I received an email the other day from a woman who had questions about her body, orgasms and pleasure response. I love answering these questions and am always happy to do it, yet our exchange reminded me of how much can’t be taught.
I think it’s easy to imagine that others have the wisdom we need and that if we attend certain workshops or sessions, read specific books, or listen to the right podcasts, we’ll find the answers. It’s true that there are many facilitators and teachers who have much to offer and that through listening, reading and asking questions we can learn and bring awareness to aspects of ourselves that we hadn’t recognized before. I’ve learned from many teachers over the past several years and yet what always stands out, and what I’m continually relearning, is that the answers are with in me, not with out.
Pleasure, orgasm and intimacy are about connecting to and feeling from our innermost selves, and the greatest teacher we have is literally at our fingertips, in our breath, tastebuds, sight and hearing. It’s simply a matter of opening and listening to what can be felt. This takes time, commitment, willingness and presence. It isn’t easy nor does it happen in a clearly defined five step process.
When we touch our body with the curiosity and wonder we would have if we touched a treasured lover, we will discover pleasure.
If we imagine our breath as a vehicle carrying pleasure through our body and that we can speed it up, slow it down, make it stop and start, go round in circles or drive any way we want, we will discover pleasure.
If we practice opening our legs, our mouths, our hearts and our vulvas while we touch, we will discover pleasure.
If we relax our vocal chords and let out whatever noises want to come out – from deep gutteral sounds to high pitched squeals – we will discover pleasure.
If we slow down our eating, taking small bites of our food, letting it roll around our mouth so that we can not only taste, but also feel the food, we will discover pleasure.
If we listen to music with our eyes closed and allow the vibrations to play through our body, we will feel pleasure.
If you are on a path to discover and explore your sexuality, I think it’s absolutely worthwhile to seek out and explore the knowledge and wisdom of sexually empowered teachers. I also believe that the greatest guides and teachers will continually lead you back in the direction of the greatest wisdom of all – yourself.
**I write this in thanks to Betty Dodson, the first teacher on my path to discovering my sexuality, that pointed me back to my self.
** dedicated to those who “just want to get in the door.”
Once upon a time there was a man. He was a successful, beautiful man with a good job and a nice big home of his own. Even though he had many things to be grateful for in his life,what he longed for most, was someone to share it with.
The man liked to walk, and on his walks he would think of how much better his life would be if only he had that someone. As he walked he’d notice the doors on the houses he passed by and he’d wonder if the woman he was longing for was behind one of them. He saw yellow doors, green doors, blue doors and black doors but they were never quite the right door.
One day while he was walking, he noticed a bright red door and he thought to himself “That’s it! That’s the one I’ve been looking for!I really want to get in that door.” Thinking that this was the door he’d been longing for, he was determined to do something really big to get it to open for him. Everyday he danced, sang songs, wore costumes, learned instruments and even rode a unicycle dressed as a peacock hoping that he could convince the door to let him in.
But the door stayed closed.
After several months of this he felt defeated and one day, exhausted, fell off of his unicycle in front of the door and wept. It was so unfair! All he wanted was to get in this door and no matter what he did, it just wouldn’t open. After crying for some time he opened his eyes and decided to walk home. As he stood up he realized that he had been laying on a pathway that led to the red door. Never having noticed this pathway before he saw that it was curved and unique, made of rocks of all shapes and sizes. He also noticed weeds poking up between the rocks and decided that the weeds made the whole walkway more interesting. “How beautiful” he thought as he walked sadly home.
The next day he woke up feeling like he had no more purpose in his life without the purpose of getting into that door, but he forced himself to go for a walk anyways. Without thinking, his feet led him — not to the red door — but to the pathway leading up to it and he once again marvelled at it’s uniqueness. This time though he noticed that the pathway led not only to the shiny red door, but to a whole entire house! Thinking back to the months he spent singing and dancing in front of the door he wondered how had he not seen this house before? The house wasn’t big and fancy like his home and yet he couldn’t stop looking at it. He noticed paint peeling on one of the shutters, fingerprints on a window, and a mixture of vegetables and flower plants in a pot. The house fascinated him and he spent the rest of the day looking at it —wondering what rooms were inside, what it smelled like, what stories it held, what secrets it kept and who’s finger prints were on the windows. Even more fascinating to him was seeing the steady stream of neighbours come and go through the red door, as if it was their own house and the door was always open.
Transfixed by the feelings this home evoked in him and the enjoyment he felt in those feelings, he realized that the sun was going down and that he had spent the entire day looking at the house and had forgotten about his desire to get in the door completely. Feeling strangely settled and at peace, he got up to start his walk home. After glancing over his shoulder for one last look at the house, he began to turn around when he heard a click. From the corner of his eye he saw the red door slowly open and he turned to face the woman standing in it smiling at him. “Hello” she said. “Would you like to come into my home?”
I met you 9 years ago….. after a long and stressful flight home from Ethiopia, with my newly adopted daughter.
Exhausted and scared of the long transition ahead, I was surprised and relieved to see you in the kitchen greeting our arrival.
Although it was love at first sight, I couldn’t know then how deep that love would grow, or how much we would go through together in the years to come.
You were there for me while I helped my daughter adjust — through her tears and tears of my own. You were there as we bonded – her learning that she could trust me as a mama, and me learning to not take her initial rejection personally. You were there while I watched lovingly as she slept peacefully beside me — hoping we’d make it through. And… You were there when I knew we had.
You were there as my family grew and we welcomed another daughter into our home. This one from my own tummy. You were there for the late nights I sat up with her — feeling a mix of both awe and fear at what I’d gotten myself into again.
You were there while I cuddled with countless children on my worn out couch, reading book after book after book….
You were there as I took time for myself during those busy days running a daycare. The children learning that when you came out, mama was going to sit for a little bit. Because of that, they seemed to hold you with reverence and importance too, and often liked a taste of what you had to offer.
You were there as I felt the uncomfortable stirrings of change and dissatisfaction in my body. Providing endless cups of tea as I poured myself over books trying to find the answer to what it was I was looking for.You were there when I discovered that the answer was in me.
You were there as I painfully untied the threads of my marriage. Unsteady and scared, you grounded me through the consistent warmth you offered my hands, and my body.
You were there as I picked myself up off the floor, and created a new path for me and my children.
You were there for not only me, but for the other women that I welcomed and supported into my home. Sharing stories, tears, laughter and pleasure – they too came to know you as a constant.
Like me, you’ve changed a bit over the years. A broken piece here and there, marks that won’t wash off — stained from endless memories. I’ve learned to adapt to your age, happily holding you in a different and more gentle way. It seems awkward to those who don’t know you as well,but I don’t mind. I especially love how your flavour has developed over time. It’s so good that I’m hesitant to go elsewhere. The way you’ve aged has only made you more interesting and beautiful to me, reminding me to look at my own aging that way.
Last week however, an important part of you broke and, through my tears, I knew that your end was near. For a few days I handled you even more gently, seeking comfort in the warmth you still provided and discussing with my children ways to fix you. But I knew that it was time to let you go.
So yesterday I bought a beautiful new tea pot. Hand made with love by a local potter. It’s shiny, the handle is in tact and there are no stains. Her tea doesn’t taste like your tea, her edges are too smooth and I keep forgetting that I don’t need to hold her as gently as I held you.I know that I’ll grow to love her, but for now, you’re still holding the space in my heart.
It’s not goodbye. I will still see you everyday on my shelf, amongst other treasures that I love, reminding me of all the things I hold dear: family, commitment, perseverance, warmth and unconditional love. Thank you for our beautiful love affair.
**** Special thanks to Mary-Anne Parker for gifting me this tea pot 9 years ago. <3
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.”
“Lastnight I had the greatest most vibrant orgasm.I can see clearly the correlation between vulnerability and orgasmic power.” – Anais Nin.
4 years ago I began a journey inwards by seeking out vulnerability. Seeing things that I held back from, feared and felt shame about, I realized how they limited the experiences I was having in my life. Making the decision to walk into the experiences, feelings and self touch that I’d been avoiding was terrifying, but each time I did it I discovered a new part of myself that had been blocked.
Through this self discovery I developed a relationship with myself that allowed me to use my sexual response and orgasms as a window into my own whole wellbeing. My orgasms – the strength of them, the way they travelled through my body or stayed in one place, the ease or difficulty in which they came — showed me where I was at physically, emotionally and spiritually.
About a year ago, while undergoing huge and difficult changes in my personal life, I began noticing a big difference in my response to pleasure and the strength of my orgasms. Unable to let go and love myself I’d been trying to will myself into orgasming – not really being present in the experience leading up to it. I could see myself doing this in a few different ways — masturbating less and masturbating with clothes on instead of fully naked and open. I’d reverted back to my teenage masturbation practice of holding my breath and clenching my left hand — being unwilling to open it and explore the curves of my breasts or hips. Feeling undeserving of the love and appreciation that I’d developed for myself these past few years, my orgasms were reflecting that.
Putting expectations on the orgasmic response I felt I should be getting, led me to try harder and longer and ended with me frustrated and feeling like a fraud for teaching things that I was obviously no good at. Seeking guidance I reached out to my mentor Betty Dodson for advice and she responded just like a mother would — loving, reassuring and at the same time blunt. Betty assured me that she herself has gone through this, that it’s a normal part of life and that there’ve been times where she actually broke up with herself — no sex at all. She went on to say that “in terms of the love affair with yourself, you might say you’re being a demanding “bitch” with your orgasm expectations.” She encouraged me to let go of expectation, keep masturbating and teaching, and that in time the connection will return.
Reassured I followed her advice while in the meantime committing myself to seeking out vulnerability and doing other things to strengthen and open myself — as I had done 4 years ago when I’d begun this journey. I started with what seemed like a crazy decision to do a 200k bike trip alone. I loved biking but I’d never gone over 30k in one stretch, rode only a mountain bike, didn’t know how to change a tire and was terrified to sleep alone by the side of the road. Walking into the fear I knew I needed to try. In the end I made it just over halfway having pushed myself past the point I thought I was capable of. I’d cried, been pelted by hail, experienced unbelievable physical pain and the fear of being alone at night. It was in my pain and my fear however, that I rediscovered the strength and inner power that had been lost along the way.
Feeling the need to discover more in myself I booked a private breath work session. Being used to holding space for others in their vulnerability I longed to let go and allow someone else to hold space for me. Even though I wanted this there’s a huge risk involved in truly showing up and actually allowing it to happen. Just as I look at my orgasms as a window into my wellbeing, I knew that the facilitator would look at my breath in the same way. After the session I asked him for feedback and he told me in a kind and gentle way that he had noticed my strong sexual energy, desire for living life and also my need for control, closed heart and tight stomach. I felt both surprised and horrified that someone else saw these things in me. Experiencing a full on vulnerability hangover I spent days reflecting on his response and the truth in it.
About a week later I decided to attend another breath work group ceremony led by the same facilitator. Laying back in the circle I focused consciously on my breath and pulling it up into my heart as I inhaled and letting it flow out of my vulva as I exhaled. What transpired over the next hour is difficult to put into words and I imagine almost unbelievable to someone outside of it. At some point, lost in focusing only on my breath, I was startled by the most intense physical pain i’ve ever experienced in my life. When I literally thought I couldn’t bear it any longer the pain was gone and was followed by what felt like the first breath of my life. The openness with which the air moved through me with that breath caused me to burst into tears. I sobbed and sobbed from the deepest parts of myself. As I lay on the floor crying in a circle of strangers, I knew without a doubt that I’d truly shown up.
Two days later laying completely naked on my bed, I set a timer for an hour with the intention of just touching myself. Having grown accustomed to the fear and disappointment of seeing my disconnect with myself through my orgasms I was nervous to try again. It seemed smart to go back to the place of learner that I’d started from 4 years ago when I’d never touched my body with my hands. So, using my breath as my guide, I explored myself with both hands focusing only on the sensations at my fingertips and the words that I spoke over and over “I love you Natasha.” My orgasm came as a complete surprise— just minutes before the end of the hour — and I could feel all of the built up orgasmic energy travel up with my breath and into my heart. I cried and cried with the comforting and old, yet familiar feeling, of being at home in myself that I’d missed so much.
Since that day my orgasms have been reflecting the openness in my heart, acceptance I have with myself(strengths and weaknesses) and this new path that I’m on. Coming full circle back to the place I began my sexual awakening from 4 years ago has been humbling and difficult for me. I feel grateful though that by looking into this window I’ve learned, as Anais Nin did, the connection between my willingness to be vulnerable and my orgasmic power.