We Don’t Need To Be Perfect To Be Whole

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.

Our Scars Are Illustrations Of The Stories Of Our Lives

A hospital chaplain says that the dying have a lot to teach us on how to live our lives better while we still can. One of the most frequent yet surprising regrets she’s found, especially from female patients, is the fact that they hated their bodies for so many years. Only now, when that body is truly failing, do they realize they should have celebrated it.” 

A couple of weeks ago, while recovering from surgery to remove a tumor on my thyroid, I spent the night and day on the South Saskatchewan river. I’d been told that I should avoid the sun to lessen the severity of my scar, but I knew that there was nothing that could be more healing for me than the sun on my body, sand in my hair and the river under me.

When I got back home I noticed how the browning of my skin made the stretch marks on my body show up even more. Like my body’s own kind of intricate artwork I couldn’t help but think how interesting and beautiful they were to look at. This was remarkable considering that only 4 years previously, at my first nude Bodysex workshop, the part of my body that I was most terrified of the other women seeing were my stretch marks.

Even though I’ve spent the past few years getting used to and learning to really enjoy being naked, I won’t pretend that I have no more body shame. I believe shame comes in layers, and each time I expose myself and peel back a layer, I get closer to the root of what my shame is really about. My scars and stretch marks may be illustrations of the stories of my life, but the actual story is in what the illustrations signify to me. That’s the part that’s the most difficult to come to terms with and what I think we are really afraid that others will see when looking at us.

On the outside my c-section scar tells the story of me having surgery to deliver my babies.
On the inside the scar tells a story of me failing at what I wanted most in the world.

On the outside my stretch marks tell a story of a girl growing and changing through puberty, pregnancy and the normal ups and downs of life.
On the inside the stretch marks tell a story of me feeling abnormal and ugly.

On the outside, the most recent scar on my neck tells a story of removing cancerous cells so that I can live.
On the inside the scar tells a story that I’ve done something wrong for this to happen to me.

Thankfully my first two stories are no longer relevant to me or my life. I am still sad that I didn’t give birth naturally but I haven’t failed at motherhood. And when I’m not noticing the beauty of my stretch marks, I usually forget I even have them.

I know that it’ll take time for me to come to terms with my new scar, and the layers of stories that lay beneath it. But when I was lying naked in the sand along the river, I didn’t feel like I’d done anything wrong to deserve it. I felt more competent, loved, supported, beautiful and alive than I’ve ever felt in my life. Whether my scar fades or stays the same, I hope that this is the story behind the illustration that I will celebrate.

Truly Being Vulnerable Means I Do So Without Knowing That I Will Be Received.

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
Brene Brown

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

13 Things Men Love About Women That Everyone Tells Us We’re Not Supposed To

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:

  1. When you’re funnier and smarter than us – you’re fascinating, exhilarating, and you challenge us to keep up.
  2. How you look when you first wake up – we’re like dogs, we’re just happy to see you.
  3. Your ‘tummy’ – it’s simply adorable as fuck, you have no idea, that is all.
  4. When you make more money than we do – actually we don’t really care one way or another, it’s just not a thing.
  5. How you smell after a workout – sweaty and hot and a little stinky, it’s fresh and wholesome and appealing as hell.
  6. When you snore – we don’t feel so bad if you do it too.
  7. Your labia – is this even a question? Pussies are just plain gorgeous, every single one.
  8. When you wear your comfy lounging clothes – we love to see you relaxed and comfortable, it makes us feel the same.
  9. When you belch and fart – it shows that you feel confident and safe around us, bonus points for artistic flare.
  10. Your stretch marks and cellulite – when you let us see your imperfections we feel closer to you.
  11. 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.
  12. How your pussy smells – aroma is how your pussy talks dirty to us.
  13. When you tell us about your day – or about anything and everything important to you, anytime and always.

**** written by mystery man

Naked In Nature

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.

****photos posted with permission.  Photo credit to Meghan Mickelson http://meghanmickelson.ca and Studio Stiina http://www.stiina.net

My next Bodysex retreat is June 2-4th. Book here: http://natashasalaash.com/summer-2017-bodysex-workshopretreat-date/