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..
The more Bodysex® workshops I do, the more I’m reminded how far I’ve come since I started this journey nearly 7 years ago. For the first several years, each workshop brought about massive shifts in me — as if I was literally digging up a proverbial pile of steaming, hot, shit from deep inside myself and hauling it out to look at and take apart. Sometimes I’d feel rejuvenated for weeks after and, sometimes completely raw and wiped out. As time went on —I learned that I always survive the vulnerability of this excavation — and I started to notice things feeling lighter and easier. The big, old pile of shit got smaller and smaller leaving only remnants of shit to scrape up — shit that comes from no longer having these old burdens to weigh me down. Shit that arises from feeling so aligned with myself and my values that it feels impossible to follow my old way of pleasing others or accommodating myself to fit into what I think others want of me. Getting rid of that massive pile of shit, makes me ask myself “If I’m not looking for others approval as my guide to what’s right and wrong for me: What is actually right and wrong for me? What are my values?”
This past weekend in Quebec Bodysex® , I noticed remnants of my old pile of shit — particularly around shame in pleasure. Much of my work revolves around pleasure and mostly I know I have a right to it and I exercise that right all the time. I don’t feel shame in masturbation, pleasure with my partner, fantasy etc. however, I can see that I still have societal conditioning around where it’s appropriate and how that’s tied into the ways I imagine others view me. As we sat down for lunch on the first day of the workshop, one woman said “pleasure is reason enough.” I have probably said that 100 times before but hearing it from her really made me wonder if I actually believe it in all areas of my life. Cognitively yes I do, but do I know it with my whole heart and soul? Do I align with that in my life? Am I still caught in what others would think of me if I enjoy things solely for pleasure or if I actually seek things out for pleasure? We explored this idea a lot throughout the workshop through fantasy, juicy stories from our lives and self pleasuring together. Those all felt very safe and comfortable for me because they fit in to what is already authentically aligned within me.
Raised in a Christian home by a minister who felt shame for pleasure, I think (as is true for many of us) shame has been passed down in my lineage. I feel shame to share that I’m going on a trip to Mexico with my family this winter (and that I’m really excited!), or to want a glass of wine on Friday night. I don’t feel shame in doing those things, I feel shame in wanting them because they’re pleasurable — like wanting things for pleasure is somehow wrong. I can feel shame that my touch at times might feel pleasurable to a client I’m working with in Intimacy Coaching, or that I might feel pleasure in their touch. On further reflection, I don’t feel shame that pleasure happens, I feel shame if I enjoy it.
Reflecting on my beautiful weekend in Quebec, and pondering all of this as I write, I can almost hear the metal shovel scraping the ground under this pile of shit. The pile isn’t big, these beliefs aren’t strong anymore, I know that pleasure heals and to feel it means I am present and alive and open and none of that is wrong — even though most of my life I was too shut off to feel it. I am alive and open to feel with my Bodysex® sisters, in dedicated time with my family, in sessions with my clients and in beautiful intimacy with my partner. I find it ironic that breaking down my conditioning has allowed me to be present enough to feel an enjoyment for pleasure itself and, that it’s in that very thing, that I feel the most shame.
Thank you to my Bodysex® sisters who’s unconditional love and acceptance helped me to get rid of a bit more of my shit and remind me that Pleasure is reason enough.
With love to:
Blossom, Wildy, Mangue Juteuse, Cock Licker, Heart, Mystery, Fantasia, Anahata, Rose, Happy Flower, Sunda, Papillon
For anyone who wonders what a Bodysex® experience can be like, or about what I do and why it means so much to me, ….. here is a powerful testimonial from a woman who was in the circle with me this month in Quebec.
I have one spot left open in Bodysex® Saskatoon Nov. 26-28.
“My challenge for the weekend was to free myself from my blockages in relation to pleasure and to reconnect with my body and its beauty, my beauty. I got naked, both physically and emotionally, in front of the magnificent group of women that we were. Still, that wasn’t the hardest part for me. It is rather to look at myself fully, straight in the soul and in the heart. Not just telling my story and the reasons why I had come to dislike my body, but rather looking at myself from within, in order to dust off and let the light in. There, I found love for myself, admiration and wonder for my body which carried life and which can now create differently. There, I found the desire to surrender to pleasure rather than get rid of it because of the fear of losing my balance. I reconnected with my senses and my inner joy. I was able to say “I am a woman in a sexual body and I have the right to pleasure”. By saying this sentence, I have freed myself from a socially accepted view of the female body and the stifling of its power. I chose to respect myself and name my wants and needs rather than accept everything with the fear of hurting. I also learned to love my vulva, despite or rather thanks to its difference. Natasha has helped a lot in this process, because she knows how to put us at ease.
A week after the workshop, I still feel beautiful, inside and out. I feel powerful, alive and grateful. I really needed this workshop, this feeling of deep and authentic connection with other women. Each of them came to enlighten a part of me through their shared experience. I found it so beautiful to feel that despite our sometimes very different life stories, we were all linked by similar aspirations and challenges. I recommend to all those who hesitate to participate in the Bodysex workshop to dare step out of their comfort zone and dive into the pleasure zone! No matter what level the job needs to be done, the weekend will take you in leaps and bounds towards greater happiness and better self-knowledge. I could go on and on talking about the workshop…I am so deeply grateful for Natasha and Marika for having led it by goddesses hands. Thank you for offering this space of transformation and liberation. Thank you for everything!”
Sometimes things happen that remind me of the power of Bodysex and the interconnectedness of all who share this experience – even if we never meet.
A woman who has participated in 2 of my past Bodysex retreats has given a $200 donation for women who would like to attend but have financial circumstances which make it difficult to do so. (one income homes, single mothers, large families, students etc.) The money has been divided into two $100 “scholarships” for women who would like to attend the retreat in Saskatoon on May 3-5th. One scholarship has already been given, and if you’re interested in the other one please send me an email with a brief write up on why you’d like to attend. You aren’t being judged on your writing or on anything, so don’t worry about that. I just want to hear about you.
Here is a little note from the woman who donated the money:
“Come stretch and share your unique beauty with the group, and let them hold you in whatever way you need. And just cum, that’s the icing on this luscious cake!”
send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org <3
“I have been trying to put into words since I got home from your retreat, how it’s changed me as a woman, a mother and a lover. I have done a lot of retreats and always come home with little nuggets, but this one. Wow. My entire perspective of life has shifted. I am happy. I’m happy in my body. I’m happy with my vulva. I am so into being able to relax and enjoy the pleasure that my partner wants to give me. Sensual touch, both ways. Just being naked and close, whether it’s sexual or not.
It’s allowed me to be vulnerable and open in a way I didn’t think would ever happen – especially not in this body. But it’s 100% changed my marriage, for the better. Both of us have opened up and are able to communicate better, to speak our hearts and minds. Shame left me at the retreat, I came home different and everyone that truly knows me, sees it.
So thank you. Thank you for what you do. Thank you for being a fierce space holder and loving us through everything. Thank you for being open and embracing us all. Thank you for putting on such an amazing retreat. I took so much from it and I’m so happy that I came and can’t wait to do another one.”
– April Bodysex Retreat participant
Sometimes it’s difficult for me to write about Bodysex retreats because I feel a responsibility to honour the other women through my words and yet, just like in the circle, I can only speak for myself. I find that each retreat peels another layer off of the armour that I wear and, with that, the mirror image that I see reflected in the women’s eyes becomes more clear. Seeing myself with more clarity — and less armour — frees me to be me. I can only hope and trust that this increased freedom to be me, gives the women the freedom to experience themselves in their full expression as well.
I came into last weekend’s retreat grieving the end of a relationship that was and is very dear to me. I felt heartbroken and tender — yet at the same time excited and curious to be amongst a new circle of women. As soon as Patti and I got to the retreat space and began setting up, my body — remembering the familiar smells, sights and feels of the space — began to settle and soften. Body sex is home to me.
The next morning while we waited for the women to arrive, I laid down naked on the couch for some quiet time while Patti and Justine sat across the room doing henna. In between answering texts from nervous women, reading quotes and drinking tea — I touched myself. Connecting to my body through pleasure always grounds me — bringing me into me. Pleasuring myself in the same room as them, while they were experiencing pleasure in their own way, didn’t seem at all strange. When I orgasmed Patti looked back at me and smiled, then went back to discussing her henna design with Justine. I smiled too in recognition of the freedom I felt experiencing this kind of intimacy — in full acceptance and non judgement — by women that I’m not sexually intimate with. We eat, we sleep, we orgasm, we don’t orgasm, we cry, we share our darkest secrets and deepest shame. In all of it there is no hierarchy or relative importance between these things and I couldn’t help but think that this is how I imagine the perfect love affair.
That feeling of freedom stayed with me the entire weekend and I can honestly say that I felt free in a way that I have never felt before. I loved being naked and felt completely at home and beautiful in my body. Even outside in the cold I’d pull up my dress so that my pussy was exposed and free. In this freedom my vulva lips bloomed and opened up to the world as if to say “this is me in my abundance and I’m not hiding anymore!!!!”
The freedom showed up in my ability to empathize with the women’s pain but not wish I could rescue them from it. Knowing that this journey is hard, I felt less responsibility for everyone’s experience and yet somehow trusted that they were having the experience that they needed. I was able to reach out physically in ways that I haven’t before — trusting myself and the women that it was welcome. I’ve always felt like I’m too much and because of this I’d hold back. Feeling free in the way I express love and compassion, I held a woman in a fully naked body hug, as she grieved a loss of her own.
In this freedom I realized that Bodysex represents a unique and beautiful dichotomy of self growth and self pleasure while at the same time an experience of deep interpersonal connection. In the contrast of these two things, we find the common connection of vulnerability. Each of us in the circle travels our own path, expresses our own shame, feels our own pain, and celebrates our own pleasure, yet we are never alone for any of it. We do so being witnessed and witnessing in a circle of sisterhood. Body sex is the ultimate love affair.
With this very difficult and vulnerable piece of writing, another layer of armour falls off and once again my mirror image is more clear. This freedom isn’t only in Bodysex. This freedom is in me.
Much love to all of you: Bambi, Bunny, Aloha, Turtle, Kiki, Ginny, Sage, Marina, Rosa, Sasha, Roxy and Liberty.
**special thanks to my dear sister Patti who’s encouragement as I wrote this meant the world to me and without it I could not have shared it. You are a gift.
** photo credit to the talented Meghan Mickelson and shared with permission