After an amazing weekend where I put on (with the help of so many other wonderful people) the first temple in my home and the first where I was the lead, the hierophant, the ultimate-in-charge person, etc. I am ready to spend the day relaxing and focusing on my own pleasure. Art, reading, snuggling, and funny videos are all on the menu, as well as some of the delicious leftovers from the catered weekend.
The weekend ritual-workshop-retreat went delightfully. Much releasing, much expressing, much being, much phoenixing (it’s a verb, you know), and so much more. I infused some bits of my own personal mythology into the programming, shifted and shared some parts of my own self that are often reclusive, and witnessed so much bravery in vulnerability and beauty of those around me that I was brought to tears multiple times. And so much gratitude. Holy fuck, I have so much gratitude for everyone who participated, supported me, shared themselves, and helped to make it what it was.
Back in the end of June, in the last week of my Master’s program, the week before graduation, I described the sensations of anticipation that I was feeling as standing on a precipice. I was looking down at the darkness beyond the jagged cliff below, knowing that I needed to leap into it, and not knowing if I would fly or fall.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote: “we have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” I had been growing and constructing wings throughout the process of school, occasionally testing them and often falling flat on my face. I knew I needed to take that step. Intellectually I knew that the wings would hold me, but I had never had the visceral experience of flying. I was terrified. I could only do so much development in preparation for these jumps, these leaps into the unknown, the rest had to be done mid-air.
I caught wind.
Then I fell some more.
I have been developing and refining and fixing the wings as I’ve been soaring (and falling and soaring and falling and…) since the end of June.
This last weekend was another cliff. This time, my wings were stronger, more developed. I already had the experience of flying embodied within me, so I was not nearly as terrified. Or I was a different kind of terrified, the kind that propelled me forward.
This weekend was another kind of graduation for me, the culmination of the priestess training I started five years ago. It was a moving more fully into myself and my leadership, and attempting to do so mindfully, with humanity, with gratitude, with compassion, and with the backing of a community.
It was heart-opening and deeply awoke me to another layer of my own worthiness I had not accessed before. Like so many of us I have long struggled with worthiness, of feeling worthy of love and attention and belonging. I’m sure I will continue to struggle, this is not the end of it, but it was a step in the direction of wholeness.
Now, I look forward to the next cliff. Still terrified. Still moving forward.Labels:Aphrodite Temple, becoming, Being and Becoming, coming into myself, commUNITY, growth, growth requires the temporary suspension of security, love, on the path to wholeness, opening in new ways, phoenix, pleasure, school, something new, struggle, understanding my own worthiness, vulnerability, wholeness, wholing, work, worthiness
I have so much aching in the heart of me
The armor holding it in has been pierced
Slowly, access has been given
Tender smooth muscle exposed to the elements now
So just daring to hope for more
Just barely daring
Just enough to be proven to that love can penetrate it
Love can penetrate me
Love can penetrate everything
That’s why it’s so important
That’s why I do this work
I look forward to be shown what love can do
Let myself open in ways I have helped others open
Blossoming into fullness
The completely bearable fullness of being
Being alive inside
Trusting to be held
Not quite there yet, but I’m working on it. I need to be done with writing my thesis soon. In the next few days, really. I will still have editing and other sorts of work to be done for it, and I will have to get on the task of figuring out what I will do for my symposium, so I will be far from completely done in the next few days, but I will have the writing of it completed and be in the home stretch.
Of course, I’ve thought this before, and every time I think I’ll be done something happens to get in my way. I had set aside all of this past week, from Sunday to Saturday, for thesis writing, and what happened? I woke up Monday morning with strep throat. Of course. But I’m on track again and actually getting writing done. Just have to actually let myself focus and not get distracted with everything and anything else.
There is no longer a question in me as to if I will *actually* be done, if I can actually get it done, if I can break through all the internal barriers and beliefs that I have held for so long that tell me that it’s not okay for me to do a work like this for one reason or another. I have done so much work on myself in the last few years since I started grad school, and it seems to have hyper-condensed in the last thirteen months since I started writing my thesis.
Thirteen months! Sheesh. I hoped to be done in nine, but often life doesn’t turn out the way we plan. Of mice and men and all that. I’m excited, though. I’m excited to be done, to move to the next chapter of my life, to see what lies beyond grad school. Grad school, this thing that has taken up so much of my time and my life for the last nearly-four years. I come out of it a completely changed person. So many of my patterns have been investigated and bent, at least, if not broken. So many of the things I thought were part of me, that I would never get out of, like my depression or certain anxieties, have been nearly completely abandoned for other ways of being. In short, I have changed.
Now as I am nearing the end of this monster of a project that I chose to undertake, this 150-plus-page beast that I have chosen to
slay tame and ride on the back of as I go into the future, I am amazed at the work I’ve already done. It’s going to be my first masterpiece, this Master’s piece of mine. It won’t be perfect, it probably won’t even be super polished, but it will be finished and it will be mine. The culmination of my past learning and desires for the future all wrapped up into one long-ass Master’s thesis. Here’s to that.
This is an excerpt from my Master’s thesis titled “Erotic Embodiment and Integration of Soul, Spirit, and Body: Toward a Sacred Erotic Psychology Healing Praxis,” it is a piece from the Introduction
To say it is difficult to write about embodiment is an understatement. Writing is a tool of the mind and splits us off from bodily experience. Language cannot fully capture the essence of being embodied, of being in a body, or of bodily sensations and emotions, but it can try. For the most part, language brings us out of our bodies and puts us apart from ourselves, especially language in an academic framework where one is compelled to be aware of sentence structure, word choice, proper citation methods, and so on. The question of how I can write an academic work on embodiment is one I have been grappling with since before I began writing it. The language that most closely aligns with the body is imaginal and poetic. With exception of the praxis chapter, my use of poetic imaginal language has been limited. I have not engaged with the imaginal and poetic nearly enough. Here is an attempt.
I really value each of the realms of spirit, soul, and body and the various ways they each manifest in the world, and I know that of these three realms the body is the most denigrated. This culture has a body problem. It has a problem in all three realms, really, but the way we approach the body is so much more backwards and twisted in my experience. We do everything we can to avoid focusing on our bodies, and that includes me. I have spent a lot of my own life hating my body, treating it as separate from my essential self, or ignoring its needs, feelings, and warnings.
My body has stiffened from the chore of sitting in front of a computer, writing (or attempting to write), while fighting against all the internal blocks I have against doing this work, my work. I can feel it in my shoulders and the back of my neck in the tension that creeps its way up and down from my head to my lower back. I get hit with it when I stretch, arching my back to hear the cacophony of crunchy popping sounds as my vertebrae realign themselves, and suddenly the release of tension sends a momentary throbbing spiraling up all the way to my temples. I can feel it in my knees and hips, the way I hold myself as I walk, where on my feet I place emphasis. I can tell when I am resisting the process and when I am not coming to my work with all of my strength by the way that I sit, passively and slouched or tall and engaged. I can feel it in how I am holding my teeth and tongue, the crack of my jaw when I yawn, the bend of my left knee when I take a step (am I fully bending it, or dragging that foot as I move?), or the pop of my right ankle when I get a twinge or stiffness in it that needs to be rotated out. My body tells me things, and I choose to listen to it or not, though the more I do this work the less I can ignore it. I notice the tension, I breathe, I move.
I do not claim to be perfect at my own methods, or to have mastered embracing the theories and praxis described in this thesis. In fact, what is driving me to do the work that I am dedicated to doing in the world, the work that this thesis is but a fraction of, is my own struggles with embodiment, connection, and belonging. I have been experiencing my own process as I have been writing about it, articulating only as far as I have been able to traverse my own self. Thus through this process I have had to feel my way through it just as much as I have had to work my way through it. I have had to nurture my own self, to build up the strength and self-love and self-compassion. To bring awareness to the things that I do, conscious and unconscious, and the patterns that I am enacting and reenacting within myself and with my lovers, friends, and family. I have gone through some major shifts and realizations within myself through this process, and also know that it is not over. This is just the beginning.
In going through this process of embracing my emotions and letting them flow, of excavating my own shadow and my own past, of working to understand the patterns laid inside of me back in the time of childhood and pre-verbal processing that still run me, of attempting to experience exquisite embodiment of the Self that is called Tai in this incarnation, I have had to confront most if not all of the parts of myself that keep me back. My self-sabotage. As with everyone, all of my issues are interlocking, threads in the tapestry of my life that interact and intersect, not just discrete problems that can be approached completely independently of each other. I have had to face head-on my own fear, grief, shame, anger, some nasty patterns of internalized oppression and repression. I have had to confront my fear of taking up my own space and what it looks like to put something so large as a personal sacred erotic manifesto into the world. This work details the entirety (so far) of my life’s purpose and my understanding of spirituality, sexuality, psychology, and their interactions with each other, and I am really taking up my own space by declaring my own mastery of it. I have also had to process and move through the grief I experienced surrounding the very sudden death of my father, and the emotional and psychological patterns instilled in me generationally and personally through him. I have recognized the shame I have held on to around being my true authentic self in a society that reviles people like me in multiple intersections of my identity. I have had moments of intense jealousy and shame around my relationship with my primary partner, and due to our interlocking patterns around intimacy and attraction we have, on occasion, fallen down the rabbit hole of destructive behavior.
Shame has been a large factor in my excavation process, and shame is necessary to face when doing this work. Emotions are necessary to face when doing this work of the body. To this end the work of Brene Brown and Karla McLaren have been indispensable to me. I have realized the amount of emotion processing that goes on in the face of change, and know that is a vital aspect of becoming. All emotions are particularly powerful, necessary, and important. They each have a reason for coming up when they do and a particular purpose or gift to share with us, if we are open to them. This entire thesis process has been an emotional one, and has impacted my body as such.Labels:becoming, becoming a sex educator, being-becoming-itself, connection, education, embodiment, endings are also new beginnings, endless amounts of change, erotic embodiment, Erotic Embodiment and Integration of Soul Spirit and Body: Toward a Sacred Erotic Psychology Healing Praxis, Graduate School, growth requires the temporary suspension of security, I've maybe actually figured things out, learning, overthinking overanalyzing separates the body from the mind, poetry, poetry is not a luxury, pregnant with grad school, processing through writing, psychology, ride the spiral to the end, Sacred Erotic Psychology, sacred erotic somatic psychology, that thing I've been working on for over nine months, the only way through it is through it, thesis baby, thesis excerpt
This is an exerpt from my Master’s thesis titled “Erotic Embodiment and Integration of Soul, Spirit, and Body: Toward a Sacred Erotic Psychology Healing Praxis,” it is a piece from the Theoretical Foundation chapter, Sacred Eroticism as Ontology section.
To further understand the self-deepening and embodied feeling inherent in the erotic, I turn once again to Audre Lorde1, who wrote:
[The erotic] is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves. . . . the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing. Once we know the extent to which we are capable of feeling that sense of satisfaction and completion, we can then observe which of our various life endeavors bring us closest to that fullness. (p. 54)
Thus, feeling is the first step toward healing our disconnection from our erotic lifeforce and experiencing the power of the erotic. Through fully embracing our own erotic experiences of satisfaction we are given access to our deeper and full Self. Through this experience of feeling we can determine where we are numbing out, freezing, or paralyzing, and where we need to expand our experience of emotions, pleasure, and sensations. We can also discover where our passions and desires lie through this same process. This is a wholly embodied process that is also cyclical. The more we feel the more we are embodied, and the more we are embodied the more we feel.
Another natural byproduct of both individual and cultural erotic expansion is the emerging of an anti-oppressive ethic that is inherent in this type of engaging with and experiencing the world. Through this process of individual growth and becoming, we bring these developments to the culture at large. This encourages us as a culture and species also move toward sacred embodied living. An anti-oppressive ethic is referring to a life ethic, or a value-based ideology. In this instance, the value is equality, diversity, justice, and self-expression as well as opposition to suffering, inequality, and discrimination. This ethic arises through the understanding of and connection with one’s higher self and soul’s purpose because of the centering of pleasure, wholeness, and authenticity that occurs when embracing the erotic.
[One] important way in which the erotic connection functions is the open and fearless underlining of my capacity for joy. . . . This is one reason why the erotic is so feared, and so often relegated to the bedroom alone, when it is recognized at all. . . . In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial. (p. 56-58)
This shift in personal experience and willingness to oppose the programming of the culture at large is at the essence of this anti-oppressive ethic. There is a compliance and complacency that one is required to buy into when unconsciously perpetuating intersectional oppression, either outwardly or internally. This shift toward the erotic, or the shift toward understanding our own individual capacities for joy and our own sources of personal power, is a shift away from accepting the narratives of oppression and obedience ingrained in all of us from the dominant culture. Embracing our erotic natures is a move toward self-understanding, sovereignty, and authenticity. This occurs through the recognition of, acceptance of, and responsibility over one’s own desires, joy, and pleasure.
The closer we are to full-bodied feeling and wholeness of Self, the closer we are to understanding our own sacred erotic natures and reason for being. This is the ultimate goal of SEP((SEP: Sacred Erotic Psychology, the interdisciplinary field that I am crafting/creating and working within.)): to assist individuals, groups, and the world toward individuation and the understanding of their soul’s purpose. The particular way I go about this is through investigating the erotic, and the archetypal, mythological, and metaphorical relationships the individual has with the erotic and the body. To this end, sexuality, emotions, connection to and understanding of the sacred, archetypal engagement, past experiences, family dynamics, complexes, the shadow, personal and cultural experiences of power, and many other aspects of the Self must be investigated and integrated within the life of an individual to work toward embracing what I refer to as one’s Whole Erotic Self.
- Lorde, A. (2007). Sister outsider: Essays and speeches. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press. [↩] [↩]
- Kraemer, C. H. (2013). Eros and touch from a pagan perspective: Divided for love’s sake. New York, NY: Routledge. [↩]