Closing the door on 2023

As I get ready to turn the page of my client log book for 2023, I’m reflecting on how much growth and learning this year has given me.

I was fortunate to support 916 clients – 488 women, 366 men and 62 non binary humans this year. I started offering a piece of my heart through “Body Awakening” sessions which help clients learn to; identify what “yes” and “no” feel like in their body and communicate it, anchor to presence during intimacy so that they can feel MORE, relax into their body to allow for the natural function of arousal to happen, regulate with their breath and explore pleasure. I teach this through either touching clients myself or guiding couples in how to offer Body Awakening to each other. I facilitated my first week long “Intimacy Immersion” experience with a couple, completed level 3 of an Integrative Trauma and Attachment Treatment Model training, learned to “Love Another Way” in a course on boundaries and am currently training in Genital Dearmouring.

In 2024, I’m excited to go to California for hands on Genital Dearmouring training, expand my office space to include this as one of my services, offer couple’s intimacy workshops facilitated by myself and my husband (saying that is also new for me in 2023!) and continue writing my book on – you guessed it – Intimacy!

As always, I’m in awe of the endless connections between mothering babies, and helping adults feel safe enough to tip toe into experiencing their limitless capacity for connection and pleasure. Thank you to everyone who allowed me to accompany them on their intimacy journey this year and I’m excited to keep learning and expanding with you all next year!

Goodbye My Lover, Bodysex

It’s the eve of my last Bodysex workshop and, even though I’m choosing to take a break from facilitating, it’s scary to not know if I’ll ever return to it. It feels like I’m saying goodbye to a lover that I’m still deeply in love with, but the relationship isn’t nourishing me in the ways it used to. I’m already feeling the grief of all that I’ll miss; the feeling of home in the circle, the honor of sitting beside women as they open, share and connect to their vulvas. Seeing and being seen fully, the orchestra of our self pleasure, the smell of sweat and pussy, Marika’s hand resting on my leg as we hold space, my head on Justine’s lap as we discuss how the weekend went, Patti’s bare bum sticking out from her apron as she cooks — and the absolute normalcy of all of it.

 

Two days later the workshop is finished and, filled with gratitude and love, I pack up my supplies for the last time. I can feel myself wanting to cling and hold on — just a bit — to one last touch of my lovers hand as I say goodbye. I don’t want to let go of the connections, the memories, the endless internal spiral of self confrontation, awareness and integration. One of the gifts of Bodysex is that the eyes of the other women are a mirror for me, always showing me what’s hard to see on my own. In that mirror I see in my grasp to hold on — the reason I’m letting go.

I’m not that same woman I was 8 years ago who sat shaking outside Betty Dodson’s apartment before my first Bodysex workshop — terrified that all the women in the circle would be shocked and disgusted by my naked body. I’m not the same woman who was so ashamed of her scarred and stretched stomach, that she spent years repeating the mantra over and over in her head before allowing a man to see her naked: “This is my body and I accept it. If he doesn’t accept it, he don’t accept me and he’s not my person.” And I’m certainly not the same woman who only had sex to please, keep the peace or in an attempt to feel loved.

Looking in the women’s eyes this weekend, I saw myself as a woman who feels most beautiful when I’m naked and surrounded by other women, in nature or locking eyes in intimacy with my husband (ideally all of the above! He he). I saw in myself that I accept and love my body — and recognize it as an illustration of my history, a creator and giver of life and source of infinite pleasure. I saw myself as a woman who now owns pleasure because it’s my inherent right as a human being and no longer finds it revolutionary to orgasm. I live and embody this right.

Driving away from Drummondville, I feel my fingers slip away from my beautiful lover Bodysex. I’ve been gently easing into this moment for months, with the same care and tenderness I took in preparing for my children to leave the nest. It doesn’t make it any easier, but I can feel excitement deep inside me at the possibilities of other paths I can explore. I wonder what will be different about the woman I am in another 8 years? What will she have learned that I haven’t yet? What parts of herself will she confront that are still hiding behind armor? What will she find that nourishes her the most? 

 

As the plane takes off, I close my eyes and imagine myself back in the circle with the 321 women who’ve shared it with me.  I smell the coconut oil, feel the warmth of their hands in mine and — all around me, I’m met with an abundance of love, acceptance and encouragement. With my eyes, my body and my heart,  I offer the same back to them. I hear Betty’s words whisper, “Natasha, the circle of sisters will always carry you, as long as you share your honest “I’s.” Goodbye for now my lover, Bodysex. This is my honest I.

Much love, appreciation and gratitude for Betty, Carlin, Patti, Justine, Marika and all of my Bodysex sisters.I love you.

What Matters Most

 

I haven’t felt the internal pull to write and share my innermost self with a wider audience in so long.  Maybe I’ve felt too tender, maybe I needed the space, maybe I was fulfilled with sharing my innermost with the people closest to me and in the spaces I hold for clients. I’m not sure exactly the reason. Today though, I feel that pull.  

Last year I lost my friend Brenda. She was in the deep, early stages of grieving her son Thomas who died by suicide just over a year before. We weren’t everyday friends, but I helped raise Thomas in my daycare, our boys had been best friends, we bonded over beers, laughed at how we both felt inferior to each other for being a “better” mother and in particular connected through the vulnerability of loss and grief. I loved Thomas too and throughout preschool and elementary, I wiped tears from his eyes, told him how wonderfully kind he was to be such a good friend to the younger children in my care and cuddled him when he was hurt. I was his emergency contact, and I’ll never forget how my heart stopped the moment the school called to tell me he died. I’ll never forget Brenda collapsing into me inside her back door, with Thomas’ shoes still lined up on the mat ready to be put on. I’ll never forget the pain in my children’s eyes and holding my daughter Selam up as she struggled to stay in her body at his funeral. 

I checked in with Brenda regularly after Thomas died and connected her to a suicide support group for grieving parents. That wonderful group became an absolute lifeline for her and, in my view, was the one place where she felt 100% understood in her grief. Still, I worried about her a lot. Thomas was her only child and I didn’t know a mom who loved their child more than she did. Brenda loved seeing my son Mateyo, loved talking about the times she’d taken him and Thomas to the Exhibition, or to their farm and how happy they were together. When she hugged Mateyo, I could see in her closed eyes that her hands reaching up around the shoulders on his tall, lithe body reminded her of hugging Thomas. I could see how it hurt her to let go.

We found Brenda on the cold floor of her bathroom one day in May, after she hadn’t responded to texts for 48 hrs. She’d been there, still alive in body but not in soul, for nearly 2 days after suffering a brain aneurism. Sweet Brenda who had devoted her life to her only child Thomas for 17 years and who would do anything for anyone, was gone. I remember standing on her front lawn with the paramedics taking her away thinking how in this moment so many things that had seemed important, just didn’t matter at all. Facebook didn’t matter. What people think of me didn’t matter. Being successful didn’t matter……

The first weeks after her death, I thought I was going insane. I’d never felt like that before. I couldn’t handle what I felt. The injustice of it. The pain of seeing her like that. The reality of her being alone for hours and hours in that state. I wanted to rip my skin off. Slowly, the pain eased and, miraculously it seemed, I started to feel okay again. I was sad, but I could be in my skin, and I was okay. The image of her curled up and soiled on the bathroom floor didn’t leave me though. I couldn’t help but think that even if I kept on living the rest of my life in service to others — my clients, my children — that I could still end up alone, dying on a cold bathroom floor too. If so much doesn’t matter, then what does matter? Like a curious observer, I stepped back and took stock of my life. I saw that I’d been running for years since my divorce, working several jobs to both cover up my guilt at ending my marriage, and make enough money to support my kids on my own. I don’t know if working that much helped the guilt, but I could see that I was able to support them and I might not need to work so hard. What was the cost on me? Was it enough for me to end up on my bathroom floor alone too? Did I want to work this much?

Slowly I started making changes by cutting back my hours at my job as an ADHD Coach and creating space for my Counseling practice, which provided enough income that I didn’t need to run myself into the ground. Why hadn’t I done that before? I’d been too busy creating self suffering in an attempt to alleviate guilt. Wasn’t being a mom all about sacrificing yourself? I started setting really firm and clear boundaries with my clients, children, friends. I quickly realized that I no longer wanted to work that job at all and started making a plan to quit. I hired a Coach and went to therapy to help me unravel the strings of guilt and self-punishment that were so deeply ingrained in me. When I became a mother, I did so because I wanted children more than anything else in the world. AND, I was afraid of facing myself and the other things I wanted for my life. I didn’t know I could have both. Motherhood was the ultimate way to sacrifice myself.

I kept going. My grief fueled me to do hard inner work. The layers of exoskeleton that had been removed through the past 7 years of stepping into vulnerability, uncovered a deeper set of layers. Layers over my innermost self, the part of me that isn’t just interested in meeting the needs of others. The me that has dreams of my own. I realized I was tired of how much work Bodysex retreats were and that I no longer wanted to do them in such a laborious way. I LOVED the circle of sharing, I loved the weekends with women, I loved how I grew and felt seen from them and I loved sharing pleasure. I didn’t love all the work before and after though. Maybe it didn’t need to be so hard….. I stopped offering workshops in Saskatoon and continued in Quebec where I had support with all the marketing, advertising, retreat supplies and food. I quit my job and made the decision to only Counsel clients 3 days a week and devote the other 2 days to something my innermost self was passionate about — writing a book. My work blossomed. The moment I quit my job (and I mean literally the moment), I had more than enough clients to fill my days and then some. Since then I have created a daily practice centering around myself and my passions — self-care, connection, health, pleasure and my work which involves all of that!

My days include space in between sessions so that I can ground and centre and think of the next person coming before they pass through my door. I say no to working weekends. I devote 4 evenings a week to going to the gym and 2 days a week to pilates – because my body feels great when I create space for it. I eat really healthy food, I drink wine, I walk every morning, devote time to enjoying pleasure, laughing and connecting with people I love. I can’t bring myself to advertise my work when I already have enough and don’t want or need to be bigger, more well known, get more likes or have more followers. I’m deeply grateful for what I have, and I just want to live my life from the innermost part of myself. I’ve noticed that in the space I’ve created, I’m closer to my mom, my sisters, my children. I’m more generous because I’m not running on empty ready to crash the moment I stop. I have space throughout my day to pause and feel and enjoy the moments. 

I often wish I could tell Brenda how much she inspired me. How much I saw myself in her, how much I think of her in all the work I do, how much of an impact she has made on my life. After Thomas died, she told me that she could see her own pain every time she looked in the eyes of the homeless. She made a point to always look at them and had plans to devote her time to working with the homeless. I wish I could tell her that I saw myself in her too. In her loving devotion to her son, her outward care of others and in how she died. I know that could be me too. That could be any of us. That reflection changed me, and I’m forever grateful to her for helping me create space in my life for what matters. Spending time with people I love, smelling the lilacs first bloom in Spring, allowing others to care for me, the space to be present and ME.

In loving memory of Brenda and Thomas Schoor

Loving Our Vulvas and Pleasuring Ourselves, Sends a Powerful Message

*Art by Carlos Bongiovanni

June’s Quebec Bodysex®  workshop coincided with the Roe v. Wade overturning in the U.S., and, knowing that millions of women were losing their right to choose what happens with their body, I couldn’t help but remember where my journey into this work began over 24 years ago. I moved to Kenya just shy of my 20th birthday and ended up living there on and off for 5 years, in a remote area amongst a tribe called the Maasai. During my time there, all of the women who became mamas, sisters and nieces to me, were either circumcised or were going to be once they reached puberty. I saw two girls get circumcised while I was there, and knowing that their right to pleasure was removed from them, while mine was intact but felt inaccessible to me, had a profound affect on my life. What responsibility did l have to exercise a right that others are denied? Was it privilege if I didn’t know it was there or how to use it? In all the sex ed I received growing up, never once was there a mention of the clitoris or of pleasure. 

The memories from those circumcisions lived like a simmering ember inside me for years before I started to exercise my right to pleasure, started this work and began to help other women find their own pleasure. The news in the states sparked that ember into a flame, reminding me again why this is so important. The night after the workshop ended, my thoughts and dreams oscillated between the beautiful group show and tell in Quebec, and memories in the hut in Kenya where the girls were mutilated. Two very different and, yet somehow similar, ceremonies replay over and over in my head ……..

My favorite part of bodysex is always the genital show and tell. The room was quiet except for the sounds of appreciation and support as each woman took her turn sitting beside me while the other women huddled around watching. One at at time they sat down in front of a lamp and mirror, opened their legs — putting one leg over mine — slowly spreading their vulva to share her with us. Sometimes this is the first time a woman has looked at her vulva and all the layers and textures can come a a surprise to her. Together we explore the inside and outside of her vulva, admiring her clitoris with all of its thousands of nerve endings and the different colors, sizes and shapes of her beautiful lips. They look like flower petals spilling out between their legs and if someone painted the scene, I imagine that’s how they would paint it. We explore different ways to touch and what feels good and what doesn’t and how it’s different for each woman. I’m close enough to them to feel the sweat drip down the side of their naked body, and to rest my head on their shoulder so that I can see the exact mirror image they see between their legs. Sometimes the women cry, and sometimes I rest my hand on their leg to comfort them. Sometimes they take their time to open their legs and sometimes we sing them open. They open slowly like flowers except — instead of the sun — we are the light they open to. If the women look up,  they’ll see a room full of women shining all their love and light towards their vulva. Every moment is a blessing, an honoring of the reverence and sacredness of this most special part of what it is to be a woman. 


Next I remember a Maasai girl who is just starting her period with budding breasts and still child like features also sitting on the floor of a room full of women watching her. This room is quiet, as women and girls of all ages huddle in to watch. She is sitting with her legs spread between 2 women, one on each side, who hold them open while another sits behind her and covers her eyes with her arms and hands held tight around her. She is held there, unable to move while an old woman, who has cut many vulvas before hers, sits between her legs and uses a razor to remove her growing clitoris and each of her budding flower petals. Her cries break the silence. She screams, she tries to fight but they hold her there. Women and girls watching, half cover their eyes with their dresses. Fighting against it, the hand covering the girls’ face loosen and I see her eyes for a second. The look in her eyes is absolute terror, and I leave the room bawling. Nothing feels sacred. Nothing feels reverent. I feel only violence. Hours later I come to her home to bring her a gift and check on her. She looks relieved it’s over and proud somehow, as women move around caring for her. She rests on a bed made of freshly cut branches and leaves and her wounds are tended to constantly and lovingly by the women in the room. She will need help eating, walking and going to the bathroom for some time, and they won’t leave her side. This is how I know the women to be, shining their light and love towards her. This is how women are. Back in the other room, was what men get women to do to girls, so they can have the girls’ power before she realizes it’s even there.

Waking up the morning after the workshop, I thought of these 2 very different ceremonies and how Bodysex®  was created by a sexually empowered woman, while female circumcision was created by men wanting to remove that power. I wonder what a Maasai girls’ right of passage would be like if sexually empowered women created it? Instead of cutting, would they lovingly hold the girls and sing their vulva’s open – blessing them into woman hood? If all women were taught about their clitoris and their right to pleasure, how would that change how we raise our daughters? On my flight home, I held close to me the beauty of the sacred weekend, and reminded myself that in a world where a law just passed to limit a woman’s bodily rights, loving our vulvas and pleasuring ourselves sends a powerful message. I know what my power is, I know how to access it and I am passing this power on to my children and grandchildren. Like flowers, I hope it spreads and someday we will live in a world where no petals are cut.

** In honor of all the vulva petals cut and with love to: Melba, Aruba, Eve, Tara, LilyRose, Phynissea, Myosotis, Preciousa, Asa, Bliss, Inanna, Douce Soeur and Papillon.

Taking The Time We Need

Every Bodysex retreat has a different “theme” to it and I’m always curious as to what it’ll be and where it comes from. Betty Dodson described these circles as consciousness raising, and I often wonder if what comes up is what the women in the circle need at that time, or if it’s part of a wider collective need for humanity. …. 

Normally Justine and I start the weekend by working together to unload supplies, set up the circle and prepare snacks before all the women come. This time was different as I was committed to attend an online training for part of that morning, and I could feel the pull of wanting to please everyone. I tried to be on the call and unload at the same time, but Justine insisted that I focus on my training while she went ahead and started. I know I can trust her to be honest with me about what she needs, but I still felt uncomfortable that she had to do more work, and I spent most of the hour of training feeling conflicted. 

When the women arrived, the vibe was instantly chill and relaxed and there seemed to be no sense of urgency to anything. As a group we interacted intentionally and deliberately — slowly dipping our toes in to get to know each other, getting comfortable being naked and exploring what our bodies needed to feel pleasure. As I experienced with Justine in the morning, it’s often very difficult for women to ask for what they want or to take time for themselves when they assume others might be wanting something else from them. It can be especially difficult to do so in a group setting when there is fear of “putting someone out” with whatever the need is. This group seemed to be a real exception to this because even on the first day I could see women beautifully taking up space and time to care for their own needs. 

There were two moments in group genital show and tell that this theme really showed up. Each woman took a turn sitting beside me in front of a lamp, mirror and the rest of the group while they looked at and displayed their vulva. This ceremony is my favorite part of the weekend and the vulnerability it takes cannot be understated. It’s not uncommon for it to be the first time a woman has looked closely at her vulva and it often comes with many emotions. Everyone took turns naming their vulvas and stating a wish for her, followed by the group welcoming the vulva by her chosen name. One of the women stated that she needed more time in her moment, and this seemingly simple act was incredibly powerful for many of us as a group because it’s often SO hard for women to acknowledge and ask for the time they need. Hearing her do so I think in a way, gave the rest of us some permission to do so as well. 

The last woman to take her turn at genital show and tell seemed understandably nervous and I sensed that she needed to ease into it a bit. I helped her to breathe in a way to encourage her body to soften and when parts of her anatomy stayed hidden, we offered her the suggestion of gently inserting the tip of her finger into her vagina to help the rest of her vulva soften. (It’s amazing how this works) As she slowly inserted her finger into her vagina she identified tension so I encouraged her to breathe down into the tension and see if she could create space around her finger. She leaned her body back into the pillows behind her and slowly breathed space around the finger inside her. On one of her exhales I heard a rumble in her breath and encouraged her to expand the rumble into a deeper sound as a way to further release the guard of tension in her body. We made sounds together on each exhale and it was incredibly beautiful to watch her take this space for her body to soften and receive her touch. So often we force ourselves to endure penetration when our vagina is just being self protective because it isn’t ready to receive yet. Her offer of her finger, along with gentle nudging of encouragement, allowed her vagina to meet her in this new experience. Sitting with my body right beside hers I could feel a guard of tension melt from her, as she so bravely honored her body by listening to its need for time and softening. 

These moments on the first day really seemed to create this theme of taking the time we need and to witness women doing this in front of a group who had been strangers only hours earlier, really touched something inside of me — especially since I had felt guilty just that morning of taking my own time.

I noticed this theme show up throughout the rest of the weekend in action and words expressed by the group. It showed up in women taking space and time to themselves in their room or in a corner of the big room during non workshop hours. It showed up in women taking time to explain how they do or don’t like to be touched in group massage. It showed up in women taking time during group self pleasuring to feel in their body what the right touch is for them. It showed up in a woman choosing to go home to sleep on the second night so that she could feel better rested. And I noticed it in myself on the last morning as I took time to visit with the women instead of trying to get things cleaned and packed up to make up for what I hadn’t done in setting up.

Whether this theme is personal to our group or if its a universal need, I really needed the reminder. In my work, in my pleasure, with family and throughout the moments of each day, I can give myself permission to take the time and ask for more time whenever I need it.

Much love to my new friends:  Azalea, Turtle, Eleanor, Freedom, Rose, Lily, Luna, Joy, Honor, Alice and Sunshine. I wish all of you the space and time you need..