I’m here to share with you my story of living a sensuous life by way of coming home to myself. I believe that we learn, connect, and grow through story. And so in vulnerability, here is a taste of my realness. It all comes down to the core of who I am. It’s taken several concepts, re-writes, and straight talk to share with you what I know is not only my truth, but the truth of all living beings.
I know our bodies serve as the ultimate compass, the truest home. And the path back to our home time and again is through conscious and curious engagement with our sensory experience. Here is the story of finding my compass and losing it, and finally tapping into my internal compass that has brought me to this very present moment in time.
Awakened by Motion
When I was 2 years old my mom was babysitting my cousin Chrissy, who is 10 years my senior. My mom brought me with her to pick up Chrissy from dance class. We went inside as we waited for her class to end, and I went right up to the windows separating the class from the waiting room. I watched in awe and amazement and began to mimic some of the moves. Within minutes I turned to my mom and said “I want that.” Smart mother – she told me that only girls in big girl panties could go to dance class. That night I was potty trained.
I knew in a singular moment that I was so hungry for what I felt in my body that I NEEDED more of it.
And so my romance with my senses, an embodied way of existing within the world, was born.
I danced. I felt all the feels. The sight of my movement in the mirror, the sound of the music, the touch of the air as I glided through it, the smell of freshly polished studio floors, the taste of sweet presence hooked me.
And I kept dancing for a long time.
Compass Lost // Detour
Then something happened. My body changed. I got an ass, tits, hips, thighs and knees that touch (oh dear GOD!) and was soon advised that ballet was no longer a pursuit I should explore. “You’d be better on something like your high school cheer team dear.” So that is what I did. I left what I loved. I became a cheerleader, like my mother before me. I forced myself into costume, learned the chants, became captain, traveled, competed, and won national cheer championships.
But, in that deal I made with not only my inner critic, but society at large, I got the first real taste as a young woman of what it meant to rearrange my dreams, ideals, values, and body into a box that fit for other people. How to be really really good at that and how to reinforce the choices made for me by society.
When I got into that box I honed the skill of telling any part of me that disagreed to be quiet – there’s no time for you. I’m the good girl, I want to make “them” like me. Here’s when I honed desensitization, when my senses no longer served as the compass for my being – rather the words, opinions, thoughts, and approval of others – was top priority.
And just like that the cycle of patriarchy in my life was born. Identify an external standard -> try really hard to exceed it → do just that (while sacrificing my body and nature) → get rewarded.
It went around like that for a long time. On the surface I was one really put together person. One put together person, with absolutely no clue that I was emptying out the bank of energy, passion, and sensuous reserves I had built up since that day I witnessed my cousin dancing.
The years went by; the cycle and the games put more and more at stake. The web of reinforcement became stickier and the the ties to that web became more entangled. I was no longer choosing cheerleading over dance, but choosing jobs that didn’t serve me, intimate partners that were never meant to be…clothes, hair, ideas, cultivating entire businesses that weren’t my own. And I stayed in that cycle. Why? Because the cycle feels really fucking good, doesn’t it? It’s classical conditioning. Stimuli – Do the things – get reward. I was salivating for the job promotions, praise, accolades, life belt notches.
Then, once upon a time something cracked – and maybe you can relate – maybe you’ve been cracked open wide once before too.
I have had an extremely “on time” moon cycle my entire life.. 28 days long, 3 day bleed, mid-cycle ovulation – it’s textbook. I knew this about myself but I never gave my body two licks of attention to realize if something was a bit off. So as it can go with someone pretty disconnected from their body, one evening a bolt of lightning hit me mid-squat in the gym, I couldn’t recall when my last period was.
I knew in that moment I was pregnant. I knew it deep down and I didn’t want to admit it – at all.
I packed up from the gym, got myself to the nearest Walgreens, purchased a 3 pack of pregnancy tests and proceeded to take every. single. one.
When they all showed up positive, at first I laughed, then I cried… a lot. I cried because it was in that moment I realized how disconnected and how desensitized I had become to my own body. I was so hurt by the betrayal that I had put upon myself.
How did I not listen? // How did I not know?
As I ruminated on the signs of weeks past, I realized they were there. But I ignored them. I pushed them down (like water in oil) because I was in the box; I was getting married in months and by damned I was going to punish my body into perfect shape, I was working my way up the career ladder. I was making things happen and damnit those things were more important than whatever my body was screaming at me, begging for attention.
I made an appointment to find out what the heck was happening inside me, I’d never been pregnant before – and part of me was still holding out that those pee sticks were lies.
Several tests and ultrasounds revealed a fertilized and implanted egg. The tests revealed my own deep sense of indignation for not having known, for not having listened, for not having been in unison with my own nature.
And here was my fork-in-the-road. My moment of reclamation, remembrance, and release. At the fork, that sweet, sweet soul and I agreed that it was not time for them to manifest in physical form. I could get pretty woo-woo on you here and share the deep journey work with my therapist, which brought me to meet and talk with this child, but I’ll save that for another story. The distinguishing aspect at this juncture of my experience is that in MY CHOICE, I made the choice to return home to myself. A CHOICE that brought me back to OWNING my body.
A CHOICE that gave a bold third finger to institutionalised systems of oppression that strive to tell so many marginalized identities what to do and how to do it.
I’m not going to say it was easy. Making an unsystematic, radical choice never is.
The process of this grief and gratitude – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – was arduous at best, terrifying and shameful at worst.
I broke into the ugly cry randomly in the car, the shower, riding the elevator. And it wasn’t grieving the unexpected pregnancy that broke me down time and again, it was the desensitization of the human experience, to my bodily experience, that had taken hold of the wheel for far too long.
During this entire process of healing I vowed to my body and spirit that I would always be 100% present, in my senses, in my sensuous self. From the depths of grief a courageous journey was born. A journey of sensitization, of re-awakening, of aliveness, of finding my edges – playing with them – getting curious – and building the bridges to expand beyond.
Two years ago I tried burlesque. I had one amazing husband mixed with an over zealous bikini waxer convince me I needed this – I deserved it – so I jumped in. I became Clementine Parfait. I took a class, began to perform, and the joy of that two-year old was awoken once again.
I walked away from that experience and never turned back. I regularly book nude photography sessions. I sit in the buff for painters and sculptors. I teach yoga and dance, worship my moon cycle, and host yoni meditation workshops. I have made a pact with myself, with my partner, with all those who I love and love me dearly to embody pleasure in my life. Because when I’m not alive through the alchemy of my senses – I’m of no good to me or anyone around me.
And yes, I jumped into the deep end of living a sensuous life – and I’m living the one that I best know. But I’m hoping what you take fromt this is the simple guidance to “slow down – feel more.”
Sensuous ≠ Sexual (but it can!)
John Milton coined the term sensuous in 1641 to mean, “being alive in the pleasures of the senses.” All of them: taste – touch – smell – sight – sound. Your INTUITION is your aliveness. A favorite poet of mine David White penned this, “Anyone or anything that does NOT bring you more alive is too small for you.” If we look at the words of these poets, we see that aliveness is the result of dwelling in the activation, integration, and enchantment of your senses. If you aren’t consciously engaging your senses, you simply cannot be living from your center.
And so I want you to think of sensuousity as a cuddle puddle with puppies, the lick of salt off a midnight margarita, the ocean air kissing your face as you walk in the sunshine. Here lies your infinity.
Dare To Risk It All
Slow down – feel more. And in doing so… dare to take the risk of shifting not only yourself, but our entire culture and society that sets us up to compromise and sell ourselves for promises that are never kept. Make the shift. And in that shift watch the ripples take hold of all those you love who love you right back. YOU ARE a changemaker, a shapeshifter, a sensuousity warrior. What will you do this this power stirring within you? The power bestowed upon you in this very precious and temporal experience you must call your own?