The lapse of luxury

"It is bitter to have loved and lost than never to laugh it off," Bamuall Subtler

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

May we learn from the eros of our ways

Celebrating the Body Erotic

I haven’t posted in over a year because I have been inhabiting a non-verbal state much of the time. Transforming my life by moving out of my head. In August 2010 I was introduced to sensual massage with tantric elements. Thank you Ron Stewart, I’ll be forever grateful. During the first massage session I realized that trauma buried deep within my body was at the root of my struggle to relate to myself and others in a fulfilling way.

Attending my first Celebrating the Body Erotic made me think it is high time to share my insights: not to replace the experience with words but to temporarily at least provide some order to the turbulent life of feeling. And maybe there’s something here that may help other men to explore this terrain for themselves. CBE is a retreat where men share in the revelations of their erotic selves. Trust-building and spiritual exercises are combined with touch, dance, music, humour and fantasy. What follows is the 1st of what I what I hope will be a series of pieces on CBE, and my goal to unify all aspects of my life.

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CBE: Drawn out by the power of music

Music can both be a tremendous aid and impediment to emotional healing. The rhythms excite our body to dance and connect with people. The melodies and structures tie into our memories and egos.

During an erotic massage on the first day of CBE there was some awkwardness. My massage partner was not entirely comfortable with exploring eroticism in full view of a large group of men, but nevertheless he soldiered on because he was there to learn! Stiff upper lip, determination and all that. When he massaged me I was enjoying the sensual experience thoroughly, but still felt rather detached from the experience because of the initial awkwardness. I really wanted my partner to be enjoying himself, and felt his divided attention. Then the spiritual Down to the River to Pray was played in the background. The irony of hearing this southern gospel tune in an unfamiliar context pulled me out my anxiety. I relished the conflict between Christianity’s message of sexual shame and the sensual message of the massage. (I’ve come to believe this conflict was created by our civilization as a method of control –spirituality and eros are one.)

During another part of the weekend we held hands and danced in a circle - chaotically. Accompanying us was an insanely happy music, an over-the-top major melody, complete with whistles. It sounded like some sort of piece written to accompany a Soviet propaganda film: dramatic vistas of overjoyed workers pulling in a bountiful harvest. As we danced, at first my judgement kicked in, thinking to myself, “This music is ridiculous. Nobody is ever this happy. “ But then I entertained the illusion, saw the smiles on the men’s faces as we did this crazy dance. Then I entered the eye of the needle and entered heaven: “I am this insanely happy. I can have this. “ That’s the power of music. Music (and art) can be a crazy piece of fiction; but as soon as it’s created it becomes reality. And all of these emotional riches are suddenly made available to us.

Music was an integral part of the most distinctive component of CBE, the Big Draw. What’s the Big Draw? No, don’t think of a carny hustling some rube into a circus tent to ogle a sideshow freak. The Big Draw ain’t no Fat Lady or Dog-faced boy.

It’s not a dose of snake oil either. I’d describe the Big Draw as a consciousness-raising technique focused around oxygenating the blood through breathing exercises, relaxing and tensing the body. Loud music and erotic massage wake up the body and work us into frenzies, then we take deep breaths and tense every muscle as tightly as possible, then release. Many men go into ecstatic states, or release deep sadness.

My reaction was pretty complex, and connected to the music being used. Initially, I was aroused by the music and the massage - a deeply personal state yet connected and empowered by the presence of the other men. Suddenly a song I didn’t like rudely interrupted me. It got louder and louder. Someone played a frame drum which intensified the music. To add to the insults, another un-likeable song followed. I lost my erection and I felt irritation and self-pity because if I was only capable of loving this song, then my pleasure could have continued. But I remembered what the workshop leader said before the session, “Breathe into whatever you’re feeling.” So I did just that, and I began to tap into a deep anger – an anger far more intense than the situation warranted. OK. So, I breathed into that irrational anger. Before I my thoughts carried me too far I was hyperventilating, screaming, and my body began whipping about - spasms. It felt terrific and terrifying to plug into such power. However, my intellect watched this process in a rather judgemental way, as if punishing me by preventing my consciousness from participating. So, what am I saying? Well, even my hatred of a piece of music can be a valuable tool in opening consciousness.

How can I hate a piece of music? Musical taste serves no function but strengthen my ego – which is a bit of a rag and bone shop as Yeats would say. And I dance endlessly around my distaste for taste and ego, but clinging to both exhaustingly and relentlessly as if I’m a rock climber about to plunge into the depths. I think I use irony to transcend my tastes - not being ready to detach myself from the rock face and plunge into the depths of a greater consciousness.

During the build up to 2nd Big Draw I entered a more joyous state. A techno tune came on which incorporated the flower drum duet from Delibes Lakshmi. I love when “high” and “low” art mixes and I thought, “I can work with this.” Unashamedly I danced on the massage table. I was ecstatic, in a state of bliss, yet also detached and judgemental, as of two minds, as if both hemispheres conducted their own business and observed each other. My rational mind watched, and judged, and withheld, while my sensual mind attempted to seduce my rational mind to join the dance. My ego didn’t join the dance that time, but I have been the dancer before and I hungered for that state, as if trying to get back home.

Despite the self-involved state I just described I was profoundly moved the next day by music that illustrated connection and desire. For e.g. I wept in the shower thinking of the lyrics of Jefferson Airplane’s hippie anthem, We Can Be Together, and wept again listening to Machaut’s Dame, vostre doute viere, one of the many medieval songs that embody the desire for an erotic and spiritual union with an unattainable woman. What’s more, while turning the compost in my backyard I sang out loud the chorus of Dylan’s I’ll Keep it with Mine:

Everybody will help you

Some people are very kind

If I can save you any time

Come one, give it to me

I’ll keep it with mine

Lou Reed’s I’ll be your Mirror came to my lips as well:

I’ll be your mirror

Reflect what you are

In case you don’t know

The primary erotic gift of a massage: We can protect and cherish the aspirations of others.

A counterintuitive musical lesson: Time should not be saved. As in music and as in life, it should be savoured.

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