Our Next Workshop
There has been quite a flurry of communication about our next workshop—a workshop intended for experienced practitioners—and much of that discussion has centered on the issue of naked practice. It is a conversation that has caused me to wrestle, intellectually, and given me reason to be in contact with many of the people who advise me. The conversation had the very good outcome of returning me to the basic principles that have always served me well in Touch Practice.
The issue under discussion seems to be this: there are some whose deepest, most profound Touch Practice experiences have happened during naked practice, while there are others who have had equally deep, equally profound experiences precisely because they were not naked. Some find tremendous freedom in being able to be out of their clothes, and some find tremendous safety in the idea that they do not need to come out of their clothes to make a close, intimate connection to others.
This is further complicated by the fact that many people have deep experiences of connection that are facilitated by an erotic connection, and some have equally deep experiences that do not involve erotic energy. And there’s no correlation with nakedness. It is possible to be naked and not experience erotic energy (ask people who have spent extended time with nudist groups and see if I’m making this up.) It is possible to be fully clothed and highly engaged with the erotic.
So the questions that have inevitably arisen are the classic, perpetual questions that arise around workshops. These arise so often that I’ve blogged about both of them already: the first question is, “How will it Go?” and the second is “So is it naked or not?” We always want to be able to predict what situation we’re going to find ourselves in, and what we’re going to do about it.
The truth is that we can predict neither of those things. We can go in with specific intention, breathe and stay grounded, and make conscious, mindful choices as we go, sitting with what is. That’s all we can do. It doesn’t matter if it’s a beginning workshop or the 500th time you’ve practiced; the rules don’t change. Here is what I do know about this next workshop, and I know this from standing on the basic principles of Touch Practice as I have come to understand them:
- The workshop is intended for people who have are experienced with the principles and techniques Touch Practice, either through one on one practice or through one of our many group workshops.
- Within this group, the workshop will be built, as all workshops are, specifically for the men who are registered. I always have a conversation with each person registered for a workshop to learn what I can about what each person seeks. I do my best to create a container that will provide safety for each person to conduct the exploration they intend.
- The workshop will create safe space for people to be clothed, or to be in the naked body. This is a little different from most of our basic/introductory workshops, where we typically don’t have time to explore naked practice and limit ourselves to clothing-on work. There will be specific time devoted to issues in naked practice and considerable time devoted to understanding and working with erotic energy. However, this will not be a workshop about naked practice; rather a workshop that includes, and makes space for, naked practice.
- It is a basic principle of Touch Practice that only you get to decide what you do with your body. That principle is never suspended for any reason. There is never a “group” moment where everyone must do the same thing. There is no peer pressure, no manipulation. Each person sets his own boundaries. There will be an opportunity for people to come out of clothing to the extent that they are comfortable, but not a requirement that people do so. I will ask people to make space for others who are different from them, and I will facilitate that.
- This means we will likely be operating in a mixed environment: men who are experiencing erotic energy for others and men who are not; men who are in their clothing and men who are not, men who come from different sexual orientations, and men with different beliefs and values. This is fundamental to Touch Practice and no different from any other workshop or individual practice. We are all different; we sit with each other, as we are; we react to each new experience mindfully, by holding intention and making choices; we breathe, stay grounded, and act from awareness.
While all men react differently in Touch Practice, and that is part of the practice, I can somewhat categorize reactions to erotic energy, and nakedness, and I expect that the workshop will incorporate men who have one or more of these three types of experiences:
- men for whom erotic connection/response is absent, irrelevant, or not particularly interesting;
- men for whom erotic connection is a destination: they look for it, they watch for it, and when they find it, they sit down there and won’t move from that place;
- men for whom erotic connection is a doorway: they find it, pass through it, come out the other side and explore things that go beyond the doorway.
My own personal journey is that I have spent time in all three of these categories, pretty much in the order I listed them, and together they describe the “arc” of my experience in Touch Practice. Initially, Touch Practice was a way to create safe connection with men that did not depend on sexual or erotic energy. In my “middle period,” I got very comfortable in my naked body and extremely comfortable with erotic energy, and learned to boundary that so that it did not become sexual, but fully explored the erotic. And as time and practice passed, I became less and less interested in the erotic connection and fascinated with the many states–and there are many–that lie beyond the erotic and which I experience as exhilarating, euphoric, and deeply intimate.
And so, for me in this period of Touch Practice, erotic arousal or erection, if it happens at all during a practice, is almost always temporary and serves as a passageway to what I experience as a deeper connection. Being naked, whether it involves erotic energy or not, has become “no big deal,” but the context, the way I arrived at that, is important to understand. It certainly did not begin that way.
In describing my own experience I don’t wish to imply that one of these categories is more correct, more mature or more enlightened than another. I don’t believe that. I only have my own experience to stand on, and it is only true for me. In addition, I have described three categories from my own understanding. Perhaps there are five, or eight, or a million categories, or none.
The workshop will be designed in such a way as to make a place for all of this, and for that which I haven’t experienced or don’t understand yet. It is the same space we always make in Touch Practice: the space to sit mindfully, grounded and aware, with whatever is unfolding, and to follow it through with kindness and compassion for ourselves and our partners.
I look forward to what I imagine will be many interesting phone conversations with some of you as we put the September workshop together. Warm hugs to all.
Have thoughts you’d like to share?
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