The Feel Institute

pain

  • Pleasure based Sex Education for children AND adults please!

    It is arguably well-known that Sex Education in schools is, overall, inadequate. Part of that is the absence of pleasure.

    Both despite this and because of it, there is an enormous amount of shame, stigma, fear and judgment for most people around the subject of sex and pleasure.

    When I think back to my childhood, I cannot recall any sex education in primary school. The sex education in schools back then was strictly for secondary school and was exclusively focused on reproduction.

    I never heard the word pleasure uttered once.

    Many people agree that our desire to connect is what makes us thrive. It is what makes us happy. In contrast, pleasure-based sex education seems less worthy, less important than sex education around making babies.

    In my sex education classes, I recall nothing being said about gender identity or status, sexuality, attraction or the different relationship styles.

    LGBT was not an acronym I even knew back then, let alone GSRD (Gender, Sex and Relationship Diversity).

    As for masturbation, it was certainly discouraged and usually one for the boys. The pleasure aspect was implied and gendered.

    The unspoken message I received and continue to receive to this day is that the things I think about, and the things I want to know more about and do are wrong. My pleasure was undervalued and secondary at best.

    For many, the sex education they receive is via conversations and experiences with others and watching porn.

    It seems very much like the uninformed informing the uninformed, or maybe it is the unempowered passing on what they knew. As for porn, it is often lacking real-life information, intimacy, verbal consent, boundaries or healthy role-models.

    Generations of stigma and loneliness

    This lack of sex education in schools means we have generation upon generation who are learning the hard way if at all. Many of my clients are adults in the forties, fifties and beyond, who are wanting to discover their sexual selves before it is too late.

    The majority of adults do not, or cannot, talk to their friends, families or partners about sex. It certainly isn’t talked about healthily in any religious capacity I have seen and I am yet to see any work lunch and learns relating to sex. Have you?

    I know that we must talk about this more openly and engage each other in conversation. By doing this we can counteract the loneliness and the lack of intimacy and connection prevailing our society.

    Sex Education Role Models

    As adults, those of us who want to work in this area are often targeting for gossip. We are deemed as living ‘alternative lifestyles’. We are shamed for wanting to talk openly about the secret stuff and regarded as less than. It goes with the territory.

    I struggle to think of any mainstream role model who is openly talking about sex and is celebrated and championed for it. Can you?

    Do you remember how in the 80s or 90s of tales of Sting, the lead singer of The Police was known for his tantric sex moves? The tirade of jokes and newspaper stories that followed that reveal was mocking, shaming and made the common man look like a joke too.

    Part of my work as a sex educator is to unpick the stories and experiences from school and beyond. To nurture the parts that have been hidden due to shame, stigma, judgement, bullying and abuse.

    Empowerment comes from understanding our bodies and allowing our sexuality to be seen and expressed in a consensual way.

    Sex Education Resources

    For adults who want to learn about their bodies, there is a fear of having to get naked. You do not have to get naked anywhere other than the comfort of your own home. Can we learn about our bodies without the need to be touched by anyone? Yes! Similarly, we can be naked and if there is a desire for touch we can ask for it. It can be done consensual, ethical and honouring.

    Anatomically correct vulva cushions, soft cocks, photos and books used for sex education.

    Anatomically correct vulva cushions, soft cocks, photos and books are the new resources available

    I use anatomically correct vulva cushions and soft cocks to encourage engagement. Can we explore these parts of our bodies in a fun and interactive way?

    I can show images of bodies, including genitals, to re-frame the images we have about what is acceptable.

    Through embodied coaching, I encourage movement, breath and self-touch to soothe, stimulate, nourish and excite.

    Sometimes I wish I could take a photo of the people I work with before a session and after a session. The relief is palpable, and their bodies and faces are visibly different. More open, more relaxed, more seen.

    Sex Education in Schools

    Progress is being made in schools. On 5th April 2019, the government published a news article introducing compulsory Relationships Education for primary pupils and Relationship and Sex Education for secondary pupils. You can read more about it here.

    The target dates to start this new approach are September 2019 for early adopters and September 2020 for the remaining schools.

    I wonder who will be training the teachers. Will they be bringing their legacy of misinformation and their lack of sex education with them to the classrooms?

    How can I help you?

    Do you, your partner, your friends, your work colleagues, your community, dare I say it, your family, want to know more about real sex education?

    I am based in Central London and offering in-person and video conference sessions and programmes for individuals, partnerships and groups. You can find out more about these sessions here.

    Programmes include Sex Ed on Tour, which is a clothes-on experience, open to all genders, all sexualities and all identities. I can come to your location whether it be an office, public venue or home, suitcase in hand, packed full of materials to give a playful, information and personalised experience.

    Finally, My question to Corporate colleagues:

    Will you be the first to bring Lunch & Learn Sex Education sessions to your business?

    What would it be like to know you have made a difference to the people you work with? Could you empower the people who work for you in a way that helps them be happier in themselves and their personal lives?

    Something to ponder…

  • Harvesting the gifts of pain

    5Rhythms – an ongoing practice

    He did it again, except this time it was deeper and longer.

    I’m talking about Richard Wiltshire, a 5Rhythms movement meditation teacher based in London. This weekend, he led ‘A Deeper Acceptance: creating healing through movement’. A sister to the workshop where I found the words to write permission and pain

    Embodiment is challenging at the best of times. Those who experience chronic pain are often trapped in a no win situation.

    A Deeper Acceptance employs the 5Rhythms wave to heal, by being true with what is actually happening, rather than the fabricated, tortuous, pushing through and putting on the brave mask affair so many of us adopt.

    5Rhythms – shadow work

    Flowing was the inertia. The resistance. ‘Can’t get off the floor’. ‘Won’t get off the floor’. Sloth and petulance in equal measure.

    Staccato was tight fists, head to the carpet, silent screams, clenching every muscle to contain the rage. The ‘I can’t even get onto my feet’ dance.

    And then there was Chaos. The overwhelming, engulfing, massiveness of the sheer volume of crap we are trying to take on. The, ‘too many things to do’, ‘can’t stop’, ‘can’t start’, ‘can’t get out of my head’, and there, there, over there, back, forward, darting everywhere and getting nowhere. The ‘whirling dervish’ dance.

    Overwhelm

    I had never danced my overwhelm. I know this head space so well. Once I started moving, I wondered if I would ever stop. The tears inevitably came. There was that all too familiar urge to pull myself together. My body had waited too long for this moment and kept the momentum, discarding my mask, face wet and red. And then it slowed, the body had expressed itself. It was cathartic.

    The rest of the wave was one of liberation. A lightness. The realisation that this practice is still accessible to me. This is the elusive alchemy we strive for.

    Gratitude

    After our stillness and integration, we got into 3’s and spoke of our gratitudes. What the pain, the illness, has gifted us. 4 minutes of uninterrupted stream of consciousness with ears and attention on you. It is surprising what comes up.

    I am much more creative

    When you can’t stand on your feet for long you find alternatives. I have a brilliant scooter now, which I zoom around on. In dance spaces, I am a diva on the floor and a chair. I find different ways to get what I want and need.

    I give less unsolicited advice

    There isn’t much worse than well meaning people offering a variety of suggestions and fixes for the ‘problem’ you shared. I have learnt to say less, mean more, and try really bloody hard to only give advice when I’ve been asked to. I also don’t change the subject. This is important!

    I see duality everywhere

    I am physically strong and can wrestle most people to the ground, yet the weight of that bag I’m carrying magically bears down on the exact point in my foot that hurts the most, and every single gram feels like a kilo. I am strong and I am fragile. It’s not just me. When I see someone using inappropriate words to chat someone up, I also see someone wanting connection. When I see someone pushing themselves to burnout, I also see someone wanting appreciation and acceptance.

    I am aware of the invisible

    Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. The vast majority of chronic conditions are invisible. Often the only clues are props like walking sticks, hearing aids and wheelchairs. I rarely assume that the people around me are healthy and trouble free.

    I am learning to speak my truth

    I kept quiet for a very long time about anything I thought might rock the boat, or upset the apple cart. I didn’t want to be needy. I was a people pleaser. I learnt the hard way how vital it is to express with mouth words. Despite what most people think, we are not mind readers. Plus, when you identify yourself, your tribe can find you and quite often the ones that don’t get you, drift away, or, ironically, accept you as you.

    It’s not ok

    Anyone who knows me will tell you I am not a fan of the permanently happy, smiley, fake, woo woo, all peace and love stuff. Show me the darkness, the grit, the struggles and the matters of the heart.

    The not pretending everything is ok, when it is not, helps me see you. With that recognition, we can thrive, and that’s the point. When we can be seen in our mud pit, get the chance to roll about it in like happy pigs, and still look you in the eye without shame and judgement, we can cope so much better.

    Then, and only then, can we appreciate what else it has given us.

    There is always something to be harvested from the pain.

  • Permission and Pain

    Pain and 5Rhythms

    In the last couple of days, I have tapped into something new in relation to my constant, and ever present, pain.

    For the very first time, I was given permission to feel it. I mean, really feel it.

    It would be so easy to assume that the permission was granted by another, and, that was partly true. The permission I am talking about, is darker and lurking in the tightest corner of my psyche. Let me explain…..

    pain – A Deeper Acceptance

    On Friday, I was on the door for those arriving to ‘A Deeper Acceptance: moving with chronic illness’, a 5Rhythms movement meditation practice led by Richard Wiltshire as part of the Rhythm Village Festival. In my head, I was there as an advocate. In my head, it’s not really happening to me. In my head, I do not have a chronic illness.

    5Rhythms is often explored via a wave of Flowing — Staccato — Chaos — Lyrical — Stillness. Each state has a quality, a tone, and we move through them silently, typically to music.

    The session started simply enough. Dancing a wave with our hands, only using our hands, whilst sitting on chairs. So simple, so stunning, so new. I’ve got this I thought. This is going to be nice.

    Nice. Nice is not a word that sits solo with this work. When it’s pleasing, agreeable and delightful so early on there is usually some new territory to be explored.

    Dancing with the Shadow

    When Rich mentioned that we were going to then dance the shadow of the first 2 of the 5Rhythms, my ears pricked up. I got hot. Right up the back of my shoulders and neck.

    It is often really difficult to do this in a busy, fast moving class when you are carrying an illness or pain, or both, in the same way it’s difficult to go to a keep fit class with a pulled muscle. As dancers, we still want to move, we still want to be in community, we still want to belong, regardless of what else we are carrying.

    Integrity

    How do we keep the integrity of the dance, the wave, yet include chronic illness and pain? In other words, how do we belong and stay true to ourselves?

    Flowing can be heavy. Heavy as in the full weight of the often invisible illness and pain we hold in our beautiful bodies. The lethargy that comes with the starting so far from the starting line, with no energy, no magic wand and the full weight of reality. The, ‘I have all these things to do and I just want to stay in bed and rest’.

    Staccato can be the frustration. The irritability. The clenched fists. The fucking unfairness of the situation. The not being able to do what you want to do. The rage. The unheard screams. The barrel of tears. The, ‘why is this happening to me?’. The, ‘I don’t know how I am going to get through the next 10 minutes, never mind the next 10 hours’.

    …and this is where the game changer of permission revealed itself.

    The Power of Witnessing

    We paired up for this, and when it came to Staccato there was one song each. One person moving and the other person witnessing.

    I closed my eyes and there I was, stood in the beautiful church I had danced in countless times before, with space and permission to be in pain.

    I could feel the resistance, the desire to trivialise, the desire to push through. I didn’t need to push through. I could be really fucking frustrated. I could hurt. I could express the grief.

    The pain of having permission, both within and in my surroundings, far eclipsed the physical pain I feel in my body.

    The emotional toil and loss of self is thick, horrific and abhorrent.

    To be seen in this state, with no solutions, no remedies, no apologies, no abating others for the comfort of the collective. That, there, is a deeper understanding.

    The seering pain, the frustration of the inability. To not be able to do what your heart wants, what your soul needs. To participate. It’s a fight I don’t even want to be in the running for.

    Acceptance that the body cannot follow your desires.

    Sometimes, I wonder why I even show up.

    And yet, I do. I show up, we all do. Even in our absence.

  • Chronic Pain – My Dirty Secret

    pain – a Dirty secret

    I have been a secret chronic pain sufferer for over 2 decades. This is a post I made on Sunday 11th February 2018 on Facebook. It was at the tail end of another brutal winter of pain….this declaration was a game-changer…

    I have a secret.

    A dark dirty secret that I simply cannot contain anymore.

    The thought of putting a declaration on Fakebook about it jars with me.

    pain and Judgement

    I judge people who put ‘notices’ on here.

    Who do they think they are?

    Why do you need to share this?

    What is wrong with you?

    Don’t you have any ‘real’ friends you can talk to?

    Have some self-respect.

    Contain it saddo.

    Changing the subject

    See. I am doing what I always do. Distracting you (me) from the real truth.

    I show you my courage and bravery. My vulnerability. My discovery.

    What you don’t see is that I am hiding something.

    The mistress of illusion.

    I don’t even tell myself the truth so how can I possibly tell you.

    I just did it again.

    Did you notice?

    I don’t know how to say it.

    FUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKKKKK!

    Trying again

    I have a secret.

    A dark dirty secret that I simply cannot contain anymore.

    The tears, rage and despair and leaking from my body.

    For 2 decades I have been in pain. Physical, excruciating pain.

    It’s my feet.

    I’m trying to make this sound pretty and whimsical.

    Fuck it

    Pain

    I can contain it in bullet points. Let’s do bullet points:

    • ‘Moderately severe osteoarthritis’ is the large toe joints of both feet
    • Haven’t been able to move my big toes for years
    • I wake up from the pain (mainly in the winter)
    • The undercurrent of pain makes me edgy and bitter sometimes
    • I can’t get to sleep because of the pain (often in the winter)
    • Sometimes the pain is so bad that any non-soft touch on the rest of my body feels like an attack
    • On the really bad days, it feels like a sharp, hot tip of a kitchen knife is burrowing into the middle of my big toe joint
    • My arches scream to be released
    • The spasms up my toe to the nail gnarls at my nerves
    • My calf muscles are really tight. Ask to feel them. I might let you.
    • Sometimes, there are moments when I don’t feel it
    • Sometimes I want to cut my toes off (yes I know, I know)
    • Maybe, you can ask me more when you are drawn to

    Now what?

    Why am I writing all this down? Good question.

    Many of you know me from dancing.

    I bring it. I bring energy.

    The pounding. The fierceness, all that.

    Can’t let the side down.

    Can’t admit it hurts even when I am in agony.

    Why?

    It’s exhausting. Or maybe I am exhausted?

    I’ve exhausted my container that’s for sure.

    I am boring myself with this. That’s how unattached I am to my feelings about this thing that I don’t want to be true.

    I’m telling you all this, in the most ungraceful of ways so you will be mirrors, reminders, confidantes, advocates, allies, soldiers, catalysts, teachers and so much more.

    Most of all, I AM SICK OF THIS CRIPPLING PAIN BEING THE CLOSEST THING TO ME!

    Support

    My dirty secret is out with the help of some patient, challenging and loving people. Rob LondonStainsby, Judith Antell, Carrie Gow, Nikki Ashley, Anthony de Sigley, Sam Wells to name but a few. You know who you are.

    I am not sure what is supposed to happen now and I am a bit scared, embarrassed, hopeful and angry.

    On the one hand, I don’t want you to treat me differently.

    On the other, I do want you to treat me differently.

    There’s that rub again.

    There are a lot more tears to come.

    Sometimes I don’t know I need to slow down. Often I don’t know how much pain I am actually in. Sometimes I need to lie down. Others I need a chair. Sometimes I really need to dance through it, over it and under it.

    a request

    I want to keep dancing. I just started! Can the amazing space holders, guides, mentors and students continue or start to have a couple of chairs available on the dance floor in the movement practices?

    I’m naming Sue Rickards, Nikki Ashley, Ruth Hirst, Christian de Sousa, Bodhi Nick Hunt, Liz Baron Cohen, Sarah Davies, Killian Strong, Becca Parkinson, Jane Belshaw, Alex Svoboda. Please consider it.

    It means we can participate.

    Some of you do this already. Some of you know this.

    It means we can belong. I want to belong. To just need to get off my feet sometimes. I would dearly like to be on the same/similar level to my fellow movers.

    Maybe the truth can heal after all.