x.book.9.13.17

 

The purpose of this book

To take a deep personal dive into yourself – probing personal preferences and boundaries and the histories that have created them. Examining the past without judgement spaciously, unpacking trauma that no longer serves and replacing unexamined patterns with new grooves that reinforce a desired future and way of being in the world.

How your unique life path has resulted in the specific gifts you can share with the world, and how to do so easefully.

In understanding your needs, interests and proclivities are and speaking them to others with clarity, one gets a greater sense for how to honor and respect the specific preferences of others.

Unpacking shame for having needs, sharing novel ways to get them met – reframing being attached to a certain activity into going after a feeling or emotion (such as intimacy or feeling loved).

Broadly sharing unique healing modalities and ways of interrelating pioneered by the radical bodyworkers of the bay and the SomanautS (www.somanauts.com).

Interwoven in this tome is my own tale of somatic and psychological healing – it is my prayer that this will aid others in their path to wholeness.

 

After reading this book you will be :

an expert in your own body language signals – you will have a clear sense of when you are attracted and repulsed to various offers. You may even know the underlying history of why you have such reactions.

You will be more aware of the body language signals that you are giving off to others.

You will be aware of your boundaries, needs, and edges, and know when you are approaching them.

You will be more comfortable vocalizing your no/yes/more/less/pause/refresh.

You will understand the unique physical communication signals of your partner – especially when they are in non-verbal subspace and may be unable or unwilling to speak.

You will have the tools to connect deeply and quickly with physical playmates in a platonic touch container.

You will know how to set up a safe platonic touch container and maintain its integrity.

You will accelerate your trauma release process and learn the ‘secret’ techniques that will have your touch playmates looking forward to playdates.

You will have no shortage of dance and massage partners.

You will feel more connected, whole, and abundant in physical love – no longer projecting hungry, grabby, or needy vampire energy.

Less internal social stress and pressure to make sure all goes well with that special someone. You will be abundant in loving touch and well versed in techniques to make others feel good while deriving benefit from the touch yourself.

 

Introduction – background / history

Why am I writing this?

I am driven to create this work as information I wish I had access to in my youth. I was sheltered and naïve in the realms of my own dis/likes and had near-zero sexual experience when my virginity was taken by non-consensual penetration at the age of 20. Releasing this work is my actionable wish for a future in which all interpersonal interactions (both platonic and sexual) have been enthusiastically consented to. Had I practiced these exercises in a low-pressure environment before being alone with a man I did not know I would have developed my confidence in defending my boundaries vocally and I would not have been violated. Post-penetration I realized that I needed to develop internal understanding and confidence in communicating my boundaries in a clear, compassionate, and graceful manner.

I sought out exercises to practice consent and found the landscape lacking, as much of the content I came across assumed a high level of self-knowledge about dis/likes and a well-developed expressive voice – neither of which had been fostered in my sheltered bookish Midwestern upbringing. As such a developed the program I wish I had had - building sequentially and starting with the foundational tools that many other teachings assume to be present. This format has the added benefit of unpacking cultural assumptions and gendered indoctrination we take for granted. To this end, I have compiled and generated exercises that can be done outside the context of an intimate partnership beginning with the foundations of connecting to one’s body, knowing what you are not/interested in, developing your voice, and how to practice consent (with an emphasis on exercises being amenable to solo inquiry and situations with friends to provide an abundance of situations in which to practice).

Why the Workbook Format ?

We all agree that consent is important, and the public consciousness is gaining clarity about what is non/consensual (thank heavens!) thanks to material such as *consent media vault* .

I thank these consent pioneers for blazing the trail, and in this work I am addressing the hole I have found between the abstract understanding of consent and practicing this skill in-vivo before we need it in low-stress scenarios. Through my own experience of violation, I feel a responsibility to provide others with the tools to prevent predators from preying on innocence and naivete.

Thus I aggregated impactful exercises that helped me in my development as well as designing some of my own when there was not an exercise that stressed the development of a skill I found essential to practicing consent or boundary regulation. A related, foundational skill to consent is not only knowing what you re consenting to but also what you don’t/want and dis/like. I found no program the enfolds this fundamental material – developing self-knowledge - knowing where your boundaries are so you can speak to them to another person who wants to play with you as well as practices addressing consent and physical play all in one.

In the following pages, find the guide I wish I would have had inside (before being terrified…freezing…and being taken advantage of). Skip to the Consent Workbook Section below if you are primarily interested in jumping into the exercises *.

 

**My story**

Why bother spending so much time on the body – what are the benefits ?

The unconscious speaks through the body through intuition and physical communication methods. The unconscious has access to the full range of sensory input before the reducing valve of the mind filters and brings to the forefront the stimuli it deems most relevant for the organism’s survival. This ‘summarizing’ facility of the mind was selected for over many generations as it aided survival and therefore propagation of genes. In this moment in humanities evolution we have the luxury of recognizing the value of accessing more of the unconscious knowledge as it speaks through the body. Tapping into the unconscious through the body allows us to easefully make choices we can trust (rather then over analyzing and second guessing with the hyper-processing mind)

Our sacred task is to reconnect to our bodies so that we may understand ourselves (and therefore by proxy, others) more deeply. This inner inquiry increases the bandwidth of sensory/emotional/subconscious experience available to us and expands our physical play palate. In so doing we access increasingly profound levels of connection/understanding to self/other and in so doing exponentially multiply the love that we are able to give and receive.

Frozen trauma requires psychic energy to maintain and guard. When we process and let go of trauma, this bound energy is liberated for used in service of constructive pursuits (such as expanding the bandwidth of sensation and being present to a greater depth of feelings).

How we got here – why are we so disembodied ?

There is a strong thread of disconnection from the body running through the dominant culture of the US deriving from a confluence of factors including – body as base, lowly, source of sin, to be transcended, inherently impure from birth. Some people have been traumatized at a young age and due to this have internalized the notion that their body is not a safe place for them to be (because when they are within it, they have been hurt or made to feel violated). Some people are in frequent or constant physical pain in their bodies. Some judge, critique, and compare their bodies with those of others and feel that they are lacking. Advertising reinforces this notion – that you are incomplete or inferior in some way, but that their product or service will correct that deficiency. Even if not blatantly negative or critical advertising still implies that you could be better and that you are not enough as you are in your current state.

We are taught that the body is base - the source of shameful impulses that need to be transcended. Many around the world have received an oppressive dose of religious judgement for enjoying physical sensations (‘catholic guilt’).

Female-bodied people are also culturally socialized to be self-sacrificing and demure, subservient to the needs of others – forfeiting their bodies to the desires of males.

For an unfortunately large number of people the body has been a place of judgement, pain, and trauma. To make this hurt manageable our psyche will numb, sometimes to the point of complete dissociation from the place of these negative experiences – the body itself. Unfortunately, we cannot selectively numb only the negative, so this process puts a damper on all sensations and emotions. This coupled with the childish put downs of ‘you’re too sensitive’ and ‘toughen up’ and we have a recipe for disconnection from our internal sense-scape of feeling and inner perception. Compounding this with the body’s coping mechanism of freezing overwhelming trauma and locking it within specific locales in the body and we get the sense that we are abandoned minefields. This bound and buried energy locked up in distancing and avoiding these wounds amounts to a large reserve of potential we can direct to constructive purposes through thawing and releasing the trauma with trusted confidants in safe space. Through body domming, we create a relationship of deep compassionate listening on both verbal and physical levels and through spaciousness of time in touch can rewire the neural circuits from numb fear into release and relief.

Our current system rewards mental accomplishment and focus while denigrating ‘manual labor’ evidenced by the salaries of physical laborers. This devaluing of the body is also shown in how we treat those who service our bodies and the spaces that we inhabit : nail technicians, hair stylists, in home nurses, house cleaners, massage therapists. The truth of the matter is that that we can expand the capabilities of the body so that we have greater access to information helping us make decisions and effortlessly enter into flow states in which we can effortlessly and efficiently accomplish our goals in a spirit of play.

Boundaries Philosophy

Children and Boundaries

Often, our boundaries are ingrained in an unconscious way – through well-meaning adults telling us that ‘no-one gets to touch us in our bathing-suit area except parents and doctors’. We model societal and cultural norms unquestioningly. Unfortunately, our society has room for improvement in the realm of teaching healthy boundaries and the consent that goes along with respecting the boundaries of others.

We are often taught that we do not over our own bodies at a young age – such as when parents tell their children to hug someone or give them a kiss. Often this person is either a trusted friend or relative of the parent/child, however, the child may have good reasons for not wanting to engage physically with someone else at that time. Children are also often forced by adults to share their toys or play with other children even when they do not want to. Even though these actions are well meaning they all proclaim the message that the child’s body is ultimately not their own, and is subject to the desires of others regardless of what the child wants.

If children are taught in an age-appropriate way about consent and that they are the sovereign masters of their own bodies this greatly reduces the likelihood of predation upon them because they can tune into their own personal truth in the moment regarding contact with another rather than acquiescing to what they perceive to be societal or relational norms.

Philosophical Aside – From Whence Do Boundaries Come?

At this juncture, it is relevant to explore the underpinnings of boundaries, namely, where do they come from? Babies have no boundaries and only learn the concept of self as distinct from mother over time (or so goes the current party line in developmental psychology). In our current society boundaries are useful for long-term survival – knowing where I end and the tiger begins, but western personal boundaries seem especially rigid and self-focused compared with other cultures that are more group-focuses (for example eastern nations such as china and japan). This also extends to the sense of responsibility we feel for others situation, and why we espouse ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps’. Is it possible we would live in a more loving community-supportive culture if we were to care for our neighbors as ourselves? In this reframe we could also include the earth as our mother, treating her with respect, reverence, love, and gratitude.

There is yet another possibility in the formation of boundaries to consider – that perhaps a boundary primarily serves a protective function to defend an area of the psyche that was damaged in the past. In this model a person initially starts out as a blank slate – open to experience and others manipulation and effect on their experience – until the psyche is damaged by a certain action or viewing a certain piece of media. At this point the psyche shouts “I don’t want this to happen to me (again)” and a deflecting boundary is created to keep others from getting close enough to that sore, sensitive place to inflict pain upon it again. In this way a boundary is like a guard, taking up psychic or mental energy to be watchful for any potentially dangerous approaches.

In this way, boundaries only exist because they have been crossed in the past, resulting in registering a violation in the psyche and seeing up a ‘safe zone’ to cushion the blister from future irritation. Thus, the understanding encoded in the idea of ‘breaking all of your usual rules for someone’. Ideally, the subtext of this phrase means the other is reading you so deeply that they are in tune with the needs underneath the boundary (usually safety). Thus, if the needs which created the boundary in the first place are listened to, this removes their need to exist.  So, have hope! It is possible to unpack boundaries that no longer serve you in a loving relationship/partnership (such as therapy).

How Trauma affects the body

Although trauma can affect people in a diversity of ways, through my experience as a bodyworker I have found, as a coping mechanism, most people freeze trauma inside their bodies. For example, someone who has experienced a sexual violation may have very stiff hips that are closed off to the full range of motion. When receiving a massage in this area (such as the outside edge of the hip or the glutes) the receiver on the mat may have memories float to the surface or cry without knowing why. One theory as to why this occurs is that ‘in the moment’ of acute trauma the body/brain cannot handle and to ‘survive’ packs away the for a time of greater resources able to process the event.

Compounding the difficulty of unlocking frozen trauma inside the body is the tendency of some to dissociate and ‘remove’ themselves from their physical experience (such as through ‘watching from the ceiling’) when overwhelmed. I have a personal tendency to dissociate when I experience trauma, especially when it occurs to my body. When I lost my virginity to rape at the moment of penetration my consciousness dissociated from my body and I watched the proceedings from above. When I tore my ACL after falling down a ladder while being attacked by bees I also dissociated from my body.

Learning from animals -how do they handle trauma?

Seeing as we are animals ourselves, observing the rest of the animal kingdom and how it handles trauma is in service to broadening our understanding and provides potential models for clues as to how we can release trauma. When one of a pack of deer is killed, after the rest have found a safe space they shake to remove the remnants of the trauma of being pursued from their system. If you have house cats or dogs and they are reprimanded, you will often see them ‘shake it off’ with head motions.

The animal ladder of trauma reaction is often abbreviated as :

Fight/flight/fawn/appease/submit/attach

Safe Loving touch as human right

I propose that we make safe loving touch a human right. Touch is essential for growth, development, and life. This fact came to light when babies in an orphanage who were being well taken care of in every way but receiving touch were dying from the lack of human contact.

Your body is a gift to be enjoyed by the wearer

Pleasure is our bodily birthright. We are born sensate, sensitive, and wide open – but over time we close down, protectively veiling ourselves behind shells and masks due to the psychological blows of not being seen, met and supported as we are. We are taught that sensitivity is weakness, to ‘toughen up’ to the harshness of ‘real’ life and so we guardedly shut down in self-preservation. Your body is the sole thing that you can truly possess, and the ultimate playground of your sovereignty. Your body is yours to share with those whom you choose in the way that you choose. Experimentation and self-inquiry allows you to track your inner experience, what you do/not enjoy, and know your boundaries.

De-sexualizing Touch

Compared to other cultures, we do not engage in as much platonic touch – why is this? In western culture, platonic touch culturally acceptable is reserved for babies, young children and their parents, lovers, close friends, and massage therapists / healers. Oftentimes, although platonic touch is reserved for these groups many who have these relationships do not engage in platonic touch anyway ! Most touching we see occurs between those who are in a monogamous sexually intimate partnership. In this way there is a lot of ‘attention’ around touch, meaning that it is highly monitored because it signifies a strong (often exclusive) connection. Often any touch between peers becomes equated with sexual interest. Due to this insipid assumption, there are often implied or unstated (shadow/subliminal) intentions behind touch.

Dangers of Implicit Intention behind touch

When the intention behind touch is not made explicit, unconscious fears and assumptions create uncertainty and can allow manipulators the space to blame lack of specificity or speed for a victim’s violation. This smokescreen allows the perpetrator to distract rather than speak the damming truth and deny their disinterest in whether their victim was enthusiastically consenting to the acts in question. Thus, the accused can blame the situational context and lack of understanding for the gap that allows them to fulfil their selfish desires without consideration for the victim’s satisfaction or clarity. When the impetus behind the touch becomes explicit and the onus is on constant consent excusing nonconsensual behavior with “I didn’t know what they meant” or “it all happened so fast” will soon become a thing of the past.

Solving this pernicious problem involves encouraging communication frequency, clarity, and breadth. This can be done through encouraging constant check-ins (including verbal and physical communication (eg. pausing the action momentarily)), increasing the vocabulary and specificity of terms, and dilating receptivity / increasing attunement to encompass greater information density. The responsibility lies with all parties engaged in the touch – the giver to check in, monitor communication channels, and acutely calibrate / adjust and the receiver to express their inner experience with depth, clarity, and timeliness.

 

You don’t have to be a mind-reader, but your lover will think you are

If this feels overwhelming (constant check-ins ?!?) know that it is a skill set that can be learned and practiced like any other.

Examples of those who have developed this skill set include : accomplished therapists, bodyworkers, empaths, parents with infants, animal whisperers and renowned lovers (either historical or personal).

Benefits to honing this skill sets include : people thinking that you can read their mind, understanding someone’s unspoken motivations, knowing when people are telling you the truth, increased understanding of babies / children / pets,  being an unforgettable lover.

 

When Over-communication becomes under-communication

One may think of this change as a shift in the current status quo towards a penchant for over-communication. What is currently considered ‘over-communication’ may indeed in the future be seen as laconic (especially when as we collectively reach the point at which we can mind-meld and communicate through consciousness itself).

Through expanding opportunities for communication we also increase our opportunities to practice this skill and in so doing gain the additional benefit of raising the general communication skill level of all. This common communication skill will serve us especially well when we are interacting with those whom we have not yet established rapport / patterns, interacting with those who challenge us, and when engage in activities in a small or compressed time frame (high speed/pace).

Everyone needs touch

All humans need touch to thrive. Babies even need touch to survive! An orphanage* was befuddled when their infants who were otherwise taken care of (food, shelter, warmth, etc.) ‘failed to thrive’ and were dying. Once the babies received physical affection each day the trend reversed and all the infants lived. Engaging in platonic touch releases endorphins and oxytocin (the bonding, love hormone) into the body, increasing feelings of well-being and connection. These compounds decrease stress allowing the immune system to operate at highest efficacy.

Today many people are touch-starved including most males and vulnerable populations such as the elderly and infirm. It is my personal belief that many ‘crimes of passion’, rapes, and violence against women is due to an unfortunate majority of males being touch-starved. *Men who travel on business hire prostitutes just to touch them lovingly.  The shadow of a touch-starved and touch-judgmental culture is dark, depressive, and deprives us of the potential of bountiful daily connections.

Teaching healthy boundary management

Unspoken beliefs around touch (such as ‘it is only appropriate within a monogamous sexual relationship’) constrain the situations in which people are socially supported in engaging in touch. With good intentions but negative unforeseen outcomes we have tried to protect vulnerable populations (such as the young) from manipulative or exploitative touch by making all touch with them suspect. A common example of this is an adult making a big deal of children wrestling or enjoying their bodies which instills shame in the children who had pure intentions rather than the perverted projections onto them by adults. The clear downside of this method occurs when a predator gets a child alone without the protective scrutinizing gaze of society.

A strong solution to this issue is teaching children (and all people) strong boundary management. This includes lessons on how to know where boundaries are, what common healthy boundaries look like, how to know if someone is respecting your boundaries, and how to communicate (vocally and physically) when someone is approaching a boundary and how you feel most comfortable proceeding.

 

Re-conceptualizing Touch - Touch activism

My purpose as a touch activist is to re-normalize platonic touch as a pathway to intimate connection and wellness. Touch activism bridges the realms of dance, bodywork, massage, deep platonic connection, physical communication, and consent.

My personal passions as a touch activist include : non-verbal communication, dance-floor consent, creating body-supportive spaces, translating the physical embodied realm of dance & bodywork into evocative / explanatory language, and developing new bodywork tools, techniques & styles (and engaging in bodywork { everywhere } ). As an educator I seek to make safe and consensual platonic touch supported in all spaces and expand our physical language to increase the range of ways that we can touch each other to mutual satisfaction.

 

Consent Workbook

 

Level 1 – Connecting To Self-Body

 

  • Boundaries

Boundary Flavors

There are three main types of boundaries : hard, soft, and conditional boundaries. Each term denotes the flexibility of the boundary based on context and comfort. Boundaries (aka limits) are discussed during an initial conversation (referred to here as a negotiation) with all participating playmates (negotiation*).

Hard boundaries are never to be crossed and a respectful distance should be kept from even approaching them out of courtesy (eg. if the hard boundary is no penetration, not hovering your hand at the entrance to their intimate openings as if ‘testing the waters’). Adopting the parlance of kink, I will use the terms ‘bottom’ as receiver of sensation and ‘top’ as giver of sensation.

Soft boundaries are “things that the bottom has indicated that under normal circumstances they do not wish to do, however, under certain specifically negotiated circumstances these types of play may be permitted provided they are approached delicately by the top”. (eg. no spanking unless I stick my bum out and beg you, you ask me, and we start with light nail strokes and caresses to warm up the area) http://www.bdsmwiki.info/Boundaries *terminology - thuddy, stingy, top, bottom, dom, sub

Conditional boundaries are boundaries that need a certain criterion to be met before they are approached (eg. verbally ask me before touching me below the waist).

A useful metric to determine if you can initially trust someone is if they respect your boundaries. Boundaries may change or relax when trust between partners builds or a partner becomes more adventurous. Gently pushing (probing) boundaries - when done by a comforting, compassionate partner with great care - can be a beautiful way to enrich and evolve a relationship. http://www.bdsmwiki.info/Boundaries *trust

How do you know what your boundaries are?

If you are new to exploring your physical expression you may not have a detailed crystalized understanding about what your boundaries are. I recommend exploring a ‘sensation buffet’ with a trusted facilitator who is willing to start slow and escalate the sensation and allow you to tune into your body’s inner experience. Turning into the guide inside and tracking your inner sensations, attractions, and repulsions will provide a sensation scaffolding to map and build details into. The more knowledge you have about what you desire, the more enhanced the detail you can communicate your needs to others which increases the likelihood of being satisfyingly met.

Physically, you can tell If someone you are playing with is approaching a boundary when you start to feel uncomfortably nervous – wanting to move away and have them leave you alone. You may freeze or shut down because as your bodily boundary is being encroached upon, it is no longer a safe place to be feeling inside of. You may begin to feel an activated adrenaline response of fight or flight and become jittery or ‘on edge’.

If you feel these physical communications in a SomasenS session explore the edges of the boundary to clearly realize it’s nature. If you didn’t previously realize a boundary was present in that area, stick with the sensation and try to pinpoint its cause - this is a big learning experience! Signal to your partner to slow down by giving your ‘slow’ physical sign or saying ‘yellow, you’re approaching a boundary and I want to get clear on what it is – can you do what you were just doing in slow motion and explore the surrounding area while I get a clearer idea?’. If you can determine why this boundary exists (eg. partner running sexual energy, unfamiliar partner, distracted partner, low energy, body state, soreness/injury, not feeling stretchy…) this will add to your self / situational awareness and aid in communication with other play partners in the future. When a boundary can be directly articulated (eg. don’t touch my face) confidence in vocalizing your needs in the moment increases and leads to deeper and more satisfactory play.

Sensation Buffet : Determining your Personal Yes/No/Maybe Lists

Although there is an abundance of yes/no/maybe lists to peruse to determine what you may be interested in, there is not one specifically tied to platonic touch play. Here are my favorites from a full sensation buffet journey I take exploratory playmates through when they are unsure of their preferences or wanting to explore new ways to interact. Variations are found in parentheses.

Feather pulled across skin (neck, face, side of ribcage)

Head scratched : with metal scalp massager, brush, comb, short/long fingernails

Hair pulled (back of neck, full scalp, body hair)

Nails dragged across skin

Muscle/skin grabbed, pulled away from body (top of shoulders, biceps, thigh, stomach)

Lung work : ribcage massages, hands feeling outline resting gently, tight squeeze of hug, chest sat on

Face touched (eyebrows, cheekbones, eye sockets, around mouth)

Percussive play : light tapping, spanking

Sound play : moaning, laughing, purring, belly rumbling

 

Confounding Boundaries – Journal Prompts

Journal : What are your boundaries? Are they context dependent? What are the contextual factors that cause your boundaries to dramatically change (what makes you put down or raise up your boundaries or ‘make more space’ – increasing the width of the buffer around a hard line)? How have your boundaries evolved through time? What caused them to change? How did you learn what your boundaries were? What was it like before you had a boundary? What happened to cause you to make a boundary? Have your boundaries become more general or specific over time?

Were there any signs in your body/mind the moment before your boundary was crossed that were red flags? These are your personal intuitive signs - mark them well, for monitoring them enables you to check in with yourself regarding your inner state. The following exercise can help clarify your internal process and help you identify your personal signals.

Knowing internal Boundary Approach signals

Exercise : Two Lines - Approach & Body Monitoring

People pair up, and stand 10-15 feet away from each other in two lines. One side designated Approachers moves toward the still line embodying the intention expressed out loud by the facilitator (ex. Friendly, threatening, inquisitive, animalistic, lustful). The Still partner stands in place and in the process of being approached holds their hand up when they feel a reaction in their body. When the Still partner’s hand is up, the Approacher stops in place. Some examples of physical signals that someone is approaching your boundaries are : coldness in stomach, heat rising, discomfort, desire to back away, wanting to freeze, breath getting tight or shallow. When the Still partner feels the sensation dissipate they put down their hand and the Approacher continues toward the Still partner.

Discussion :

How close was your partner able to get? Did the distance change depending on the intention the approaching partner was holding?

Still partner : How do you check in with yourself to know when the sensation has dissipated ? What are your subtle signs? Does each sign increase in volume (does the feeling become more intense) or do you have a series of sensations that occur in an order that signals an increase in parasympathetic response?

Exercise : Deliberately boundary crossing

In this exercise, we deliberately cross boundaries to create data points for our inner personal response and practice expressing our ‘no’ both physically and out loud. Pair off and discuss your hard boundaries with your partner, sharing a flexible boundary, a conditional boundary, and a hard boundary. You partner’s role is to begin with one of the stated conditional boundaries and cross it without the condition being satisfied (a boundary violation). Experiment with rapid violations and moving slow and ‘sneakily’ violating and note the differences in physical reaction. Run through this boundary at least 3 times 1. ‘freezing’ with no reaction from the Receiver 2.  Receiver remains silent and only communicates with body language 3. Receiver allowed to vocalize ‘no’. Note the differences in body tension and discharge.

Next a flexible boundary is probed and pushed with the 3 variations, and repeated with the hard boundary.

As the Boundary Pusher approaches a boundary (such as touching the neck if the boundary is not to touch face) - notice physical sensations and instinctual actions that occur when a boundary is being approached (near, far), at the edge, and penetrated. Does the experience differ when allowed to respond?

 

How to know you can trust someone ?

A deep level of trust and easeful capability to judge trustworthiness can be reached in a relatively short time when the animal body is able to relax, the fear-seeking warning systems can power down, and the unconscious is free to speak and be heard through the body. An integral part of knowing if you can trust someone is being able to tune into your body’s own innate system for communicating the trustworthiness of another. The unconscious receives significantly more bits of information then what is filtered and presented to the conscious mind, and the unconscious speaks through the body, a relationship summarily encapsulated in the phrase ‘the body never lies’. To tap into the storehouse of stimuli you must know the personal language of your inner voice to receive detailed messages from your body about other people. This process is often called intuition, having a hunch, or listening to your gut. Each body’s language will have its own patterns and idiosyncrasies, and the ‘Two Lines - Approach & Body Monitoring’ exercise can help you begin to explore the subtle signs of your body’s language. The language of the body can sometime be slow and subtle and it is helpful to reduce the pace and allow space for the message to be fleshed out.

When you are deciding how much to trust another potential playmate notice how the person interacts with others – watch them play with others and attune to your body’s communication regarding what it is feeling. Ask the wider community about the potential playmate’s reputation – ask others within their friend group or social group if they would recommend you playing with them. Notice if the potential playmate remembers what you have told them – especially if they ‘forget’ anything (goes double for important issues such as boundaries). Train an eagle on whether they are proactive about your boundaries and if they check in or seek clarification in grey areas. Do you feel as though you have their full attention? Is the interaction a conversation with messages being communicated through both physical and verbal channels? Are the needs of both parties being met?

 

  1. Finding your voice

Although it can be challenging for ‘shy’ or ‘quiet’ folks to be proactive and vocal about their desires it is especially important for us to not only be advocates for our pleasure, but also to extend invitations/advances to those whom we fancy. If we do not, we continue to silently support the status quo of dominant / aggressive individuals being rewarded for their forwardness and persistence. Much like power, the person who deserves your attention is the one who is honoring it and is aware of the responsibility of requesting your most precious resource –attention.

Exercise –

Warm up your throat – Own your Own pleasure

To start with, in a mirror, or out loud, get comfortable vocalizing each of the five main directives - no/yes/more/less/refresh. Practice all the different flavors of conveying the same message : pleasant, gracious, graceful, forceful, sharp. Note the expressions that you are least comfortable vocalizing and explore what causes this discomfort. Developing a wider vocabulary to convey these messages while diffusing the tension will provide nuance, aiding in self-awareness and detailed communication with playmates.

I give you enthusiastic permission to make juicy sexy noises! Start by yourself during traditionally pleasurable activities to test your pipes, and work on incorporating them into your life any time you are feeling pleasure. Let the giggles and gushes multiply, mumbling and tumbling out from your belly, letting your jaw relax and soaking in the easy delight of ecstatic expression. Move on to letting your sounds out when working with a partner – such as while receiving a massage. Not only do your noises convey a wealth of information about specific types of touch to your play partner, but they are they often quite rewarding for your playmate and those within earshot!

Discussion

What does your yes / no sound and look like ? Does it change based on the situation ? What carries over into all situations – what are you preferred channels of communication?

 

Level III Communicating with Others Consensually

Beyond the Verbal – Types of Communication

Communication happens on many levels – verbal, physical, energetic, situational. Many consent educations teach that a verbal response is the gold standard and the only way to have ‘true consent’. However, when I examine my own behavior, solely focusing on the verbal does not always acknowledge the whole picture. Some people prefer or are more fluent in physical communication (such as those who often work in non-verbal modes – children, dancers, bodyworkers). Additionally, being in loud or silent places can remove the possibility of communicating verbally. There are times when I have been dancing (alone or with others) for an extended period of time and I am in a non-verbal physical/mental space – being called on to speak (especially through shallow ‘social chatter’) hauls me from the depth and richness of experiencing the precious and exquisite now-ness of physical sensation that I am immersed in.

Why has the verbal been placed above non-verbal as the ‘only true way’ to establish consent? Possibility this is due to the clarity that utilizing the verbal form of communication attempts to reach. Perhaps because speaking invokes a verbal agreement - holding people to their word. Alas, using the verbal causes us to pop into our minds and can alter the natural and easy flow that energy in the body had been enjoying. Although disruption is often seen as negative, if it is in service to seeking clarity and checking-in this is a noble pursuit that demonstrates the attentiveness and caring of the individuals.

Non-verbal consent

In due diligence I wish to preface this section by proclaiming that this is an advanced technique and should only be used when all partners are confident in identifying and expressing their boundaries, know each other’s signals well, are deep listeners, and have pre-established trust.  Non-verbal consent should only be used after a verbal conversation (or several) establishing that non-verbal consent is appropriate, welcomed, and constitutes an enthusiastic yes.

I have certain play-mates with which I have established a container of non-verbal communication and consent. I have given verbal ‘blanket consent’ for them to touch me in certain ways and that I am a pre-approved yes unless I state otherwise in a future moment. As an example, a frequent blanket consent I give is for hugs, although I occasionally turn down hugs even from people I love because I am too hot or sweaty for such close contact. I also turn down hugs if I am feeling horizontal and giving a hug would require me to stand. There are some people I turn down hugs from if I am in an emotionally tender place and do not have the resource to give that energy to them.

While learning and practicing the skill of non-verbal consent it is even more important to be obsessively attentive to what your partner is communicating and to go slow. Due to the dearth of teaching the language of the body in traditional schooling, a useful comparison to make is as though learning you are leaning a new language through visiting a foreign country. As in the case of visiting a foreign land - be careful, courteous, and curious !

Consent killing the mood

A common cultural example to pull in here is the often-heard sentiment from many initiators (most often men) I have spoken to who believe that consent kills the mood. ‘I don’t want a girl to ask me to kiss I would rather have her just do it”. I have heard the mirror sentiment from the receiver that they “don’t want to be asked to be kissed, just do it”. The subtext is that the receiver does not want their play partner to verbally ask them and discharge the sexual tension that has been building, however, the receiver does want to be listened to and communicated with on a physical, animalistic level. The trope that ‘consent kills the mood’ has a big underlying assumption beneath it – that consent can only be given verbally.

Negotiation and Consent Communication is not all verbal

Although in our mainstream the only way you can get concrete consent is through verbal channels (it would be informative to look up the legal president for this **) I disagree with the assumption that ‘consent can only be given verbally’ on several points – the first being that someone may agree to something verbally but when their body is saying no, that does not give you the opportunity to say ‘haha well you agreed so here goes’. If you receive a no, you have a responsibility to honor it, no matter what level it is given on. If you are receiving mixed signals stop the action and check in with a physical pause (and verbal conversation) as it often means the person you are playing with is inwardly conflicted. Your attentiveness to your playmate will build immense trust in them for you and allow them to more deeply surrender into your contact and help avoid any snarly non-consensual potentials. See the ‘Mixed signals’ section below for more detailed analysis.

In summation, consent has to do with clarity in the question and giving the other person the time and space to respond without pressure, not the form the question comes in.

Non-verbal consent in practice – the Prolonged Pause

A common physical escalation point is a kiss – a jump in intimacy occurs at this act and provides a prime place to practice non-verbal consent. For example, if you are the initiator/giver going in for a kiss, you can make lingering present penetrative eye contact and slooooowly lean in (as if you are the umpire determining whether a player is in or out), pausing again about 10% away from physical contact between the lips of your receiver. This prolonged pause is the initiator non-verbally ‘asking’ a physical question through body language – moving forward indicating their interest, with the pause signaling a space of respect that allows the receiver spaciousness to respond. If the receiver leans in to complete the kiss, this clearly demonstrates participatory consent on their part, as they were given the choice to lean in and chose it of their own volition. (Caveat being there may be power dynamics at play that may have lead to the Receiver/Responder into feeling as though they did not have a choice).

A good rule of thumb is that if you have been reading the body language signs of your partner and getting strong yesses and you would like to know if they would enjoy receiving a new sensation of [ insert activity here – neck biting, spanking, etc ] –go 90% of the way towards/into the action slowly and then pause, waiting for them to meet you the rest of the way. Through this method the engagement becomes a conversation and you are not simply impressing yourself and your wishes/desires onto someone who is reluctantly acquiescing. The amazing side benefits of this method is that the slow pace can increase sexual tension and therefore build arousal !

‘But what if I have to touch them somewhat for them to understand what I want to do?’

For example, let’s say the initiator is feeling inspired to give a sensation that the receiver may not be able to see before it occurs, such as hair pulling. I would recommend to start at a less-risky activity, such as resting your hand on their hair, or combing your hands through their hair to see how they respond first. Then you can begin with slow light pulling at the base of the neck and read their body signals as you accelerate the pressure. Remember, you are always encouraged to verbally check in as well!

When signals don’t match

There are times in which someone may verbally be saying yes, but their body signals are saying no. This is a prime opportunity to check in verbally explaining what you are observing / sensing (‘I am noticing that you have closed your eyes and your body feels stiff’) with your partner, which opens the conversation and engagement to a deeper level. Noticing and voicing the mismatch of signals demonstrates attentiveness to your partner, and deepens their trust in your ability to tune into them and speak up when receiving mixed messages.

Discussing the conflicting signals verbally allows for deeper understanding of personal dynamics/past trauma and unconscious body signals that the receiver may not be aware of (others may have simply steamrolled them in the past).

In general, an upstanding principal to follow is that a no on one level overrides a yes on other levels. This helps honor the principal of pursuing the path of highest hell yes of all participants.

Discussion

What type of consent do you prefer? What do you do when verbal and physical do not match? What do you do in situations where you cannot obtain verbal consent (eg. a loud place, silent place)?

Love is Listening

The same way we demonstrate love for children we can use with our playmates : by observing them, making sure they come to no harm, and patiently answering their questions. An additional layer that we may not always grant children but do to playmates is the respect of giving them the spaciousness to come to their own conclusions without pressuring them into what we think they may enjoy or interpret to be best for them. We can also act as detectives and suggest hypothesis by using the phrase ‘the story I am telling is…’ and asking if the projection rings true (eg. the story I telling is that you are closing your eyes because you are having trouble separating your inner desires from my expression of my preferences and desired activities – how does that land with you? ). A great moment to break into the verbal realm is if you ever find yourself unable to track your partner or if any doubts or questions enter into your mind taking you out of the present moment. In a way, a verbal check in indicates that you want to make sure that you are still on track with your partner and shows that you value shared resonance enough to voice interest into deepening into greater sync. You will gain greater levels of intimacy and a long-lasting positive relationship through frequent check ins, calibrations, clarifications, and questioned posed to your partner. We demonstrate attentiveness through depth of listening, and in my numerous conversations with the body geniuses of the bay area regarding attractive traits in a play partner, attention always comes out number one.

Specificity is Splendid, and has no end

Another reality that is not frequently spoken about by those advocating that ‘verbal consent is the only way consent can be given’ is that not only can you never discuss every possible nuance of a particular activity, but also that specificity in asking has no end, as the following ‘may I touch your arm’ exercise illustrates. Verbal consent is not an ironclad assured safety mechanism, as manipulators will always find ways to twist words, hence the need for practice in affirming and defending boundaries through both verbal and non-verbal means.

Exercise : May I touch your arm

Pair off, one partner asks the other ‘may I touch your arm’ or something equally innocuous. The touching partner is to be in a manipulative, extractive, penetrative mindset, pushing the boundaries of akin to a misbehaving child wishing to get away with treating their younger sibling poorly as revenge for a previous slight. Beginning touching the arm in an expected ‘normal’ way, the toucher can them begin caressing in a laviscious, uncomfortable, or painful way (such as by pinching or twisting the skin on the arm in opposite directions such as an ‘Indian burn’). Allow the receiver to clarify what they do/not prefer, with the giver trying to look for loopholes, ways to manipulate, or cause pain. In subsequent rounds, asking more difficult questions such as ‘may I kiss you’ (here is an opportunity to gain comfort in vocalizing no or counter-offers for the receiving partner as well).

Discussion : What did it feel like to be the receiver? The giver/manipulator? What was enjoyable about being the manipulator (feeling smarter than the other person at finding a loophole)?

Holding each other accountable to body language fluency

The solution to the problematic assumption that verbal consent is ironclad (potentially stemming from the litigious nature of US society and the emphasis on verbal / written contracts) is the need to hold each other accountable to speaking body language. Body talk is our first language, as all babies can speak to, and we all have the underlying neutral connections

and humanity would be well served to teach continuing education for physical communication. Body language holds deep nuance demonstrated by the continued preference for in-person interviews and insistence on live meetings to get a true read on people even in our dispersing digitized online age.

Non-verbal/Physical Language/Communication Common Translations/Basics

Although each individual is different, below please find some trends I have observed for how to interpret physical movements.

Moving towards : yes / more

Moving away : no / less / slow down / refresh

Speeding up : yes / more / increase energy, pace

Slowing down : no / slow / refresh

Tensing up : no / slow / decrease energy, pace

Yielding : yes / surrender

Other aspect to note are : eye movements – open/closed, eye contact, breathing changes (heavier, deeper, quicker, shallower, swallowing), repositioning

Additionally non-linguistic sounds are a wonderful way to communicate and stay in the bodily experience : moaning, heavy breathing, animal noises – grunts, growls, yelps, purrs, squeals.

Showing your cards – Radical Honesty

When playing with a new partner, making the intention behind the intended touch explicit allows all those participating to fully understand and agree to the activity and subtext. Although ‘showing your cards’ and letting others else know of your romantic / sexual interest in them can be scary for the ego, there are a plethora of benefits to making this commonplace.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Most often conveying deep feelings is scary because of the fear that the other’s feeling will not align and the revealer will be rejected. The extreme terror that rejection can cause is bound up in fear for survival – when being accepted by others was a prerequisite for inclusion in the tribe during a time when aloneness equated death. The ego’s oversized fear is outdated - a symptom of the inflated alarm over a potential social gaffe, an overblown obsession with saving face and sparing embarrassment. Failing early and often allows you to build stronger relational prototypes that allow you receive your deepest desires from those who delight in fulfilling them.

Worst case scenario

Although there may be a moment of awkwardness or discomfort in vulnerably sharing what you want if the other does not share your sentiment, you are able to know right away rather than wasting energy in courting this person sexually (no more unknowingly being in the friend-zone!). You are then able to divert what would have been wasted energy chasing the un-interested into pursuing others who are more likely to enthusiastically meet (and even celebrate) your needs.

Both ‘rejector’ and ‘rejectee’ can then decide if they would like to engage on a more platonic level, leading to a trusting friendship that is borne of evidence that both parties will communicate authentically even when uncomfortable or difficult. As the common date night movie trope often lead us to believe it is even possible that the organic deepening and growth of the platonic relationship over time may result in feelings of attraction blossoming from the romantically uninterested that were not there initially. However, I strongly caution that this should not be the primary goal when agreeing to be friends 😉 !

Working up the courage to clearly communicate how you feel allows you to seize the reigns of your life and avoid wasting opportunities that present themselves out of fear of rejection. This confidence translates into having more power and proactivity when interacting with others. The more frequent the rejection, the more effective the inoculation against fear of failure – for ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. There is wariness of saying or receiving a ‘no’ as well as a stigma around rejection that we as a culture would do well to dissipate – for ultimately our yes is only as strong as our no. Normalizing saying no without judgement and making rejection an acceptable and commonplace occurrence would also break our distended fear of receiving these as answers.

Best case scenario

Upon revealing your undying love you may find that they have a crush on you too – and you would have never known had you not bared your heart!

Receiving a No – counter offers

Receive a No graciously, and if it feels genuine you can thank your partner for expressing their boundaries. Allowing the receiver to make a counter offer, or making one yourself allows the connection and play to continue and models ‘a no does not mean the end of play or the relationship’. Very young children are only able to say no to their parents or caregivers when they feel secure in the relationship that they will not be abandoned/still be loved if they say no or express their body sovereignty. See how you can get creative within the boundary, for ‘a no just means a yes to something else’. My friends Catalina and Michael actually invented a new type of play called ‘Energy Sex’ because Catalina expressed that she did not want to have sex with Michael (a relatively new friend) with whom she was attending a sex party that evening. The pair got creative within the boundary and through circulating their sexual energy non-physically, they birthed a new way of relating !

Promiscuous Flirting :

Flirting is a great place to have fun practicing with expressing physical attraction in a low/no pressure scenario and engaging more with others in the world. As I learned in a flirting workshop, ‘flirt with the world, and the world will flirt back at you’. Flirting is also an excellent space to practice saying no while continuing to engage someone in a socially interactive dance. Practice flirting anywhere it is appropriate – grocery store, on the phone, at events. Flirting works well to spice up places that are traditionally ‘boring’ such as the grocery checkout line, post office, or DMV. Make sure your flirting is clearly playful fun for all involved – keep it lighthearted and unattached to outcome. To increase the pool of potential flirting candidates, flirt with people you are not necessary sexually interested in (eg. senior citizens). By flirting with those you are not sexually attracted to you gain valuable ‘practice time’ to try out your personality before a ‘high stakes’ scenario in which you genuinely fancy the target of your flirtatious banter.

 

Comfort Receiving Nos

Bus Stop Backrub Exercise :

Offer someone a touch that you are certain that they will say no to (eg. ask for a massage from a stranger at the bus stop) Consciously practice comfort with making a fool of yourself, and be surprised at the range and style of answers you get to your offer (this is also a good way to learn the variety of ways that you can reject someone). Propose a counter-offer or invite them to suggest how they would like to be interacted with. Be open and receptive to their response and whether you want to engage with them in the way in which they offered.

 

Pure Play

Occasionally, such as with children, pets, or friends, one may find a play partner who will simply enjoy the touch for what it is – an exploratory gift of the moment. Holy Hedonists! If you are so lucky to find this rarity, they may be a good candidate to explore what kinds of touch you enjoy without obligation or shyness (excluding children / pets for lack of informed consent). With such a partner the delight comes from the exploratory play itself – relishing in the journey without attachment to destination. The focus of the session can be falling as deeply as possible into the ‘now’ of the body experience, drinking deep of the delight of the moment. When I am blessed by such a relationship all the actions within the session become a pure gift and I am welcome to show up fully as my silly, sound-full, sacrilegious self (such as by laughing when invariably gas gets loudly squeezed from my intestines).  I am fortunate to have many bodywork friends in the bay area who help me to develop Somatic Magic positions and moves through our untangled, sloppy, highly experimental play.

 

Ragdoll Cradling Exercise (credit to Karen Moriarty) :

Form duets, one member as rag doll the other as the cradler. The cradlers prompt is to love, hold, nurture, and demonstrate physical affection for their beloved rag doll. Cradlers - this is your worn out, favorite doll, the one that has been with you from the beginning, the best friend always dangling from your arm – you have never gone anywhere without your beloved doll soul twin. How close and entangled can you get with your doll? You may want to stroke you dolls hair, whisper secrets into their ears, or tell them a story. Ragdolls – how physically inert can you get – you are an intimate object, limp, yielding, and receptive. Switch.

Discussion :

Receiver : How does it feel to receive such childlike love? What are your memories of being held tenderly? Notice when you do not trust them to hold you – where do you tense up? When / how does your body tell you they are trustworthy? What was the hardest aspect to receive (true surrender, their secrets) ?

Giver : What was the hardest thing to believe or to trust your doll with (secrets, that they would not leave your side) ?

 

Listening to Heartbeat Exercise :

In this simple exercise you will lay your ear over another’s heart and listen to their heartbeat. Switch.

Discussion :

Notice how your breathing changes – do you end up in sync? Where are you holding tension – in your neck, not wanting to fully let your head sink into their chest? In your shoulders, not trusting their body to hold you head?

Human Blanket Exercise :

For 3 minutes you will have your partner lay on top of you as a human blanket. Decide if you want to be face up or down. Do a short 10 second trial with your partner on top of you (with them facing down) and see if you need to assemble any squish or pillows you may need to feel comfortable being compressed on the floor. Switch

Discussion : what memories came up for you? Did aspects of the experience change over time? What was the experiential story arc?

Level III Advanced Topics - BDSM, Boundaries, and consent

I was fortunate to connect to BDSM in my young adulthood and was drawn to it through the detailed practices around boundaries and consent, applying many of the principals I learned in my teachings and embodiment coaching practice. Due to the intensity of many of the acts, scenes, and the possible unfamiliarity of new play partners to each other’s preferences, out of necessity BDSM has developed a host of skills, techniques, and terms to create an extremely well-woven safety net. BDSM culture emphasizes personal responsibility over ‘idiot’- or ‘baby’-proofing potentially dangerous scenarios and this focus forces a comprehensive ‘covering all the bases’ negotiation style. Negotiation means the pre-emptive verbal dialogue between the people who are going to ‘play’ or engage in a ‘scene’ (activity) to establish their interests and boundaries before any action takes place.

Negotiation

Negotiation is a word that comes from BDSM culture, and I have found it is a useful model for communicating needs, desires, and plans between potential play partners. “In the D/s or BDSM environment negotiation is one of the most basic building blocks of a power exchange…it is agreeing when and where to meet, what limits might be imposed or explored…physical and health considerations, emotional landmines, the use or absence of safe signals, [and] how and when the scene begins and ends.” (http://chicomunch.com/publ/basic_info_about_bdsm/basic_bdsm_negotiation/1-1-0-21)

A great tip to enhance clarity and make sure no topics are forgotten during negotiation is to preemptively write out your boundaries, desires, and other pertinent information to convey to your playmates in advance. This also provides an individual check in as to whether you are “able to discuss sensitive topics openly and honestly”, for if you cannot, you must seriously reconsider your status as “emotionally mature enough to engage in these activities with this person if you are not even able to speak about it openly”.

One style of negotiation involves the use of white lists or black lists. “Whist list only indicates you will only perform activities that are explicitly negotiated as a “YES, please!”. Black lists indicate that you will do anything that is reasonably safe and sane, and isn’t indicated as an “I very much do not want to do this”.” For new-to-you playmates or activities, it is recommended to operate with a ‘white list only’ status until you get to know them over time. Even under a ‘white list only’ status, it is helpful to know their black list so that you can more deeply respect their preferences. http://www.bdsmwiki.info/Negotiations

Beginning Verbal Discussions

Use I statements, clear, concise, and assertive speech ( “I want” and “I do not want”) to express boundaries. Start small and simple with negotiations and don’t be afraid to speak up if clarification is needed (especially if the point is particularly salient for you) so that your wishes can be properly followed and reinforced. Leave nothing up to interpretation at first and gradually negotiate as it become appropriate for the developing dynamics (over several scenes or near the end of negotiation if you are comfortable with them). Experienced players find clarify and honest in negotiations more valuable than someone claiming to have ‘no boundaries’ and pushing past their comfort zone and ruining a scene. This is not a race, you will always have more opportunities to play! Start with a light and respectful scene, which allows for trust to build with additional conversation over time.

Do not agree to anything you aren’t enthusiastic about doing.

If you aren't comfortable and 100% sure if you want to play with someone, don't play.

http://www.bdsmwiki.info/Negotiations

 

How to proceed when verbal negotiation is not possible

If you are engaged in low key physical play within the container of a class or a well-held workshop, extensive negotiations to practice a skill or prompt may not be necessary. Additionally, in pick up play, such as in a non-verbal dancefloor situation, verbal negotiation may not be possible.

A good rule of thumb for situations in which verbal negotiation is undesirable, unlikely, or impossible is to start by watching to gain more information about the players and the scene. If you feel as though your interaction would contribute to the situation and be welcome make eye contact and make a physical gesture of ‘asking’ (eg. eye contact, hovering hand over arm to  physically ‘ask’ permission to touch, making light contact and waiting for them to press their body into your touch as a ‘yes more’). **how to consensually enter group play

Start a type of touch ‘low and slow’ – with low intensity, pressure, and pace, and only increase if your partner shows signs they desire more stimulation. It is also recommended that you touch them places they can see first (not staring out by sneaking up and smacking them on the rump unless they have expressed their desire and delight at this sudden shock). In these scenarios monitoring your partner’s body language is additionally emphasized.

http://www.bdsmwiki.info/Negotiations

Having a physical safeword is highly recommended, such as the ‘two tap out’ sign. In wrestling when a combatant is pinned and they admit defeat the pinee give two smacks of the ground with an open palm or on the body of the pinner to signal to the pinner that they have ‘won’ and to release them.

 

For a thorough Negotiation Short and Long Form please see Appendix *

Negotiation Prompts:

Do you want to be in one role (dominant, submissive, switch) for a portion of time, or the whole time? Do you want the switching to flow back in forth in longer periods of time or like quicksilver whenever the feeling rises?

How to make negotiation Safer

For people new to a particular place or entering into a new community, there are several ways to make choosing playmates and having negotiations safer. These guidelines are particularly geared for those who are more submissive or have difficulty appraising if others may do them harm, reducing exposure to predators though relying on community reputation and visibility during vetting.

  • Play in a public place such as a dungeon, jam, or event.
  • Have a neutral party observe the negotiation and play such as a friend, event host, dungeon monitor, or even an attentive audience.

When new playmates are watched (especially the first time people are playing together) they are much less likely to do something unethical, dangerous, or abusive which will reflect badly on their reputation.

  • Find a protector / mentor and have them select a play partner and negotiate with or for you.

Ideally this person is more experienced then you with the type of play you are wanting to engage in and is “a very trusted friend who very thoroughly knows your intimate desires and boundaries” with skill in choosing good play partners. (http://www.bdsmwiki.info/Negotiations). This person may have been in the shared social circle longer, or generally respected as a good judge of character. Regardless of what others say, the safest bet in the end is to trust your personal instincts above all.

When playing in private - Set a check-in alarm

Pre-arrange with a friend that you will call them at a certain time to check in and make sure all is well on/after your first ‘play date’ with a new partner. Make sure that this friend has the address, name, and contact information of your new playmate. Tell your potential playmate that you are doing this (you can also recommend that they do the same). If they react with anger or judgement, note that as a huge red flag and reconsider playing with them, or proceed with additional caution. Be sure to set an alarm on your phone so you do not forget to check in with your friend.

Evil Monk had this to say about the check-in alarm :

“I've talked with many people -- mostly submissive women -- who have survived [first time playmate] assaults, and I make it a point to ask them "if your partner had been certain that a third party knew where you were, what you were doing, who you were doing it with, and that you would be checking in with them later, would this assault have taken place?" In every single case so far, the reply has been "no." Some have also reported that the prospective partner called off the play date entirely when they insisted that such a mechanism be in place.”

Remember – the first play date with a new partner is the one most likely to go wrong.

http://www.evilmonk.org/a/jay.cfm

BDSM Consent

BDSM ‘Best Practices’ advocate for informed (risk-aware) express consent rather than implied consent (eg. inferred from silence). Informed consent means that all parties involved have a “ clear appreciation and understanding of the facts, implications, and future consequences of an action” and are aware of the potential risks of any action. Informed consent can be “given in writing, by speech (orally), or non-verbally, e.g. by a clear gesture such as a nod”. (http://www.bdsmwiki.info/Consent – this page is highly recommended reading and I will be pulling, paraphrasing, and adding to the concepts presented within throughout this section).

More specifically consent :

requires a clear, enthusiastic, resounding yes; can never be assumed, it must be granted;

when given does not constitute blanket consent, it can be revoked at any time;

is ongoing -  requires continual communication between all parties;

only capable of being granted by someone who is fully capable, fully informed and not coerced;

and each person involved is responsible for respecting, maintaining and/or communicating consent.

(http://sunnymegatron.com/consent-sexual-boundaries-yesnomaybe/)

Many of the terminology, concepts, and practices of BDSM have helped me immensely in understanding and navigating platonic touch situations. For example, due to many BDSM folk’s interest in power play BDSM makes explicit the often hidden power dynamics present in many interactions (more on this later) and gives us detailed vocabulary to provide delicately nuanced detail.

Due to new playmates initial unfamiliarity with each other and the potentially intense nature of interactions consent is crucial and trust is built up through reputation, skill, and clear negotiation.

There is a strong BDSM current of preparing ‘elevator speeches’ in which each person’s preferences (‘yuck/yum’) are expressed and last test date / STI status stated. This sharing is part of the cultural fabric of informed consent and the radical unabashed honesty of the revelations allows mutually compatible play partners to find each other quickly and easily. When I encountered my first elevator speech sharing session I felt as though I had hardly explored my interests compared to the compressive and specific answers that many provided!

The emphasis on lack of judgement in BDSM is conveyed in a common phrase ‘don’t yuck my yum’ abbreviating the notion that we all have preferences and just because you don’t share someone’s penchant / perversity does not allow you to judge them. BDSM’s emphasis on deep sharing of personal preferences and proclivities provides a refreshing model for the clarity that comes from radical honesty.

The lack of coercion and openness to ‘no’ and ‘stop’ in BDSM provides a strong model for healthy relationships (nonconsensual coercion that is - 😉 ). People only play together because they want to and they can stop at any time, for any reason (such as needing to go to the bathroom). Immediate intimate self-disclosure allows compatible playmates to find each other rather than trying to manipulate or mold someone into playing a role they are unsuited for or uninterested in. The protective nature of throughout preemptive discussion and agreement puts personal responsibility and agency at the forefront before any action occurs. Combining this with BDSM’s cultural emphasis on checking in during play and ‘aftercare’ once the scene has ended make it a model worth studying for anyone who cares about the wellbeing of their playmates – platonic or otherwise.

What BDSM can teach us about boundaries

When playing with a new partner it is good to have an exploratory conversation to establish your hard and soft boundaries, your rules/preferences around them, and what your intensions and desires for engaging with the person are to see if you are a good fit - having common ground to engage with harmoniously to mutual satisfaction. This may sound like sharing hard boundaries (not wanting to be touched in a certain place, no penetration, no kissing on the mouth) and describing moments that you want to be checked in with (check in before you slip under my clothing or taking anything off, check in when you increase the pressure beyond a firm handshake).

This is an apt moment to establish words that signify stop, slow down, keep going, increase the pace, and decrease the pressure (for example, red, yellow, green, yes, more, lighter). Some ‘safe-words’ are used to stop the action outright, while others can communicate a willingness to continue, but at a reduced level of intensity (such as slow down or yellow). Pink is coming into vogue as a sign to take a non-scene related break – such as going to the bathroom.

Additionally, if you are engaging in pressure play it can be useful to have an intensity rating scale of 1-10 and asking your partner where they want to be within that chart (eg. I would like to be at a 5-6, starting by building up from a 2, with a few moments at 7, with a maximum of 8).

Pro dommes are deep listeners

Pro dommes are highly respected and sought after because they are consent specialists and are clear and thorough in their communication. Through the domme’s ability to listen attentively to their sub before the scene (as well as translating the physical signals that are unspoken during) they weave a safe container for those they are playing with. Through the magic of attentive presence, the strong container created by the domme allows the sub to submit to the domme’s control with confidence. Thus the prerequisite for trust in order for the sub to surrender to their deepest desires is fulfilled. The feeling of submission, or ‘sub-space’ is immensely pleasurable and relaxing for the sub, who feels cared for and attended to on a level that is infrequently found after infancy. Many dommes enjoy the Godlike rush of being in power, providing an intimately curated experience in which the sub can surrender further than they ever imagined through reading (and often enjoying!) the subtle communications of the sub’s body language.

Part IV : Somanauts

Origin Story

We began as Squish Squad and then evolved into the SomanautS under the Prolific Production of Razma who appreciated that our positive impact is magnified when we come together in crew.

We found each other on the dance floor. In the mosh of dancing for hours on end at events, and for days at a time at transformational festivals we gathered our far-flung family, enfolding them in our embrace (* link to movement.movement.movement prose poem). We rooted into the conscious movement hub that is the Bay Area and pollinate her satellite communities on the West Coast and among the islands (Grass Valley, Los Angeles, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Bali…). Movement specialists, we performed bodywork on bodyworkers and stacked benefits as we stacked bodies on top of one another, compounding the collective release.

Through radical honesty and interpersonal intimacy, we opened into each other, revealing parts of ourselves we had believed could never be seen lest love be driven from the witness of such internal shadow. We realized hiding our darkness deferred merely meant it would crop up unconsciously and have its needs met through less savory hidden means. Holding each other’s hearts in our hands, we looked bravely into each other’s shadows and found the root of our concerns - we feared losing connection. Letting fall the social masks we began asking for what we really wanted, creating social structures and activities that met our needs in group and expedited everyone’s evolution within the progressing collective (eg. steam bath cleansing while singing medicine songs, nomadic sauce nutrition, squish, cuddling, performance healing in groups).

We are dancers and lifelong movers taking care of each other’s bodies.

We strengthened through strenuous activity, lifting other bodies, and we developed a massage style of healing and lengthening on the dance floor, in movement and pause at particularly pleasant positions to dive deep and sit in the scrumptious skeletal stillness.

This book and our online video presence is to share a sense of the style and demonstrate techniques, but a direct body transmission is a multisensory energetic experience that evades capture within our current media making methods (Virtual Realty holds promise as it heads into a somatically immersive direction). The SomanautS intangible healing field is enhanced when multiple healers gather together with shared intention under a shared cultural umbrella – and thus the SomanautS crew was born. This exponentially multiplying effect is why we advocate for an in-presence booking of the Somanauts to come to your space so you can feel our frequency in your field.

Flavors : Personal Proclivities and Specialties

Body Domming : Razma

Philosophy

Body Domming is shorthand for body domination – the practice of using one’s body to dominate a submissive receiving partner into deep physical surrender. Body domming is acting as a dominant active agent (‘dom’ / ‘domme’) creating/curating experience and sensations for the passive receiving submissive agent (‘sub’). Some schools of BDSM call related practices ‘body handling’ and body domming can bear a cursory visual similarity to ‘wrestling’ (if wrestling was slow, nurturing, deep, caring, and all about listening to your partner and guiding them into safe surrender).

The allure of Body domming is amplified for cerebral folx who find it challenging to expand from their cranium and drop into their body, as the depth and breadth of sensation is one of the few consistent and safe methods available to forcibly ‘ground’ even the headiest into their inner body experience.

Body domming can help brainy folks have more access to their bodies through several interrelated methods: associating the body with pleasurable experiences, expanding breadth and depth of sensation, and being in contact with someone who is trained in deep embodied presence. In body domming we create a container for playful innocent somatic exploration – detangling the relationship between physicality and sexuality and being able to revel in safe sensuousness. We can return to the childlike nature of engaging in physicality “because it feels good…independently of any relationship with sex” (The Invisible Orientation pg. 28). In this return to unpressured play, we open into our inherent curious and experimental nature and pursue novel experiences we have not yet encountered. When we engage in these exploratory realms with experienced somanauts (‘body explorers’) not only can they introduce novel sensations to your palette but together you may discover exquisite unique body combinations (see the sensory buffet and somasens sections for more sense seeds*).

In body domming we can flood the sensory system with such penetration of stimuli such that there is not processing power available for other thoughts, much as when a massage therapist digs into a tightly bound knot of tension and our perception collapses completely into the point of contact.

Being in physical contact with someone who has cultivated and trained their ability to be deeply physically present entrains your body to their state, much as two people in close proximity will sync breathing patterns. Through the body genius modelling their dropped in nature, you will be able to have a window into what living in greater body consciousness is like experientially.

Technique

The body dom can be either above the receiver or below (‘topping from the bottom’). A good choice for neophytes is to body dom from below as the sub is not being compressed from above and can feel more in control - able to direct the touch and pressure through freedom of movement. When the body dom is physically under the sub (aka receiver – in this arrangement the partner closer to the ground or with their center of gravity lower) the dom is acting as the carrier wave ‘floating’ the sub upon their buoyant sea.

When below the submissive receiver (‘sub’) the body dom concentrates attention on cushioning and cradling joints and other exposed points (eg. bones) of the sub. Of special note is to cradle the neck and maintain control of the skull so that it does not unceremoniously thud to the floor to prevent the invariable loss of trust that would occur in the ability of the domme to track the sub’s body positioning and care for their comfort.

An advanced practice of body domming occurs when the body domme is surfing on top of body of the receiver. This requires a level of listening several degrees deeper then ‘flying’ or ‘floating’ someone on top of you, as the receiver is receiving significantly more weight. Additionally, the receiver would need to be able to dislodge themselves from under the ‘rock’ of the weight of the domme in the situation that the weight reaches a point where the receiver’s body goes into a protective ‘contractive’ state as a physical safety boundary is being guarded (eg. the receiver’s body is ‘maxing out’ and the domme needs to ease up and move to another point).

The body domme is to concentrate on keeping an appropriate amount of tension and pressure in the point of contact. If there are several points of contact between bodies, the point that is holding the most pressure has attentional priority. Finally the domme is to keep a mental awareness of which point is furthest from the ground as it has the farthest to ‘fall’ (or ‘flop’) should a sudden shift of weight of movement occur. Keep in mind that the roles of giver and receiver are flexible in the somatic magic style – thinking of a domme as the one who is guiding or ‘responsible’ in the session. In informal play this can fluctuate widely, and indeed this flexibility allows for dynamic flow between the players, and as you become experienced you will realize who holds the power in any given moment without thinking.

While being surfed the receiver is to concentrate on directing the touch and pressure to the points that they desire through physical motions such as twisting, shrugging, and using their hands and feet to push up from the floor and create ‘ramps’ to guide the domme to particular places, towards the natural flow / resting point of gravity. The receiver is to breathe into the embrace of gravity to create space in previously tight and constricted spaces.

Although the onus of responsibility for self-care lies with each participant, emphasis of care is on listening to the player on the bottom, the player in the most receptive role, and the player receiving the most weight. This can be translated into shorthand that you are always listening to the other person a little bit more then following your own inner desires (although your own needs are a close second). Through the conscious manipulation and listening to the sub’s body the body domme can lull the submissive into an altered state of surrender and trust, allowing them to receive deep nurturing love and reprogramming the physical patterns that no longer serve them.

Related practices include breath play (when rolling on the chest), percussive play (when spanking is incorporated), and pet play (when roleplaying animals or making animal sounds and motions).

Buffing – Purple

Shaking trauma release - deer

Therapeutic Lap Dance – Purple

Body Oracle – Calypso – How to use the body as a divination tool (muscle testing – Liliana)

Twerking

Squishing / Schwhirling

Squish can be used as a noun, verb, and adjective.

Squishing (verb) (also known as ‘squishing out’) is the practice of predominantly horizontal cuddling with occasional body supportive movements repositioning groups of humans on squish (noun). Squish (noun) is/are (the singular and the plural of squish is also squish) objects that provide cushion to the body and most frequently comprise horizontal layers of memory foam mattresses, although futon mattresses, and inflatables such as yoga balls, peanuts, and doughnuts occasionally fall under this term (inflatables are likely to receive a specific demarcation such as ‘air squish’). Certain sem-squishy infrastructure is usually called by name, such as massage tables, portable benches, and schwagons (schwagged out squish wagons for portable body work). Certain types of squish (nous) are more squish/y (adjective) and thus more conducive to squishing (verb) – for example dense puzzle floor mats are less squishy and ‘deep squish’ such as memory foam with a quicksand like consistency is considered ‘peak squishyness’. When deeply entrenched in a squish pile it is frequently reported that folks have trouble mapping what limb belongs to whom, which results in surprise and laughter when one member needs to rearrange and return blood flow back into a limb.

Squishing ranges from passive ‘cuddle puddles’ where participants are napping, to more active soft speaking in groups or watching a performance all the way to a collective roiling bodywork organism. In general the somanauts prefer to ‘roll deep’ and ‘stack ‘em up’ as we have found that the more body geniuses there are participating the more novel the experience.

Schwhirling is an ecstatic group flow state of high buzzy energy in which . ‘I got schwirled’ is frequently employed as an excuse for lateness as the ‘current’ is strong when interacting with loved ones even when in pursuit of another primary mission. Schwirling is also colloquially referred to as ‘getting vortexed’. Schwhirling can be very dynamic, with many individuals cycling around a group nexus point, limbs entangling like seaweed in vigorous ocean currents. Schwirling can also involve ‘stacking em’ up’ in which one person acts as a base

 

Why me?

My personal proclivities have positioned me as a being able to bridge the residual rift between the body & mind. My family’s mantra of “school comes first” was reinforced young in my rigorous academic training beginning in grade school at a selective elite institution called Morgan Park Academy in Chicago, Illinois. My penchant for intellectual inquiry and discourse grew by leaps and bounds in the mentally fertile environment at Northwestern University where I studied psychology through Human Development and Psychological Services (the subject that I found most fascinating was group dynamics). Finally, my thread of though development led me to graduate studies in transpersonal psychology / expressive arts therapy.

Above and beyond my officially sanctioned schooling I am a ravenous bookworm and would read psychology textbooks for fun. My family went so far as to ban reading books at the dinner table because of my obsession. I would even try to combine reading with physical activities, such as biking with a book balanced on the handlebars. (here is my college entrance essay demonstrating my dedication to the written word *)

 

Hence the creation of my Soma Diploma As a refocusing academic on the study of interconnection, intimacy, somatics, expression, ecstatic group technologies (Burning Man among gatherings of lesser groups), global roaming, cross cultural similaries and carrying on of favorable differences, celebration beyond tolerance of diverse expressions of personal inspiration, culture, holding a heavy tradition in my body (Lithuanian ancestry), systematic and surpise somatic destruction (dermatilomania, ACL tear on apple tree), accounting for my life up until now – how can I most deeply serve? How to let go like the mist, feeling chanelling diffusing into mirco persperations respirations of rest, carrying and sharing medicine (songs, sensations, techniques, shortcuts, ), magnifying beauty.

 

Ecstatic Education

In the process of active somatic compassion we re-write the story from ‘the body is an painful unsafe place’ to ‘the body is a sense organ for endless unfolding ecstasy’. Through the soma-tech of schwirling we enter a group flow state in which we tap into the wellspring of knowledge of the unconscious as it speaks to the body. Through connection to flow we gather the filaments of distributed perception and enter the deep now, finding heaven within.

Although I rapidly and painfully realized that book-biking was not going to take off as a national pastime, I enjoyed exerting my body through team sports, hiking, biking, swimming, skiing, cavorting/building in the forest, and traditional Lithuanian dance. I believe that the size of my somatic vocabulary (body language dictionary**) and my openness to expressing myself physically stem directly from my eagerness to dance ever since I could walk. I was fortunate to be trained in traditional Lithuanian dance and toured the US and Lithuania performing in the highest regarded youth group in the nation. This formal expression through group dances was coupled with my life-long passion for using movement for communication and catharsis. I still reminisce about coming home from school after a draining day and dancing with abandon outside under the oak canopy to decompress. Remembrance of a profound judgement of my movement style occurred at a highly-pressured* dance at Lithuanian Summer Camp in which I asked my neighbor and lifelong dearly secret crush. sitting next to each other playing video games or sharing attentional awareness and proffering performance of our digital and data skills.

Some of my earliest memories are of trading massages with my mother – an avid fan of massage therapy in all forms. I was fortunate that my mom would often gift me massages for birthdays and as a present for good grades. As I lay luxuriating in simply receiving sensations, my body would absorb the physical knowledge of pressure points, strokes, and delicious spots and would come away from a massage feeling like I was in body school. I suspect that my mother continued to provide me with the gift of massages because she also benefited from my increased skill and sensitivity during our frequent trades. It was one of my few memories of culturally accepted and socially supported extended touch.

Only after using massages as barter offerings in high school and college did it dawn on me that not everyone was able to naturally tune into the body of another as I could. I was met with only blank quizzical looks after asking friends whether they too had the experience of their consciousness concentrating into the point of contact then flooding into the recipient’s body when touching someone else. I realized that what I often attributed to flattery after giving a massage - “I have never felt so listened to before” and “that was the best massage of my life” – was unadorned, naked truth for those on the receiving end of my touch. Once I understood I was deeply somatically empathic, small experiences I never understood became clear – such as why I would forcibly shudder and cover my ears when anyone told a story of bodily pain, for I could acutely feel the sensations of the shocking stimulus within my own body.

Just as I was just beginning to bloom into being comfortable and powerful in my body, I lost my virginity to rape at the age of 20. Although psychological counselling helped me understand the patterns present in my mind, talk therapy was unable to touch the trauma and patterns in my body. Fortunately, I moved to the Bay area for graduate school – a fertile environment for contact improvisation, conscious dance, radical bodywork, evolutionary gathering, artist collectives, and housing cooperatives.

Through dance, platonic touch, massage, contact improvisation, and the body-celebratory culture of the bay area I could finally release these imprinted body patterns and guarded, frozen trauma.  Now that I live a somatically-nourished life I feel a duty to share the skills I have painstakingly gathered on my healing journey to accelerate our collective evolution. Due to my training as a writer and communicator and my gratitude for the immense transformative effect of these technologies I feel compelled to translate ephemeral embodied teachings into the written word to expand access to the somatic healing realm across the globe.

 

Solution to violence due to touch isolation

I believe that violence stems from a feeling of disconnection on the part of the aggressor. This disconnection is amplified due to the touch starved nature of mainstream US culture (especially for males who live in a state of touch isolation outside of sexual partnership). Compounding this touch isolation is the blanketing paradigm of emotional numbing which judges those who express ‘un-palatable’ emotions such as sadness, and shames sensitivity as a sign of weakness. These issues are large, pervasive, and pernicious, and although I affect life-long positive change with my private bodywork and embodiment clients, I am limited in how many people I can reach as an individual working simply one-on-one (or one-on-two in the case of couples). I feel an obligation to do justice to the privilege of my life path and expand the number of people who can access these techniques. Sharing my compiled wisdom more broadly honors my intended gift to humanity – exponentially multiplying the love and connection on the globe. The world is crying out for compassion, and I hope that through our earnest sharing of these teachings we can increase the peace on our planet.

Why I became a bodyworker

I started earnestly practicing in the field of massage because I delight in making your body a place that you want to be ! I create and compile spaces, tools, and techniques that deepen, encourage, and propagate embodied living. I seek to normalize body bliss being supported in the structure of mainstream culture in all spheres of life (eg. replacing smoke breaks with stretch breaks). In the pursuit of this goal, I am a touch activist lending my talents to galvanize a movement of body awareness, body positivity, and to normalize platonic touch through a foundation of safety that emphasizes consent and clear boundary management.

Before it had a formal name, I originally started exploring and creating the technique of the { somatic magic } style because it felt wonderful to me, and when I played with others their moans and positive feedback made me realize that the world was eager to learn.

For more detail about why embodied / bodywork { everywhere } and { somatic magic } were created read my personal consent history **

History of my involvement with the Squish Squad, founding Bodywork { Everywhere } and the { somatic magic } style and the connections between them : **

My personal consent history / somatic healing journey

Touch / consent history of inventor – why { somatic magic } was created:

 

I began life in a Lithuanian bubble in a forest preserve outside of Chicago, learning English when I began kindergarten. Living in such an isolated place meant that there were no neighborhood kids to play with –  I spent my time devouring books and roaming in the woods mostly alone (and occasionally building forts or wrestling with my younger brother). The depth of my empathy for the earth and its creatures is evidenced by the fact my TV consumption consisted solely of Animal Planet / Discovery Channel and my declaration to be a veterinarian when I grew up.

 

My capacity for compassion was so all-encompassing that I often lost my sense of self in the presence of another with strong needs. As I learned in my study of psychology, this was likely because in my formative years doing so served a survival imperative - for me to attune to my primary caregiver (psychology parlance for my mother) to remain in her favor lest she abandon caring for me. I was so good at taking care of and pleasing others that I often subsumed their interests and needs into myself - making our needs the same in my mind.

 

This concentration on what others thought of me was also reinforced by the small size of the Lithuanian community I grew up in, within which keeping up appearances was paramount lest your family be the subject of that week’s wildfire gossip. Over time I became so externally validated that I lost my own inner sense of guidance, allowing those around me to determine what constituted success and setting the agenda for my life. In turn I internalized this hyper-awareness of status and position as a critical and stern internal judge. Another shadow of this extreme alertness was that I would often know what people wanted to hear, allowing me to be extremely manipulative if I so chose – luckily for the world, I am not interested in evil.

 

School comes first

 

The Razmas were a small and insular family with a mantra of “school comes first”. Fortunately, due to my penchant for rapid reading and comprehensive comprehension I earned High Honors marks in the academic game. My perfectionistic tenancies which caused me to abandon projects before they developed momentum and I frequently waited until the last minute to write essays, forgoing outlines and drafts for lack of time. These behaviors likely had a common cause in an extremely harsh inner critic. This inner critic also made itself known through destructive physical acts such as dermatilomania (compulsive skin picking) and overeating to self-soothe and ‘trance out’.

 

In therapy at three

 

To unpack these personal proclivities and familial snarls I have been attending therapy since I was in grade school (starting with family therapy). Unfortunately, due to my capacity to understand the motivations of others my mind constructed or spun the narrative to match what my listener expected. For me, the therapist’s office was not a neutral place because I was so paralyzed by the fear of the fallout I assumed would come from telling the unvarnished truth - I wanted the therapist to accept me! This tension was heightened in family therapy because my parents would be present and participating in the session itself so it was in my interest to get the therapist to be sympathetic to my cause.

 

The main reason we were going to family therapy was the tension between my mother and father. A short synapsis of the crux of the ongoing 20+ year argument : Both agreed to the structure in which my mother would end her work as a pharmacist and act as a stay a home mom full time while my physician father fulfilled his social programming as the family breadwinner. My father would wake up early and come home late, and was mostly absent from family life barring his omnipresent filming during family vacations. Alas, this left my mother feeling lonely and emotionally unsupported. Additionally, being a stay at home mom completely consumed her identity, tying her worth in the world to the accomplishments of her children and leaving her feeling personally invalidated, unappreciated, and unseen.

 

Throughout the time I lived with my parents, I acted as my mother’s best friend and confidant, absorbing her opinions and struggles as my own in my typical pattern as ‘emotional sponge’. This caused me to hate my father even as I barely knew him, and in turn not respect his typically absent artificially imposed authority for which I received belt spankings. As I matured my role changed into peacekeeper and unofficial family therapist when my mother frequently and vocally harangued my father for his absence and lack of emotional support.

 

A family uninterested in touch

 

Although some of my first memories are of trading massages with my mom, we were not a cuddly family (my father hates massages). In fact, when my father leans forward in to kiss my mother, she responds by freezing, and he leans all the way in to reach her, almost falling off balance in the process. This familiar physical pattern encodes a message of male pursuit and female compliance. Like a gosling, I imprinted my mother/father’s model of touch, in which physical contact was infrequent and only grudgingly acquiesced to.

 

This was a pattern I encoded into my own physical nature – never initiating physical contact with those whom I fancied (Was I just shy? Did I assume they would chase after me if interested?). In my young adulthood, it became clear that I was not ‘average’ – never having been in an intimate relationship or having gone on a single date. I self-sabotaged the attempts of others to including me socially. For example, if a friend at lunch extended an invitation to the table to attend an event I would automatically assume I was not included unless my attendance was specifically requested.

 

People like me ?

 

Despite all my introverted characteristics, I was surprisingly in relatively good social standing, likely due to my aptitude as social arbitrator - acting as the neutral counsellor resolving spats that emerged between friends and couples. Starting from age 10 I was also well-received as a photographer, delighting in documenting occurrences through stills, video, jottings, and doodles. However, even if someone I fancied would express their romantic interest in me I always decided it was ‘not worth the energy’ and potential downsides. I would mentally calculate the ‘cost / benefit ‘analysis of what may come of the potential relationship and decided my time was better spent engaging in pursuits beyond what I judged to be simply ‘wasteful’ pleasure. I was consciously cutting off expressing my sexuality because I was uncertain of the effect voicing it would have on others (would they feel pressured?) and I was fearful that if I let it out I would never regain control over it. I was also on alert to avoid hurting my vulnerable heart: what if my love was unwanted, rejected? The safe choice was channeling my Eros into art, creativity, and mind-work.

 

I kept to myself in the realms of love, feeling it to be safer to be alone and alien to it all then enter the fray and risk damage. Unfortunately, my personality patterns selected out for the nice folks and selected for self-focused men only interested in their own pleasure. These men would doggedly pursue me, uninterested in whether their advances were met with receptivity. When alcohol entered the mix, times grew dark.

 

Stolen first kiss

 

My first kiss was taken by a male friend in middle school who, when on a hike deep in the woods, spun me around, pulled me close, and stuck his tongue down my throat. This, in a place that I was acutely aware that no one would ever hear me scream, and after a conversation about the most painful way to die (he informed me it was burning to death because all the fluids in your body must burn away before you lose consciousness). My body responded with repulsion and I immediately ran home, tearing through brambles and underbrush like a startled deer as he shouted ‘Wait…wait!’. Later, as a semblance of an excuse to his behavior, he claimed he had ‘done a few shots’ before our walk (although I had not tasted alcohol on his breath - I think it was an excuse to save face in our social circle). To this day, I am completely dumbfounded as to why so many people enjoy kissing on the mouth.

 

Sadly, this was not to be my last unwanted sexual advance – I had several close calls due to alcohol. In my first in high school, I was brownout drunk at New Years a male friend loomed over my body when I was lying on a hotel bed, saying he “wanted to be inside of me”. As he groped at my nether regions his desire was only deflected by the girdle I was wearing. Several subsequent experiences in college occurred where, even as I was slurring my words, frat boys plied me with the promise of more alcohol in their rooms. Slowly, after realizing I was alone with them, my hazy mind realized the unstated intentions behind getting me away from the herd and I would rapidly try to flee, hurriedly excusing myself several times as they casually stood in front of the door, denied the validity of my statements, and insisted that I stay.

 

Although I escaped from these encounters with little more than hangovers and lost articles of clothing, my final experience at a frat had me tumbling down a flight of stairs and permanently scarring my shin. The scariest part of that night was the morning after, when I woke up feeling like I had been run over by a dump truck with a terrible black gap in my memory leaving me clueless to the cause. Fortunately, that night my roommate had gone out with me and when she noticed the advanced stage of my intoxication, had pulled me away from the frat boy feeding me alcohol and escorted me home when I promptly fell down the frat’s long staircase. That day I committed to being a teetotaler, deciding that alcohol was not an expanding or enlightening substance for my body/brain chemistry. However, alcohol’s possession of males claiming my body did not relent regardless of my own abstinence.

 

Maidenhood mishandled

 

I lost my virginity to rape a week shy of my 21st birthday. This was a case of near-stranger rape, as I had met him two days prior. He had been a friend of a friend of my housemate and had asked for my phone number which I gave to me, startled by his forwardness. That weekend, I had been commanded by my parents to babysit my 19-year-old brother at my family’s condo in Chicago and felt unsafe alone in the city. This new-to-me man had been incessantly texting me for the past two days and so I, thinking him a new friend in the making, invited him to keep me company on the trip downtown from Evanston where I was attending Northwestern University. We had a pleasant train ride downtown and he followed me to the condo where he proceeded to consume most of a bottle of wine he had brought as a gift to me (a testament to how little he knew me, as I had not been drinking for 2 years at that point).

 

After my brother had left the condo to party with his friends late in the night (I could not stop him even if I wanted to – he’s huge), I announced that I was tired and going to sleep. My guest claimed that he wasn’t sure if the trains were still running (implying he was stranded with nowhere to go) and asked “can I sleep over?”. I retrieved a blanket and pointed him to the couch in the main room flatly stating “well if you need to you can sleep over, but I am going to sleep now”. I went into the bedroom and he followed me in. I had had a very long day, and lying down I said “I’m exhausted and going straight to sleep”. Everything from there happened so fast. My exhaustion combined with the speed with which his weight was on top of me left gave me no time to process. As he penetrated me, I gasped in shock and my spirit fled my physical vessel – where I watched from the ceiling.

 

Had he asked I would have said no – no way! Alas, I was never asked. I was astonishingly naïve and inexperienced sexually for my age, having said no to all suitors and never having been in a relationship. This was nothing close to my reverie of what ‘making love’ could be and I felt immense guilt and sorrow at losing my virginity to someone I did love or even know.

 

Why did I freeze ?

 

Through processing with therapists, I began to understand on an intellectual level what had happened to me psychologically, but the trauma was still stored in my body as cemented energy. I fiercely guarded this raw place full of mistrust and old deeply carved patterns as if I was a wounded animal – assuming the worst intentions of those around me. I realized that being raped was simply the last in a line of traumas that had begun before I was born. The most ancient trauma was the historic inter-generational tragedy of Lithuania’s occupation during World War II which saw my relatives captured and deported to certain death in Siberian concentration camps for attempting to preserve our culture through Lithuanian book smuggling. Fearing for their lives, both sets of my grandparents fled Eastern Europe for America. This mistrust of the world was transmitted to me through the worldview and beliefs of my biological family- that everyone was out to get you and the only person you could rely on was yourself.

This deadening paranoid view was compounded with the Western cultural ‘norm’ of judgement and pervasive body-shaming aimed at women. Topping this was the classic Roman Catholic guilt around original sin, the baseness of the body, and the judgement of pleasure as frivolous and impure. Through unpacking these layers in psychological counsel, I began to comprehend why I had responded by shutting down emotions, freezing, and dissociating from my body –I had a belief that my body was not my solely my own, and merely an instrument for the fulfilment of the desires of others. Therefore, with sovereignty over my own space rescinded, my body became an unsafe place when actions that I did not consent to or want were bring inflicted onto my physical vessel. This coupled with the belief that my Godly goal was for the body and its desires to be transcended left me feeling confused and guilty about the complex emotions coursing through me, overloading my circuits into shocked stillness.

How I healed from r+++ {oh that word} pressured penetration

I was first able to open myself to understanding the factors leading to my pressured penetration through the help of a transpersonal psychologist named Rami Henrich in Evanston. My favorite aspect about Rami’s style was the emphasis on embodied knowing where I could connect to my animal body through movement and drama. I also chose to study psychology at Northwestern University to meta-analyze my own mind and understand my family’s dynamics. My favorite courses were in the subjects of group dynamics, developmental psychology, and children’s culture. I dived deep into my own psyche and got as far as I could through an intense combination of my therapist’s compassionate presence, words, and bookish studies, but I still felt shut down in my body.

As much as talk therapy helped me understand intellectually what had transpired, I was only able to heal my body and shattered sense of boundaries through conscious movement practices. I was fortunate because I relocated to the mecca of therapeutic movement – the Bay Area - to attend graduate school for transpersonal psychology / expressive arts therapy. In remembering how to celebrate my body the curative effect of contact improvisation, radical bodywork, and relationships in which I was listened to and respected by those touching my body were paramount.

 

This process - of allowing myself to feel fully free in body and safe sharing skin and sensation with others - was reinforced by participation in evolutionary cultural zones openly sharing tools to advance our collective evolution. Some of the most alchemical include : alternative healing rituals, Burning Man, Ecstatic dance, the west coast conscious/transformational festival circuit, the Bay Area’s deep contact improvisation scene, BDSM, kink, permaculture, artist collectives, housing cooperatives, intentional living communities, sacred clowning, social justice performance, and grassroots media production. Through participation these in cathartic cultures, gatherings, and events I was able to contribute to creating a world that was moving closer to one that I wished to wake up in. I was fortunate that those whom I danced, interacted, and grew with in my formative years were (for the most part) conscientious and respectful, modelling a new way of being with others. However, even though ‘we have it good’ in such communities, there is still a gap between the all-pervasive beauty and compassion that we know is possible and the systems that we are embedded in. We still have work to do on ourselves and have a duty to practice and evolve techniques to support the realization of our highest hopes.

 

With the inertia of this history flowing through time I feel the weight of responsibility in sharing what I have been privileged to learn through my personal healing process. This frame helps me harvest motivation from my trauma – that I lived through this so others would be spared – perhaps even because in the fire of that trial my strength, resilience, and compassion were forged. Due to my own personal experience with sexual assault I am moved by sadness, righteous indignation, and the desire to do all I can to create and embody a new future that celebrates consent through teaching somatic attunement.

 

So many of my first physical experiences of intimate connection with others occurred in spaces where I felt unsafe, was not initially asked (nor checked in with either verbally or somatically), and was not given abundant (or even adequate) space / time to respond. Through the { Safe, Loving Touch } program I teach tools that help establish a safe foundation of consent and boundary identification / management that is essential to supportively engage with other humans. I seek to consciously create a safe container in which people can put their guard down and re-imagine their relationships to their own bodies as well as the bodies of others. These workshops are a space to explore and gauge what you do/not enjoy, the specifics of how you do/not enjoy it, how to express your needs & boundaries, and how to read the expressions of others and support their needs. I have invested significant amounts of time, energy, and resources into my healing path, and my offering to you is of the most effective and concentrated methods to move into post traumatic growth.

Bay Area chapter – SomasenS and Somanauts are born

After moving to the Bay Area, I immediately found my fellow body folk in the contact improvisers, bodyworkers, and ecstatic dancers of the Bay Area. I am at the heart of the Squish Squad (SS) as Queen and the founder of Bodywork { Everywhere } : Bay Area (BE:BA). I had found other beings who were as somatically sensitive as I! We gathered together to explore and expand the practice of bodywork - melding, mooshing, and manipulating, we managed to meld styles and strategies into an altogether new synergy.

The Squish Squad is the space curation crew that creates the container for the practitioners of  Bodywork { Everywhere } : Bay Area (BE:BA) to play in the a diversity of styles, my own personal flavor being Somatic Magic.

Exponentially multiplied collective healing fields

I have noticed an amazing phenomenon when members of SS and BE:BA gather together in shared intention – we create a magnified healing field in which our powers to channel therapeutic movement and clear physical and energetics blocks are exponentially multiplied. I noticed the most during my travels, when clients would fly my to New York and I felt as though I was the lone member of my body tribe attempting to hold the resonance of the group field on the other edge of the country. Although my clients in New York did not want me to leave, I missed collaborating with a crew which allowed me to with others who understood the language of the body . My frequent world-wide wanderings also helped me understand just how rare and unique the communities I was a part of in the Bay Area were on a global level. My academic interest in group dynamics also made me realize how precious this synched up state was, how hard it was to hold onto and the possibilities for utilizing the collective field for creative, constructive purposes (think groupthink but for the common good). This in turn catalyzed my sense of responsibility to create media about the { somatic magic } style I developed while in the Bay Area to share this gem with those who do not currently share physical proximity to my location. Through the media I am privileged to produce, now people anywhere around the world can benefit from this body wisdom (I know that I frequently reflect on how different my life would have been had I known the life I live now is possible).

When SS and BE:BA gather together in mutual respect and intention, we collectively form a super organism, symbiotically filling in any individual’s spaces or gaps through the overlapping combination of our discrete strengths. When we gather together in shared space and reach critical mass, we catalyze a chain reaction amplifying our collective composite field. When you consider the fact that we often literally stack bodies on top of each other for maximum therapeutic impact, we are not only emotionally or socially supported, but also physically entwined. Throughout time we holding each other in deep medicinal space and are confident in each other as chosen family. We have vetted each member’s inclusion in our trusted circle and vote with our continued commitment of time spent together.  Additionally, through knowing each other’s strengths, flavors, specialties, and proclivities, we direct seekers of healing to their closest therapeutic match without personal attachment to any specific client. We recognize and honor that each has to take the medicine they need in that moment. *values principals

Bodystorming

Additionally, together we act as advanced professionals in a therapeutic laboratory when which we prototype techniques and tools among each other. Due to the open nature of disclosure and interest in each other’s personal and professional development we act as transparent respected peers and scientists of the shared discipline of bodily harmony. Due to each member’s honed body sense we can provide exquisitely detailed feedback on new ideas so that they may rapidly iterate and evolve. We bounce both ideas as well as bodies back and forth through our bodystorming sessions – a new method of co-working we developed that involves physical contact combined with discussion (a brainstorming thinktank with movement). *kinetic café

Scribe of the Tribe – the difficulty of translating bodysense into wordform

Fortunately for this movement movement, I have a penchant for documentation (hence the inscription you are perusing). I would record jottings of interesting metaphors to seed movement patterns, contemplate consent with the collective, and record intriguing informal interviews. Not much has been scribed about these groups or behaviors because by their very nature most members are more interested in movement, action, and immediacy rather than the more static process of writing and other documentation forms.

There is an additional consideration of translation – between the experiential realm of the body and the postulations of the mind. There are many words about words, but precious few about motion, emotion, and bodily experience (especially considering how much data, and depth of data, the mind is taking in regarding these aspects of experience) . Not only is there a dearth of language communicating the felt bodily experience, emotion, and its nuance, but the parts of the brain used for movement and those used for intellectual discourse and documentation are also different. I can physically feel the shift in neuron energy flow when I have been deep in bodyspace and someone asks me a question requiring a verbal response. Mentally, I feel as though the bubble of my body bliss has been popped and I rapidly surface from the depths of my subconscious sensate ocean attempting to hastily gather the foam of form in the slippery spoken shallows.

Occasionally phrases would float to the surface, and I would attempt to repeat them as mantra while I moved, recognizing them as verbal seeds to sensate experiences, bringing an unexpected harvest back from the world without words. However, as is often also the case with dreams, the words would wiggle away unless I diligently broke out of the body trance and doggedly downloaded the details in my digital device or analog notebook. In these moments I felt caught – was all writing an attachment to the past or a prayer of gratitude and remembrance for the flashing fleeting moments of inspiration?

I realized that it was my personal path to write about the felt bodily experience in service to the acceleration of collective evolution and expanding the circle of healing I had found safe harbor in. I recognized the precious gift I had alchemized within my being –a capability to clearly convey with the written word as well as sense deeply with the body. These pursuits often feel diametrically opposed (especially when I am antsy and attempting to steel my resolve and write…then they seem like antipodes). At first I thought one was stillness and the other movement – but really they are both a dance between the two – both the stillness of inner solitude waiting for a spark, and the motivation of the muse to movement.

So I toil, teasing out translations, building bridges between disparate disciplines and demure in my demanding doggedness to hold onto the smoldering snapshots long enough to share them (and ensnare them in eternal expression). I intend nothing short of creating therapeutic thought forms, values which inform our forms, motivational memes for the masses. Catalyzed from conversation, contemplation, and careful composition I coalesced a sketch of the skeletal structure of bones upon which was built our way on being together – a shared philosophy. Find the culture code here*. My evolution lies in the convolution of multitasking between sensation channels, merging the mind with motion, the body with brushstroke, and finding ways in which we do not have to choose between the mind and matter, but uniting both into masterpiece.

I set it upon myself to be the scribe of this tribe because I felt a sense of responsibility to my previous self and what a gift it would have been to know how to create the delight, connection, and ecstatic bliss I am privileged to frequently experience. The communities of the SS and BE:BA have radically altered the course of my life for the better – towards an expanded compassionate holistic mindset, greater intimacy, and generous openness. In a spirit of gratitude, I share with you the healing work we have been doing and how to create communities of the same for yourselves. I pray that our compassion and values turn viral.

What?

The { somatic magic } style

Also fondly called a variety of names as diverse as the clients. Personally, nicknames indicated fondness and kindle delight in me. Below find a few of my favorites :

Aliases for the { somatic magic } style : compassionate contact, mutual massage, roly poly, contact bodywork, body opening, squishing, smooshing, getting razzed, getting juiced, body rolling, body love, body bliss, bodyworming, safe loving touch, body sensing, body empathy, somatic sensitivity, somasense, somatic empathy, somasphere, somassage, body play, squish, getting squished, somatic satisfaction, somasati, somasensi, . somasphere, razmassage, razma.sage, razma.love, royal raz treatment, raz.ma.sage…

I am well known for my hugjustments – a two-minute tune up which is a vertical sample of my style.

Friends and clients will often request a quick spinal traction utilizing gravity through weight draping, especially when floor work is contraindicated (eg. in city).

What the experience of the { somatic magic } style feels like :

Imagine a practice where dance + massage meet (my style is especially evocative of the marriage between contact improvisation / thai ). Visualize your masseuse as a human foam roller, a responsive rolling pin kneading the dough of your tension, using their whole body as a massage tool. The sole focus of the giver’s awareness is to listen ever deeper to the receiver’s body’s language of motion and sound. Giver flowing from compression, to pinning between limbs, twisting, coiling, applying broad pressure all the way to fine scalpel edge as a snake of water flowing across your form. Depending on the client’s preferences, the session can seem to be more like wrestling or body domming (domination) with the client actively participating in positioning and moving the pressure to where they want it. In the more active receiver style, it often feels as though the participant closer to ground is the ocean steering how the rider surfs your wave. The fluctuating nature of who is on top/bottom leads to body positions that are impossible in a situation where the receiver is completely limp, flaccid, and flat.

Above all the { somatic magic } style is an embodied experience of being deeply listened to, body to body with a strong container of safe loving touch.

Unique characteristics of the style :

Using my whole body as massage tool.

Most of my first-time clients state that they have no idea of what body part is contacting them or where my body is in space related to theirs. Depending on the situation I may use my full weight on the receiver or unexpected portions of my body such as : top of the head, shoulder, ribcage, chin, sacrum, side of hip, feet…). Pulling power from the earth and using my whole body allows me access to type of pressure that are impossible to generate with the limited rage of simply one’s hands, wrists, and forearms (often the sole tools for most bodywork styles).

Active consent / encouragement / redirection through a responsive receiver who is not passive or tranced out (unless they want to be!). Client can move contact/touch to places that their body craves, adjust pressure and position by moving toward and away from the masseuse

Active positioning – angles/places in the body that styles of passive massage is unlikely/unable to reach/create (eg. using the side-body, massaging the ribcage as whole with broad wide pressure, stretching the whole body from soles to crown through coiling).

I utilize the ever-evolving composition of participating bodies + physical characteristics of the space (walls, furniture, cushions, yoga balls) to weave a comprehensive somatic reboot that is unique each time I work with a client (even years-long fans of my work). I place an emphasis on immediate evolution and adaptation, and because of the flexible nature of the style I am constantly upgrading techniques through learning from my body and the bodies of others.

Although I frequently do bodywork { everywhere } with only what the situational context provides as a challenge, I solid (…well technically soft…) foundation for the work is to have a mat and pillow available for cushioning. My basic portable professional setup uses a deluxe inflatable mat, and sheets to wonderful effect. My entire ‘body wonderland’ system includes : yoga swing and rigging, yoga balls, yoga peanut, small and large buffers, jigsaw puzzle piece foam flooring, self-massage sticks, lacrosse balls, tennis balls, and a head-spider personal massager.

Read more about my recommended tools *

 

I recommend setting up the play space nestled into a corner so that the walls can be used for leverage and vertical work (hallways are also good fun if they are not needed as passage-throughs).

When ?

Anytime you’d like to :

  • Dive deeper into body sensation
  • dispel destructive (unwinding) mental loops
  • check in with your body state
  • get grounded
  • celebrate / innovate what your body can do
  • feel your edges

Where ?

Anywhere, and hopefully everywhere ! This highly versatile style is eminently portable, and my own practice changes with place.  In SLT a massage table is not needed, and indeed often limits the potential for full expression and extension. However, squish (eg. a mattress pad) on the floor can help nullify the potential of uncomfortable pressure between bones and hard floor.

I relish experimenting with unexpected places/positions/time durations to hold certain moves { do it in transit! At the library, on the street, in the park! Make a scene / performance piece out of it ! }

Why?

Massage is nourishing.

More Specifically, { somatic magic ]  aids in :

  • triggering the parasympathetic ( rest and digest ) pathways that promote healing and restoration
  • Facilitating lymphatic circulation ( because the lymph system does not have a heart to pump upward the movement of lymph is dependent on the motion of muscle and joints http://www.lymphnotes.com/article.php/id/151/ )
  • manipulating fascia (combing/stretching/breaking up)
  • increasing circulation of blood and body fluids
  • encouraging relaxation
  • re-alignment
  • altering movement patterns
  • increasing flexibility
  • applying pressure to bone increases density and strength
  • Increasing sense of well being
  • allowing space for the body to communicate / be listened to and nourished
  • creating a safe space for trauma that is locked inside the body to be brought up and released

{ somatic magic } improves relationships :

Due to the mutually beneficial nature of { somatic magic } , being the one to massage is great for the giver (not just the receiver as in traditional massage) and allows for the giver to stretch and massage themselves while they give bodywork to another ! The astoundingly low level of fatigue for the giver of SLT makes massage more sustainable for the giver – diversifying and removing the traditional (and tragic) acute wear and tear on hands, wrists, forearms, and shoulders that occurs with the most common massage styles. This not only increases the likelihood of longer and more frequent massages for clients in the short term, but also supports the body and longevity of the masseuse’s practice over their lifetime.

The egalitarian nature of { somatic magic } is paradigm shifting – transforming the practice of massage from a one way flow of energy from giver to receiver into a synergistic collaboration. { somatic magic } balances the power dynamics that often cloud the gift of giving or receiving a massage (eg. what do I owe the person giving me a massage, feeling guilt for ‘not giving back’, feeling as though it would be insulting to shift or move the touch to a more satisfying place). For other-focused individuals (eg. mainstream-socialized females) this can remove one from simply receiving the pleasure of the experience in the moment due to worries about restoring parity in the future.

Some of my most rewarding work has been with families, teaching children how to massage their parents by rolling and stretching on them, allowing the act of massage to be a time of bonding that supports the movement needs of children and the relaxation needs of adults simultaneously.

My motivation in sharing the { somatic magic } practice is to catalyze a revolution in bodywork, making it more frequent, accessible, egalitarian, and inclusive.

The future of healing & bodywork

I share a sweeping vision with my radical bay area cohort that in the near future public bodywork and healing processes will be so common as to be unremarkable. Flipping the mystery and exclusivity of our current ‘closed door’ one-on-one healing model (eg. massage, talk therapy / psychological analysis ) into being witnessed in one’s healing process in public space (‘performance healing’) has benefits for all involved.

Benefits to the client include : facilitating and strengthening the integration process – reinforcing the ‘new future self’ in real time as it happens through being witnessed in-vivo throughout the transformational healing process (this may come across in relationships that already exist between the client and the onlookers or simply as ‘being seen’ by others as reinforcing the concreteness of the new reality and preventing ‘slipping back into old ways’ [same principal as getting an exercise buddy to keep each other accountable to promises to work out ] ). Getting comfortable with being witnessed in authentic self-expression – allowing more of yourself to be seen more of the time – and sensing that this is ok through the supportive group response (similar principal as getting over nervousness of public speaking through doing it).

Benefits of public group practice to practitioner :

  • allows potential clients to see a style of work they may have never encountered but sense that they could benefit from after witnessing it(unlikely to blindly ‘sign up’ for a paid session)
  • facilitates training (both in/formal) of new healing modalities & combinations
  • lowers barriers of entry for collaboration between practitioners and styles
  • promotes creativity, experimentation, and exposure

Benefits to onlookers : witnessing authentic transformation catalyzes internal processes of audience; learn about self through lessons learned by others; examine personal stories / inner monologue.

 

How ?

Prompts :

  • Cradling beloved rag doll (Karin Moriarty) - being held tenderly
  • feeling your boundaries due to the weight of another (especially ribcage and lung capacity)
  • get grounded
  • embody an element : earth, wind, fire, water
  • how much can you relax your jaw, your tongue, your pelvis, your spine
  • comforting blanket : The joys of feeling full body pressure
  • how many different types of sensation can you create in your partner?
  • you are the ocean and you are steering how the receiver rides your wave (you are on the bottom)
  • can you tune into the release of oxytocin / neurotransmitters within the body system
  • more exercises and in-depth directions on the consent thread

What if I don’t know anyone else playing in this style?

 

If you are in the Bay Area, jackpot! You’re surrounded by a treasure trove – not only do I currently reside here (as of 2017), but this is the conscious movement mecca of the world. recommended events**

 

If you’re in LA, you’re also in luck, as I travel to LA semi-frequently from the Bay to teach and in service to building a network of Radical Bodyworkers. If you’d like to hire me for a session or would like to host a workshop reach out to x [at] alexarazma [dot] com to check my availability.

 

Travel / workshop calendar forthcoming. where in the world is razma?**

 

If you are interested in hosting a { somatic magic } workshop (even if you are located elsewhere besides the Bay/LA) please reach out to x [at] alexarazma [dot] com so we can see what’s possible. I have travelled as far as New York, Chicago, and Oregon to teach and have a history of international travel.

 

Hosting a workshop is a perfect starting point to create an embodied { everywhere } play group !

 

To begin - send out a message to interested friends, link to your favorite videos and writings on the site, and see who is game. Fruitful spaces to seek & find fellow body folks : contact improvisation jams that meets regularly near you, people who work in the field of massage, those in massage school, athletes, dancers, physical therapists, cuddly friends, and family members.

Why Somansens was created / Personal Story

How BDSM healed me of my non-consensual penetration trauma

BDSM was a crucial piece in the puzzle of what allowed me to heal from the trauma of losing my virginity to rape (other formative pieces found in the Why the Somatic Magic practice was created section *). In the container of BDSM I gained detailed knowledge about the diversity of sensations and types of play possible. Negotiation and communication were encouraged and helped me feel safe and secure in knowledge in what I was enthusiastically agreeing to with clear terms of exchange, disrobing my fear of ‘owing’ an unknown debt to my play partners. Educating myself about BDSM allowed me to uncover the power dynamics unconsciously operating behind broader social structures and interpersonal interactions.

In BDSM spaces I found partners who went slow, read my body language and checked in. I also encountered ‘fluffy service tops’ like myself who often simply wanted to provide newbies with novel experiences. I had found a realm in which I could romp and relax, feasting at the buffet of sensation play without feeling pressure to be pushed into sexual waters – my luscious reactions and vocalizations providing all the tribute required to the giver of sensation. In dungeons, I was deeply apricated for my embodied gifts, body handling, energy sex, and splashy vocalizations and moans. I particularly appreciated the emphasis on reputation which filters out abusers and manipulators quickly. Due to the extensive emphasis on workshops and classes creeps can be educated, rehabilitated, and released into the wild as respectful play partners. I love the nuanced vocabulary that has emerged around BDSM, such as describing the giver of sensation as a ‘top’ and the receiver as a ‘bottom’ and allowing for a wide range of nuances that can include ‘topping from the bottom’ (more on this later*).

 

The magic in somatic magic**

Squishcraft – witchcraft in a cuddly buddy body realm

Trance states – who is responsible for putting who in a trance

Allowing other beings – aspects of yourself to move through you

Respond to contraction with retraction (of pressure). Purpose is to flex boundary not break or puncture**

Attention is magic

Casting spells, prayers at the moment of org

 

Checklist - Before playing in a scene

  1. Do a self-check :

Am I in a good mental state?

Have I taken a bio break (gone to the bathroom, brushed teeth, etc.)?

Am I properly fed, hydrated, and rested?

Is my judgement in any way impaired? *consent and intoxication

  1. Vet your partner

Watch your potential play partner play with someone else first. This gives you an opportunity to see their style of play and read your bodily signals as to whether you are comfortable with their methodology. Ask others about this person’s reputation, level of skill, and any recommendations to keep in mind when playing with them. Ask the potential play mate about their reputation, level of skill, recommendations to keep in mind when playing with them, and be sure to include a miscellaneous catch-all question such as ‘anything I may not think to ask but would be important to know about laying with you?’ *how to know if someone is trustworthy

  1. Make sure you know the anatomy / sequence of the scene, and are clear with your & the other player’s boundaries.
  2. Make sure you have safety gear appropriate for what is happening and everyone knows where it is : first aid supplies, emergency shears for rope play, fire extinguisher, flashlights, locations of the nearest two exits (natural disasters do happen!)
  3. Do you have your aftercare kit ready ? (like planning a vacation or a gift to your future self)** **aftercare kit

 

heart.tribe.vibe.guide

aka Squish Principals : Purr with Purpose

 

distilled from the values of the squish squad, heart tribe, radical bodyworkers of the bay, somatic / transpersonal / expressive arts psychology, ecstatic dance & contact improvisation communities, + infused with a strong shot of consent culture

 

A :

 

If you are un-comfortable, move

 

: put self-care first - give from your abundance : respect your own sensation as a call to action and trust that others will do the same : allow yourself to respond to attraction / repulsion without judgement or coercion : cultivate intuition : bless your bliss : proactively engage with your experience : redirect touch for your enjoyment : find and address the discomfort - transform through release / repositioning : what would make you feel at home ? :

 

B :

 

Safety doesn’t happen by accident

 

: practice active consent : celebrate consent by asking permission without overlaying expectation through giving time & space for others to check internally : check messages being broadcast through both non/verbal channels : explore your partner's communication style – know their personal sonic & somatic vocabulary : when in doubt - ask : clarify – add detail to specific questions : what makes you feel safe ? :

 

C :

 

Find freedom within boundaries

 

: no means yes to something else : boundary = container : boundaries are defining – knowing boundary is knowing oneself : honor borders as awareness of healthy self-care : you are not the source / catalyst of other people’s boundaries – don’t take them personally : proactively manage your experience : knowing your no allows you to own your full yes : recall historical reasoning / associations : why do you have this boundary ? :

 

D :

 

Invitation with clear Expectation

 

: deepen into intimacy in sharing : clarify underlying intentions / motivations behind offers to allow partners to make an informed decision : allow space without attachment to hear un-pressured response : verbalizing boundaries is a historical marker that a boundary has been crossed in the past : proactively support the needs behind a boundary by clarifying why it was created : consent is qualitative – details add depth : is your boundary fixed, flexible, context-dependent, and does it have speedbumps ? :

 

Corollary : Invitation without Expectation = authentic gift

 

E :

 

As deep in, as deep out

 

: In-to-me-I-see = intimacy : one can only connect as deeply to someone else as one has connected to themselves : primary evolution is to feel into yourself, a reflection of this relationship is feeling out : connect to self-truth to be met authentically by others : self-initiate inquiry : find personal voice, experiment to learn preferences : what scares you ? :

 

Corollary : turn projection into introspection

 

: outer world mirrors inner world : as above so below : principals of deep truth translate into all realms : own your feelings & framework : tell your own story : I statements create a window into your internal experience, adding definition and resolution to the structures that make up your perception of reality : causality = perspective : where are you related to what is around you ? :

 

F :

 

You are the authority of your own experience

 

: externality degrades internal authority : internal voice as guide : choose your own adventure : discernment – find your level : titrate to taste : lifestyle resonance : rewrite your story : all possibilities are within you : change your perspective, change your life : challenge stereotypes & archetypes through individual inquiry : perpetual student of life : share studies & skills : what are you an expert in ? :

 

G :

 

Yo ; check it : be an agent of collective well being

 

: power = responsibility = response-ability : use privilege in pursuit of justice : move / act from the heart : generate net positive value in all interaction : group field is affected by presence : coherent resonance amplifies energy within the collective field : perhaps you are predisposed to play a certain part - but you are not limited to just that : call all to deeper awareness and clarity : delineated difference between pointing out individual behavior // a group reminder to pay attention : the universe is experiencing itself through you : think globally, act locally : how can you care for yourself through collective well-being ? :

 

how can you inspire collective well being?

 

how does the field speak through you?

 

 

 

corollary : Nourish what Nourishes you

 

: model the culture you wish to manifest : encode understanding through embodying values in action : active, participatory container curation : co-create conscious culture : answer longing with belonging : what does it look like to live the world you dream of ? :

 

H :

 

Drop In Deeper : use embodied communication

 

express ~ no / yes / more / less / reassess : feel > think : authenticity = effortless embodiment : expressed body is real in rawness - remove cognitive filtration / judgement : intuit then articulate : if needing to clarify verbally - partnership has already fallen out of coherent somatic attunement - reminder to listen deeper : dive into receptivity to participate fully : practice touch literacy : language density : heighten resolution –  distinguish subtle hues : wealth in nuance : communication = listening game : what was it like when you existed before words and felt other people ? :

 

(what does it feel like to be completely listened to and understood? are you speaking the same language ?)

 

I :

 

Squish, don’t squash

 

The deeper the pressure, the deeper the listening : fast and light, deep and slow : checking-in is a constant collaborative calibration : When in doubt wait it out – slower speeds allow ample space for processing experiences and tuning into truth : reflect if inhibiting or overriding another’s ability to choose or move

 

Somanauts Valphabet (values alphabet)

amplify awareness : Feel > think : splay sensation : expand signal reception (range of receptivity)

 

bless bliss – play as children, innocent interaction – invitation sans expectation

Play-tonic intimacy : Donated not calculated, predisposed to play

 

Celebrate Consent : constant co-creative collaboration, Freedom within boundaries. Boundary camaraderie

 

Communication creates clarity : Body Language Fluency : express in embodiment, soma comm(unication) details deepen intimacy

 

The Art of Heart : Move in love / Act from heart / live in heart : wholly holy heart

 

Seek Synergy – more fun together, potentiate pleasure and play (free delight, glee)

 

Nourish what nourishes you (agent of collective wellbeing) appreciation amplifies abundance

 

Inside is outside - be global in local, know yourself in others,

 

Live the dream awake (embody/model wished world) pretend to become, practice pretending. power = response-ability to give

 

immediate integration : effortless evolution : process = lesson, experiential education

 

 

move towards yes libation of celebration privilege seeks justice, give what you’re wanting care for others as yourself – gifts multiply in relationship – let it move through you, create a temple for what you want to channel – welcome what you want All of us all the time, Expanding into sensation, Sensitivity to gradients, Heart expanded all all your friends live inside, Hair dendrites receptive, living in heart brain, hosts of heart, somatic sanctuary, safe space to take care of body together, touch as vital nutrient,

all aware

bless bliss

Communication creates clarify : constant collaboration

daringly dance dream

dive deep

effortless ecstatic evolution : expand eros : ease is enough : expand expression

feel free frequency : feel it all

gifting gratitude grows

holy wholly heart

inclusive integration :

jovial joker.

k

l

manifest magic : mystic materiality:

n

o

pursue peaceful paradise : play possibility : potentiate (share) pleasure : personal proactivity : the process is perfect

q

r

splay safe sensation

touch is teacher within

unleash universal unique

v

wonder

xplore

y

z

 

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This is a Living Document – please email x {at} alexarazma {dot} com : with any additions, recommendations, or corrections. Discussion space is here *