Come see me give a talk on embodied consent

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yes-238371_1280On Saturday, September 27, my colleague Sam of Safety Beyond Safewords and I will be giving a talk at Wicked Women, the latest iteration of the Bound in Boston conference.

Our talk will combine Sam’s expertise as a clinical social worker with mine as a synergist and body nerd to help kinksters listen to the messages of their own and their partners’ bodies more effectively, in order to get a more nuanced and accurate picture of ongoing, enthusiastic consent in scene contexts. Of course, getting a better sense of what true, enthusiastic consent looks and feels like is an important skill for many contexts outside of kink as well!

Here’s a full class description. I hope you can join us!

Moving Beyond the Stoplight: Creative Negotiation and Embodied Consent

Lead by: Kamela, Sam
Format: Lecture
Minimum experience level: Everyone

Most of us know, at least intellectually, the importance of communicating limits and establishing ongoing consent. But even for seasoned players, limits can be hard to define, and consent can be tricky to navigate. Limits may vary from partner to partner. A submissive may not want to “wimp out” in a public play space or let her master down. A rope bottom may worry that by pointing out the pinching in his armpit, he’ll stop an otherwise hot scene. Edge players, experimenting with pushing limits, may have a hard time knowing when things are really “okay,” and when they are causing themselves or a partner harm. Negotiations and safewords, in short, are frequently not enough.

This class looks at ways to address those times when limits come in shades of gray. We will talk about how both bottoms and tops can facilitate communication that is not only clear, but also keeps the energy flowing between play partners. We will also practice listening to the messages our own and our partners’ bodies are conveying, to get a better understanding of what is pushing a limit safely, and what is crossing a boundary. Practical exercises in navigating personal space, touch, self-monitoring, eye contact, and creative communication will help you connect to your body’s innate wisdom, so your scenes – and in-scene relationships – can be healthier, happier, and hotter.

Bring: A daring and open heart.

Stand like Wonder Woman, and change your life

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More research, this time out of Harvard Business School, is emerging around the ways in which body language, body position, and other clear, controllable physical actions can not only change the way others think and feel about us, but how we feel and think about ourselves. Amy Cuddy’s research showed a two-minute change in body posture changed hormone levels in the body, affected self-confidence, and influenced job interviewers.

I’ve talked here some about Ilana Rubenfeld’s principle that the way you move in your body is the way you move in your life. The video below is a fantastic TED talk that shows how this is literally true.

In Cuddy’s experiments, just two minutes of assuming “power poses” significantly raised testosterone levels, lowered cortisol levels, improved people’s sense of self-worth and made interviewers much more likely to want to hire them. Two minutes of sitting curled up and making themselves small had the opposite effect: lowered testosterone, elevated cortisol, feelings of insecurity, and unattractiveness for hiring.

The implications of this would be almost alarming if they weren’t so accessible. In my work, we do a lot of imagining around what different options might be like. What if a client who has spent his whole life with his shoulders curled around his body could open up? What would that feel like? What might become possible? We might talk to the physical pain that trying this would be likely to cause: what protective mechanism has his body had in place for so long, but might be ready to let go and become something else?

For some, this process of healing, of becoming, can be slow, but it is possible. This science shows how it works. What is remarkable to me is how the power positions are all about being open, taking up space, being seen. Opening yourself up like this is exposing – relating back to the Brene Brown talks I’ve linked to here before on vulnerability. This relationship between vulnerability and power continues to intrigue me, and I’m sure you’ll hear more from me about it in this space.

For now, though, watch below, and don’t miss Cuddy’s own story, near the end, of how she, personally, overcome near-crippling self-doubt.

 

Two great videos about Rubenfeld Synergy Method

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Since the Fourth of July weekend is coming up, I figured I’d blog a little early and leave you all with something inspiring to take you into it.

In case you haven’t seen them yet, here are two great videos put together by the Rubenfeld Synergy Training Institute. The first, What Is RSM?, was filmed at the Omega Institute while I was in the training, and features my teachers Noël Wight and Joe Weldon, plus Ilana Rubenfeld herself, talking about the work and demonstrating a little of it. The second, Why Befriend Your Body?, was filmed last year, led by another great teacher of mine, Theresa Pettersen-Chu, and features a bunch of clients talking about what Rubenfeld Synergy has done for them.

Both are pretty fabulous, and give a simple idea of what this work is all about. Give them a look – each is less than five minutes long!

 

“Though that mark will never fully heal…as you grow, the scar gets smaller in proportion.”

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This is a beautiful video by the great Ze Frank (yes, of “True Facts” fame), and young dancer Harry Shum, Jr. Using light, movement, paint, music, and voiceover, this video fully embodies what it is to be “painfully shy,” and what it is to come out of that shell at last.

If you, right now, are in a shell, you should know that you’re not alone, that there are many, many other people like you, and that there’s nothing wrong with you. It might even be necessary, right now, might keep you safe for a time. But after the danger’s gone, and after it’s exhausted its use, you’ll find a way out. You may need help. You might need to work pretty hard, and you may need to find some ways to laugh at yourself. Or, find a passion, or a friend. But you will find it.

To me, this beautifully elucidates the journey we must take, from within ourselves, to make contact with others. Sometimes through pain, sometimes through laughter, sometimes through brute force and at other times through slow growth.

Here’s to all of our healing.

Pain and pleasure as emotions

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On a recent edition of Science Friday, I encountered an interview with neuroscientist Francis McGlone, whose research into touch-sensitive nerves has changed the landscape for how science understands touch in humans.

It was already known that there are what might be called fast nerves and slow nerves. The first carry sensation to the brain in milliseconds; these are the nerves that make you draw back when you touch a hot plate. The slower nerves carry the message over the course of several seconds: these are the nerves that process the burning sensation afterward.

What was a relatively new finding was that there are also slow nerves – called C fibers – associated with pleasant touch. These are known as C-tactile fibers, and convey what McGlone calls the emotional quality of touch.

When a person is stroked gently, these slow nerve fibers process the sensation as a feeling, transmitting to the brain a feeling of pleasure. These nerves, though, also work with the brain to interpret the feeling and put it in context: if someone you can’t stand is touching you, for example, the pleasant touch won’t be experienced as pleasant. Similarly, a painful sensation won’t be experienced as quite so painful when it’s in an expected or familiar context: for example, getting hair pulled out at the salon.

These slow nerve fibers, then, are the conduits that help our bodies translate the sensation of touch into an emotional experience of the world, from the breeze on our face to the sand between our toes to a reassuring touch on the shoulder.

A more detailed discussion of McGlone and others’ work in this arena is here, in an article from The Scientist.

What this research made me think of in the context of Rubenfeld Synergy was how developmentally, the type and amount of touch we receive as infants and children helps determine how our brains form socially.  In the above interview, McGlone calls the brain “a social organ,” and talks about how the earliest touch we receive helps us develop affectively. This, to me, points to how many people’s wiring gets crossed early on, and what is meant to be pleasant touch, received from inappropriate sources or in sexualized or otherwise inappropriate ways, may wire a person’s brain to perceive pleasant touch as unsafe or even painful.

One role that touching healers, like Synergists, can potentially play is in helping clients rewire their nervous systems to be able to receive pleasant touch, by exposing them to non-sexual, boundaried, gentle contact in a healing context. This is tricky and sensitive work, but I have hope for its healing properties.

Fostering consent culture – making touch safe for kids and adults

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My friend and colleague Christine Kraemer wrote over at the Patheos website recently about how desperately kids need touch – not just for emotional development, but literally for biological development – and how that touch is being systematically taken away in many school environments and elsewhere. More and more, non-parent adults are not allowed to hug children, kids are not allowed to touch each other, and the entire culture of touch and kids has been boiled down to preventing sexual abuse.

But it turns out that if infants don’t receive enough touch, they can literally die. And even older children can experience developmental delays from lack of touch early on, and violence in teenagers has been correlated with neglect. In the attempt to protect our children from predators, we are contributing to a world where our children, deprived of touch, may grow up to become them.

In this culture, then, a shift needs to occur. One pathway in this direction is toward a consent culture: where asking permission to touch, and believing that each individual is the best judge of whether they want to receive it, is the norm. The more we cultivate this culture of consent, the more we make asking – and not just denying, but also granting! – permission the norm, the more safe touch we cultivate in the world.

Christine includes some great exercises for elementary aged kids in her post, to help practice asking, saying no, and saying yes. It reminded me a lot of this post of mine that was very popular some time back, describing kids playing with splashing in the pool. Both of these things make me wish that this topic was alive when I was a child – painfully shy, introverted, weird, and often picked on and touched in ways I didn’t want but had no tools to stop. The idea of touching other kids or being touched on purpose never even occurred to me, though I longed to belong to a group. I believe that teaching kids how to ask for touch, how to refuse it or accept it, and how to respect others’ boundaries and personal space could go a long way, not just toward getting people the touch they need to grow, but toward alleviating loneliness, shyness, and fear.

Go read.

My favorite response yet to the #yesallwomen thing.

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In the wake of the horrific shootings this week, Twitter and other social media have been a-flurry with defensive remarks from men (hashtag: notallmen) and responses from women (hashtag: yesallwomen). The dialogue seems to be going past each other, in a way that neither increases understanding nor gets at the heart of why these awful things are happening.

In the midst of this, a therapist has written this marvelous article, about secondary trauma and how we might better understand all of this.

In short:

  • The women of this world express to men their experiences of what they go through on a day to day basis, living in rape culture.
  • The men of this world who are trying to understand, who want to help, who want things to change, feel helpless, depressed, and like part of the problem, and express these frustrations to women.
  • The women go, seriously, I just shared these horrible experiences with you and now you want me to soothe your hurt feelings? Screw off.
  • The women still feel unseen and unheard, and the men screw off, having nowhere to put their secondary trauma.

In the post, the author notes how men often don’t have a lot of emotionally intimate male friends, particularly if they are partnered, and that they get the majority of their emotional needs met by the women in their lives. When those women need to be listened to – witnessed, without judgment – about things that men by virtue of being men largely don’t experience, those same women cannot then be the witnesses for the pain men feel over what they’ve just been told. It’s like a therapist turning around to their client and saying, “What you just told me was deeply upsetting, and I think I need some support around how upset your experience makes me.” While the relationship is not analogous, sometimes witnessing needs to be one-sided. Which is why men need witnesses, too.

But Sarah O says this all better than I can summarize. Please, go read.

Some basic stuff you should know.

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In the past little while, I’ve been tweaking and rearranging some of the content on this site, and ultimately, i hope to host my entire site here at WordPress, with the blog integrated in. For now, here are some of the new things you might take a look at!

Top Bar

I’ve revised my “Make an Appointment,” “Services,” and “About Kamela” pages somewhat. Go check them out if you want to know more about what I do, who I am, and how to get in touch with me. In time, I’ll be adding sub-pages to the Services section, to give a rounder idea of the types of help I provide.

Side Bar

I’ve added a Recommended Reading list near the top of the sidebar. Right now, this includes the 18 Principles of Rubenfeld Synergy series, the description of a typical first RSM session, and the GROUND series (Gentleness, Respect, Openness, Understanding, Noticing, and Discovery). More foundational posts will end up as pages soon, so that the foundational material is easily accessible by anyone who wants to check it out before coming to see me.

Anything else?

What would you like to see more front-and-center on this site?

How to get high on life. No, seriously.

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Black trunks

This week I dug this post by Mark Sisson, ex-marathoner and current loud advocate of what he calls a Primal lifestyle. While his dietary recommendations only somewhat work for me, I really love his attitude, writing style and sense of humor, and keep returning to his blog for inspiration.

Getting “high on life” may sound like a cliched holdover from the “Just Say No” generation, but I find it really valuable as a concept because I place a very high value on pleasure and ecstasy for optimal health and happiness.  While Sisson jokes around a bit (“If that sounds like it involves a shaman, some cactus cuttings, and monotonous chanting over a fire, I don’t blame you”), I do see and respect the spiritual benefits of meditation, chanting, ecstatic dance, and even the responsible use of substances to achieve ecstatic states and commune with whatever divine you jibe with. (For some people, those in recovery from addictions, for example, substances are out of the question: I highly recommend this great series called The Dance of Pagan Recovery.)

Sisson’s post, though, is more about that deep evolutionary drive we all have to experience pleasure. Pleasure, he says, 

is the carrot dangled by the body to get us to do the things we need to survive and prosper. It helps us reach important survival goals. But we’re not ascetics. Experiencing and appreciating pleasure as its own entity is necessary for true happiness and life contentment. Our genes expect us to feel good, not just do the tasks that feeling good compels us to complete.

The rest of his post tells us why things like different kinds of exercise, controlled risk, sex, nature, spicy food, music, and laughter help activate the pleasure centers in the brain. He classically does a ton of research, so there’s lots of juicy studies and links in there, too.

Even without studies, though, I recommend that this weekend, you put on some of your favorite music, have some juicy sex (solo or with a partner), and then go dance in the rain.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Seek balance. Find what’s important. Fulfill.

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Balanced Rock and Juniper

Photo By Eric Bryan

Think globally, 
but act locally. 

Plan for the future, 
but act in the present. 

Dream of all the masterpieces you’d be thrilled to create, 
but work on just one at a time. 

Lust for every enticing soul you see, 
but only make love to the imperfect beauty you’re actually with. 

Allow yourself to be flooded 
with every last feeling that bubbles up from your subconscious, 
but understand that only a very few of these feelings 
need to be forcefully expressed. 

Be passionately attuned 
to all the injustices and hypocrisies you see around you, 
but be selective when choosing which of those you will actually fight.

 

-from Rob Brezsny’s Televisionary Oracle

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