5 Secrets Every Sex Therapist Wants You to Know …

The other day one of my clients came in and said, “All these years, I’ve had it all wrong! I had no idea sex could be this good – this much fun!”  I thought to myself, “I seriously have the best job in the world!! I get paid to help people be better lovers … which in America (where porn and media are our primary sex educators), isn’t rocket science!!”

Happy woman lying among yellow wildflowers

The majority of folks who come in and see me, come for differences in their sex drives, difficulties having orgasms or ejaculating too soon.  Often they just have lots and lots of inaccurate information which we can easily clear up with going over some of the basics like, “Did you know men and women’s arousal cycles can be quite different. Let me draw you a picture.”  … and off I go drawing something out.   “Therefore men need to learn to warm up slow and learn to follow her – let me give you an example of what I mean …”   Sometimes it is looking at the larger picture of a couple’s life and seeing if sleep is being squeezed out and what affect that is having on sexual desire.  Often the combination of limited information and misinformation has amounted to a narrow understanding of what fun pleasurable sex can be.  This unfortunately leads many couples into a predictable and boring sexual routine.  I have the fun job of blowing their minds by expanding their notions of erotic pleasure and their definitions of sex.  This is where the fun begins!

Learning to adjust your definition of sex can not only lead to better sex right away, but can guarantee your sex life continue to stay fun and fresh for decades to come.  Let me give you a few ideas to help you expand your experience of love-making …

Make pleasure your number one focus – both the giving of pleasure and the receiving of pleasure.

Make sure you are both having lots of pleasure!  This is more important than the specific behavior you are or are not doing.  Trust me on this!  If one of you is bored, in pain, or not into it … it will kill sexual desire.  You want to both be focusing on feeling and expanding the experience of pleasure – yours and your partners.  This is not a NASCAR performance and you are not on trial.  If you are not feeling pleasure – adjust. Sharing intimate pleasure is one of the key purposes of erotic touch. Forget the “we should do this …”, “we should do that …” bologna and just notice what feels pleasurable.


Make connection your number two focus – you want to feel more connected to each other.


This is the second key purpose in erotic touch – it needs to connect you.  It needs to be fun and/or loving and/or playful and/or intimate. Look into each others eyes and really see each other – let yourself been seen, known, loved and accepted.  It is what we all crave!!  Erotic touch needs to feel unique to your relationship – something that binds you closer. Again, it matters less what behaviors you do, as long as connection is a byproduct of what you do and/or say during erotic touch. If whatever sexual behaviors you share do not ultimately connect you more, then you have defeated the purpose and one or both of you won’t be into it as much next time.


Be more Playful – don’t take sex too seriously.  Be content with good-enough sex.


Not all dinners are gourmet dinners … not all sexual encounters will rock your world.  But if you show up, heart open, focused on pleasure and connection, ready to be playful and enjoy each other, no matter what happens it will be fun – and probably not routine or boring or the same as it was last time! Just enjoy yourself and each other. That’s the point! If you feel like you are getting stuck in a routine, talk about what the routine is, then decide to not do anything on the routine list for two weeks.  If intercourse always is in the routine, take intercourse off the table for two weeks; if its oral sex, take it off the table for two weeks; whatever it is.  Then for two weeks figure out as many different other ways to make love that don’t include those particular behaviors.  See how many other ways you can come up with.  Pretend you are in junior high again and “you can’t do IT” yet … IT is not allowed!!  You have to find all kinds of other ways to turn each other on! Make it fun and HOT!!


Toughen up your Skin – get better at Let’s GoNot Tonight

Embrace sad spouse

Learning the skills of initiation and rejection in the tender arena of sexuality are skills most of us never learn and thus are easily bruised.  This can cause all kinds of difficulty in a relationship and set up a pattern of withdrawal and hurt feelings that never get resolved.  The pattern that most often happens is the partner that most often initiates and is rejected often becomes tired of being rejected – they feel too vulnerable – and begins to stop initiating.  The person who has been ‘saying no’ begins to feel undesirable and often becomes even more rejecting through criticism or withdrawal.   This sets up a hurtful dance. If someone initiates, and you do not feel up to it, take the time to listen to their desires, hear their heart of love for you, see if there is a compromise that can be struck. If not, be compassionate to their disappointment and talk about how connection and pleasure can be shared soon. If you are the one who feels rejected, listen to the reason the other was not able to extend themselves.  Try to hear their reason and try to navigate with them a way to accommodate.  Hear their heart of love for you even if they cannot meet you through erotic touch at this time.  Find a way to connect in another way. Keep your heart turned toward each other.  Most of the time the reason we cannot participate in erotic touch is not about rejecting the other person and more about something going on with us.



Never Take Your Sex Life For Granted

Senior couple walking on the beach in fall season

You might think that for a culture that has sex constantly on its mind we would do a better job taking care of our sexual relationships inside the connections that matter most … but you and I both know this is not the case!  Why do you think this is? I think it’s because we are creatures of habit.  And as creatures of habit, we have a way of ignoring what is commonplace in our lives.  For most of us, that often becomes the people we live with.  However, relationships are organic entities … they are like a garden.  If you ignore them, relationships dry up and die or get smothered in weeds.  If you don’t invest in your sexual relationship, in pleasure and connection, ensuring that it stays vibrant and healthy, it will slowly begin to fade away.  You can ignore it for a while, but it is only a matter of time. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched this happen.  And it always breaks my heart!!  Ignoring a relationship is not sustainable without significant cost … significant!   Here is what you need to put on your bathroom mirror and read every day:

  • Share erotic pleasure and connection often – loving touch nourishes body, mind, soul and relationship
  • Turn off all electronic devices the minute you are both in bed and make time to talk, read to each other, touch each other, snuggle, even just attend to each other in silence for a minute
  • You’ve heard me say it before … One 3 minute hug (until you fully relax!) and two 10 second juicy kisses a day (unrelated to sex!)
  • Do something different at least once a month – buy lingerie, a sex toy, go into a sex shop together, read a sex book on techniques or sex ed (keep learning!), play a sexual game, schedule a date night, play with a paint brush and chocolate sauce, anything playful. Find your inner 6 year old!
  • Check in with each other – take an intimacy pulse of the relationship – how do you both feel things are going? Any adjustments you want to make over the next month?
  • Learn to ask for what you want openly and honestly and learn to hear each other’s requests with kindness and grace. Ask questions and give each other the benefit of the doubt.  Always assume the best of each other around sex. This will help you both feel safe enough to be a little daring and have a lot of fun!
Tina's Goofy Family in Santorini  Ashley Johnson Photography

Tina’s Goofy Family in Santorini
Ashley Johnson Photography

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Can You Let Yourself Experience Pleasure … or Does Guilt Get in Your Way?

For Week #10/52 Theme: "Guilty Pleasure" by Sonny Abesamis 2014

For Week #10/52 Theme: “Guilty Pleasure” by Sonny Abesamis 2014

The other day I sat with a beautiful 22 year old Christian woman.  She radiated youth – curious, insightful, earnest, just, vital. She had just finished college.  She had traveled to many places in the world where war and cruelty had ravaged the spirit, body and land of women and children. She was looking upon her life and the life around the globe with new eyes and asking new questions, and I found her tenacity and urgency invigorating.  Then she said, “When I came home from my travels I was so exhausted I felt unable to care for myself in even the most rudimentary way. Through this recovery process I slowly began to learn how important it was to listen to the wisdom of my body.  ‘It is time to sleep.’  ‘It is time to eat.’ ‘You need a hug, a listening ear.’ But now that I am recovered, I find I struggle with feeling selfish when I find myself enjoying a cup of coffee too much. When I feel too much pleasure. How am I to embrace my sexuality if I cannot even let myself fully enjoy a cup of coffee?”

Inside Christianity is a long history of the narrative warning against pleasure and valuing those who deny pleasure.  Serving others is often juxtaposed to pleasure, as if you cannot do both.  The narrative says that serving others is selfless and experiencing pleasure is selfish.  Thus if you are experiencing pleasure you must be doing something that is selfish and not truly in service of others.  For if it was truly in service of others you would not be receiving any pleasure from it at all.  Of course when we really think about this, we can hear how ridiculous it sounds. Yet this narrative lives on, tormenting those who struggle against guilt when they experience pleasure. For Christian women, sexual pleasure is one of the places most devastated by this narrative. They cannot imagine knowing the pleasure their body can bring them, and if they do, they cannot imagine celebrating it or being grateful for it.  Instead they feel shame and condemnation. One young woman said to me, “If I began to learn about my body through exploring my genitals, using a mirror, finding out what parts feel like to touch, learning about my own arousal cycle, seeing if I could have an orgasm, even masturbating, I could never tell my roommates.  NEVER! They believe this is absolutely wrong! We’ve all been told down-there is off-limits to us and to men until marriage.”

So how do we break free of this narrative?

Here are 3 things you can do:

  1. Understand that pleasure is a renewing gift from a loving God given to restore you so you can be filled up to do whatever work you are called to do in this world. Attend fully to this pleasure, let it fill you and nourish you.
  2. Let your heart be grateful. Pleasure is a gift – it is not something we earned or deserve – it is a gift for us to enjoy and care for.  Pleasure needs to care for us.  If we are sharing pleasure with someone else, it needs to care for them too, and for the relationship between us.  When we let ourselves feel our gratefulness our heart swells with joy and the pleasure we feel is multiplied.
  3. Help others know pleasure too. So many people are weighed down by stress, ‘should’s’, burden’s and narratives that forbid them from enjoying the gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, gratefulness and pleasure.  Helping them see these gifts in their lives will help balance and renew their spirits and give them new life and vitality.

What brings you pleasure? Do it!

  • Make a list of what brings you pleasure – take 15 minutes. Make sure there are things on your list you can do in 1 minute, 5 minutes and longer. Things you can do easily and things that take more planning. Things done alone and things shared.
  • Now, place on your calendar at least one pleasure a day, if you are brave 2 or more.
  • When you engage in pleasure, bring all 5 of your senses into the experience – feel it – see it, taste it, hear it, touch it, smell it. Bring all of your attention into the moment of pleasure and let it fill you up.
  • Let your heart be grateful and push away the voices of guilt and shame. These narratives are not true or helpful. They will leave you stuck and depleted, less able to be who you were created to be.
  • Share your story of pleasure with someone you trust. Support each other.
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The SPU Shooting and the Mystery of Faith

Marcus Yam The Seattle Times

Marcus Yam
The Seattle Times

Faith is not what we do when we want to play it safe, be reasonable, make perfect sense. Faith, like love, is vulnerable and risky. But it is also what nourishes hope and grounds us in a purpose and community that transcends fear. Faith, as seen in this student written essay, gives a peace beyond reason.


An open letter to the SPU gunman

Originally posted June 6, 2014


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Do You Have Marriage Insurance?


Nearly every month one of the therapists I supervise will staff a case with me of a couple who is separating or divorcing because they didn’t know how to take care of their relationship and they didn’t do anything about it when it started to fade away. By the time someone spoke up … that someone was done. It is tragic … truly tragic! More often than not, kids are involved.  These are not marriages where there is abuse or infidelity … these are marriages where the demands of life coupled with growing up in a culture that didn’t prepare them with the skills needed to grow and strengthen an intimate connection, leave a couple adrift.  If no one wakes up, and shakes things up and says, WE MUST FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO THIS NOW – THERAPY, AN INTIMACY RETREAT, SOMETHING!, it is only a matter of time.  I heard another story this week – married 15 years, two kids, a slow drift and then one says, often the wife, “We can go to therapy, but really, I am done, I’ve moved on.” In her mind, she had been telling him of her unhappiness, but he wasn’t tuned in to her channel.  In his mind, he had been doing all he could, but it was never quite enough. They weren’t seeing or hearing each other – they didn’t know how – they were missing each other – for years. Yet, learning the emotional, relational, spiritual and sexual skills of how craft a loving deeply satisfying relationship, is so very possible with help. And sooooo worth the work and money!! It is a type of life insurance … Quality of Life Insurance … for you and your family.  If I could, I would send all young couples to our Passion for Life Retreat, just to give them the tools they need to build the marriage they so desperately want but have no clue how to have. Do you know how much tragedy we could avoid and how much joy and stability we could bring? It’s a no brainer.

Passion For Life Couples Intimacy Retreat

The next couples intimacy retreat is September 25-28, 2014 at the beautiful Pan Pacific in Seattle. These retreats transform relationships while spoiling and nourishing you in every way.

Whether demands have taken the spark out of your love life or you are just ready to take your relationship to the next level, this 3 day couples intimacy retreat promises to ignite the flame and bring back the fun.

Like becoming a great musician, becoming a great lover is more than just desire … it’s an ancient spiritual art form. Unfortunately due to culture and traditional religious teaching most of us are unaware of the powerful capacity for healing and sexual pleasure available when sexuality is infused with spirituality. Our delicious experience of sexual desire and sexual expression was given to us on purpose – with the intent that we would experience abundant aspects of what it is to love and touch deeply. We were created to know potent experiences of loving a beloved other. It is our mirror experience into the Creator’s great love for us.

During the Passion 4 Life Intimacy Retreat, couples set time aside to invest in becoming the lovers they were created to be. Over breakfast we uncover the spiritual side of sexuality and unpack all the messages of sexuality that have hindered us. We have lunch together and then spend time in mens and womens groups discussing what it means to apply what we are learning. Private time is allocated each afternoon for couples to practice new ways to enhance sexual and spiritual intimacy through specific sacred touching practices.

While you are rekindling desire, the Pan Pacific will provide the ultimate sensual feast for sight, sound, smell, taste and touch!! The hotel is beautiful and sits at the heart of the newest vibrant Seattle neighborhood. Sensual nourishment is one of the things the Pan Pacific does best – the rooms are elegant with two person tubs, ipod docs for your favorite music, and beds with sheets that are luxurious. The food for the opening and closing receptions and breakfast and lunch each day will be made by John Howie’s Seastar Restaurant adjacent to the hotel. Delicious doesn’t even begin to describe it! And if you have a hankering for more chocolate or a container of fresh raspberries … Whole Foods is on the bottom floor!

This retreat gives couple’s what is needed to build a marriage that thrives in today’s stressful culture.  This is the best marriage insurance you can buy – bar none!!  A year of therapy will run you $7200, a disconnected marriage, much more. Don’t let the slow slide of a fading connection and growing disillusionment catch you by surprise! This 3 day retreat promises to nourish and restore you, your relationship and your sexual intimacy and is $1995.00. This covers all training material, the intimacy program, opening and closing receptions and breakfast and lunch each day. Rooms are booked separately directly with the hotel and are being offered at $179/night (regularly $280-$350/night). Registration is open to 8 couples and closes when full.

Come experience what you and your beloved were created for – and enter an amazing new world where love, sex and intimacy flourish.

For more information

To Register

What couple’s are saying -

This retreat did a wonderful job of showing me what’s been missing in my view of intimacy and sexuality. It’s put our marriage on an upward trajectory and brought back some of that “honeymoon” feeling for us.          Shane, Married 19 yrs

This retreat is something I wish I had done 20 years ago. The things you will learn about yourself, about your spouse, about your marriage, about intimacy, about God will blow you away and change your life for the better forever. Go!             Angie

This retreat changed our marriage and I don’t just mean our sex life. Truly, the way we interact with each other will never be the same.             Sarah, Married 4 years

This was the best time and money I have ever spent on a vacation. We all like to get a good return on our investment. I can honestly say the lifelong return on this investment cannot be beat.             Zack

This is an opportunity to listen, share and learn how to love and be loved and be more connected in your relationship. It’s something every couple should learn so their marriage can be all that it can be.             Terry, Married 31 yrs

This retreat has left me forever changed, in every way. Not only is my marriage better, but I feel like I’m a better woman, a better mom, a better person.          Angela, Married 19 yrs

This is absolutely an investment that warrants consideration given how influential the connection with your partner is to personal well-being, happiness, fulfillment, and hope in life. If you value these things, and you find yourself lacking, then this is an opportunity to get positive, long-lasting results in a short period of time.            Joe, Married 6 years

You can’t put a price on your marriage. Seriously, for our situation this was not financially easy. However, in the end it was worth every penny!                  Amanda

The weekend provides an opportunity to focus on each other in ways we rarely do, and to view the gift of sexuality in a powerfully healthy way.                Bill, Married 40 yrs

This retreat is not to be missed if you seek to take your relationship to a new deeper level of connection, communication, and spirituality.              Luke, Married 15 years

I have learned to be intentional to set time aside – time for love-making (not just intercourse) – where we prepare our hearts and minds for that time together. Within that time we are spontaneous and enjoy the moment wherever it leads us.         Leslie, Married 30 years

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We Are and Have Always Been One with God


I love the idea in this quote.  What if we really believed this … how would we practice silence differently? How would we practice community differently?  Would we treat our selves and others with more love … more grace … more reverence?

“Union with God is not something we acquire by technique but the grounding truth of our lives that engenders the very search for God. Because God is the ground of our being, the relationship between creature and Creator is such that, by sheer grace, separation is not possible. God does not know how to be absent. The fact that most of us experience throughout most of our lives a sense of separation is the great illusion that we are caught up in; it is the human condition. The sense of separation from God is real, but the meeting of stillness reveals that this perceived separation does not have the last word. This illusion of separation is generated by the mind and is sustained by the riveting of our attention to the interior soap opera, the constant chatter of the cocktail party going on in our heads. For most of us this is what normal is, and we are good at coming up with ways of coping with this perceived separation (our consumer-driven entertainment culture takes care of much of it). But some of us are not so good at coping, so we drink ourselves into oblivion or cut or burn ourselves ‘so that the pain will be in a different place and on the outside.’

The grace of salvation, the grace of Christian wholeness that flowers in silence, dispels this illusion of separation. For when the mind is brought to stillness, and all our strategies of acquisition have dropped, a deeper truth presents itself: we are and have always been one with God and we are all one in God,” – Martin Laird, Into the Silent Land.

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The Erotic is NOT the Pornographic!


The subject said: The Erotic as Power

The email read: “You will love this.”

My dear friend Jim, who knows my passion and commitment for people to discover what culture has failed to teach them about their capacity for intimacy and their erotic potential, sent to me a reading by Activist and Poet, Audre Lorde (1934 – 1992) of her essay The Uses of the Erotic.  As I listened, I felt like I was drinking a fine liqueur … words pure, true, sweet, sensual … deep in resonance and deliciously satiating.  After I listened and read the text a couple of times, then mused about it for a day or two and let it linger on my mind … I kept coming back to this sense that within was a powerful life invitation. To live into the erotic was to risk the vulnerability of honest deep loving engagement with life – what is most meaningful and imperative.  It was at the heart the risk of being seen, known and loved (or rejected) and seeing and knowing others.  It was the risk of speaking one’s truth, living one’s truth, standing up for the oppressed, casting light into darkness, all at the risk of being misunderstood, misinterpreted, rejected, crucified.  It brought me back to God.  I began to imagine God saying “YES!!, THIS is what I have been wanting you to understand about how deeply I love you – body, mind, soul and spirit.  Erotically, powerfully, fully … and if you can let yourself know this, believe this, you will know a level of passionate investment in your life and the lives of others that will inspire and light your path.  It will be filled with My love for you, My breath, My inspiration, My erotic power … you will know how beloved you are to Me, and that love will set you free. Live in that love and be free from all that binds you.” 

The inherent paradox in living an erotic life, and why the psuedo-erotic of the pornographic is so appealing, is to love purposefully, to feel deeply, to live meaningfully, to act boldly is to risk deep pain every day.  It is a way of life that takes courage, conviction, transparency and community. It is the full continuum of the human experience where nothing is spared. It is a life that ‘takes guts’ and thus is far too often the road less traveled. But I believe … when we are all on our death beds … it is in the end, a life without regrets … a life well lived!

Here is the text of Audre’s talk.  I emphasized some of what moved me.  Linger long … let yourself marinate in these words.  What moves you?

Audre Lorde

The Uses of the Erotic

“There are many kinds of power, used and unused, acknowledged or otherwise. The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling. In order to perpetuate itself, every oppression must corrupt or distort those various sources of power within the culture of the oppressed that can provide energy for change. For women, this has meant a suppression of the erotic as a considered source of power and information within our lives.

We have been taught to suspect this resource, vilified, abused, and devalued within western society. On the one hand, the superficially erotic has been encouraged as a sign of female inferiority; on the other hand, women have been made to suffer and to feel both contemptible and suspect by virtue of its existence.

It is a short step from there to the false belief that only by the suppression of the erotic within our lives and consciousness can women be truly strong. But that strength is illusory, for it is fashioned within the context of male models of power.

As women, we have come to distrust that power which rises from our deepest and nonrational knowledge. We have been warned against it all our lives by the male world, which values this depth of feeling enough to keep women around in order to exercise it in the service of men, but which fears this same depth too much to examine the possibilities of it within themselves. So women are maintained at a distant/inferior position to be psychically milked, much the same way ants maintain colonies of aphids to provide a life-giving substance for their masters.

But the erotic offers a well of replenishing and provocative force to the woman who does not fear its revelation, nor succumb to the belief that sensation is enough.

The erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, and plasticized sensation. For this reason, we have turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information, confusing it with the pornographic. But pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling.

The erotic is a measure between our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.

It is never easy to demand the most from ourselves, from our lives, from our work. To encourage excellence is to go beyond the encouraged mediocrity of our society is to encourage excellence. But giving in to the fear of feeling and working to capacity is a luxury only the unintentional can afford, and the unintentional are those who do not wish to guide their own destinies.

This internal requirement toward excellence which we learn from the erotic must not be misconstrued as demanding the impossible from ourselves nor from others. Such a demand incapacitates everyone in the process. For the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing. Once we know the extent to which we are capable of feeling that sense of satisfaction and completion, we can then observe which of our various life endeavors bring us closest to that fullness.

The aim of each thing which we do is to make our lives and the lives of our children richer and more possible. Within the celebration of the erotic in all our endeavors, my work becomes a conscious decision – a longed-for bed which I enter gratefully and from which I rise up empowered.
Of course, women so empowered are dangerous. So we are taught to separate the erotic from most vital areas of our lives other than sex. And the lack of concern for the erotic root and satisfactions of our work is felt in our disaffection from so much of what we do. For instance, how often do we truly love our work even at its most difficult?

The principal horror of any system which defines the good in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, or which defines human need to the exclusion of the psychic and emotional components of that need – the principal horror of such a system is that it robs our work of its erotic value, its erotic power and life appeal and fulfillment. Such a system reduces work to a travesty of necessities, a duty by which we earn bread or oblivion for ourselves and those we love. But this is tantamount to blinding a painter and then telling her to improve her work, and to enjoy the act of painting. It is not only next to impossible, it is also profoundly cruel.

As women, we need to examine the ways in which our world can be truly different. I am speaking here of the necessity for reassessing the quality of all the aspects of our lives and of our work, and of how we move toward and through them.

The very word erotic comes from the Greek word eros, the personification of love in all its aspectsborn of Chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony. When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the life-force of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.

There are frequent attempts to equate pornography and eroticism, two diametrically opposed uses of the sexual. Because of these attempts, it has become fashionable to separate the spiritual (psychic and emotional) from the political, to see them as contradictory or antithetical. “What do you mean, a poetic revolutionary, a meditating gunrunner?” In the same way, we have attempted to separate the spiritual and the political is also false, resulting from an incomplete attention to our erotic knowledge. For the bridge which connects them is formed by the erotic – the sensual – those physical, emotional, and psychic expressions of what is deepest and strongest and richest within each of us, being shared: the passions of love, in its deepest meanings.

Beyond the superficial, the considered phrase, “It feels right to me,” acknowledges the strength of the erotic into a true knowledge, for what that means is the first and most powerful guiding light toward any understanding. And understanding is a handmaiden which can only wait upon, or clarify, that knowledge, deeply born. The erotic is the nurturer or nursemaid of all our deepest knowledge.

The erotic functions for me in several ways, and the first is in providing the power which comes from sharing deeply any pursuit with another person. The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.

Another important way in which the erotic connection functions is the open and fearless underlining of my capacity for joy, in the way my body stretches to music and opens into response, harkening to its deepest rhythms so every level upon which I sense also opens to the erotically satisfying experience whether it is dancing, building a bookcase, writing a poem, or examining an idea.

That self-connection shared is a measure of the joy which I know myself to be capable of feeling, a reminder of my capacity for feeling. And that deep and irreplaceable knowledge of my capacity for joy comes to demand from all of my life that it be lived within the knowledge that such satisfaction is possible, and does not have to be called marriage, nor god, nor an afterlife.

This is one reason why the erotic is so feared, and so often relegated to the bedroom alone, when it is recognized at all. For once we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.

During World War II, we bought sealed plastic packets of white, uncolored margarine, with a tiny, intense pellet of yellow coloring perched like a topaz just inside the clear skin of the bag. We would leave the margarine out for a while to soften, and then we would pinch the little pellet to break it inside the bag, releasing the rich yellowness into the soft pale mass of margarine. Then taking it carefully between our fingers, we would knead it gently back and forth, over and over, until the color had spread throughout the whole pound bag of margarine, thoroughly coloring it.

I find the erotic such a kernel within myself. When released from its intense and constrained pellet, it flows through and colors my life with a kind of energy that heightens and sensitizes and strengthens all my experience.

We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings. But, once recognized, those which do not enhance our future lose their power and can be altered. The fear of our deepest cravings keeps them suspect and indiscriminately powerful, for to suppress any truth is to give it strength beyond endurance. The fear that we cannot grow beyond whatever distortions we may find within ourselves keeps us docile and loyal and obedient, externally defined, and leads us to accept many facets of our own oppression as women.

When we live outside ourselves, and by that I mean on external directives only rather than from our internal knowledge and needs, when we live away from those erotic guides from within ourselves, then our lives are limited by external and alien forms, and we conform to the needs of a structure that is not based on human need, let alone an individual’s. But when we begin to live from within outward, in touch with the power of the erotic within ourselves, and allowing that power to inform and illuminate our actions upon the world around us, then we begin to be responsible to ourselves in the deepest sense. For as we begin to recognize our deepest feelings, we begin to give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering, and self-negation, and with the numbness which so often seems like the only alternative in our society. Our acts against oppression become integral with self, motivated and empowered from within.

In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.

And yes, there is a hierarchy. There is a difference between painting a black fence and writing a poem, but only one of quantity. And there is, for me, no difference between writing a good poem and moving into sunlight against the body of a woman I love.

This brings me to the last consideration of the erotic. To share the power of each other’s feelings is different from using another’s feelings as we would use a Kleenex. When we look the other way from our experience, erotic or otherwise, we use rather than share the feelings of those others who participate in the experience with us. And use without consent of the used is abuse.

In order to be utilized, our erotic feelings must be recognized. The need for sharing deep feeling is a human need. But within the european-american tradition, this need is satisfied by certain proscribed erotic comings-together. These occasions are almost always characterized by a simultaneous looking away, a pretense of calling them something else, whether a religion, a fit, mob violence, or even playing doctor. And this misnaming of the need and the deed give rise to that distortion which results in pornography and obscenity – the abuse of feeling.

When we look away from the importance of the erotic in the development and sustenance of our power, or when we look away from ourselves as we satisfy our erotic needs in concert with others, we use each other as objects of satisfaction rather than share our joy in the satisfying, rather than make connection with our similarities and our differences. To refuse to be able that might seem, is to deny a large part of the experience, and to allow ourselves to be reduced to the pornographic, the abused, and the absurd.”

Ellen Page giving a powerful example of the erotic

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Why Go To An Intimacy Retreat? A Man’s Perspective

A man’s viewpoint on deep and abiding love can be a rare find … and I believe, when found … a valuable opinion.  It is not rare, because it is an uncommon occurrence, but rather men’s words are not patiently sought. We so often in culture describe men as only wanting sex and women as only wanting love and forget that BOTH MEN AND WOMEN are hard-wired for love and to express that love with and through their bodies and hearts … meaningful loving pleasurable sexual touch.  In culture we relegate mountains of space to hear about men’s sexual want and women’s emotional want, while simultaneously shaming men for their longing for emotional connection and women for their sexual hunger. Yet in men and women, passionate longing for being erotically known in body, mind, soul and spirit is a hunger deeply imbedded in both.  We may at times express that hunger differently, but the desire weaves its way intimately throughout both our lives. Unfortunately both culture and the church have long sold a disembodied type of love or an unhooked-heart type of sex. For example, in a popular Christian marriage book called Love and Respect, chapter 21, the sex chapter, puts this story out as an example of what women might want to aspire to in marriage – see if you can hear how sex has been disembodied from emotional connection:

“She decided to minister to her husband sexually, not because she particularly wanted to, but because she wanted to do it as unto Jesus Christ.  She didn’t have the need for sex. It wasn’t within her , but she realized that his was her husband’s need, and the Lord had spoken to her about meeting his need first.” 

This kind of sex is seen as an arousal cycle that needs to be satisfied and a duty or transaction that someone performs on another. This kind of thinking separates erotic love from pleasurable sexual touch and it denies the longing inside both men and women to be seen, known, and loved by their lover with and through their eyes, hearts and every inch of skin. Our bodies, every inch of them, is our heart’s symphony used to express the music of love for and with our beloved.  How our toes curl inside the calf of our lover.  How we nuzzle our chin inside their neck.  Each and every unique movement of our body that speaks love is an act of love-making if and when it brings more pleasure and more connection to our relationship.  This is love-making. Real lovemaking is so much more than holes and poles; orgasms and ejaculations; arousal cycles.  If this were not so, then it would not be possible for intercourse to be an awful experience – where love is NOT made.  Yet we all know this unfortunately IS possible – and most people have experienced this at least once.  Both inside and outside of marriage.

REAL lovemaking is never a transaction any more than a symphony is a slot machine. Couples who attend our Passion For Life Intimacy Retreats come to shed some of the unhelpful messages they have gathered from living in American culture while simultaneously learning how to craft a love making marriage.  As they do, they find their way home to their love and to each other. They feel seen, heard, known, loved, with their body, mind, soul and spirit. They learn to dance again, inside their love.  And are reminded what it is to truly make love with their whole bodies – awake and alive.

Listen to these sweet and wise words from this beloved husband about his retreat experience  -

“Great sex and intimacy within marriage isn’t magic.  If you desire something better, all it takes are simple ingredients of time, intentionality, honesty, empathy and openness.  Yet it is often hard to get to a consistent leveling of expectations or build enough momentum to get over the hurdles that keep you where you’ve been for the last however-many years.  It’s not that you don’t aspire to a deeper intimacy for your sex life, it’s that you’re not quite sure how to go about getting there.  And if one of you is ready, how do you get the other to come along for the ride?

You could decide that all you need is a bit more intentionality.  You might schedule a weekend away – without the kids, and plan to spend time together, reconnect, make love a few times, and bring it all back with you in hopes it won’t fade.  And that sometimes works.  But if you ARE interested in planning that weekend, I’d strongly suggest you let Dr. Tina Sellers be your travel guide.  A weekend at Tina’s retreat took us to places we couldn’t have gotten without someone carefully facilitating our journey.  This isn’t just time for love-making.  It’s learning how to care for the most intimate relationship you have.  It’s reconstructing how you thought you had built intimacy into your marriage.

I came away from the weekend more deeply in love with my wife than I had ever been.  I better understood how she needs to be loved.  How to make her feel safe.  Let go.  Breathe.  Feel wonderful.  I also had the feeling that we were finally on the same page, able to look together from a more unified viewpoint at areas of healthy and unhealthy sexuality.  And more than anything, the unhealthy made room for the healthy.  We could have gone somewhere to be alone for the weekend, but instead we ended up with a new way of thinking.  After 10 years of marriage, it gave us a new spark.  We had something special again, longing for each other when we were apart.  Excited about each other.  So, so happy to be married.  I loved it.”

The Next Retreat is September 25 – 28, 2014 and is open to 8 couples.  If you’d like this level of intimacy reboot – get more info or register here.  Registration will close July 15 or when all spots are filled.  Make this the year that you fell even more in love!

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