What about the Dark Side? 5/28/16

darkness

I’m exhausted, and in no way do I feel like I can pull the “so grateful for the lessons” card. Life is fucking hard sometimes. Truth.

Recently I’m asking the question: Where is God? Even though I have all my basic necessities met, which is more than most of the population of this planet can say, I feel like I’m being dragged through the rubble, muck and debris of a soul being torn to pieces. My only hope is there is a re-assemble phase somewhere in the (near) future.

And right now, I’m not even sure who will read this raw and un-optimistic spilling of my heart and soul. I’m not even sure how many people have read the posts I’ve written over the last several months. I know some of my closest friends don’t even read them, and sometimes I bet my mom is even to busy.

I’m tired of technology taking over our lives. Put away your damn phone while I’m gushing my heart to you. Stop pretending you can really listen, and check your email or facebook feed at the same time.  Not only did I “release” old, non-authentic parts of my self…I ripped their controlling, clingy paws off of my True me and threw them to the floor, hoping they smash into infinite little pieces that can never crawl back together and try to attach to my True me. I can’t live any other way.

As someone who had a large capacity to “look on the bright side” I’m now in the underbelly. What about the Dark Side? It has its place just as much as the bright and shiny does. The grit of reality, over time, slowly chips away at our ideas of ourselves, until what is left is no idea at all, simply Being.

I struggle with the “Spiritual Community” particularly as I visit yoga studios decked out in mass produced furniture that has no “high vibe” feeling to it at all. I’m deeply saddened by the popularity that can come into the yoga world; where the studio is a place to “see and be seen” and not in the sense that my True Self can walk in swollen eyed and all from crying more tears than I thought my little eyes could hold, and fall onto my mat in a place of protection. Some of these spiritual places become a place to show off the coolest new clothes or your perfect hair-do. I want people to walk in wearing the things they only wear at home, make-up be gone, stained shirts and ripped sweats and get on the damn mat and let all your shit fall away as you breathe and move.

Yoga is not about me. Yoga is about releasing the idea of Me, and stepping into the part of me that will never die, to connect with the part of you that will never die. That is where Connection lives, outside of personality and story and always-smiles. Connection is the raw and real. The place of true empathy, where I feel your pain so deeply that it becomes my own, and I can mourn your loss and sorrow with you.

I’m tired of words not being enough to express my feelings, and they are the only “acceptable” way to share Truth. Fuck language and explanation! I want to roar out my anger and sadness, and be witnessed for that truth. It’s not scary. Being un-authentic is fucking scary, because it’s not real. Roar with me in your anguish and sorrow. It’s as beautiful as the moments of joy and celebration. The underbelly reminds me there is no escape. It is all life, and I refuse to put on a happy face and stride through, when sometimes I can barely lift my feet to walk. One. Step. At. A. Time.

The Darkness reminds me that it is All Love. And love isn’t flowers and kisses and happy feelings. Love is all the parts between grief and pain, and joy and face-numbing happiness. Loving what is means being in the pain and letting it crack you open, one breath at a time; and celebrating the moments of happiness.

I can choose Love. And sometimes it won’t be what society tells me is “love.” Love can be crying near the ocean and remembering my tears are made of the same thing as its vastness. Love is forgiving humans for being human, because I’m a human too.

If anyone reads this, I hope you remember to be gracious while in your rage, disappointment and emptiness. The Container is love, not what is inside the container. Empty or full, it’s all life. And like the tide, it fills and empties. And Life goes on.

Creating a Culture of Affection & Connection – 2/16/2016

James and I had a busy, and incredibly inspiring weekend in Ashland. Saturday night we participated in an event called Love: Exposed, a collaboration between Love Revolution and ScienceWorks. The evening highlighted the science behind love and human relationships with activities including vibrator races, making Valentine’s cards, karaoke, a DJ, and a mixologist making delicious cocktails. There were multiple presenters each giving a 20 minute talk on topics including The Myth of The One, Pheromones & Intimacy, Orgasm, The Pleasure of Pain, and Arousal. James & I gave a Talk about Touch, emphasizing the power of healing touch. Touch, for me, is one of the most potent avenues to being Present. Because the sensations of the body only exist in the present moment, truly experiencing them brings us to presence.

Sunday afternoon we shared our Partner Yin Yoga Massage workshop, an opportunity for couples, or just a couple of friends, to create healing space for touch, applied in yin yoga poses, deepened with elements of Thai Yoga Massage. The room was filled with gooey loving, appreciation, sounds of enjoyment, smiles, laughter and potent presence!

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I’m truly so grateful for the glimpse into a world of co-creating with my Beloved James, and the healing power of touch! I’m excited for our adventures and our passion to Create a Culture of Affection & Connection!

Here’s a little run down of the science behind touch:

  • The Skin:
    • A waterproof shield, protecting our precious insides from getting burned by the sun, helps to maintain a consistent body temperature through blood flow and perspiration.
    • The only external organ, weights an average of 8 pounds, spread out into a human quilt spans about 22 square feet, and has over 4 million nerve receptors, mostly on the fingers, tongue and lips.
    • Covered in antibacterial cells to ward off harmful viruses or chemicals.
    • Utilizes the power of the sun to create Vitamin D for healthy bones (want strong, healthy bones? Go outside!).
  • Neurochemistry activated by touch:
    • Releases Oxytocin: “the cuddle hormone”helps affirm social relationships and community cooperation, supports a sense of connection.
    • Decreases Cortisol: a stress hormone which narrows the arteries increasing heart rate.
    • Increases Serotonin: balances the internal functions of the body with the external stimuli, involved in eating, sleeping, circadian rhythms and neuroendocrine function.
    • Stimulates the thymus gland, which balances the body’s production of white blood cells, boosting our immune system keeping us healthy!
    • Stimulates the vagus nerve, connected to our parasympathetic nervous system, controlling involuntary functions in the body like heart rate, blood pressure and food digestion~the vagus nerve helps decide if we are in a state of Rest & Digest or Fight or Flight.
  • Stimulates movement of chi or life-force energy, helps to ease muscles and break up stagnant energy in the body.

Dr. Michael Hertenstein, director of the Touch and Emotion Lab at DePauw University, has brought the benefits of touch to light. He believes (and we agree), “Most of us, whatever our relationship status, need more human contact than we’re getting. Compared with other cultures, we live in a touch-phobic society that’s made affection with anyone but loved ones taboo.” The physiological, psychological and emotional benefits of touch are older than the cultural norms we’ve created around it. Clearly the level of affection in a culture is based on norms, not the biology of being human. In my experience of traveling to other parts of the world where affection is abundant and free-flowing, there’s a sense of joyfulness and connection that is up-lifting.

As babies we’re snuggled to be soothed, our hands are held to help us learn to walk, and we’re hugged and kissed as an expression of love. Premature babies who are held gain weight faster than those who aren’t given regular affection and touch. Non-human primates spend 20% of their time grooming each other. Imagine how your life would change if you could safely share touch more often, with more people. Touch with the intention of healing and connection (which can be sexual, but not necessarily), gives opportunities to affirm appreciation and social cooperation, relaxes the body and thus the mind, and allows for sharing intimacy without necessarily needing to verbalize. This video by Dacher Keltner gives a great run-down of the social benefits of touch.

As an Affection Advocate, here are some practical applications to get your Daily Dose of Touch:

  • “Flirting” invites a spark of interest and an opportunity to connect and share touch. Adding a little touch of the arm or back during interactions gives us the flow of happy chemicals, and affirms our social web of connections.
  • Take advantage of opportunities and tune into touch~walk barefoot on the Earth, feel the sun or a cool breeze on your skin, experience your food by eating with your hands, initiate self-massage, trade massages with a friend, notice the sensation of your skin and your breath.
  • Share touch with your pet! There are also many benefits of having a pet, such as decreased stress and anxiety, improved memory, and increased cardiovascular health. We snuggle pretty hard core with our puppy Stitch!

Touch is fundamental to physical health, psychological and emotional well-being, and creating and maintaining connection with community. When we allow expression to be  free-flowing we create more chances for casual, consistent connection, supporting our need for regular touch outside of primary relationships and families, which encourages a tighter and broader web of community. We can become present any moment we choose to pay attention to what we are touching. Reach out and connect more!