Opening To Desire
an Experiential Weekend in Tantric Activism
for Spiritually Sensitive British People
28th & 29th April, Chalk Farm, North London
Sat 10-6pm, Sun 1-6pm
All Genders Welcome.
an Experiential Weekend in Tantric Activism
for Spiritually Sensitive British People
28th & 29th April, Chalk Farm, North London
Sat 10-6pm, Sun 1-6pm
All Genders Welcome.
This is the first event I am running under my Tantric Activist body of work and I have a lot to say! Many pages in fact. I want you to be comfortable and relaxed whilst you read this, and for this I recommend making yourself your favourite drink and bringing it to your most comfy chair. If after reading, you know you need to be at this event; I look forward to welcoming you.
So, you’re British (or you live in Britain) and you’re drawn to spiritual growth.
You’ve come to see that the stiff upper lip crab shell of our culture is covering a very soft underbelly. Something about this workshop has drawn your attention but you’re not even sure you can name why.
Perhaps this letter can help you out.
I think that the spiritual path for British people is a very unique one because, on the surface, we don’t seem like the spiritual types. We’re self-effacing, intellectual and down to earth. But few people tend to hear ‘British’ and think ‘spiritual!’ in the same ways that people might do with words like, ‘Tibetan’, ‘Mayan’ or ‘Native American’.
What is tantra anyway?
When most people hear about tantra, they imagine SEX and think that a tantra workshop would be filled with good looking, fit types, getting it on.
The pure meaning of Tantra is to awaken to our true nature. It’s not just about a limited sexual expression, though it embraces that as a part of the spiritual path.
What do I mean by ‘activism’?
By activism I mean inquiring deeply into your true nature and from there discovering your heart’s longing and calling, purpose in this life and uncompromisingly bringing life to this purpose in a way that thrills you and brings you joy. It’s activism, not just because of what you’re doing, but who you are being in the process. People want to be around you. They feel good in your presence. So many people have an idea that they're boring, or not important . What I know is that no-one is boring when they're being themselves - we won't necessarily resonate with them, and that's fine.
Why should we all long for that?
Well, for me at least, I would love for it to be the norm where people naturally inspire one another, and this inspiration is natural fuel for us, instead of going into the shadow of inspiration = jealousy/resentment. Being on this planet is such a beautiful gift and so many of us see it as a drudge to endure and pay the bills.
So what is tantric activism?
Tantra on its own can end up as something that’s indulged in and seen as separate from the rest of your life.
Activism on its own can become a constant battle of trying to get people to do something ‘right’ or see something the way I want people to see things. It can be an exhausting loop, that feels ineffective a lot of the time. This approach doesn’t seem to be changing people’s minds.
So, let’s combine the two: tantra + activism.
Tantric activism is :
- When people around you notice your openness and vibrancy - there’s a real lightness to you that is a panacea.
- When you want to bring the essence of your spiritual awakening into more of your life (including your work to create positive change in the world).
- An approach to life that acknowledges our power.
- We have arrived at a point where we are aware of the Victim, Perpetrator, Rescuer Triangle, and how it operates in our psyche and are committed to finding ways of relating that open communication beyond the familiar.
- An approach that reaches further than societal, cultural or group dynamics. By choosing something freely, it becomes possible we are reaching into a deeper part of ourselves, a part earned from our own experience of the Hero's Journey.
- A commitment to emotional maturity – cultivating a clear and direct relationship with our feelings (being able to say what is actually happening, without using any judgement words, though they might be coming up), taking back projections, process work psychology, seeing the outside as you.
- A spirituality that is the new story that Charles Eisenstein speaks of in his book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. That all of humanity's challenges can be traced back to an underlying worldview that he calls the "Story of Separation"—that humans are separate from each other and from the rest of the natural world. A new story that is emerging, the "Story of Interbeing," is a "story of the world that we really care about." His book describes this as a time of transition between these stories: "Internally, it [the transition] is nothing less than a transformation in the experience of being alive. Externally it is nothing less than a transformation of humanity's role on planet Earth." He deconstructs the old story while describing the new. For example, the best way to interrupt the story of separation is to give someone an experience of non-separation. In my workshops I am endeavouring to give an experience of non-separation.
- The lifetime commitment to the true freedom that comes from standing in the new story.
- Liberating everyone (ourselves included).
- A modern day path of the Spiritual Warrior, (with ‘warrior’ denoting tenacity rather than fighting).
- The future of Tantra, for the digital age we live in.
- About going deeper. Imagine roots as a metaphor. On the surface it looks like we are all separate, but we are connected, in the deep, by our roots. Depth matters to me, because it's the only way I can feel and understand life. My childhood was incredibly confusing to me. It felt like all the adults were lying; and I would ask them "what you are saying isn't true." If we all discover 'how' to go deeper, we will discover the importance of it for ourselves. Why does it matter in today's world? It matters because it's vital we can read beneath the surface of what's being presented, as many things are not as they seem.
- a burning heart for our own definition of
- the name for the totality of my work.
Going Deeper Than The Drama & The Trauma:
At its heart, Tantric Activism is about going deeper than whatever drama may be in our present and whatever trauma might be in our past so that we can create a future free of both for ourselves and others.
Drama and trauma.
They are both very real but Tantric Activism is based on the understanding that there is something much deeper than either of them in ourselves and in the world.
Let’s look at ‘drama’ first.
Going Deeper Than The Drama: We find ourselves continually in interactions that are ‘games’ from around the triangle. Much as we may want to awaken beyond the drama, to rise above it, it takes real mindfulness and practice to do so, especially with those close to us, where certain dynamics may have been in place for many years. This means consciously finding ways to relate outside of the victim, rescuer, persecutor triangle. This is not easy to do! For many years, I used to do it in such a way that I would make people feel bad.
A story: It was a Monday morning and I was sat by a window on a London bus, it was grey and raining. An Indian lady got on and sat next to me. She started moaning about the weather, how awful it was, standing in the rain, waiting for a bus. You get the picture. Now, I really wanted to connect with this lady, but there was no way I was going to continue the “ain’t it awful” game that she was playing (read the 1960s classic by Eric Berne, The Games People Play). How to connect with her, beyond the triangle, so that we were both in a new space? I waited for inspiration. Then, after another round of complaining from her, I said “...and here we are together!” She turned to me; her smile a genuine antidote to the greyness. We were in the present moment and had the most delightful conversation.
Many sensitive, spiritual folk, want to run off to join groovy, eco-spiritual communities, and turn their backs on society. And, of course, I would encourage you to go to where you're called to go'; if you're called to community, that's fine. If you're called to be in society, that's fine. But I have found that if we are trying to run from the drama of our current circumstance, we only end up bringing the drama with us wherever we go.
But I say, who is society, if not us?
I say that, instead of running away from the drama, (and, usually, running away from it, being a rebel tends to be a step on the way) we might look within ourselves, and go deeper than the drama then there is less drama in society as a whole. However, for this to be the case, we must commit to not fueling the drama. It doesn't mean that the old drama won't come up in us, but if we can mindfully witness it, we can speak from it and not be it; which will often mean we have to go away and process it ourselves, away from the drama, before coming back to the situation (if we need to).
“If not us, who? If not now, when?” JFK
Going deeper than trauma: I created Transpersonal Somatics, a five pillared approach to trauma resolution and sexual/spiritual awakening that slowly emerged from my fifteen years as a Transpersonal psychotherapist.
My memories from childhood are set in a backdrop of fear and terror.
Whenever I look back, there I am…FROZEN.
Although I didn’t know at the time, my body was gripped by a
frozen trauma response (to many ‘normal’ life experiences), and a rigid holding
pattern; a defense to the daily humiliation I received from my caregivers. Our
nervous system’s ability to keep us safe from the impact of trauma (any
experience that we find overwhelming), is quite miraculous and fascinating
As children, we often cannot run or leave, but we do have control over our body… by contracting the soft tissues and organs. And these contractions become strategies to manage the constant overload, and as a way to block or shut out what is coming towards us. What you are reading now is distilled from what I have learnt from 20 years of committing to understanding and healing fear and trauma, and working with hundreds of clients, either in person or via Skype. The five pillars are what I have discovered. I hope it helps you in your own struggles and explorations.
This is not an easy journey to take.
Many people either resort to medication to suppress the body and its responses, or don’t believe it’s possible to move beyond the trauma response. But medication is not a long-term solution, nor a path to self-leadership. What I mean in this example, is to make our own choices around our health and wellness and what might be right for us. I teach people to process, or trick the nervous system out of the trauma loop. But people cannot do this prematurely - I had had 12 years of individual psychotherapy and many years of groupwork before I was ready to 'go through'. The tantric activist chooses to go through any symptom and not use medication to suppress the symptoms, or dissociative habits. We are, in fact, facing the symptoms by going through. The interesting consequence of facing the symptoms is that we feel connected to ourselves, and not the usual disconnect that trauma can bring.
For me, the only way, is through (through is one of
the tenets of Tantric activism). But through is not easy.
You do not need fixing. However, I do not want you to
underestimate what is involved in this exploration. It literally takes a lifetime
and, for me, I spent many, many years gripped by cycles of fear and anxiety,
before these patterns began to loosen in me, and I was ready for the ‘through’
I speak of.
The Five Pillars: I collectively call the pillars, a Transpersonal Somatic perspective.
1. Cultivate the witness: The Witness is also a sense of Deep Presence within oneself, deeper than the surface dramas of life, the part of you that is aware of everything — just noticing, watching, not judging, just being present, being here now.
The Witness is the part of you that is awakening, and is
actually another level of consciousness. Humans have this unique ability to be
in two states of consciousness at once. In any experience — sensory, emotional,
or conceptual — there’s the experience, the sensory or emotional or thought
data, and there’s your awareness of it. That’s the Witness, the awareness, and
you can cultivate that awareness in the garden of your being.
Here’s what the witness will tell you: YOU are not your trauma. We tend to get very identified with trauma (identified, meaning you believe the trauma is you)…and there are plenty of therapists that will collude with this position. But, if you are engaging with psychological/spiritual inquiry, a deeper self-reflection about what is possible in this life, beyond the familiar responses, eventually you will arrive at the point I am speaking of. Perhaps you are already engaging with the statement above…”If I am not my trauma, then who or what am I?” Yes, exactly! In order to shift to a new perspective, you need to cultivate a ‘witnessing aspect’; this Witness is able to watch and therefore gain distance from any previous areas ways, not limited to trauma, you have said, “I am ______” in ways that limited you (e.g. I’m too old, I’m too young, I’m a loser, I’m the best etc).
The Witness is like finding a new channel on the TV, where previously there was only one channel. It means you no longer have to run on autopilot. It means you have choice. It means you no longer have to identify with whatever thought, feeling or nervous system response is currently happening. To cultivate the Witness, we slowly, begin to choose this new channel, instead of the habitual one.
We can consciously chose to strengthen the witness in us
This is key.
We have to get still enough for this Witnessing place that is deep within, to be available; reason being, the Witness is quiet, whereas the trauma response is LOUD! (loud meaning a lot of bodily symptoms, fear-based thoughts and sensations), but then, you already know that. As I was writing this, I was thinking ‘maybe I can think of a more funky word than Witness, but alas, the word is vital. The Witness, the idea of this, is to eventually have it more 'powerful' than the other channel, that is I would say, almost alongside the habitual (trauma) response.
“You will be surprised that if you approach any part of
your body, it listens, it follows you – it is your body! With closed eyes, go
inside the body from the toe to the head, searching for any place where there
is a tension. And then talk to that part as you talk to a friend; let there be
a dialogue between you and your body. Tell it to relax, and tell it, ‘There is
nothing to fear. Don´t be afraid. I am here to take care; you can relax.’
Slowly, slowly, you will learn the knack of it. Then the body becomes relaxed.”
Approach your trauma response in a different way…discover how to lean into it, hold it close. It helped you to survive. Continually remind yourself that "It’s Safe Now".
2. Cultivate Discernment: You are not your beliefs / you
are not your story. : The witness allows you to get some space and to begin
to see your beliefs and stories when they appear. Yesterday they just seemed
like ‘how it is’ but today? You can begin to see that those beliefs aren’t
necessarily true. Yesterday you believed you were ugly but today? You’re not so
sure. Growing up in a traumatic early environment causes us to create what one
might call ‘fear based’ beliefs. A belief is a thought which has become static
(it is fixed and no longer fluid). They may be conscious or subconscious, but
they affect us nonetheless. Our beliefs create the way we see and experience
the world, and as such are responsible for how we respond to and move through
life. They UNDERPIN EVERYTHING. So, it’s really worth investing time and energy
into understanding what your fear based beliefs are.
There’s the initial traumatic event which causes harm. And then there are the triggers. The trigger is when you encounter a similar situation and the same feelings come up - even though, in the current situation you’re actually safe. Why would we react in terror to something that is not a threat? Why is the trauma still there? Beliefs. Our responses to what happens in the world are crafted by our beliefs. These beliefs are not formed consciously. We are not even aware of most of them. Our fear-based beliefs are psychological defences that we develop to keep life ‘out’ and this fear is bound in our bodies. Those beliefs can be things like: people are being rude to us, that something might be possible for other people, but not them or that either the world is to blame, or we are to blame.
We are disturbed by our views and attitudes about things, not the things themselves.
To say it another way: We make general decisions as a result of certain events happening to us, and these beliefs naturally reinforce themselves over time. For example, if you decide that intimacy is dangerous, because you believe you have been rejected, ignored or abused by a parent or loved one, you will develop a belief that you’re rejectable, and that you must protect yourself. (This is the simplest way I can put this for this article, but it is often more complicated, because if someone is our main caregiver, and they are behaving towards us in such a way that we need to protect ourselves, we end up loving them and fearing them at the same time).
Because of this belief you may be afraid of being rejected by your family, friends, employers or a lover, and you might act this out by behaving in a number of ways:
• you might try too hard to please as a compensation, which typically creates a level of unattractiveness and results in your being rejected;
• feel ambivalence in your relationships; you might try to act cool, in control, as if it doesn’t matter at all, which can also be very off-putting and distancing; or
• you might withdraw and isolate, and this actually increases the feeling of being rejected, even though you are the one turning away from connection.
• You might be picking flaky, unavailable people because you are too scared to have real intimacy (so you never get hurt again like your ____ hurt you).
True freedom comes when we start to look deeply at our beliefs.
To free yourself from (following) old beliefs (which
craftily appear as fear based thoughts), your ability to stay in the witness
needs to become finer and more subtle. The fear based beliefs will still appear
(until they are released). Now, here is where CULTIVATING DISCERNMENT comes in.
Cultivating discernment is knowing when your thoughts are based in fear (False
Evidence Appearing Real), and knowing when they are rooted in a deeper place of
truth or knowing.
Fear based thoughts are very convincing> We tend to believe them and identify with them without question. Just as you were the one to create the belief, as you become conscious of ones you created during times of high stress, you can simply, and powerfully say to yourself, ‘I no longer want this belief. I rescind all power I have invested in this belief.’ Now is the time to invest in a new direction.
3. Stay in the body: This works before we are
experiencing a panic attack, or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The body
and our psyches ‘cope’ with overwhelming experiences by literally leaving the
body. Basically the emotional brain has been triggered and gone into ‘fight
freeze or flight’, feeling that life is a constant threat to survival, whilst
bypassing the cognitive mind. So firstly you have to have the experience of
feeling safe in your body again. It took me many, many years to cultivate
embodiment (which I refer to as ‘living in the internal space of ourselves’).
Psychotherapist Judith Blackstone, defines three primary qualities of our
being: Awareness, Emotion (or love) and Physical Sensation. By cultivating
embodiment, what I have experienced, and also in my clients, is a coming
together of that that has been separated or fractured by ‘trauma’. This ‘coming
together’ happens naturally, but it takes a lot of commitment and practice. In
my experience, we may never ‘want’ to feel very disturbing emotions and intense
sensations as they ripple through the body. But by cultivating a new
relationship with them, rather than denying them or seeking their urgent
discharge/relief, we are learning to harness our physiological responses during
panic and anxiety and we step into a new world.
As trauma is registered in the body, if we are to release the effects of stress and trauma, we must go via the body. The key thing is to be able to go into The Witnessing grounded presence that you are learning to cultivate, so that your body feels a safe place to be, as it is now, and find realistic, creative, solutions rather that going into fight or flight (or freeze) mode. This gives the safe container within which the process of transformation can take place. Feeling safe and grounded is essential for releasing anxiety, depression and trauma. By having the safety of the body container it becomes possible to stay with these uncomfortable feelings in the presence of conscious awareness and then from this position of being the detached observer, space is created for a new response. Like Einstein said "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it". In short, people stay in the triangle and nothing new is created, we are just moving the furniture around. When we respond (from new consciousness that we've got from our deep sexuality and/or other spiritual practice, and not from the consciousness of our childhood, then it's evolution in action; TA in action. And we are standing in the new story.
A DAILY PRACTICE: To cultivate this bodily
connection, get into a healthy habit of taking some moments throughout the day
to ask yourself, ‘what am I feeling now?’, if you are anxious, what is
happening in your body that tells you so? (maybe a tightness in your throat or
belly). If you are sad, or peaceful or excited, how does it feel in your body?
There may be places in your body that feel empty or difficult to feel. Without
judgement, notice this, and see what happens. The ‘habit’ that we created
in the past (when it was too much for our young selves) is to move away
from our inner experience, but this practice is the opposite. Notice how it is
to keep your consciousness and awareness in a particular place in your body.
Just stay there and notice what changes, if anything. You may find that, in
being present with yourself in this way, even if it is uncomfortable, it may be
enough to change and transform what could be a contracted or activated part of
For example, if you are feeling anxious, slowing down and feeling the tightening in the chest, may release the constriction, just because you are being present with it, and the deep presence in you allows your nervous system to self-regulate. If this doesn’t happen, perhaps your fight and flight system is activated. In which case, there will be adrenalin pumping through you…This is sometimes what happens with me during take-off when I am flying…fear and all of the ‘juices’ from that, flooding my system. I used to take a Valium, but no more. I literally pant like a dog, which processes the fear (and sometimes gets me funny looks from anyone sitting next to me). After the panting, open your mouth, really wide, and do your best to do a few yawns (the jaw tends to clamp shut when fear and anxiety is flooding the system). These practices will begin to regulate your nervous system…but only if you stay present with yourself. There is a very fine line to staying present alongside something that’s activated, or allowing the trauma to follow its familiar pathways, and you leave the body.
“Remember as many times as possible to look into the body and see whether you are carrying some tension in the body somewhere – the neck, the head or the legs…. Relax it consciously. Just go to that part of the body, and persuade that part, say to it lovingly ‘Relax!’ Osho
DAILY PRACTICE: If you find yourself overwhelmed, take your attention to your environment and notice a few things; the sun through a window, the pattern on some fabric, then bring your awareness to your hands and feet, notice their temperature, any sensations? Bring some movement to them by wriggling your fingers and toes…clasp your hands, touch your face…this kind of thing. If you are with someone that you trust, make eye contact with them. Slow down…notice your breath. Become very still…keeping your attention on the breath for a few minutes. Use coming into your hands and feet as an anchor for taming trauma. Couple this with, opening your mouth, relaxing your jaw, and connecting to your breath. It is paying attention to and staying with that directly felt experience instead of forming theories about it, this allows a natural process of growth and change to take place in your life.
4. “It’s safe now”: False Evidence Appearing Real &
the armoured self - reconnective healing. I’m attempting to cover a lot of
ground in this one! Those with early trauma tend to have big protection,
perhaps subtle, perhaps not. Probably a mixture of the two. If our boundaries
were consistently crossed by our caregivers, we needed the protection to
survive. However, it’s safe now. And there needs to be a conscious decision,
time and again, to no longer protect yourself.
“…See if you can awaken in the battle field, without doing battle” B. Prior
Trauma, and its defenses, in the shape of body armouring, are not limited to the soft tissues of the body, they can become part of the personality, the structure of the character, in the shape of aggression, sarcasm, humour, teasing and intellectualising, and their purpose is to keep intimacy out (albeit unconsciously). We believe we are the personality but, the deeper truth is, we are not. It does seem like it though! It is our vulnerability in difficult encounters that touches our protection, triggers the fear based beliefs and causes us to shut down/and or push away. When a relationship brings up old memories and ancient discomforts, we become afraid and harden our hearts. Just at the very moment when the tears come that would soften us, we pull back and do something mean.
Life will beautifully present us with many opportunities on a daily basis to bring the fearful habits or anxious response closer. Closer, as opposed to being a victim to and moving away from, and in the process, discovering more choices to respond to life’s events. But how? Firstly by slowing down…which will put us in touch with the stress response, and we are now endeavouring to ‘be’ with, by engaging the Witness, instead of employing the usual distracting avoidance behaviours…we need to get VERY still to change our fearful patterns, very still and very in the body…AND, as we are no longer suppressing anything with drugs or giving energy to our habitual patterns, the fear that is bound in the body will begin to dissolve…and this can get very ‘loud’ in terms of symptoms in the body. However, once we have cultivated enough of the Witness, the internal observer, this is where it can come in, to remind us that this is ‘just’ old fear, that was bound in our body…dissolving. Real change is happening!
Which brings me to…
Reconnective Healing: We must find ways to lett our body release and heal,to rest and relax the Nervous System and create environments that facilitate this. We must cultivate restorative practices that work for us. Here are some examples:
- Lying with your belly on the earth can be wonderfully comforting, and rests the psoas muscle (which is a large muscle that contracts in the body during fight or flight, gripping mainly the sacrum area).
- Restorative bodywork practices, such as Yoga, Tantsu, Cranial Sacral, Watsu…
- Osho’s active meditations
- the AUM Meditation
- Ecstatic dance.
- Listen to Solfeggio frequencies (Solfeggio frequencies make up the ancient 6-tone scale thought to have been used in sacred music, including the beautiful and well known Gregorian Chants. The chants and their special tones were believed to impart spiritual blessings when sung in harmony.)
- Meditation and practices that invite new consciousness into the body.
- Energy psychology such as EFT, EMDR, Hypnotherapy and NLP (but I also believe it is only when we are willing to go deeper than mind control techniques, that we truly know we are the power holders).
that begin to loosen the tight grip we have on ourselves, such as
Bioenergetics and Kundalini shaking.
By seeking out reconnective, restorative healing environments…you are continually reminding yourself that ‘It’s Safe Now…’
Which leads me to one of the most powerful restorative practices…
5. Free the breath: The next time you are gripped by
anxiety or trauma, notice what happens to your breathing? Most people are not
very conscious of how they breath. We tend to shallow breath, and this acts as
a strategy to suppress our feelings. Both animals and children breathe deeply
down into their “stomach” and thereby utilize the lungs optimally. However,
part of the trauma response that we create, often includes a constricted
breathing pattern. A drug free method of healing, breathwork is one of the most
powerful methods of healing ourselves; gaining more oxygen and a more relaxed
nervous system can help you break out of current restrictions and say ‘Yes’ to
Breath is life. Breathing is our most primal function. It affects, and is affected by every level of our being. It is totally automatic, yet it is completely within our control. As such it is a bridge between the conscious and the unconscious, a force, a tool: for health, growth, and change. When you change your breathing, you change your chemistry. When you improve your breathing, you improve your physiological and psychological functioning.
Birth for most of us was a traumatic event, a life & death struggle, and most of us are suffering from the residual effects of this. Increase your level of consciousness, by cultivating the witness, commit to becoming aware of your breathing, and becoming more present with yourself. Learning to step out of the drama and the trauma, coming home to the present moment, and by focussing on your breathing moment to moment. Then you’re not fixated on your fear based thinking, you’re sensing yourself, you’re feeling feelings, you’re coming awake.
Here is a great way to begin a conscious breath practice. Breathe in to the count of four, pause for two, then exhale for the count of eight, pause for two. After a few breaths, begin to notice the relaxation taking place in your body, shoulders softening, diaphragm lengthening.
The key to relaxation, is in the exhalation. After doing this breath for 4 or more times, you’ll begin to notice your heart rate is lower (breath work is a beautiful way to cultivate a deeper connection with your heart too).
In my experience, it took some years of personal growth before I had loosened enough for breath-work, as it brought up so much fear. The need to be in control of myself was strong, so it was only when this was more loose that I could do breathwork. I’ve seen it in others when I’ve co-facilitated large breathwork groups on longer retreats; if the body is very held, it is unlikely to loosen during breathwork, but will still create a LOT of sensation for the person, and as long as they have a good facilitator supporting them, then this can be such a breakthrough process. One particular young man (who was very held in the body), experienced relief from constant lower back pain, for the first time in years.
In an example from my own life, the first time I experienced rebirthing, (continuous, circular, rhythmic, breathing ) there was a point during which my body, quite literally, took over, I was screaming, crying, bucking around…and even at one point made this snaking movement, as if going down the birth canal. I had tingling and bent fingers, and couldn’t quite believe what had happened! I was supported by several facilitators, who ‘welcomed me’ into this New World.
For me, rebirthing is a dance between fear and surrender. When I guide a person in a one to one session, the breathwork can be done fairly gently, or it can be a rebirthing session - It’s a way to clear up the effects of old suppressed trauma and a way to gain access to your unconscious mind at the level of your body. The ability to breathe fully and freely, and to direct or release the breath, at any time, in any situation, and to soothe an overstimulated nervous system, is extremely empowering.
A story. I was on retreat with a teacher of mine, and the topic being touched on was very relevant to me, yet I noticed I was going unconscious and dropping off to sleep. I used my witness to inquire what I was avoiding, and I noticed a holding pattern in my breath. By consciously ‘calling myself back’, this pattern shifted in the present moment.
“The rest you are longing for will never be found in the spinning toward resolution, but in practicing intimacy with the contradictions.” Matt Licata
When you are in intimate, attuned contact with your own trauma response, an inner holding field emerges. Here is an example from my own life that beautifully demonstrates the pillars in action:
“I found myself in a situation where fear based thoughts are triggered, and the fight or flight response is activated in my nervous system. The 'situation' is something that to many people is lovely and relaxing; but to me, I feel terror, and want to run (fight or flight! ). The situation is allowing myself to be held, and gently moved, in a warm water pool. As a child, my experiences with water were traumatic for me. And this trauma and fear got bound in my body...The night before my session I become activated, couldn't sleep, couldn’t eat and the morning of my session, it is no exaggeration to say that I feel as if I'm being led to my death. Nice and dramatic! So, whilst all these fear based thoughts, strong bodily responses and sensations are happening, 'the Witness' part of me, recognises what is happening, which gives me just enough space to 1) NOT BELIEVE MY THOUGHTS (WHICH IS CULTIVATING DISCERNMENT AND ENGAGING WITH THE WITNESS), AND 2) USE SOME BREATHING TECHNIQUES to allow my nervous system to begin to regulate, even though the fear based thoughts are present and my fight and flight is activated. My witness can say 'there is fear, but I am not fear';
Reflect on this for a moment. You can experience fear, anxiety, anger, and even panic, without engaging in the activity of fear. I respond much slower – from the here and now, not the there and then - with the trauma response not as an enemy, but as my ally and inner wisdom guide.
In allowing myself to 'face the tiger', and trust the watsu practitioner, the awesome Steve Karle (poetryinwater.com), my nervous system had the capacity to let in a new experience of being held, and a piece of the previous trauma experience dissolves. I know this is the case as I recognise my 'mash potato head' feeling (my technical term for when the familiar reference points of the mind have lost their foothold, and I am in a pre-verbal place), a feeling that the ground has fallen away, and there are no longer any reference points from which to make sense of what is happening.“
"While it may appear you are yearning for something outside you, dare to see that you are only ever longing for your own presence." ~Matt Licata
The key is ‘relaxation, Cultivating the embodiment of the 5 pillars, leads to a place where, perhaps for the first time, you begin to truly relax.
What is living a bigger life? The possibilities are endless! If you are no longer walking around with a tight grip of yourself (whether that’s a tight mental grip, or tight bodily contractions), you will be able to feel the world more, and people will be able to feel you.
Going Deeper Than Our Roles: I believe we have to discover our roles and live beyond them. Drawing from Family Systems Theory.
Going Deeper Than Polarities: In the dramas of our lives, they are full of polarities - bluebeards, betrayals and heroes.
The Five Steps To Take Us Deeper:
Like steps on a stair case, there are five steps we need to take in order to go deeper.
Develop Emotional maturity: There is no doubt in my mind that our gifts and life purpose are borne out of our wounding. Like Leonard Cohen said, “it’s where the light gets in”. However, we also need to be able to see where those same wounds get in the way of us being of service, of being able to love..
I was at the annual lecture of The Forgiveness Project in London, a couple of years ago. I was so curious about the audience - who was drawn to the topic of forgiveness? At the end, I discovered there were a fair few activists present. And I could also see that resentment (likely they were not aware of), was colouring their perception. One person saying “all this forgiveness, not enough action”. What I know is, without the forgiveness, the action will have some other hidden feeling at the root of it - revenge, self-righteousness.
Choose love over fear: I am passionate about ending war and the cycle of victimhood, suffering and revenge. Not by denying its existence, but by fully acknowledging how it has impacted us. The journey into healing, and, eventually forgiveness, until we are motivated to discover what’s involved in choosing love over fear.
Make Friends With Anger: Anger is an emotion that can be very useful. It can urge us to our power, or to setting boundaries, or making choices. The problem is that we seldom experience anger directly linked to its source. For instance, we get angry because someone does something that reminds us of someone from our past, and this current experience of anger is filtered through this past lens, adding to what is unresolved. We need to gently find a way through.
Fully embrace and open our sexuality: In the last few years, especially since December 2012, there has been an explosion of people looking to explore their sexuality. In order for us to engage with this exploration, we also need to challenge our dynamics around love and sex. My discovery of Tantra being the path was not a result of any set of techniques imposed from the outside. I found the ‘call’ emerged naturally from my deepening relationship with myself and with life. My continuing commitment to embodiment, and to Truth, brought me to the realisation that a full exploration of one’s sexuality is a cornerstone to healing and awakening A path that sacred activist Andrew Harvey calls Radical Embodiment. Sexuality is given to the heart and no longer is about survival.
The call for Truth: what-ever that looks like for you.
There are several keys to my approach, and a big one is embodiment - then from this position of unification, is a base to bring us together in our totality using depth psychology, mindfulness, including our sexuality.
Become The Temple: For much of civilized, human history, people have visited temples to do their spiritual work. Where are the temples now? I believe that WE are the temples.
It’s no longer enough for Tantra to be an isolated subject that we learn about at the weekends, but a living Tantra that can become a blueprint for how we live and approach life.
What do I mean by ‘spiritually sensitive British people’?
Perhaps you resonate with the term; have been called sensitive in your family. Or an empath, who wasn’t born in Britain, but can see that you’ve taken on the energy of this land. (This was my experience of being in India; after 6 months I could see that I had taken on something of the culture).
And what do I see as the connection between the two?
I think that many British people are drawn to the country home of spirituality but can’t find a doorway in.
I’d like to propose that there are seven doorways. They each appear as struggles that, while not unique to British people, tend to crowd around us in greater numbers than people in other places. These seven together, make up what I see as a unique constellation of symptoms that, like the stars in the sky, make us easily identifiable.
Each one of these appears to be ‘in the way’ of our spiritual growth but I would submit they are the way. They aren’t a blockade on our path to a more fulfilling, spiritual life. They are the path.
From inside British culture, these seven things seem normal but I would submit they are cultural. To say it another way: they have become normal but they are not natural.
See if you can relate to any of the following.
The Seven Doorways
Doorway #1: Being ‘nice’ and ‘good’ is very important to you. You secretly envy your friends who can say ‘no’, set boundaries, and, from time to time, be bad. They seem so carefree and comfortable in their own skin. They don’t seem overly concerned about being ‘nice’ and you often wish you could be more like them. Perhaps it is slowly dawning on you that you’re living your parents life (e.g. you’re a banker, from a family of bankers) or that you are living the life your parents never had (e.g. you were the first in your family to go to university). And, if you aren’t, you might be feeling an enormous pressure to follow what your parents want for you (e.g. arranged marriages to following in your father’s footsteps or going into a family business) because that’s what a good child would do. You’re realizing that you haven’t found any safe space to consider if it’s really what you want? You realize also, that no one has ever asked you what you want. And, when you ask yourself, disconcertingly, you get no answer.
The Key To Open This Door: getting to know the good or bad girl or boy, and what was or wasn’t allowed (or whomever you had to be). Yes, had to be. Drawing from two aspects of Family Systems Theory; that of Family Roles and Family Rules. Family Roles - what is expected of each family member. The most basic types of roles are “father,” “mother,” “aunt,” “daughter,” “son,” “grandmother,” etc. What is expected from people in each of these roles?
But there are also roles beyond this most basic level.
For example, one person may be the “clown” of the family. Another
person may be the “responsible one.” One person may be the “emotional one.”
Another role might be “crazy uncle Joe” who everyone knows is going to act odd
in his own unique way. There are a lot of different roles in families. Family
Rules - are rules about how the family operates; these rules are often
unspoken. For example…
- When people are angry at each other, do they express
this or keep it to themselves?
- How affectionate or emotional are family members expected or allowed to be with each other?
- How do decisions get made in the family? Who has input and who is expected to “just go along”? How is the final decision made?
- Are there limits on “how much” or in what ways kids can argue with their parents?
- How much are family members “allowed” to talk to people outside the family about family problems?
Families tend to develop patterns about these sorts of things (& other similar types of things). These patterns become “unspoken rules.” Family members may see these things as “just the way it is,” but different families do these things differently from one another. Systems develop typical ways of being which are reliable and predictable. Family roles & family rules are examples of what I mean by “typical ways of being.” Whether these roles & rules are adaptive or not, there is a pull from the system NOT to CHANGE—but to continue functioning as things have always been. This is why it doesn’t matter how much therapy or personal development we’ve mastered, we often behave just the same as we always did with our families!
What’s This Got To Do With Desire?
With the role of Good Boy or Girl, we need to consider the rules that we follow. If we are told “If you ask, you don’t get”, then perhaps we get a message that desire is wrong, naughty, and it goes even more underground in us; it can make our desire quite shadowy and distorted, particularly with sexual desire. None of this is wrong, but we need to prepare for what’s going to come up in us if we dare to no longer follow one of our role’s rules. One of the most tenacious aspects of this role, is “have you been good?”, which, if we try something, maybe say something or try to do something outside of this, we will experience a lot of fear. Our very survival as children, depended on us following the rules, so it’s going to take quite something to operate outside of the role, and into our own sovereignty, and our own desire, not just what a good girl wants. In a nutshell, if we’ve mainly been a good girl or boy, we need to explore all the other aspects that don’t fit into the role...they play out unconsciously anyway.
A story of how we learn that love is conditional e.g. we have to be good to get anything we want.
I was enjoying hanging out in a cafe in New Zealand one afternoon. I happened to be sitting near a glass display cabinet, that housed some rather delicious looking cakes. Just at that moment, two young children appeared, pressing their hands and noses against the glass. I could see they wanted cake, but how to get it? Cue a waitress in her early 20s. “Do you want cake?” One of the children was around 5, and the other 3. They looked at each other, before both saying “yes!”. The waitress then said “have you been good?” They both looked at each other again, this time confused. The waitress repeated “have you been good?” The older child was by now working out that he just had to say that they had been good, then the cake was theirs. They both said they’d been good. My heart was breaking at this scene. In my opinion, children deserve cake, just because they exist, not because they have to earn it or deny their experience in order to be good.
Doorway #2: You feel trapped in a straitjacket of duty. Your life has become the shackles that hold you to the stone wall of what you ‘should’ do, and you are becoming aware that this makes you dry, brittle and resentful. Yes. You are becoming aware of that… the growing resentment. You feel deeply unsatisfied. There is a deadness in your relationships, your job. Things feel like a chore, a burden. You’re finding yourself losing your temper about stupid little things. You’re easily irritated. But you don’t understand why because, on the surface, everything is great. Even if you have it all (e.g. the job, the house, the car, etc.), and should be happy; it’s hard for you to acknowledge you’re not. I’ve come to see that living by shoulds and shouldn'ts is a sign of not being deeply connected with yourself, your calling, but following what you've been taught or told.
The Key To Open This Door: we need to connect with innocence, a quality that awakens in us when we find our inner wonder, curiosity and eros. Yes, I said eros. We tend to think we lose our innocence, or it gets tarnished as we age and experience life, or do things we think are ‘bad’. With innocence, we are brought into the present moment, and everything is fresh. Can you imagine seeing the world in this way?
Doorway #3: You’ve become intellectual and boring. You feel stuck in your head. You have other friends who seem so liberated and fun. And you feel so stuck in your staidness. The stiff upper lip you were taught to have as a child has spread over your whole body. You hold back from expressing your emotional, sexual and playful self. You’re beginning to wonder if you even have one. You have a longing to bring a sense of fun and/or lightness to your life that you seem to have lost touch with, or never had.
Sometimes I might people in this situation who realize they’re stuck in their heads and, when they see I teach Tantra, ask me about achieving bigger and better orgasms, when in fact I can clearly see it’s intimacy that they long for.
The Key To Open This Door: Engage with your inner child, that part in each of us that is playful, full of wonder and spontaneity. Child-like, not childish. Much has been said about the inner child in therapeutic realms however, I believe that exploration of this magically Divine part of ourselves will lead us to our deepest longings. As children, the world is shiny and new, our desire is beginning to awaken. I invite you to meditate on cherished objects or experiences from childhood…meditate long enough to feel the original innocence of your desire in your body. Perhaps there was something you weren’t allowed? And perhaps now you can give yourself this missing experience from your young life.
When I was exploring this work with my teacher Shakti six years ago, I found myself walking into a charity shop in North London. I couldn’t believe what was waiting for me in there. Girls World! Any girls who were very young in the 70s wanted one - me included. It was a big head of a little girl, with flowing hair and came with lots of make up and hair accessories. I so desperately wanted to own one but never did. I walked out of the shop, but kept thinking about the Girls World; eventually going back in, but, unbelievably...it had gone! Boy, was I disappointed. That night I looked on-line and found one on ebay ‘Original 1970s Girls World’. I bought it and played around with it for a few weeks. It energised me so much. I’m sure my friends thought I was quite mad at how happy this old, used thing was making me. Not only that, but there was an underlying message I was giving my young self: that the adult in me could get me things.
Doorway #4: You don’t take risks. This is hard. At the end of most days, you have a series of regrets of all the things you didn’t or couldn’t do. That bloke you wanted to say ‘hi’ to at work? Yet again, you didn’t. That woman you saw at the bus stop that you wanted to say ‘hello’ to? You’ll never see her again. She was only six steps away from you and you couldn’t take the risk. In the quest for real intimacy, it's even harder to take a risk in intimate partnerships and friendships; it's risky to say what's really happening for you, or expressing a desire, rather than taking the easy route with your usual pleasing or being nice, and be willing to hear a "No", or risk losing the relationship each time you stand forward and give yourself to the moment.
The Key To Open This Door: Many people tell me they’re afraid of rejection. They also have a tendency to think that those who take risks are not afraid; and that when they too are not afraid, they will take some risks. Of all the people I’ve asked, there isn’t one who wasn’t afraid of rejection.
A key duality held by the ego is that of desire and fear. Whenever the ego is attracted to something, it will also be repulsed by it. As it opens in desire, so it will also close in fear. The fact that in ego-reality, desire and fear go together is important to understand if we want to awaken our sexuality. To truly open to our pure delight, we need to move beyond the polarities of desire and fear, attraction and repulsion. Over this weekend, I have some fun, yet deep ways of exploring the desire/fear polarity.
Doorway #5: Your life has become half-hearted. You are not bringing all of you to your choices. And what are the consequences you see of this? You are exhausted. Benedictine brother David Steindl-Rast put it so well in response to poet David Whyte when he said, “The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest; the antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.” And most of us are lacking this. If you're with someone like that, it feels like they're with you in body, but most of them is elsewhere. One cannot 'feel' them and you would think they weren't interested in you. The purpose of this weekend, is to give you an experience of wholeheartedness or, said another way, Wholehearted Desire.
Desire is not just sexual expression, but from our hearts, power and purpose. Desire is wholeheartedness.
The Key To Open This Door: This is a thread that runs through the workshop. It’s to discover what, specifically for you, stands in the way of wholehearted desire - perhaps our first love broke our hearts and we’re still holding on to this experience. There are many, many reasons we can turn away from love. Subtle and nuanced, but one thing’s for sure. We need our hearts to be wholehearted.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi
Doorway #6: You feel like you’re missing out. You woke up one day and wondered how you got to where you are? You have a nagging feeling that life hadn’t started yet; like there was a party going on and you hadn’t been invited. And so you spend hours online (more than you’d like to admit) looking for something you never seem to find; this could be pornography, shopping or Facebook. What I'm getting at here is that we have a tendency to look outside of ourselves for satisfaction. In my 20s and 30s I used to go to the coolest bars and clubs in London, spending fortunes on clothes and swanky drinks, being bored out of my head, longing for connection, but not finding it.
The Key To Open This Door: As the awesome Robert
Holden once said “If there’s something missing in your life, it’s usually you”. Matt Licata offers a deeper reflection: “It can be excruciatingly
revealing to step back and see how much of your sacred life energy is put into
complaining about others and about your life situation. Much of this occurs at
very subtle levels, however if you have the intention and take the time to see,
you can discover for yourself just how prevalent it might be. And from this
awareness you can then make a conscious decision whether to continue to abandon
yourself in this way, or make a commitment to a new kind of self-care.
When you become lost in the spell of complaint, you place yourself in the victim position of a child, which is one of the most aggressive stances you can take toward yourself. While it may seem you are creating an environment of safety, there is nothing as unsafe as placing the source of your emotional well-being outside you, into hands in which you have no control.
As you explore the actual, embodied implications of leaking your awareness and precious life energy in this way, you may even come to discover it as an act of self-violence. For when you place the burden upon another to take care of your emotional world for you, you abandon yourself, fall into a trance of self-absorption, and lose contact with your own natural wisdom and creativity.
Over the next few weeks, you might aspire to bring awareness to the ways you complain about your life and about others, and open to see how aggressive this truly is – not only to others, but especially to yourself. Each time you notice yourself sending your sacred life force into the activity of complaint, resentment, and blame, you could make the commitment to slow way down, to shift your attention back into the immediacy of the here and now, and ask:
What feeling am I trying to get out of in this moment? What underlying vulnerability am I not wanting to be in conscious relationship with? What am I seeking to avoid, through the activity of complaint, resentment, and blame?
As you reclaim experiential contact with that which you are moving away from, you could then ask, with kindness and with presence: Might there be a better, more skillful, and more compassionate way to care for myself in this moment? What if every time I became aware of the urge to complain, I used this as a mindfulness bell to return into present, embodied experience to see what is asking to be met and cared for?
By honoring yourself and others in this way, you create a sanctuary of kindness – an embodied temple of presence in which you can rest. It is from this sacred rest that you will remove the burden you have placed upon others to take care of your unlived life for you. You will then be free to be a clear vessel through which love can erupt here.”
Doorway #7: You keep being put in the friend zone: You have had multiple occasions where people you were interested in expressed surprise. “I had no idea!” they would say which is surprising for you to hear – you realise your desire is more hidden than you thought. You struggle to express your interest in people.
The Key To Open This Door: To come more into the mid and lower sections of our body. Our capacity to feel our power and to open to our sexuality is particularly wounded in our culture. These capacities being passed down from generation to generation, to generation - so it’s just the way we are, that we have this diminished capacity. Finding ways to open our lower body to our sexual energy will give us an opening to feeling more of our essence, and those we spend time with, will be able to feel us too.
So, what does this particularly British constellation of symptoms have in common? What’s the thread that is absent in a life where you’re trying to be nice, good, dutiful, intellectual, safe and under-expressed?
One word: desire.
I want to make the case that many British people are slowly turning away from life by their conflicted relationship to their own desire.
I’m talking both about our conflicted relationship to the things we desire but also to desire itself.
This inner conflict is a war of attrition and it is making us miserable.
This inner struggle goes on unacknowledged and undiscovered.
What does the war look like from the front lines?
For British men it tends to show up in these ways becoming obsessed with spiritual practice that has them sitting for hours in meditation in an effort to transcend the lower part of their body. To choose partners that are not their equal in an effort to stay safe, but ultimately safe = boring, which sooner or later = dead. Avoiding emotional realms, and therefore staying in control, by spending a lot of time at work. Troublesome sexual fantasies. Little sense of purpose and direction. You find yourself saying things to yourself like, 'all women are needy', 'women just want to take my money'.
For British women it tends to be more about control, controlling the body around diet and exercise, controlling their partner. A tight pelvis causes a frigidity/rigidity that even effects the tone of voice. Good girls don’t. Or taking on a role of being sexy, that feels quite fake. Making it about pleasing the man or their partner. Feels valuable only if she is ‘wanted’ by a love interest. You have so much love to give but you find yourself wondering, ‘where are all the good men?’ or saying to yourself, ‘men are afraid of strong, smart women.’
In short: stress. So much stress.
Perhaps you’ve been aware of this deep unsettledness, this stress inside of yourself for a while now. Perhaps it was years ago when it began to surface and you began to look for answers.
So, you found yourself drawn to spirituality.
Many of the clients I’ve worked with over the years noticed the symptoms above and decided, after years of pain, to get into spirituality.
But then, a funny thing happened. Their symptoms got worse. They would do regular meditation or yoga but noticed a divide within themselves. The more they practiced, the worse it got. The more they tried to transcend their taboo desires or base level drives, the stronger they got. The chasm between where they were and where they wanted to be kept widening. They wanted to devote their lives to Spirit and yet feel increasingly ungrounded.
Why is this?
I believe it’s because we have a tendency to use spiritual practice to avoid what we need to look at, the spiritual bypass, and also choose a practice resonant with the part of the body we mostly inhabit. For example (and to speak in generalized terms)...
A man who lives from the head and wants to avoid feeling, the messiness of relationships might go on long meditation retreats in the mountains, or a silent retreat.
A woman, who lives from the heart, and is very needy, might do loads of gratitude practices, 100 days, something like this, but actually what she hasn't felt is her resentment and heartbreak.
Isn’t Desire Unspiritual?
It’s a common thought. British people get the double whammy on this. British culture is not particularly known to be a passionate culture deeply in touch with our desire (unless it’s football or Brexit).
And, in many spiritual circles, desire is looked at as a trap of the ego.
But our desires don’t go away. The taboo fantasies still appear and the guilt along with them. And the more we try to transcend our desires, the more they seem to grow.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve worked with individuals, couples and groups, helping them find or get back in touch with their desires.
Many of them would speak to me of their youth being filled with unsatisfied wants, or a teen heartbreak that has secretly defined their relationship life from that moment on. When they spoke of the old wants of youth, it was with a tone of having given up now...Desire had been sacked. I kept going, wanting to know about their desire, but I would nearly always get the impression it was something secret, they’ve never really spoken outside of the bedroom (or even inside the bedroom) about. The truth was, currently their desire was a secret to them too.
But, when I press them again on their desire, they often go blank, feel slightly uncomfortable as they shift in their chairs at even the thought of their desire.
Inspiring work projects, inspiring things one wants to learn about. In the palette of intimacy especially, desire is knowing what feels right in each and every moment.
Let me say that again: desire is knowing what feels right in each and every moment.
Why does this matter?
Because if you don’t know what feels right to you then you could end up in countless circumstances or maybe a whole life that feels wrong.
The Hot Date
For example, let's say you and your partner have planned a hot date. However, one of you feels super tired, and the other is imagining a big night of sexual olympics. Real intimacy is being able to be real with each other in each moment, but first, one must be in touch with oneself - in this scenario knowing that you are tired and maybe want to be held, and then expressing that to your partner; they may initially be pissed off or disappointed etc. but, if you are both separate enough, able to perceive outside of the victim triangle, and are in touch with what you want, in this present moment, then you are both in a place of real intimacy. Desire comes in many quiet, sweet and tender ways - vulnerable desire.
The Career Your Father Wanted For You
What I'm pointing towards is, particularly in the British culture, we don't acknowledge ourselves, what we want...it's not just in sexual intimacy, it could be in our careers. I’ve met people who have worked their whole lives in a job, because they didn't want to upset their father.
The Women Lay Their Sexual Fantasies Bare…
I worked with groups of women, in a retreat setting, and every woman who was in a relationship felt she had to go along with what her partner wanted; to play out his fantasies, but she wasn't consciously aware this was what she was doing. I would explore with each woman whether she had the same fantasies as her husband? No. I would say then why on earth would you play along in a fantasy you don't have any juice for? But the woman would be caught up in pleasing the man, and thinking she had to give him what he wants. It's heartbreaking, but our ancestral dynamics are strong, and the fear strong whenever we face them to break them. I'll continue, I would ask the woman about her fantasies, they would all say, "I don't have any", my reply "yes, you do". This goes back and forth a few times, until I say "Okay, why don't I tell you one of my fantasies, and you can see how you feel about that?" The woman would say yes, I would tell her in great detail and every woman would say "OMG, that it a fantasy of mine!" This story illustrates a couple of things The first is that the idea that we, as women, have to please the man, no matter what and 2. women do have fantasies, but they usually need help in finding them.
So, this conflicted relationship with desire is creating problems, but what is the value desire might have to offer us?
- Purpose and Passion: It’s a unique part of us - and invites us to discover and live our life which gives us the possibility of satisfaction and inspiration. Living by shoulds and shouldn'ts is a sign of not being deeply connected with you, your calling, but following what you've been taught or told.
- Vulnerability: Opening to the softer, tender and fiery aspects of ourselves, and finding strength there - the opposite of the ‘stiff upper lip’.
- Healing: by acknowledging and expressing your own wants, needs and longings, you become an activist for change and the antidote to the cynicism and shaming British press.
- Contribution: a growing confidence that what you have to share is valuable. Just by being yourself, people around you are inspired.
- Openness: discovering a freshness in attitude and being open to differences, with curiosity and wonder. A balanced and natural expression of Eros.
- More Fulfilling Relationships: by engaging more directly with the dance of desire/fear in our day to day interactions, how rich and engaging the simplest of days can become.
Why Desire Is So Hard For Us
Fundamentally, in the British culture, we don't acknowledge wanting; it's not encouraged, but most British people don't know this about themselves. They hold back...a lot. With lots going on inside that they can't express.
I think desire is hard for us for three main reasons…
Reason #1 - Desire Is Taboo:
As young people, desire was completely taboo, some kind of awkward idea that maybe everyone else knew about and as such, as adults, it’s not in our conversations in a healthy way.
Reason #2 - No One Asked About Our Desires (And No One’s Asking Still):
When is the last time someone asked you what you wanted most in an important area of your life and really listened? In the British culture particularly, there can be a tendency to hold back from our heart’s longing…so much so that it’s call is almost silent. To say this all another way: the issue with desire in British culture in one sentence: it’s so deeply hidden in us that we don’t even know it exists anymore.
The only time I was asked what I wanted, was when I had a career interview at the age of 16. I had no clue. We are never asked this - not at school, at home. That's why I like Americans (well, they talk too much - but I like a few Americans), because they encourage each other, whereas the British tendency is to hide, be sarcastic, or put each other down.
And here’s the rub: The more buried our longing, the more tempting it can be to follow our society’s conditionality and our media’s advertising.
To say that another way: If you don’t get clear on your desires, you will live out the desires of someone else or be programmed to desire things that are no good for you.
To say it another way: If you don’t know what feels good, you’ll fall for other people’s promises of what they say will feel good. You’ll accept a toxic mimic of the real thing that promises satisfaction but then fails to deliver.
One final way: If you don’t know what you want, you’ll be easy to manipulate.
Reason #3 - Being Shunned When We Expressed Our Desires:
Many people I know were told when we were young “those who ask, don’t get”, whenever we expressed wanting something. We get this message that perhaps it is something shameful, and our desire goes underground.
Reason #4 - Being Told That Desire Is Selfish or Unspiritual:
The more suppressed this nuanced quality is in us, the more shadowy our desire expresses itself. Being able to be honest about what is happening for us, is an authentic step forward from the unconscious, to the conscious, to the deeper parts of ourself that reveal our heart's longing.
If you’re a parent: To apply this example to being a parent; if you are in touch with your desires/inspirations and living them, you won’t be unconsciously trying to live them through your children (which is a burden to them).
If you’re a lover: There is enough space between you to hold the dynamics that arise, without playing into them, and reaching what is underneath to express. For example, I often notice with a lover, that a need to please him comes up in me. I might mention this at the time, but I don't do the pleasing; in fact, I will probably want to express something that wouldn't please him. I don't want to please the man on a conscious level, I want us to be real together, but the fear will also come up when facing an ancestral dynamic.
If your parents are still around: Quite possibly the most difficult for us! I've had clients who hold senior executive positions in large corporations, who still have xmas lunch at their parents, because it would upset them if they were honest with them about not wanting to go. The challenge is to find a way to be real with your expression without allowing the guilt to stop you.
One piece of wisdom I learnt in my 20s was "people only do what they want to do", that 'want' being mostly driven by the unconscious.
The Guaranteed Affair
I had two best friends - Jane and Colin. We all worked together. Jane and Colin fell in love. Jane had been married previously, and it took her 3 weeks before she was in bed with someone else. It was what Jane did. Colin proposed to Jane. He said to her whilst I was also present "if you are ever unfaithful, I will leave you immediately". I said "why are you asking Jane to be a different person?" It seemed ridiculous to me. Doomed to fail. Of course, she agreed to Colin’s condition. Sure enough, 6 weeks after their marriage, she had an affair, got pregnant even and roped me in to cover the termination. I wasn't happy about it, but my loyal Italian side came out.
What I know is it's important that we're honest with ourselves about what's happening for us, and what we ask of each other.
If we aren’t honest about what we want, we will often try to get it dishonestly.
If our desires stay in the shadows, we will often use shadowy means to make them happen.
Spiritual growth demands that we get very honest and real with ourselves. It asks that we allow the content of our unconscious (often dark and deeply politically incorrect) to become known to us, and for the content to be 'okay'.
A willingness to stay present Is vital. So often, we distract ourselves from what’s really up for us. This capacity is a direct result of our willingness and ability to feel and experience all of what life brings us. This means being willing to go to the depth of experience that this moment offers us. This includes experiencing all our unconscious desires and fears, as well as the sensations, emotions and thoughts that these desires and fears evoke.
Our familiar distraction habits help us to dissipate or avoid feelings. The unconscious (namely suppressed emotions and sexuality), continually try to get our attention – not so still, nor helpful for spiritual practice, which is why, certainly initially, most of us struggle to do sitting meditation.
So, I say to you "Be selfish", mark out some time and discover how selfish you can be. Do it with a bunch of friends. When I explored this one time, I was a participant on a workshop. As an intro, each one of us was invited to step inside the circle and do something. What I did was really edgy for me. I stood in the circle, closed my eyes (there were about 30 people in the circle) and I said. "I want your attention, all of it, and I don't want to have done anything for it, in fact, I don't even care about any of you". So, there I was, being DEMANDING, in the middle of the circle, eyes still closed, imagining a braying crowd when I opened them again...and everyone was smiling at me in a loving way. I was astounded. It felt freakin' amazing :). I did this because I was virtually never demanding – I was facing a false belief about love that I had, that I had to take care of people before I could be loved. What I did challenged this belief.
Core Principles of My Work:
We have a spiritual essence: pure qualities that are expressed through us. The transpersonal approach sees a spiritual life as a life full of problems and challenges that we are invited to face, which are there to draw out the latent qualities within us, if we choose to use the opportunities. Our personalities are the fruit of the struggles we’ve been through.
Everything Can Be a Gateway: Every aspect of our experience
- including our sexuality - can be used as a gateway to the full realization of
our spiritual essence. Tantra is a mystery tradition that is known as a fast
path for seekers of truth. One of the reasons why it is so powerful, is that it
includes every aspect of our being - and so, too, our sexuality. When sexual
energy is included in meditation practice, it adds tremendous power to our
ability to wake up, this moment, to the truth of who we really are.
Bringing the Awakening to Every Part of our Being: *The focus is not only on the direct development of consciousness, but also on the integration of what is in the unconscious. Becoming conscious in the realm of the unconscious is vitally important. This requires that we bring an attitude of totality to every moment of our lives. Courageous, tenacious, commitment to presence.
Unconsciousness is the semi dream-state that most people on this planet live in. The unconscious is a realm in our awareness that gets shaped by fears and desires that we have suppressed or avoided feeling fully and deeply. These unconscious patterns of fear and desire start to form in our lives at the day of our conception, through our childhood and up until the present moment.
Our personal unconscious also gets shaped by the collective unconscious of society at large, and, closer to home, the unconscious of the collectives (such as family, religion and other forms of tribe) that we identify with and are shaped by.
Unconscious patterns grow in us for reasons such as:
- Childhood shocks: When an infant or child experiences something that is overwhelming or too much to process, he/she will repress the memory. What is repressed goes into the unconscious, and gets manifest in the body – as body responses, one of the most noticeable being erotic responses.
- Unmet childhood dependency needs: Get pushed into our erotic response.
- Cultural/religious positions: The influence of the collective – the culture, religion or tribe – can cause an individual to deny or repress their own experience in favour of what is acceptable.
- Moments not fully lived: Even in adulthood, any moments not fully lived, any experiences and emotions not fully felt, become unconscious patterns in us.
In effect, what the unconscious does, is to create a false sense of self that we call our ego. If you look carefully you will see that your sense of who you are in the world is made up of unconscious attractions and repulsions, fears and desires. The ego thinks it has control over its identifications and dis-identifications, but it does not.
The usefulness of our ego structure is that it creates a sense of coherence in our experience. Without the sense of self that the ego creates for us, we would have no center from which to reference our experience, and we would be insane.
Once the light of consciousness has been shone on an aspect of our unconscious, the energy contained in that particular unconscious construct integrates into our conscious awareness. When the bind of an unconscious ego pattern has been released, our sense of who we are becomes less contracted and more expansive.
*Adapted from Dr Shakti Malan's Totality Therapy.
What the space of this weekend invites, is for you to feel permission to speak of some of this material; with like-minded souls.
Desire is not only what we express in bed, but our entire creative aliveness:
My definition of desire is a unified one - that includes sex, mind, heart. Usually though, we are not so unified, so the weekend is also about coming more into the body; it's experiential, so gradually people start to feel more solid, more open, more in touch with aspects of themselves that they don't usually see, usually the more shadowy aspects, and these can be brought in.
Okay, so I could say Why Desire? Because (once we’re in the body), it is our unique expression of the totality of us; once we’re naming, owning, flowing from a place of alignment within ourselves, our essence, we feel...right...confidence is not the word. Any temptation to compare ourselves to others simply drops,
We have found a home within ourselves.
"Eros is a divine force. It infuses all the earth. Yet,
too often, in our culture Eros is equated with lust and sexual greed. But it is
a more profound and sacred force than this. Eros is the light of wisdom that
awakens and guides the sensuous. It is the energy that illuminates the earth.
Without it, the earth would be a bare, cold planet for Eros is the soul of the
earth. In the embrace of Eros the earth becomes a terra illuminate. Amidst the
vast expanse of fields and seas, the providence of Eros awakens and sustains
the longing of the earth. This is the nerve source of all attraction,
creativity and procreation. Eros is the mother of life, the force that has
brought us here. It constantly kindles in us the flame of beauty and the desire
for the Beautiful as a path towards growth and transformation." John
An Embodied Approach Matters: I view the body as the meeting place where all aspects of life, and our unique expression of consciousness come together. When I say spiritual awakening, I mean a deepened and refined contact with ourselves and our surroundings that uncovers a primary essence of our being. And by embodiment, I mean an ongoing experience of living within the internal space of our body.
And so if you put them together you get embodied spiritual awakening which means: firstly an inward reference point, before action, which translates as a spiritual groundedness. In many, I see a tendency to drift off into other realms, and whilst there’s nothing wrong with that, it can leave the person diffuse and ungrounded, unrooted, even flaky. By coming to the body, there begins to be real discernment in our action, a chariot for the soul, the body being a bridge to many levels of us, with no one part being the leader. We can have a balanced mind, an open heart without being naive or sentimental, and we can sense the world and each other around us. Many of us have been taught, or through traumatic circumstances, to protect ourselves from each other, from feelings, when in fact, embodiment as a spiritual practice eventually dissolves the protection and we discover being in the body gives us a resilience and ability to feel each other.
But most of us don’t live in our bodies. We live in our mind.
The case I'm endeavoring to make from my story, is that when we descend into the body, we find our pure qualities, our essential essence. We also find our desire.
Inhabiting the body enables us to view our desire from a unified perspective. Many of us 'live' just from the head. By coming into the body, we make contact with
1. our unique qualities (awareness, love, power, gender etc.), with the emphasis on 'our qualities', which are nothing to do with what we've been taught, told or conditioned by,
2. our head, heart and sex, with the vehicle of expression for this weekend being desire, longing, but a desire from a unified perspective, not just sexual.
The Importance of An Experiential Approach:
No-one knows what’s going to happen - including me.
Gain insight that is not possible in one to one session work: Firstly, one to one session work is invaluable, particularly in terms of psychological support; group work over a weekend offers more ‘mirrors’, potentially something from each member of the group. Our own tendencies are often seeing negative aspects of ourselves, and people you have just met can often see us quite clearly. There will be interesting correlations between you all, that valuable insight can be gained from.
Acknowledging fear: any time you to go stretch yourself beyond a belief, let’s take the one of being a good or bad boy, there is fear. This fear will try and stop us from leaving the comfort zones of our beliefs, usually showing up as resistance (resistance often shows up quite innocently, headaches, tiredness, thoughts about suddenly needing to leave). There will be space to notice fear and this weekend could be a gentle step in expressing some other aspects of ourselves, to continue with this example, that fall outside of whatever the belief is. On a previous workshop, one man had an idea that women needed ‘looking after’, that they were somehow fragile. Challenging this belief felt important at this time. I asked him what would be the most difficult aspect of himself that he could express to a woman. Anger. With his permission I asked him to express some of his unexpressed anger to me. All the fear came up for him. We were on a 7 day retreat, so we had more time for the experiment. After many tries, eventually he was able to be angry at me. I asked him to watch me closely, to see if I looked fragile or upset. The experiment gave him a visceral experience that had a ripple effect in his relationships; it was beautiful to witness the unfolding of as he continued to work with me after the retreat.
The power of working with the transformational field: One
of the main benefits of group work is the transformational field. Another way
of describing this field is resonance. We are each a unique bundle of energy, a
symphony, if you like. Imagine a room full of violins. If someone were to enter
this room and pluck the E string on one violin, you would notice the E string
on the others would ‘play’ an empathic tune. This phenomenon accelerates one’s
In an example from my own life, I was co-facilitating a 7 day group process and the first day coincided with the anniversary of my mother’s death. During an opening dance with the whole group, my colleague happened to play a song that was very significant to me in relation to my mother and this touched me deeply and I started to openly weep. Soon, several of the group members, who’d been captivated by what I was experiencing were able to feel their own grief around mothering and the group process had begun.
They say that travel broadens the mind. Being in a group with different kinds of people, maybe people outside of our culture, in a different context to those that you have stuff in common with, different ages, we get to see our conditioning more clearly. I didn’t realise how English I was until I spent a year in India. We are usually really good at seeing the more negative parts of ourselves, but being a part of this group will be to really be seen for our true qualities too, maybe for the first time. Gaining great benefits of each other’s insights and journey
Healing only occurs in the present moment: Secretly, a part of us knows this, and in order to avoid feeling, we go back to the past or forward to the future. Fear comes up in the present moment, False Evidence Appearing Real. However, it’s only when we in some way acknowledge this fear, that it steps aside.
Have a direct experience of the concepts I write about here: If we have a direct experience, it will potentially impact the totality of us - mind, heart, nervous system. If we just learn from a lecture, we are not so involved, and our sophisticated frontal cortex can filter out what it might see as threatening. What I am endeavouring to offer, is an experience that connects with your totality, even though that might not be how you experience yourself. To illustrate, I was co-facilitating a large spiritual workshop at the headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Chennai, India. My group was discussing and reflecting on the moral aspects of a case study, the group consisting Indian professors, psychologists and psychotherapists from UK and Australia. What particularly struck me was how each person’s presentation landed or didn’t land in me. One professor seemed very knowledgeable, but I felt his knowledge came from reading rather than directly experiencing, discovering for himself. His knowledge seemed to come just from the surface of himself.
Being part of a group: one important aspect is a realisation that we all experience similar challenges e.g. we all experience anxiety.
My work aims to cultivate deeper awareness, and your breath
will help you in this; breathing fully and keeping your body oxygenated will
help you to be alert and to fully experience.
My approach is holistic, mindful and somatic and responds to
the energetics of where you are at in your embodied awareness in the moment of
our meeting. Being with a group with me may confront you with some fundamental
• Who am I? What do I believe about myself? Am I my story, life history, trauma? Am I my body?
• What is love?
• Am I willing to accept and embrace my desires and my fears?
• Am I willing to say ‘YES’ to life?
What happens in a group?
The purpose of group work is to catalyze your awareness to the next level of what you are ready for. How this happens and what it entails depends on how I read your energetic, emotional and physical bodies. I listen to your words, but I also feel into your nervous system and your energetic field. From this place, I make an assessment as to what would be the most potent course of action, and it may be that I work directly with you during the workshop; for this workshop The Desire Lab is specifically for those interested in gaining more insight and can be transformational too. The Desire Lab is not pre-planned is highly individualized. I use a huge range of modalities that include,
• Transpersonal Somatics
• The Hakomi Method (Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy)
• The Realisation Process of Judith Blackstone
• Counselling and discussion
• Somatic experiencing
• EFT Energy Psychology
• Guided meditation
• Processwork psychology
• Bioenergetic movement techniques
• Tantric practices
• Gestalt dialogue work
• Totality Tantric Therapy from Dr Shakti Malan
Who is my work for?
Sessions are for those who know there is more to life than their current experience. I often work with highly sensitive and creative people, who have experienced a degree of trauma, which causes a variety of challenges, both in the body and an impact on the ability to live a full life. There are no quick fixes in this work, and individuals need to have enough maturity and personal responsibility to work with me. Life changing discoveries and transformation are possible, but I cannot do the work for you, and it will stretch you beyond your current life boundaries.
Solo or couples?
My work is accessible for individuals or couples. The focus is on the awakening of the individual, which supports what is possible in a partnership in terms of opening to awareness. When partners can support each other in this work together, this can accelerate the awakening of both. But be warned: this work will also confront any illusions that the relationship may be supporting. All genders and sexual orientations are welcome.
The weekend builds towards a 'desire lab', which is an experiential, transformative piece, unique for each individual and whilst it's fair to say that every human being wants more fulfilling relationships, what is blocking that is unconsciously hidden and unique for each person. I will talk with you about what I feel is the first piece - it could be what the block is, it could be something else, and this piece would unlock or open to something profound, or be a gateway, somewhere that brings you more conscious awareness about the internal, emotional barriers to love, and a deeper meeting of your unified desire.
Does any of the following resonate?
- facing a significant life-transition in which you feel scared, ill-equipped and deeply unsure of how to navigate; for some, it’s whether parenthood is a true calling. Others feel at a crossroads now that they’ve retired. Life beginning again after journeying through illness, all with a longing to connect with a passion and inspiration that would lead a truer way. But how?
- Are you passionate about saving the world and wanting to be of service, to rise up, step forward and initiate change, but are not sure where to start?
- Maybe you’re very clear about your desires, yet still they remain out of reach? E.g. A partner, more fulfillment from a current relationship, a baby.
My own relationship with Desire, Embodiment & Pure Qualities
It was during double French one Wednesday afternoon. Madame Maise, my French teacher only allowed us to speak French in class. Today’s topic for conversation was “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I felt instant paralysis. I had no idea whatsoever. I’d never been asked this before. My classmates started to respond “A doctor”; “a lifeguard”, “an accountant” (all in French of course). I was amazed by these answers. I came up with “legal secretary”. During the break after class, I went up to my friends and enquired. “You said you wanted to be a doctor, why’s that?” “oh, my dad’s a doctor”. Every single person replied that someone in their immediate family was the profession they had said they wanted to be.
Two years later, I land my first job as an office junior at a solicitors. The senior partner was a tyrant and I was terrified of him, along with the rest of the staff. As office junior, I was based in the reception area, and would see the senior partner’s two sons, who were at law school, and dropped in on their father once a week. It was painful for me to be in the presence of these young men, as I could see they were highly anxious. I had many conversations with them and they both told me they only went into law school because their father pushed them into it.
Fast forward 18 years and I am on a Sexuality weekend workshop, as part of a Transpersonal Psychotherapy training. The majority of participants were British. What I noticed as the weekend unfolded, is that I became more and more alive, and my colleagues, generally, more rigid and tight lipped (tight assed too).
My one and only adult guardian was deeply affected by trauma, teaching me ‘not to do’ many things, but never what I might do, and certainly not what I wanted to do or be. The absence of encouragement or direction, coupled with the inheritance and direct experience of trauma, neglect and abuse, invited me to go deep within myself for any kind of answer that made sense to me. This deep searching within, gradually became an inner calling, a guidance, a connection to the unseen realms, the mystical, that gradually awakened in me a love, a desire, devotion, to the exploration of our divinity - to know what I had touched within myself: our true identity.
However, something was amiss. I was very intellectual and spiritually gifted, but very much in my head, not so grounded and was drinking and smoking more than I wanted to. Also, I felt quite a lot of numbness in my pelvis and other areas of my body. In intimacy, I would also ruminate and analyse constantly; telling myself what he should or shouldn’t be saying or doing “if he loved me”. In the bedroom I would be quite distracted and it was all about performing and pleasing the man.
During the second year of my psychotherapy training I attended a weekend called Body Awareness by Annie Lloyd. I found myself getting stirred up with strong feelings. My mind kept trying to figure out what was going on, but it kept losing it’s foothold, as this weekend was all about the body. Whilst the channel of visualisation and sensing was strong for me, I realised I couldn’t sense anything in my body, I could only visualise. What I didn’t fully appreciate at that time was, I wasn’t inhabiting the inner space of my body. I knew this work of coming into the body was next for me, becoming part of a group of psychotherapists that would meet with Annie four times a year for seven years. Annie worked with us using a powerful mindful, somatic, psychotherapy called The Hakomi Method. The only way I have found to successfully make contact with and process pre-verbal material is with and through the body.
After completing my training, I spent a year in India working on an outsourcing project for the British government. Firstly, it was in a completely different culture to mine that I, reluctantly, could see how English I was, and had many frustrating and enlightening conversations at the many clashes. I was also in spiritual heaven, however there was so much more to discover in my descent into the body. It was during a 21 day Panchakarma rejuvenation treatment in Kerala during the monsoon season, that I was told by the practitioner that I had the most rigid body he had ever worked with. Not the most encouraging intervention, but I later realised that there were certain techniques he would do that would trigger a trauma freeze response in me, and this was what was happening.
- Connect deeper with what you’ve been longing for your whole life. Even though you currently don’t have words for this longing, there is a gut feeling, or a sudden embodied inspiration, that can take you by surprise.
- Loosen your need to control life and relationships -
- discover more clarity about what is meaningful to you
- begin to accept what has so far been taboo in your experience of life. For example, a Kundalini yoga teacher who was dedicated to becoming more embodied, realised on the workshop that there was an aspect of himself that he’d judged as bad and impure. Once he’d acknowledged and explored these parts, he had much more presence, a gravitas, the embodiment that he sought.
- Find a space to finally relax and gently discover what might be an authentic desire
- Discover a deep intimacy that has nothing to do with an external person ‘wanting’ you
Being aligned with our desire, our deepest longing, can be a true compass for everything in life.
However, this compass seems to be pretty hidden for most of us, so uprooted we are at these times from any true sense of belonging; with experiences of trauma that lift us out of the body, looking and listening instead to consumption, social media, what we’ve been taught at school or handed down from our culture. In the British schooling system, desire doesn’t get a look in, in fact in many cultures desire is taboo.
This weekend is potentially powerful, with space to discover and acknowledge what you deeply want. So, ultimately, the weekend is about finding some unique feeling of desire, from a unified perspective.
I have guided many people in connecting with their true desire.
Take previous participant *Nigel, who had some sessions with me before joining the workshop. A man in his 50s, an investment banker in the City, with regulation navy pinstripe suit, his briefcase between us like a protective shield. He sat opposite me with his arms folded, peeking out at me. He wanted to feel more alive, both in and out of the bedroom “I have a great life and I should be feeling like it’s great” he said. I was curious to hear more about this great life that was making him so unhappy.
Straight away I noticed how void of life his dense body seemed; it had about as much life as the chair he was sitting in. Nigel started to talk about his life, and my eyelids started to droop. I was searching for signs of life. I patiently waited. And waited. Where was this man’s life force? Then something caught my attention, I noticed the corner of a book peeping out the top of his briefcase ‘Portug…’.
Here was my chance… ‘Have you ever thought about a visit to Portugal?’ I asked him. For the first time in 40 minutes his body moved. He was utterly stunned into life at my intervention. We had both had an encounter with his life force. Turns out he had had a fascination with Portugal since he was a wee boy, and a deep longing to draw and paint its landscapes. In his family growing up however, creativity was not valued or seen as something that could turn into a ‘proper’ career. This man’s blossoming lay in the discovery and nurturing of a more authentic part of his being.
The Opening to Desire weekend was key for him in many ways; Nigel had always been creative but it was not valued in his family, nor at boarding school, where both environments kept pushing this part of him down, by criticising and judging it as worthless, until eventually this is what he did to himself. His small group began to mirror and encourage the part of him that is moved to paint Portugese landscapes, and he left the weekend much clearer about why he’d been so miserable and what brought him joy (joy is about as unwelcome as desire in the British culture).
We must go deeper within ourselves, to open to what is there. What do I mean by going deeper? This weekend is about going deeper in the totality of ourselves. Deeper in the heart, in the sex, in bringing more to our conscious awareness. If we know more about our tendencies learnt in childhood, we will recognise them when they show up, witness them in loving awareness, and endeavour to reach beyond them and into new pastures.
Join this experiential weekend and dive deeply into your relationship with YOUR desire. Discover, expand, heal and transform blocks to intimacy and embody more of your essential essence, and deepen in the wisdom of the heart.
HOW? We will be using body-based and transpersonal techniques and practices, solo, in small groups and in the group as a whole, including inquiry, somatic exercises, depth psychology, clothed Tantric practices (The Tantric practices are solo, except perhaps one or two; they are communion on the finest level of being, not based on sub-conscious sexuality; there is no physical touch and they invite an energetic opening of the subtle bodies, guiding you deep inside yourself, to a place where deep listening is possible, At the finest level, sexual energy is the movement of life force, creating the universe and it's this we'll be tapping into.) 'Desire Lab' is a term I use to describe the alchemical possibilities, both individually, and for the group as a whole, when for those who are curious and willing (and there is time for), take the unique opportunity to step deeper into what’s been unfolding during the weekend, to move through any blocks, or increase self awareness in taking the next step in your life. It's an entirely experiential transformational piece, which the weekend builds toward, with some participants engaging with, guided by me.
Sat 10-6pm, Sun 1-6pm
** BOOKING **
BOOK NOW if you know you have to join this event, £170. Please email me at [email protected] for bank details. Payment secures your place. I would love to welcome you.
What do I mean by Opening?
Society, the media, our conditioning would have us believe that we need to look to the outside, for objects to fulfil us, but I believe we need to firstly change the direction of our perceiving – from outer to inner. Instead of the habit of an object of desire, by turning inside and opening to desire within us, we experience desire as what we are. Openness emanates a particular quality. Leadership coach, Nick Williams, says “Leadership is knowing that openness is often the best defence - what we are open about, we have less need to defend”
A weekend to acknowledge, discover, embrace, embody and finally BE your deepest longing (even if currently you have no clue what your deepest longing is), beyond any should, shouldn’ts, or whether you’ve been good or bad.
The story above of Nigel is a case in point. In the British Culture we never seem to talk about desire, and it’s deeper counterpart, longing. It’s pretty taboo…we make sex sleazy, shameful or weirdly slapstick like in the Carry on Movies of the 60s and 70s. We were told things like ‘those who ask, don’t get’. My old school moto was ‘Nihil Sine Labore’, Nothing Without Hard Work; how depressing is that? It can make desire seem frivolous, that we don’t deserve it, we don’t even deserve to acknowledge it. But…what if it were the compass to health, happiness and our purpose in life? Cultural/religious positions: The influence of the collective – the culture, religion or tribe – can cause an individual to deny or repress their own experience in favour of what is acceptable.
The principle of organicity comes from organic systems theory, which recognizes that living systems, such as people, are creative, self-organizing, and self-directed. The organicity principle recognizes the value of supporting and working in alignment with this intelligence in the person’s system. I have a deep faith in our own inner-healing abilities, not imposing an agenda on each other, rather finding ways to acknowledge and support the person’s own emerging self-direction; not interpreting the person’s experience for him or her. Rather, the person is supported to discover and create his or her own meaning. This organicity principle, coupled with our acknowledging what is deeply driving us, is something we can trust, even though it might look downright crazy to others. Quite an extreme example of this is portrayed in the beautiful movie with Ryan Gosling, Lars and the Real Girl, I highly recommend watching Official Trailer - Lars and The Real Girl
It relates in terms of trusting that what we're drawn towards is going to lead us to more wholeness, as opposed to trying to suppress or ignore what we are dreaming or fantasizing about. The movie I recommend is a great example of this. Another is, especially if you're British, owning more of the shadow side, at least if you're middle class.
A Tantric Approach to Desire
I will take you through practices that, at your own pace, invite coming deeper into the body, where you may discover, your particular unique expression of consciousness, using the framework from the Hindu Tantric tradition of the chakras. In an environment of safety, in mainly solo practice, (all practices are fully clothed) inhabiting your pelvis fully, your sex, feeling your gender - your gender awaits you in your body, you don’t have to go looking for it, the direction is to open to it.
Relating to desire from a subject position; I could also say a singular, non-dual perspective. In a beautifully crafted book called Open to Desire (2006. London: Penguin), Buddhist psychologist Mark Epstein presents the possibility that we may engage our desire from a subject rather than an object position. He refers to the writings of feminist Jessica Benjamin and reflects on her writing: “Can women be their desire?" The challenge for women, she decided, is to move from being just an object of desire to becoming a subject: she who desires. Of course I would say that the same principle applies for all genders. If we can BE our desire, any sense of performing or pleasing, though these tendencies will still come up in us, begins to drop away.
What previous participants say...
"Kimaya's work always has a deeply profound effect on my life... she has a way of seeing through the veils and the masks right to the essence of you... and can hold the space to allow you to reveal your nature and be loved for it.
The way she worked us through pelvic exercises one workshop had quite a life-altering effect. I noticed that I'd considered myself to be really flexible and open in the hips and pelvis… but stumbled across blocks and inflexibility. I decided to do the exercises she showed me every morning… and wow it's created such a positive change. I was practically invisible to men for a while but this changed and got asked out on dates, bumping into lovely men... and started to feel like a woman again.
Thank you for holding such an exquisite space for transformation...your depth and compassion are much admired by me."
"Thank you for an amazing weekend of deep connection to self and others. The mix of individual, partner and group movement and process created a supportive and safe space to be vulnerable and explore deep desires in a way that was beyond my expectations. You led a diverse group of individuals through an amazing journey of self-discovery and made it look easy!
It was a powerful, transformative experience and I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to have been part of it. I am also glad I pushed through my own fear and comfort zone enough to even hear my heart's longing. I will endeavour to keep listening. Thank you."
"Hi Kimaya, thank you for an epic, gorgeous workshop. Thank you for your respect for us all and your commitment to authenticity. I've had an enlightening night of Kundalini"
Sat 10-6pm, Sun 10-6pm
Transpersonal Sexuality and Gender
Sexuality, bare perception and non-duality. There are many ways in which we limit, or veil our perception. One of the main obstacles to bare perception is the tendency to substitute ideas for experience itself. Gender is a case in point. During our young lives we receive many messages about what it is to be our particular gender. Our guardians say to us “Little girls don’t look nice when they’re angry”, or “Little girls must only wear dresses”, “Boys don’t play with dolls”, “Boys are weak if they cry”, “Have you been good?” Whatever it is, and we get the message that we are not okay as we are, we must follow all these gender rules. These rules create a familiarity in the way we experience ourselves, which is at odds with how we authentically are, in the essence of us. In order to truly experience our gender (which of course is multi-layered, with many qualities),we need to open to our essence, without any of these preconceptions, in the clear empty space of our consciousness.
I will guide you in a specific practice to open to feeling your gender; the quality of gender is often the most difficult for people to feel. This is because most people ‘live’ more in the top of their bodies than the bottom. According to psychotherapist and creator of The Realization Process, Judith Blackstone, the negation of suppression of sexuality, which has been passed down from one generation to the next, is a common, culture-wide holding pattern. Children are taught very early that the bottom of their body must be kept hidden, and many are even taught that the feelings associated with that part of the body are “dirty” or “bad.” Even if there is more acceptance of our sexual nature now than there was in past generations, the holding pattern associated with these attitudes toward sexuality is passed down through the generations, as children mirror the way their parents live in their bodies. If the parents suppress the feelings in the bottom of their bodies, their children will often unconsciously mirror that pattern. But, as we inhabit the pelvis, and all of the anatomy of our gender, we will experience a quality of gender. In an example from my own life, I hadn’t been aware of numbness in my pelvis, as this way of experiencing myself was so familiar. In fact, I believed that I didn’t have a G spot, as I couldn’t feel anything in this area. I was also committed to embodied awakening, and engaging in lots of bioenergetics practices that brought me, slowly, into my body over a period of years. What I was amazed to discover, was a slow ‘defrosting’ in the whole of my pelvic area. Turns out I do have a G spot!
What is The Desire Lab?
This is where we weave the weekend together; the many levels of you - the psychological you, the unconscious, what might be showing as something missing (to be brought in with an impact of medicine), or an aspect to be seen more clearly, before letting go a layer of. There are many, many combinations of what may be included and none of us will know in advance! I’ve been a teacher, in many different forms, for 30 years and the most difficult aspect I see about attending a class is being able to apply it to real life.
The self-help books are so good, but if you’re anything like me, you forget about them once they’re back on the shelf. The Desire Lab is where, for some of you, we bring many aspects of your discovery together in an experiential, bespoke transformational piece, unique for each participant and is what we build towards over the course of the weekend. It is entirely experiential, created in the moment, guided by me, with your full consent. Being open to what might unfold, manifest from your experience in the time after the workshop.
Take *Bill, a recently retired corporate city manager. Never had any therapy or been to a workshop in his entire life. Found out about the event through his daughter and knew he had to join. He was surprised about feelings he was having about his retirement; that he ‘should’ be happy, knew that he wasn’t, and had no idea whatsoever what was at the root of it, and that was as far as he was currently able to get. He displayed much resistance when I began exploring with him, mainly disagreeing with what I was saying, even though I was more or less repeating what I’d heard him say. His approach to his intimate life was similar to his managerial approach at work – control and keep at arm’s length. As he’d been sharing in his small group his desire and his approach to achieving it, all life was sucked out of the room, and the rest of his group started to fall asleep. Back to my exploration with him, I ended up saying “This isn’t going so well, is it?” I kept going “Why don’t I just say what I have in mind, and you can decide if you want it or not.” Bill nodded. I shared with him my idea (I’m not going to share it here, as it often appears on this weekend), and he smiled a huge smile. He wanted it.
I could also call the Desire Lab a womb of possibility, especially after one previous participant, whose desire it was to have a baby, contacted me just a couple of days after the workshop, to tell me she was pregnant. Of course, she would have been pregnant during the workshop, but we weren’t aware of this.
Not everyone will want to take part in their own transformational piece. However, an element of each transformational piece, is to sometimes take part in someone else’s, a little like family constellations and being a representative. This happens if a participant chooses you (you can also say no if it does not resonate for you). For example, in the above story of Bill, he chose someone to represent an aspect of himself that he discovered was directly blocking his life, that of his first ex-wife. The person he chose for this (he didn’t discover until later), had a similar dynamic in their life and found this both confronting and healing. I also want to mention gender, for example, I have had participants wanting to choose someone to represent their father, but in the present moment, chosen a female. It is key that each person goes with their embodied instinct of the moment and later discover the deeper link that made them choose.
*In all stories names and a few details have been changed to protect identity.
Give me the strongest cheese, the one that stinks best;
and I want the good wine, the swirl in crystal
surrendering the bruised scent of blackberries,
or cherries, the rich spurt in the back
of the throat, the holding it there before swallowing.
Give me the lover who yanks open the door
of his house and presses me to the wall
in the dim hallway, and keeps me there until I'm drenched
and shaking, whose kisses arrive by the boatload
and begin their delicious diaspora
through the cities and small towns of my body.
To hell with the saints, with martyrs
of my childhood meant to instruct me
in the power of endurance and faith,
to hell with the next world and its pallid angels
swooning and sighing like Victorian girls.
I want this world.
Open to Desire (2006. London: Penguin), Mark Epstein
The World is a Waiting Lover: Love, Desire, and Our Quest for Meaning, Trebbe Johnson
Divine Beauty, John O’Donohue
L. Temple-Thurston. The Marriage of Spirit: Enlightened Living in Today’s World, Sante Fe,
Corelight Publishing, 2000.
The Games People Play, Eric Berne
Lars and the Real Girl
Hello, My Name is Doris (2018)