What does Embodied Relationship Intelligence mean?

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First of all, this is not a place of arrival but is a practice to integrate into your daily life. Like mindfulness or movement practices, they are refined over years and years of intentional focus.
To be embodied in relationship is to share a story while feeling it vs. telling a story from the mind. Embodiment is not in the details – it is in the essence.
To be embodied in relationships is to listen to others from the whole self – the heart, mind, and pelvis – vs. thinking of what to say when the other person stops talking or translating/interpreting/fixing their experience.
To be embodied in relationship is to know when to share a part of the self and when to breathe and hold parts of the self sacred.
To be embodied in relationship is to find that place of integrity – alignment of mind, heart, and pelvis – in times of joy as well as in times of conflict.
To be embodied in relationship is to be awake in both pleasure and pain. To lean into challenges and to know the somatic (body sensation) markers of the “yes” the “no” and the “maybe.”
Again, these are a practice not a place of arrival. Join us for an experiential, skill-building practice group.
Mondays, April 18th – May 23rd
6 pm – 8:30 pm
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Healing Barriers to Intimacy: Sexual Desire Discrepancy

Healing Barriers to Intimacy: Differential Desire
by Melissa Walker, MA, LPC, R-DMT
Sexual Desire discrepancy is a common concern for couples. The differences come in various forms: One partner likes sex 3 times a week, the other is fine with once a week; one partner enjoys long sexual experiences while other is satisfied with a quickie; or one partner desires a lot of physical contact while the other can do with a once-a-day hug.Different desires can spark misunderstanding, judgment, or shame. We may not understand why our partner appears to not desire us as much as we desire them, or we may be confused and uncomfortable with the desires of our partner. This is so common because it requires open communication and self-reflection to understand each other and dispel the negative emotions which are creating a wedge between you – and communication and self-reflection are difficult to engage with when emotionally triggered and hanging out in the “reptile” (fight or flight) brain.

However, this can be an opportunity to invite your partner into your world and broaden the palette of intimacy. Each of us develops a unique sexual and intimate palette based on our experiences, family affection styles, and cultural influences. Difference is an opportunity to slow down and become curious about each other’s desires, what they mean to us, and how they make us feel. Notice judgments or assumptions that arise and share them in the spirit of learning more about each other.

Here’s an example of a productive conversation about differential desire:

Partner #1: “I wish you touched me more.”
Partner #2: “Wow, I notice that I never really think of that. I wonder why I don’t think of touch as often as you do?”
Partner #1: “Huh, I’ve never realized this, but I don’t even think about touching you, it just comes naturally to me.”
Partner #2: How about next time you want physical contact, you let me know, that way I can learn more about your desires and learn to touch more?”
Partner #1: “Deal! …how about now?”

Practicing curiosity, openness, and present-centered focus during this exchange is important! Contact me to initiate the process of learning about these important relationship skills.

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Healing Barriers to Intimacy Series: Shame

Healing Barriers to Intimacy Series:
Shame

For the next few months, I will be writing about the common barriers to intimacy and the gems that emerge from facing these barriers. When we push our edges we discover more about ourselves, our partners, and what we need to allow the barriers to soften. This month, we focus on shame.

Shame is not a primary emotion and therefore a complex experience for an individual to sort through. When decoded, we find that shame is a negative relationship between an authentic internal expression and a negative social response to that expression. By social response, I mean the witnessing and reaction by someone else in a family, church, school, etc. or a cultural belief. Shame is the result of our authentic impulses and expressions being considered deviant or taboo by the culture or family to which we belong. This experience serves two functions: First, to give a group a sense of familiarity when the same rules are followed and second, to bring individuals back in step when a cultural line is crossed. In other words, shame evolved out of a survival need to keep a group together and harmonious.

As sexuality is developed, curiosities and discoveries are natural. Curiosities come and go as one develops their unique sexual palette. When one of these curiosities or discoveries are witnessed negatively by a socializing force, the individual becomes “stuck” and what was once just a musing becomes a source of shame and sometimes becomes an anxious-erotic fixation or a source of anxiety and avoidance.

Working with shame requires a layered approach. First, normalizing shame. Everyone feels it from time to time and instead of avoiding it, the experience of shame is begging for a closer look at something important in your relationships. Second, discovering the underlying authentic expression that was negatively reflected and in order to validate the original impulse and need found beneath this expression. Then, facilitate a conversation between the original impulse/need and the negative response to it – a dialogue between the “shamer” and the “ashamed.” What I often find is that the original impulse/need is incredibly healthy and worth validating and that the shamer most likely experienced a misunderstanding or projected their own internal shame.

Shame is also an experience that one needs help unpacking. When we turn it over in our own mind, we often sink deeper into the muck. As an impartial witness, I am able to support my clients to discover the healthy need and reflect this as a positive impulse. This reflection allows one to experience the self in a more positive light and then move forward to find healthy ways for this need to be met. In essence, a positive reflection can be a rewriting of a prior negative experience of the self.

Once we are able to be more comfortable with our impulses, we can be more comfortable in relationship and physically, verbally, emotionally express our needs while giving space for the needs of our partner. When we are no longer threatened by the impulses we find within, we are less threatened and reactive toward the impulses of our partners, providing more space for dialogue and negotiation.

-Melissa Walker, MA, LPC, R-DMT

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Aphrodisiac of the month: Figs

A friend recently introduced me to this delicious late summer-early fall treat. You may have seen these dark beauties in little baskets in the produce section and thought, “meh, those are for cookies.” But let me tell you, these are full of juicy, meaty fruit goodness and are perfect raw or cooked into a well-seasoned fall dish for your lover. Within their seductive shape, figs are packed with calcium, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals to boost your immune system and energy level at this turning of the season. Try a few raw, just out of the basket and freshly washed, then try this simple recipe:

Pizza with fresh figs, ricotta, thyme, & honey

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The True Nature of Erotic Intuition

I often hear that “letting nature take over” and “getting caught up in the moment” is a sign of healthy intimacy. Many also believe that if you have to talk about sex and intimacy, you’re not doing it right. While this may be true in some cases, the pervasive use of this belief is the result of a culture that perpetuates a climate of silence and secrecy and puts the fully intuitive lover on a pedestal. However, for many people, erotic intuition is a skill that is developed over time where one learns how to listen to their body and the bodies of others and then check-in to see if their instinct was right – in other words, intuition is a wisdom cultivated over dedicated attention and practice.

I recently had the good fortune of spending time with Sheri Winston, author of Women’s Anatomy of Arousal and Succulent Sexcraft. Her work encourages lovers to learn about their own desires, bodies, and boundaries, and to communicate during arousal and intimacy because, she reminds us, “sex makes us stupid” and we have to practice at being awake and in the moment.

Arousal, like other heightened states of nervous system activation such as excitement or anger, can make changes to brain and body function that include a narrowed perspective, language difficulties, and verbal/physical miscommunication between lovers. Increasing erotic intelligence during arousal allows lovers to make intelligent decisions during intimacy that increases trust and satisfaction.

So how do we increase erotic intelligence? Practice, study, practice! Contrary to belief, communicating during or after sex does not reduce desire, it increases desire along with intimacy, vulnerability, and knowledge. Of course, the nature of that communication matters. Negative comments, only telling your partner what not to do, or becoming angry when the experience doesn’t go well can be a turn off and degrade trust and safety. Emphasis on the positive and stating out-loud what you’re curious about is a more fertile field to hang out in.

If arousal during sex also includes discomfort, shame, or awkwardness (which it often does), it is important to remember that this is also nervous system activation and your body wants your attention. The presence of uncomfortable feelings during intimacy does not mean you are broken or that you “just don’t like sex” – it is an invitation to slow down, check in with yourself and your partner, and find out what your body/mind needs in the moment. This is not the time to tell your partner to “finish quickly and get off” or to blame yourself for not liking what’s happening in the moment. Perhaps you want something different or perhaps there is an unresolved emotion that has bubbled to the surface in search of resolution. Intimacy is vulnerable and may make room for these emotions to be expressed.

Erotic intuition requires the cultivation of consciousness around the complex dynamic of emotions that may surface during intimacy as well as the development of knowledge of the arousal anatomy. Hold sex like a living, breathing, changing experience. For more resources and information, contact me with your curiosities!

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Aphrodisiac of the month: Pomegranites

The fruit of late fall, of the Grecian mythological underworld, the food that ties Persephone to her winter husband, Hades, pomegranates are a sweet and tart antioxidant gift during the colder months. They have more antioxidants than cranberry juice and green tea and the little burst of juice is a welcome “it’s alive!” to your taste buds. Your body, and the body of your beloved, will thank you for taking the time to peel and integrate these deep purple red jewels in a salad or a dressing for an entree.

Here are some Pomegranate recipes to play with:

15 Delicious Pomegranate Options

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Book Review: Succulent SexCraft by Sheri Winston

While there are many books that offer some great information about improving sexual intimacy, my colleague Sheri Winston recently published a super fantastic, holistic hands-on guide to erotic play and practice: Succulent SexCraft.

After 20 years as a mid-wife and nurse, Sheri emerged as a master holistic sex educator. Her latest book is a treasure trove of teachings and information, offering her readers an integrated “sexcraft toolkit” including the skills that can be refined from the mind, body, heart, and spirit. From in-depth arousal physiology and nervous system education, the importance of self love and solo play, and the skills necessary in partner play, Sheri covers all the fundamental elements of good eroticism with a welcoming and accessible voice.

I highly recommend this book for all genders and relationship configurations – the tools and ideas that she offers can apply to anyone and she overtly expresses encouragement to try new ideas and practices, find the elements that resonate, and let them organically integrate into the life of the reader.

Happy reading!

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Aphrodisiac of the Month: Cherries!


Apart from being simply beautiful, luscious summer cherries are packed with anti-inflammatory anthocyanins, nervous system calming melatonin, and other heart-healthy minerals. Served just as they are, washed and raw, succulent cherries are a favorite to hand-feed your lover.

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Sexy Mindfulness Tip

“The crisis of desire is often a crisis of the imagination.” Esther Perel

Every summer, my partner and I layer on our renaissance finery and journey to the Colorado Renaissance Festival in Larkspur. While we take several adventures throughout the year, this one is our favorite. What I love about this festival is the immersive quality – once we step away from our cars and through the castle gate, we are in another world. We spend the day tasting mead with friends (also in garb), looking at hand crafted artwork and clothing, and laughing with the village inhabitants and performers. It is always a full-sensory adventure and my partner and I are transported together from our regular lives. As we are transported, we have the opportunity to see each other with new eyes – I see parts of his personality only accentuated with a kilt and sporran while he witnesses me dance to Celtic bands and shoot arrows at dragons. We always leave with a refreshed excitement for life and for each other.Immersive experiences, whether watching a movie in the theater or attending a murder mystery dinner, have the ability to transport us into an altered state where things are new and our neurobiology cannot always anticipate what it will see. This is the place of fantasy and creativity which is great for neurobiological health as well as refreshing a relationship marked by habit and routine. Immersive experiences can stimulate new brain growth, a broader palette of expression and interconnection with your partner, not to mention a set of new memories to share!

So, before the summer is over, plan an immersive experience with your lover and enjoy the body and relationship health benefits.

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Aphrodisiac of May: Stawberries!

Aphrodisiac of the May: Strawberries!

Our sun is warming the soil and our skin and the time is ripe for strawberries. Eating a strawberry is like kissing the earth – sweet, tangy, and full of life! I recommend a sensual Mindful Eating Practice with your strawberries this month. Create space to sit with your partner and begin the practice:

  • Place the fruit in a beautiful bowl between you and your lover at the park, on a hike, or in your backyard. Invite 3 full breaths into your body, allowing your awareness to follow the breath in through your nose as it fills your chest, belly, and pelvis, then breathe out through your mouth softening your jaw, shoulders, and hips.
  • Take a moment to see each other, laugh, kiss, touch.
  • Both place one strawberry in your hand and take a good, long look at the textures and colors and shapes. Describe what you see to each other. Notice how your mouth and body responds to the sight of these luscious little beauties.
  • Smell the strawberry deeply and notice how your taste buds and salivary glands respond.
  • Slowly take one bite of your strawberry – not the whole thing at once! Let yourself slowly chew as the berry bursts in your mouth. Describe to each other the layer of taste and texture. As you swallow, notice how your body responds to inviting this food in. What happens in your esophagus and stomach? Muscles and facial expression?
  • After you swallow, take three more full breaths and see the remainder of your strawberry. What are the inside textures and colors? Describe what you see now to each other.
  • Repeat this process with a few more strawberries. Feed each other, ask your partner what they notice, what they enjoy. Be curious and playful and sensual.
Enjoy!

 

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