One of the most profound experiences for me in SI work has been learning how to surrender. I use the word not in the sense of giving over to a conquering horde of barbarians – though that could be a lot of fun! – but as a giving over to something greater.

To get at it a little differently, let’s take a peek at the word in another language. German is my language of choice, but before we go there we should note that the word we use in English is the same as in French – sur+rendre. Quite literally it means to give over, to give over to a larger or greater power. Incidentally, the same meaning attaches to the concept in German, übergeben – über meaning over, upwards, higher, above, etc. and geben meaning to give.

One of the hardest lessons I have learned in bodywork is precisely this one of giving over, of surrender. Yet, who would think that learning how to relax, giving over, would be so challenging in bodywork? Isn’t it easy to lie back and have a good rub? Though it sounds simple enough, it is not. We don’t let go, or we react to what we think the other person wants us to do, or we try to take control. On the contrary, giving over, surrendering, means that we need to stop anticipating. In other words, to stop thinking! And herein lies the rub, so to speak. Anticipation is all about our minds at work, and at work they always are.

Why should anticipating be such a problem, you may be asking yourself? If I am receiving a massage or being the passive person in an SI exchange and my mind is busy anticipating the next move or the will of the other, then I am not present in the moment. If I am anticipating, I am not letting go, not allowing myself to experience the beauty and wonderment of another person taking me on a journey of touch. This is as much of a problem for the active partner as well. Not only does he have to work against my resistances but my activity makes it more difficult for him to fully enter into the power of touch. In order for the SI exchange to reach its full potential, it is necessary for both the active and passive practitioners to immerse themselves as completely as possible and so to go beyond the limitations of their egos.

For anyone who practices martial arts or yoga, this is not an unfamiliar concept – I think it is the same. In all of these practices, we delve into a primordial state of being, of connectedness where, I dare say, we reach a level in which it is possible to get a glimpse of the oneness of it all. At these points, we brush up against the unknowable and thus are at the edge of our limitations. Personally, I like to think that through the kind of deeply physical connectedness that SI gives us we actually have the chance to experience the oneness of creation and hence the mystery of existence. If we are able to practice surrendering and allowing the magic of touch to be our guide, our bodies will open up a dimension that I would call sacred.

The Body as Temple

What a worn out idea that is! About as virginal as Phyllis Diller’s face – now I’m really dating myself. Whenever I would hear someone say “my body is my temple,” I would jokingly counter with “well mine is my amusement park!” Depending on the audience or the shock factor, I would add “on mine you can still get six rides for a dollar!”

Given my well-developed sense of sarcasm about such things, why would I resort to such a hackneyed phrase? Crazy as it sounds, this too has the ring of truth.

At the end of my last post was the notion that an SI practice can produce an aura of sacredness and that this comes out of both the touch experience as well as intentionality. What jumps to mind today is the idea of ritual, and that the practice of ritual can produce powerful effects.

We tend to think of eroticism and the sacred as being polar opposites – even contradictory. Don’t we have images in mind of virginal purity when we hear such phrases as our bodies being our temples? Think about the iconography, saints wear loincloths (though some definitely look totally sexy in them) while satan struts about butt naked. Hold on, what about the erotic sculptures in temples across India. Sadly, I know next to nothing of them, but what occurs to me is that here are sacred spaces that celebrate the very human realm of sensual eroticism. Just look at some of the poses they are in!! There are positions there that have never even occurred to me. We all should have been born Hindu – or whatever religious system led to their creation.

Back to reality now. I like to think of the massage room as a special place with its own rituals – incense, candles, music, oils, creams…whatever “tools” allow you to step out of quotidian space and into the sacred space that the intimacy of touch brings. Fine you may be asking, but do these experiences have any lasting influence on us? I believe they do, and know that an SI practice has changed my life. The changes are subtle, though, as are the changes that any practice brings whether it be yoga, breathing, tennis, a musical instrument, and so on. Through these practices, it is possible to go beyond the ego and feel at one with everything. If that is not the stuff of love, I do not know what would be. This is probably why the SI experience has an aura of sacredness – and what makes it qualitatively different from a romantic relationship. Sadly, so many societies while affirming the principle of love have indoctrinated us to believe that intimate touch between people is sanctified only through marriage and sinful outside of it. Poppycock!!!

Tantric States

It’s been a week or so since my first post and you are probably still wondering about Sacred Intimacy. Fair enough. So, let’s start there and go into it together. SI is something I like to think of as simply an honoring and cultivating of the erotic energy that is within us all. For me, quite simply, this is sacred. How tinged with irony, you may be thinking, is this notion that the cultivation of what could be described as the most carnal of energies flowing through our bodies is also sacred. How does that happen?

When I think about the special space I go into in an SI session, I think about a few dimensions that make it possible. For one, it is a practice and that there are parameters that set it off from my quotidian routines. This involves a special space, candles, incense, massage oils, and being in the flesh with another person – yes, no towels draped over those naughty bits! Bringing all this together, though, is one very important concept and that is intentionality. By that I mean that we are fully present with each other, and that we are there to give of ourselves and to touch each other in a spirit of loving kindness.

Whether or not it is true that we are made of the very stuff of which the universe is made, I cannot say. But in SI, I feel that such a notion has the ring of truth. Touch has power, and when you are engaged in a prolonged and intimate touch experience with another person something profound, even magical, happens.

As I said in my first posting, it is not possible to describe in words such deeply non-verbal experiences. But, I can use metaphors to get at it. In that vein, a practice I would liken SI to is yoga because in many ways it produces states very similar to those one reaches through yoga. This is especially true in the euphoria of savasana, corpse pose (not exactly the image I was reaching for), at the end of a session. This yogic trance has an uncanny resemblance to the almost magical state one is in after a prolonged working of physical and erotic energy. OK, I know what you are thinking – what else is new about happy endings! Well, maybe/maybe not. Remember, they are not the point or goal of SI. The cultivation of erotic energy is the main focus here, not any by-product.

When I walk away from an SI session, the feeling that permeates me is one of wholeness and healing. This is qualitatively different than just having a squirt, whether it be external or internal (and here the yogis are right in saying that you can have an internal orgasm that is not an OUCH!!! experience). So back to this notion of our being made up of the same stuff of the universe – does this have something to do with the feeling of healing? How does the cultivation of erotic energy play into it? Healing has to do with connectedness, things growing back together (think of a wound and new tissue being formed over it). Through touch something of the same happens, only at the level of energy – the energy within us and between us. At some level, all life is one. Since something of this sentiment can be found in religions and philosophic systems worldwide, there is a universality of around such a notion. Through the physical intimacy of touch, we actually feel what it means to be connected – to heal. And, the sense of connectedness is much deeper than what normally happens between two people. So it is that an aura of sacredness opens up before us as we step into more profound ways of relating to each other.