Purveyor of Pleasure

Delving into my humanity and the joys and pitfalls of an overanalytical nature.

Tag: work

I Want to Be the Lover

As I lie in bed getting ready to sleep tonight, I think of you. Yet again. This is especially the time my thoughts turn to you, when I’m too tired to resist them wandering in your direction, when I’m too tired to stop them after redirecting them for most of the day.

Tonight, though. Tonight my thoughts about you are curious, interested, and sad. They are always sad these days, full of grief over the relationship that never really was. The relationship that had so much potential and so little actual. And yet also contained so much.

I’ve been sad a lot these last few weeks. Going through a grieving process, certainly, and no longer able to hide in the distraction from the rest of my life that you afforded me for a while. Plunged back into the cold waters of uncertainty and fear for a while, and I’m just starting to get out of them now. Hopefully.

Tonight my thoughts turned to the way you often confused me with someone else, mistaking my motives or intentions with your abuser. I’ve experienced that from others in my life as well. I am, at this point, very used to the weight of other people’s projections onto me. Often I run from them, as unfortunately I do not yet have the skill to counter them. Yet. And my chameleon tendencies makes this process extra complicated.

I realized, though, more than I have before, why I keep choosing people in recovery. I realized I was choosing this a while ago, and was worried that means I am abusive or power-seeking. I believe is the opposite. People in recovery allow me to be small, and keep me invisible, keep me unseen. It’s easier to be unnoticed when the other person is taking up all the room. And recovery takes up a lot of room by necessity.

It takes a lot to heal from the deep wounds I witness and am drawn to. Part of my work is to help these wounds heal. Part of my work is to recognize and heal these wounds I have in myself. It is easier for me to be the healer than the human, the priestess than the lover. It is easier for me to be in a role than myself, easier to be helping than vulnerable. And I want to be vulnerable. I want to be human. I want to be a lover.

I was really trying with you. I tried so hard to be vulnerable, to be human, to be me. I still went into that priestess role sometimes. I still tried to help heal you. Those other roles will never not be there, of course, but I really am trying to be me now. Trying to be all of me, or as much as I can handle in any given moment. As much as me will show up through the fear and the uncertainty. Slowly, more and more of me is coming out.

Never Finished, Only Abandoned

I just can’t seem to get anything fully out of me.

Or I just can’t finish anything.

I try to write and leave drafts abandoned. I have started reading so many books that I have never finished. I have wanted to finish so many things. But, since Grad School, I’m not sure I can complete anything anymore.

It feels like Grad School PTSD.

And probably it is.

I had to work so hard to finish that thesis. That Thesis Baby I gestated for far too long and that nearly broke me as it came out. I strained myself beyond my limits and cracked myself wide open, with thousands of micro-tears running across every inch of me by the time I was through. No part of me untouched by the intensity of such a labor.

I used to love to read, to write.

But the words don’t want to come out anymore.

I have all these ideas and stories in me that need to get out, but I’ve been trapped, afraid. Now I disassociate when trying to write or read for almost any period of time. I can do it in short bursts sometimes, but can’t seem to successfully get through an entire poem or blog or chapter, starting to get locked up and anxious, uncomfortable, unable to focus, unable to breathe. I numb myself, yet again, because that is what I know to do. Freeze, but smile on the outside. Act like everything is fine while I’m actually dying inside.

That’s hyperbole.

Somewhat.

So, I sit. I stare at the page or the blinking cursor. Or I re-read the same paragraph or sentence over a few times, reading the words but not comprehending the meaning. I grow uncomfortable, then I distract myself with something else. More distraction. More uncomfortable feelings. I’m trying to sit with my feelings these days, really let myself feel whatever it is that is coming up rather than pushing it down, ignoring it, pretending it does not exist. Sometimes that looks like not doing the things I want to do. Sometimes it means I end up wanting to do things I didn’t think I would. I am becoming more real, I think, the more I feel. The more I feel the more I am willing to feel. The more I am willing to feel the more I’m willing to be vulnerable. That’s what it’s all really about, anyway.

Vulnerability as the antidote to numbness.

Beauty and connection as the draw toward vulnerability.

Those cracks and micro-tears across all of me are healing into tiger stripes across my flesh. Which is not to say that I am a tiger1, just that they are decorating me, have become part of me, permanently changed me, and remain visible to others. More of my insides are on the outside now. That cracking open was a changing, a growing, I’m more open and willing to be vulnerable, not just via the written word, but with actual humans in the room with me. I’m not as locked tight up with perfectionism, self-doubt, and fear of others as I used to be even six months ago. I’m still afraid, certainly, and I still doubt, and I still hate myself at times for saying or doing the wrong thing, but the time without those feelings is getting longer, greater.

What does it mean to finish anything, anyway?

Is it even possible?

There’s that Da Vinci quote “art is never finished, only abandoned.” Maybe I just don’t know when to abandon something and move on. I was told, repeatedly, that my thesis would never contain everything I wanted it to, would never be what I wanted it to be. I had changed so much through the course of writing it that I would not be satisfied with the finished result. I kept putting off the delivery date: first December, then March, then June. I could have revised it more, could probably have revised it for years. By the time I set it down I was so tired, so worn out from the months of labor pains and the massive internal bleeding that I was just done. It came out of me and I couldn’t bear to look at it for a while. I didn’t know what to do with myself for a while.

Postpartum depression, I suppose.

Postpartum abandonment, really.

This is the first thing I’ve gotten so close to finishing in what feels like a very long time. Even now, though, there’s always more to say.

  1. tai-ger? []

Reflection and Confirmation

As I write this, I am heading back to Seattle after yet another weekend in Portland. It was a quick trip this time revolving around presenting Saturday at the Death:OK Conference on creating Soul-based Ceremonies for Honoring Death. I was able to squeeze in a few visits with people, but there are plenty more that I missed connecting with because of time constraints.

The weekend was a very reflective one for me, and quite an opportunity to gain perspective on my work in the world and my approach to life going forward. I was deeply inspired by everyone I met at the conference, such deep rich humanity showed up, and such beautiful life.

This is not so much a change as a confirmation. It is ever more clear to me that trauma and grief are just as central to my work as love and pleasure and desire, because they have to be. They are not separate. At the center of it all is the beauty of the embodiment of humanity.

When I talk about wholeness, which I often do, i am really taking about working ever more toward experiencing and expressing all aspects of our own divine humanity–all its vulnerable, often messy, and ultimately beautiful forums.

It is about turning toward the depth of our own selves. Turning toward the parts of ourselves that we disavow and embracing them. Turning toward the emotions we try to ignore or stuff down and bringing them up so they can serve their purpose and we can understand what they have to teach us. And so much more.

On Graduating

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 jumped.
I fell.
I caught wind.
I flew.
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.

Heart Opening

I have so much aching in the heart of me
So old
So removed

The armor holding it in has been pierced
Slowly, access has been given
Tender smooth muscle exposed to the elements now
So frozen
So cold
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
Anything
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

Close to the End

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.

Feeling Deeply (thesis exerpt)

This is an exerpt from my Master’s thesis titled “Erotic Embodiment and Integration of Soul, Spirit, Body, and World: 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.

Both Lorde1 and Kraemer2 stressed the inherent experience of anti-oppression that embracing the erotic leads to. Lorde (2007) stated:

[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 SEP3: 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.

  1. Lorde, A. (2007). Sister outsider: Essays and speeches. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press. [] []
  2. Kraemer, C. H. (2013). Eros and touch from a pagan perspective: Divided for love’s sake. New York, NY: Routledge. []
  3. SEP: Sacred Erotic Psychology, the interdisciplinary field that I am crafting/creating and working within. []

Light at the End of the School Tunnel

For those of you who don’t know, I have been attending Antioch University since the Fall of 2011 working on a self-designed Masters program in Psychology. Last Wednesday, the 12th, I had my Application Project Plan Approval Degree Committee Meeting (yes, apparently the name is that long). I met with the three other people who will be assessing, evaluating, and helping me through the process of my Applied Thesis in my last three quarters at Antioch.

My plan for my thesis was approved, which means that today I am submitting the syllabus for the next three quarters of my Application Project! This is a big deal.

This means I am nearly at the end of my time at Antioch and will, at the end of the year, have a Masters in Integrative Studies in Psychology, focusing on Sacred Erotic Somatic Psychology. I plan to graduate at the end of Fall Quarter 2014.

The proposed timeline is: I will begin working on my Applied Thesis next quarter, starting in April, and I will finish in December, giving me nine months to work through the nine credits of my Application Project. I have been referring to this as my Grad School Pregnancy (“I’m pregnant with grad school,” I’ve been saying) and I plan to birth my Thesis Baby in December.

This also means that my time from now until December, with the exception of the breaks between quarters, will be extremely limited. I don’t yet know if this will be more limited than it has been in previous quarters, but I imagine that may likely be true.

I do at some point want to get back into writing on here on a regular basis and reviewing on my other site. I have aspirations, but I will likely not have time for that until December.

What Is Sexological Bodywork?

Ever since I decided to take the Sexological Bodywork Training and once I started talking about it I have been asked these questions over and over again: what is Sexological Bodywork? Who is it for? What does a Sexological Bodywork session look like? Here are my answers to those questions.

What is Sexological Bodywork?
Sexological Bodywork is somatic sex education that utilizes a variety of bodywork techniques in order to encourage the client’s whole erotic self to come forth. Sexological Bodyworkers are trained in breathwork, genital anatomy, masturbation coaching, sensual and erotic massage, and scar tissue remediation. We are educators rather than healers. Our goal as educators is to create a safe container within each session so that healing may occur when the client is ready.

Sexological Bodywork has been a certified profession recognized by the state of California since 2003. It was founded by Joseph Kramer and grew out of his work with The Body Electric School (which he also founded back in 1984). Since it’s inception it has spread beyond the California training to have Certified Sexological Bodyworker (CSB) Trainings in Austrailia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland.

There is an Association of Certified Sexological Bodyworkers as well as a professional code of conduct and ethics required by CSBs to follow.

Who is Sexological Bodywork for?
Anyone and everyone interested in having a deeper experience of their own erotic nature. Sexological Bodyworkers work with individuals, people in various relationship configurations, and groups in private sessions or within public workshops.

I believe everyone can benefit from a session or series of sessions with a CSB, as very few (if any) of us are fully embodied and having the type of sex and relationships we are desiring to have. Part of human nature is that we change. Our desires fluctuate and our bodily sensations change as our bodies change, as we change. We often get stuck in ruts with our own sexuality. We have a drive to continue to strive for improvement, but often our inner self is scared of change and grabs on to patterns that no longer serve us. Sexological Bodywork works at the basic level of humanity, with the body, in order to assist people to understand their own body and live more fully embodied lives. It is possible to have the sex life of your dreams.

It goes beyond sexuality and sexual functioning, though, as well. Joseph Kramer likes to say “if you want to change your life, change the way you masturbate,” though that also goes for the way you approach sex and sexuality in general. When we are receiving the kind of touch, love, and attention that we need deep down at our core both from ourselves and others we can truly blossom into all that we are meant to be and do our work in the world. That is what we as Sexological Bodyworkers help to facilitate in our clients.

What does a Sexological Bodywork session look like?
There is a wide range of possibilities for what a session looks like. It can be over the phone, on video chat, or in person. It can include discussion and coaching suggestions without touch, witnessing the client self-touch, erotic massage, and/or genital touch.

There is no one right way to do Sexological Bodywork, as long as it fits within the professional code of conduct and ethics. This includes the practitioner remaining fully clothed throughout the session; unidirectional touch, meaning the practitioner is touching the client and not the other way around; and the use of medical-grade gloves whenever genital touch is involved. All Sexological Bodyworkers bring their own personal background, experiences, and specializations to the table creating a slightly different experience from practitioner to practitioner, therefore a generalization outside of the professional guidelines is difficult to make.

Personally, while I have had some talk-only sessions, including the first session I have with any client, most of my sessions have included some form of touch with a focus on embodiment. This has not always included genital touch, but it is one of many options available. I begin and end most of my sessions with a practice from my spiritual tradition as a way to create a container of sacred safer space between us as well as to transition in and out of the session. After discussing the client’s experiences since our last session and goals for this session, we determine what we want to work with within the session to work toward their goals.

reclaimingsexbod

What’s Going On

Because I apparently can’t be bothered to write a proper blog post, even though I work on dozens of drafts in my spare moments (though those aren’t many at this time in the quarter, which is almost over), I’m going to list a few of the exciting things that have developed in my life since I’ve last written.

Work Stuff:

  • My Sexological Bodywork Training Program is almost over. The end of module three of that will be this Thursday, and I am planning on being finished with all the work for it that day. Thus soon I will be a Certified Sexological Bodyworker. There will be a post more directly about Sexological Bodywork before Thursday, also.
  • I’ve begun seeing clients, primarily as part of the aforementioned module three. Currently I have three clients I’m seeing weekly, though that will shift a bit for the next couple of weeks for the end of the quarter rush-to-write period I always end up in. I’ve put up Embracing Pleasure, my professional site, but it is still under construction. I plan on seeing clients in a part-time way until I’m out of school.

School Stuff:

  • I’ve changed the name of what I’m studying since I first wrote about it. I’m now calling my degree Sacred Erotic Somatic Psychology. Technically it will simply be a Masters in Psychology, but my final project will reflect what I have been studying. I have a Paint-made venn-diagram of my degree program here (one of my degree committee members loves venn diagrams):
    psych-spirit-sex-venndiagram2
  • The current (Spring) quarter will be over June 21st, and then I’ll have a few weeks off before summer quarter starts. I’ll be taking only one class this summer at Antioch: an independent study focused on the work of Dan Siegel and Brene Brown. This is part of why I love my school. Still ironing out the details for it, even though the independent study contracts were due already (oops).
  • Also this Summer I will be attending the Summer Institute on Sexuality, Culture and Society at the University of Amsterdam! I have plane tickets already and will be heading over there on July 11th and returning to Seattle on August 12th. I’m so amazingly excited about this! It will be a fantastic experience, it feeds right into my degree (the credits should1 just transfer over), I get a neat certificate at the end of it, and I get to study in Amsterdam for four weeks! So much awesome.

Blogging Stuff:

  • I changed my online names from ScarletLotus to TaiKulystin2 in social media places (such as Twitter and Fetlife). Kind of working on a rebranding thing, I guess. It isn’t my “real” name, but it’s the name on my business cards and the name most people in the world know me by. Even at school I go by “Tai,” but not Tai Quyn Kulystin. Kulystin is the last name Onyx and I chose for ourselves quite a while ago, though we are not married and are not planning on getting married, but we go by the same last pseudonym online. This isn’t really that new of news, but I haven’t talked about it on here.
  • There’s a newish layout on this blog that I haven’t mentioned in a post. There is also a new layout on my sex toy review blog, which is now called Shameless Pleasure (used to be Wanton Lotus Reviews). I haven’t posted on there in ages, but I do have a number of toys to review. That will happen eventually.
  • There’s a new banner/navigation ribbon thing up at the top of my pages that link to each other. If you’re looking at the site, rather than reading through email or a reader, there should be a red ribbon up at the very top of the page linking to my professional site, my sex toy review site, pleasurists, and this site. I unashamedly stole the idea from Erika Moen‘s sites.

Other Stuff:

  • There have been some changes and shifts in my relationship with Onyx again (as per usual at this juncture). I’m still seeing three other people, some more frequently than others. He’s started seeing someone regularly. Life is going on as it goes. There will eventually be a blog post about all this. Probably multiple.
  • My birthday is coming up at the end of the month3. Two of my closest friends who both live in Oregon are going to be coming up here for it, which I’m quite excited about. I’m planning on a bit of a birthday bash out and about around Seattle, which will include dinner, table top games, and then dancing at the local private goth club. This may be the most excited about a birthday that I’ve been in years.

The finer details of all of these things will be shared as they happen… probably. I’ve got so much to write about and so little time! Hopefully you enjoyed this little update of my life.

  1. crossing fingers as I will have to have them evaluated once they’re awarded to me, but there probably will not be any problem with it. []
  2. though I’ve been contemplating using TaiQuyn or TaiQuynKulystin instead for the sake of continuity as I can’t have TaiKulystin on Facebook… Hmm []
  3. I would not say no to some items from my amazon wishlist if you are so inclined []

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