Courageous & Candid Conversation...
Before The Inhale
There are so many ways to make meaning in our lives and allow that meaning to support us on our journey. One such way is to play with the idea of the natural cycle of the breath as a micro-representation of the cycle of the seasons. When I drop into my body with this as an contemplation, I feel the pause before the inhale as being perfectly aligned with winter. And here we are fully entering the chill of winter. We have three months here in the northern hemisphere, to linger in this restful pause before the first showing of delicate flowers open our senses to the beauty and va-va-voom of life, thus inspiring a gloriously renewing inhale.
So how are you in the long pause we have entered? Do you relish the bracing days and long nights? Are you one who suffers seasonal depression making it especially dreary and uncomfortable, bordering on unbearable perhaps? Or does winter feel supportive, a permission to draw in, slow down and be more aligned with your energy levels? And of course for some of you the external circumstances won't create such a huge shift in how you are living and experiencing life. But whatever you are or are not experiencing, I wonder if leaning into your pause and this season without any resistance could open up more ease?
How might it be to give yourself full permission to receive winter's invitation to rest here?
Honouring Where We Are
Nature is so incredible at giving us clues as to what is needed in order to create harmonious living, and we humans are incredible in our capacity to ignore the clues and push through with mind-orientated agendas and goals. Some of us push ourselves hard to maintain the festive cheer over Christmastime, then enter the month of January and are immediately seduced by the manmade world to set our New Year resolutions AND to get on with them there and then. New health and diet regimes, purchasing of exercise equipment and gym memberships are all a big part of this, as are work/career goals and big decisions within our overall life structure. So as the natural world becomes still we become crazy in our busy-making. UNTIL that is we have an experience of falling into step and feeling deeply the magic of this.
In 2019 I made a choice and responded to an invite to enter winters stillness to practice the art of none-doing. I was so fortunate to be supported in this by a beautiful friend who provided low cost rented accommodation, and a Christmas gift that made it within reach financially. I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I learnt so much about myself and discovered that none-doing is PAINFUL when so adjusted to doing. So many pressures from within myself arose, instructing me on my failings, and how I ought to be somehow productive in this time. It took me at least four or five weeks (plus a conversation my Dad who effectively gave me the permission I was searching for within but couldn't find), before I was able to feel the peace and healing available in the pause I had called in.
Back to the breath and this pressure was like forcing air into my lungs whilst they were in the pause phase. I wasn't trusting that the inhale would occur in "good timing" or that it would be enough to make-up for what I had lost in the none-breathing/doing. But guess what! The inhale/spring and my return to productivity was made all the more fruitful and rich an experience because I was so deeply rested. I am laughing as I write this because another "guess what!" moment has dropped in - it takes practice and repeated experiences to truly build the trust in the body-mind so that a new pattern can replace an old one. I confess, I have been experiencing the same pressures lately, the deep need of my body to drop into restorative stillness and the tension this creates when my busy-making "doing" mind doesn't yet FULLY trust the process.
So how might you and I ease the conflict and create a bridge from inner conflict to peaceful surrender? The first answer is to honour your current situation. In an ideal world, all people would enter a relative hibernation in winter yet our lives are rarely set up this way. There are things that need tending to all of the way through the year. So the first step would be to take stock of how things are, then make decisions about what could be let go of in order to create more space for pauses within your daily life.
Secondly, put the New Year resolutions and any other goals that require radical change to one side (not to discard them, but to come back to them when there is more energy available). This is the dark time of the year and as such, it is perfect for allowing the nebulous quality of the dreaming state of offer us fantasy and imaginations of what might later come into being. In Human Design, Gene Keys and no doubt other astrological/wisdom traditions that I am not as familiar with, the true beginning of the year occurs when the sun enters the 41st hexagram/gate. In gene keys this gate is referred to as a "start codon" The start codon is the piece of genetic coding our DNA needs in order for gene expression to occur (it's like the retaining box and the first pins on a zipper... without it the rest of the zipper can't line up properly and fasten our garments together).
The sun enters this gate on the 23rd of January in 2023, but that still doesn't mean the time of pause is over. A start codon, or the retainer of a zipper, isn't the active part, it's simply a point of origin. It enables what follows to follow in the most beautifully and perfectly aligned way as possible. If we try to rush this and push ahead to the next phase without securing the zip we get all out of line and risk busting the zip altogether, (I'm remembering times of trying to get my daughter's coat on in a rush and ending up with a stuck zipper!). So, might you reconsider attempting to action any resolutions and goals just now? Instead we can let them remain as dreams and fantasies of what will be, trusting that the ones that are meant to become manifest will do so in good timing.
How does it feel right now in your body to read these words and this invitation to enter the pause more deeply? Are you being met by resistance or relief? If you feel relief or a softening within your body that would be a great clue as to what you need right now. And if there is any resistance, is it truly coming from your body? You might feel it there, but might that be the reaction to your own conditioned and disbelieving mind?
NB Always always check in with yourself and discover your own truth and most appropriate ways of being for you!
If you would like to begin to invite less resistance and/or a nurturing relationship to winter, and to your own inward pause, please read on...
A Cyclical Breath Experience
Allow your mind and your awareness to enter the pause and rest there, simply hang out in this pause. When the body needs more breath it will literally "inspire" the next inhale. You might find that the inhale which follows this slightly extended pause comes in and fills you even more than before, finding the spaces that were a little tight and unyielding before this breath.
Allow your body to re-enter its natural flow for a few breaths, with simple awareness and no forced changes, but with the invitation for the breaths to fully open your body, and your body to open to allow more breath in (its a two-way dance). When you feel ready to and after an exhale, enter the pause again. Rest there with the breath held out (no pressure, no tightness in the body and no yogic locks). Just stillness and a surrender into trust. Your body will welcome the next inhale when it is ready to just as the first buds of spring show themselves when Earth & Sky are ready to welcome them. Be & Breathe here, in winter, surrender to nature's stillness and let the dream state show you it's beauty.
Repeat this pattern of natural yet full breathing with awareness for a few breaths; followed by attention on an extended pause at the end of the exhale for as long as feels great for you. I would recommend a minimum of seven minutes for the whole practice and you can extend it to 31 minutes over a few days if you really want to get the know the practice.
Once you know it well (when your body-mind can easily drop into the pattern and you feel soothed by it), you can really lean into it anytime, anywhere, for just a couple of cycles to quickly remind yourself to take a pause, relax, and trust in the seasons.
May this meet and nourish you well.
Thankfully I received a yes, yet with a request for anonymity and so the author will be unnamed. But just a mention, she is able to write from the perspective of having both received and given tantra massages.
Below she offers her personal opinion on what makes tantra massage tantric and thereby deepen the conversation started in the earlier blog (posted 1st December 22)...
An Offering from Another
"Reading your blog about what tantric massage is made me think about it is to me and more to the point why tantric massage feels so different and has such deep effects on me compared to other kinds of massage and bodywork.
I agree with all you write about tantric massage, and my descriptions are probably the same but just worded differently. So for me, what makes a massage tantric, are these things:
Inclusive of The Whole
Touch to breasts and/or genitals is usually excluded. No wonder really that this has become one of the defining characteristics of tantra and why the name is so often misused. Where else can the whole of the body and its sexual expression be explored and integrated as part of a session?
And yet, sexuality is but one part of what it means to be human, and for me, tantra is about a child-like innocent way of exploring, noticing, experiencing with curiosity, all aspects of being human as they present themselves in a session. And this, without hidden or unspoken agendas. It is about being wholly welcome, allowing sexuality to be part of, but not the sole focus of a session. All of this makes me feel fully present, and fully welcome, just as I am. Tantric massage is also the only place I have found where sexual energy can be used to enhance experiences and sensations. Still with the absence of a goal to reach orgasm (thereby discharging that energy), but just to revel in and experience the intensity of it. But like you, I think if the body responds with orgasm that is totally fine and welcome too - it's just not something I would aim for or focus on. There are other places where orgasm is the main goal and that is fine, but it's not what I offer or indeed would ask or expect for myself.
Presence without Goals
I have been seeing you for sessions for more than 6 years now and I also do not underestimate the effect of you seeing me in all sorts of state of mind, body, and spirit, and always with the same level of acceptance and welcome and presence. I may have gained 3 stone in weight in those 6 years, I may have bounced from highs to lows and from tears to laughter, from near or complete orgasmic to rather flat states of being, and everything in between, and all of that is ok and welcome and honoured. The level of trust this has established is enormous. I may find my own body quite difficult to love and accept at the moment, but the experience of me / my body being received in the way you do is very precious and healing indeed.
The Sacred & Oneness
When I receive a tantric massage, I also try to tune in to all of that, not to be guided but to simply be present and aware and allow this energy to amplify all that is going on. This often leads me into experiencing nothing but energy and presence (me, you, the sacred) along with breath and being. This happened in the last session with you, and it is so beautiful, glorious even - impossible to describe! Being surrounded by love and acceptance, in a sensory flow of touch and smell and sound is just wonderful! Definitely an experience of 'all being one' and a feeling of total harmony with all of creation. Not something that would be easy to discuss in other massages, and not something I have ever experienced in other massages.
Back to me just to say a heartfelt thank you to this courageous explorer for taking the time to contemplate and write so beautifully about your experience of tantra.
If any other such explorers would like to share your reflections with me, you are most welcome to contact me anytime. Likewise, if you have any questions or any theme you would love to hear a perspective on, let me know, I'm more than happy to be challenged!
Join me for a cheeky bite into contemplations on the nuances and riches of life as a messy yet magnificent human (and more than).