When I first met Allena Gabosch and Teri Ciacchi over 6 years ago, I had no idea Sex Educator would become one of my many hats. In fact, years later after speaking and presenting at numerous events specifically focused on sex, I was still pretty sure this hat was indeed on the wrong head. The thing was, their invitation had spoken to a very deep part of me. It spoke to my lineage; my mother, Kathryn Julia is a powerful teacher of holistic bodily wisdom. Their invitation somehow rattled a mess of worries and fears that had driven me from following in my mother’s footsteps years prior. As the tremors took me deeper into my cells, everything was eventually silent and I heard a very simple statement, “It is time.”
When your deepest form of nourishment has always been bodily wisdom, it is quite difficult to avoid an experience like this one. You could say it is akin to missing that honking freight train speeding straight at you. Huh? What train? I don’t see any train! So while part of me felt like a child who did not want to eat those mushy green vegetables, I knew this was clearly the next step in my human development. I chose to bow to the wisdom being gifted to me and formally stepped myself into the role of Teacher.
Here is a little more background to help you understand the difficulty I was facing by agreeing to merge with this freight train. When the parent raising you is a great teacher, you live in a world filled with great teachers: her teachers, her peers who were teachers, people training to be teachers and everything in between and around. I lived in a sea of people teaching and learning bodily wisdom. In that vast ocean of mystery and clarity, the topic least spoken about was exactly what I was now being asked to bring attention to: sex.
I was taught to meditate on the blue pearl and draw up life force from “my seat” toward my crown. I was taught to allow the sensations of Shiva and Shakti to dance through my body shaking lose anything that stood in their way. I could meditate for hours and chant with full-bodied exalted devotion. I knew muscles. I knew nerves. I knew fascia. I knew so much; bodies and I were great friends.
We also made sure NEVER to sexualize massage. We made sure people understood the difference between “Therapeutic Massage” and “Erotic Massage”. We avoided specificity of the pelvic muscles and made sure everyone knew erections were not allowed. To massage the origin of the gracilis was risqué at best and don’t even talk to me about those obturators. How are we supposed to massage the gluts while maintain the drape again?
At the Ashram, knees and shoulders were to be covered. We were led to believe all Swamis had renounced sex completely. “Seat” was about as specific as meditative instructions got when referring to anything in the pelvis. It wasn’t until the mid 90s when I began studying with students of Ashtanga Yoga at Jiva Mukti Yoga Center in NYC that I learned there was more to this “seat” business than my teachers had really clued me in on. “Engage Mula Bandha and jump to a seated position.” “Engage what!??” And trust me, there was a lot more showing than just knees and shoulders in those yoga classes!
All of this is to say, I was being asked to teach something no teacher of mine had completely guided me through. I could feel the profound possibility of healing available in bringing the tools I had been handed to the topic of sex, but I was really going to be winging a lot of it. This freight train would be that perfect mix of terrifying and thrilling. Talk about learning to live one breath at a time!
Now let’s jump ahead to about 18 months ago. By that time Allena and I had been facilitating public events for 5 years on Raising Kids Without Sexual Shame. I was fairly immersed in the Seattle sex-positive community. Sex Educators from other parts of the continent were starting to ask me to work with them. Still, I was unsure of this whole Sex Educator hat. I mean, I can count the number of people I have had an explicitly sexual experience with on my fingers (no toes). I really don’t like to party. Going out at night makes me tired. There was a lot about The Sex World that is completely not my cup of tea. And here I was sitting down with the then Executive Director for the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture to talk about how we were going to teach Sex Education.
Mind you, when you teach the way I do, there are never a lack of edges to navigate, my own and those of the people working with me. So, while Allena and I were trying to think about what to teach and how, I was simultaneously working all the edges that were coming up related to our task. More people started processing their experiences of sexual assault. Relationships were doing back flips and front flips, some landing on their feet and some not. I was getting reacquainted with my own Masculine after nearly a decade of mothering. Allena was resorting numerous aspects of her life. In all of this, I just kept using my tools to ground and presence, ground and presence, love and feel, love and feel, self-effort and grace, self-effort and grace and leaning heavily on my Holistic Peer Counseling community through it all.
In what to the untrained eye would look like a short brain storming session, a host of ideas fell into place. Allena and I decided the skeleton of what we were creating needed to involve parsing out the terms sex, intimacy and relationship and we needed to do this with adults. It was clear that a large part of the challenge in Raising Kids Without Sexual Shame resides in the lack of ease adults feel talking about sex consciously and precisely. The lack of clear and adequate language around anything provides a safe haven for shame. This I came to learn from Teri Ciachi is referred to as the mister-fication of language. It was time to dust off the shame, drive clarity and alter the course of tradition for our younger generations.
It was during the creation of our Sex, Intimacy and Relationship workshop that my Sex Educator hat finally came to fit quite snuggly on my head. Sex, intimacy and relationship are separate disciplines that are most certainly interconnected. (See Venn Diagram.) I am a Sex Educator because my life has gifted me countless experiences of deep intimacy both with myself and with others. Salutations of Namaste and Aloha were part of my every day vernacular. There was rarely a day when someone wasn’t processing deep emotions in my presence. Group processing was commonplace. My hands have been used to nurture bodies for as long as I can remember. Countless hands have explored the terrain of my flesh. I push the edges of intimacy for people. This allows them to increase their presence of mind, body and spirit in everything, including their sex lives. Hmmmm…. That sounds pretty HOT! OK. Bring on the freight train and hold onto that hat!
Within no time Sophia Iannicelli, the newly appointed Executive Director for the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture, Allena Gabosch, Will Fredericks and I were sitting at my dining room table planning out a series of workshops designed to bring attention to the specificity and interconnectedness of sex, intimacy and relationship. Allena realized relationship is her main focus. Will realized sex is his main focus. I have already explained that intimacy is mine. True to her title, Sophia was amazing at getting us on point to schedule and commit. It was a very good day!
And so, I will teach Increasing Intimacy this coming Sunday here in Seattle at the Center for Sex Positive Culture. I will dive deep into myself while I extend invitations to those who attend to dive deeper into themselves and to connect more deeply with each other. As intimacy is in large part dictated by those who are present in the moment, I can guarantee you that no version of this class will ever be the same. A dedication to Intimacy certainly keeps us on our toes. One breath at a time I move forward wearing my Sex Educator hat as I merge with this here freight train. Perhaps one day, I will be given the opportunity to share an (or another) intimate moment with you.