Take a deep breath.
And now another.
Now, what are you noticing?
For the newly initiated, taking a few mindful breaths might mean a chance to sense into the presence of stress and tension in their body, more so than the release of it the breathing ultimately brings. The breath acts like the tentacles of an octopus, reaching out in every direction to feel all that it encounters, searching out open space and bumping up against blockages in its path. All of this is worth noticing. Yet when those very same people answer the question I posed, most reply with a story, rather than a sensation, almost every single time.
When I guide others through this simple exercise, the same one that is very much the foundational practice of the work of my teacher, David Cates, and of many neo-tantric practices, I am pointing them toward a connection to their felt experience. This can be pretty radical for the majority of us who, despite being in a body, live in our heads most of the time. Noticing what we feel, rather than our stories, labels and associations with those feelings, is where we’re heading.
Why? Because feeling is real. It is actual. A twitch in your eye or a flutter in your belly or a sense of spaciousness around your perineum is something that, in the present moment of your noticing it, actually exists. All the rest are thought forms, constructs of the mind, which are subjective rather than actual. A flutter is a flutter. Yet my story about a flutter may say that it’s a sign of uneasy anxiety while your story may say it’s anticipatory delight. Which is real?
Looking at this logically, our brain is not the most obvious of places in the body to go to access sensation, protected as it is by that trusty skull. Yet that is our default location for going to understand what we feel. And instead of accessing the feeling, what we’re doing is accessing our stories about the feeling, based on past experiences, cultural conditioning, expectations, judgments and a whole slew of factors unrelated to the present moment felt experience.
And now another.
You know the drill.
What are you feeling as you inhale the breath of life into every precious cell of the vessel that is your body? Where does the breath easily flow to and where does it meet resistance? Are you able to identify specific feelings in specific locations and speak to those sensations specifically? Let’s give it a try.
As I paused my typing to breath and sense into myself, I found some contraction and pressure at the base of my sternum. Actual. Could be that I’m writing from on airplane 35,000 feet above land, breathing canned air and I haven’t had enough to drink. Story.
Let’s go again. I’m going to bring my awareness back to that very same place and see what a few moments of breathing there do for my felt experience.
Full, rhythmic, slow breath throughout the entirety of my central channel with my attention focused firmly on my sternum brought a softening and a sense of fluidity there.
Now imagine that you were to apply this technique to your lovemaking, whether in an act of solo self-pleasuring or in the company of a lover. Consider how rich it would be to actually feel all of the sensations arising in you rather than be caught up in your stories about them. Our bodies are covered with nerve endings from head to toe, our very own network of finely tuned receptors for sensation, and they exist for the sole purpose of deepening our experience of what is real.
Tiny electrical impulses, signals of your body’s aliveness. A flush of warmth across your cheeks, a surge of heat in your low belly. The whisper of your beloved’s breath against your skin, the flow of your juices. These are actual. Sensation exists. And you exist to feel as much as you possibly can. So let’s please do as nature intended and start feeling!
When my beloved and I began our journey together, it started and continues with us making love with the slowness and stillness that true presence requires. At first it was a major adjustment for me from the friction-heavy stimulation that so many of my peak pleasure experiences of the past had been built around. Even the most devotional spaces I entered into sexually still ended up there. That was then. Now I have been initiated into the practice of presence, and it has been utterly exquisite.
When you begin to really notice what is arising and deeply feel what you are feeling, your love play quickly moves from the realm of doing into the realm of being, and the most sensational magic begins to happen. Connection to self deepens. Capacity for love expands. New ways of experiencing pleasure and satiation are now yours to discover. Making love, and living life, are elevated to a whole new level.
That is the power of presence. All we have to do is be, right where we are, right as we are, right who we are. Nothing to add, nothing to take away. There’s no way to be wrong because it is all right. Sensation simply is, just as you divinely are. And you can notice what you feel, anywhere, at anytime, bringing yourself into the realm of true reality.
And another deep breath. . .