A few weeks ago as I was facilitating a workshop, I spoke about sensuality and sexuality and how they were different. Most of the participants appeared and shared their surprise in hearing me say this. A few then shared that they thought that both were the same thing.
By definition SENSUALITY is any condition that is about being pleased or fulfilling to the senses. What stimulates one in a positive and enlivening manner. It can, and many times, lead to sexuality. It is the pursuit of pleasure with or without sex being a part of it.
SEXUALITY is the capacity or ability for sexual feelings and preference of sexual expression.
SENSUALITY is about the alignment of the body, heart, mind, and spirit.
SEXUALITY can also be experienced on these same levels through choosing the type of sexual expression, and with whom, connection with another.
There is the physical level — acknowledging the presence of my sensual self, the areas of the body that increase the experience of pleasure. The emotional level — sensing that I am supported, loved and held by a deep energy within. The mental level – accepting that the body was made to experience pleasure. An invitation for some for peace and forgiveness for the misunderstandings and false beliefs about pleasure may exist here. The spiritual level — that sensuality is wisdom, a connection to the Divine.
For me to be sensual means that one is in-bodied and practices being aware of the energy and sensations that occur in the body. And, yes, it is a practice. A practice of seeking what helps me tune in and enjoy being in my own skin more. This is also includes being clear with my “No’s” – what does not feed me, and provide me comfort and pleasure and being willing to share my “No’s” with an open heart.
SENSUALITY is the practice of being engaged with one’s own innately sensual body, aligning the body, heart, mind, and spirit, and opening to the connection to the Divine within. SEXUALITY is the the expression of the engagement, alignment, and opening as well as the deepening of the connection with another.
Nothing engages all of my senses as sound and movement does. Below is a video that always brings me great joy, enlivens me, and invites my body to move. I invite you to listen and be curious… See how the body moves you.
Many times when I speak of movement, people automatically think that I am speaking of dancing. Of course dancing is movement, but that is not exactly what I mean.
We live in a disembodied world — sitting endless hours at our desks, commuting long-distance maintaining relationships through our phones and laptops, and leaning on our intellect to solve or get our to-do list under some kind of order. The result? Loss of authentic connection with ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.
Movement is the key to feeling more alive, generating creative solutions, enjoying growth, and connecting more fully and deeply in gratifying and enjoyable ways. Movement naturally generates more vitality, freedom, joy, and clarity in everything we do. Movement allows us to embody and connect with ourselves in an authentic and genuine manner. It allows us to engage parts of body, heart, and soul that we may have forgotten. As we connect with ourselves, we also connect with our loved ones.
When one learns to slow down and practice movement, what occurs is the discovery of the magic and wisdom of your body. It is not about performance. It’s about learning and practicing movement that allows you to tune out the world and tune into your heart and soul. Movement is an opening to feeling and hearing the nuances, the lyric and notes that your body, in alignment with your heart and soul, are writing for you. The mind is a wonderful vehicle to decipher the world yet it is also a great story-inventor. The body does not make up tales but helps us unravel them through tension, relaxation, and pleasure… the verses and rhythms of life.
As a therapist and coach, my commitment is to help my clients co-create the life and love of their dreams. Having each of them sit and talk is reinforcing the pattern of being disembodied. Many of clients know that movement, breath, and body-focused exercises are used often is sessions because these are the gateways to the authentic self. Many times themes and issues are uncovered more gracefully than with talk therapy alone.
So what exactly does one move… any part of the body that inspires and whispers to you. Start with stretching your arms over your head as you twirl your hands, undulate your hips, breathe while moving your belly up and down. Play your favorite song and move to it in ways that you normally don’t. Do the Hokey Pokey… yes, the one from childhood, remember how much fun you had back then?
The body is a fountain of inspiration and wisdom. Move and let it sing to you.
This is my favorite time of the year. The stillness of Winter giving way to the allure and grace of Spring making this season the perfect invitation to one of my favorite morning rituals — walking barefoot in my garden breathing in the blossoming roses, narcissus, and gardenias. These blooms have also become my teachers schooling me in trusting that everything is taken care of, that there is a divine flow in life. Nature does not worry or become preoccupied with stories after all. It simply is.
Being in my garden helped me feel more connected to my body as my senses relish the fragrant blooms, enjoy the mosaic of colors, hear the birds chirp, and feel the dampness of the ground under my feet (yes, I often walk barefoot). My mind empties for a moment and becomes still long enough to be reminded that life can be beautiful no matter what is happening. It is in these moments that I feel the most connected to myself and to the Universe. It is also in these moments that I experience myself most embodied and most alive.
My invitation to you is to slow down and welcome more stillness even if for a moment. Pick an activity you are already doing. Allow yourself to enjoy your sensuous body by opening yourself to tune in — see, feel, smell, hear, and even taste what surrounds you. Notice any shifts that occur in the body and let yourself follow your own inner compass to aliveness.
I have begun to wonder. Rather than asking, “How are you feeling?” is it be best to ask others to move their bodies? Because the moment we are asked how we are, our minds turn on and story creation begins.
When we are asked how we are or what we are feeling, we begin to roll back over everything that has caused upset, and at times joy, and we begin to nourish the perspective that we most want reinforced.
As children we learn to tell certain stories that help us be seen and feel loved, something that as children is vital for our very survival. Many of us are also told “stop crying,” or “there is no real reason to feel ___,” teaching us not to believe what we feel or to squelch whatever emotion rises. We grow up not trusting what the body is experiencing or needing to create a story to give ourselves permission to feel.
The body doesn’t lie and creates only from the truth.
How we begin to feel is to slow down, relax, breathe, move, and to notice the subtle nuances in our bodies. Emotion, after all, is energy in motion — always rising and flowing, tightening and relaxing. Listening to the body is an invitation to letting every sensation inform you and move you by gently teaching the mind that it is okay not to make sense of everything because some things are beyond the comprehension of words. To listen to the body means to practice feeling without judgment and trusting the body. There is no right or wrong sentiment. Although there are moments to learn from our feelings, this is also not about processing what we feel every time we feel, but an invitation to make space to be with it.
I am not going to lie. It can be scary to feel. It is scary to slow down and feel what rises, what is asking to move through us. Because when we do feel, we are reminded of the parts of us that have perhaps not received much loving or have caused pain at some point, our sexual expression for example. When we feel, we cannot deny our truth. We begin to remember who we really are and question the stories we have created.
Change happens by giving ourselves the opportunity to experience ourselves differently in the moment.
So here is my open invitation — perhaps the next time you are asked how you are feeling or feel energy rising, crank on a song and move. Breathe. Be curious. See what rises. The body doesn’t lie. It is telling you your truth.
Self-care isn’t selfish. If anything, it’s selfless. It allows you to be a better mother, daughter, friend, feminist, boss, employee, partner, and more. You don’t run a car without filling it up with gasoline, so why would you run your body, heart, and mind without filling it up with some fuel? Many people believe that self-care is too decadent or self-indulgent. Women, in particular, are stretched thin from handling motherhood to marriage to work to friendships and everything else in between. Some even begin to believe that if she has not run herself ragged, she clearly has failed at something.
Self-Care is care provided “for you, by you.” It’s about identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them. Self-care is a practice that helps fuel your desires and dreams because, at its core, it is about practicing integrity with ourselves. It involves actively setting intentions for yourself — being honest with yourself and others about your needs, desires, fears, and dreams.
Self-Love begins with self-appreciation, for if we do not value ourselves, how can we ever honestly honor someone else? Many women believe that loving yourself is selfish and narcissistic. Self-love starts by giving love, attention, and care to yourself, so that we can be filled to overflow with radiance and then be able to share that radiance with another if we choose. The flow of love and self-love is giving and receiving. True self-love is no where near selfishness and narcissism.
Why it’s important to start with self-love though is because ultimately we are the ones responsible for our actions, choices, and the outcome of those actions and choices. Self-love is a practice of filling the yearning from your soul because it is about practicing listening to what we desire, acceptance of it, and taking action towards it. Self-love is important because it is process of remembering where our genuine power resides. When we are in self-love, we say no to what does not serve us and are more willing to say yes to what brings us more aliveness.
Self-love is a practice of filling the yearning from your soul because it is about practicing listening to what we desire, acceptance of it, and taking action towards it. This Valentine’s Day my encourage,went and invitation is to practice caring for yourself in a way that reflects LOVE.
I recently attended, both as participant and assistant, in a woman’s workshop focused on sexuality and the Medicine Wheel led by the incomparable Gina Ogden. On the first night, all the women walked the Wheel, placing their sacred objects and sharing with the group what each object represented — one representing what they want more of in their sexual life, the other representing what they want less of. As the evening continued, one theme came to light — the impact of religious training on sexuality, particularly that of that Catholic church.
This peaked my interest, since I attended Catholic school for 12 years and I was fully aware of the training and dogma that these women shared. As I heard the women speak, I found myself feeling incredibly grateful for my rebellious spirit and my curiosity — they have always been my saving grace. The truth is that I never believed what the priests and the nuns said about love and sex. I did not believe that I would be a sinner for enjoying the pleasure of my flesh since God himself (or herself) had created this very flesh. As far as I can remember, I believed that sex was one of God’s greatest gifts. It was a gift that allowed us as humans to transcend our bodies and the illusion of separation from others. There is a reason why, in moments of absolute pleasure, the words “oh my God” are said aloud in every language and across every religion.
As I sat in the circle, watching and hearing these women, I was also keenly aware that I had a small picture of St. Teresa of Avila in my bag. Until that moment, I had been unsure of the reason why I had packed it a few days before.
In the Medicine Wheel, sexuality and spirituality exist in the same quadrant because the quadrant is about connectivity. Although many may not agree with me, I cannot see any separation of sexuality and spirituality. One leads directly to the other. My spirituality is about connecting more lovingly and authentically with myself, others, and God. My sexuality exists for the same reason.
The women in the circle reminded me that night that much work needs to be done to heal the lines that create separation, aloneness, despair, and negative beliefs about God and sex. When St. Teresa was placed in the circle, I believe the healing began. That night, there was a lightness that she radiated from the center of the circle into the heart of every woman.
Ecstasy of St. Teresa Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, 1645-1652 Rome, Italy: Santa Maria della Vittoria, Cornaro Chapel. Teresa is clothed from head to foot in a loose hooded garment. Her feet are bare, the left one prominently displayed. Her eyes are shut, her mouth opened, as she swoons in ecstasy. Standing before her is the figure of a winged youth. His garment hangs on one shoulder, exposing his arms and part of his upper torso. In his right hand he holds an arrow that is pointed at the heart of Teresa.
I believe that we are all divine beings having a human experience.
I often imagine that before we made the choice to come to the earth school, we all surrounded a giant bond fire where God tells us about a special “life” planned for us. We are so happy to learn and grow and be human that we give a resounding “yes” to life in store for us. We crave the all the lessons. We go all in.
We all chose to come here and inhabit our human body. We chose all the funny curves, bumps, and dimples. We chose our families – our mother, father, grandparents, and even our crazy uncle, because before we took human form, we knew that our bodies and our loved ones were the perfect ones to teach our souls the very lessons that we craved to learn. As life progresses, we also attract others to help us learn lessons in a deeper level. Of course, the one relationship that provides us the best and deepest opportunities of learning and growing is our romantic relationships.
From my point of view, the problem is that part of the human condition is that we forget that we chose. We forget so that we can actually learn the lessons. We forget so that we can fully live each moment. We also develop an ego. We develop the ego to help us survive our human condition. Because as humans we crave attention and to feel loved. Our ego begins to believe that for us to be loved by others, we have to abide by certain conditions. Out of fear of losing this love, it begins to create stories and beliefs about how the world works and how we should be in it. I find that when a phrase such as “I am personally offended” is used it is our ego that is reacting.
The ego is not a bad aspect. It is the part of us that has forgotten its divine nature. It has forgotten about the excitement we felt at the bond fire. The ego is the aspect of us that is the most human. It feeds on fear, judging, wronging others and ourselves, and keeps most aligned with how things should be. I often see my ego as a young adolescent learning how to drive – unsure of herself, not sure how to deal with traffic, not knowing how turn, pressing the gas and break pedals too much or not enough. The driving instructor is my higher self, my divine nature – the aspect that remembers I am a soul. It gently reminds my fearful teenage driver how to focus and how to hold herself behind the driving wheel. Always with great love and compassion. From time to time, the driving instructor takes the wheel, moments of smooth driving, leaving the teenage driver afraid she did something wrong, but at times, although she may not always acknowledge aloud or even to herself, quite grateful.