Tools for the Frontier

In yesterday’s edition of Daily Astrology [Beyond Mars-Nessus, a Frontier], I described the frontier of inner awareness and sexual healing that we can now face. For today I promised some practical ideas for how to be in this territory — what you can think of as tools that might be useful entering this new terrain.

Photo by Eric Francis – Blue Studio, New York.

I have learned these tools along my own healing journey, and collected them from many sources, inner and outer. Some go back a very long way. Before I begin, here is a moment of self-disclosure. I am in an active process of healing aspects of my sexuality, involving this lifetime, certain prior lifetimes and going back some generations in my family.

Gradually one shifts one’s orientation in sexual healing from one of being willing to face shadow material to a social, creative and loving foundation. While I think that’s the general direction of travel, I recognize and honor the necessity to approach what is unpleasant, and to find love and healing there. Part of this may simply be about not internalizing the thought form that it’s ‘wrong’ to consider what is unpleasant.

A Course in Miracles goes to some lengths to impress on students how it’s necessary to bring the shadow to the light rather than bringing the light into the shadow. I would describe that as a general direction of travel as well. My approach to healing is part spiritual, part practical and part psychological.

The practical and the psychological approaches call on us to stay with ourselves and with our process. Grief, fear and shame are all inflamed by the unwillingness to acknowledge them. Awareness is your best friend. I also feel strongly that being able to articulate your experience, first to yourself and then to someone you trust, is essential. This is part of bringing darkness to the light.

Pride parade, New Paltz. Photo by Eric Francis.

Be aware that as you do these things, something real might happen. You might encounter actual intimacy. You might notice yourself concentrating your strength, finding the ability to make decisions. This might feel beautiful and it might feel some form of ‘scary’. However it may feel, I suggest you be aware of it. Remember, what is ‘scary’ in the way the word is used these days probably means helpful.

I also suggest you be aware that there can be some backlash of guilt when you actually engage your healing process. This can come in the form of fear of reprisal, a sense of being on edge, the feeling that you’re betraying someone by taking care of yourself, the sense of being spied on or the feeling that you’re committing a crime. Note these feelings; you will eventually figure out that they are not what they seem.

One key concept to work with here is that you are bigger than your problems or situations. One of the illusions when addressing this kind of situation is the feeling that our problems tower over us, occupy our hearts and minds, or have us fenced in. In my experience, that is one of the first things to shift.

Anyway — here are some suggestions. I am stating them in direct language for the sake of clarity and not sounding wishy-washy. Take the ones that are useful to you, if you notice that any are.

Learn to talk about everything. Challenge the concept of ‘the unmentionable’. Learn the words to say what you want to say, and get comfortable using them.

The idea of a taboo is much of what holds down the process of healing and resolution. Mercury approaching Nessus is going to facilitate communication, and in Aquarius, it may extend to some public forum — or you may gather useful information or find validation in these discussions.

I suggest you keep the circle of people you discuss things with fairly tight, however. For now you need to keep a sense of ownership of your material, and be aware of the values of anyone to whom you are speaking. More on that in a moment.

Part of describing experiences to yourself is the gradual process of learning to admit what is so, and to call things what they are.

Listen. If we’re going to learn now to verbalize, we also need to learn how to listen. This may be the more challenging skill since it involves minimizing one’s defensiveness, or perhaps setting it aside entirely. Listening is about holding space. It’s also about receiving nourishment from the experience of taking someone’s story or feelings on board. You do not need to respond, just to gently seek understanding. Of all the skills work down by the presence of the technosphere, listening may be the one that’s the greatest loss. We can, however, get this back through willingness, choice and compassion.

Photo by Eric Francis — Blue Studio, New York.

Demystify sex. Learn to think about it as something normal that happens to normal people on regular days. There is a ridiculous prohibition on discussion of real subject matter where sex and sexual healing are concerned. There is a prohibition of sincere admission of desire and admitting who we are.

We are so used to this cloud of mysticism, controversy and denial surrounding sex that it can seem really weird to think of sex as normal. Some say that to take away the mystery is to cheapen sex. I think it’s about simple authenticity. Part of this means using real words instead of euphemisms.

Part of normal involves admitting when things have gone wrong, and the activity of seeking healing and growth — though pathology does tend to come into vogue; that is to say, society favors discussion of ‘bad things’. What we need to make normal is pleasure, contact and the fact that we want them.

Yes — even if you think that what you do and what you want is strange. By normal, I mean there is no such thing as normal. All sex is a little weird, when you think about it. People adapt or invent all kinds of interesting desires. Some of them would definitely be frowned upon in polite company, and you might not feel comfortable revealing them. In the spirit of demystifying them to yourself, you can honor the incredible, beautiful diversity of sexual desire.

When we have been shaped by circumstances that have injured us, or if we have had our power taken away, those things can become points of erotic fixation. Most people will say you have to purify them. I would say that they are usually tools or gifts to work with for as long as you want to or need to. Keep checking in about that as you move through your inner journey.

Mainly, I suggest you set aside approaching your desires with fear, shame or guilt, as best you can — at least setting that as an objective. Note that you may have eroticized these things, and that they may play into your core phantasy.

Know and explore your core phantasy. Many people have a core phantasy — the thing that always gets them off. I don’t mean a preference or curiosity; I mean the one thing that you turn to dependably for release. It may not involve champagne and candlelight.

It may range from the perfectly vanilla to thoughts of something that is ‘wrong’ or ‘illegal’. It might involve red shoes, sacrificial fires or wolves. It could involve some form of humiliation. Whatever it may be (assuming your actual behavior on the physical plane is legal), there is no moral issue involved, only your own desire for pleasure and contact with your inner truth.

Photo by Eric Francis — Blue Studio, Toronto.

You don’t have to ‘act on’ your core phantasy; all you need to have is a conscious relationship with it, and the willingness to allow yourself the space to feel whatever you feel. The central idea here is creating the space to feel without judgment. That, in turn, allows you to exist without the need to suppress yourself in any way. You are now going in precisely the opposite direction.

Share your sexual history with your partner(s). It’s essential that the person or people you are sexually intimate with actually know who you are. I suggest that this be a mutual exercise, and that you begin with an agreement of amnesty. Your sexual history can include everything you’ve done and who you’ve done it with. It would also involve what you now do.

You might include what you want or plan to do, and what your fantasies are. I think that sharing fantasies is both liberating and deeply healing. Phantasy sharing is a form of sex. It needs to be done by agreement, and with an understanding that there is forgiveness or amnesty involved.

Of course, it might not work out that way; there is a risk involved in any personal disclosure, particularly in a situation where someone might feel threatened. That threat was always there, and it was being kept latent by withholding. Part of being real involves embracing the potential that being real has an effect on people. This will take some confidence, which you may not have now but which you’re likely to get eventually.

Read and inform yourself. Pain festers in ignorance, and learning has a way of setting people free. Read books about sex. There are a few basic starter’s guides. I recommend as a starting point: The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort (with many versions — check Amazon); Sex for One by Betty Dodson; Eros Denied by Wayland Young (one of the best nonfiction books ever written, IMO, about the history of forbidden words, people and ideas); Sexual Secrets by Nik Douglas and Penny Slinger; Our Bodies, Ourselves by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective; Sex at Dawn by Ryan and Jetha.

Get help. Don’t try to ‘go it alone’. If you need some ideas about how to select a therapist, here is my article on that topic. As I mentioned yesterday, there’s a little problem with some therapists and healers both not knowing terribly much about sex, nor being comfortable with the subject matter. You need someone who is comfortable with both the healing challenges and the pleasure side of the equation.

Photo by Eric Francis — Blue Studio, New York.

Focus on trust rather than on love. The concept of ‘love’ in relationships can be so corrupted that it has no meaning at all, such as telling the police how much you love the person who just beat you up. Maybe you do but I think that the word love is void for vagueness.

Trust is the key. Trust is tangible. It can be built and it can be sized up; it’s often a matter of communication, understanding and time. Yes, there are people you trust immediately and intuitively — though this is pretty rare and we’re not always right. Give trust time to cultivate, and recognize the elements of why you trust who you trust.

Stop associating with people who betray or violate you. Keep crazymakers at a safe distance; most of them are pros and know how to do it better than you know how to keep them at bay. This is a matter of ongoing practice; there is a discipline involved. If you’re trying to get a date with someone and they are treating you in a way you don’t like, provoking you, being evasive or whatever, move on.

Mirror masturbate. Have sex with yourself facing a mirror. Look, see and encounter all of the feelings that come up. Make eye contact. Do your best to actually love the person who is looking back at you. If this seems brave, or strange, I suggest you meditate on why that is, or ask yourself while you’re doing it.

Masturbate together. This works as ‘get to know you’ sex and also as an essential ingredient in a relationship with a partner. Yes, this is a deep expression of trust and vulnerability. It’s a real sharing. You may decide that it’s far more vulnerable than the sex that you’ve been having, and that vulnerability can exist as its own thing of beauty, or it can be conveyed back into contact sex.

Sharing masturbation — and I mean masturbation rather than giving one another hand jobs — is a way to learn to honor yourself in the presence of someone else. It’s a form of witnessing; it’s a form of holding space for another person’s reality as distinct from your own; and it allows people to see and be seen. In my experience it’s the easiest way to experience and explore compersion (appreciating another person’s pleasure) with no sense of threat from jealousy or loss.

If you combine this with the outward sharing of phantasy, you can increase the pleasure factor and also the daring factor. If you’re going to do this I suggest you make an amnesty agreement first, such as saying to your partner, “I have phantasies that are not about you, and I want to share them.”

This is deeper territory and you might want to go here over a series of steps. I think, however, it’s a truly significant place to go — allowing your partner to see and know you for who you really are. Such can enhance intimacy in a profound way.

Photo by Eric Francis — Book of Blue, New York.

I also propose that people share masturbation in friendships, where it’s a mutual desire or place of mutual willingness to explore. This offers a place of sexual freedom that is not encumbered by fears of sexual infections, pregnancy or romantic commitment. This is potentially a form of same-sex play that does not involve declaring yourself anything special. Sharing masturbation is normal primate behavior, including in same-sex or opposite-sex situations. I believe that we would all be a lot happier if we used this as ‘getting to know you’ sex, rather than hooking up. It’s a great way to test the water and see who someone is and how you respond to them.

My sense is that if one thing can set free the sexual pain and shame that we hold as individuals and as a society, it is sharing masturbation. I have covered this in a diversity of articles, including on the Compersion webpage. There is lots there, including my eBook, It’s Not About Sex, It’s About Self. And it’s all free to non-subscribers. Speaking of —

Compersion. This is the ability to allow others to be free to feel what they feel, which means you being free to feel what you feel. Compersion is a kind of gift that gives an alternative to jealousy, a way to consider the people you love in the most favorable light: as autonomous loving beings. It’s not a thing; it’s a journey. It’s a path from conflict and unfreedom to clarity, choice and love. If you are aware of this already and are figuring out how to get there, it is possible, even likely that you’ll find it. It starts by holding space for others the ways I’ve described above.

Keep a diary of these explorations. Write down your experiences, feelings, dreams and desires — and keep copies of what you send people.

21 thoughts on “Tools for the Frontier”

  1. Being in nature is also about experiencing wholeness (being part of the whole) even if you are not whole. Being naked (as you are) can carry over even when clothed or in any situation. A sort of wholeness.

    There is also the question of intent. Whether whole or not is not the issue, where you are going and how ‘important’ it is is, what you can contribute. ‘Must’ maybe. And in those circumstances it is possible to be whole, even broken, for the time necessary. Strength in weakness etc etc Women lifting incredible weights off children. (Again ‘theorhetically’ Ursula Le Guin’s ‘voices’ has something to say. ‘Powers’ too. Yet to reread Gifts but I didn’t like it first time round – lots of Nessus stuff (abuse of power) if I remember correctly).

    Of course it is important to go forwards yourself towards wholeness as far as possible….

  2. Solutions. One might be not having to be ‘perfect’ or ‘fully functioning’ as a goal. Doing what is possible going in a living and ‘working’ direction – like using a compass and taking a bearing.

  3. Yes Eric, as you say in the elements and feeling good. Just whatever comes up.

    We’re lucky too like too with wild places easily to hand.

    Caring for plants, touching the earth, smiling at the sky, ‘bathing’ in sunlight or moonlight. Even in the city.


  4. lionesswimmer — i am glad to know the interview resonated with you! i do not know much about trans-generational suicide, but it sounds like a difficult knot to untie. it sounds like you’re doing an amazing job — congrats & i wish you continued luck and light.

  5. yeti & lizzy: for sure, on the sexual healing/heart healing.

    what turned the key for me in my own healing of sexual shut-down was the realization that i needed to *forgive myself* for how a relationship ended (which was partly due to not understanding what was going on with my body with a yeast infection causing painful sex; partly due to youthful ignorance in myself and my boyfriend in college; partly due to the unseen beliefs of my mother that i had internalized without realizing it). and i needed to forgive myself for not understanding my body’s shut-down in the years after, and what it had tried to tell me for that decade.

    that forgiveness came at the suggestion of someone who was facilitating a guided meditation and transformational breath session for me. i had gotten to the point where i could articulate everything that had lead to my situation easily — but no amount of talk was helping.

    i had to get *beneath* words and work with breath and energy, and when i met myself during the guided meditation and was told to offer “her” forgiveness for whatever needed it, i broke down in tears realizing that this simple, small, yet powerful thing was what i had been withholding from myself for over a decade.

    that one thing unlocked the whole puzzle. it was still a gradual road to reclaiming my sexuality fully, and has included all sorts of curious twists and turns (which i am learning have karmic lessons). but turning the key with genuine forgiveness was huge.

  6. One of the ways I recharge and shift my perspective is to spend a lot of time naked on the Grandmother Land, weather permitting. This is essential in my life…and I carry the energy through the year till spring when I can leave my clothes in a heap with my camera. I spend thousands of hours a year on the Internet — I sometimes feel like my soul is mostly here…so the connection to the rock, the trees, the water, the sky, is essential for my creative and emotional health.

    Naked is good. Outdoors is better.

    Our little portion is a secluded 300 acre forest surrounded by preserves, and I am the closest thing there is to a ranger. Search and rescue dogs are also trained on the land and three of them live there — two dobermans and a rather energetic German shepherd. I’ve known their people for 21 years; they are like my first cousins.

    Driving at night, I could get from naked by the stream to the corner of 42nd and Broadway in about two hours, including tying my boots. I consider it all a miracle.

  7. And not just sex or always with other people. If you need to think clearly or be yourself take your clothes off. Best of all outside somewhere, feet digging in the ground. Sitting, standing, back to a tree, feet in the river. Anything. Just ‘being’ in creation…

  8. Regarding the heart/sex statements, I too have found this to be true, that heart is involved in healing sexual wounds. Heart’s magnetic field encloses the entire body and pulses with the heartbeat. My core injury comes from a beating on my sacrum I got as a ‘gift’ from my dad when I was six.

    As I’ve gradually opened my awareness back up to my physical sensations below my eyes I’ve come to be able to sense how my whole spine and each and every chakra was affected by my sacrum being hit repeatedly. What happens to the human happens to the heart. In Chinese medicine it’s known as the emperor of the body and recognized as the home of the human personality and center of emotion. Any violation of our physical space involves the heart’s sense.

    The head brain needs the heart not just for blood and oxygen but to sense the surrounding world through its magnetic field. When rational judgments seem at odds with the heart’s desire I hypothesize that it’s not that the heart is untrustworthy in its essence, but damaged and in need of healing.

    I think our world is so polluted in part because industrial cultures are so good at damaging people such that hearts are out of tune with heads and heads think they control everything. Gut brain and sexual organs are the path to root; cut the root and heart withers. Empire doesn’t want slaves acting on their own initiative.

  9. “I think it’s interesting how slowly the discussion moves when the focus is on solutions and not on problems.”

    The local freethinkers secular group is starting to talk about sex and sexuality…again. They did it before but the group has grown a lot since then. The leader and I are talking about how to facilitate another discussion (I basically felt we could bring up the topics and let the people discuss as they will; he wants to direct the talking). Either way, the discussion is going to happen.

    Solutions are more about doing…not typing as Amanda said.

  10. Eric, it is still leading edge, especially the healing part. Healing is the scary part where we get naked, Eric. Invite others to get naked, offer to be really naked with and for them.

    Who am I without my armor, my castle ramparts? Well that is a good question, and I have to answer it. I have to answer it now, not for the final time, but I have to answer it today.

    This statement is revolutionary: “Demystify sex. Learn to think about it as something normal that happens to normal people on regular days. There is a ridiculous prohibition on discussion of real subject matter where sex and sexual healing are concerned. There is a prohibition of sincere admission of desire and admitting who we are.”

    It flipped on a light switch for me this morning. I see how I am out there saying things no one else says (except here), and I still back off in the name of “meeting them where they are, and not scaring people away.”

    To make normal feeling, saying, writing, owning pleasure and desire, is freaking revolutionary. It is a stand for the Self. Ignorance and avoidance are buried inside of relationship, couplehood, privacy, secrecy, propriety, the bedroom. People do not want to let sex and its cauldron of feeling out of the bedroom.

    Keep the gov’t out of my bedroom, my friend said. What about out of your mind and your body, and the air you breathe. Sex is there too. It’s wherever you go, and whatever you think, and the decisions you make, and what you say…

    Oh, please make having feelings and a body and touch and sensation normal, and celebrated at the same time. Let’s all be out and loud with our normal diverse human sex, and we must be out and loud together, or we will all be boxed and silenced separately, and told that’s what normal is.

    That’s what I have learned from Nessus in Aquarius. It’s been here a long time, but now in the last degrees before Pisces, this means something. It’s busted wide open–the lid is off.

  11. hopefully that just means people are trying and doing, instead of talking and typing.

    yes, the action piece is very often the hard part, even after the difficulty of identifying the problem.

  12. Whoa, Amanda, thank you so much for posting about trans-generational suicide. This issue has been a primary organizing principle of my life, and I am so relieved to see it spoken about here, in the film you mention, and by Mariel Hemingway. Indeed, the haunting specter of these legacies makes for a lifetime of untangling, processing, dissolving, accepting, and moving forward in creativity and self/Self-reclamation and social-spiritual expression. And they’re all tied up with issues of sexuality, use of Life-Force-energies, boundaries, “safety,” trust, plus 8th house/Scorpio issues of shared resources related to intimate ties.

    My life mission has been “the buck stops here” and the exposing of these legacies, while also dismantling the terrifying, fatalistic and erroneous deterministic heredity model. (Epigenetics, the new heredity model, thankfully, articulates that genes are not a pre-determined dread sentence, but rather, can be influenced by our CHOICES regarding environmental stimuli, which includes the thoughts, lifestyle, diet, relationships, etc. to which we expose ourselves). And fortunately, as Eric stated in the above article, “Gradually one shifts one’s orientation in sexual healing [and emotional/whole being healing, in this case] from one of being willing to face shadow material to a social, creative and loving foundation.

    Most of my late-teens, 20s, 30s and 40s was focused on uncovering, working with, and embracing the shadow. Now, I’m shifting into a more trusting generative-focused phase, having carefully established a solid foundation via all that shadow-integration work, and thus not being so fearful that the shadow monster would bite me from behind as I move forward. Am returning to cherished spiritual values and personal manifestation in social spheres. Onward. And so it is.

  13. btw —

    i meant to post this yesterday, but got involved in other projects. it’s still germane to the mars-nessus-aquarius / sexual healing /individual-collective /centaur-shadow discussion:

    Amy Goodman interview Mariel Hemingway Monday on Dem Now! About the documentary she & acclaimed filmmaker Barbara Koppel just premiered at Sundance last week, called “Running from Crazy.”

    It’s about Mariel talking about all the mental illness & suicide in her family (7 suicides!) and her life of striving to make healthy choices yet growing up basically afraid she might she might wake up “crazy” one day, talking about her sister Margaux’s close identification with their grandfather Earnest — right down to a clip of Margaux describing how she thought suicide was a legitimate option if your creativity has run out (paraphrasing, here).

    It’s not primarily about sexual abuse or sexual relationships per se, but it’s definitely about very centaur-ish family patterns of abuse, addiction, denial, mental illness, suicide, potentially present (as in, not fully remembered) sexual abuse — and putting it all out there into the collective with the aim of letting people know they are not alone, and there are options. Sounds like the best side of the Aquarian group theme, and the use of technology, etc. here is an excerpt of the interview; i definitely recommend watching the whole video segment at that link:

    BARBARA KOPPLE: Well, for distribution, we’d like to see it show theatrically. And we’d also like to have community groups and mental illness groups and people just get behind it and use it in a pivotal way, so that people are able to really, say, talk to each other. Don’t be afraid. Don’t keep this under the shadows. This is something we have to deal with.

    AMY GOODMAN: So where are you headed, and with this film?

    MARIEL HEMINGWAY: I feel absolutely liberated in my life. You know, 51 and here I am, I’m being reborn. But I feel like I’m younger and happier and more aware than I’ve ever been. And so, for me, the film is a—is a tool. It’s a learning tool. It’s a—it’s like Barbara said: It’s a film about hope. I would love to see it be in rehab centers. In fact, somebody wrote me and said, “We thought about this film. We saw it, and we thought about it all night, and then we all decided that it should be in universities and in rehab centers to help people.” And to be able to go speak around the country and talk about—talk about my own story, just so that it can help other people to talk about their own story, just so they don’t feel alone, so they feel supported.

    AMY GOODMAN: Just being here, your film just opening—you were at the opening. Did people come up to you afterwards?

    MARIEL HEMINGWAY: Oh, my god. Well, that’s the beautiful thing. I mean, because it was scary to see it here and see it with people. But the wonderful thing is, everybody comes up, and it’s not—they have tears in their eyes, not because of me, but because they say, “Oh, my god! That’s my story! You know, you have the same” — and I know that. See, that’s the only thing that I came into this knowing. I knew that I wasn’t alone in this story. Everybody has some similar version of some dysfunction or pain of some kind, or has been touched by mental illness or even cancer, whatever it is. But for somebody to be able to go, “Oh, it’s OK to talk about,” and actually it shifts the paradigm. It breaks a cycle. I would like to help people break that cycle. But I also am doing the WillingWay and going out there and just—like, I love that. I love helping, inspiring people to find their health and wellness. And I’d like to act again, too, just on a side note.

    BARBARA KOPPLE: And also, too, after the screenings, it was very—people confessed.


    BARBARA KOPPLE: I mean, we had a moderator, who whispered to me, “I fought so hard not to have to be the moderator for this film.” And I said, “Why?” And he said, “I had someone very close to me commit suicide.” And I said, “Do you want to talk about it?” And he talked about it in front of 600 people at the premiere screening.

    MARIEL HEMINGWAY: It was so powerful.

    BARBARA KOPPLE: He said, “I had a sister who five years ago committed suicide. I haven’t talked about it.” And his voice started to quiver. And then other people would come up to us after and say, “I lost my son a month ago,”

  14. Yes, I do, dear Marianne. “Because “my mind sought meaning, I found my heart needed to be addressed even more”. Yes. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and your healing process. ((()))

  15. Lizzy: For myself the abuse was verbal and physical in being beaten to cleans me of sin ( my birth mother was “sin” I also was carrying too) for that person whom did the abusing to me. I realized early on that there seem no rational reason for their behavior other then their in-balance of HEART, and mind… the negativity almost caught me in a cycle of self abuse.
    I was able to understand, there was no other way, then to step away (far away,). I was then able to leave where I was abused because “I,was of age,” in that state, where I was born. Because “my mind sought meaning, I found my heart needed to be addressed even more”.
    So I am grateful to “Nature”, “where I observed life, as it played the major key to my healing! Surely you “KNOW”,what to do,too.

  16. Thank you so much Eric, for this compassionate article. Reading these frontier articles is changing my work and how I incorporate sexual healing element. I am deeply grateful. For my own exploration of the frontier, I feel new confidence just in assembling my tool kit and having it with me. A state of readiness and availability, rather than self-protection.

  17. Fantastic stuff, Eric, as always. My journey into healing sexual wounds and deep mistrust (from age of 11, was sexually abused for two years, by the older brother I once adored and trusted more than anyone else in the world) has gone deeper than it ever has in this period. I feel stronger and more ready to face ‘unfaceable’ stuff than I ever have. As I heal my pelvic, sacral area, even my posture has changed, and I’ve become taller. But what has come out in this period is that the sexual wounds, in reality, are the wounds of the heart. That it’s a kind of two step thing where the sexual wounds need to be addressed, but what lies behind the sexual wounds is the wounded heart, that needs to heal.

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