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.
5 years ago on Christmas night I stayed up late reading a book written by Naomi Wolf, called “Vagina.” Having just begun to feel an awakening in my own sexuality I was searching for guidance from other women on what this meant and, in some ways, the permission to allow it.
Naomi wrote that “Female sexual pleasure, rightly understood, is not just about sexuality, or just about pleasure. It serves, also, as a medium of female sexual knowledge and hopefulness; female creativity and courage, female focus and initiative; female bliss and transcendence; and as a medium of a sensibility that feels very much like freedom. To understand the vagina properly is to realize that it is not only coextensive with the female brain, but is also, essentially part of the female soul.”
Even with my very limited first hand experience with these words, they resonated deeply with me and I knew that this was not only what I was seeking to learn, but also what I’d been afraid of and holding back from for years. My identity had been tied to mothering, being a supportive wife and giving to others. Seeking this pleasure – which honestly almost felt like a bad word – seemed selfish and unmotherly.
Nervous yet Inspired by the book I decided to touch myself – something that I’d never done before. This idea seemed foreign and because I didn’t really like my body, having to touch it reminded me of everything that was “wrong” with it. Unsure and unconvinced about what I was doing, my first few attempts didn’t go very well. I was so completely focused on having an orgasm that I hardly felt a thing. Like an over eager lover I went straight for my clit and ignored the rest of my body – which needed to be touched just as much. Frustrated that this wasn’t working I thought that there was surely something wrong with me until one day it just happened – I’d brought myself to orgasm with just my hands!
I was thrilled and the orgasm was a great reward for all my persistence and hard work – but what ended up being the most profound for me was what I learned through the process of discovery. I learned about my body, what feels good for me, that I actually liked what I felt like under my fingers and because of that I imagined that someone else might like it too. I learned to be patient, to enjoy the build up, to use all of my senses and all of my body. I also learned that my own touch – whether or not it led to orgasm – could help me at difficult times in my life, reminding me that I’ll be okay and that I’m always here for me.
I’m so grateful to be able to say that in these past 5 I have come to not only understand but live what Naomi was saying. Through embracing and seeking out pleasure I have healed, became a better mother, more self aware, learned to trust and honour my intuition, set boundaries, seek out my passions, forgive myself, grow through vulnerable situations and finally to love and be loved. ……and as Naomi says that “feels very much like freedom.”
.Merry Christmas. <3
I wrote the following blog post nearly 3 months ago yet haven’t had the courage to share it until today. Wondering what was holding me back I sat with it for awhile and realized that it isn’t that I’m afraid to be seen this way – that’s my old story. It’s more that I’m afraid that in sharing my feelings about something that has been this difficult for me, I might being dismissed. I’ve heard many well intentioned women say to me “God if I had your stomach I’d be laughing” or “I don’t know why you’re so hard on yourself – I wish my stomach looked like yours.” I understand that they see theirs as much worse than mine but those words don’t make me feel better – they make me feel worse. They dismiss how deeply painful it was for me to not give birth naturally. How hard it is to have visual scars of pregnancy and yet no real birth story that gives me “credibility” amongst women. My shame is drawn in the scars on my stomach and today I’m saying fuck you to the shame. This is my mama tummy and I accept it.
We read and hear so much about self love, radical self love and the idea of loving our selves exactly as we are. I think that this kind of dialogue is important and the idea is a beautiful one, but I also think that in it’s own way it sets us up for disappointment and failure. When my teachers Betty and Carlin interviewed me for Bodysex facilitator training 2 and a half years ago, they told me that they believed the biggest gift that comes from Bodysex is self acceptance. They made a point of saying that this was more important than self love. At the time I didn’t fully understand what they meant, but I listened and held that idea in my mind as one of importance.
Body shame has always been a part of my life. As a teenager I remember feeling insecure about my small breasts and overly muscular legs. I thought that, like the women in Cosmo magazines, my breasts were supposed to touch together. When I had sex with my boyfriend I’d use my arms to push them in – hoping that he wouldn’t discover my “deformity.” The main source of my physical shame however, has been my stomach. Not only have I felt shame over how it looks from stretch marks and loose skin, but after losing one baby and giving birth to 4 by cesarean, the ever present scar has been a visible reminder of how my body failed me at what I’d wanted the most.
Late this summer I asked my friend Dana to take photos of me naked exposing my stomach. It felt like a monumental thing for me to do as I’ve always found ways to keep this area hidden. The meaning of shame is to cover and hide and a part of me has believed that if people knew what I really looked like or my full story they’d be disgusted.
As I stood having these photos taken I felt beautiful. It wasn’t that I necessarily loved my stomach the way it looked or that I loved all of the stories that brought me to this place. I may always mourn the stomach of my youth or the fact that my babies weren’t born naturally. But I can and do accept that this is how I look now and that my babies weren’t.
Fast forward to today and I’m soon to lead my 5th body sex circle. For the first time in my life I feel like I can understand what Betty and Carlin meant. And because this acceptance is true and not an attempt at some form of radical self love that isn’t really there, I no longer care if someone else doesn’t like my body, finds it unattractive or if they think I’m less of a mother for not giving birth naturally. I’ve nourished all 5 of my children with this body (plus a couple that weren’t my own) been cut open 4 times, given love and caused pain. I’ve experienced grief, loss, joys, endings and beginnings. Through all of this my body has carried me. This body and the stories drawn on it, are me. By accepting it and them, I accept me.
*photo credit 1 – Stiina
*photo credit 2 – Dana Kellet
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, healing body shame and celebrating pleasure.
The next Bodysex Retreat Weekend will be March 3-5th 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, March 3rd – 1pm, March 5th
Cost: $575 CDN for first time participants, $375 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
Last weekend’s fall Bodysex retreat began with Patti and I greeting each of the women naked as they arrived, and asking them to undress. Having been a Bodysex participant myself – before becoming a facilitator – I understood very well the look of fear and nervousness on most of their faces. Arms crossed, eyes down and some holding back tears, the women made their way to the circle and sat down.
The circle begins with the sharing of our “honest “I’s” – stories and feelings that we carry about our bodies and our sexuality that are our own and no one else’s. I think of these stories as invisible layers that hang over us. Sometimes while sharing a story I realize that it isn’t even my own – and with this understanding I can choose whether I want it to stay with me – or to let it go in the circle. Whichever way I choose, it can mean one less layer of covering. As the women took their turns to speak, I was struck at first by the bravery it takes to share and secondly by the acceptance and love that was reflected back on the faces of each and every other woman in the circle.
With this shared acceptance, the women appeared to soften – relaxing their shoulders, melting a bit into their spot in the circle and allowing their legs to open and lay comfortably. In this particular group – for whatever reason – this process seemed to happen very quickly.
With relaxed bodies and true curiosity, we moved into what I consider to be the most intimate part of the workshop – the genital show and tell. Guiding each woman through her turn to look at, show, and finally name her vulva – we marvelled at the individual beauty, diversity and difference in colours.
As the sun was setting and our first day workshop hours over, I let the women know that they were now welcome to get dressed if they wanted to. In stark contrast to only 5 hours earlier when most seemed scared to be naked – no one was in a great rush to get their clothes back on. In fact some of the women hardly got dressed again for the rest of the weekend.
With this newfound acceptance, pleasure was celebrated in many ways:
Being cooked for, eating delicious meals together, being naked, orgasming, farting ( “OMG I orgasmed and a fart came out!”), belly laughing, walking the trails, energy treatments, gifts of essential oils, naked yoga, henna body art, laying under a quilt lovingly made by another sister, hair braiding, cheering our way through an old porn dvd, sharing more stories, holding space for tears when they fell, singing to each other, group massage and encouragement to “just go for three!”
We were active participants in our own pleasure with masturbation circles happening during the second day, as part of the workshop, and spontaneously initiated by women at night by the fire. Some women chose to orgasm both inside and outside of the retreat centre – in rooms alone and rooms with others. Masturbation became so normal that no one even blinked an eye at the sound down the hallway of another woman cumming.
Betty Dodson, the grandmother of masturbation, the woman who created these circles and the one who trained me, says that “Body sex is about letting go of shame and celebrating pleasure.”
Well Betty, I say: “We celebrated well.”
Thank you to my “engorgeous” sisters: Oakley, Flying squirrel, Buzz Lightyear (“to infinity and beyond!), Merridah, Vina, Nightingale, Moonstone, Chandelier, Sunset, Shakira and heart.
*** photo and henna body art credit to Studio Stiina