Posts Tagged ‘meditation’
It’s been a review and work month for books, but I’m still eager to keep finding those titles that are breezy-easy reads, that engage me fully, and that are extremely fun and satisfying to finish.
Here’s what I’ve been reading this month.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Partners In Passion: A Guide to Great Sex, Emotional Intimacy and Long-term Love from Cleis Press to be part of the blog tour for this book, but I was immensely impressed. Mark Michaels & Patricia Johnson have penned quite a few books on Tantra, and they teach extensively on the subject, but I believe this is their first more general book encouraging sexual engagement and interaction for couples ongoing. Bed death is another one of those topics that I am fascinated in, so I was very curious what they would say and what they recommend. It is an excellent read. I loved how they portrayed Tantra in that chapter, and the many chapters on experiments for couples, keeping sexy times alive, and ways to work through your own internal blocks are essential and fantastic. I appreciated the extensive amount of gender inclusion, including some testimonials and quotes from trans folks in very respectful and interesting ways, and of sexual orientation inclusion, too—I worried Michaels & Johnson would be very heteronormative in their work, but it didn’t feel that way to me at all. On the contrary, it felt like they were over for dinner at my house and they were just chit chatting about the very real challenges that I have faced in many relationships. (But in a deep, personal, open, insightful way, not in a superficial chit-chat way.) It was much more than I expected and I think everyone curious about enhancing your sex life, and your connection to your partner, should read it, and every one of us who teaches about sex, bed death, and maintaining erotics in a long term relationship should look to it as an excellent resource.
The Big Book of Sex Toys: From Vibrators and Dildos to Swings and Slings—Playful and Kinky Bedside Accessories That Make Your Sex Life Amazing by Tristan Taormino is not a new publication, but it’s new to me. I remember when it was released a few years ago and I just didn’t have time to pick it up and check it out, but because it’s Tristan, I knew it’d be good, and I figured I’d get to it eventually. I finally did, and glad I did. It’s not so much a bible of all available sex toys (perhaps you want Hey, Epiphora for that) but it’s an excellent primer on the types of toys available and highlights of some of the very best. Since the world of sex toys changes constantly (which is one of the reasons it’s fascinating, and one of the reasons it’s frustrating), the book is not comprehensive—but doesn’t claim to be. In addition, it is about SO MUCH MORE than just sex toys—it has excellent essays on communication, experimentation, and owning your own desires mixed in, almost disguised under the premise of sex toys, which is extra clever and a really good entrance point for people delving into more creative sexualities. It belongs up there with The Good Vibes Guide to Sex and Moregasm: Babeland’s Guide to Mind Blowing Sex.
I was severely disappointed with Madison Young’s new memoir Daddy. I expected it to be the story of her life, highlighting the daddies she had along the way (as the back cover blurb implied), and including her rise to her pretty famous position of “feminist pornographer.” She wrote about her family-of–origin father, and her partner-cum-dominant-cum-daddy James, but virtually nothing was said about her feminist politics, and very little was depicted or delved into about the sex work and porn that she is particularly famous for starring in and creating. I thought the conflation of her “daddy issues” with her biological father and the daddy role and play that she and her lover take on was irresponsible and cliche. I would have hoped for something more in depth, more thought out, and more, well, feminist, in that it would depict power dynamics with awareness and consciousness and show personal agency. Maybe it’s just because I know Madison’s story has so much more to it than what was shown in this book, but the many claims (two of them being “feminism” and “the many daddies”) just didn’t deliver.
Shanna Katz’s book Lesbian Sex Positions: 100 Passionate Positions from Intimate and Sensual to Wild and Naughty was one of those review books I mentioned, that I picked up because I have deep respect for Shanna, and because I have a kinda quirky fascination with sex positions. On the one hand, having sex in different positions seems like a kind of irrelevant thing to teach or know about, but on the other hand, it is an amazingly popular way that couples “spice up their sex life” and begin seeking more in the worlds of sexuality and toys and kink. It’s also incredibly useful to know about sex positions for people with different physical abilities, be that from injury or disability, and often useful for differing size issues, too, both “my partner is a full foot taller than me!” and “I weight a lot more/less than my partner.” Also, someone (Megan Andelloux I think?) once told me that she believed there are only four real sex positions, and all the others are variations of those four, and I’ve been trying to figure out which four those are ever since. So I was curious to see lesbian-specific ideas for positions. I was disappointed by the skinny-white-girl depictions of the positions, though I think I remember seeing Shanna say that herself too, and that she didn’t have any choice, it was the publisher’s decision. It doesn’t highlight Shanna’s extraordinary skills around disability and size and gender-diversity, so the book doesn’t feel like a very good representation of Shanna’s sex educator smarts. Still, her introductory essay is great (and probably the best part of the book), and I think it’s fascinating that there’s a market for gift books like this.
I’m really into Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind by Sakyong Mipham. I devoured it from the library and then went out and bought my own copy so I could follow along with the stages of running (and meditation) that he talks about. I miss studying Buddhism—I haven’t found my place here in the Bay Area yet (mostly because I haven’t really looked yet). I love looking at running through the teachings of meditation, and I was moved, inspired, and curious about the ways he interweaves the two. He does say explicitly that though running can be meditative, it is not a replacement for a meditative practice—”running is not your meditation,” (I’m paraphrasing), “any more than meditation is your exercise.” This book made me want to run better and meditate more. Which is just what I wanted it to do.
I’m not sure what it is, but I have a small collection of funky queer coloring books. I don’t color in them (though maybe I should—I try not to treat my objects as too precious to be used for their intended purpose), but I seem to collect them anyway. I picked up the Sex Position Coloring Book as a review item because I am—what did I write up there?—quirkily fascinated by sex positions as a thing that sex educators teach, and I’m trying to figure out how it’s useful to my own teachings and workshops, particularly since I teach strap-on workshops so frequently. The book depicts only heterosexual cis male & cis female couples, but that’s one of the fun things about a coloring book: you could always add harnesses or other bodily modifications. In full disclosure: I also picked this up partly to inspire rife to possibly do some of his own coloring pages, maybe of sex positions even. That secret covert plan hasn’t worked yet, but I still have some ideas up my sleeve.
I’ve just finished Farm City: Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter this week, so it just squeaked on to this list. I have TWO beautiful big photo books about beginning to grow food in your (urban) backyard, but I haven’t quite devoured them because, well, I’m still so intimidated by the process. I moved into the house I’m in now in August 2013, and we spent the winter prepping the yard and getting it ready to plant and grow more things. Now that it’s spring in the Bay Area it is clearly time to plant things and start planning. It’s exciting! The options feel limitless! And also, eek! We do already have quite a few things in the ground, kale potatoes peas tomatoes pumpkins, and some herbs, sage dill mint basil, and a wildflower patch and a jasmine bush and a satsuma orange tree in a container, but I want to know how to do it all better and want to play in the dirt. So, in order to get myself a bit more excited about these kinds of ideas, I picked up Novella’s book. She had an urban farm in Oakland actually not too far from my house, so I loved hearing about the changes in the neighborhood and the local events. She raised ducks, rabbits, and even pigs for meat, and I will absolutely not be doing that, but in comparison it sure makes growing kale seem easier. I love how extensively researched she is—every few pages she quotes another book, another writer, another hippie back-to-the-land philosopher who came before. I’m definitely more inspired to get out to my own backyard garden and see what I can help grow.
I’ve been devouring some business books lately, and Start Your Dream Business was one of them. It, unfortunately, is almost completely about motivating the reader to follow their dreams and pursue that wacky business idea that you might have, and it is not at all about the nitty-gritty how to do it. In fact, often the business profiles completely skip that part, going from “I had this great idea!” to “and now it’s a 6-figure business!” Great, good for you—and also, how’d ya do that!? Regardless, I picked up the book from the library because I was interested in the premise, and zoomed through it because it included so many people whose work I’ve been familiar with online (like Tara Gentile and … lots of others I can’t remember now). Sarah Wade is UK-based, so many of the references and business owners are not American, which honestly made it even more interesting, since I am mostly familiar with American methodologies of entrepreneurship. I still don’t feel like I’m a pro at this whole business thing, but it’s curious and I am enjoying the learning.
I picked up Switch by Astrid Knowles because it’s in that BDSM-novel genre of power dynamic romance that I have enjoyed picking up recently, because I zoom through them and sometimes they’re kind of fun and mostly I can ignore the problematic gender/power alignment assumptions. This one had a curious class premise—that the dominant the narrator meets and falls for is homeless and jobless at the beginning of the book—but other than that, it was pretty fluffy and not very memorable. I ran into a quote from this book about switching, which is what turned me on to it in the first place, but I might have put the book down before I got to the switching part, or just didn’t notice it. The writing is less than average, so I often skimmed through chapters.
Um okay so that’s all I have to say about that.
One more sidenote: I decided at the beginning of March that I would do my best to NOT read online, and to read books instead. It was interesting—it took a lot of discipline, and I noticed how many times, over and over, I clicked through to an article on social media or via email. I didn’t realize how much I was reading online every day, and how many of those articles had so much throw-away content—not things that were actually enriching my life, or teaching me things, but more sensationalized what’s happening in the world things. So that practice has helped me both focus on work more when I’m at the computer and read more books, which has been excellent. I aim to continue that habit.
You can support my reading habit, and encourage me to read and write book roundups like this one, by buying me gifts through my Amazon wish list! (Did I mention it’s my birthday today?)
Or, check out more books that I recommend:
What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations?
I’m obligated by the blogger’s code to let you know that the Sex Position Coloring Book, Daddy by Madison Young, The Big Book of Sex Toys, Lesbian Sex Positions, and Partners in Passion were all sent to me by the respective publishers as review books. My opinions on those books are solely my own, however, and they did not pay me or influence me in any way to write them. Pick up these books at your local independent bookstore, or, if you must, on Amazon.
“Emotional landscapes / They puzzle me / Confuse …” Bjork sings in “Joga.” This has long been one of my favorite songs.
I am in love with the western United States, the pacific northwest in particular. If you followed my column on Eden Fantasys about my love affair with New York City, Mr. Sexsmith’s Other Girlfriend, you may remember that I also wrote often about visiting Seattle or San Francisco or other cities and my ongoing draw to being out west.
There are amazing things about living in New York City, like the Public Square and the community and the lack of bullshit and the lack of people offering you sliding scale energy work when you’re crying on the subway, and in a hundred ways, New York has been the diamond I’ve cut and formed my adult self against. Not a lot of things have been hard enough for me to form against—Seattle certainly wasn’t. I wanted something more.
But the actual geographic land over here … has never quite been enough for me. I drive outside of New York City and into the Adirondacks or the Catskills—places people call mountains over here but that I tend to call “mountains” or, more accurately, hills—and into the rolling baby green hills of pastoral New England, and I can’t really separate the cliche picket fences and porches and quaint mailboxes with this puritanical moral ideal of the nuclear family, sexual shame, and policed gender roles.
The west, though … the Rockies … I have such a different relationship with the earth when I’m over there, when I’m looking at towering peaks on my morning commute, when I see the canyons and the deep green forests, the earth cut by water and carved out by glaciers. I feel so much more at home, so much more connected.
It’s in part because that is closer to my landscape of origin, that is closer to the drama of Southeast Alaska where I was literally created, birthed, and grew up.
But it’s partly something else, too. I think it’s partly because the grandeur, the sublimity of the west looks a lot more like my inner emotional landscape than the pastoral, serene east.
I talk about my “inner emotional world” or “emotional landscape” frequently. Lately, I’ve been talking about how many earthquakes it has endured, how much instability is in there now. Sometimes it helps to visualize the earth cracking apart, splitting, the magma of the earth spewing forth to destroy whatever structures I’ve put into place, like in that Joga video.
I like to talk about my emotional world in geographic metaphors. I’ve been deeply shaken this year. I’m still trying to clear the rubble and rebuild. A friend of mine recently said that she thinks the apocalypse—the impending end of the Mayan calendar, uh, tomorrow—actually is “all the hard stuff all at once” for everybody. It’s certainly true for me: the power dynamics in my life have dramatically shifted, my relationships have shifted, I woke up after a couple of months of being unconscious to find myself buried under a mountain of shit out of which I’m still trying to dig myself.
The sublime nature of the western United States matches my inner emotional landscape so much more than the east.
And if you’ll forgive the comparison, being out in the east feels incongruous almost in a transgender type of way—that my inner self does not match the outer surroundings, and I feel a serious disconnect. When the outer landscape matches my inner landscape, I feel integrated and whole in a much more comforting way.
Perhaps I should be aiming for more inner peace, inner calmness, such that the pastoral landscape surrounding me could be a goal, rather than a reflection. I don’t know about that. I’m a student of buddhism and tantra, and those lineages say that it’s not so much that I think our inner selves are peaceful, but that we separate our divine nature Self from the monkey mind self that is often chatter chatter chattering.
I don’t think a dramatic, sublime inner emotional landscape is bad. I think it’s real. I love being deeply in touch with emotions, experiences, divinity, the universe, energy, god, myself—whatever you want to label that. Lately, I have been incredibly reactive, moreso than I usually am, since my inner world has been such a disaster, but I usually have much more space between my reaction and my response, I usually have more control over my ability to respond, my response-aiblity if you will, and I am using all of my tools to lengthen the space between my reactions and my responses. (Meditation helps with that practice immensely.)
I’m getting better. Slowly waking up. Bringing myself back into alignment with these paths, my callings, my desires, following my goals, containing my time and energy and emotional landscapes. But I miss the west. I miss the mountains and valleys and deep lakes and rainforest. Sometimes I wish I was a better visual artist, that I could actually draw out an inner emotional landscape map, full of trails and paths and adventures, with maybe even a big X right over my heart to mark the treasure.