Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Healing Sexual Pain and Fear


When I started going on long silent meditation retreats, and felt safe enough to notice, I became aware of an enormous dark tower of sexual pain that seemed so vast I wondered would it ever be possible to dismantle. Thankfully, the vipassana meditation I was practising was not delivered in a goal orientated way, but in a way that encouraged moment by moment determination and a steady liberation from such pain. So I persevered, fiercely and compassionately... I felt deeply into the pain, and day by day, year by year, that tower crumbled.

If I had stayed in that level of intensive retreat, or dedicated myself to a life of monastic meditation, I probably wouldn't have begun building the tower again, but I didn't. As I settled into a lay life, self-employed teaching meditation, I sunk into a trap that many people conditioned into codependency do, I forgot myself and the value of the wonderful gift I had been given, and put far too much focus on helping others.

I knew that the tower could never grow as big as it was before, but I had forgotten just how much even an inkling of a foundation of it affected every part of my life, how its destructive power seeped into every relationship, every encounter, and even my everyday sense of self.

So, what is sexual pain? For me sexual pain expresses itself as sexual feelings that arise in reaction to disgust and fear. Because I was raped repeatedly as a child, and felt revulsion and terror alongside sexual feelings, there have been solidified body-memories inside me of sex activated by violence and aversion.

It was clear since my first retreat that my job was to feel and release these unpleasant and joyless feelings - to melt them away. I knew that acting upon them would spiral me into the hell of my father's mind, and that was never an option. No matter how bad things have gotten for me I have always loved myself and wanted to bring more love into the world, not more corruption.

A coping mechanism to deal with such pain, a short-term help but not a long term solution, is to 'manage' the pain through introducing new thoughts and/or feelings. In a sense to talk yourself out of it. But this strategy never actually made the pain go away, and I knew from my years of intensive retreat that it could go away completely.

Some personal examples of when this crushing sexual pain was activated were: when something went wrong with work, my home, food or clothing. If something was disgusting - if washed clothes hadn't dried properly and smelled bad, or food had gone off, if I had a big spot on my face or put on weight, or if one of my dogs or cats smelled bad. If something brought up fear - if I ran out of logs or oil to heat my home, if my bank account was low, or if fear of my family-of-origin 'coming to get me' was activated.

These personal experiences of sexual pain were unpleasant, but because I experienced them in the safety of my own home I was aware enough to deal with them meditatively. The relational ones were much more destructive, because codependency and fear combined meant that my awareness was virtually non-existent. 

When yet another man I thought I was being clearly a 'platonic friend' with got it into his head that something romantic was happening between us, I decided to really investigate my own bodily sensations and signals.

Before I continue, I am in no way saying that sexual predators who dismiss clear verbal or physical signals from the people they are pursuing are innocent. I am stating my own experience in order to share how I have healed this particular pattern in my life, through self-empowerment and awareness.

So, these men... of which there have been many, and a couple of lesbians too, I have hated and been so so disgusted by that it has been a real challenge to muster compassion for them, something I always do for difficult people because I want destructive patterns gone from my life.

When I meditatively investigated the memory of encounters with these people I began to realise that my poor wee body was picking up on their sexual interest, reacting with disgust and sexual pain, then my 'management' coping mechanism was kicking in to pretend it wasn't happening, and my resulting behaviour was to be extra careful to be platonic in how I was relating.

But the big insight that dawned was... that non of that mattered. It didn't matter what I was doing or saying. They were picking up on 'Sex'. They were getting, 'Red Light - go ahead'. They weren't thinking, 'Oh poor Aoife is a victim of childhood sexual abuse and is actually sexually repulsed by me and only having sexual feelings because she is afraid I'm going to force myself on her, and she will be so frozen by fear that she will be powerless to stop it.' No, they were thinking, 'She likes me too'.

I wonder how many people have been so overwhelmed by such dynamics that they ended up in relationships and even marriages with people they were disgusted by and afraid of. 

I don't know what is going on for people who are attracted to people like me who are repulsed by them, but I do know that it is a thing, because there have been so many of them throughout the years. I would also like to point out that I have had many boyfriends who I loved and fancied the pants off, mutually, so this has nothing to do with me being broken and unable to feel natural, joyful and blissful sexual feelings. All that is intact. Sexual pain and fear is a separate issue.

Sexual pain is a real thing, and I imagine there are thousands of women and men recovering from sexual violence who have similar boundary issues to what I am describing here. My reason for exploring such issues in this blog is to shed light on the pain so we can heal it and let it go.

One practice I have found invaluable in healing sexual pain and fear, as it gets activated in relation to others, is the Taoist Micro Orbit exercise...

It is a very simple visualisation to move the stuck sexual energy and let it be recycled and healed as it energises and moves through the rest of the body. 

To begin, become fully aware of the sexual energy in the pubic area, then imagine moving it under the lower part of the trunk to the base of the spine, then up the spine, up the back of the neck, over the top of the head, down over the nose, and making sure your tongue is touching the top of your mouth, down through the tongue and the neck, through the chest and belly, and on down to the pubic bone, and round again, and again...

It can be helpful to move up the back with the in-breath and then down the front with the out-breath, but eventually it can happen even quicker than the breath. It's a circle of energy, or light, circulating of its own momentum.

Don't try too hard, relax into it. Let yourself tune into your body's natural intelligence.

All that is needed for the darkness to go away is for us to turn on the light. I am so enjoying not being afraid or confused by sexual pain any more. From a distance I saw a man yesterday that I had a particularly unpleasant miscommunication with last year. I felt compassion along with a tinge of disgust, but no sexual feelings. I am sure the disgust will subside too and the next time I will just see a fellow human being - someone doing their best, who I can wish well... from a distance.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

My Trouble with Sexy

When I was a little girl I was full of joy and energy. I was outgoing and confident, curious and delighted by life. My life force was intact.

When he first raped me at 4 years old it felt like my father plugged himself into my energy system and drained the life out of me. He then waited until my battery recharged and did it again, and again. Year after year, and on into a second decade, he used me to charge himself up, then left me to recover, like a 'thing' thats only value was how it served him. He watched me all the time, he said I was 'sexy' and 'asking for it'. There was no escape from him.

These were the patterns at play as I descended into a black hole this New Year's Eve. I was powerless to stop them, and some silent part of me knew that this was exactly what needed to happen in order for healing to occur.

I devoted this past year to recovery from codependency. The year before had brought me to my knees - I knew that relationships with other people were draining my life force, but had no idea of how to stop it, or even which particular people were doing it. I was lost, and knew I was going to get sick if I didn't change radically.

I took action in many areas, including taking an 8 month break from work, upping my daily yoga and meditation practice, attending a weekly codependency recovery 12-step group, and investing work-time in creating art and writing.

As energy began to return it felt like I was becoming a different person. Whereas before I was very focused on others, I now put myself first, and the sheer quantity of energy moving through my body seemed miraculous. I wrote my healing memoir, created over one hundred artworks, started online dating, began a dressmaking course, and eventually felt ready to begin my meditation teaching again with renewed inspiration.

In the dressmaking course I knew I had to make myself a golden dress, and that this dress would help me reclaim my inner sexual power. Even writing those words 'sexual power' still feels a little scary, but I will continue... The dress was a sparkly fabric with a sensual drape, just one-shoulder, and an asymmetrical hem line. Not very short or even very revealing, but definitely on the sexy side of dresses.

Please note that when I say 'sexy' I mean Wonder Woman sexy, not fawning playboy bunnies or dominatrices, both of which I feel keep people bound to past trauma.

As the year came to an end I came on leaps and bounds in the 12 step work, I published my first  illustrated Handbag Book for Women, and got very clear on the relationships which were keeping me bound to the past. I saw that throughout my life I always had one male friend and one female who appeared to be sweet and reliable, but who took complete advantage of me when I was vulnerable. Instead of meeting my vulnerability with love the men took it as an opportunity to 'try it on' with me and the women an opportunity to victimise or abandon me. My pay off with these people was that I rarely got to be vulnerable and could maintain the appearance of having it all 'together'. It was a way of controlling myself.

By New Year's Eve I wanted to be completely done with these patterns, and it turned out that I well and truly was. I clearly and compassionately let go of two people who personified them perfectly, and didn't look back. I noticed that I then naturally stopped overeating and lost over half a stone weight.

I completed a personal silent retreat over Christmas, working a 12-step personal inventory book, along with tapping and deepening my yoga practice. When it finished I felt that something big was coming and was a little afraid. I knew I had to wear that dress before the New Year began, yet felt so sensitive - a bit like Bambi alone in the woods.

I bought a red lipstick, and very unlike me, a bottle of organic red wine. With each step towards this Night of the Golden Dress, dread mounted and my insecurities were going haywire. But I needed to do it. There was no way around it.

A friend was going out with her friends, and although I didn't know them, it seemed that was the place to go. I put on the makeup and the dress, I began drinking the wine, and slowly slowly entered a very different realm. I looked at myself in the mirror and the conflict took hold.

On the one hand was the reality - me being this grown woman who is allowed and safe enough to be slim and sexy. Then there was the inner pattern - a girl of 4 to 18 years old, who tried every single day to evacuate all sexuality from her energy system so as to keep her father from raping her. As this war raged I drank and drank, and eventually blacked out, becoming a ghost-woman who walked around and talked, who danced and engaged with others... all of which to this day I have no recollection of.

I was looked after though. I was brought home, and seemingly had a shower, made my hot water bottle and tended to my two dogs and cats. Then I remember being on the yoga rug in my dressing room, in the position with which I bow each day to Heaven and Earth and Love, and what rumbled up from my guts was an immense force of pink puke. I left it with a towel on top then went to bed.

Two days of guilt and shame ensued, deep deep embarrassment and disappointment. Yet I persisted with my loving kindness meditation and tapping. I didn't abandon myself to judgement. I didn't fuel any shaming. I refused to perpetuate the old trauma patterns.

On the third day a friend suggested I had made a mistake and that I would learn from it, and in an instant a switch turned in my head. I said it wasn't a mistake, that it needed to happen, and then I went to meditate.

In my meditation an insight flooded my body: it was the fear of being sexy that had pulled me into drunkenness. That deep part of me was petrified of being sexy because it could attract a predator. The blind terror was telling me I would be 'asking for it'. It was a fear of self-harm, that somehow by being my full, fit and healthy, joyous self I would be asking for violence. That fear obliterated my consciousness in an attempt to keep me safe.

I surrendered to the insight and loved myself through the painful feelings that arose with it. I touched that frightened little girl's heart with compassion, I held her hand and smiled at her. She didn't cry, she didn't say anything, she just accepted the reassurance - she trusted me now.

As I continued to meditate an awful wave of nausea overtook me. It was coming from hard tensions in my hips, bum and thighs. It was the same nausea from when I was kneeling on the rug that night. I moved my awareness into it, deeply with compassion. I followed the lines of concrete as they encircled the lower chakras, the legs, the pubic bone, my intestines, my sexual regenerative organs. And it all began to melt. It dissolved, disintegrated, subsided...

This process is ongoing. The melting is still happening, as it has been doing for years. Yet, this has been an enormous healing event. I am so so happy. Not only can I be joyfully sexy again, and feel safe within it, the digestive problems that have plagued me for years have seemingly vanished.

This is what I know now deep in my bones... My sexuality belongs to me. It is a gift from Heaven and Earth. My life force is divinely, naturally orchestrated. I don't have to dull my brilliance in order to be safe. I can fully own my sexual power and no one has the right to come near me unless I want them to. As the rips in my chakras, meridians and aura repair, as my trauma thought patterns release, I am becoming a more whole person, and this whole person is who I am truly meant to be.

That golden dress and red lipstick will be getting another outing soon and this time no alcohol will be involved. I will be free to dance, chat and shine... and I will savour and remember every single second of it.