I could easily call myself a workshop junkie, having taught and attended hundreds, perhaps even thousands in my lifetime.
Most of them have centered around the areas of relationships, healing, recovery, sexuality and spirituality. Each had a different flavor; some tart and tangy, some sweet and syrupy and others, salty and savory.
Each had a powerful impact on my life, as I honed and polished the image I had for a fulfilling life. There were times when I felt overwhelmed with emotion, frantically riding tidal waves that I feared might come crashing down around me, sweeping me into oblivion.
On other occasions, I was on the peak of the wave, in a state of euphoria, with an “I’m in love with the world,” feeling. Re-entry back into my daily life was a challenge in the beginning, since I had not yet built community with whom I could continue the discussion, feel understood and in whose presence I could process what arose.
All of that changed when I realized that the workshop cocoon was not limited to the time and space in which it was held. Often people talk about the “real world” being on the outside and the true test of what they had learned would either stand up to or fall flat in the midst of the interactions that would occur once they returned to home and job. Now, they are almost seamless as the majority of the people in my daily life and the work that I do are interwoven with the workshop topics I explore.
This past weekend, I attended one called Fearless Relating that was taught by Reid Mihalko and Monique Darling. He is the founder of a social engagement, communication building and relationship enhancing workshop called Cuddle Party. She, like me, is a certified facilitator of this p.j. clad workshop that also focuses on safe, nurturing, consensual non-sexual touch.
Both of them also teach on the subjects of dating, mating and relating in and out of the bedroom. I have known them as friends for several years as well.
Since they were coming to my area, it was a too-good-to-be-missed opportunity to splash about in the relationship waters, and daringly explore what I had kept submerged for much of my life. I set several intentions.
The first was that I was to be there as an attendee; leaving my therapist’s hat at the door, since I knew it would be tempting to hide behind it, remaining in my head and not in my heart, where the real work needed to take place.
I also knew that if anything major was to change in the relationship realm, I needed to fear forward and take a look at the sea monsters that I imagined would do more than nibble on my toes, but rather gnaw them raw and then drag me into the depths, feasting on my very flesh and bones.
Yes, it’s that scary at times.
I have been single for most of the past 16 years, both desiring and holding at bay, a healthy, sustained romantic partnership. I have wonderful friends, companions and activity partners with whom I share emotional intimacy, but have stood on the edge of the diving board, peering downward at the uncertain waters below. Heart pounding, I would often question what was beneath the surface, in addition to the creatures. Would I get in over my head and drown?
Although I was a lifeguard for a few years, and can still hold my own in that realm, and…here’s me coming clean…even as a career therapist, the emotional waters still feel overwhelming at times.
I was willing to be spontaneous and allow for whatever needed to arise, to do so. Not wanting to pre-plan interactions, beyond intention setting and then letting go to see what happened. I also knew I wanted to get the most out of the weekend and slurp every last bit of juice from the bottom of the glass. Each time an opportunity arose to ask for what I wanted, I could feel my heart racing, as if I was on the elliptical at the gym; face flushed with a combination of exhilaration, tinged with a wee bit of embarrassment about desiring it in the first place.
Like many in the healing fields, I talk a good game.
Of course, we have the right to ask for love, attention, affection, support, guidance, assistance, among other human needs. And equally true is that the other person has the choice of saying yes or no to meeting our requests. That’s where it gets tricky sometimes. What if something we reaaaaalllly want is something that significant others in our lives choose to refrain from giving?
How much could that sting? Does it mean we shouldn’t want it or, is it an indication that we either need to offer it to ourselves or ask someone else? Even though I vote for the latter, there have been times when I have pulled back the desire, since not having it met, felt painful at the time. Sometimes I would attempt to mind read and then ask only for what I sensed the other person was willing to say yes to.
One large-looming issue throughout my life was not allowing men to take care of me and support me; other than my father. He was good at it most of the time, but sometimes emotional enmeshment took hold and set the stage for unhealthy relationships with partners, since I felt like the caregiver in many of our interactions with them and ended up feeling resentful and tapped out. An intention I had set was to throw off that heavy burden and free myself from carrying any prospective partners.
I have not had a problem with asking for and accepting support from women; but have often held men at arm’s length in that area. I took a step off the edge of the aforementioned diving board and asked the men in the room, if they were willing, to surround me and cradle me for a few minutes. Some were long time friends and the others I had just met that weekend.
As several gathered around and held me, they chanted a humming sound that reverberated through me. Tears trickled and then swam from my eyes as I sobbed for all of the years I had “been the strong one,” holding others when I wanted to be held. I was tempted to talk about what I was feeling, but I knew that it would only serve to submerge them.
I was pleased that I was able to stay out of my head and in my heart, so I really could find healing.
When they helped me sit up, I felt cleansed and grateful, not only for their tender care, but for my own as well. Admittedly, it took courage to both ask for what I needed and then to stay present to receive it.
What are the areas in your life where you need to be fearless in knowing what you want and asking for it ?
What has stopped you in the past?
How important is it that you get those desires met?
What are you willing to risk facing in the process?
What do you imagine will happen it they are not met?
What do you imagine will happen if they are?
The people in your life are not mind-readers. Tell them what you want and be open to accept what your heart deserves and desires.
Author: Edie Weinstein
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Hartwig HKD at Flickr