned this through a Zen teacher, Diane Musho Hamilton, and it’s a process that I use frequently. You can do it on your own or with a partner, and I find that even if I don’t come away with a piece of shadow completely transmuted, I at least have a deeper understanding of it.
Check out the document below, outlining some of the process, and the audio guide to guide you through the process.
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