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.
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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.