Posts Tagged ‘tantra’

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December 26, 2011  |  journal entries  |  Enter your password to view comments.

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November 17, 2011  |  journal entries  |  Enter your password to view comments.

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Biggest Sideshow Yet! Genderqueer Tantra! So Much To Do

May 9, 2011  |  miscellany  |  2 Comments

This month’s Sideshow: Queer Literary Carnival is the biggest yet! We have three poets, three comics, three guest judges, one musical guest, and one host who will be joining us on Tuesday—tomorrow night!—and telling dirty jokes and funny poems for your pleasure.

If you didn’t see Cheryl B.‘s previous reading series, Poetry vs Comedy Variety Hour, you’re in for a treat!

Join us at Sideshow on May 10th for a special revival of Cheryl B.’s previous reading series, Poetry vs Comedy Variety Hour! PVC is not a typical poetry slam nor a regular stand-up comedy show. PVC is a battle of wits and Rhymes where the stanzas and the stand-ups collide.

Performers include Kit Yan, Molly “Equality” Dykeman, Sinclair Sexsmith, Paul Case, Emma Willmann, and Jessica Halem. Celebrity guest judges include Shawn Hollenbach, Livia Scott, and Amanda Goad, Esquire. Hosted by Carolyn Castiglia, this special PvC features musical guest Leibya Rogers!

Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival: POETRY vs COMEDY
Hosted by Cheryl B. & Sinclair Sexsmith
Tuesday, May 10th
at The Phoenix
447 East 13th Street at Avenue A
Doors, 7:30pm. Reading, 8pm
Free! (We’ll pass the hat for the readers)

Now, that’s on Tuesday.

On Thursday, there is a very special Lesbian Sex Mafia monthly workshop, which features my tantra mentor.

Genderqueer Tantra with Alex Jade
Thursday, May 12 8:00pm
LGBT Community Center
208 W 13th St, New York, NY
RSVP on Facebook

Tantra is a school of thought and spiritual practice that allows us to explore the multi-dimensions of spiritual energy in our bodies. Though it often emphasizes the relationship between masculine and feminine, Genderqueer Tantra allows us to PLAY with masculine and feminine energies without getting caught up in rigid gender limitations. Join Tantra and SM practitioner Alex Jade for an interactive workshop that will introduce you to the basic Tantra concepts and invite you to deepen your sexual experiences, increase awareness of the body and mind using sensations from subtle to bold.

Alex Jade, MSW is an erotic educator, sacred intimate, psychotherapist, and student of Tantra. She is on the faculty of the Body Electric School and she has produced and taught independent workshops in Seattle for over 15 years. She has mastery in clothes-off hands-on experiential erotic education and the use of ritual as a healing tool. Alex’s specialties are gender exploration, classical Tantra, SM, and exploring with an open heart and mind.

This coming weekend, after these two (HUGE) events, I will be off in the mini-mountains of the Hudson Valley exploring some shadow through some bdsm and erotic energy play. I’m really thrilled to be doing another erotic energy retreat, and so glad it has come together. It is ever hard to get people to come out to events! Women especially, it seems.

I have more to say about that, and about a dozen other topics, but my brain is kind of fried with these events. They are so time consuming. More writing soon.

Lesbian Sex Mafia Presents: Genderqueer Tantra May 12th

May 3, 2011  |  miscellany  |  2 Comments

It is my pleasure to invite you to another event this May in NYC: Genderqueer Tantra at the LGBT Center through the Lesbian Sex Mafia.

One of my favorite mentors, Alex Jade, is going to be in town doing a retreat through the tantra school with which I study, and I asked her to make a stop off in the city and do an event with the Lesbian Sex Mafia before she heads out to the retreat center. I’m thrilled she’ll be doing an introduction to tantra.

A lot of folks aren’t quite sure what tantra is, or a cliche and stereotype comes to mind. Broadly, it’s about energy, often as applied to sexuality—but it is bigger and deeper and much more complicated than that. I’m not a tantra teacher (yet) so I’m not even sure how to describe or explain it, but hey, that’s why workshops like this are fantastic.

Plus, it’s tantra in a queer and BDSM context, which makes it all the more awesome. Hope you can come.

Genderqueer Tantra with Alex Jade

Thursday, May 12 8:00pm
LGBT Community Center
208 W 13th St, New York, NY
RSVP on Facebook

Tantra is a school of thought and spiritual practice that allows us to explore the multi-dimensions of spiritual energy in our bodies. Though it often emphasizes the relationship between masculine and feminine, Genderqueer Tantra allows us to PLAY with masculine and feminine energies without getting caught up in rigid gender limitations. Join Tantra and SM practitioner Alex Jade for an interactive workshop that will introduce yo…u to the basic Tantra concepts and invite you to deepen your sexual experiences, increase awareness of the body and mind using sensations from subtle to bold.

Alex Jade, MSW is an erotic educator, sacred intimate, psychotherapist, and student of Tantra. She is on the faculty of the Body Electric School and she has produced and taught independent workshops in Seattle for over 15 years. She has mastery in clothes-off hands-on experiential erotic education and the use of ritual as a healing tool. Alex’s specialties are gender exploration, classical Tantra, SM, and exploring with an open heart and mind.

About LSM

Founded in 1981 by Dorothy Allison and Jo Arnone, the Lesbian Sex Mafia (LSM) is the oldest continuously running women’s BDSM support and education groups in the country. We are located in New York City, with a membership primarily in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. However, we also have members along the East Coast, across the country and even in Europe!

LSM is a support and information group for all women 18 years of age or older, including transexual and intersexed women who live their daily lives as women and all female-born transgender people who feel they have a connection with and respect for the women’s community. And, who are interested in fantasy and role playing, bondage, discipline, S/M, fetishes, costumes, alternate gender identities and uninhibited sexual expression in a safe, sane, consensual and confidential way.

www.lesbiansexmafia.org

Erotic Energy Workshops for Women in May

March 24, 2011  |  miscellany  |  2 Comments

If you read between the lines around here, you probably know I’m involved with an erotic energy school. I’ve been studying there for about ten years now. I’ve been assisting for about five, and started coordinating workshops last year.

There are two advanced retreats that I am coordinating coming up in May near Albany, NY and in July near Albuquerque, NM, and if you are experienced with erotic energy work you are invited to come join me there.

I kept writing “workshop” here, because that’s what we call them, but really they are retreats, either 3- or 5-days long.

A good friend of mine (and fellow butch!) is also coordinating the level one class in Oakland in May. Perhaps you’re a beginner, and interested in what all this subtle energy, erotic energy, tantra stuff is about? This one is perfect for you. It explores subtle and not so subtle energy in the body, as well as mapping desires, reclaiming pleasure, and healing old wounds. I’ve taken it probably ten times and it is always full of learning, fascinating, challenging, and beautiful.

I call it “level one” or sometimes even “beginner level,” but it is totally applicable to folks who have experience with this too. Kind of like how in yoga, an advanced student can come into a beginner class and still get tons and tons out of it. There is a lot of room for everyone’s experience, level of comfort, and personal life history in each of these courses and I highly encourage taking them. They have significantly changed my life in the last ten years and I have taken many, many of the foundations of my sexual self away from the teachings of these workshops, with these particular teachers.

I’m not posting all the details here, but I would be glad to send them to you if you want to know more. Email me at mrsexsmith (at) gmail.com and I will send you more information. I’m glad to answer questions you have, too.

In Honor of National Sexual Freedom Day

September 23, 2010  |  essays  |  1 Comment

The Woodhull Freedom Foundation is hosting the first annual National Sexual Freedom Day today, and along with in person events in Washington, DC, there is a blog carnival you can participate in if you feel inspired to write about sexual rights and freedom.

The questions are: What does sexual freedom as a human right mean to you? and What legislative or social changes would you like to see to promote sexual freedom?

There are very few things we humans have in common. Our cultures clash, we speak different languages, we hold opposing values, we worship contradictory gods—but all of us have a body. All of us have a body with similar patterns, something vaguely person-shaped, with variable configurations of skin and size and style, with varying degrees of stamina and strength. We don’t all like to do the same things with our bodies, but we are all born, and we all die. We all experience the world through the confines of this corporeal flesh, these five senses, these minds, this aging process, these fascinating ways that our various systems—digestive, nervous, circulatory, respiratory, reproductive, endocrine—constantly work to maintain.

What we do with our bodies while we are here, while we have this lifetime to explore this world, is our choice. It is, in fact, our defining choice; what makes our lives truly ours.

The details are as variable as there are people on this planet—our genders, our sexualities, fashion tastes, what we do for work, what we do for fun, what sensations are enjoyable, how our senses function, what pleases our eyes or ears or mouths or fingertips. But that’s the fun part, isn’t it? That’s the part we get to make up as we go along, that’s the part that we get to change as frequently as we like, that’s the part we get to constantly be curious about and explore, every morning when we wake.

Some of us discovered young that we are sexual beings. That when we come, we tap in to energy beyond ourselves, we release through our muscles in ways that are inaccessible otherwise, we feel connected to ourselves, our lovers, the world around us.

The tantric belief is that this fire, this energy that we tap into when we are sexual is life itself, is life force itself, is not just sexual energy, but all energy. Sure, there are plenty of other ways to tap into that life force than to have sex—but for some of us, sex is the most fun, the most rewarding, the most liberating exploration or hobby that we can have.

Remember Dedee in the 1998 film The Opposite of Sex: “It was clever of God or evolution or whatever to hook the survival of the species to [sex], because we’re gonna screw around.” Screwing around is hardwired in these bodies of ours, especially when our hormones get going. That’s what our bodies crave, want, desire. I’m beginning to think that using sex to sell all that advertising isn’t solely as nasty or manipulative as the feminist theory says it is. Yes, this culture uses sex to sell irrelevant things, but there’s something else underneath that: everything really is about sex.

And for some of us, for me, for example, when I’m not having it, I think about it constantly. I want to know where it’ll happen next, who it will be with. I obsess, I write, I think. I crave the release that my body and mind goes through when relating to another person—another body—that way. I crave someone who is particularly aligned to my orientation so that we can fit together like puzzle pieces and start lifting each other up, taking each other higher, pushing each other’s boundaries, making it safe to do things and explore things that we haven’t otherwise done before, or perhaps that we have, but want to do again.

That’s where the body comes in: when we can strip away all of the crap that culture shoves on us about sex, all of the conflicting messages, all of the virgin/whore dichotomies, all of the macho masculinity size-king bullshit, all of the shame and guilt for our desires, we can start listening to our bodies, really listening, to what bubbles up from inside. What would feel good right now? Full body rope bondage? A Whartenberg wheel? Melting wax dripped all over your back? A really good, hard fucking, just taking your body, using it, with disregard to your pleasure? Impulsive, public displays of affection? Kissing, and more kissing, and more kissing?

What does your body crave?

I think most of us can barely answer this question honestly. Most of us would have to dig through too many layers of shame and symbols and bravado and performance to get down to what we are really craving, what we really desire, what our bodies are truly asking for.

To be able to get down to that craving, then to articulate that craving, then to have someone we could safely confide in about that craving, then to actually play with that craving—that is sexual freedom.

It could be as simple as knowing that my body is asking for a glass of water, or knowing that it’s time to rest, or it could be as complex as a type of relationship, or the physical location on the planet where I build my home. There are dozens of things related to our inabilities to listen to our bodies deepest desires, and yet so much of what keeps us from that skill is sexual shame.

What change would I like to see come of this? I would like to see people listening to their bodies. There is no way to put that through legislation, exactly. Perhaps there are more round-about ways, and for that I admire politicians who are capable of speaking the languages of government and instating laws of protection and celebration.

But the rest of us …

I think we need to keep listening, way down deep, letting desires bubble up, and practice speaking them aloud, or at least saying them to ourselves, writing them down. I want to see us all making choices which honor our unique experiences and move our bodies down the paths of our lives with less violence, less shame, less fear, less confusion, less suffering. I want to see us celebrating the deep knowing of who we are, where we’ve come from, where we’re going, who we are walking the paths with. I want to see us learn from BDSM groups and teachings about body safety, playing safely, teachings like Safe Sane Consensual or Risk Aware Consensual Kink. I want to see us learn from feminist theory about the sexualization of little girls and the commodification of women and the belittling of the power of our sexualities. I want to see us learn from trans and genderqueer communities about what is “real” and what is constructed, and keep unraveling what it means to be a human being in this world.

There has been much change in the past ten years since I’ve been heavily involved in sexual activism and studying my own culture, trying to explain the reasons so many of us are so messed up about our bodies and about our sexualities. I know there’s more change to come, and I believe this work, organizing National Sexual Freedom Day or writing online about sex and gender or exploring some new toys to enhance your own sexual play or becoming curious about your own body’s inner desires all comes down to the tiniest of moments, the tiniest of changes, in listing to oneself, and taking one’s inner wishes seriously.

What say you, folks? What does sexual freedom as a human right mean to you?

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September 7, 2010  |  journal entries, on butches  |  Enter your password to view comments.

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The Retreat

September 4, 2010  |  journal entries  |  2 Comments

So I’ve just returned from a week out in the New Mexico desert, at a zen center, at a retreat with the erotic energy school with which I’ve been working for nearly ten years. This was the first time that I coordinated the retreat, meaning that I was the point person for logistical questions, I did most of the marketing and outreach, I organized the supplies that needed to be at the zen center while we were there, I registered all the participants and took care of the money. I answered last minute freak-out emails. I made sure everyone got from the airport to the zen center.

It was a hard job. I’m thrilled, on the one hand, to be doing more with the school, thrilled to be in more of a leadership role there. I’d really like to become a more formal apprentice to some of the teachers and perhaps even move into teaching this kind of thing myself. It’s a fascinating process, life-changing and delicious, and there’s not really any way to explain it in words. We just don’t have the language to describe energy and the way it moves in the body and how it connects to our emotional and erotic lives. I try, believe me I try to describe it, but I almost always fall short. Very frequently I just say it is beyond description. Something that must be experienced.

I did a similar retreat last year, it was residential and five days at the same location, but it was a completely different curriculum. Last year’s was formalized tantra. This year was just … play. The workshop title was “Pulse” and when the instructors and I were discussing it, they kept saying how much they just wanted to have fun. To move away from the classical tantra heady intellectual internal subtle stuff, but physical pleasure and release and play.

I’ve done things like this before, sure, some even in ritual space at an erotic energy workshops, but never for so many days and never quite like this. This was intense, hard, emotional, moving. And yes, lots of play.

It started out with a trip to the Georgia O’Keeffe museum in Santa Fe. No wait—scratch that. It started when I lost my wallet on the plane ride west, somewhere between JFK and ABQ. I’m not really sure what happened. When I got to Minneapolis, I didn’t have it. Thankfully, I did have my iPhone (which is kind of a miracle, since I keep it in my wallet). I was meeting two friends at the airport, two butches that I met at last year’s retreat, and we had planned to rent a car, drive up to Santa Fe to go to the museum, arrive a night early.

We still met up at the airport, but things got a bit jumbled because I’d made the reservations, and couldn’t pick up the car without a license or the credit card I’d used to make the reservation. At least I was meeting up with other people, I kept telling myself. If I’d been planning to do this alone, I don’t know what I would have done. Had someone wire me money, perhaps.

So that wallet thing put a ding on my plans. I had to deal with calling and canceling my cards, calling the airport’s lost and founds, trying not to stress about how I was going to get back on my plane to return. I had meticulously planned all the things I needed to do to get this retreat running, those 24 hours I had that were extra before the other participants arrived, so that was a stressful way to kick it off. And it’s so not like me! I kept wanting to explain that to everyone. I don’t do this kind of thing! I’m not disorganized! I don’t lose things like my wallet! Like, ever! But what could I do? I asked for what I needed, got a lot of support. And generally I was at a retreat center—I wasn’t on a shopping vacation, so I didn’t really need money. Just a few bucks here and there. It could’ve been worse.

We did make it to the Georgia O’Keeffe museum, and it was beautiful. This small little adobe building, only a few rooms, but a beautiful gallery. The other two butches and I—who everyone started calling “the fellas”—were only there for about half an hour, but we got a good sense of what was there. (It’s an exhibit I’d already seen in New York at the Guggenheim, of O’Keeffe’s abstracts, which I’d listened to the whole audio tour and spent hours in the galleries, so I felt well acquainted with most of the pieces.) Still, it was really lovely to see the museum and to see her works surrounded by the colors of the New Mexico desert.

We arrived at the zen center later than I’d planned, having been delayed by the whole wallet thing, but it was immediately a relief to be at the center, with the hummingbirds and the happy buddhist cats who live there and the hot springs and the hammock, oh the hammock, I love hammocks so much. (It kind of reminds me of Calvin & Hobbes: I just like to say hammock.)

I spent a lot of time in the Zendo (that photo on the right), which is a rather new building and is an incredibly beautiful meditation hall. The monks and residents who stay at the center get up every morning at 5am to do morning meditation, but I couldn’t bring myself to get up that early (even if it was 7am New York time) because I’d done it the year before and it wiped me out for the whole day. I wanted to be present for the workshop, much as I wanted to sit in that beautiful hall, so instead I stole into it (wearing socks to protect the tatami mats, of course) whenever I could. The zen practice is so rigid, sometimes it feels too immobile, but other times it is incredibly inspiring to clean lines and clear mind.

I miss meditating in that zendo.

The Fellas and I took over one of the rooms, the same one we’d all bunked in the year before. Since we got there so late and the participants were arriving the next day in the early afternoon, I didn’t have time to get into the hammock or go into the hot springs until after we’d already started and were dismissed for the night.

And what a delicious experience it was, when I finally lowered myself into the hot springs, walked along the bottom on all the pebbles, let the mineral waters soak into my muscles. Later, I lay in bed, my body tingling, a deep relaxation down into my bones, I could feel everything letting go, relaxing, just a little bit more. I started thinking about the abbess of the zen center, the woman who has lived there for the past thirty years. Time in the hot springs is actually listed on the daily schedule of the monks and people who come to spend time at the center. She goes into these hot springs nearly every single day for last thirty years, I thought. I would smile like her, too, if I did that.

It’s hard to describe the level of calm and relaxation that comes to me when I’m out in nature, connected to the weather and the earth and air and water, listening to the sounds of the birds and bugs and critters, paying attention to how a flower is growing. Up at Easton Mountain, where I’m coordinating another one of these retreats in November, there’s a sign in the vegetable garden that says, “The wilderness holds answers to more questions than we yet know how to ask.” —Nancy Newhail. I thought of that often when I was off on my own, sitting on a rock or in the grass or in the hammock watching the clouds, wondering if I would actually be happy if I wasn’t so connected to the heavy rhythms of the city, the culture, the events, the music and readings and bookstores and cafes and clubs. Wouldn’t I miss that? Wouldn’t I get bored? Would I really have enough fodder for my work, if I was closer to the earth and farther from people?

I don’t know. Maybe I would desperately miss the easy access to things like Thai food and dyke bars. But maybe I’d get enough of that if I kept my Internet connection (which of course would be mandatory) and kept traveling. I really don’t know.

When I visited Easton recently to get a feel for it, to see the accommodations and to be able to tell potential participants about the options and the space for the November workshop, when it came time to get back in the car and head back to the concrete urbana that is New York, I nearly teared up. I wanted to stay there. I wasn’t ready to go. I wanted to get out my computer and sit on the porch swing, or go for a walk on one of their trails. Kristen and I curled up in their hammock for a little while, but it was getting dark and it was time for dinner, so we didn’t stay long. I realized with that, though, that it’s really time to start planning my exit from the East coast and from New York City. I’ve always said I wouldn’t stay here forever, but I’ve been here more than five years now and it’s starting to feel less temporary. I don’t know if there really is somewhere better for me, but I want to look. I’m not convinced this is where I belong.

I’ve narrowed it down to somewhere along the I-5 corridor: Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, the Bay. I don’t know what will be best for me, or for Kristen, presuming that she comes along. But it’s time for me to start creating a plan.

I know I’ve been saying that for a long time, and that pretty much my entire column over on SexIs has been dedicated to reconciling with New York or, in my more city-depressed months, complaining about missing the West. But it feels different, and it’s time to start making a plan.

The retreat unfolded, as it does, with complicated emotions and things that became undone and unsure footing and practice and pleasure. The Fellas and I had a great time reconnecting and bunking together, and we often decompressed together at night after the big events of the day. There was another butch there, a leather butch also from the East coast, and along with one of the instructors and another woman who was figuring out that she was possibly queer (and, we suspect, possibly a bit masculine of center), when we finally got around to what we dubbed the Sadie Hawkins dance on the third day of the retreat, where we were all letting loose with some dancing and silliness, there were six of us up against the wall with our arms folded over our chests, saying, “I am dancing.”

It was thrilling and different to be in a women-only space with five other (or four and a half, really) masculine of center people. I struggled for a while, after I started doing work with this school, to bring my own masculinity to these women-only spaces, especially when they are focused on erotic healing and power, because much of the trauma in women’s sexualities has to do with men and, subsequently, masculinity. But since I’ve been bringing it harder into that space, not so apologetic or nervous about packing or wearing a button down or boxers, the experiences have been more about fetishizing my masculinity than about being afraid of it. Swooning over it, even, since for straight women to be in a women-only space where we’re exploring eroticism can sometimes be strange, with no one to focus their erotic attention on when they are genuinely not attracted to women. But insert a masculine woman into that equation, and it’s easier to sexualize us, easier to want us, easier to ask us to do things (like penetrate) that they would otherwise perhaps shy away from in groups of women.

I’ve never been in one of these women-only workshops that had so much heat and intensity around gender. One of The Fellas said, “I have—when I was the only butch.” And yes, I’ve been in that scenario, too, and it is also intense, but in a different way. Or maybe I was different then, or was just in a different position. This time felt different though, and at times scary. I felt like I was getting lost, being used for my masculinity, not being seen beyond my presentation. By time day four rolled around, I lost it for an afternoon, but thankfully I had so much support and many friends there, other queers who do “get” my masculinity and my presentation and weren’t just using me—or us! because of course a lot of this I ended up projecting onto those other butches, feeling like I needed to swoop in and save them, too, from being eaten up. Thank goodness they were around, and I could talk to them about what was going on for me (after freaking out a little and not knowing what was wrong).

That comes up in my life quite frequently, now that I am thinking about it, and there were plenty of other “issues” of mine that came up while in the circle, too. My relationships to community, authority, and leadership, for example, were tried and complex, and came up more than once. Being in touch with what I wanted continued to be a challenge. The distance between being in service to someone as an assistant and being seen for who I am felt fine sometimes, and terrible others. There were many moments when people asked me to clarify my gender or to explain something. “I work with a lot of trans guys, so I get gender,” one woman said to me over breakfast. “But I don’t get … ” she vaguely gestured to me. “Me?” I asked. “Yeah.” I gave a five-minute explanation of female masculinity and the identity alignment assumptions of femininity and female, masculinity and male. She seemed to get it. And it didn’t take much out of me, I’m okay with those conversations. Practiced at them. But it kept happening from all directions, throughout the retreat.

That wasn’t the only part of the retreat, though. I had some great conversations with the queers in attendance about gender, about stone identity, about masculinity and the ways we get used, about femme visibility in a women-only space, about being the “experiment.” The Fellas and I had a great conversation about male identity, where one of us said, “I’m not a ‘fella,’ I’m not a guy. I’m butch, that is my gender, and I’m woman identified.” We all nodded in agreement. In my semi-formal studies of masculinity, I’ve started getting more and more So even referring to us as “The Fellas” as I’ve done here seems not quite right, but I think of it as us, not as a male thing, and I like how it’s casual and a little dapper.

I’m so glad it was such a queer space.

There was talk about doing it again next year, and my first experience coordinating went very well. The group had a wonderful dynamic all together, and though there were some newcomers, everyone was really up for it and brought it, fully, attended and gave their all and, I think, moved mountains in their own personal erotic and emotional work.

It was beautiful to watch.

Watching the releases is my favorite part, really. It’s why I so adore doing this work, and why I crave these workshops. That level of cellular release of trauma and pain and shame is so hard to recreate one-on-one or outside of these ritual spaces, and it satisfies something deep in me. Something about healing women, about fixing what is so fucked up and wrong with this culture that does this to us.

I had a chance to chat with another woman (a queer femme in her 60s!) who does similar work coordinating workshops, and with the facilitators, and I expressed interest in doing more of this erotic healing work around genderqueer folks, butches, and anyone who consider themselves stone. I would love to get a more explicitly queer group together, even if it was just once, or once a year.

The folks who returned who had also attended last year all expressed interest in continuing this tradition, so who knows? These retreats in late summer may become an annual event, returning to the desert with a circle of women to strip ourselves bare and soak ourselves in healing waters.

I’m Off to the Desert

August 23, 2010  |  journal entries, miscellany  |  1 Comment

For the second year in a row, I’m heading out to the Southwest to do a week-long erotic energy retreat through the school I’ve been studying with for nearly ten years and two of my favorite teachers.

Photo taken by me last year

This year, it’s different because I’ve been the one who is actually coordinating the workshop, doing a lot of marketing and outreach to get participants, then answering any sorts of logistical questions that I can while attendees are planning their travels. It’s been a bit stressful, but I’ve really enjoyed it, and I’m so looking forward to being done with all the coordinating and start in on the relaxing and exploring and erotic energy depths.

I always learn so much on these retreats, about myself especially but also about energy and erotics. Remember last year, I came back with a whole new theory about yin and yang and masculinity? It’s a very different workshop this year, but I’m sure there will be something that will toss my brain inside out for a minute and help me see things anew. Or, if nothing else, to hang and share space and time and erotics with some very fantastic people.

I’m coordinating another workshop in November in New York, this one is for beginner practitioners who are interested in deepening their own connection to erotic energy. It’s a women-identified only residential weekend workshop at a gay retreat center (with a sauna, hot tub, pool, and hiking trails). The workshop itself, which I’ve done many times over the ten years I’ve been working with this school, is very powerful, sometimes life-changing, and now that I’m coordinating I’m trying to encourage lots of genderqueer and queer folks to come and take it. If you want more information about that, email me.

I’ve got a couple things scheduled to pop up while I’m gone, but know that if you contact me I likely won’t get it until I get back to work on September 1st.

Have a wonderful week, y’all, and will chat with you when I get back.

A Brief Period of Sobriety

August 12, 2010  |  journal entries  |  8 Comments

I decided not to drink in August. I’ve done a few periodic breaks from alcohol over the last few years, but I haven’t done that recently, so it was about time to try it again.

I like to practice not drinking, not necessarily because I think I have a problem with alcohol, but because at times I can lean too heavily on it to curb the anxiety I sometimes struggle with. It does seem to work, but I’m not sure that’s the best way to deal with it. Well, I know it isn’t the best way to deal with it, but it’s an easy way, and pretty effective.

A quick whiskey on the rocks and I am good to go. That tightness in my chest, the clutch around my heart, the panic, the cloudy mind, all lighten and start disappearing.

Someone told me once that I should be medicated if New York causes me so much anxiety and stress. I snapped back that if it got to that point, it clearly wasn’t healthy for me to be here, and I would leave. And as much as I hate to ever think that she could have possibly had a point, I have to wonder if that might be true. Of course there are things one can do before one medicates. I can change my lifestyle, change my nutrition, change my daily habits, exercise more. I think I’ve been overcompensating with alcohol, trying to avoid the realities of the stress of this city and the lifestyle here.

I remember talking to my therapist about this at some point, wondering if I was drinking too much. I wondered if drinking every single night—not to the point of drunkenness, just to the point of subduing the panic—was something I should look at, be curious about. She said she was more interested in my lack of restful sleep.

Well, now I sleep restfully. Now I don’t have to get up at 7:30 am to commute to a corporate job, and I get enough sleep. The nightmares are less. The insomnia is less, usually. My mind quiets and calms at night, usually.

But I still drink.

Aside from detoxing, aside from possibly dealing more directly with my anxiety, I want to cut down on the calories I take in. You’ve probably seen Kristen’s Twitter stream, she bakes constantly, and cooks delicious food, and while that makes me very happy, it has not been wonderful to my waistline. I’m struggling to squeeze into my old jeans. I’m also 31 now, and I think something happens to the metabolism in the late twenties-ish time, and my body just doesn’t process like it used to. Plus, though I’m no longer sitting at a desk at a corporate job all day every day, that also means I’m not making time on my lunch breaks for a trip to the gym, and I think some of my habits have changed. I need some new ones. I joined a gym, I’m back to jogging and lifting weights, I’m trying to get a regular schedule going.

One of my favorite writing and life mentors, Tara Hardy, has a poem talking about her sobriety, and says “Ask yourself, what would it mean if we all got collectively un-numb? In touch with possibility daily? That’s what I’m asking. Put nothing between you and your disappointment, and your grief, and your rage, and what they want us to believe is dangerous: hope. Desire. Need. Meet your need naked.” I’m thinking about this as I’m nearing the end of week two of this cleanse, this voluntary brief temporary period of sobriety, and as I keep thinking how easy it would be to pop open that beer that’s in the fridge.

I’m experimenting with a more focused and deliberate Buddhist path, too, and one of the Five Precepts is to abstain from escaping from consciousness—traditionally, this stated as abstaining from alcohol, but it can be many things that we use to turn our brains off, from a video game to a joint to whiskey to working out to mindless tv to surfing the Internet. The sangha I attend most often has a very contemporary interpretation of the precepts, seeing them as not so much as rigid guidelines as much as attempting to see their essence, to get at what the rule was getting at, and to apply consciousness to the practice. So it’s not so much about abstaining from alcohol as it is being mindful of the reasons why we are drinking, often the same reasons why I watch episode after episode of 30 Rock, or surf around on tumblr for hours.

I know I use alcohol to escape my mind, my suffering, my emotions.

What would happen if I did that less? What would happen if I had to sit with it more directly? To sit quietly with that pain and suffering, with the dukkha?

So I guess this brief stint of sobriety is attempting to experiment with that, too.

I’m also doing a sacred intimacy/tantra workshop in the end of August, a similar one that I did last year, only this year I am coordinating the workshop and attending as a staff member. I’m thrilled about that, one of my intentions for this year was to deepen my tantra practice, and my involvement with the tantra school with which I’ve been studying for almost ten years now took a leap. Every time I do one of these workshops, they recommend doing a little bit of detox and not ingesting substances like drugs or alcohol for the few days around the workshop, and I often do about a week of sobriety leading up to one of them. This time, I figured I would extend the time to an entire month, as an experiment, and see what happens.

It’s easy to drink. It’s harder not to, it’s harder to sit with what I’m going through and harder to order club soda and lime at a bar, harder to breathe through the social anxiety or excitement or turn down a nice glass of wine at dinner with friends. But it’s temporary. And perhaps I’ll learn something.