As I continue to grow and learn and get more comfortable incorporating parts of myself and my beliefs into my life and my work, I’ve started to feel uncomfortable using the word “heal” when referring to what I hope to help women achieve through my work. The definition of heal is “to become healthy or sound again” and to me that implies that we were once healthy and whatever we did or was done to us needs to be fixed so that we can become healthy again. I don’t believe that any of us need fixing. I believe that our pain, “brokenness”, trauma, and shame are just as valid parts of ourselves as our greatness. In fact often our greatness is a direct result of our brokenness.
I can see now that when I feel like I need fixing it’s usually because I’m waging battles — both consciously and unconsciously — with my stories and experiences that I deem shameful and bad. By not accepting or allowing them to be a part of me and my view of myself, I become fragmented — and a separation is created within me. It takes a great deal of energy to keep these parts separate and much of my energy is fed into hiding these perceived imperfections from others. Hiding and living in shame creates not only a separation within but a separation with out — and essentially distances me from the people that I most want to be close to.
I saw examples of this separation in my daughter whom we adopted as an older child. When she first came home she tried her best to be perfect and any time she made a normal mistake she would either apologize profusely or do whatever she could to hide it. The behaviours she used to cover her mistakes were often far more damaging than the mistakes themselves and after awhile trust between us became a problem. She seemed to be putting her energy into separating her “flaws” from herself and in doing so, was separating herself from me. Sensing that she felt the need to be perfect in order to be loveable, I began to praise her for making mistakes. I expressed my love for her “flaws.” Her spilled milk, forgotten lunch containers and messy room. Then I took things a step further and told her that I didn’t need her to be perfect or “fixed”, as adopted children often believe, and that it’s okay that she may always feel a sadness or brokenness about losing her birth family. I acknowledged that her wounds from this loss may never fully heal and that no matter what, I accept and love her as she is. I didn’t want her to think she “should” be anyone other than herself or that I needed her to feel better in order to love her. To deny the painful truths in her story would be to deny a part of who she is. I can honestly still feel her entire body sigh with relief upon hearing this.
I’ve carried this understanding with me ever since as a reminder to not gloss over or try to “fix” her or my other children’s pain or shortcomings, but instead to acknowledge and accept them as a part of their whole being. I don’t need them to be any “better” than they already are.
Through my work these past few years and in particular the shared vulnerability that happens within a Bodysex circle, I’ve learned to stop hiding in shame and acknowledge the parts of myself that aren’t so pretty to look at. In this acknowledgement and in the acceptance mirrored back to me from the other women, I’ve largely come to trust and stop fighting those parts of myself that I’m in battle with. When I stop resisting, the stories lose their power and — like a tapestry with many different threads — they become just another part of the intricate story of my life. They integrate into me. The meaning of the word integrate is “to put together parts or elements and combine them into a whole.” To be whole I don’t need to be perfect.
If you choose to sit in the circle with me or work with me in any capacity — I will not proclaim that you’ll be healed because I don’t believe that you need fixing. I don’t and won’t see you that way. I won’t pretend to have all the answers or that I’ve “arrived” at a place that you should also be. I will however, do my best to allow you to see me as a whole person with many curves and corners of both darkness and light. In the end, maybe healing is just realizing that in spite of my brokenness, I’ve been whole all along.
*** people who know me well know that I love words and their meanings and I don’t take it lightly which words I use. Just because this is how I feel about the word heal, doesn’t mean I think you’re wrong for using it. This is just what fits for me.
At my recent Advanced Bodysex Retreat we were blessed to have a woman amongst us who offered to draw our vulvas. One by one, at random times during the retreat, we took turns sitting under a bright light with our legs spread open in front of her. Even though I’ve let go of my own vulva shame long ago, it’s still vulnerable opening this most sacred part of my body to another. As a loving sister she told me the beauty that she saw in me, and pointed out details that enhanced her drawing. The length of my lips, colour and texture.
Looking at these pictures I am in awe at the diversity and intricate beauty of all our vulvas. Like snow flakes no two are alike and with each drawing I am full of awe and wonder.
“Remember when we used to just have tea” I said to one of the women across the circle from me as I sat up post orgasm. We were in the middle of one of our many celebrations of pleasure and the reality of the moment just struck me. This is a woman who held my babies after they were born, bonded with me over breastfeeding and co sleeping stories, and was now sharing orgasms alongside me like it was the most normal thing in the world. In any direction I turned I could see more women, all now sisters to me, experiencing the pleasure in their bodies using fingers and toys, in every position imaginable. As one of us orgasmed others would watch or follow, cheering each other on as we would with any other great event in life. This Is Real Life.
When I set out to create last weekend’s Advanced Bodysex Retreat, my hope was that it would be a space that would encourage myself and the other women to feel more. I wanted to get beyond the thinking that orgasms are solely genital, and into feeling and exploring from within our whole selves. Because all of the women had attended at least one Bodysex workshop before, I knew that they’d have a greater level of comfort in being nude, trust in other women, be willing to go to deeper and more difficult places and a desire to experience feeling more in a way that I think many of us long for. My vision for this retreat was more of an experience rather than a place to arrive at, and I struggled with figuring out how to encourage that experience.
Sticking with what I know best, I decided to model the retreat after the path I’ve walked these past few years. Having “cracked myself open”, I aimed to create experiences that would encourage the women to crack open with me. Almost as soon as the weekend started I could see evidence of feeling more everywhere I looked and, even though these feelings weren’t always comfortable or easy, we were definitely feeling. Together in our circle we “created a safe container to be the mother, daughter, grandmother and whore.” Exploring our sexual history and it’s affects on our current sexuality, giving ourselves and each other sexual permission, examining our values, wants and desires, questioning our barriers to being present, gaining awareness of our breath, experiencing pleasure, sharing our fantasies, awakening the 5 senses, having our vulvas drawn, creating our wheel of wholeness and vulnerably unveiling our shame. Throughout it all we held each other with acceptance and compassion in the safety of the circle.
I’m finding it impossible to put words to the experiences from this weekend and so, with permission from my sisters, I’m going to share a different kind of testimonial. Before clicking on the following recording, I recommend you find a quiet place alone, close your eyes and listen with all of your senses to what feeling more can sound like.
If you’re interested in “cumming for tea with me” my next Bodysex retreat will be April 20th -22nd. http://natashasalaash.com/spring-2018-bodysex-workshopretreat-date/
Bodysex is a transformative and undefinable experience for women, of all ages and sexual orientations, interested in the empowering freedom that comes from shedding the masks, roles and clothing that we hide behind everyday. The workshop is done in the nude yet it is non sexual. It is about raising consciousness, creating sisterhood, integrating body shame and celebrating pleasure.
The next Bodysex Retreat Weekend will be April 20th-22nd 2017, held at a private retreat centre near Saskatoon SK. Canada. It’s the perfect place to relax, let go and just be. The retreat has a “slumber party” feel to it with healthy home made meals and snacks lovingly prepared by me and my assistant Patti throughout the weekend. Henna tattooing and hair braiding is also offered by local artist Stiina. During non workshop hours participants will be free to walk trails or the labyrinth, spend time alone or visit with the other women.
The two day workshop will include:
- Sacred circle where, in first person, we share how we feel about our bodies and our orgasms. This is the time to let go of any shame that has been holding us back from fully celebrating our pleasure. Through this, the roots of sisterhood will begin forming as we accept each other for who are. No more and no less.
- Group genital show and tell. This is a powerful ceremony where we display our vulva one at a time, identify all of the parts of our anatomy and recognize the beauty and diversity amongst us.
- Learn new methods to enhance our orgasms and our self loving practice. Understanding our sexual anatomy, how breath, movement, sound and our pc muscle work to enhance our pleasure on all levels.
- Self loving, side by side, in the circle during “erotic recess.” Sharing our own pleasure, without expectation, with other women is one of the most powerful experiences that you will ever have. This is about learning to be our own lover, healing body shame, overcoming sexual guilt and sharing in sisterhood. This is also an opportunity for me to help personally guide you, towards orgasm or increased pleasure if you have never orgasmed or are having difficulty and would like help.
- Group massage. This ancient practice is almost impossible to describe in words. It is a transcendent experience where we are able to give and receive loving, non sexual touch from the other women in the circle.
Location: Outside Saskatoon SK. Canada. (exact location will be disclosed to registered participants only)
(transportation from Saskatoon to the retreat location provided for out of town participants for a fee)
Dates: 1pm, April 20th – 1pm, April 22nd
Cost: $595 CDN for first time participants, $395 for returning. Included in this fee is the full Bodysex workshop, mystic wand vibrator, healthy meals(locally sourced and organic where possible) shared accommodation for 2 nights (there is a price reduction of $70 for women not wanting to use a vibrator or bringing their own)
$200 NRF deposit on registration.
Space is limited to 10 participants
Please advise me of any dietary restrictions
Orgasmic Women, Advanced Bodysex Retreat: Your Partner Can Help You Have An Orgasm, But Not Be Orgasmic
“Your partner can help you to have an orgasm but not be orgasmic. This is your responsibility. Because the actual quality of the orgasm depends on you, it is important to develop an awareness of how your body moves, how your muscles react, how the depth and rhythm of your breathing can help in the experience of pleasure, and how pleasure can be intensified and made to last longer. You become at once the giver and receiver………As you learn the techniques, you’ll strengthen your trust and confidence in yourself as a sexually attractive individual, and you’ll discover that pleasuring yourself physically is an essential part of loving yourself emotionally, bringing together your sexual energy and your heart. Self pleasuring makes your heart happy. “ – Margo Anand
Follow the link to register for the last remaining spot in this retreat:
*** photo credit Dana Kellet
I am getting so excited excited for my Advanced Bodysex retreat in November! Some women have asked if they are ready for an “advanced” retreat and basically the only requirement is that you have previously attended a Betty Dodson Certified Bodysex workshop. The reason for this is that I want everyone to know their sexual anatomy, and to have experienced being nude in a group so that it isn’t such a big fear. The focus of this retreat will be on self exploration and we will explore ourselves in many different ways. Physically through touch, movement and sound. Spiritually through breath and energy awareness. Emotionally and intellectually through examining old stories we carry regarding our sexuality, pleasure and shame as well as identifying what we want, need and desire for our sex life. We will explore through engaging our five sense and seeking to find pleasure in everyday experiences. Throughout the 3 night retreat we will practice self pleasure – pushing the edges of our comfort – so that we can grow and learn though our practice.
The inner work will begin before the retreat starts in the form of “homework” which you will not be required to share.
The retreat is half full and registration closes November 1st. A $200 deposit is required upon registering. The retreat is over half full. Email me to book or with any questions you may have.
The night before last weekend’s Bodysex retreat began, I laid down on the rug in the centre of the circle — inhaling the smells of body oil and beeswax — and felt the familiar sensation of being home. If I don’t feel safe to be myself in a circle of women, where in the world would I feel safe?
Having just come off of a stressful and at the same time joy filled summer, I was nervous about what would come up for me over the weekend. The lessons from summer had taught me that in order to continue growing and learning, I need to take what I’ve discovered within myself, and apply it to growing and learning with others. I hold back a lot — afraid of my “more” that feels like “too much” — worrying that my “too much” will be uncomfortable for other people. Holding back myself can make me seem selfish, can mean that I don’t get my needs met or can result in me shining only half of my light. To trust that both myself and others will be accepting of the full expression of me, requires a whole new level of vulnerability. In all honesty I was scared. But with the feeling of home in my heart and the intention of being present in all that I am, I entered into the first day of the retreat.
No retreat is the same as another, as no circle of women is the same. There are always similarities but each group of women brings a unique collection of stories, gifts and way of being. Right from the start this group exuded a feeling of calm, gentle, sacredness. With trust in the women and trust in myself, I opened the circle.
These beads (handmade by women in Kenya) represent each of the women who have sat in my Bodysex circles.
Halfway through the first day we do the Genital Show and Tell, which is my favourite part of the whole weekend. The privilege of sitting beside each woman — close enough so that we can both see the same image of her vulva in the mirror between her legs — is not lost on me. Seeing, naming and acknowledging our vulvas, surrounded by the love and support of other women, is an essential step in the process of integrating our sexual selves with the rest of who we are. I see it as a bridge connecting two worlds. As each woman chose a wish for her vulva, I noticed that the wishes were representative of much more, and that I’m not the only one holding back. “To be brave” “To let go” “To feel love” “To fully expose myself” “To love my femininity” “To allow pleasure” “To claim the worthiness it takes to orgasm” and “The freedom to explore with no restrictions.”
On the second day of the retreat everyone seemed much more comfortable being naked and we all giggled when someone bent over in front of our face or when the first fart was let out. I noticed how the women’s bodies became a contradiction almost of softness and strength. Less protected and yet more upright. I saw it as the freedom of being who we are and owning it.
We began the erotic recess with a self touching meditation. As our pleasure built, the sounds of our moaning – mixed with the humming of the vibrators – filled the room until you couldn’t tell who was making what sound. I’ve never felt so safe to be loud in my life. It was like an orchestra of uninhibited pleasure. When the sounds died down I sat up and noticed two women on the other side of the circle holding their hands out in front of themselves — sending energy — to a woman who seemed to be struggling. Knowing without a doubt that it was the right thing to do, I did something that I’ve never done before, and went to her. Sitting down beside her head I could see the stress on her face and body as she struggled to bring herself to orgasm. Reaching my hand towards her I softly smoothed out the lines on her forehead and jaw while she opened her eyes — letting me know I was welcome to stay with her. Encouraging her with words, I placed my hand on her chest and drew her heart energy up her body which was flush from pleasure. Tears fell from her eyes as I felt her heart open and a complete absence of resistance to me.
Noticing tension in her legs I moved down alongside her body and sat in front of her bent knees. Looking at each other eye to eye I began to breathe deeply — exaggerating the sounds of my breath with the hope that she would connect to it and find a way out of the anxiety in her mind and into the sensations in her body. She followed my breathing until our breath became like a circle of energy looping between us. Our breath now in sync I could see that there was still tension in her body and, without thinking about it, my own body began to soften and sway in front of her. Like a reflection in a mirror her body followed mine and we breathed, eye to eye, softening and swaying while she pleasured herself in front of me.
Sensing that she needed more support I invited, with her permission, the other women to come over and join us. Surrounding her we connected to each other with our hands, our legs and our hearts, creating a beautiful web of sisterhood that weaved around and through her. I knew in that moment that what was happening was something much larger than any one of us and that women from centuries ago must have done this very thing. It was profoundly sacred.
“It feels like something is being birthed” one of the women said, as we sang our sweet sister through a birthing of her own.
I entered the retreat afraid of being too much, leaned into my too much, and through that was able to witness with awe the wonderful “muchness” in all of us.
Thank you for your web of sisterhood:
Fleur de Cala Lily
With my Bodysex retreat less than a week away, it’s common to see jars of lube cooling off on my counter beside a pot of home made chicken stock and a cutting board of shredded zucchini. Even though there is a lot of work that goes into planning and preparing for the retreat, I enjoy thinking of each of the women coming and wondering what they’re hoping to get from the weekend.
“Mama why are you making all those creams?” asks my 7 year old while her 13 year old sister looks on.
“Because it’s my gift to each of the women who come to my retreat. I think people feel nice knowing someone made something for them.”
Nodding she goes back to watching her 17 year old sister practice different ways to apply make up.
“And what are all of these chairs for? They look so nice” she says as she sits down on one and proceeds to drive it around the room.
“These chairs are what we sit on at the retreat. It’s important that everyone feels comfortable in the circle.”
“They are comfy” she says as she drives one over to the bathroom to brush her teeth and I start to sew a tear in the seam of one of the chairs.
Ready for bed she sees the blue lights glowing from the vibrators charging in the darkened dining room.
“What are those for?” she asks.
“Those are massagers for each of the women to have, and take home from the retreat.”
Nodding like it’s the most normal thing in the world she says “You make it nice for them mama.”
Tucking her in she stands up on my bed and reminds me that “we have to do a real hug, not a half one.” So we hug, chest together, heads on each other’s shoulders, both of our arms around each other. I tuck her into my bed under the quilt made by one of my Bodysex sisters. Heading back into the living room to mend the chairs, I marvel at the ordinariness of my extra-ordinary life.