The Feel Institute

relating

  • Is masturbation a part of your self care?

    I don’t know about you, but nobody ever spoke to me, in a healthy way about masturbation. Come to think of it, nobody really told me about touching any part of my body in a caring or loving way.

    In a world where having a self care ritual is core to being a healthy human, I wonder, how many of those rituals involve masturbation, or self pleasure?

    Masturbation remains heavily stigmatised. If you are having sex with another, or others, then you must be doing something right, right? But, having sex with yourself. No, no, no, or at least, keep it to yourself. Shhhh!

    Why? Is it a problem with the word? I think it could be.

    What is masturbation?

    The definition of masturbation is, ‘stimulation of the genitals with the hand for sexual pleasure’.

    Masturbation is, inherently, goal orientated. Often, it is so we can have an orgasm, and once we’ve got it, we stop. Job done. Worse still, it might not be as big as we wanted, or maybe we couldn’t get to an orgasm. What a failure! So much shame and judgement. No wonder so many of us don’t talk about it.

    Could it be different?

    What if, we took away the need for success or failure to be orgasm related, and instead, change the emphasis, so that the stimulation was of the body, including the genitals. An invitation to explore our amazing bodies, rediscover the sensations, unlock the emotions, and be a lover to ourselves.

    What if we added some mindfulness to it with some intention setting? ‘I want to touch my body with the tips of my fingertips and feel as much as I can’, ‘I want to give myself the most sensuous shower, and enjoy the feeling of water running over my body’, ‘I want to notice the difference between excitement and enjoyment’.

    The best bit about the mindfulness part is, that this is your body, your time and your exploration. You can pick the intention you want and the only person you need to please is yourself.

    What if we scheduled it in, like we would a massage, or a haircut, or a therapy session? What if we carried on for the full scheduled session, no matter what happened?

    I have been coaching people on this for the last few months and this part, this is the ‘oddest’ part for most. What do you mean schedule it in? Well, why not? Seriously, why not?

    As well as all this, we have to start talking about self pleasure. We have to reduce the shame, the judgement, the secrecy. The body shaming can’t win if there is body loving!

    Masturbation education in schools?

    There is a push going on in the UK around the schooling system and sex education. I welcome this. I had nobody to talk to about masturbation at school. It wasn’t even mentioned, well apart from as an insult, ‘so and so is a wanker’. Even that, there, is adding to the taboo. It is something that ‘bad’ kids do. My ‘masturbation’ was something I kind of did, not really having a clue, in a very quiet, small way, not really sure of what was happening or why.

    I didn’t know what an orgasm was, that happened by mistake, many years later, with my boyfriend, whilst having sex. Even then I couldn’t share the excitement as I had been faking them until then. My friends told me it was what we did. It is funny now, and also such a waste.

    As an adult, not that much has changed. It is still something many refuse to admit to doing, and often something perceived as not needed when we are in relationship.

    Why masturbation is important

    When it comes to relating to others in a sexual way, we typically need to know what we like. Through self touch, we can discover the parts of our body that yearn to be touched, the parts that feel so good and so naughty, the parts that make us shrill with delight, as well as the parts that make us feel sad, upset and anxious.

    As wonderful as it can be to have sexual, sensual and erotic partners, we are sexual beings in our own right. We can tantalise and tease ourselves. We can soothe and stimulate our bodies. It also means that we are less reliant on others for touch. We can enjoy the connection for the sake of the connection rather than a desperate need for intimacy.

    Be your own lover.

    Make self pleasure a part of your self care.

    Tell someone something new you discovered about your body.

    Go on, I dare you.

  • Busting the myths that lie to us

    For as long as I can remember, I knew that seeing a single, solidarity magpie was bad luck.

    As a child, the nursery rhyme was both superstition and fact. I believed it to be true, and why wouldn’t I?

    For those not familiar it goes like this:

    One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy…..

    I didn’t really understand the three or four, nor the 5 or more magpies, but that one for sorrow stuck, and for the next 40 years, whenever I saw a single magpie I nervously, anxiously, scanned for another to break the curse of sorrow.

    A couple of years ago, in my quest to further understand the words we use, what they mean, and generally how to communicate better, I realised how divisive a request for alone time could be. When I wanted to spend some time by myself, and voiced this to others, all too often it seemed to land as not wanting to be with them, rather than me wanting to have some alone time with me.

    I changed the, ‘I want to spend some time alone’ to ‘I need Sue solo time’. The difference was huge. It turned out a whole new dialogue was available around the importance of spending time with yourself and this vital act of self care.

    What the fuck has this got to do with magpies?

    Well, earlier this year, I’m heading out from home on a beautiful late morning and I spot a solo magpie, and, for the first time, I asked myself why. If me being solo was a essential part of living a healthy life, why was it not ok for a magpie to be solo? When I am wandering around doing my solo thing, 99% of the time, I am not sad. There is no sorrow. There is integration, relaxation, enjoying, being nosy, people watching, following impulses. The list goes on.

    I realised, that seeing a solo magpie might be this precious, dying earths way of saying, ‘Sue, keep doing what you are doing’ or ‘Sue, how about some solo time to get back in touch with yourself?’. Over the next day or so, every time I saw a solo magpie, I smiled and felt a wave of connection with it and myself.

    A couple of days later, a pair of magpies arrived on the roof of the building directly opposite my living room window. I’ve lived in this home for 11 years. They’ve been based around that roof every since.

    I couldn’t help but think that acceptance and awareness of the beauty, and necessity, of our solo time, allows us to be in healthy connection with others.

    I wonder what impact, that myth of one being for sorrow, has had on me and others brought up with this way of thinking.

    I also noticed that the version of the rhyme that predates ‘three for a girl, and four for a boy’, was ‘three for a funeral, four for a birth’. I will save my thoughts on that for another article…to be continued.

  • Harvesting the gifts of pain

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

    I’m talking about Richard Wiltshire, a 5Rhythms movement meditation teacher. 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.

    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.

    This is 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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

  • Are you a good friend?

    I have been thinking about friendship, what it means to be a good friend and whether I am, in fact, a good friend.

    When I looked up the definition in the Oxford Dictionary it confirmed that friend is a noun and “A person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations.”

    Hmmmm. This seems more about what it is not, rather than what it is.

    I turned to the Urban Dictionary….’people who are aware of how stupid you are and still manage to be seen in public with you

    YES!

    ‘…people who make you laugh until you pee your pants’

    ‘…people who cry when special items are lost’

    ‘…people who buy you a cup of tea when you are skint’

    Yes, yes, yes. These speak to me much more.

    When I think about those special friendships, both past and present, those defining memorable moments, there are 3 qualities that jump out.

    1. They don’t always agree with you

    I am smiling typing this, recalling the moments where my sincere, heart felt words were met with ‘What? Are you mad? What the hell did you do that for?’

    My tribe question me when they don’t get what I am saying or think I am heading down a crazy path. Knowing that they will do this from a place of love is one of the best gifts a friend can give. It crystallises my desire or helps me realise when it’s not quite right.

    Either way, I am grateful and this “not agreeing with me lark” must not be confused with the curse of the dream killers.

    We’ve all met them.

    You excitedly tell your ‘friend’ that you are going to fulfil your lifelong ambition to travel the world. You’ve worked out when, you have the money, it’s going to be amazing and their first response is ‘you’ll never get a job when you get back’

    Boom! Dream killed.

    It’s rarely about you, almost always about them and staying small in packs is their favourite place to be.

    2. They aren’t competitive

    I notice, in myself, when I am comparing myself to others. It rarely feels good.

    Admitting that after sitting on the sofa for the best part of 3 weeks eating pizza, chocolate and vodka, and with glee reporting that you managed 30 minutes on your indoor bike should never be met with ‘Well, I cycled the Pyrenes last week and didn’t train at all.’

    Extreme example, but you get my drift.

    Please don’t. Stop now.

    There is a subtle, yet massive, difference between being competitive and being inspiring. A certain dear friend of mine quite casually mentioned that she’d written a play. I was in awe. Wow! I wondered, maybe I could write that blog I always thought about and didn’t start. (Judith, this is your fault.)

    It reminds me of a Tim Ferriss quote. ‘You are the average of the 5 people you most associate with

    You are the average of the 5 people you most associate with.

    Simple and thought provoking isn’t it?

    They shape who you are. They can raise, or reduce, your game.

    Bring on the inspirational straight talking friends. Let’s share the love.

    I saved the 3rd one to the end as it has the most charge for me and is, so often handled badly.

    3. Someone I can truly share my shameful and embarrassing moments with

    When someone has the courage, the guts, to use mouth words to describe and recall the thing that makes them screw up their eyes in discomfort and shame, a good friend doesn’t say ‘I am sure it wasn’t that bad’ or ‘It’s fine. You are overreacting’.

    Good friends feel your pain and say ‘Oh shit! You did not!’

    ‘Noooooo! Tell me it didn’t!’

    ‘Oh man, I’ve so been there. Ouch. That sucks’.

    They hear, and they witness, and they share the discomfort. And then they make you a cup of tea. Or get prosecco.

    When we downplay those moments, we isolate and loosen the connection. We miss the opportunity to bond.

    When we open ourselves up in our vulnerability and are heard, we create a sense of shared understanding and unlock the way to deeper awareness and togetherness. It’s a beautiful thing.

    There are many more amazing qualities in our friendships and connections, however, these 3 stand out for me.

    I try and do these for my friends as much as I can and ultimately, I can’t help thinking about that quote.

    Essentially, we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Remembering, of course, that one of those people is you…..

  • Dirty Secret

    This is a post I made on Sunday 11th February 2018 on Facebook. It was at the tail end of another brutal winter….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.

    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.

    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.

    I am 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!

    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. 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)
    • I can’t get to sleep because of the pain (mainly in the winter)
    • The undercurrent of pain makes me edgy and bitter sometimes
    • Sometimes the pain is so bad that any kind of 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
    • The arches scream to be released
    • The spasms up my toe to the nail gnarls at my nerves
    • My calf muscles are really 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

    Why am I writing all this down? Good question.

    Many of you know me from dancing.

    I bring it. I bring the 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!

    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.

    I don’t want you to treat me differently
    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. Sometimes I don’t know how much pain I am actually in. Sometimes I need to lie down. Sometimes I need a chair. Sometimes I really need to dance through it, over it and under it.

    I have 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. I just need to get off my feet sometimes. I want be on the same/similar level to my fellow movers.

    Maybe the truth can heal after all.