Be still

June 26, 2012


I’m taking this to heart as I prepare to head east for the next few days to retreat. Remembering that I can be still inside – even as I bustle and pack – is a soothing hand at my back.

May you find stillness in your days. May you remember as many times as you need to that you can seek and find stillness – even as you move.

With so much love,
Kristin

P.S. I made some changes this week to my About page to try to more clearly articulate what I’m here to do. I love feedback, always, and welcome and appreciate any you have to give on this.

Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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Blessing

June 18, 2012


I’m thoughtful after our week here last week – integrating and pondering so much. And grateful to the women who shared their truths and for the rich conversation in comments.

I’m mindful, too, that sensuality isn’t foremost on everyone’s mind right now, and so feel moved to share publicly the Trust Note my subscribers got last week.

Whether you’re blossoming sensually or not, this letter is for you:

+ + + + + + +

It’s Friday morning here, cold and gray. It’s my kids’ last day of school for the year, and, rather than one last morning alone for me, my son is on the couch with a stomach ache.
 
I’ve been so moved by the interviews at Trust Tending this week (here, here, and here). All three women are so vibrantly alive, and even when they don’t FEEL particularly vibrant (surely they, like we, don’t feel high all the time), their work ignites such growth in the rest of us. Seeds of sensual awakening are planted and watered and, in many cases, caused to shoot up by the foot, by the work these women do.
 
I’m aware, however, too, that sensual growth is a lifelong enterprise, and nothing says that putting it off now = never helping it happen.
 
Sometimes there’s sick kids on the couch. Sometimes there’s ailing parents. Sometimes you’re so depressed or so deeply in grief or mired in a workload so large that responsibility spills and oozes from your plate.
 
Sometimes the work that’s yours right now has nothing overtly at all to do with sensuality (or fill-in-the-blank with whatever topic gets touted inadvertently or on purpose as must be tended right now).
 
I want to state outright that I think that’s just fine. More than just fine.
 
There are so many avenues for growth and so many ways to come alive. Pick any one of them, or, as is more often the case, have any one of them pick you, and BOOM! You’re right where you need to be.
 
My encouragement to you, instead, is to listen.
 
Listen to the quieter voices inside you – the ones your more dominant inner voices – like your inner manager and task master and the voice that’s all about paying the bills – tend to talk over.
 
These quieter voices sound like tender hopes a lot of the time, or persistent invitations. Or like a restless wish for change.
 
They even sound jealous sometimes, or bummed that someone has something you very much want.
 
However they sound, I encourage you to listen to them and take them seriously. They can help you incisively discern what work or what play is yours right now to do – "yours" meaning what the wisdom of your life is calling you to do.
 
If your work right now is about sensual evolution, wonderful! If it’s about something else entirely, that’s wonderful, too.
 
I bless you today, right where you are. Because…where else could you possibly be?
 
With love,
Kristin

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For those who don’t receive them already, Trust Notes are my more personal writings. Occasionally they’re simple sketches, but more often they’re letters like these, penned from my heart.

As Trust Tending grows, I’m eager to maintain and continually reimagine ways to connect personally and meaningfully with the community that gathers here (can’t wait to share the new ideas up my sleeve for this Fall!). I hope these letters can continue to be a place for that.

At the end of this month I’ll be attending the Creative Joy Retreat where Tracey Clark will be sparking my creative juices on the photography front. So I plan to begin including photographs with Trust Notes on occasion – another intentional means to lift the veil from inadvertent “Slick, Edited Blog Persona” to reveal the flesh and blood underneath.

If you don’t receive Trust Notes and wish to, sign ups are there in the sidebar.

And if Trust Notes are meaningful to you and you’d like to help others know why, please share in the comments below! What do you like about Trust Notes? Why do you read them? Your feedback helps me stay my course – or helpfully adjust it – and helps others more clearly recognize where value for them lies.

Thank you!

Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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Sensual Evolution with Ev’Yan Whitney

June 14, 2012


This is the fourth of a series on sensual evolution. The first three articles are here, here, and here.

One of the biggest turn-ons for me in this wide, wide world is the process of growth and discovery. In my life, in dear ones’ lives, in people I don’t even know: show me someone learning and my heart catches fire.

I was raised in environments where right and wrong were bedrock assumptions, and beliefs that humans hold the difference between being inside the fold of God’s pleasure and pride, and somewhere distastefully beyond it.

But the longer I live, and the more consciously I observe my process of growth and the growth of those around me, the more difficult it becomes to draw lines around right/wrong, in/out, sacred and profane.

The more the process of growth itself becomes the “in”, the Holy, and the more none of us appear to be beyond it.

In the last 16 months I’ve watched with wonder and delight as Ev’Yan Whitney launched her business and blog, Sex, Love, Liberation, and devoted herself to:

…help liberate you into audacious self-love, to inspire you to manifest your sexualities (making this so second nature that it’s as easy as breathing), & to encourage you to be a beautifully conscious creature — if only to teach myself the same lessons.

It’s that last bit that so lights me up.

Ev’Yan has evolved right in front of us: sharing her perspectives, then living consciously and with curiosity and intention to share with us, again and yet again, the changes she’s made to her earlier assumptions.

This is a woman who hasn’t arrived anywhere but into an ongoing process of growth.

So maybe you do or don’t see things like she does. Maybe you’re threatened by some of the positions she takes. And maybe you’re just plain curious about where her life will take her. Any and all of the above are fine!

But in every case, she is a model of an unstuck and unsticking human being, opening heart and mind repeatedly to what life and people and her own bodily sensations can teach her about being deeply, beautifully, consciously alive to love.

Who knows where this will lead? Thank heavens she’s devoted her life to showing us!

I asked her one, pointed question for her interview today, and hope you’ll take the time to read the articles linked to the answers that most call to you. Each one expands beautifully on the lessons listed below.

+ + + + + + +

You’ve devoted yourself for the last 16 months to mindful growth as a sexual/sensual being. Can you share with us some of your understandings/beliefs that have evolved in that time?

+ I’ve learned that monogamy isn’t imperative to all relationships & that jealousy can be optional.

+ I’ve learned that pornography is a complex, tricky subject, & that its presence & influence on the minds & sexualities of others will always be an issue — both in a positive & a negative way.

+ I’ve learned that self-love is more of a journey than a destination, & that it takes time (& patience to cultivate).

+ I’ve gained a new perspective on sexual orientation & gender; that it’s not black & white, but very grey & fluid.

+ I’ve seen my own marriage shift to more openness & less possession. I’m able to entertain the idea of polyamory without breaking into hives because I have a better understanding of what it means to be within an interdependent relationship.

+ I’ve learned that sex is meant to be easy.

+ I’ve learned to view my sexuality as a spiritual practice.

+ I have seen the power of other people’s stories & have learned that we’re all much more alike than we think.

+ I’ve learned (& am still learning) to love my body, my belly, my skin.

Thank you, Ev’Yan, for these gifts. I’m inspired deeply by your story!

+ + + + + + +

Ev`Yan Whitney is a sexual liberation artist for women who are hungry for shameless sensual expression. With honeyed prose, she instigates brazen discussions about sexuality at her digital sanctuary, sexloveliberation.com, which serves as a lifeboat for those craving connection to their inner desires. Join her tribe of sensualists by signing up to the Self-Love Letters. You can also follow her on Twitter: @ev_yan.

Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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Sensual Evolution with Yollana Shore

June 13, 2012

Today, as we continue a week devoted to tending trust around sensual growth, we’re joined by Yollana Shore. Yollana is a heart-centered teacher and coach with Mark Silver’s Heart of Business; a healer and business owner at Soul Business; and an all-around beautiful, awakening soul (see bio below).

In addition to her other work, Yollana has spent the last five years thinking deeply, overtly, and with great heart about the “everything else” that is being attracted to people outside one’s committed relationship (read yesterday’s post for more on what “everything else” means).

We’ve ALL had these attractions if we’ve been in long-term relationships, but most of us don’t talk a lot about them or feel clear about how to navigate them healthfully (Michele touched briefly on this in Monday’s interview).

So I’m delighted to welcome Yollana here to share what she’s been learning, and grateful to her husband, too, for his significant role in Yollana’s ongoing evolution.

+ + + + + + + +

1. Your perspective on monogamy and on navigating attractions to people outside a primary relationship strike me as profound. Are these issues you’ve been giving thought to for a long time?

Actually this is something I’ve been struggling with a long time. But perhaps I not consciously. It’s only in the last five years or so that I’ve really begun to pay conscious attention to it.

I was born in the tail end of an era of conscious exploration into sexuality and relationships. From the 50s when it was assumed that relationships were monogamous, to the 60′s where there was a revolution in sexual openness, and then the 70′s where some of the challenges of that openness were also being acknowledged… In a way, my parents personified these different approaches – one wanted to feel free to honour their feelings and attractions with other people. The other wanted the security and commitment of a monogamous relationship. By the time I was six month’s old, this apparent conflict was enough for them to choose not to be together.

So in that sense, this question is central to my life story…

2. Sexual attraction to people outside our committed relationships is part of the human experience. For those of us who want to maintain the integrity and monogamy of our committed relationships, this poses a challenge: what to do with these feelings! Can you talk briefly about assumptions you see made – by others, or by yourself – about what best to do with these attractions… and even assumptions about their true nature?

Well, as I said, this is something I struggled with a long time. From my first long-term relationship when I was 15, and again with my current partner (actually my second long-term relationship) before we were married. I don’t know if it’s to do with the way I’m wired or not, but when I meet someone new, I often find it easy to trust and be intimate with them straight away. This has been true for me with friends and colleagues as well as lovers.

Funny, I just saw this for the first time writing this – but maybe it was because I was six months old when my parents split up… Anyway, when I was younger, I used to have this pattern where after six months together with my partner I would just fall in love with someone else. And I would sleep with them. When I say “fall in love”…. I don’t think I ever planned a long-term or serious relationship. It tended to be “holiday romance” with someone who was travelling, or while I was travelling. Anyways, I would tell my partner. We would break up. I would promise never to do it again. We would get back together. And about six months to a year later I would do it again.

This pattern repeated itself a number of times and it was really, really painful for my first boyfriend, and later for Will, who is now my husband. Looking back at that time, I can see that there was a core assumption underlying my behaviour… I carried the assumption that my feelings – which felt so Spiritual, Right and True at the time – were like a divine decree from God, and I had to follow them. And, related to that, I think there was a belief that if I couldn’t act out the love I was feeling, I would be betraying myself. Painful as it was, it took a lot of living to become conscious of these assumptions, so I could start to find a different way of being with myself, my partner and my feelings.

I think when people are in a monogamous relationship and find themselves feeling attracted to other people, it can feel like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. For most people, there are two main options. And they both have tough consequences. Option one is to suppress the sexual or loving feelings you are having towards someone else. The problem with this is that suppressing any feelings disconnects you from your feeling centre and, in the case of sexual feelings, it particularly blocks the flow of your creativity, life force and love – not just to that person, but to yourself, your partner, and other areas of your life. Option two is to follow these feelings into having an affair – real or imagined – with the person you are attracted too. This gets painful and complicated for everyone.

3. You had an experience 5 years ago that changed your perspective on this “what to do with these feelings” question. Can you describe this experience and tell us what insights you gained from it?

Yes. This was a few years after marrying my husband, and nearly ten years into our partnership. Our daughter was two years old. I had finished with actually sleeping with other people that I was attracted too, but I hadn’t worked out what to productively do with my feelings yet. Then, luckily, I met someone :-)

I was at a week-long retreat, and during a chanting session, I had the odd experience of having something very similar to an orgasm, while sitting next to this person I hardly knew, and without any physical contact at all. Over the course of the week I was surprised to find myself thinking about this person more and more, and as the attraction grew stronger, I grew excited, confused and uncomfortable – all at once.

I remembered something that a spiritual teacher HWL Poonjaji had said about accessing pure awareness. He said “do not give rise to a thought, and do not try to stop one either.” When I paid close attention to the thoughts and fantasies that I was having about this person, I realised that, for the most part, I was not giving rise to these thoughts. Most of my conscious energy was spent worrying about how to stop them. So, as an experiment, I stopped worrying, and instead allowed all the “taboo” thoughts and feelings that I was having to come flooding. After a particularly intense period of this (about four hours I think), I found that what had begun as a feeling of sexual attraction, turned into something else entirely when I allowed it to be fully felt inside myself.

By following the thoughts and feelings underneath them, I experienced something that felt like Angel wings, which purified my body. I realised that there was a consciousness that I had carried in my womb and genitals – that I hadn’t even been conscious of – and it related to sexuality being dirty, unclean, unholy and forbidden. The full acceptance of these intense feelings cleared that consciousness for me. I had a deep feeling of purity, cleanliness and holiness about my whole body, including my sexual centres, and my sexuality.

This experience sealed my gratitude to, respect for, and friendship with the man who I had been attracted too. And it also facilitated a sexual healing that naturally allowed for more ease and flow in my sex life with my husband.

4. How did this experience shape your experience and perspective since then?

Since that first experience, I have experienced a few other attractions to people other than my husband. Each time, I have followed Papaji’s teaching, and tried to gift myself the full experience of the attraction, without making up too much of a story or drama about what that feeling of attraction means.

I have come to believe that sexual attraction is a form of soul communication. It is a way that our energetic body resonates with another person to signify that we have something to learn from them, and perhaps them from us as well. Often, because this attraction is felt in the heart and sexual centres, we interpret it as a sexual or romantic exchange. However, sex and romance can often complicate a deeper exchange that is possible, at a soul level…Especially if you are married to someone else!

At the core, attraction is an expression of love. My experiences have helped me to turn the tables on attraction. Instead of initiating a game of seeking love from another person, I now see attraction as a gift that allows me to claim the love that I feel for individuals and for the world. That love is a gift to me first. In most cases, I share it verbally with the person and tell them that I am feeling a lot of love for them. However, I also endeavour to make it clear that – to me – this love is a gift to me and hopefully to them. But it is not an obligation or contract or the beginning of an affair! Rather, it is a mystery that is unfolding. I choose to pay attention to it because my past experience has shown me that this is so worthwhile… Because this love helps me to know myself, and facilitates my own healing, growth and transformation.

5. I’m curious: How open have you been with your husband about these experiences? What have been the costs, as you see them, of this level of openness? And what have been the gains?

I have spoken about my experiences with both my husband, and each person I felt an attraction with… And I will be honest and say that it has been very hard at times.

I can also say that it is getting easier.

As far as I know, my experience, approach and motivations around how and why I express the feelings that I have are pretty unconventional. I have had to make paradigmatic shifts in my thinking to get here. And my husband has had to do the same, in order to understand where I am and trust me in this place.

At the core of our work together has been the issue of trust. Trust in ourselves, and each other, to be in integrity. Trust in the rightness and longevity of our relationship. And trust in the universe that if we each stay in integrity in ourselves, it is most likely that we will stay together… even if I am allowing a feeling of attraction to someone else to move through my body and being.

As with any challenges in our relationship, we have used the difficult parts to help us learn and grow, and ultimately they have helped us to deepen our trust in each other. This – willingness to work through the difficult things – is why I am lucky to be with my husband and it is at the core of what makes our marriage strong.

6. What advice would you have for people who are facing or about to face sexual attraction to someone other than the person they’re committed monogamously to?

Well, I think feeling sexual attraction and love towards other people is pretty normal and natural for many people. And… even if both you and your partner are aware of that, it can still be a shake-up to your relationship when it happens. Sexual feelings are powerful and even just feeling these feelings – whether you talk about them or not – can make your partner feel insecure and vulnerable.

Yet there are great gifts in honouring the feelings you have. And the greatest way that I have found to honour them is to claim the love that you feel, without expecting anything from anyone in return, and without necessarily acting them out, or making them mean anything about your relationship with your current partner or the other person.

Then the love that you feel for others – including your partner – can be a clearer mirror that reflects both the beauty and strength in you, as well as where you need to heal and grow in yourself.

Because of how deeply sensitive these issues are, how much vulnerability we have in these areas, it’s important to be very gentle with yourself, with your partner and really with everyone involved. But the key is to especially be gentle with yourself and your own vulnerability, as everything else will flow from that.

What comes to me is an image of a hummingbird extracting nectar from a delicate flower. Like that hummingbird, we have the capacity to experience great love, bliss, healing and nourishment when we drink from the nectar that is available in our love relationships. Yet that flower is also delicate. Like our hearts, and the hearts of the ones we love. So it is important to go gently, carefully and precisely to the heart of the flower.

…In the end, it is actually your own heart you are drinking from.

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Deep, deep bows to you, Yollana, and to your husband, for the profound ways you’ve gifted us here. Your openness and vulnerability give all of us that much more freedom to think consciously and talk openly about these issues that affect us all, but usually stay hidden in shadow.

And Readers: as with Michele Christensen in Monday’s interview, please feel free to ask Yollana questions in the comments. There is so much here to ponder!

Join us this Friday, too, as our evolution continues… Ev’Yan from Sex, Love, Liberation will be sharing lessons she’s learned since Sex, Love, Liberation began.

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Yollana loves nothing more than witnessing the mysterious way that each individual soul unfolds their own calling and expresses it in the world. She helps helping business owners uncover their unique soul calling and bring it forward in their business using a heart-centered approach to business marketing and development.

Meanwhile, following the call of her own soul, she is refocusing her online home to embrace the awareness that ‘soul calling’ is not just about business. It’s something that wants to be expressed in all areas of life – creatively, spiritually, in your parenting, relationships and sexuality… If you resonate, connect with her at Soul Business and stay tuned as her website emerges from its crysalis – with new tools, resources, and support to unfold your own soul calling.

Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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The other half of love

June 12, 2012

Maybe it’s because I’m reaching mid-life and many around me are, too. Maybe it’s because many I know are parents of young kids and viscerally know the toll that parenting takes on romantic relationships. And maybe it’s because more and more people of ALL ages are getting clear about what they need, what’s working, and what truly isn’t.

Whatever the reasons, in my circles of friendship and acquaintance, many are ending long-term relationships.

And I think this deserves attention.

This is a cultural phenomenon, and anything that touches everyone this overtly matters – whether you’re in a long-term relationship or not.

Anything that touches everyone this overtly says something we need to hear about how we understand ourselves, how we understand relationships, and about the messages we give and receive (or don’t give or receive) about love.

I don’t subscribe to a formula of right and wrong about how to do relationships, and sense that many of the relationships that are ending right now truly need to end – for the good of everyone involved.

But I also sense that many in my culture – and surely around the globe – aren’t being particularly helped by their friends, parents, faith communities, or the media to untangle the complexities of the human heart, or the challenges inherent to love.

We’re fed half-stories most of the time. Stories that are only about the beautiful, easy parts of love, or only about the ugly, painful ones, or only about steel-toothed commitment, with few culturally transmitted maps or tools to navigate everything else in between.

So as we talk about sensual evolution here this week, my hope is to lift the veil on some of this “everything else” – which, truly, is what all of us are LIVING, even if we don’t get helpful glimpses of the “everything else” that others are living each day, too.

As these veils get lifted, I hope to share insights and tools that might begin to or continue to bridge the gap between where we are individually and culturally when it comes to our capacities to love and be loved well, and where we wish to be.

Learning to love and be loved well seems, to me, at the heart of every goodness we can know or spread.

+ + + + + + + +

Join us tomorrow for an interview with soulful coach and healer Yollana Shore, talking about the “everything more” that is sexual attraction to people outside our committed relationships.

Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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Sensual Evolution with Michele Lisenbury Christensen

June 10, 2012

This week at Trust Tending we’ll be nourishing trust around sensual and sexual evolution – that process of coming more sensually alive: more sexually vibrant (whether we’re having sex or not), more able to experience and sink into pleasure, more capable of blessing and appreciating our bodies-as-they-are and the bodies of those we love.

Some of us carry enough shame, woundings, or plain old naivete when it comes to sensuality that trying to evolve on this front on purpose feels scary and intimidating.

Others of us feel ready to open up to such growth, but aren’t sure where in the world to begin.

And some of us just haven’t thought a whole lot about sensuousness, but have rich inner soil ready for enlivening sensual seeds to be planted.

No matter where you find yourself (amidst these groups or beyond), I hope this week’s images and interviews feed your trust and give you greater capacity to move through and beyond your sensual fears.

Your body, with its infinite capacity for pleasure and its rich connections with your spirit, is sacred, and, I trust deeply, connected to the health of us all.

+ + + + + + + +

Today Michele Lisenbury Christensen joins us to talk about the sensual evolution that led her to envision and create The Hot Love Revolution – a movement and a business on a mission to “help happy, well-loved women save the world”.

In Michele’s own words from her site:

The Hot Love Revolution isn’t for everyone. It’s just for smart, soulful, couples who can take me up on this dare: pour your passion into your monogamous relationship, demand that it excite and nourish you as much as any affair or adventure, and let yourself be transformed by the process.

SO COOL!!

I discovered Hot Love Revolution early this year and got such a jolt of YES!!! when I read its I Believe page that I wanted to shout it from rooftops. IF YOU DO NOTHING ELSE, GO READ JUST THAT.

Michele is a potent force of trust-nourishment and I hope you’ll explore her site and soak in deeply what she shares below today.

Thanks so much for being here, Michele!…and thank you Kurt (Michele’s husband) for your huge role in this revolution, too!

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1. You write at The Hot Love Revolution about a significant change in trajectory that you and your husband made in your marriage a few years ago – a change in the direction of more passion, more spice, more deep fulfillment in your monogamy. What was your tipping point for that change? How did you come to take it so seriously? It seems much more common to feel the need for such a shift but never take a conscious plunge to make it happen.

More than a tipping point, I feel like we experienced a long process of the erosion of our capacity for denial.  For many years, we had this relationship that was sort of nice (and unlike some of the people who come to me who have super-polite, tepid relationships, ours had its share of nastiness, too) and felt rooted in a shared spirituality and a deep friendship, but that just didn’t have a deep passion.  I, more than he, knew I wanted that.  I’d bring it up, and  we’d “work on it” periodically and then go back to sleep.  We were in the pattern you’re referring to:  you want it, but you don’t do a lot to bring about the change.  And we don’t, because it really does upset the apple cart to start flying into your no-fly zones, personally or within a relationship.  You ARE entering the unknown.

But I think two things happened that helped us get critical mass after so many false starts on the intimacy front:  I saw friends our age who, like us, had kids, start getting divorced.  And along with my sadness for their families, I saw – this shocked me – my own envy.  To start over, to have hope for a life with sensuality and passion and intensity.  I saw that I wanted that at a bone-deep level.  But there in my bones, too, was my profound love for Kurt and my desire to have those things WITH HIM.  And we already had Cooper, and I very much want for him to be able to live with both of us as he grows.

TOTAL SIDEBAR:  I have to say as a child of divorce:  My experience is that happy parents – especially a happy mother – are far more important for a child than an intact family.  I believe mamas have to do what it takes to be happy.  AND I believe too many of us rush toward “being away from YOU (our current partner) is what will make me happy.”  I think we do better to go for what I call “The Break-Up Effect” — you remember how life-changing it was to end a relationship, earlier in life, right? — while staying IN our relationship, if we’re with a good person who we care about and who cares about us.

… That said, there I was:  craving heat, intensity, sensual self-expression.  Devoted to my family.  Wanting a new relationship, but wanting the same man I was already with.

The second thing that happened was that we discovered Orgasmic Meditation. It’s a practice that’s not sex and it’s not silent meditation in the traditional sense… It’s a stroking practice that has given me and Kurt a place to practice the way we want to be with each other and to take off the layers of frustration, resentment, avoidance, fear, overwhelm, and inertia that cloud most long-term sexual partnerships.  We continue to practice 3-4 times a week and it continues to unfold for us.

We’ve done so many good things for our love, but when I look at the ‘tipping point’ – what helped us do enough, consistently enough, to build the bonfire that warms us today?  It’s having a practice together.

2. What were some of the beliefs you had before that shift that have changed because of your conscious attention to the hotness of your marriage?

OLD BELIEF:   It’s disloyal to be attracted to other people.
NEW BELIEF:  It’s natural to be attracted to different qualities in different people.

You may choose to act on that attraction. I choose to bring those attractions back to my committed partnership and look at ways to be the woman I think those qualities in a man would help me be, and to ask Kurt to play with ways he can explore the qualities I saw, for himself.

OLD BELIEF:  Long-term relationship invariably suffers from entropy. Boredom and less-exciting sex is natural.
NEW BELIEF:  Dust and mold are natural.  Natural don’t gotta mean “normal” in my house!  We can have relationships that are new every day.

Excitement can build on variety and not-knowing (like it does at the beginning of a relationship) or upon familiarity and discovering new things with the same person.  That’s what we’re up to now.

OLD BELIEF:  There’s something egotistical, shallow, vapid about focusing on sex when you’re pushin’ 40 and a mom of littles like I am. Grow up!
NEW BELIEF:  Sensuality is a lifelong need for all of us.  And an orgasmic mama is a happy mama is a nourishing mama.

Our world needs a next generation raised by people who are vibrantly alive, who have really GONE FOR IT in their lives.  That’s what we’re trying to be for our kids:  devoted to them, but also to the highest vision of what we can create individually and as a couple.

3. Many of my readers, like you, are still in the thick of life with young kids. What have you learned about that particular season that might address some common fears and frustrations people have around being sexual beings and sexual partners in the midst of it?

Funny.  I was answering that last question without having read this one.  Glad it’s relevant for your readers (grin).  

Well, let me normalize the experience of having your libido utterly macerated by childbirth and parenting.  This year, even after a highly sensual pregnancy and lovely birth… Kurt and I were practicing together, but I was in NO WAY interested in intercourse for many weeks after I had Mira.  And that’s with the spotlight straight on that connection!  So I’ll start with that:  it’s normal.

Second, though: there’s a way to be really powerfully generous with your partner (as distinct from being resentfully or dutifully submissive) and engaging in play together that one of you might not be motivated for but that the other might NEED.  And finding that ability to want what you don’t crave is the key to not having long dry spells punctuated by disappointment, rejection, shame, and resentment.  Keep the sensuality flowing, even if it has to be in a new way.

I’ve learned that date night is key:  if we’re not talking and being together as grownups when we’re awake, we are going to fall asleep when we get to bed.  I’ve learned that bedtime, for mommies and daddies, is a rough time for sex. You’re so wiped!  So mid-day, or afternoon while the kids are with a sitter, or early morning… Just don’t give your sex the dregs of your energy, or it won’t get any energy at all!

And I’ve learned that a mama is a sexual being in a very different way than a maiden is, just a few months earlier.  Our bodies change, we’re sharing them with our fetus and then with our breastfeeding little person… It dramatically changes what we desire and how we want to share ourselves.  I’ve learned that staying connected to my partner requires staying in deep conversation with myself and with him about what I want now and what I’ve got to give and how we can explore this new terrain with curiosity and joy, rather than with fatigue and frustration.

4. For those of us inspired by your work and revolution but unsure where to start to join it and make shifts in our own romantic relationships, can you give us a couple suggestions?

My newsletter is the best place to start. It’ll get you new videos from me a couple of times a month, links to my newest blog posts, and early registration bonuses for upcoming programs for women and men.

And if you want to jump into something right away, the Hot Love Makeover is a 28-day program for women to unilaterally make-over the sensation and passion in their relationships and lives. It starts July 8th.

Thanks again for being here, Michele!

And readers: Got questions for Michele? She’s happy to answer them in comments below!

Michele Lisenbury Christensen reclaimed her marriage from the throes of mediocrity and, with her husband Kurt, created a turned-on partnership that nourishes both of them to be lively friends, parents (of a four year old boy and a newborn girl), artists, and activists. Michele helps other utterly human women, men, and couples create lasting love, sensuality, and adventure. A regular columnist for Elephant Journal, Michele’s other turn-ons include hydrangeas, yoga, and homemade chai tea. She beckons you at Hot Love Revolution.

Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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How to shrink overwhelm so you can shine your light

June 6, 2012


This week I entertained an uncomfortable house guest: The Overwhelm Critter.

The Overwhelm Critter is my personification of that part of me that feels it’s her DUTY to protect me from situations that might require change, or hard work, or the potential of feeling like (or actually BEING) a beginner. (I wrote more about her and two other common critters in this little free book.)

My Overwhelm Critter has it in her head that any such situation is inherently bad, and has perfected the art of highlighting, in relation to any such situation, tons of details at once – each one like a flashing, singing, spinning neon sign – so that the Big Picture of whatever it is I’m looking at appears to be WAY TOO MUCH for me to handle, and therefore something I can dismiss as Not What I Will Give Attention To Right Now.

On a REALLY good day of work, my Overwhelm Critter has me tucked safely into bed with a pillow over my head.

On more average ones, she has me avoiding doing what my heart wants to do, and instead doing things like check email constantly, surf the web mindlessly, or go slightly numb and blurry-eyed when in conversation with others who feel passionately about whatever it is my critter wants to protect me from.

I share this because I think encounters with the Overwhelm Critter are part of the human experience and rooted – like any self-protective behavior – in fear.

And fear is what I’m here to name. I’m here to name it and find ways to healthfully move through and beyond the control it exerts over us so that our living – MY living – can be rooted in something more enlivening.

So I’m here to tout TRUST, too, as the bridge from feeling overwhelmed to feeling more at ease and more capable of weighing input thoughtfully and seeing it nestled into a broader context of where I want my values and goals and ambitions to lead me.

So let’s get super practical.

I got overwhelmed this week by the realization, brought on by conversations with a friend whose livelihood requires her to know such things, that my efforts to buy and consume food that’s healthy for my family and our planet is only the beginning of the distance I could go in pursuit of such things.

I’m already well outside the norm of U.S. culture on such things, so this felt like a punch in the gut. Ice water poured over my head.

You guys, the food in this country is really, really messed up. And the cosmetics industry, too.

So my Overwhelm Critter jumped right in and spun each fact so brightly and blinkingly that sunglasses weren’t protection enough from the lot of them.

And as I sat there, reeling, she whispered in my ear:

  • You’re already trying to manage gluten and lactose sensitivities in your home. Now you’ve got to cut out most of your go-to gluten/lactose-free products? Really? REALLY??
  • You’re working more than part-time, being full-time with young kids, and barely keeping the house picked up and the toilets sort of clean. Where can you possibly find time to look for even cleaner cosmetics and food products or stores that sell them…let alone PRICE things so that you find affordable options…or prepare foods that take more time to prepare?
  • The sky is totally falling, Kristin. You know that, don’t you? Everyone’s eating crap and absorbing crap through their skin and the only “winners” are Monsanto and the pharmaceutical companies that treat all the problems these systems create.
  • DOOM!! GLOOM!! KABOOOM!!!!!

Can you imagine how possible it is, in the face of an onslaught like that, to feel joy, or levity, or the slightest bit energized to take positive action?

Right. Not very.

So here’s what I’m suggesting. I’m suggesting this for people burdened by food concerns or environmental concerns or concerns about the media their kids take in or the education system.

And I’m suggesting these in relation to any overwhelm at all.

These very steps have transformed my inner AND outer lives this week.

1. Pull back, in your mind’s eye, from whatever it is you’re overwhelmed about, and do the (sometimes challenging) work of situating it in a broader context.

If you’re overwhelmed about the food or cosmetics industries, pull back far enough to recognize how many companies exist right now that are making it their business to care about the ingredients they use and the impact these have on our planet…or to educate so more do. Note the tide of awareness across our country turning. No matter what you do or don’t do about these issues, the tide is turning.

If you’re overwhelmed by the care you’re needing to give a dear one who’s aging or sick, pull back far enough to see this season in the broader context of both of your lives. Remember other seasons you’ve experienced. Become aware of how many other folks are in similar boats and the supports – online and in-person and in books – that exist to ease some of the burden of this. Try to get out of the forest to see this broader landscape.

Etc.

The effect of this pulling-back won’t be to magically make things easy. But it does typically pop an inadvertent illusion that “the sky is falling everywhere”, or “the sky is mainly falling on me”. Both carry their own kind of burden.

2. Take stock of whether this issue you’re overwhelmed about is a torch that’s yours to carry.

In your heart of hearts, are you feeling called to be an activist around this issue?

Is this school, for example, a school that you want to help orchestrate change within?

Is this friend or relative your responsibility to help?

Can you imagine the outlines of a business or non-profit that has your heart and experiences at its core that can address this thing that has your Critter so in fits?

Etc.

Whether or not this is your torch won’t necessarily mean the difference between doing something about it or doing nothing at all (even non-torch issues are things we can take action around), but it does shift where you set your sites, and can dramatically diminish the dissonance that arise when you recognize a problem and aren’t clear whether it’s your role to do anything significant about it.

3. Identify small (these can be teensy tiny) steps you can take over time to respond to this issue.

If you’ve gotten clear that this isn’t your torch to carry, these steps won’t have the purpose of creating world change. These steps will be more about honoring a value that you hold, or honoring a wish from your heart.

If you’ve gotten clear that this IS your torch to carry, these steps will have bigger goals in mind.

In both cases, the point here is to consciously turn off the spinning, blinking, neon-flashingness of all the angles and details of this issue (which your Overwhelm Critter has so dutifully turned on) and break this thing down into little, bite-sized pieces that don’t intimidate you so much.

I realize, for example, that I can get rid of the Canola oil in my pantry and quite easily buy a healthier alternative at one of the stores I already frequent. No grand restructuring of every aspect of my diet required.

There are surely 20 more steps I could identify that I could not freak out about if I did one each week (or even month, if that timeline is better).

My country’s broken food industry is not my torch to carry – I feel super clear about this – so my steps will have to do with putting my values around food into action, raising my own and my family’s awareness, and – here’s a really important one – soothing the parts of me that are in knots about this issue.

If this isn’t my torch to carry, and being mired in a sky-is-falling mentality only hinders my capacity to shine my light (i.e. do the things that ARE my work to do), I need to revisit #1 above, and find small, soothing steps to get me out of my lizard-brain reactiveness and into a calmer state.

Upping my intake of leafy greens, getting more sleep for a few days, taking time to journal and unwind before bed, limiting the conversations I have with people whose torch this is to carry: these are the sorts of things that predictably shift me out of lizard-brain fear (I talk more these moves in this video interview).

My guess is that all of the above apply, in some way, to those who say their overwhelming thing is indeed their torch to carry.

+ + + + + + + + + +

Steps like these create bridges from our places of fear and impotence – which are contagious states of mind – to places of greater confidence and ease. They give us footing on trust, which is contagious, too, and help create a more hospitable world for all of us to inhabit.

Are you new here? If so, welcome! This post is a great distillation of what I believe about trust. For a free book that exemplifies what trust tending means, click here. I’m so glad you stopped by!

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