Unraveling Conditioned Beliefs & Remembering Sexuality As A Healing Force
I spent most of my lifetime dimming my presence when I felt my aliveness threaten someone else. It’s how I escaped unwanted attention as an attractive young girl and, later, as a businesswoman. My work in the corporate world reinforced the containment necessary to dim down my sexuality in public.
Over time, I realized that I desperately wanted to open and release this repression in a space where I was anonymous and nothing was expected of me. I needed to know what it was like to “come out of hiding” as a sensual being in public.
So I took myself to free style dance.
My strategy was to let myself rip, and then leave ten minutes before the dance ended, so I didn’t have to navigate unwanted attention. It took a while, but with each dance, the voice inside me that warned, “you’re moving too sexy, shut it down,” or “you’re showing off, stop,” fell away. I merged with the energy that coursed up from the earth through my entire body. I let go of control and allowed my body to share my story; the story of my life, my joy, my primal desires, my heartbreak and my longings. Dance became my secret lover, the place where all of me was welcomed and integrated.
Week by week and dance by dance, the cage inside me broke. After a few years, my inner jaguar had my permission to crawl across the floor and initiate wrestling, growling, and nuzzling play with others. In the beginning there were shame hangovers, and I feared that I had been too much, but the truth was that no one was likely watching me; and if they were judging me, that wasn’t mine to fix.
My eyes were closed most of the time in the beginning, so I could move in relationship to myself and my erotic energy. I was not there to perform. The confidence I grew in that space upgraded my capacity to shine with clear boundaries, rather than repressing my energy to stay safe. If I turned someone on, I didn’t have to worry that they would pressure me, violate me, or punish me for rejecting their advances.
My inner animal began to rejoice. I sizzled like lightning, connecting heaven and earth. I drank heartily from the wellspring of life itself.
This erotic awakening wasn’t about sex; it was about enjoying myself and feeling pure, unfiltered, non-performance based, pleasure.
The time has come to reclaim this powerful life energy and catalytic force of Love.
Each one of us has a unique journey of discovering and expressing our sexuality.
If your path was anything like mine, you’ve likely encountered a series of trapdoors and confusing messages along the way. Living in our modern-day culture means we’ve all experienced some degree of repression of our vibrant erotic nature and sexual desire.
It takes work to untangle distorted beliefs about erotic nature and sexual desire. Here is a few highlights from my journey of losing and reclaiming my sexual-erotic power. Join me for a walk down memory lane.
My earliest memory of eroticism was when I was four years old, playing in the backyard with my brother in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We spent hours raking fallen leaves into enormous piles. Then we’d race at top speed and topple together into the decaying cushion of earthly smells, dirt, and moisture. Squealing with delight, we popped up to do it again, and again, and again. I felt alive, connected, and intoxicated by the smells, laughter, connection and joy. Our erotic nature is our capacity to open, play, feel our sensual body and create.
My earliest memory of sexuality takes me back to five years old. My new neighbor from Japan and I would play doctor in my bedroom, under blankets strewn across wooden chairs, in our own private fort. The curiosity to learn and discover each other’s bodies seemed no different than building Legos together. When our play was discovered, I was confused and sad that we were forbidden to do it again.
Distorted Beliefs #1: Pleasure and desire is bad and shameful.
Keep things a secret if you don’t want to lose them.
As I grew into my teenage years, I received a lot of attention from boys, my older brother’s friends, and the older men in the neighborhood. While I enjoyed some of it, I also felt shy, embarrassed, and confused by the heat and power I felt when someone was attracted to me. Especially when my desirability was mixed up with the pursuit of me as a conquest or trophy. By eighth grade, I had been elected “most wanted on a desert island,” and “most looked at from behind.” I was learning that people valued me most for my body shape and physical appearance.
At one point an older boy, who had been held back to repeat school years, had a crush on me. He followed me around like a hungry ghost, commenting on his feelings about my face and body. It scared me. One day in the lunch line, he pulled back his long black trench coat to reveal a shiny serated knife cloaked in the interior pocket. Now I felt terror and confusion; was he going to hurt me because I didn’t like him back?
Distorted Belief #2: Your physicality and body attract attention, and some of it is dangerous.
Keep quiet, get small, and maybe people will stop noticing you.
My first experience of penetrative sex was being raped at 14 years old. I felt so much shame and confusion. I didn’t tell anyone for three months that I hadn’t had my cycle and thought I was pregnant. I felt isolated and alone. I also felt like I was to blame for his lack of control; like there was something dangerous about me. Looking back, I imagine he might have felt just as isolated and ashamed.
Distorted Belief #3: To be safe, you shouldn’t attract attention, flirt, or play.
Sexuality is dangerous. You are dangerous.
Fast forward to my college years. After a traumatic sexual experience while in undergraduate school in San Diego, I moved to Chicago, and landed in one of the most powerful and erotic relationships I had yet known with a man. We started to explore the vast landscape of sexual expression and play, and I woke up to my primal power. I let myself open to the potent healing of sexuality, play, discovery, and safety.
This was also when I learned that my wild and primal sexuality, even when it felt beautiful and free, could have dangerous and difficult consequences.
I was stalked. Strangers following me home. A former boyfriend threatened to kill my fiance, and angrily took a sex video we had filmed when we dated and posted it on amateur porn sites. My fiance found it just a few months before our wedding. I was embarrassed, angry and confused.
I felt conflicted about my sexuality and its expression. How could such a natural and beautiful thing ignite such violence?
Distorted Belief #4: Sex can be a threat to my safety and to my partnerships.
Entering the business world as a woman
My entry into the business world as a woman quickly showed me that my erotic nature and sexiness had little safe harbor there. I discovered that if I were to survive, my boundaries needed to be tight and consistent. I was often approached by men, in monogamous marriages, during conferences and corporate events to have dinner and sex, although I never complied. I navigated executives who claimed to have fallen in love with me, even though they didn’t know me beyond their fantasy of my physical appearance and intellect.
Telling these men “no” often resulted in me being dismissed from consulting teams or reassigned to other departments. I felt alone and unseen.
Distorted Belief #5: If you walk around juicy and alive, no one will take you seriously.
At the time, I had no conceptual understanding that erotic energy is our life-force, and that sexuality was only one channel for its expression and catalytic power. I directed my time and energy towards a deep immersion as a runner and triathlete. Physical training helped me manage the powerful sexual energy coursing through my body.
Some time later, I left my corporate career in Chicago and moved to Colorado. There, I fell into a mysterious illness that lasted for close to six years. Medical tests left me without a diagnosis or prescribed path. I felt like a cracked vessel, abandoned on a dark shelf as pain took over my body. I watched helplessly as my colleagues and friends advanced in their careers and began to create families.
During this time, I started facilitating small groups for integral theory icon Ken Wilber. Through our transformational retreats, I met an incredible man who lit me up, but he was married. He called me a year after we’d parted ways, told me he was divorced, and invited me to visit him in the Pacific Northwest.
On our first night together, he told me he needed to go slow sexually, and I understood. Still, I felt a hunger for him that made my body hurt with longing. I lay in bed until 3 AM, not wanting to override his boundary yet not knowing what to do with the intense desire and sexual charge I was experiencing. This experience gave me great compassion for many of my male friends who had described the tension that builds when you want something, yet can’t have it, and must find a way to contain the energy.
I felt the power of this wild sexual energy and thought to myself, “It’s scary to feel how out of control I could become.” I was concerned that my sexual power was too intense, maybe even harmful.
Distorted Belief #6 Your wild beast has no place in this world.
Tie her up in a corner and keep everyone safe.
Modern day shamanic initiation
Traditional shamanic paths are composed of rites of passages and initiations that often include long periods of aloneness, often in the dark wilderness of the primal world. In one indigenous culture, an initiate is required to fast, dig a hole in the ground, and bury oneself in the jungle for two nights while predatory creatures roam, sniff, and hunt above. My shamanic teachings came directly from the earth, stars, unseen world and solitude.
My modern-day initiation happened through physical illness, heartbreak, spiritual longing, and the magnetic call of nature.
A few years into my health challenges, I moved to the mountains of Santa Cruz. I sank deeper into my meditation practice. I studied various mind-body modalities and became my own science experiment. Through my direct experience, I studied human suffering patterns.
The invitation was to break down the ways I was keeping myself a prisoner with survival-based strategies of fear and shame.
I lived off of my savings, focusing exclusively on deconstructing layer after layer of conditioned ideas of who I was, who I needed to be, and how I was supposed to be living. I sat in silent meditation retreats multiple times a year with a spiritual teacher, and apprenticed to learning what was beyond the noise, fear, and controlling patterns of my mind.
During the early days in California, I tried to resist the isolation and the excruciating pain that kept me lying in bed alone. Yet this was what was before me, day after day, month after month. It became clear that my inner healing journey required solitude. Once I accepted this, I went even deeper inside myself. I lived close to the land, and began to disintegrate and eventually resurrect. I received gifts from the land, the wild creatures who roamed the property, and the spirits of this sacred place. These were the allies who fiercely and gently taught me the ways of the shaman. The one who communes with the unseen realms, receives messages and calls exiled parts home.
Breakthrough #1: Expand your self-awareness; You can't adjust what you're not aware of.
Be honest about where you place your attention.
It's harder to adjust what you resist acknowledging.
Bring humor into your deconstruction process.
What started to become clear to me is that as much as I wanted partnership, a family, and a successful career, my soul was asking me to go on a deep quest through the veil of separation. My destination was a homecoming, a remembrance of my inherent connection to all of life. It could only happen if I pierced through my illusions and control mechanisms.
I needed to learn to welcome the unexpected and let it guide me home, rather than trying to fix, change, or feel victimized by it. Healing arises when we accept that what we think we want isn’t always what we need.
The “obstacle” of being bedridden for weeks due to physical pain and exhaustion became one of my greatest initiations. The natural world became a safe place and a mirror to rediscover my erotic nature. I reveled in the ever-present life-force that pulsed through my body while floating in the lake, gazing at the stars, and listening to the small flock of baby turkeys and hens coo in the early morning hours. I felt the delicate sensation of a dragonfly landing on my belly as I lay gazing up at the moss-covered oak tree who I affectionately called “Grandaddy.”
I realized that life is designed to present us with the perfect conditions to awaken our heart, our power, and our openness to all of life. And, the catalysts for transformation are often gritty, painful and challenging.
Celibacy and self-pleasure
At that point I was celibate, choosing instead to focus on my own pleasure. This started to open a portal of juicy aliveness for me, which led me on a wild multi-orgasmic journey. I apprenticed to the energy of pure desire that was initiated, not by a lover, but by the natural world, my five senses, and my throbbing body and pelvis.
I connected to frequencies of energy and transmissions that often felt so big, I wasn’t sure my body could hold it all after orgasm. I now know that the life force released during these orgasms is what broke apart the trauma patterns and tension that were being held captive in my body and causing the intense chronic pain.
Breakthrough #2: Erotic and sexual energy is a force of healing and pleasure.
Your erotic nature is your essence. It longs to open you and remind you that you are a creative force of love.
As I began to open and flower again, I moved to Esalen in Big Sur. I didn’t know why my intense symptoms had begun to lift, but I recovered while I studied and became an Esalen massage therapist. Finally, I returned to Colorado and re-engaged in another period of celibacy as my energy integrated and grounded. I wasn’t fully able to make sense of my erotic energy and sexuality yet. I wrestled with my desire for more sexual play and the disappointment of this need not being met, while Spirit guided me back to my inner temple. It was a time of embracing integration and accepting rest for the moment.
I didn’t feel turned on by most people any more. I felt angry about this at times; it felt like an isolating punishment. Yet, whenever I went out to the natural world, I was instantly orgasmic.
As much as I wanted to return to culturally “normal” sexuality, I was being groomed for something else. But I didn’t know that yet. What I discovered is that trying to fix or change something often creates more suffering. I had to call upon and trust something bigger than my personality, and allow the wisdom I sought to be revealed to me, rather than chasing it. “Thy will be done” became my mantra as I navigated my confusion. Deep down, I took comfort in a new sense of communion with all of life and it was blissful.
I was re-emerging with a desire to help others come home to the fullest and most alive expression of themselves. To taste intimacy with all of life, and to feel the power of erotic life-force surge from within, rather than solely seeking this union from the outside.
Breakthrough #3: Surrender.
Trust your life's challenges and experiences as your teachers.
Not my will, but Thy will be done.
Embodied sexuality is dynamic
Sexuality has been infused with confusing messages that drive performance anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, and disembodiment. This is the time for change and radical healing. There is a collective call to bring the pains of our past to the surface as fuel for compassion, growth, and change.
Embodied sexuality is a life-long discovery of what turns us on and how to engage with our partners’ differing desires and needs. In order to uncover our joy and pleasure, we have to dig through our shadows and conditioned misunderstandings.
It isn't about arriving or perfection. It's a practice of honest self-reflection, and a commitment to our dynamic and powerful nature.
This story barely scratches the surface of the limited beliefs I inherited and the subsequent breakthroughs I’ve experienced. I’m in an ever-evolving experimental and learning process, and I intend to write and share more about additional sexual initiations, challenges, and breakthroughs. I will be designing and facilitating group retreats for us to accelerate this process of deconstructing shame, understanding our limiting beliefs, and finding expanded ways of being together.
As my beliefs about my sexuality, safety, and power continue to unwind and recalibrate, I am experiencing a new way of being. My sense of freedom has grown, as I have learned to set boundaries in ways I never knew was an option. Through my certification training, and role as an assistant the following year, in the Somatica Method, a sex and intimacy coaching program, I’ve learned to spot the ways that I protect myself from intimacy instead of leaning in.
For example, I’ve learned to notice when I withhold my desire for fear of being rejected or judged as “too much.” As a young woman, I was taught to let men approach me, and not to be “aggressive” and go for what I want. This was a central disempowering message in my generation. As a woman now, I’m committed to noticing what I desire, feeling the power of my clarity, and clearly communicating it, sexually and non-sexually. I feel liberation in my body when I take the risk to express it, regardless of the outcome. I want to be all that I am, unapologetically, and to trust my yes and my no without justifications.
This is a continual work in progress, for me and for all my clients. We’re not supposed to be perfect. We are all invited onto a path to take risks, meet disappointment and challenges, and discover that being alive in one’s truth is both hot and deeply satisfying. I feel more juicy every time I muster the courage to be bold, to love big, to be vulnerable, and to stand in the wake of any impact or hurt I feel as a result of not hiding. I’d rather dance in an open field than crouch in the safety of the brush and hide my desires.
Breakthrough #4: Embodied Sexuality requires presence, listening, and tracking how I show up.
To be my most authentic sexual self, I need to see what protective strategies I am subconsciously playing out to attract love and connection.
Embodiment is a moment-to-moment practice.
There is no arriving or perfection.
Let’s create a movement together
I don’t have all the answers to my own sexual exploration or integration process, because it’s a dynamic and multifaceted exploration of moment-to-moment discovery. It’s a journey. I’m not meant to be perfectly packaged in this area or any other area of my life, and neither are you. Growth and healing happens by meeting directly what presents itself along the way, and being willing to accept when we have outgrown our limited beliefs. Every emotion, shame story, judgment, fear, and sense of not enough-ness needs a place to be revealed and dissolved by love. Sexuality is a powerful doorway that reveals layers beneath the surface.
Let us create a movement where we collectively explore how to be present, juicy, empowered, and attuned. I wish for a world where our sensual power source can be used to heal and integrate our mind-body-spirit, rather than separate and dismantle it.
We can bring the cast-out parts of ourselves, the shadows of shame and misperception, back into the heart. When we merge our erotic-sexual power with love and integrity, we catalyze a great evolutionary shift that benefits every species on this planet of beauty that holds us all.
If my story resonates with you, if it calls forth parts of your own story in reclaiming your truth and your erotic-sexual power, I invite you to walk together with me beyond the matrix of fear and shame. Share your story, speak your desires, let yourself been seen.
Let’s stand by each others’ sides as we remember that beyond ego patterns, and beyond cultural conditioning, we are Love. We are each powerhouses of catalytic energy, teeming with pure potential.