Tag Archive: seaking ecstasy

Okay. So, yes, a substantial portion of my friends are either literally KonMari-ing their homes right now, or else riffing on the whole “does X spark joy” question for everything from city snow-removal to gender assignments, so I guess here we are, and the answer to my mother’s question is “Yes, in fact, I probably would jump off that cliff… At least a little bit”.
There’s a story that goes “You have to be getting something out of this in order to keep it going”.
The “this” in question is usually a behaviour pattern or, sometimes, a relationship. It’s generally something that, to anyone outside of your own skull, looks like a seriously detrimental thing that doesn’t make a lot of sense or do you a lot of good.
What you might be “getting” can be a lot of things. It can be “feelings of superiority” or “a metaphorical/literal sugar high” or “reliable access to housing” or “spiritual fulfillment” or “a reminder that I’ve Still Got It” or “affirmation of bonds with my attachment-person” or “reassurance that I am still unworthy of love and belonging and, as such, the world is still functioning as I expect it to and chaos has not recently staged a coup”.
It can be a lot of different things.
So. I know that the behaviours I’m trying to work through and examine via this little blog project of mine are… “not sparking joy”, so to speak. Feelings of shame and anxiety are not making me happy, they’re not facilitating emotional connection or erotic communion with my partners, and they are probably contributing to my lower back and hip pain if recent experiences are anything to go by.
So I have to ask myself: What the heck am I (still) getting out of this crap???
Well, let’s dig into that.
A long time ago, during a situation that was heavily outside of my control, I made a bunch of active choices in order to try and mitigate what I thought was going on.
What I did, actively, was I conditioned myself (more Emily Nagoski here, if you’re wondering) to hit the “breaks” instead of the “gas” – to turn away from, rather than turn towards, my desires – when I felt sexual attraction to my partner.
That was a dumb fucking idea, let me tell you.
But it was the best – wherein “best” means “likely to result in the least… difficult-to-endure kind of emotional pain”[1] – option I had right at that moment. Or at least I thought it was. I didn’t want to be a pest or otherwise put pressure on my partner, I didn’t want to keep experiencing the pain of rejection, so I decided, in a fairly conscious way, that it would be better (or at least more appropriate, behavior-wise) if I just stopped experiencing that desire.
I literally made myself have a avoidance/stress response to my gorgeous, sexy person (combined with a big, old shame response for any desirous feelings that showed up) instead of an interest/curiosity response. (Ha! And then was surprised when it didn’t just go away or auto-reverse or something when it was no-longer required…)
Like I said, it was dumb.
And, in doing so, I did a bunch of damage to myself[2] which I’m now trying to undo.
Because I’m still having those responses. As mentioned in this recent post, I’ve been having a hard time believing that it’s okay, and even encouraged, to have sexually-charged thoughts about my various sweethearts. And, yeah, sure. NRE can, and does, mitigate or override some of those responses. But NRE also doesn’t last forever. Heck, my ovaries and their wonderful, magical hormones are not going to last forever.
I would like to be an erotic, sexual woman long after menopause has done its thing… and I feel like I’m running out of time. I’ll be forty before the year is out. Menopause may still be a fair ways off, but I’d like to instill some better habits, and a more pleasurable, joyful sense of “my normal” before I get there.
So I have to ask myself: What am I getting out of this, if I’m still doing it?
And… I don’t really know?
I mean, probably? I’m probably getting a sense of “avoiding something that will hurt” from still doing this. I’m probably getting some kind if “Phew! Crisis averted!” feeling from still doing this, if only because sitting in my desire, and the uncertainty around it, feels so risky and dangerous and… forbidden.
And, yes. I wrote myself a permission slip to help me allow myself to feel those things, to lean into my desires, to enjoy and explore them as they happen. And, no, I’m not expecting to have a sudden, shocking turn-around on this, I’m expecting it to take practice and time[3].
But if I’m only still doing this because I’m trying to avoid some kind of pain… and it’s hurting me[4] anyway? Then it’s time to release it and let it go.
Emily Nagoski – as linked in that video, above – talks about how “confidence” and “joy” are the two keys to getting the kind of sex you want, and defines “Joy” specifically as “loving what’s true”.
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha talks about a sort of radical self-compassion where you treat your traumatized, constantly-pain-carrying, femme body as being worthy as-is, of pleasure and desire and fulfillment.
A major goal of this whole project is to get myself into the habit of noticing things that feel good, in particular things that feel arousing or sexually pleasurable, even if I’m not limiting my “notice pleasure” lists to that. My hope is that, by doing this (and various other things) I’ll develop some shame-resilience and be better-equipped to deal with the discomfort and vulnerability that comes with opening myself up to desire & desiring, and also that I’ll actually give myself some practice feeling my way through “Oh, this feels good. It’s okay to want, and pursue, more of that thing that feels good”. Right?
That’s the plan, anyway.
So. While I’m not sure there are ways to love what’s true about my own decision to mess myself up fairly badly here… Are there ways to love what’s true otherwise? (Seriously, kids? I googled “how to write an affirmation” for this one):
I am feeling my way into, and through, my sexual desires and the emotional wobbles I have around them, and I love that about myself.
I am learning to be comfortable with, and in, my desires, and I love that about myself.
I am acting on my attractions to my gorgeous, sexy romantic partners, and I love that about myself.
Notice Pleasure: My fingers working my scalp while washing my hair. Kisses along my back and shoulders. Fingernails light along my ribs. Foot massages.
Ms Syren.
[1] Which is a very, very odd way to define “best”, but here we are.
[2] And, probably, at least some damage to my partner and to that relationship.
[3] Which is not to say that I’m not also kind of getting my hopes up here, but hopefully not for naught, you know? I’m trying to take a balanced approach to this stuff. Here’s hoping it works.
[4] Not just me, either, but one of my partners made a point of explicitly telling me, the other day, that I can be doing this important self-work just because I want to have fun, fulfilling, intimate, playful, ecstatic sexual experiences – that I deserve that, in and of myself – and that I don’t have to justify doing the work, or committing the time, energy, and attention to it, by viewing it through the lens of “wanting to be a better lover” for/to other people. So we’re going to focus on the “me” part of that equation for this one. Okay? Okay. 🙂

I’ve got a bunch of books on my shelf that have the “ecstasy” or “ecstatic” in their titles. Ecstasy Is Necessary. Ecstatic Witchcraft. Radical Ecstasy.
Ecstasy is – maybe, by one definition of ecstatic ritual (Adrian Harris and M. Macha NightMare[1]) – a means of reconnecting with the other-than-human world as well as with “the wisdom of the body”. A way of allowing oneself the vulnerability of deep connection with something else.
Which… When I pull on Esther Perel again, actually puts itself in opposition (dynamic tension?) with her idea of erotic as “The ability to stay connected to oneself in the presence of another”.
I’m… interested in a few things here. I’m interested in cultivating ecstatic states – even if I find the notion of all those blurred boundaries to be liiiittle scary – but I’m also interested in… how to build those kinds of deep connections without losing my sense of self.
I’ve experienced senses of timelessness – SM scenes that felt like 30-40 minutes and turned out to be 3-4 hours long. Dancing in a crowd for hours when, usually, I’m tired after a song or two – but I don’t know that I’ve experienced that kind of… self-dissolving connectivity that I think might be related to ecstatic states.
I’m signed up to the Explore More Summit (again) and, on Day One, I got to listen to the Nagoski Sisters talk about connection as a cure for burnout. And they described something that they called “the magic trick” – getting 300 very intense university students to sing “Let It Go” together in a lecture hall – and which I recognized as an ecstatic experience. I really appreciated how they sort of… gave an ingredients list for “ecstatic experience” (without ever once calling it that, because though they are both PhDs, neither of them is a religious scholar) and then talked about what happens during those experiences, neurologically. One of them (Emily) said that ecstatic experiences are such a literal experience of connectivity with The Other (<– I’m paraphrasing very hard right there) that there’s a neurological bridge that happens between you (The Other could be other humans participating in the same rock concert, it could also be a deity, or more than one. There are options) such that your minds are not entirely inside your own bodies during those experiences.
Which is HELLA COOL!
(Just be being a big nerd there for a second).
I keep thinking about how, like, Brené Brown talks about the way shame and connection are the two ends of the vulnerability spectrum. How easy it is for me to flip into shame and how hard it is for me to stay with connection.
And I wonder if there’s something in here, in “practicing ecstasy[2]”, that can… help?
Look. Ages ago, Andrea Zanin wrote a blog post about the energetic exchange that happens – intentionally or not – when our skin is broken by someone else. (It popped up on my timeline the other day, which is what’s got me thinking of it now).
As a blood-play top, I “puncture [other people’s] tank” through cuttings and piercings (and I would include brandings here, too, tbh) with a fair amount of intentionality. The content of that intention varies wildly. From “I’m actively keeping specific types of my own energy out of the mix here” (because I’m running a “tasting table” for people who’ve never been pierced before, and want to see what it’s like, but didn’t necessarily sign up for a side-order of my personal dominance and sadism) all the way to “every cut I make in this stylized lotus chakra image over your sternum is actually me energetically opening up your heart and putting Ms Syen’s Special Blend of Self directly into you” (because we both want that level of connection and intimacy and this will strengthen the bonds that are already there).
While I’m not one to pierce myself – let alone let someone else do it, at least not outside of a blood-test situation – there are definitely other ways of piercing my own tank.
I can’t help thinking that this is one of the reasons why being on the receiving side of penetrative sex is such a difficult thing for me (at least some of the time). How it can be restorative and wonderful, but can also leave me feeling worse than before, if I’m experiencing it while feeling shaky or “leaky” or disconnected already.
I know I’ve done solo sex using a toy to get inside myself, and felt just awful after the fact – probably due to the headspace I was in when I started.
But I’m wondering if I can… if I can use this whole “pierce your own tank” thing, by using toys on myself, to release some of the shame-stuff I’m holding onto – just let it leak out – and intentionally fill the resulting space back up with something more positive, more connective.
It may or may not help me be more receptive, or more open to ecstatic experiences, but I figure, if nothing else, it’s worth a shot.
Notice Pleasure: Skin brushing skin. Rubbing noses. Chocolate truffle ice cream. Hot sunshine through a winter window. Making out. The way glass will hold the heat of my body, the reminder that I’ve got all that warmth inside me. The arch of someone’s back. Being able to move and rise, even when I’m stiff and sore, with something approaching grace.
Ms Syren.
[1] The above is a paraphrasing of a quotation I found here which, I think is lifted from their essay “New and Alternative Religions in the United States: Ritual and Neopaganism” in Gallagher’ and Ashcraft’s Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America).
[2] How? Singing? Dancing? Harvesting wild fruit? Star-gazing, falling into the northern lights? How much of this is ecstasy and how much of this is wonderment and how much overlap is there between the two? And, maybe more to the point, how much is it possible to do this on one’s own?