A Poem for the Closing of Workshops

Published in Erotix: Literary Journal of Somatics, forthcoming in August 2018

We have traveled. Alone and with each other, down deep and up high, from black and white to Technicolor: we are Dorothy in sparkling red shoes who have had the answer all along.

We started as the Ouroboros and we have travelled, have become the scales and spine and beating heart who discovers and devours our own tail, root to crown, recycling, ad infinitum. We complete the circle. We know how we come together to cauldron our stones and thick scented herbs and blue sea glass and red aching scars. We pour our every fluid into the center of the toroid. We are the body, our own body and the body of the circle.

We have become the Alchemist and we have travelled. We have put together our rucksack of tools and took part of the magic, drank of the passionate potion of our pheromonal feast. We made bone from feather, we made heart from stone. We found the scars and massaged until they slip-slided into skin. We bottled the essence of body plus courage plus desire plus prayer.

And now we are closing the circle. Stitching ourselves back up, stepping out into the life flow from this place of stillness and refuge.

When we leave here: again, we will travel, but this time back to whatever we left. Take a breath now into this feeling of the center of the body. Hold it. Lock it to the back of the heart. In the center of the merry-go-round, the tornado, the wheel, the toroid, and the self is the place of stability. On the rim, we are flung. But we have found stillness and we can return.

When we leave here: touch water. Go sit on the edge of the ocean and remember the jagged mountains and green-black kelp and monstrous sharks still under the flat surface. Go find a cobalt waterfall and enter it hand-first, enter it head-first, remember what it feels like to be a body that something rushes against and into. Go find a river that spends half the year as ice and ask how it freezes and thaws and freezes and thaws over and over.

When we leave here: know that with expansion comes contraction. It is the story of the universe, the oldest story, the one even before the sacred whores and healers, the one before the magic rush of one palm on the ground and one palm to the sky. It is a story even the water knows. What we take in may cut to the quick. Be cautious around toxicity, screens, urgency. Expect the contraction, and tend to the baby-green shoots that have dared put their root down and just begun to stretch the surface open.

When we leave here: reach out. We journeyed together and we can look again at each other with blinking eyes and say yes, that happened. Yes, our siren screams of pleasure brought the nourishing rains to soak the soil. Yes, fingers ankles collarbone hips. Yes, hello again beloved.

When we leave here: tell your story. Tell your story. Tell the story where we are the hero of our own journey, where our quest is one of continually knowing the self, now and now and now. Leave alone the stories of others, gorgeous and shimmering as they are, lodged as crystals in our open places. They are for our memories, our witness, and we leave them in the circle. Tell your story. Tell it slant. Tell it complete. But always keep a little for yourself.

It is time now to invoke our individuation, to come back into our own completeness. To carry what we have made together, a love note tucked between heart and ribcage. Together, we have traveled. And now together, we are going home.

The Mystical and The Profane

In late July, I spent five nights near Albuquerque, New Mexico, at a zen center on a hot springs. Body Trust held our fifth annual Portals of Pleasure advanced retreat for women and non-binary folks, and this year, I co-facilitated.

It was mystical. I spent a lot of time tapped in, channeling, connected. A hollow bone so spirit could fill me. Full-spectrum lit up from inside.

I don’t know if any of these things make sense. I live in fucking California now, and I see (what I judge as) superficial woo everywhere … I have a lot of critique. But I grew up “second generation woo,” as I like to say sometimes. My mom is more into astrology than I am, we celebrated the wheel of the year, and focused more on the mysticism of nature than any religion or beliefs. The spiritual system and lineage I work with now is more of a science than a religion, working with the body, health, connection, pleasure, being stable and centered, food as medicine, and experimenting with energy.

This is our 10th annual retreat, and each year has been a little different. After my spiritual revelation experience in March, I’ve been very tapped in and leaning hard on my spiritual practices, and I really wanted to bring some witchy, mystical — meaning, tapping into the mystery — kinds of things. We spent the five days exploring the idea of wildness, re-wilding, de-taming, un-taming ourselves, opening the body, rooting down into the earth, resourcing ourselves, re-sourcing as in returning to and feeling the source, and exploring desires. The concepts change every year, but a lot of the exercises are the same. I hesitate to go into them here, mostly because a workshop is often a very altered space … we create a container, an energy body, a field of energy and collaboration in which we play. We do rituals, experiments with our bodies, intentions, connection, touch.

I also really wanted to bring forward and teach rituals about dominance and submission, more play with polarities, and more penetration and reception.

All of that — and, of course, the intentions and brilliant teachings of the other facilitators and assistants and “circle technologist” who consulted about group dynamics — wove together, and it was one of the most potent years yet.

I’m struggling to portray what it meant to me, and to describe my personal experiences — spiritual breakthrough experiences? Mystical experiences? Experiences where I felt god? When I got back, and was high and blurry and open and strong and creative and in touch and light and fluffy, a friend asked: do you ever write about this? And I realize, I don’t, not really. At least, I haven’t for a long time. I did, a few years back, but honestly it was a little odd for folks who know me as Sinclair to show up at one of those workshops. They’re deeply intimate, though not really personal, which is a difficult thing to explain to folks. Some people have no problem meeting me in that space, but it has also at times felt like too much.

When I was writing about it more, I was still working with the Body Electric School, but things got very complicated for me in 2012 when my dad died and Kristen and I broke up and I moved to Oakland. Around then, the group of us who worked with Body Electric broke off to create Body Trust, and Sugarbutch and Body Trust started feeling more like two separate projects.

But as Patreons know, I’m still deeply involved with Body Trust, writing blog posts every month, working on our podcast, working on our books, and leading workshops. We have been working more on ephemera than in-person workshops lately, but we still lead this big deep dive of Portals.

If you want to be on the list and know what we’re doing, sign up and you’ll get invites to our workshops and such. The same co-facilitator and I are planning to do a tantra & SM workshop this fall/winter, and I have dreams of leading an embodied writing retreat soon.

A quick PS …

I’ve been reading and thinking and talking a lot about cultural appropriation, and examining my studying of Tantra. The lineage I am learning from is Kashmir Shivism Tantra, passed down from Swami Rama, former head of the Himalayan Institute. A few ‘generations’ back from me, my teachers began to queer things and translate them into different terms. Sometimes I’ve called it “holistic non-binary Tantra,” or “queer Tantra,” or, lately, “neo-classical Tantra” (though calling it that doesn’t so much highlight the queer af parts). I’m not sure how I’m going to go forward with my public talkings about Tantra, but I do know I’m going to remain a devoted student.

Introducing Erotix: Literary Journal of Somatics

For a few years now, I’ve been working on an anthology called Erotix: Literary Journal of Somatics. I put out a call in late 2016, thinking it would be a quarterly journal (!) published by Body Trust with the intention of putting some words to the erotic embodiment work we pursue, which is often mysterious. But the personal (trauma) crises I’ve been going through have kept me pretty much unable to get to my big projects since then, so it’s just sat in my inbox (and in the back of my mind, making me feel awful). On top of that, the submissions I received were somehow not quite what I was visualizing, though I couldn’t really put my finger on what I was visualizing to explain it, either. I thought I might have to do a second call for submissions.

But as I’ve been able to pick up projects — and complete them! — again this year, I’ve been tackling Erotix. It’s a smaller volume than I expected, but it finally came together in some sort of form that makes sense for me. No idea if I’m going to make other volumes — with the Best Lesbian Erotica project on my plate right now, it will probably be a little while before there is another one, but of course now that this is finished I’m excited and want to do more. I also don’t want to promise another one and then keep it incomplete for a long time.

But here it is, the first issue! I am excited to share it with you. It’ll be ready to buy in August.

Introduction

In an erotic embodiment workshop, though we may be loosely organized around a theme of exploration, we all come together with different stories. We have different lived experiences, different relationships to our bodies and to others, different wounds, different resiliency. Many of our stories explore the themes of connection, touch, rejection, care, transformation, power. Some of them overlap at the same resonant frequency, and when we find the tones that match ours, the moment of perfect harmony which comes out of cacophony can be a soothing balm of relief.

I find this to be true in anthologies, too. A group of stories, tied loosely around a theme, manifested through a writer but now a being in their own right, come together with different expressions. Through the various refracted perspectives, sometimes deeper truths emerge. Sometimes a resonance emerges like a singing bowl which can buoy, which can soothe. Sometimes each piece adds it’s own perspective on the melody, like the different instruments in an orchestra.

I’ve had a vision for Erotix as a literary journal of somatics, but it’s taken me some time to figure out what that is and how to share it with others. That process of articulating something is precisely part, in fact, of what I visualized. When starting to do work in erotic healing circles in the late 1990s, participants and staff alike were often counseled not to talk about it, because others who weren’t there and didn’t experience this transformative space wouldn’t understand. Amy Butcher’s essay, “Between Silence and Words,” explores this further. But in the two decades since then, we in the embodiment, somatic, transformative, and sacred erotic realms have begun articulating quite a lot — and much of the world is ready to hear what we have to say.

That is Erotix’s goal: to be a mouth and tongue to express, in the linear confines of the written word, what it is like to experience embodied erotic transformations. The differences in the content are too many to name — power dynamics, masturbation, temple, sensation from subtle to bold, intellect, skin, orgasm, kink, connection, friction, music, and countless more. Each experience is unique and individual. Yet seeing a dozen or so descriptions come together in one volume shows some commonalities, some themes: the wild and whimsical ways our bodies work, the healing power of pleasure, the navigation of reclamation, shameless exploration, and connecting beyond ourself and other to a greater consciousness all thread through. They also thread through week-long residential workshops where we pray and dance and soar, where we realign our Self and selves, where we circle in a lineage of women’s temples.

Though not everyone can be in temple with us, I hope that as you sit with this small volume of words and have a glimpse of what it might be like. Each of these contributors bring their body and desire to the page, and without each one, the circle of this book would not be complete.

Protected: Advice to Myself

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Vortex Poem, Or: What I learned these last 15 years of studying embodiment

Most of the time, my body has the answer. My own body, this vessel, this corporeal flesh with pulses and nerves and bone, these muscles that move me around and enable me to jump and reach and grasp and squat and pump. This unexplainable, inimitable machine that lets me experience the world through my senses, that gives my brain input about taste and smell and texture.

I’ve learned that there are many more senses than the five we tend to focus on: taste touch smell sight sound. There’s also thermoception, the ability to tell temperature. And magnetoception to sense the magnetic fields around us. And nociception—how our bodies sense pain.

If I can just find silence deep enough so that I can listen to what the synapses and blood cells are saying, I have found that my body has the answer. Sit still, she sometimes whispers to me. Or, Get up and move and move and move. Don’t stop. Keep going. Or, Goddamn, you need more root vegetables in your mouth. Make it happen.

The process of transformation is so minute, and so slow. I want it on a time-lapse like an bud opening into a huge white lily and then wilting to drip pollen all over the table. Maybe then we’d actually see how the light inside starts to seep through all the cracks, we’d see the ways that lightening strikes the same place over and over. Maybe it would make me laugh and laugh. Maybe I would feel that itch in my bones like when I am too tired to sleep but my body is overspun and needs dreams to recharge.

So I don’t really know how to explain to you what happened when I went into my first 3-day long weekend workshop when I was twenty, and how that paved a way to the path I’m on right now. I don’t know how to explain how hard it was to save $300 from my $60-week personal assistant job that usually covered my groceries but barely, and that I saved it anyway, and saved up every year after that, to make sure that I got to go back to that space. That space where there were women of all ages (these were all-women’s workshops, before there were queer options offered) took their clothes off and talked about their relationships to their bodies, the trauma and pleasure and amazing things that they have done, like birth and nurse babies, or how they create transcendent orgasmic experiences. I found a circle of women, and while I dabbled in studying wicca and feminism, and I knew hypothetically intellectually the power of women’s circles, I hadn’t actually experienced them until then.

And now I still go back. I crave the clarity that comes in circle, that feeling like I am sitting on top of a volcano and it is filling me from the bottom up, spilling out of the crown of my head and I am part of all that is. I crave the power that is generated by a group—so different and impossible to recreate when alone. We have so much energy in our bodies, so much power and potential that only needs the right outlet to plug into so it can be released, so it can be used to light up an entire city block.

I don’t just go back, though—now I spend a significant amount of my time studying how these circles work and how to lead and how to create the circumstance where the container of the circle is strong. I don’t just show up as a facilitator or an assistant, I create it for days before and close it for days after, spending time in meditation and in masturbation gathering and cultivating my own energy to try to form some temple out of thin air.

Maybe it’s hard to believe, from this point of view, but I have not always been able to ask for what I want. I have not always been able to take and allow and accept and give and receive in the beautiful ways that felt soul-nourishing like diving into the perfect clear mountain lake with shiny colorful soft pebbles at the bottom. At first it was just murky cloudy water, grey like the color of a sky when it can’t decide whether or not to rain. But everything got clearer as my connection to my body got stronger. I can feel more, I can tell what I want, I can tell when I’m hungry or when I’m thirsty, I can tell when I need touch and what kind of touch would be the most satisfying, I can tell when my arms get thick and my shoulders get tight that I just want to bust out my flogger and wail on someone for as long as they’ll let me. I can tell when I crave piercing skin or sliding in slow or being filled as thick and swollen as I can take.

The transformation, that’s the part that’s hard to put my finger on. I can tell you about the before and after, though. I can tell you how scary it used to be to tell a lover that I wanted something else, more, different, in bed. I remember listening to women in workshops talk about what they wanted and who they were and their growing edges, and I wanted what they had, I wanted to be that, to know what they knew. I didn’t know how to become someone who knew what I wanted, but I saw the next stone, the next step in the path, the next light down the way, and I followed and listened and followed, and when a sign post came up that said, Pssst, something useful is down that way, I took it seriously. I invested time and money and energy. I carved out the space, because I needed it, I needed a new way to be me in the world, a way that was less apologetic and desperate, that was more whole and holy and aligned and attuned.

Maybe that’s what I wanted most of all: the state of being so attuned to someone else that I’d feel psychic, or transparent, like all my thoughts were swirling around me in some sort of deconstructed vortex poem. That kind of physical attunement when our cells know each other, where our pulses swell and release at the same rhythm, where our blood pressure matches because we spent so much time with our hearts pumping next to each other. And I wanted that skill, that ability to dive so deep into someone else’s body.

I wanted to learn trust my body to tell me secrets like a conch shell. It’s not like that’s ever done, check, figured it out, it’s more like a work in progress, a pathway I strengthen every day. But at least now, I know what it is, what it possibly could be.