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Erotic Authenticity: Replacing Shame with Celebration

Sometime last year, I was having a conversation with a close relative of mine. I had sent them a recent news story I was quoted in and had been met with… silence. Eventually, I nudged a little bit and they responded, saying “I’m sorry, I just can’t be proud of someone who talks about sex and sex toys for a living. It’s embarrassing.” As we unpacked this statement, it became clear that they were unable to see the good—any good—in my work. As a therapist, as a writer, as an educator… my work was shameful in their eyes.  In that moment, I understood my clients in a way I never had before.

With Sprinkles on Top was already finished by the time this occurred, but if it hadn’t? This conversation would have inspired me to write it. It can be incredibly painful to have someone you love tell you that “What you do is wrong. Who you are is not OK.” Many kinky people are afraid that if they share their innermost selves with the ones they love most, they too will be rejected, written off as broken or creepy or wrong. I wrote Sprinkles because I believe deeply that every single human being deserves to feel loved and worthy and whole, to know that their innermost desires are not just valid but beautiful, and to find others who can celebrate this beauty and their relationships together with them.

Sprinkles is also written for the partners of these kinky people, many of whom tell me that, if their spouse had just been willing to share their desires, they would have happily explored with them. For the spouses who don’t understand the fantasies or intimate practices they’re learning about and who need a guide to help them navigate these new relationship waters. For the men and women who call my office afraid—afraid that there’s something wrong with their partner or something inadequate in themselves.

They want me to “fix” them. I want to celebrate them.

With Sprinkles on Top is not a “how to” book. It’s a “what now?” book. My goal is to celebrate the things that make each person and each relationship unique and delightful—and to help them discover new unique qualities in themselves and new ways to delight one another. I want to celebrate vanilla relationship values while also normalizing and affirming kinky identities. I want to help my readers find new and exciting ways to enhance their own core sexual and relational “flavor” through interactive activities they do by themselves and with their partner.

Differences in desire represent an exciting opportunity to strengthen and reinforce the bonds of intimacy and trust we have created within our relationships, while also expanding the erotic playground we enjoy together. We don’t have to change who we are. We don’t have to be ashamed of what we want or embarrassed to talk about it. Sexuality, desire, and intimacy are, to me, sacred gifts. I’m honored to be able to help my readers, my clients, and others to build happier, healthier relationships with their bodies, their partners, and themselves. I hope you enjoy the process of finding your sprinkles and using them to communicate, explore, and connect with the one(s) you love.

Kol Tuv,

Stefani Goerlich

Stefani Goerlich, PhD, LMSW-Clinical, LISW, LCSW, CST, is a certified sex therapist and master social worker who specializes in working with gender, sexuality, and relationships. She is a sought-after clinical supervisor, media consultant, and conference presenter who has appeared in media ranging from CNN and the Washington Post to Cosmopolitan and Teen Vogue. She is the award-winning author of the professional books The Leather Couch and Kink-Affirming Practice.

Author photo © Kim Williams

With Sprinkles on Top

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Learn to walk the profound journey of healing individu...

We are facing what is perhaps the greatest civilizational crisis of our time, the global ecological emergency. If the underlying challenge to climate change (and other systemic social problems) can be traced to human disrelation—a state of being out of accordance with nature, ourselves, and other humans—then I propose it to be a fundamentally spiritual problem, as much as an environmental, scientific, technological, cultural, psychological, economic, or historical one. At the root of this spiritual problem is collective trauma.

My work as a teacher over the past 20 years has focused on the integration of science and mysticism. Over time, as my training programs and retreats developed what emerged was a clear need to address collective trauma.

Attuned: Practicing Interdependence to Heal Our Trauma—and Our World is a guide for anyone committed to the healing of our struggling world. With practical instruction on reducing stress and building  resilience, along with practices such as transparent communication, my book is intended to support each of us and our communities in embracing our interdependence. As you learn to attune to others, you begin to refine  your capacity to relate  — and to walk the profound journey of healing individual, ancestral, and collective trauma.

The complexity of challenges we face in the 21st century demands a new level of human collaboration. To respond with creativity and innovation to these challenges, we must think holistically. In this way, we awaken our most intrinsic biological gifts: the powers of our soul’s intelligence – that which inside us knows how to heal and restore.

Perhaps, rather than finding ourselves alive in a time of exponential, unstoppable decline, we will discover the power to access the evolutionary gifts that appear dormant in us. To accomplish this, I believe we must do it together—not separately, but in relation, as communities dedicated to healing our collectives.

It may take only a small number of us to establish a new level of collective coherence—to share our light, heal our wounds, and realize the unawakened potential of our world. Will you join me on this journey of attunement?

With gratitude,

Thomas Hübl

Thomas Hübl, PhD, is a renowned teacher, author, and international facilitator who works within the complexity of systems and cultural change by integrating modern science with the insights of humanity’s wisdom traditions. Since the early 2000s, he has led large-scale events on the healing of collective trauma, with a special focus on the shared history of Israelis and Germans, and facilitated healing and dialogue around racism, oppression, colonialism, and genocide, among other topics. He is the author of Healing Collective Trauma and Attuned (both with Julie Jordan Avritt). He has served as an advisor and guest faculty for universities and organizations, and he is currently a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute. For more, visit www.attunedbook.com.

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Five Dos and Don’ts for the Minimalism-Curious

My recent book Travel Light is a how-to guide for the practice of what I call “Spiritual Minimalism,” which is not to be confused with regular old minimalism.

Long story short, in 2018, I was living in a beautiful two-bedroom apartment in Venice Beach when I felt an inner calling to get rid of everything that didn’t fit inside of my 22-inch carry-on bag. My bag would effectively become my new apartment as I would begin living nomadically around the world.

It took me 30 days’ worth of yard sales and Craigslist posts to get rid of over four decades of furniture, art, photo albums, yearbooks, letters, clothing, knickknacks, winter coats, books, my cars, Vespa, and everything else.

And about six months into my nomadic journey, I realized something: I still had too much stuff. So I got rid of the carry-on bag and downsized into a backpack. And now, five-plus years later, I’m still happily living from a backpack as I continue to hop around the world, from hotels to Airbnbs to friends’ extra bedrooms.

Travel Light is written for those who also feel called to live with less, but you’re not sure where or how to start. Truth be told, there are numerous ways to start, depending on your individual situation.

If this approach intrigues you, I want to share five common mistakes many new minimalists make—and a handful of simple recommendations to get you started on a more mindful, purposeful minimalism journey:

Don’t get rid of too much too fast
Although I completely emptied my entire two-bedroom apartment within 30 days, I had been intentionally prepping to live from a carry-on bag over the previous year by experimenting with taking only what I actually used while on my dozens of work trips. So in 2018, getting rid of my stuff was merely the final step in a long progression of steps.

    My first recommendation is to go slow. Decide what sort of end result you desire, and start experimenting with what it would be like to only use what you envision keeping. Maybe get a storage room and put a handful of items in it each week until you run out of things you don’t use. Otherwise, going too fast could prove to be unsustainable and discouraging.

Don’t make it about the external space
Getting rid of clutter doesn’t resolve deep emotional wounds or past trauma. And some of that could be the root cause of why you engage in retail therapy or why you may cling to stuff you don’t use or wear. And until you start doing deeper work on yourself, you can live in the most minimal-looking setting, but still feel cluttered inside.

    Commit to daily meditation as a means of efficiently releasing stress, and engage in other inner work, such as therapy, journaling, seva (service), and daily gratitude practices to clear away the internal clutter. This is what is meant by Spiritual Minimalism. It’s minimalism practiced from the inside-out.

Don’t treat minimalism as a one-time experience
Minimalism is less of an act, like Spring cleaning, and more of a lifestyle, like getting into shape. It doesn’t end once you get rid of your stuff. Like being in shape, minimalism continues to inform what you do, how you do it, where you go, why, and pretty much every other choice you make in life. In other words, you recognize that every choice you make is either supporting the lifestyle or taking away from the lifestyle.

    Start seeing everything you do (big and small) as an opportunity to reinforce the minimalist mindset, and make choices that support your desired mindset.

Don’t forget to adopt a larger purpose
Getting rid of stuff for the sake of looking like a minimalist is ultimately unfulfilling, and it’s recommended to adopt a larger purpose for your minimalism adventure. That way, you will bring more enthusiasm and passion into your minimalism choices. You’re not just getting rid of something for the sake of getting rid of it. It’s going to help you by making space to exercise, create content, or to use as the meditation corner of your home.

    My recommendation is to answer this question: How does becoming a minimalist help you help others? The answer is a clue into your purpose, and just know that there is no wrong answer. Or rather, it’s an ever-evolving answer that will come into greater focus as you begin your journey. All you need for now is a loose idea of your why.

Don’t compare yourself to others
The quickest way to make minimalism a drag is to compare yourself to other, more popular minimalists. It’s certainly good to be informed of best minimalism practices and get tips from minimalist influencers, but their paths or suggestions may not work as well for your situation.

    Be open to blazing your own path into minimalism, and be willing to adjust along the way. If you treat the entire thing as a learning experience, there are no mistakes. And you’ll have a lot more fun along the way.

For more tips and insights on the ways of the Spiritual Minimalist, I invite you to check out Travel Light: Spiritual Minimalism to Live a More Fulfilled Life.

Light Watkins

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Honoring an Irreducible Truth in Ferguson

During this morning’s run, I was talking with my friend about the fear and frustration we’d both been feeling about Ferguson, Missouri, among other places. What can we do? we asked each other. If it came down to it, would we be able to stand against the so-called authorities armed with tear gas, guns, and hoses?

I told my friend about the only time I’d come close to anything like it. The KKK was marching in a little town a few miles east of my college campus, and a small group of us organized ourselves in protest. We brought in advisors to teach us how to remain calm in crisis. We knew our history; we’d seen the footage; we were afraid. We also knew that remaining silent wasn’t an option. We boarded the bus in silence, and when we got there, we linked arms and lined the street peacefully, waiting for the hate group to come streaming up the road. It was summer then, but I remember feeling a chill that raised gooseflesh on my arms.

A few minutes later a pathetic bunch of ragtag malcontents rounded the corner—the odd skinhead here, old grizzled men there, and bored teen goths sprinkled in—all spewing the tired epithets we’d heard before: “____ go home… .”

After our protest, we boarded the bus and headed back toward campus.

Once returned to the relative safety of familiar surroundings, we’d talk about how sad the hate group looked. Their outfits didn’t even match! we’d laugh. They weren’t even marching in step together! Weren’t they supposed to be organized better than that?

But this morning, we weren’t laughing.

Every time events like these erupt, I wonder what there is to do about it. Up to this point, I’ve signed petitions, I’ve written essays and articles, made calls, protested, volunteered, minded my business, went back to bed, wrung my hands, paced the floors, pumped my fists, prayed, held loved ones close, fundraised, danced, run, sung, and sweated for the cause. I’ve cried, fretted, and did it all again. And I’ll keep on doing it.

I recently turned to a memorial delivered by Dr. Howard Thurman in the aftermath of Dr. King’s murder. I was searching for words to articulate the frustration, pain and loss of another senseless killing and the ongoing struggle for equality and peace for so many in America. The Living Wisdom of Howard Thurman remains painfully, powerfully, resonant today:

Tonight there is a vast temptation to strike out in pain, horror, and anger. Riding just under the surface, all the pent up fury, the accumulation of a generation’s cruelty and brutality. A way must be found to honor our feeling without dishonoring him whose sudden and meaningless end has called him forth. May we harness the energy of our bitterness and make it available to the unfinished work which Martin has left behind. It may be—it just may be—that what he was unable to bring to pass in his life, can be achieved by the act of his dying. For this there is eloquent precedence in human history. He was killed in one sense because mankind is not human yet. May he live because all of us in America are closer to becoming human than we ever were before.

I wish I could tell you of the tremendous love and worry I feel for my brothers, for my beautiful nephews, especially, and for the precious children of my friends.

Today, I’m open to new ideas—to whatever helps me keep my heart open, my love alive. It’s an imperative for me because I am the beneficiary of an irreducible truth, which is this: love is all there is.

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The gift of pure rest

Please give yourself the gift of rest from trying so hard to ‘change,’ ‘heal,’ ‘transform,’ and ‘awaken.’ It can be so exhausting to chronically abandon the here and now in the name of great project of the improvement of ‘me.’ Take some time on this new day to set aside the frenetic scramble to be other than what you are.

Love yourself enough to set aside your questions and demand for understanding, even for a moment, and sink into your sacred body and senses, connect with the natural world, and with the aliveness within. Open your heart to the shimmering forms around you, blooming in front of your very own eyes and inviting you into union with natural radiant presence. Dare to consider that nothing is missing and nothing has gone wrong.

Allow today to be a day of solace from the weary journey, from finding ‘answers’ to questions, and from changing yourself from one thing into another. Whatever state of consciousness is arising now is the perfect place to start—to meet yourself, others, and the sacred world as if for the first time. You need not go anywhere else or become anyone else to know this. For love is forming as your body and your senses and your experience right here and right now.

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Turn your understanding of meditation inside out and u...

Meditation has found a home in the West. Countless scientific studies tout its benefits, and a multitude of students proclaim its life-changing value. I am one of those students. For over forty-five years I have practiced this ancient art, and I continue to reap its remarkable rewards. While I remain a follower of many wisdom traditions, and believe that no one has a patent on truth, thirty years ago I took refuge in Buddhism. The adage “Chase two rabbits; catch none” points out the necessity of commitment, and the dangers of spreading yourself too thin.

My passion for meditation led me into the traditional Tibetan three-year retreat, where I became a monk with robes and a shaved head, meditating fourteen hours a day in a remote monastery. I even slept sitting up in meditation posture, practicing the nocturnal meditations of dream and sleep yoga. Three-year retreat is like a meditation university, providing the opportunity to practice dozens of meditations in the most nurturing environment. It remains the most transformative experience of my life.

Of the many practices I was introduced to in retreat, one meditation stands out: the quirky, intense, multifaceted, and revolutionary practice of reverse meditation. I learned these practices within the context of Mahāmudrā (Sanskrit for “great seal”), a lofty tradition in Tibetan Buddhism that explores the nature of the mind. This was over twenty years ago, and since then these radical meditations have become a cornerstone of my spiritual path.

They’re called “reverse” meditation for a number of reasons. First, these practices are the opposite, or reverse, of what many of us associate with meditation. Most people think that meditation is about feeling good, getting “Zen,” or otherwise chilling out. But this is just one small aspect of meditation. Complete meditation is not about feeling good—it’s about getting real. And getting real requires dealing with the reality of difficult situations.

Second, these unique meditations are designed to reverse our relationship to unwanted experiences, which means going directly into them instead of avoiding them. In so doing we can discover the basic goodness of whatever arises, which is deeper than interpretative goodness. Basic goodness refers to the ineffable “suchness, isness, thatness” of whatever occurs—good or bad.

If we capitulate to our usual avoidance strategies, we push the acute, conscious psychological discomfort of avoidance into becoming a chronic, unconscious mental cramp. The discomfort is still there, but now it’s buried deep in our body-mind matrix, where it works backstage to dictate much of our onstage life. The rejected experience then manifests symptomatically—it becomes an undiagnosed reflection of an underlying discord that expresses itself in virtually everything we do. Our actions then become evasion tactics—reactivity, psychological duress, physical illness, and all manner of unskillful responses to the challenges of life—as we try to skirt these buried, uncomfortable feelings.

The reverse meditations give us the opportunity to relate to our mind instead of from it—and also to establish a relationship to our evasion tactics, which otherwise become obstacles that act like scar tissue to sequester the unwanted experience from consciousness. Relating from our mind, from our reactivity, is no relationship at all. In place of conscious relationship, we respond with knee-jerk reflexes to difficult experience, a reactivity that kicks us out of our feeling body and into our thinking head, and into unnecessary suffering. Instead of dealing authentically with the challenging somatic sensation, we leap into inauthentic conceptual proliferation (confabulating and catastrophizing) to buffer ourselves from the discomfort of our feelings. We run from the honest pain and real news that come with being human, and into dishonest commentary and fake news. The truth is that many of the worst things in our life are things that never really “happened”!

Third, the reverse meditations upend our sense of meditation altogether. They represent a revolution in spiritual practice that turns our understanding of meditation inside out and upside down, and therefore radically expand our practice. Situations that were once antithetical to meditation now become our meditation. Obstacles that previously obstructed our spiritual path now become our path. This means that everything becomes our meditation. Nothing is forbidden. We can enter lifetime retreat in the midst of ordinary life.

Excerpted from Reverse Meditation: How to Use Your Pain and Most Difficult Emotions as the Doorway to Inner Freedom by Andrew Holecek.

Andrew Holecek is an author, speaker, and humanitarian who offers seminars internationally on meditation, lucid dreaming, and the art of dying. His work has appeared in Psychology Today, Parabola, Lion’s Roar, Tricycle, Utne Reader, Buddhadharma, Light of Consciousness, and many other periodicals. Learn more at andrewholecek.com.

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