“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
Last month I attended a conference that included a workshop on shame and vulnerability. As I sat listening, the facilitator shared her belief (based on the teachings of the incredible Brene Brown) that when choosing to speak vulnerably we should connect with someone who has “earned the right to hear our story.” She went on to explain that this means someone trusted — “who cares about you and your feelings enough to receive your vulnerability compassionately”.
While I think that sharing vulnerably with a trusted person is an excellent first step, in reality many times the people we need to be vulnerable with won’t always be able to receive our truth or shame with compassion and non judgement. When speaking vulnerably we have absolutely no control over the other person’s response to what we say. Because of this there are times when even though we may want to be vulnerable, we might not be ready to accept whatever response we could get. We may be too emotionally attached to both the person’s perception of ourselves and the outcome of our words. Seeing this can allow a person to step back and accept that choosing vulnerability in this situation isn’t the right choice, and that’s okay.
There are other times though where our need to speak up and be vulnerable may be related to how another person has treated us or how they treated someone else. If we don’t speak up, our hurt feelings can grow and we may end up avoiding them because of it. Depending on how much this person means to you, a decision may have to be made to either be vulnerable and speak your truth — which could result in a closer and deeper relationship — or remaining hurt with a wall between you. Speaking vulnerably carries great risks but potentially great possibilities.
For me personally there are times when my truth is screaming at me to be spoken, and even though I have no control over the outcome, and can’t be sure that the person I need to speak to has earned the right to hear it….I can’t not do it. Over and over I remind myself “It’s just my truth. They don’t need to like it or even agree with it. But it’s my truth and that’s not wrong.” To me truly being vulnerable means I do so without knowing that I will be received. It is when the other persons response is less important than my desire to speak my truth.
In order to be able to do this, I think it’s essential to connect with and honour these truths. To look at my self, my body and my stories and find a way to accept them with compassion – regardless of how others feel about them. Some of my own stories are really hard to look and I feel like they don’t reflect my character or the person I know I am. Yet they’re still my stories, and getting used to them means “sitting in them” rather than avoiding them. Sitting in them brings acceptance of them. The same goes for my body. Some parts of it don’t fit with how I think I should look, yet this is how I look. By spending time naked I become familiar with my body and the way it looks and feels. When I’m really struggling with an old story, or a feeling about my body, I imagine that my child, best friend, lover, or a perfect stranger is showing me or telling me the same story and I think of how I would respond to them and why.
As I continued listening to the facilitator speak I thought of all of the women in my Bodysex workshops or that I’ve orgasm coached, who have shared their stories and their bodies with me not knowing beforehand if I’d “earned the right.” I don’t believe for a second that they weren’t scared but I do believe that they, like me, felt that being vulnerable with their truth was more important than my response to it. I believe that when we are willing to do this we change shame from the “painful feeling or experience that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging” to a feeling of acceptance and belonging exactly as we are. And when we feel this we can choose to be vulnerable with many, knowing that there will always be one person for sure who has earned the right to hear our story. That person is Ourself.
*** photo credit to Dana Kellet
An anonymous man sent this to me and I thought it was worthy of publishing! Always great to hear from a male perspective.
13 Things Men Love About Women That Everyone Tells Us We’re Not Supposed To:
- When you’re funnier and smarter than us – you’re fascinating, exhilarating, and you challenge us to keep up.
- How you look when you first wake up – we’re like dogs, we’re just happy to see you.
- Your ‘tummy’ – it’s simply adorable as fuck, you have no idea, that is all.
- When you make more money than we do – actually we don’t really care one way or another, it’s just not a thing.
- How you smell after a workout – sweaty and hot and a little stinky, it’s fresh and wholesome and appealing as hell.
- When you snore – we don’t feel so bad if you do it too.
- Your labia – is this even a question? Pussies are just plain gorgeous, every single one.
- When you wear your comfy lounging clothes – we love to see you relaxed and comfortable, it makes us feel the same.
- When you belch and fart – it shows that you feel confident and safe around us, bonus points for artistic flare.
- Your stretch marks and cellulite – when you let us see your imperfections we feel closer to you.
- Your body hair – grow it how you like, or not at all if you prefer, but whatever makes you feel sexy makes us feel it too.
- How your pussy smells – aroma is how your pussy talks dirty to us.
- When you tell us about your day – or about anything and everything important to you, anytime and always.
**** written by mystery man
Last week I woke up to the sight of my 7 year old daughter laying beside me, wrapped in a quilt made by one of my Bodysex sisters. She had made the quilt for me last year in exchange for a friend of hers to attend one of my Bodysex retreats. Since then the quilt has mostly been used in my counselling office or at my retreats — providing warmth and comfort to women when they need it.
Seeing her wrapped in such a perfect symbol of sisterhood, I couldn’t help but think of the trickle effect that Bodysex has, not only on the women attending — but on the next generation of children. Even if they never attend a workshop, the very structure and concept of Bodysex is one we rarely see examples of in today’s culture. Women supporting other women — absent of competition. Real naked bodies — not on display, but simply being. Honest, vulnerable sharing of our most hidden stories, greatest fantasies and everything in between. Shared celebration of self pleasure as our fundamental birthright. And the healing experience of non sexual, loving touch from women who actually SEE us.
Tucking the quilt in tighter I continued to watch her, hoping that her little body would soak in some of the power of the collective stories and pleasures that the quilt holds. That as she grows and becomes a woman herself she will find acceptance in her body, love of self, enjoyment of pleasure and true sisterhood.
I love you Naya <3
One of my favourite things about doing Bodysex as a full weekend retreat is that it gives the women more time to settle in and enjoy a space where there are no roles or masks to wear. As the weekend goes on and our armour falls away, we loosen our bodies, open our arms, and celebrate the unique beauty, talents and gifts that each woman brings.
At my retreat this past March some of the women – along with a guitar, ukelele and drums – stayed up late writing the lyrics and music to a song they titled Naked in Nature. When they called me in to hear the final version I alternated between laughing and crying over each verse. I don’t think there could be a better way to sum up what the Bodysex experience is all about than the words to this song, and if I could gift this experience to every single woman in the world I would.
The women who attend these retreats come from all backgrounds and work all kinds of professions. Our ages range from 20 – 68. We are all mothers, daughters or sisters. Some of us hate our bodies and some of us don’t. We all have different reasons for coming but regardless of what they are, we are all sexual and we are all brave. Bodysex is a space to celebrate the freedom to be who we are, our naked bodies, the depths of our pleasure and the mutual acceptance of each other – wherever we are on our own personal journey.
The lyrics to this song and the photos I’ve included give only a small glimpse of the incredible power of a group of women free to be “beauty-ful with nothing to hide.”
Naked In Nature
“I wanna be naked in nature
with the sun on my skin
I wanna be one with all things
around the place that I’m in
I wanna have sex on a secluded beach
with a blanket below me
a brown bag bottle within reach
and a northern light show (a plate of nachos)
I wanna be naked
I wanna be naked in nature
I wanna be naked
with the sun on my skin
I wanna be a body sex woman naked outside
masturbating on the grass with flies on my thighs
I wanna slip into the water
let it ripple my lips
turning and burning
with a swing in my hips
I wanna be naked
I wanna be naked in nature
I wanna be naked with the sun shining in
I wanna be one with my sisters
their hands on my skin
their love flowing over me
and soaking right in
join the circle
cum with me
leave your armour behind
we are all beauty-full
we’ve got nothing to hide
I wanna be naked
I wanna be naked in nature
I wanna be naked
with the sun on my skin
I wanna be naked
I wanna be naked in nature
I wanna be naked with the sun shining in.”
**** lyrics by my beautiful Bodysex sisters. You know who you are.
My next Bodysex retreat is June 2-4th. Book here: http://natashasalaash.com/summer-2017-bodysex-workshopretreat-date/
A few days ago my 7 year old daughter and I were biking along the river bank — enjoying the sunshine — and trying to spot gophers and geese.
“Mama” she said, “let’s look for houses that look the comfiest.”
Smiling at this idea I turned my eyes away from the river – towards the houses on the other side, and began looking for the comfy ones. The river bank is full of beautiful homes and it didn’t take me long to find some, but she was already pointing to her own picks. Her choices, although fairly cute, all had something about them that made them not necessarily “nice” to look at.
Curious about this I asked her “What does a comfy house look like?”
“Well “ she said, “it’s not perfect, but it’s nice. It’s really nice cause it feels nice to live in. Like our house.”
Thinking about this I paid attention to the ones she chose and this is what I saw…
Children’s bikes and toys strewn all over the walkway and front yard of a little character home. A cedar house that looked years over due for a restain, and a plain house thats only identifying feature was a person sitting on the front deck reading.
“That one looks just like ours mama.” she said.
My initial reaction was to say that I didn’t think that house looked anything like ours except that it was tiny, but I stopped the words before they came out of my mouth. She isn’t looking for perfection I thought, she’s looking for a place she’d “feel nice to live in.”
As we biked on I thought about her view of what’s nice and comfy and how in her innocence it has nothing to do with perfection at all. I then thought about my own home and how there are chips in the paint and gaps between the hard wood in the floor. It’s small and tight – like a hug from someone who really cares about you. It’s warm inside and smells like home made cooking and sometimes stinky dog. “It’s not perfect, but it’s nice.”
Then I thought of my body — the other home that I live in and how just that morning in the shower I lovingly washed the parts that maybe aren’t as nice to look at. Or are they? The elaborate spiral pattern on my stomach – stretched from the 4 babies carried in it. It’s got a different texture than the rest of my skin and no matter how hard I exercise, it can’t tighten back to the way it used to be. It’s imperfect but it’s soft and warm to touch, and it’s the place my daughter reaches her little hands for when she wants to cuddle.
I thought of how both my home and my body respond to loving care – A fresh coat of paint or good, healthy food. And how sometimes loving care means eating big juicy burgers or wrestling in the living room.
“It’s really nice cause it feels nice to live in.”
According to Senaya it seems that the comfiest homes are the ones that tell a story on the outside, of the joys and the sorrows of the owners on the inside. From my tiny library out front, to my window trim that needs repainting. From the loose skin on my belly to my c-section scar. These things make me and my home comfy to her and – I like to think – to anyone else who loves me. My body isn’t perfect, but it’s nice. It’s really nice because it feels nice to live in….
**** Thank you to my wise little girl Senaya for teaching me to look at my comfy body/home in a new way.
Body and Mind
This workshop is designed to help participants explore how mainstream culture and media aim to distort our sense of what is normal and healthy regarding our bodies. Along with this we will look at our past and present feelings about our bodies, and the influence they have on our self concept and interpersonal relationships.
This is a group workshop open to anyone and everyone who wants to gain self acceptance and self compassion, so that together we can be part of finding a solution to this cultural epidemic of body shaming.
Dates: April 23rd
Location: 58 – 158 2nd Avenue North, Saskatoon
Cost: $50/person due via etransfer or paypal upon registration. Paypal payments will be charged $5
Max 10 participants
****This workshop will include viewing of the documentary “Embrace.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8N_arduKL4
****You will not be required or asked to share intimate details of your sex life. The workshop will touch on how our body image affects our intimacy, however the focus will be on body image.
“If you look for the light, the light is what you’ll find. And if you think about the light, the light will fill your mind. If you shine on the light, the light comes shining back on you. It’s an old, old story…….. ain’t nothing new.”
Lyrics by Joys Dancer
The day before this past weekend’s Body Sex Retreat I was emotional and weepy —overwhelmed with the realization that this is really the path I’m on. Only 3 years ago it was all just an idea and yet here I was on my way to the airport to pick up a woman for my 6th Bodysex circle. I felt honoured and grateful that even though this path has been full of both joy and pain, it’s without a doubt the path I’m meant to be on.
These were welcoming feelings as the last year or 2 have been the hardest and darkest years of my life. I’ve grieved the end of my 15 year marriage, made decisions for myself that were a source of pain for others, and followed career passions that require an authenticity and vulnerability that aren’t easy to exist in at times. I’ve stumbled, felt completely exhausted, and had to learn to be honest with myself about my own failings.
In the past two months however, I’ve begun to see more clearly not only my own light, but the lights around me. This Body Sex Retreat was a constant reminder of all of these lights. The reminders came in many forms and so many times I sat in awe at the beauty of the lights shining around and back on me.
I saw the light in my fellow Bodysex facilitator who came all the way from North Carolina to shine her light and learn along with me. I saw it in the bravery of the women baring their bodies, vulvas and souls in the circle and in the painful stories that they shared. There was light in the smiles of acceptance and acknowledgement among women who had similar stories, and also among those who didn’t. I felt the light in the room brighten with each word spoken, as the weight of our stories became shared — rather than a burden to carry alone.
Light shone outside of the circle as well through the women who took time for themselves as needed, and the women who accepted this need without judgement. There was light in our full body hugs, the different ways we nurtured each other and in the freedom we felt in our nudity. So free that many of the women remained nude late into the night – sharing fantasies, deep belly laughs, yummy food, music, yoga, massage, and the cries of our orgasms as we came at the same time. In the morning the sun shone its light on us as we soothed muscles stiff from orgasms, and eyes puffy from crying.
Inspired by all this light around me, I dug deep inside myself and discovered ways to shine my own light into the workshop. Leading a touch meditation, the deep guttural sounds of my uninhibited orgasms, constant tears that so badly needed to fall, and the stories I shared that I wouldn’t tell anyone who wouldn’t also be completely naked with me.
As the retreat came to an end, we sat in a circle — joined by hearts and hands — and sang…… “If you look for the light, the light is what you’ll find.” Closing my eyes I felt the power of these lyrics and moving my hand over my heart to the beat of the drum, I cried….. “If you think about the light, The light is will fill your mind. If you shine on the light, the light comes shining back on you”…..Thinking of how each of us came in to the retreat with our own fears, reservations, and shame yet in this moment – in this circle of unconditional love and acceptance – there was no separation between our lights. “It’s an old, old story….. ain’t nothing new…..”
Thank you for sharing your lights with me,
Marilyn, Molly Ringwald, Lucky, Heart, Audra, Gigi, Lacy, Ms.Kane, Pearl, Denada, Iris.
My next Bodysex Retreat will be June 16th – 18th. Contact me to book.
*** Photo credit to Stiina <3
Emails like this one make the vulnerability and struggle in this work worthwhile. This woman first contacted me a couple of years ago because she was having issues with orgasming – particularly by hand. With practice, acceptance and patience she is now an Orgasmic woman!!
“A lot has happened the last seven days: I turned 20, thus making it two years since I started to learn about my body and pleasure, and I masturbated by hand two nights in a row and orgasmed both times! These are big things because growing up feeling like I’m behind the in-crowd has made it feel like I’m not worthy of pleasure because I’ve bloomed a little later. But when the time is ripe, you’ll bloom! It took me two years to feel comfortable in a space and in my body in a way that I could make a connection with myself like that.
Your posts about body image and personal pleasure are inspiring, and it is absolutely lovely to see so much encouragement and self-love hope from so many people! Thank you for creating such a loving space where we can celebrate these pleasures!”
Bodysex retreat weekends give women a chance to be who they are without the boxes and labels that society puts on them. As I look at these photos I’m reminded of the beauty, joy, pleasure, freedom, love, nurturing, vulnerability, hope, acceptance and sisterhood that I experience each time I sit in the Bodysex circle. I hope they bring a smile to your face like they do mine.
This Isn’t Quite A Triumphant “I Love Myself” Moment, But Maybe More Of A Cease-fire With My Body Shame
When I read Natasha’s Body Shame blog post it struck a deep chord with me. Like nearly everyone else, men and women alike, I struggle in isolation with body shame. Such a universal aspect of the human condition shouldn’t isolate us though, it should instead unite us in open empathy. In that spirit, I wanted to add my story to hers.
I’ve been fat nearly my whole life. Being ashamed of my body has always been as natural and constant to me as breathing. I remember wearing layers of clothes to school as a young boy, even in the heat of June, in the misguided hope that it would hide my body. I dreaded changing in front of other kids for gym class and did everything I could to avoid it. I loved to swim but I would never go to a public pool. I ached with envy when I saw the lithe, thin bodies of other boys, displayed with carefree abandon in games of shirts and skins.
It wasn’t just that I had a belly. Other kids had bellies and were accepted. I think I could have rolled with having just a belly. What shamed me the most was that I also had big fatty boobs. I developed a stooped stance so that my shirt would hang forward and hide them. I did countless pushups trying to transform them into mighty muscular pectorals, but all I did was add layers of muscle under the fat.
Early adventures with girls were terrifying and, often, humiliating.
During my late teens and early twenties, when metabolism and physical labour combined to give me a rather decently in-shape physique, the body shame was still so ingrained that I had to consciously force myself to stand up straight. Even now in my forties, the supposed beginning of the “fuck it, I am what I am” stage of life, I still have to remind myself not to stoop to hide my chest.
So here I am. This is me. I haven’t reached acceptance yet but I’m working on it. This isn’t quite a triumphant “I love myself” moment, but maybe more of a cease-fire with my body shame, aided by the brave example of my dear friend.