The Ins and Outs of Penetration

Men are built to penetrate, not only anatomically, but also emotionally and energetically. Several years ago, I was putting my five-year-old son to bed. We were indulging in the practice of finding creative ways to express our enormous love for each other. I told him I loved him so much my heart was going to explode. He took that in, grinned, and in a moment of inspired one-upmanship said, “I love you so much, my heart is going to explode right into your mouth so you can swallow it.”

“I love you so much, my heart is going to explode right into your mouth so you can swallow it.”

On another occasion, in a genuine burst of affection, he said, “Open up your love hole, Mom, and let me fill it up.” Terrified by the loss of innocence I might detect, I asked nervously, “Where exactly is my love hole?” To which he matter-of-factly (and to my great relief) replied, “Your heart!”

My son’s expressions of love and affection are devoid of sexual meaning for him. He has no idea about such things, but the energy behind his words got me thinking. I often observe my son moving through the world with ferocious enthusiasm—on the soccer field, on his scooter, the way he hurls his whole body at me when he wants a hug.

It’s beyond how he thinks or acts; it’s who he is. And it’s how he loves.

Neuroscience tells us that that a small almond-shaped structure, deep in our anterior temporal lobe, called the amygdala, plays a big role in our emotional reactions and emotional memories. It is widely accepted that women have smaller and more efficient amygdalas, which enables them to have more emotional memories and engage in what scientists call “ruminative thinking.” There are other gender-based differences in our brains. The right and left hemispheres are connected by tissue called corpus callosum, and men have less of it. Women spend more time acting and speaking from both sides of their brains. Men think and act more linearly, leaving emotion and intuition out of the equation.

“The male brain is programmed to systemize, while the female brain is taught to empathize.” —Simon Baron-Cohen

According to Simon Baron-Cohen, Cambridge University Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, “The male brain is programmed to systemize, while the female brain is taught to empathize.” Perhaps the most obvious difference in the brains of men and women happens in the womb. A female brain in utero is bathed in estrogen; a male brain in testosterone.

Largely in an effort to understand the nature, causes, and prevalence of autism, Baron-Cohen conducted multiple studies looking at the amount of testosterone a baby is exposed to in the womb and then followed them through their infancy and early childhood, evaluating their capacity for human connection. About testosterone, he says, “The more you have of this special substance, the more your brain is tuned into systems and the less your brain is tuned into emotional relationships.”

All this is not to say that men don’t empathize and women don’t systemize. Each of us is a unique combination of all aspects of the human condition. But there is something compelling in organic gender polarity that has inspired books like John Gray’s, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex, and has made the work of David Deida author of The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire so wildly popular. All we have to do is look around to see and feel how men are more equipped to slide through the world, moving in and out of situations and relationships systematically, without getting bogged down by their emotions.

While men are driven to penetrate, as women, it is our nature to want to be filled up by something other than ourselves.

When I described my heart exploding with love for my young son, the vision was that a warm effervescent blanket would unfurl from my chest and wrap him, contain him and ultimately taking him in. While men are driven to penetrate, as women, it is our nature to want to be filled up by something other than ourselves. The outward expression of this is the way we nurture—whether it’s our children, our lovers, or the world in general. We invite people into our warm embrace.

The passive version of this expression is our desire to be taken, to be penetrated. As women, we hold so much. Most of us have a complex matrix of things and people to take care of—responsibilities. And in the hierarchy of needs, we usually put ourselves last. At the end of the day, we long for a lover to take us away, to force us to let go, to bring us beyond reason—to fuck us senseless.

In the tradition of Tantra, the Divine feminine quality is Shakti—fluid energy, manifestation, and change. The Divine masculine is Shiva, or pure consciousness—the solid, unlimited, unchanging observer. Shiva has no desire, he is the blank screen onto which Shakti projects her desires in full Technicolor drama. When a man and woman come together in alignment with this paradigm, it can be a powerful way to connect not only to each other, but also to explore ourselves and own nature as an expression of this universal principle. Our longing to be fucked senseless is rooted in the desire for Shiva to penetrate the maelstrom of our own dynamic energy and propel us into another state of consciousness—an argument could be made here for the benefits of having “mind-blowing” sex.

The trouble with all this penetration is what happens when it’s not happening.

For a woman, there is a feeling of completeness when a man is inside of her (or a baby, for that matter). She walks around with a hole in her physical body (her vagina, her womb), but also in her subtle body.

The question is: How do we cultivate a healthy emptiness?

It is easy to confuse the absence of something as a loss, the space as a vacuum. It is tempting to try to sate the hunger as if we are starving, while we resort to filling ourselves up by eating, smothering our children, or engaging in co-dependent relationships. Ironically, the more we try to fill ourselves up, the lonelier we feel.

In her song, Down to You, Joni Mitchell declares, “Everything comes and goes, marked by lovers and styles of clothes. Things that you held high and told yourself were true, lost or changing as the days come down to you.” Allowing the flow of life, of lovers, and of love requires some willingness to tolerate discomfort, but far less than the suffering that results from trying to fight it or to clinging to things past their point of completion.

Holding our internal space is a muscle that can be developed over time.

Holding our internal space is a muscle that can be developed over time. Resisting the urge to fill ourselves up with something other than ourselves gives us room to connect with ourselves, to recognize our own voices, to feel our own desires. Relaxing into our inner space affords us the awareness of choice. It is a powerful place to feel sovereignty over who and what we choose to let in and out.

As Joni suggests, it all comes down to us.

When we learn to feel complete in our natural emptiness, to embrace the potentiality in the space, we begin to align with the natural cycles of life, birth, death and rebirth, in a way that makes sense of our true nature, as vessels, of life and love.

 

Worshipping Pussy

It’s not hard to see that the world is out of balance. Old systems and structures are breaking down—both globally and individually—as it feels like we are heading for either annihilation or a rebirth. We have been ensconced in a kind of masculine, rational, linear, problem-solving paradigm for centuries and the disintegration of what no longer serves is an opportunity for the feminine to rise. Already in corporate culture we are beginning to see a trend towards a more feminine leadership style: collaborative and process-oriented as opposed to more the typically masculine, hierarchical and goal-oriented style. I’ll save it for a longer post at some point soon, but what I am beginning to see clearly is that we have largely lost touch with a fundamental devotional relationship with the physical manifestation with the feminine: PUSSY.

I believe (and I am not kidding), if we would adopt a universal practice of regular yoni worship, we would naturally become a compassionate, loving society and the world would energetically recalibrate to support this new paradigm.

There is a people in Rwanda and Uganda who worship the feminine in this way. In this practice,  called Kachabali in Uganda and Kunyaza in Rwanda, a man uses the head of his penis to massage the clitoris, labia, and opening of the vagina with circular, up-and-down and side-to-side motions. The vagina is also tapped or slapped rapidly, while he holds his shaft like a flashlight, between his thumb and fingers. When touched this way, many women experience multiple, squirting orgasms. Even the 80% of women who have difficulty with vaginal orgasms, find that the clitoral stimulation Kachabali/Kunyaza provides wakes up all the pleasure centers between her legs.

I came across a poem by writer, Erika Harris, which describes Kachabali/Kunyaza. It is one of the sexiest pieces of writing I have experienced. See what you think…

 

King of Kachabali. King of Kunyaza
By Erika Harris

He reads her labia
as the sacred script that it is.
He is a pussy devotee,
and he has been endowed
with The Power Of The Hand.
And also, The Power Of The Wait.
He has the power to wait for her, without hurry
or expectation. He is genitally generous.
Circling and churning her honey-pot.
His wrist rotates… spins, like a whirling dervish.
Cockwise. Counter-cockwise.
He wants only to reunite the glans of his erect penis
with the glans of her erect clitoris.
He will let supple, sensitized skin do its thing.
He will not frantically plow into her…
like a big, dopey porn-ox.
This wise womb-worshipper knows
that most of the best-feeling places
in her vagina-temple are actually near its doors.
The lipsss.
So that is where he puts all his focus and energy,
simply sliding slickness all around there…
rhythmically tapping and gliding between her slippery folds
with his warm, silky head… penetrating ever-so-briefly,
and not even all the way…
This teasing, pulsing prayer makes her vulva,
with its 8,000 clitoral nerve endings, reach toward him
like a hungry mouth, wide open to this attentive King
who brings her from dry to drenched.
From thirsty to quenched.
Y’know misogyny? This is the opposite.
If ever something could transform
patriarchy into ecstasy, this is it.
Such giving Kings, your Queens adore you.

Getting Back on the Horse: Literally and Metaphorically

We hear from many sources from Ram Dass with his seminal Be Here Now, to Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now about being present in the moment. By now, we are well-versed in the benefits of mindfulness and the awareness of what is right in front of us. We know that living in the past limits our potential and worrying about the future inhibits our behavior. But every once in a while it is helpful to look back, to acknowledge growth and expansion. This is especially true with regard to healing after a break-up. I wrote this piece nine years ago. It serves not only as evidence of my own progress, but as a reminder of the value of resilience.

•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •

In the last several months, I’ve taken up horseback riding. Until recently, I had had a single experience on a horse when I was 17 on a camping trip in upstate New York with my high school boyfriend. Let’s just say that it was short-lived and ended with the horse running back to the stable after nibbling my feet. I asked for my money back.

My mother is a classic New York Jew who believes if you perspire, you are working too hard and should immediately return to the air-conditioned salon to dine on chopped chicken liver and cucumber sandwiches while reading a good book.

I was never what you would call an athletic kid. It’s not that I wasn’t fit. I danced from the age of three—ballet, modern, and tap. I was raised by intellectual, artist-types. My mother is a classic New York Jew who believes if you perspire, you are working too hard and should immediately return to the air-conditioned salon to dine on chopped chicken liver and cucumber sandwiches while reading a good book. My father is a tenderhearted, philosophical Norwegian. His Scandinavian stoicism allows him to endure root canals without anesthesia and shovel snow in little more than a T-shirt, but somehow that stoicism didn’t make its way into his workout ethic. My parents could not have been more loving and supportive, but they did not push the sports.

In my 20s, I discovered yoga and hiking. In my 30s, I started snowboarding and kayaking. In my 40s so far, skiing and horseback riding. Though I have slammed my body against the mountain numerous times by “catching an edge,” what happened yesterday morning was far different.

It was about the ninth or tenth time I’d been riding. I was alone with David, who has been on horses his whole life. He is English and a retired polo player as well. We often ride with our kids and take it easy, trotting with an occasional canter if one of the horses decides to cut loose. This ride was intended to let us run. We were riding horses that we often ride; he was on Twister and I was on Cherokee. After a little warm up, David took off and I followed. He cantered ahead of me. Cherokee was reluctant to go and being inexperienced, I didn’t force her. Recognizing we were falling far behind, she decided she’d better catch up and she picked up her feet. We got a good pace going, but when she lost sight of the others, she broke into a full gallop. It was faster than I had ever ridden and it was magical.

This time, when Cherokee took it from canter to gallop, it was smooth and graceful. For a moment, I got lost in it. I was flying.

One of the things I have learned is that you have to hug the horse with your legs. Standing in the stirrups, your lower body must be engaged as if it is part of the horse, providing an independent suspension system. With my very limited experience, I am very comfortable walking and trotting, but as soon as we start cantering, I become conscious of every nuance of the motion and how my body feels in that moment, making sure I stay balanced. This time, when Cherokee took it from canter to gallop, it was smooth and graceful. For a moment, I got lost in it. I was flying. We caught David and Twister and took a breath.

Palos Verdes has a bridle path covered in mulch. It winds around behind “horse properties” and through some commercial stables. It’s beautiful, even on a grey morning threatening rain, as it was yesterday. When we reached a straightaway, we decided to run some more. Again, Cherokee and I watched our friends disappear in front of us. I stood up and pressed my heels into her ribs. She responded and started to run.

This would be a good place to acknowledge that there is a tremendous amount of trust required to get on the back of a horse and ask it to gallop away. I am not sure I really grasped that until I was in the saddle doing it. I can’t think of another experience in which my wellbeing has been in the hands (or hooves) of a living, breathing being with whom I can’t even have a basic conversation. Feeding her a few carrots as the ranch hands saddled her up is not the same as if I had been able to share a few laughs over a beer, or at the very least, discuss the weather.

So there we were, running on the path and I felt her stumble. My mind raced. What was I supposed to do?

So there we were, running on the path and I felt her stumble. My mind raced. What was I supposed to do? I remember being told to put my feet forward and flex them so if she went down I might project forward and land on my feet rather than my head. It’s mostly a blur, but I do know this. She recovered her footing. I did not. I was thrown to the right and lost my left stirrup. For a short time as we were galloping along, I thought I might be able to hoist myself back up into the saddle. I was hanging on with everything I had and trying to figure out how to pull back on the reigns to slow her down. But it was happening so fast, and I was sliding further off-center. There was a definitive point at which I decided I’d better bail if I wanted to have an ounce of control in how I was going to fall.

I can’t believe I am falling off a galloping horse.

I was shocked at the sound my body made as it hit the ground. If I was going to try to describe it, I’d say it went, “thud.” The impact was hard enough to knock the piss out of me…literally. And then the pain. I couldn’t form words. I moaned. Apparently I had yelled for David on the way down because he was riding back towards me asking me if anything was broken and if I could move all my parts. It took me a minute to be able to answer him. For one thing, I hit my head really hard. I was smart enough to be wearing a good helmet correctly. I also know how to fall: Tuck and streamline your body. Whatever you do, don’t stick a limb out trying to break the fall. The only thing you’ll break is that limb. So after wiggling each identifiable body part (intentionally), I got up. No permanent damage. My ribs are sorely bruised and I’ve got some road rash (or mulch rash), but I am lucky, and made some good decisions on the fly. A stronger rider would not have gone down. But given the particulars of my situation, I believe I did as well as I could. At least that. I got back on Cherokee (who was standing over me looking concerned) and we rode back to the stable.

In the day and a half since the accident, I have thought about the next time I ride. Suddenly the phrase, “getting back on the horse” has new meaning.

Early this year I ended a ten-year relationship. In an overarching kind of way, I am happy and healing and thankful to have my life back. As is normal, I continue to work through feelings of hurt, betrayal, disappointment and anger, the legacy of which tends to surface in facing new relationships. A classic dilemma: How do I surrender to vulnerability? How do I know that the person I am entrusting with my emotional safety—my heart—is not going to stumble along the way, throwing me so far off center that I have to bail. The parallel is not lost on me. In some respects, I had been riding a creature with whom I couldn’t have a basic conversation.

In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I will be riding again. I am sure I’ll find some challenging moments. When I first break into a canter, I will have to fight the urge to associate that sensation with the feeling of falling. The memory of the pain as I hit the ground will be tangible. The thing is, I don’t plan to give up riding horses. I could analyze the fall over and over and try to figure out what went wrong and what to do differently. This kind of reflection—like therapy in the wake of a break-up—is helpful, or even essential to progress. But in the end, it’s about applying what you’ve learned by putting yourself in the very situation in which you were once hurt. And so…I will get back on the horse. Hopefully, he will be more solid and I will find new strength and flexibility.

Why Sex is Important for Women

Throughout my years of working with women, there is a conversation that I have over and over. The specific details vary, but the bottom line is that an enormous number of women have lost their desire for physical intimacy. We are too tired, too busy, too angry at our partners—at the end of the day, the last thing we want is to let someone into our bodies. For many women, sex has become another thing on the To Do List—an obligation, a favor. What is most surprising and disheartening about this pervasive attitude is the idea that sex is not important for women. Culturally, we give our brothers permission to want sex, to claim its importance, but we don’t do the same for our sisters.

“…lest we forget, the survival of the species depends on women wanting to have sex.”

There are many things that shape our sexuality without us even realizing it—the way our parents expressed affection with each other when we were young, and the way nudity was treated in the household. What about our relationships with our fathers and brothers? Did you hear comments about being so pretty your father would need a gun when boys started to want to date you? What does that say about sexual desire in general and how does it affect us to be told we are vulnerable and need one man to protect us from another one? Much has been written about how the media shapes our feelings about ourselves—the advertising industry portrays women in a very specific way. What if we fall outside the range of what we hear is HOT? From booty-licious to thigh-gap, we have many criteria of desirability by which to judge ourselves. From the time we are young girls, we receive a constant stream of mixed messages about our sexuality. With all noise interfering, it’s nearly impossible to cultivate a healthy relationship with a very tender part of ourselves. We are given little context for our identities as sexual creatures. And yet, it is exactly this expression that spawns life and sustains humanity—lest we forget, the survival of the species depends on women wanting to have sex.

There is scientific evidence of the physiological benefits of sex for women. Engaging in sex regularly has the following effects:

  1. Increases DHEA—Hormone that boosts immune system. Produces healthier skin, and decreases depression.
  2. Increases Oxytocin—Hormone that causes the release of endorphins, a natural opiate that relieves pain.
  3. Reduces Cortisol—Sex reduces stress, and thereby reduces cortisol levels which means more balanced blood sugar, blood pressure, and lower acidity in the abdomen.
  4. Increases Immunoglobulin A—Antibody which boosts immunity. Women who have sex twice a week have 30% higher level of immunoglobulin A.
  5. Some studies even show evidence that the increased blood flow and muscular contractions that occurs with regular penetration and orgasm promotes the structural health of a woman’s pelvic floor.

Though the facts are compelling, ironically the very nature of looking to science to prove we should be having sex is an obvious symptom of the reason why we are not having it. We are so caught up in a world that worships the masculine, that we have neglected the feminine. The most powerful evidence that sex is important for women is arrived at intuitively.

“The most powerful evidence that sex is important for women is arrived at intuitively.”

As women, we play many roles: partners, wives, daughters, bosses, employees, mothers. We deliver, nurture, manage, and please. We are accomplished jugglers, master manifestors; we make things happen. The bi-product of navigating our hyper-connected, multi-tasking lives with poise and grace is the suppression of raw emotion. To perform these many roles effectively, we contain, conform, and control our feelings, our words, our behavior. As a matter of survival we adapt to a culture that values our rational minds. In the process we become alienated from our innate, intuitive nature, often feeling unseen, unappreciated, and misunderstood. When we lose our sense of self in this way, we suffer in our relationships. We get angry; and we shut down. Our confidence takes a hit, along with our self-esteem, self-care, and our precious sex lives—the very thing that should be our source of power.

We can measure hormones and proteins in our bodies in connection with sexual activity, but what is even more powerful is the energetic, psychological, and spiritual benefits of sex as a form of creative self-expression.

There is a fire that burns inside each one of us. It is the flame of passion, of desire. It glows, it roars, it’s wild in nature. It is our birthright. This fire is our feminine essence. It is the stuff that is uniquely ours, that gives us eyes in the back of our heads, that makes our hearts twinge when a loved one thousands of miles away is hurting, it’s our spidey sense, the way we can heal with a hug, our ability to feel when a decision is the right one.

“When we step away from our contained, controlled lives, and soften into the expansive formlessness of sexual arousal, we create a space for the feminine to rise; we stoke the fire.”

When we step away from our contained, controlled lives, and soften into the expansive formlessness of sexual arousal, we create a space for the feminine to rise; we stoke the fire. Passion is a necessary nutrient, desire, an essential ingredient. To pretend otherwise is to deny ourselves—and the world—a vital part of who we are, and how we can serve. Whether we are in the kitchen, the boardroom, the yoga studio, or the bedroom, our practiced access to our feminine fire is a source of vitality for ourselves, and in turn for our families, communities, and organizations.

So if you feel like the only reason to have sex is out of obligation to your partner, consider this: It’s not about getting someone else off, it’s about turning ourselves on, so that we can light up the world.

PS:  It might be helpful to know, self-pleasuring counts!

Death is Not Good or Bad

It’s been a tough year in the American zeitgeist. We have endured perhaps the most grueling and divisive election cycles in modern history. The experience of which felt very much like the disintegration of the only governing structures we have ever known. 2016 has been disorienting, chaotic, and downright scary at time. Add to this, a seemingly disproportionate number of celebrity deaths and it has started to feel like some sort of apocalyptic cultural cleansing.

The one that really hit me hard was David Bowie. For one thing, he had just released what turned out to be his final album, with a set of gorgeous images of him looking so vibrant and alive. He hid illness entirely from the public—no small feat in this technology-enabled, privacy-deprived culture, in which we somehow have grown to feel entitled to know everything about everyone down to the minute details of their personal lives. And then there was the narrative of his wife and kids. His late-in-life love affair with supermodel Iman was the stuff through which we could live vicariously.

I was shocked and sad. It was hard to imagine living in a world without the enormous life force called Bowie. I quickly acknowledged that he lives on in the world through a lifetime’s worth of artistic contribution. The fact that he is no longer in his body hardly diminishes his presence. And while my heart aches with empathy for his family, it is not my story and frankly, not my place to adopt their pain and make it mine.

As the year comes to a close, and we witness the death of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds back-to-back, a trend surfaced on Facebook. For days, my newsfeed was an endless stream of status updates that read, “FUCK YOU 2016! No, seriously. Go fuck yourself.” or “Not fair, 2016. That was a low blow.” or “Really, 2016?! How many more are you going to take from us?” I find the idea that the current calendar year is somehow responsible for death bizarre, and as the collective voice grew louder and louder with anger and protest, so did my frustration, until yesterday I posted the following on my personal Facebook page:

 

“I’ve been baffled and disappointed by the pervasive lack of skill I see in handling death. The choice to be victimized by a calendar year—which is a human construct to begin with—and then the assumption that death is inherently bad…that people die too soon… Really?! Do we believe that Prince and Bowie and Carrie all owed it to us to stick around, or even wanted to stick around? Clearly at a soul level they did not. How arrogant to think that we have a clue how this all works. We have no idea what divine contracts others have. The timing and manner of people’s deaths is between them and the Great Spirit. We don’t get to weigh in. Sitting in sadness and sorrow without making up fairy tales about how wrong it is that people die…THAT is the opportunity here. Do the work.”

 

No surprise, my words elicited some impassioned responses. For the most part, my voice resonated with my friends who have been feeling similarly. But there were a few people who found my words “brazen and cold,” or reminded me that everyone is allowed to grieve in their own way. One friend accused me of “spiritual arrogance.”

I let the comments roll in and sat with it all for a bit to let any defensiveness on my part dissipate, and then posted this:

 

“I knew when I posted yesterday about Death that I would cause a stir. I made a conscious choice to stand in my own truth and express myself freely and authentically. I too have an emotional reaction to so many of my favorite artists leaving the planet, especially at a time like this. I am not cold or unfeeling. And although my tone was a product of frustration and disappointment with what I perceive to be a persistent knee-jerk victim posture in the collective, I have deep compassion for the process of grieving and coping with loss. My point yesterday might have been more effectively communicated had I gently suggested that we resist the urge to join the cultural tidal wave of shock and horror at how 2016 could be so cruel to us, and in the process lose the opportunity to meet death in a way that allows us to be intimate with the loss, letting go, and ultimately living and loving. I am not sorry I chose the words I did, but I do want to acknowledge the few souls who took me to task to make sure that I allow people their processes and be mindful not to judge. I hear you, and I honor you. Thank you for engaging in this conversation about perhaps the only bigger taboo than sex (my other favorite button pusher). I share with you this quote from one of my favorite teachers and role models, Roshi Joan Halifax. She has devoted her life to the exploration of consciousness and death, and holds much wisdom on the subject.”

“In accepting death as inevitable, we don’t label it as a good thing or a bad thing. As one of my teachers once said to me, ‘Death happens. It is just death, and how we meet it is up to us.’” —Roshi Joan Halifax

 

More than anything, I am deeply satisfied to have opened a conversation about death and how we meet it. It’s the sleepy auto-response engagement with the world that I seek to shine a light on, so that we may grow deeper, wiser, and more open-hearted over time as we navigate this crazy life. Ultimately, we are born alone and we die alone. In the meantime, as Ram Dass says, we are all just walking each other home.

The Excruciating Pain of Heartbreak

I nearly forgot the gut-wrench of loss. We call it heartbreak, but a close second to the hot ache in my chest is the writhing pain just below my solar plexus. It’s shocking how much physical pain can be caused by emotional suffering.

It might be easier to endure a broken arm or a concussive smack on the head. Simpler, at least.

It’d been nearly eight years since I opened myself up to the risk of heartbreak. When a ten year relationship to my son’s father ended abruptly, existential disorientation resulted in a deep dive into spirituality that included a tantra immersion, daily yoga, and a commitment to remain uncommitted to a relationship.

After seven years of “solitude,” I resurfaced with a whole new set of skills and a whole lot of stories to tell. I became masterful at the art of non-attachment, even in the most physically intimate relationships. I was able to appreciate the moments of vulnerability and connection, experience them fully in the moment, and then let them go without succumbing to the urge to project into the future, look for meaning, shape the outcome. Freeing myself of the constraints of the logistical negotiation of a partnership (boundaries, emotional needs, etc.) allowed me to experience another as whole and complete, and largely without expectation.

And then, finally, I felt a longing to go deeper, to take my new tools back to the sandbox and see how they altered the play. The universe immediately complied with a magical man who swept me off my feet. My attempts to stay somewhat sober in the drunken love fest were unsuccessful, and we fell deeply in love. What was good about the relationship was great, but there were parts of the relationship that were equally not so great, and after seven months, it became clear that it needed to end. The specific details of the issues are irrelevant for the purposes of this article, I’ll simply say that although we had a great deal of love for each other, the logistics of our lives were not aligned.

If that sounds pat and easy, it was not. Words were said, things were done—it hurt. The pain was agonizing.

Pema Chödrön says, “There comes a time when the bubble of ego is popped and you can’t get the ground back for an extended period of time. Those times, when you absolutely cannot get it back together, are the most rich and powerful times in our lives.”

Here are some of the things I discovered during this rich and powerful time:

THE VALUE OF SOBRIETY

In the few weeks immediately following the breakup, I made the decision to stay sober throughout the initial grieving. We often turn to our addictive or indulgent behaviors (drinking, eating, obsessive cleaning, etc.) for relief from the discomfort. By staying in the experience and not numbing out, I exposed myself the power of the emotions as they unfolded. I was able to discern were sadness gave way to loneliness and anger boiled down to fear. Had I bathed these feelings in a Martini, I would have blurred the experience, thereby sacrificing the clarity I gained and the insights into the nuance of thought and emotion.

THE CLEARING OF DEBRIS

The mental drama after a breakup is intense as the mind tries to make sense of the chaos of emotion. The cycle begins immediately in which we feel, analyze, dissect, project, accept, and release. Part of the letting go of a relationship involves this kind of mental eviction. I was surprised by how persistently my mind wanted to fill up the space.

As soon as I found some peace, emptied my internal psycho-energetic bowl, the whole process would begin again. Resistance was futile. Thank God for my darling BFFs who are willing to have these conversations over and over and over again! We cannot stop our minds from filling the clearing, it is our human nature. We can only allow the continued arrival of debris, and vigilantly clear it. Eventually, the great momentum slows, and then finally stops. In these times of great dissolution, and annihilation of ego, the cultivation of an empty bowl is not only crucial to our healing, but our biggest opportunity for healing.

THE POST-GAME ANALYSIS

In the anatomy of a breakup, there is a funny phenomenon. As we approach the decision to end the relationship, we begin to see and feel what is wrong, what is not working, what doesn’t feel good, with increasing intensity. Suddenly, as soon as it’s over, we are only able to see and feel the good stuff, the blissful moments, which intensifies the sting of loss. At one point, in an effort to counterbalance this rose-colored myopia, I literally made a list of all the things I was grateful not to have to deal with anymore. Going through the history of the relationship and realistically remembering the good, the bad, and the ugly, restores a more balanced perspective and can release the grip of grief.

THE ESSENCE OF THE LOSS

Over a period of several weeks, I returned to the feeling of loss over and over, asking myself, “What exactly am I grieving?” If every relationship is a mirror, then there is an aspect to the loss that has nothing to do with the other person.

As I sat with this inquiry, I had to spend some time drilling it down. My answers began with things like, “romantic dinners in his beautiful backyard” and “gallery-hopping on Friday nights”. With a little more digging, I started to realize I was grieving possibility—that this man would be my partner for many years, that I would grow old with a companion.

And then finally I got to the root of what I was losing. Physical intimacy with this man was a wildly transformative experience for me. He opened me up in ways I didn’t even know possible. I was able to step into another way of being—in my own body, and with another, as I move through the world. I was suffering greatly over the idea that I was losing the woman I had become through this physical relationship. This realization allowed me to look at the grief differently. Identifying specifically what I am missing gives me the information I need to look at what I’ve gained from the experience and also what is possible for the future.

Working with the layers of grief, loss, and sadness takes time. We cannot see everything at once. The peeling back of each layer gives us valuable insights into our own mental and emotional landscape.

THE RETURN TO SELF

If the aftermath of a breakup feels like swimming in a stormy sea, eventually we find the shore. In the process of grieving, finding ways to remind us who we are (outside of the relationship), helps us find solid ground sooner than later. Calling my high school friend, leaning into my yoga community, taking a trip with my daughter, were all ways of strengthening my sense of self in the world. And there is nothing quite so healing as a good couple of hours blasting Led Zeppelin and singing at the top of my lungs while cleaning the house.

Open Your Jealous Heart

In a recent Circle-up, Sister! session, the topic of jealousy came up. It’s something we all have to deal with. Boy likes Girl. Girl notices Boy liking Girl. Boy and Girl fall in love. Boy likes another Girl. Girl #1 notices Boy liking Girl #2. Ouch.

Of course, this works both ways. Women are fully capable of indulging their wandering eyes, but there is a pervasive, culturally accepted elephant in the room that is men’s hunger for women and women’s dismay at having to hold a man’s attention in a world that provides so many opportunities for distraction.

There is something about the nature of masculine sexuality that is assertively…let’s say, observant. It’s been surmised that men have a heat-seeking sperm missile between their legs which is on a biological mission to propagate the species, and also that their arousal template tends to be visual in nature. Most of the men I know learned about sexuality through pornography (Playboy, videos, or internet, depending on their age). Symptom or cause, it speaks to how men view women’s bodies as objects of desire. When a man is attracted to a women at a bar, it’s not her soul is he is looking at, it’s her ass.

For women, it’s easy to feel that if our man is attracted to someone else, it means he is no longer attracted to us; that he has a limited amount of hunger, and if he is going to satiate it somewhere else, we will go hungry ourselves. And because for so many of us, sexuality and love are intertwined, what follows is the conclusion that attractive women are a threat to our source of love. And so the competition between women ensues. We begin to see our own worth as directly proportional to the ability of another women to attract a man; our man.

In the context of relationship, how do we shift from insecurity, fear, and a scarcity mindset around male sexuality to one of trust, empowerment, expansiveness, and abundance?

There are two parts to the answer:

TEND YOUR FEMININE FIRE

There is a fire that burns inside every woman. It’s the flame of passion, of desire. It’s the same energy that sparks life and sustains humanity. When a man is drawn to a woman, it is not just her ass that he is seeing. He is also sensing this powerful energy (check out my online course, The Big Libido: Find Your Feminine Fire, to learn more). We don’t own this energy; it is the universe moving through us. We are channels through which the sacred masculine and feminine do their dance. That’s not to say that we are merely puppets and our humanity doesn’t factor in. Of course it does, and it is part of our work as incarnate beings to navigate our humanity and negotiate the messiness of being human with divine purpose and growth. So in the context of sexuality and the sparkly and symbiotic relationship of masculine and feminine sexual energy, there is a larger story—that is not at all personal—that is playing out in tandem with our very specific story.

CHOOSE WISELY

In order to thrive we need to feel safe. Nothing demonstrates this to us more effectively than relationship. Choose a man who is willing to make you feel safe. We accept the love we think we deserve. Safety and security in relationship is a two-way street, and can be cultivated and nurtured if both partner are willing to make it a priority. If you do your personal work and choose a partner who is willing to roll up his sleeves and be present and collaborative in the terms and structures of your partnership, you will have a much easier time identifying where your work is around this to begin with.

On one level, when a man is captivated with a woman other than ourselves, it is her shakti, her feminine fire. That energy lives in each of us. If he has chosen us as a partner, he is captivated by the shakti he senses it in us too. Monogamy is a decision. It’s a choice we make every day we are in an exclusive relationship. It doesn’t mean we shut down our sensitivity to the creative life force in others. It simply means we agree not to act on it. The best thing we can do to hold our partner’s attention is to cultivate and nurture our connection with our own sexuality—tend our feminine fire—keep it readily accessible so that we are an overflowing vessel of this captivating energy with which our partner can dance. If we begin to walk that path in spite of our insecurity, our confidence and self-esteem with flourish and our insecurity and jealousy will eventually fall away. Again, making a good choice in a partner who can play with you on this level with open-hearted generosity and commitment, is key to making a sustainable shift.

 

Disclaimer: The impetus for this post was a conversation between a group of heterosexual woman about they pain they feel around male sexuality. I am certain there are similar dynamics in LBGT+ relationships. We each embody a balance of masculine and feminine sexual energy, the distribution of which I imagine can be more fluid in same sex couples. Educate me in the comment section.

The Cost of Being a Badass

I am exhausted. Flat-out, bone-weary knackered. Drained, depleted, beat, wasted, spent. You get the idea.

I have been on a bender for the last several months, giving birth to a batch of new programs and reinventing the way I do business. This is a good thing. I am fulfilling on my purpose. I am aligned with my passion. I am showing up in the world, climbing into the arena, playing big. I’ve been manifesting like a mad woman. BAM!

As a single mother, writer, coach, speaker, editor, entrepreneur, I play many roles. My hat rack is jammed full, and I wear all of those lids enthusiastically. I often say I am the most competent woman I know. I even changed a tire in my flip-flops one morning on the way to drop my son at school. I got this. I’m a badass, and I know it. And yet somehow I find myself in the familiar place of dragging my badass around wondering why this often feels so hard.

I’m not alone in this. I know a ridiculous number of equally badass women with whom I have this conversation on a regular basis. We are simultaneously inspired and tired. My most desperate moments of energetic decimation have brought me to this realization: there are two varieties of exhaustion.

 

PHYSICAL EXHAUSTION—The kind of fatigue that shows up when we haven’t fed, watered, moved, or rested our bodies in the way that sustains our wellbeing.
Symptoms: sleepiness, brain fog, headache, muscle weakness, short-term memory loss, difficulty regulating mood.

EXISTENTIAL EXHAUSTION—A syndrome that occurs at a certain point in the downward spiral of compounded physical exhaustion when there is no clear path out of the current paradigm.
Symptoms: overwhelm, depression, lack of motivation, loss of purpose, disorientation, hopelessness.

 

The question that characterizes the state of Physical Exhaustion is, “Can I really do it all?” Once Existential Exhaustion sets in, we find ourselves asking, “Can I really HAVE it all?”

The answers to these questions are largely determined by how we define “all,” but one thing is certain, if the answer is yes, it cannot be at the expense of our wellbeing. The cost of being a badass cannot, by definition, be our badass-ness.

Pondering all this, I climbed into a hot bath, submerged my tired body in lavender-scented water, and came up with this. It’s a work in progress (both the list and myself), but it seems like embracing these 8 rules would go a long way in the avoidance of the kind of exhaustion where our entire existence is called into question.

 

RULES OF BADASS CLUB:

  1. Your own wellbeing is a priority.

You don’t pretend that everyone else’s needs come first. You’ve renounced martyrdom. You might take care of others first, but you never go without eating or sleeping or making everyone wait for a few minutes while you put yourself in time-out.

  1. You have a strong statement of purpose and anything that isn’t in alignment with it has to go.

You have determined what it is you are up to here on planet earth and you use that vision as a guiding force in your life. You do not indulge anything that is out of integrity with who you are and you are ruthless in eliminating distraction. You are a living example of what you are bringing forth. You walk the talk. You are the change you want to see in the world. 

  1. You have cultivated a relationship with your feminine essence and do what it takes to tend the fire.

You recognize that we are navigating a culture that values our rational minds and celebrates linear, problem-solving, masculine energy. You know that as a woman, you have an innate, intuitive nature that is fluid, expansive, and grows wild. You have developed the tools to access this creative life force to fuel your existence and fulfill on your purpose. 

  1. You realize that saying no can be an essential expression of love.

You have a handle on your co-dependency quotient and feel secure in enforcing boundaries as a means of being able to sustain your loving presence in the world. You also know the importance of teaching people to fish for themselves, and that in doing so, they not only develop their own self-sustaining skills, but often discover and innovate in ways that serve others.

  1. You have developed a support system and you’re not afraid to use it.

You have let go of the idea that you have to do it all and fully embrace the vulnerability it takes to ask for help. You even enjoy creating opportunities for others to show their love for you through acts of service.

  1. At any given time, you can answer the question: What do you need?

No matter what the situation, you have developed a set of criteria by which you check-in with yourself—physically, emotionally, spiritually—to determine your needs, for which you take responsibility, and act accordingly.

  1. You are willing to be alone.

You acknowledge that we are born alone and we die alone. While you choose to be in the company of others, you never do so to avoid confronting your own self. And you don’t pretend to have the right to mandate others’ thoughts, feelings, or behavior. In fact, every morning you release the ones you love, graciously, to their path.

  1. You are willing to tolerate uncertainty.

You relish the state of “not knowing” because you know that’s where possibility lives. You have cultivated a practice by which you are able to disconnect from your controlling mind and embrace the natural flow of the universe.