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Monday, November 19, 2012

Making an IMPACT



I’ve been doing energy work and erotic body work for almost 7 years now and it has been some of the most powerful work that I’ve ever done. The work has changed me in some wonderful ways and helped me to grow in ways that I never expected. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to help guys learn about themselves, how they express and explore their erotic energy and work through old issues which have held them back in various ways. The main part of that work has been to help them be conscious about their desires, their actions and how they get their erotic needs met. As I help them learn to be more conscious about their needs it has required me to become far more conscious of my own.


IT STARTS EARLY

In the early years of our childhood due to our lack of understanding of how the world works and parenting techniques that perhaps could have been better, we can easily see the world as a threatening and scary place. Since we are often preverbal or very young, we aren’t physically able to protect ourselves so we begin forming our energetic defense patterns. While each of the patterns has its own particulars as to how they help us manage energy coming at us, the common theme among them is that we shift our energy away from our conscious mind because that is where the problem appears. We begin to perceive that too much is happening or coming at us and we begin taking action to throttle that down to a manageable level. When we shift away from being conscious and in our bodies we become less conscious, we tune out and even disconnect from our bodies. That’s where the problems start for us.

As long as we operate in the dark, unconscious and disconnected, we can never manifest the full power of who we are and what we came into this world to do. We can live “normal” looking and often very productive lives but life will be very challenging for us in ways that are directly related to the defense pattern that we choose. When we are not fully in our bodies and consciously engaged, we keep our true power hidden from the world and for the most part inaccessible to ourselves. This, by its very nature, limits us. Finding ways to become more conscious, to be more fully embodied and to therefore have full access to our energy field is our challenge as humans.


OUR BRAINS CONSTRUCT OUR REALITY

The challenge to be more conscious is what has led me to expand my bodywork practice from only soft and sensual erotic touch to more intense sensory experiences. Sensations are to be experienced and cannot be thought. They are felt in the body by the body. The moment the sensation producing device contacts the body, the brain takes the stimulus sent to it from the nerve endings at the contact point and runs it though our filters of life experience. If it is similar to experiences we have had which are considered pleasurable, we get one response to the sensation, but if it is considered unpleasant then we get a different response. It is not about the sensation itself because that is just an experience, neither good nor bad, but rather it is about the judgment of the experience that our brain puts on it that determines our response to the stimulus. A sensation that might feel ticklish or pleasant to one person might feel intense or painful to the next with the difference being based upon the summation of life experience for that particular person.

The key thing to keep in mind here is that it is the brain that is determining the body’s response to the stimulus and not the stimulus itself. In essence it is our judgment upon the stimulus that determines how we perceive and respond to it. These judgments are derived from past experiences and our judgments upon them as good, neutral or bad. All of that happens at a very unconscious level and so all that we are aware of is that something happened and our body responded. It is how the brain keeps the body safe and functioning without the conscious mind having to take control and figure out what happened and what needs to be done. When we get hit, we get an immediate unconscious reaction without really thinking about what the response should be.

Our bodies are amazing sensory devices which are in essence created by the mind through the brain to allow the mind to experience the world in which we exist. Through the senses we take in all of the environmental data that is available to us. In every moment we are receiving data through sight, sound, smell, touch, taste and the more unconscious psychic data about the energy surrounding us. Our brains receive 400 BILLION bits of information per second yet our conscious minds can only process around 2000 bits per second. This says that our conscious minds are choosing the information that they pay attention to and therefore constructing our own individual realities based upon those choices. We do not perceive reality as it truly exists but rather as our minds choose to see how it exists based upon the pieces of input they select. A fully embodied understanding of that one piece of information can completely change the way we experience the world around us.


FIGHT, FLIGHT OR FREEZE

The brain is gathering data in every moment and the conscious mind is processing a small portion of it with the objective being to keep the brain safe and the body functioning. If part of the stimulus that we receive is perceived as threatening to the safety of the body, then we move into our most primal response pattern for protection. This is the sympathetic nervous systems “fight or flight” response. The sympathetic system is not one that we can control with our conscious mind. When a threat is perceived the body responds with an adrenaline surge that helps us fight our way out of the situation or muster up the speed to flee from it. However if both of those options fail then we go into the “freeze” response to numb the pain of the assault.

In nature when one animal becomes the targeted prey for another their fight or flight instinct kicks in and the animal takes the appropriate action because its life is literally on the line. If the animal is able to escape from predator, when it is safe it will twitch, roll or jump about recklessly as a way to discharge all of the energy from the hormones that were released into its system to help it escape. If by chance the animal is unable to escape, it goes into freeze mode so that the sting of death is bearable since it is unavoidable at that point.


MODERN FIGHT OR FLIGHT

Through the evolution of our species and the modernization of the lives that we live, rarely do we ever literally have to fight for our lives but we do go into fight or flight mode quite frequently. For many of us our attackers are typically those that we know and love. When we experience being molested or even spanked, we may be too small to fight and unable to flee yet our brains perceive a definite threat to our well being and the response is triggered. As adults we may get into heated arguments with others to the point where we feel like we want to throttle the other person because of the strong emotional charge we have to the dialogue. Despite that we know that physical fighting is not an acceptable option and often backing down isn’t either and yet the response gets triggered unconsciously. In both of these situations, “freeze” is the only socially acceptable and therefore workable outcome.

In freeze mode we do not become immobile like a statue but our energy systems internal response is “shut down”. This causes our bodies to have to hold on to all of the hormones and endorphins it released for fighting or fleeing and store them in muscles and organs because there is no physical discharge of the energy. Essentially our energetic response to the attack gets frozen in the “on” state. For many people this will show up in later years as adrenal burnout because the adrenals continue to churn in an effort to get us out of a situation that no longer exists. That may not make logical sense to our conscious minds but the reptilian defense response from our bodies comes from the subconscious mind and the most primal part of our brain which is focused only on survival. It does what it does to keep the body-mind safe.


TALK IT OUT

In psychotherapy, a common technique for dealing with these types of frozen emotional states is to re-engage the emotion and attempt to take it into the physical discharge phase by kicking and screaming, pounding a pillow, hitting a punching bag or any type of activity that allows our systems to burn through the adrenaline stored in our bodies from previous “freeze” responses. This technique is really only successful when we are able to fully tap into the fight or flight response with the body to engage the response system and stay with it through full discharge.

In talk-based therapy this can be especially challenging because we are rarely able to fully recreate the feeling of the fear necessary to engage the autonomic response mechanism without a deep level of surrender. Pretending to be afraid, especially when our mind knows that it is just pretend, is rarely enough because the reptilian part of our brain never truly perceives the threat as an actual threat. Consciously trying to recall the experience (or experiences) which triggered the original survival response can be a long drawn-out exercise because it relies so heavily on conscious memory. That memory is often blocked out because the emotional charge was too strong for us to handle at the time and so our brains response was to erase that memory or block it. This leaves us without the mechanisms needed to disengage a body which is in full-on defense mode. This is often the underlying cause for those experiencing chronic fatigue syndrome because their adrenal glands are fried and their bodies are unable to reach discharge. Energy drinks will never be able to fix that and actually exacerbate the situation by causing the adrenals to pump even harder.


WORK IT OUT

To really address the underlying energetic response we need to allow the body to gear up, reactive the “fight or flight” response, re-engage the stored energies and fully discharge them. The best way I’ve found to do this is through intense physical actions where fear is consciously engaged. This is where impact work like flogging, spanking and whipping can be invaluable. For most people, when they hear these terms they associate them with kinky sex play, discount them by saying “I’m not into pain” and miss out on the opportunity for healing through these activities.  As someone who did that very thing for most of my adult life, I am very aware of that process. I fully understand how someone on the outside can look at these activities and not see how the experience could be healing in any way. Most of what the general public sees when they think of these BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadism, Masochism) activities is one person doing mean or kinky things to another in an effort to have power over them and often as a precursor to sex. That is certainly the most common focus for most BDSM play but it is not the only purpose.

I used to see it that way as well until one of my clients from my erotic practice asked me if I would flog him. As an erotic provider who was focused only upon trying to create layer upon layer of pleasure to help soothe, relax and heal the body. Hitting my clients with something was definitely NOT part of the experience I was offering. Yet because I knew that something within him wanted to explore this activity with someone he trusted, I saw that there was a pathway to healing there and I needed to engage this with him. I told him that I would see what I could do and get back to him on it. From there I began reading books, purchased a flogger, found a mentor for using it and got the training I needed to safely flog him.  Little did I know at the time where this request would be taking me but it has literally changed my life and for many of those I’ve worked with it has also changed theirs.


WHAT IS A FLOGGER?

I know that BDSM tools and play is an area that most people are unfamiliar with. The book that has been burning up the charts lately, “Fifty Shades of Gray”, however is bringing some of it into the mainstream. A flogger is typically a solid handle with strips (called “falls”) of various materials hanging from the end of it. The falls are made typically from rubber, leather, elk or other animal skins. They are cut into various thicknesses and widths to produce very different sensations. In the picture, the second one from the left is the original one that I bought and is made from elk. The one on the far left is made from foxtails. I mention it to show that not all floggers are like what we see in old Biblical movies. They aren’t filled with metal chards or things designed to cause intense pain and injury. Some may be but they are by far the minority. These types of floggers are used to create impact and sensations not break the skin or cause damage.


KNOWLEDGE IS THE BEST TEACHER

I believe that in order for me to be competent at and fully understand an experience, I need to have firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to receive the experience for myself. To that end I went to several experienced flogging tops and had them flog me to the point of surrender. I was able to watch my body and mind go from a state of nervous anticipation to one of dread, fear and anxiety as the experience began. Putting myself into a situation where I was restrained and out of physical control and then allowing another person to strike my body with leather straps to the point of pain triggered a lot of things within me.

As things became more and more intense, I could feel the adrenaline begin to course through me and I could feel my body waking up and experiencing a new set of sensations. I could feel my resolve toughen up so that I could allow myself to take more. My mind began to flash back on all the times as a child when I had been spanked with a belt or “hickory switch” (aka a thin tree branch). I could feel the anger rising in my body and those experiences becoming sharper in my mind. Soon I was overwhelmed by emotions and flooded by painful childhood memories. I was yelling, cursing, kicking, screaming and challenging the man flogging me to give me more and at times even taunting him. It felt so good to be in a safe space where I could let all the anger, fear, rage, sadness and even joy out. Yes, joy because I was FEELING and I wasn’t afraid to do it. I was pushing myself past my fear of pain and experiencing surges of pleasure and at times waves of euphoria. It was not at all what I had expected which was that I would be a wimp, take a few strikes and call it all off because it hurt. On many levels it was one of the most liberating experiences that I had ever had and it blew me away. I knew this was exactly the type thing that I wanted to be able to help other men experience as well because of the deep healing which was occurring in my body and mind. At the end I was exhausted, invigorated, ecstatic, emotionally drained and empowered in a way that I could not have imagined.

My client’s simple request for me to flog him had taken me on a journey and opened a space of healing deep within me that I might never have experienced if I weren’t doing this type of erotic work for others. I believe that if I were not doing this type of work that I would never have sought that experience on my own and certainly never have experienced the healing that was possible from it. Little did either of us know in that moment where his request would lead. I will forever be grateful to him for asking because by me opening to the request, I’ve ultimately been able to recreate that experience for countless men and allowed them to heal their own wounds through it. This is just another example for me of where someone spoke their desires and deep healing emerged from it in the fullness of time.


HOW IT WORKS

By consciously placing yourself in a situation where you can’t escape, through the use of various restraints, you are putting yourself in a space of surrender. For men in particular that is an uncomfortable place because it means surrendering our power to protect and that runs counter to our socializing. We are taught to be tough, in charge and in control so that we can protect and defend ourselves and those we love. For many men, just allowing themselves to be restrained by another person is a challenge all by itself. By doing it consciously they are given the opportunity to experience what happens within their body and mind because they know that they hold the power to stop it all simply by saying “STOP”.

One of the key components to using this work to heal old trauma is knowing how the brain works. Researchers have found that the subconscious part of our brain doesn’t know the difference between what is happening in the present moment and what is being thought by the conscious mind. This means that if I were to sit and focus on some painful or traumatic experience from my past, my unconscious would be led to believe that it is happening in the present moment and it would begin triggering a defense response within my body as a way to keep the brain and body safe. This is why constantly dwelling on your past negative or undesirable experiences will cause your body to respond because the brain believes it is happening and so you stay unhappy because your focus is on your negative experience. Where your awareness goes, your energy flows.

In the case of the work I do, being restrained is a key element because that act alone brings up so much fear. The next part is being blindfolded because that takes away one of our senses and for most of us, especially men, it is the primary sense we use to feel safe. When you take away one sense, the others heighten. The sense of touch becomes more sensitive. That is where the impact work comes in. With our ability to fight or flee taken away (by the restraints and blindfold) our fear level can rise more quickly and trigger the fight or flight response more easily. When it is re-activated the body releases all the endorphins, adrenaline and hormones that it stored during any previous freeze response and the brain creates more as needed.  After this happens you can be guided through the physical discharge phase which essentially emulates the fighting or fleeing energetic discharge. Tapping into the pain, the anger, the fear, the rage or whatever emotion comes up and being free to fully express it can be incredibly cathartic.


LET GO OF THE PAIN AND THE PAST

Needless to say, it’s very powerful and edgy work and is a joy for me to be a part of. When I started my erotic practice, this was certainly not anything that I thought I would ever be doing, yet here I am. I am amazed at the powerful transformations I’ve witnessed from guys. When we’re done, they are relaxed and energized at the same time. It’s a bit hard to fully describe because the two terms don’t usually get connected but that’s how it feels to me and is the term I hear the most from my clients. When our muscles let go of the unconscious tension that we hold in them (old fight or flight charge ups) then our energy is freed up because it takes energy to hold tension in muscles. The more of our energy we free up from the muscles, the more energy we have for other activities and the easier our bodies can flow.

The really beautiful thing about this work is that because it doesn’t rely on direct sexual stimulation for the process to work, that allows me to open this part of my practice up to females. I’ve had many requests from women in the past to work with them but I’ve never felt comfortable engaging women sexually so I’ve resisted. I’m sure that shift alone in my practice will bring even more healing for me and help move me to the next level to heal.


FEAR BLOCKS US

I hope this has given you some food for thought. The biggest obstacle to living our most authentic lives and having full access to our power is fear. We are conditioned to be afraid of everything. Fear is one of the most powerful motivators that the world has against us. When we fear anyone, we give our power away. When we are willing to face our fears, especially our fear of pain, those fears will always dissolve away. We move from a place of reacting to a place of responding. We are able to see life as it really is, without the fear of pain and the excuses we create to justify it. We can respond to it in the way we consciously choose rather than unconsciously reacting to it from a place of patterned behavior. We may come up with all sorts of reasons and rations for our behavior but if your actions happened without you consciously choosing to do them, then it’s patterned behavior. Conscious action requires thought and will never be explained by “I don’t know why I did that”.


Having fear certainly won’t prevent things from happening to us but being alert, awake and aware will help us get through it. We can’t control the world but we can control our response to it. Are you making your choices consciously and living the life you choose or does your fear get in the way?