We Don’t Need to Be Unwounded to Help Others, We Just Need to have an Intimate and Honest Relationship with Our Wounds
These past couple of years, I’ve become very acquainted with the gifts and limitations of my wounds and how to tell the difference between the two. Helping or loving anyone from a wounded place can result in support that is either unhelpful or damaging. As parents, healers, ministers, helpers, therapists or support persons we don’t need to be unwounded to help others — we just need to have an intimate and honest relationship with our wounds so that it’s clear to everyone involved, who we are trying to “help.” I compare this to getting to know a lover. Seeking to know them inside and out — their strengths, depths, triggers and potential go-to behaviours when they (or I) just. want. to. stop. the. bleeding.
While I learned about all of this through counselling classes and other trainings I’ve done, the greatest teacher for me has been through my intimate relationships. Nothing matters to me as much as my children, partner, family and friends do, and yet — no other area of my life touches my wounds as much as they do. Because of this, I’ve learned to recognize the dysregulation in my body when my wounds have opened, to slow down, pause and be present to what is actually real in the moment.
There are 2 memories that stand out as for me as vivid reminders of what my wounded vs. unwounded help looks and feels like. In one — I’m standing at my eldest sons door, trying to help him grieve and find a reason to keep going after losing his friend from suicide. He keeps saying “don’t yell at me” and I can’t understand why he’s saying this when I’m not raising my voice at all. Only later do I realize that what he was feeling, was that my support (while good intentioned) was from a desperate place of fear that I’m going to lose him too, rather than from a place of present listening to him and what he actually needed from me.
The second memory happened a year and a half later — I’m holding in my arms a friend and mother who lost her son to suicide only a few days earlier. As she sobs, I feel the bones in her spine under my fingers, smell the shampoo in her hair and see her sons’ shoes on the porch floor under our feet. The difference between the 2 memories of myself is: grasping, desperation vs. generous, loving presence.
Since then, I use these memories as a reminder that when I’m helping anyone, there are 2 choices I can make — like 2 doors to open in my heart.
There are 2 doors in my heart — each with a sign on them that says “helping.” Apart from the signs, the doors look very different.
One is like those old saloon doors that have no handle and swing open without warning or thought to who is on the other side. Beyond the swinging door, the ground drops away immediately so that as soon as I step in — as fast as the door swings open — I fall into a big pit of gooey tar. There is no bottom to the pit and once in it, I have to tread tar to stay up. The tar is sticky and heavy and I have to not only tread fast enough to stay up, but also to keep it from hardening around me. Glancing around the tar pit I notice what I hadn’t noticed before — that the person I was trying to help, is in here treading tar with me. It’s difficult to see them for who they truly are in here — someone hurting and needing support while also fully capable of surviving this pain. All I can see is both of us, desperately trying not to drown in the tar while their eyes plead with mine to save them. This door represents the wounded part of me that when triggered, can’t always tell my wound from another’s in this pit.
The other door in my heart is wooden with a large stain glass window in it and I can tell from the way the colours in the glass sparkle onto my face and chest that there is a lot of light on the other side. This door is made with such obvious care that I can almost imagine whomever made it, hand planing and sanding it until it was smooth to touch. The handle is one that needs to be turned in order to open the door and as I reach down to turn it I’m present to every sensory detail I see and feel. Being so well cared for, this door makes me feel present, loving and generous before I even open it. Turning the handle and gently easing the door forward, I can see the person on the other side standing on the grass with light glowing around them. I notice the deep pain in their eyes, the quiver in their lip and the dysregulation in their chest as they breathe. When I reach out to hug them I smell the faint scent of soap in their hair and feel the bones in their spine with my fingertips. I am as present as humanly possible to what they’re going through and, while I can absolutely feel their pain and imagine with every vein in my body how it feels, I never once see it as my own or as my responsibility to fix. I am simply there for them, in whatever way they need, on their journey of healing.
Before I help anyone, I take a breath, pause at the entry of these doors and ask myself which one I’m about to go through.
***In loving memory of Thomas Schorr and his loving mama.
With Covid, decreasing I feel confident to set some dates for Bodysex retreats this fall! Here is the info for my Saskatoon one if you’re interested in booking. I cannot wait to be in circle again!
Having more time at home with my family this past year has given me time to reflect on my life, values, the work I do and my reasons for doing it. This time of reflection has strengthened my resolve to wait for in person workshops to resume, rather than converting them to online delivery. It’s also reminded me of the value I get from my work that doesn’t come from the fee, but from my experiences with the people I work with. I do this work for reasons that online formats and money can’t provide me.
I do this work for…… the initially awkward and distant couple who is struggling to bridge the divide between them. For the moment that one of them softens, turns towards the other, looks up into their eyes and shows them — sometimes for the first time — that they are willing to do their part to break through their divide.
I do this work for…… the people who are afraid there is something horribly wrong with their body and that no one would ever love them if they see it. I do it for the moment that we show each other our bodies and they realize that just like me, they are okay as they are — exactly as they are — and that someone who loves them will think so too.
I do this work for…… the middle aged married woman who brings herself to orgasm for the first time in her life and, through her tears, cries over and over “I’m normal!”
I do this work for…… the seemingly cocky man who ends up admitting that he needs help because he’s scared in intimacy, can’t relax enough to get aroused and is so afraid of making a mistake that he can’t even listen to his partner. I do it for the moment he learns what relaxation feels like in his body and that arousal happens naturally when he takes time to allow it. I do it for the emails he excitedly sends after sessions telling me how he was able to hear his partner for the first time and that he allowed himself the time to become fully aroused in sex.
I do this work for…… the moments in Bodysex retreats that happen after workshop hours are over. When I see Justine lovingly adorn a naked woman’s scars with henna, cuddle piles in different corners of the room, shared laughter over stories and experiences of women from different ages and walks of life.
I do this work for……. what I learn about a Counselling client from the moments they break eye contact with me, look down at the floor, shift their legs, say “ummm,” start playing with their hair, bite their lip or fold their hands across their stomach. I may not know what any of these necessarily mean for them, but I know there’s something there. By being present with them, I can notice and ask them about it.
I do this work for…… the child with ADHD who feels completely misunderstood and doesn’t understand why they’re in trouble for something they did. I do it for the moment they tell me why they did it (which most often makes perfect sense) and the recognition and love on their parents face as they understand for the first time.
I do this work for…..me.
I love my work and miss the group workshops, and more in person interactions. And yet, I also don’t want to do it any other way. So — just like edging an orgasm — I’m patiently enjoying this time as a gift for what it’s showing me, and will fully celebrate the groups( and the orgasms) when they happen.<3
Happy Valentines day from my cold ass to yours! I hope that we can all feel love within ourselves to have a day sprinkled with self compassion and grace for the journey we’ve travelled, the mistakes we’ve made, our wobbly parts and all things in between. Happy valentines day to me, to you, to life! (And all the warm naked beach days to come)
I woke up this morning in my quiet house with my children still sleeping. Drinking tea with the sun shining through the window onto my bare legs, this story — which had just been seen and felt in parts throughout the last year — flowed completely through me. I wish I could read it to you, so you could close your eyes (as I like to imagine you would) and with each word feel the river touching your legs and teasing you forward in it’s flow. But this will have to do.
I see myself floating down a river, the wind softly blowing my hair, sun on my neck, holding hands with someone I love. The flowing water is as clear as a mountain spring and under it are rocks which sometimes jut out, causing us to maneuver our bodies around them so we don’t get hurt as we float. The banks are high enough on the sides and I smile when I see animals have made houses in the dirt along the edge. There are branches sticking out from the banks — some worn smooth by the water that flows over them at times, and some so sharp that we need to duck at just the right times to not get hurt by them. There are some shallow sections in the river where we often stop to play, laying half in and half out of the water, feeling the slight lull of it flowing over our legs as the sun warms the rest of our bodies. Sometimes we choose to spend days in these parts of the river exploring and being with the flow but not moving very far at all. In these places — between fully floating and totally stuck — we often find the best treasures, difficult to explain to anyone after, but nevertheless treasures that deeply impact the way we float on.
Inevitably as we choose to continue on, the river changes again and we float together, until both of us get caught in a pile of branches that’s pooled along one side of the river. On my side the branches are less thick (this time) and I carry on with only minimal effort to free myself. The force of us getting caught though is enough to tear our hands apart and, while I notice the disconnect right away, it takes me a minute to stop because I’m still flowing along with the river. Stopping myself is difficult and it requires a great deal of energy to push backwards against the flowing river. I do it though, because I chose to float the river with this person and I’m not going to leave them behind just because they’re “stuck” in the branches. I want to keep floating with them. So I paddle against the current, breathing heavily as I slowly move back wards towards where they’re “stuck” in the branches. Once I get there I grab onto the pile and use it to pull me around closer to them and then, still unable to reach them in their pile, I choose to tread water alongside them while we try to figure a way to get them out.
I love being beside the people I love at all parts of the river – even if they or I am stuck in the branches. Yet at some point, often after days of trying to figure out how to get them unstuck, I feel a deep hole of fear in my belly and hear a little girls voice telling me that “I need to get them out, or I’ll lose them.” Already tired from days of treading water to stay in one place against the current, I franticly try thinking of other ways to “help” them. If I can just lift one arm out to grab the branches and toss them down the river maybe I can free them. So I try this, constantly being forced forward each time I lift an arm out to grab a branch, toss it and then swim back against the current to where I was treading water beside them. I do however manage to remove a few branches this way. Sometimes the branches are tangled up too much though and instead of the easier task of just grabbing and throwing them, I have to hold onto the pile and work to untangle them while fighting against the river seemingly wanting to pull my legs forward to see what’s around the next bend. The top half of my body is pulled backwards as I work to untangle branches and the bottom half is pulled forwards with the flowing river — I must appear to be in such conflict with myself. But “I’m not!” I tell myself in a strangely child like voice. “I’m simply “helping” this person, whom I love, become unstuck so we can once again float the river together.”
My efforts feel fairly grand, so grand that at times I imagine that this is the point of the story (if there was one) where the narrator would describe me in heroic ways. Pausing to think of how heroic I am, I look at the person in the middle of the branches and see that they’re not sweating or panting at all. They’re merely sitting — what looks like – comfortably amongst the pile of branches. “But they can’t be content to stay here I tell myself,” feeling that awful hollow hole of fear in my belly. “They MUST want to come along. They always said they wanted to do this and when they got stuck they called for me to come back. They must still want it.” Conflicted by this I grab on tighter and watch them, waiting for a sign that they do want to come with me. In this pause I notice how deep the hole feels in my stomach and how hard the river is pulling my legs forward and how much I want to allow it. But “I can’t just leave them here” says the little girls voice in my head. “Good people don’t do that. Good people stay and fight no matter how hard the river is pulling them forward. It’s for them that I’m doing it!”
In this moment — the moment in the story where time stands still and the whole scene seems so perfectly clear — I feel the irony in my words and hear a woman’s voice speak over the little girls saying “Just as I have the choice to let the river carry me, they have the choice to stay. Both are choices and regardless of whether one is to stay and one is to go, it doesn’t mean anyone is leaving anyone.” Paused in time for a second while I contemplate what she is saying, I notice that the hole of fear in my belly is gone and……. just like that I let go. Like the most beautiful orgasm in the universe I’m carried forward, swept into the ebbs and flows of the current and the wind in my hair and sun on my neck. I look back for a second and see the person in the branches, right before I’m swept into another orgasmic current, smiling at me lovingly and experiencing life in the way they are choosing. I smile back at them with a smile full of absolute love, then close my eyes and float on with the life I am choosing carried forward with the sound of the woman’s voice whispering softly in my ear “It’s all choice. We all choose each day to flow or to stop flowing. The only way I will lose them is if I stop my own flow.”
**** Dedicated to one of the many partners on my river :Justine. Thank you for reminding me of my own choice and my own voice. <3
** photo by Justine Lustig
I took the first week in October off so that I could have some time and space alone. After 6 months of quarantine the idea of just staring at my walls — without anyone interrupting me — seemed incredibly enticing! During this time, I decided to print all the blogs I’d ever written and see if maybe collectively I’d find something in them resembling a common theme or story. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for but, feeling like I’m at a bit of a crossroads in life, it seemed like a good idea. While printing them off, I came upon a comment from Betty;
Using my honest I’s, or sharing in first person, has been something I’ve learned through Bodysex and is a commitment that Justine and I ask each woman in the circle to make when they share their stories. We don’t want to hear about their mothers, lovers, friends, partners or ex partners’ experiences. We want to know how they feel in “I’ statements.
Carrying Betty’s words with me into the retreat, I was so excited to meet the other women and see what the circle had to teach me. With Covid-19 increasing, I knew this was likely to be the last retreat for several months and I felt “itchy” at times to reach outwards for a man to soothe my feelings of loneliness.
Over the weekend, I sat listening to the other women’s stories and admiring their beautiful and unique vulvas. As one middle aged woman opened her legs and looked at her vulva for the first time in her life, we all huddled around her, offering love, support and reverence as if she was birthing a new relationship with this life giving part of her body. The next day, after she brought herself to pleasure slowly and lovingly beside me, she burst into tears and I held her hand — imagining that she had finally consummated this new found relationship with her self. “For the first time in my life, my body got the permission to do what it needs to do.” There is nothing more beautiful and intimate than the tears that come with pleasure.
The weekend wasn’t all touching moments like these though — we also laughed, masturbated, shared dirty stories and farted — marvelling at the openness and freedom we felt in our bodies when there’s no holding back. I kept grabbing my note book to frantically jot down things the women said:
“I’ve unleashed a masturbating monster.”
“It’s a buffet of flesh. Different boobs and vaginas. Don’t go near the beef curtains at the flesh buffet. They’re laced with ecstasy!”
“I am enough. I can reach drug-like highs of pleasure all by myself. I can feel sensual and sexy and hot and desirable to myself.”
“I have never felt so comfortable in my own skin.”
“I experienced, for the first time, the complete ease that comes from not censoring myself or my body.”
“I feel like I’m home and I’ve never really felt that before.”
“I was able to build to the biggest explosion of an orgasm I have ever experienced! I did really really weird things with my body and I made sooooo much noise. Like a moose/bear fighting with a ballerina, who gave birth to a hyena…if that makes sense. But I felt no shame; I wasn’t embarrassed; no one made fun of me. I was celebrated.”
For myself, I took my time with my pleasure committing with my “honest I’s” to date myself and provide me with what I am really longing for in a partner. To be made love to, to ask for what I need and listen to my response. To love myself generously through touch, words and actions. Laying in the circle with the other women I took my time with my body — bringing it slowly and softly to pleasure with my fingers, never prodding or pushing it to respond in ways it wasn’t ready for.
Looking back on my blogs it’s not hard to see that the connection in all of them is my own honest I’s, which are always changing and evolving. When my life feels rushed and I rush myself through touch and pleasure, I lose sight of what my truths are. Coming back to this honest connection, rather than looking elsewhere for someone to fix it, always gives me the answers. This weekend felt like a renewal of vows to myself — a recommitment to nurturing this relationship, to giving myself the time and space I need as I need it. To continually come back to myself, my truths and my love — no matter who I’m in relationship with. These are my own honest I’s.
Thank you Turtle, Nelly, Hope, Froya, Rose, Cindy, Casey Jones, Peach, Harrietta and Bilquis.
Preparing for last weekend’s Bodysex retreat, Betty Dodson was at the forefront of my mind. Currently in the final stage of her life — Betty is heading towards what she describes as the “greatest orgasm of all” —death. I felt tender thinking about her and vulnerable at the thought of carrying on her work after she’s gone.
Because of covid -19, it had been over a year since my last Bodysex workshop and, aside from sadness about Betty, I could hardly contain my excitement at being back in a circle of women. Bodysex is always the best “reset” for me and I longed to see and be seen by the other women in the circle.
When I attended my first bodysex workshop 6 years ago, the most vulnerable part of it was letting my body be seen. I was so focused on my physical shame that I don’t remember much thought of being vulnerable in any other way. As time went on and I felt more connected to myself and comfortable in my body, I realized that when I exposed my physical shame it almost always uncovered a deeper underlying emotional shame. Shame about my cesarean scar signified shame that my body failed at giving birth. Shame about my stretch marks represented a fear that I’m undesirable to men unless I look a certain way. Shame about my voluptuous vulva lips reminded me of my shame that I’m too much for others. Exposing myself physically was like peeling an onion and, the more layers I peeled, the more layers I found. When it became less vulnerable to be naked in front of others, I learned to find the words for my shame that was less obvious. With each circle I became more and more naked, and alternatively more and more me.
Sitting in the circle naked at this retreat, I felt no vulnerability in letting my body be seen. I was menstruating heavily and felt comfortable free bleeding on a towel with my legs open. It’s hard to express how wonderful it is to feel that comfortable. I felt vulnerable to be seen in other ways though, and struggled at times to name my insecurities and longings in certain areas of my life. It felt vulnerable for me to recognize how much I wanted to be seen in my entirety and vulnerable to acknowledge that I’m afraid that if anyone fully sees me, they will be disappointed.
As we took our turns sharing through words and through self pleasure, it struck me how much our fear of being vulnerable holds us back from the intimacy many of us long for — within ourselves and with others. If we feel unable to let our body be seen (by our self or by others), let our vulva be explored, stimulate our clitoris during penetrative sex, say that sex is over when we have both orgasmed, say no when we don’t want something, say yes when we do, learn what we actually like and don’t — how will we ever have the intimacy we desire? Intimacy IS Vulnerability. Without vulnerability it becomes sex. Sex is great too if that’s what we are choosing and seeking. If we want something else though — why are we accepting something different?
Sharing my stories and listening to the other women’s stories, I was reminded how much we potentially lose out on in life if we don’t step into that vulnerability — something that each women in the circle was doing simply by attending. Becoming more in touch with what I actually desire these past couple of years — and feeling confident in it — I’ve come to realize how many times in the past, I violated myself with other peoples dicks. By allowing penetration that my body wasn’t relaxed and ready for, saying yes to sex I didn’t want and by not feeling confident in admitting what it is that I really do want — that involves much more than penetration. Sitting with the women, I felt affirmed in the life I want for myself and in showing up with my words and my body for those uncomfortable conversations that are necessary for me to continue living and seeking that life.
Years ago Betty told me, while I sobbed on her lap, that to do this work I would need to get thicker skin. As the pioneer of Bodysex it’s difficult to imagine the struggles she went through blazing the trail for us women today to learn to accept our bodies and own our pleasure. I don’t know how she could have done it without having thick skin. In many ways I’ve learned to care less about what others think and, even when I do, to continue on the path that is true for me. And yet,I still feel like my skin is as thin as the peels of an onion and that being vulnerable will likely never be easy for me. When it seems to get easier in one area, I feel more exposed to my vulnerabilities in another.
I know it’s worth it though — in the moments of intimacy where I see my true self under the next layer, or each of the women in the circle under their peeled back layers. Those moments connect us as human beings in all our beauty and all our imperfections. Those are the moments I long for and I hope that Betty will feel proud of me as I carry on her humbling and powerful work, with my soft, vulnerable skin.
Thank you to: Sing, Honour, Vi, Ishtar, Jewel, Betty, Joy, Turtle and Bilquis for allowing me to see you in your vulnerability and seeing me in mine. <3
I’m sitting in a farmer’s field about ten minutes from my home, naked, leaning against a hay bale.
The wind is blowing my hair in crazy directions, and I imagine myself as one of those women in books who looks wild and free and you can just tell by her wind blown hair that she had some great orgasms that day …… and every day.
My skin is brown from all the summer sunshine, and when I turn my legs towards it, I can see my blond thigh hair, shimmer like gold.
A tampon string dangles from my vulva and I take it out, happy that I don’t need to worry about staining any sheets in this field.
There are two tummy rolls at the bottom of my stomach and I place my hand over them, tracing the stretch marks that make a spiral pattern around my belly button. I think back to the words of the surgeon I went to years ago, who asked me why I wanted to change this part of my body. Closing my eyes and feeling the texture that the stretch marks offer my fingers, I give thanks that I didn’t —and imagine my beautiful children growing inside my belly — pushing and stretching my skin with their long limbs.
My eyes move down to my vulva and I see my lips like the petals of a flower blooming in the morning sun. Encouraging them to bloom some more, I move my hand towards the petals and feel their softness. Years back I used to feel ashamed of how fully I bloom. Today, I don’t think there is a part of my body as beautiful as my pussy, and I promise to give her thanks every day for the plentiful gifts she offers me.
I pleasure myself in this field — against the bail that I imagine the farmer put there just for me. A mom of 5 on her evening walk, with her dog who’s off chasing geese.
I laugh as I cum, and afterwards, stand up and put my clothes back on to go back to the city, my home and my family. Seeing the wet spot on the ground I think with a smile, of the abundant crop the farmer will be blessed with next year.
*****My orgasm and my words are dedicated with endless love, to Betty Dodson – my mama of pleasure on her 91st birthday today.
I’m super excited to be offering, for the first time, a couples/intimate partners OVERNIGHT workshop! The workshop will be held at a private acreage near Saskatoon. It will be intimate, sensual and hot!!! If you’re looking for something to help connect or reconnect in an intimate way – this may be the thing for you. For details and testimonials follow the link and as always I’m here to answer any questions/concerns you may have. https://natashasalaash.com/intimacy-in-sensuality/
I hope to see you there! <3
Betty Dodson® and Bodysex® are registered trademarks of the Betty Dodson Foundation