|"Love On the Rocks" by Laura MacCarthy|
My curiosity was piqued when a close friend invited me to attend ‘One Heart Tantra: Discovery Day for Women’ with her. It was advertised as an introductory workshop, offering "a chance to explore tantric energetic practices in a gentle, fun and supported environment.”
The workshop was facilitated by Lynn Paterson. I was undecided about whether or not to go until I read the following insights on her facebook event page:
“As we clear away the old hurts and wounds, the body and mind heals and re-patterns itself from the conditioning and beliefs that our body and sensual pleasure is bad, and that spirituality has to involve a denial of our sexuality. Your body is the doorway to great joy, peace and love!”
Instinctively I have always felt this to be true. Unfortunately, my heavily Catholic upbringing did not reinforce this message. As a young woman, I had to work hard to shed limiting beliefs. What comes naturally to me- dancing, expressing love, touching- are all deeply spiritual experiences. It saddens me to think I ever felt shame about my body and the pleasure I derive through it.
On her One Heart Tantra website, Lynn goes on to say:
“One Heart Tantra is a tool for awakening the senses and bringing you into a new awareness of ecstasy and bliss that can take you beyond the senses and into a direct experience of yourself as Love. Your desire may be to discover more fulfilment and joy in your sexuality, or to bring more pleasure into your life and the life of a loved one. You may be searching for a deeper level of connection to the spiritual truth of who you are. Or perhaps you are just seeking for a way to lose your programming and limiting beliefs about sex and sensuality. Whatever has brought you here is perfect for you, and I honour your path.”
Each woman who travelled to the workshop had her own reasons for coming. As we arrived at An Sanctoir, the sun was streaming through the windows. I’ve enjoyed belly dancing with wonderful women in that space. When my children were at the neighbouring Waldorf kindergarten, I attended many Advent Spiral ceremonies there too. I’ve also listened to an incredible jazz band create musical magic in that room. Certain energy is contained within those walls, which always makes me feel safe and at peace. We’re blessed to have such a beautiful holistic centre in our community.
At the beginning of the day, I appreciated when Lynn brought up the issue of comfort zones, and asked us not to push ourselves too much during the workshop. She explained that if we were to go beyond our personal boundaries, we could get lost. The result would be counter-productive: rather than slowly expanding the comfort zone, one could become fearful and close up more.
The concept of boundaries (or lack of them) is of interest to me. In intimate situations, boundaries become even more important, but can be harder to set. As we practiced various exercises, I became aware of some of my patterns. In the past, I almost couldn’t say ‘no’ for fear of rejection. I’ve made a lot of progress in this area but realized it’s still difficult for me to do.
Betty Martin has developed the idea of a Circle of Consent. Dave Pollard explains it very well on his blog How to Save the World. With every exchange in a relationship, there are power politics. Sometimes roles are confused and lines get blurred. We can find ourselves forced into a situation, which mistakenly seems consensual. The dynamic can shift very quickly from giver & receiver to victim & perpetrator. In our workshop, we were careful to avoid anything being misconstrued.
Each exercise we practiced involved clearly communicating with our partner, a useful skill for every relationship. We had to verbally state what we intended to do and then ask for permission. It was important to stick with what had been communicated and agreed upon, or else a transgression could be perceived. We worked with the concepts of ‘giving and receiving’ or ‘allowing and taking’ for the entire day. The exercises involved simple arm touch, but I still came up against resistance in myself.
1) I don’t know what I want.
2) When I do, it’s hard to ask for it.
3) My experience is not uncommon for women.
Throughout the day we played with movement to free ourselves up. I enjoyed when we danced; that was easy for me. However, we also practised breathing exercises combined with vocalization, which mildly freaked me out! I can’t make noise. Even when I gave birth I was quiet. During my last homebirth, my oldest son was in the room beside us but slept through it. At the workshop, I envied the other women’s ability to wail, moan, and let it all out. I was so uncomfortable it sounded more like I was whimpering… Afterward we had a laugh and my friend had great fun teasing me about it.