Sunday, December 10, 2006

Learning how to be in your body

Yesterday I spent the day at the "Embodied Community Day." I know that sounds (groan) sooooo Californian.

The invitation promised: a day that is "fun, juicy, inexpensive and open to everyone who'd like to find out what’s possible when grounded, empowered, open-hearted people come together." There would be an "enliven your body playshop, where we would learn new ways to express your essence through movement, dance, yoga and touch and deepen our emotional connections. Then an Empowered Intimacy workshop led by Scott Longwell promising "new skills and new ways of being that will enable you to be connected, free, and empowered in romantic relationships, at work, and in Community." All capped off with an Intimacy Lounge of "Sultry Dance and Sacred Chilling."

I was introduced to this group a week ago when I attended one Whole Body's free David Deida video screenings. It was an interesting concept -- workshop leader Scott screened the Deida film to the group and then lead exercises from the video, or exercises that took a riff on Deida's renowned teachings on sacred intimacy and we experienced them first hand.

I have heard so much about Deida lately (maybe I'm just the last one on my block -- he's written ten bestselling books) and wandered into the seminar to learn what all the hype is about. I came away from the evening feeling a better sense of what it means to be a woman, to be fully present in my body and my femininity and how creating that presence and openness makes me significantly more attractive and available to the right kind of men.

I was impressed with this group of people. First of all, they were definitely far healther and more attractive than average -- very centered in their bodies, physical and fit. An uncommon number of them seem to be acrobats, contact improv dancers or yogis, and they exude a confident, self-assured presence.

At first the room seemed to be filled with people younger than me, but later I learned that most of the participants were in their mid-30s to late 40s and simply looked a lot younger than their actual age. The ages ranged up to a man in his 70s.

It was raining here in the Bay Area so I decided, hey, why not -- and made the long drive south to the light, airy white loft in a run down block of Oakland where Whole Body Wisdom has it's events. A girl named Jamie Love with a sparkly heart painted on her cheek greeted me, and I deposited my shoes in the heap at the door, and padded across the patchwork of thick oriental rugs and sat on a cushion in the packed room.

As I arrived, the group was concluding the playshop where they were doing acroyoga and contact improvisational dance exercises.

Then workshop leader Scott was moving into the Deida-inspired intimacy sessions.

Scott said: "Remember a time when you weren't fully empowered." He's sitting on a futon in front of the group, flanked by a thin, athletic man in his late 40s and a beautiful younger woman with waist length blonde hair who strokes his hand as he speaks and "holds space." She beams radiantly as if just being in this man's presence is energizing for her, though I have to wonder if it's just an ego trip for him to have the loveliest girl in the room practically sitting in his lap as he lectures.

Scott has a confident, self-satisfied air about him, and a big enigmatic cheshire grin. He's a big man with a powerful build and a shiny shaved head. He reminds me of a New Age Mr. Clean, here to clean up our karma and scrub our inhibitions away. He tapes our answers to that question with a small silver electronic device that beeps on and off.

"The thing that we think is ugliest about us...when we share it, it's no longer hidden, and that in turn makes us more attractive," Scott says. One woman in the room says her weakness is rescuing drug addicted men who end up living in her house and taking her money. An attractive silver-haired elderly woman says her fear is that her body will never make love again. In turn, we confess to strangers, our deepest weakness. When it is my turn, I say: "My pattern is that I get in relationships with fixer upper men -- and buy fixer upper houses." The room giggles nervously.

"A lot of us choose a relationship based on the question: "Do I feel safe?" he says. "Choosing someone weaker than us makes us feel more powerful, but it's a lie. We want to be in control so we hire someone not as smart as us." Scott, who formerly was a management consultant in the corporate world, and still exudes this confident executive power over a room, says: "It takes a lot of confidence to hire experts who are smarter than you in areas where you are weak. In love, and work, you want someone with different skills, but more powerful."

Scott then confesses to us that he was picked on as a child, and very relf-conscious as a young man because he was bigger than everyone else. In confessing this secret to us, he did become more human, more real, and in turn, more attractive. (Perhaps this is why we like to learn the relationship woes of celebrities and relish in the marital distress of stars. It makes them more human, vulnerable and thus even more attractive to us.)

Scott points out a sign on the wall: "Often others see us more clearly than we see ourselves. Our deepest gift is often underneath our biggest fear."

We then moved into an exercise where we were asked a question by a partner and then in turn, had to answer the question first as if we were coming from our head, then as if we were centered in our heart, and finally, as if we were one big genital. "Come on, answer this one as if you're one big dick or one big juicy yoni," Scott joked. The room roared with laughter as put our whole bodies into answering that question. My partner was a thin, nervous guy who seemed forever stuck in his head, and I instantly "got" how that when we respond to a sexual need with an intellectual response we're not able to communicate effectively to our partners and then just come across as wimpy and unattractive. (I found myself totally turned off by his rigid, almost robotic responses.)

Later that night, we moved into the sacred chillspace -- which by the end of the night had steamy windows and was starting to look more like a high school dance, with couples making out in the shadowy corners of the room on floor cushions. A beautiful man taught me how to do contact Salsa dance (a variation on Contact Improvisation, which is depicted in the photograph above.)

I've been opening myself and my heart more to intimate energetic connection with others, and now that I am less self conscious and defensive I'm surprisingly a much better dancer. I was able to feel my partner's energy and sense what direction he wanted to lead me. Instead of stepping all over his feet, I was flowing, utterly in the moment of what we were doing. I suddenly understood why dance is the ultimate seduction, and the best way to feel out a potential partner for compatibility. Somewhere along the line we've become too intellectual and too centered in our heads and thus unable to listen to our hearts. I guess the Whole Body Workshop was at it's core about learning how to return to this kind of playful presence when we interact with each other.

The community playground that Scott creates promises the "opportunity to be playfully serious and seriously playful, an expansion of your ability to be open, loving and powerful in the face of real world challenges." I think one could be cynical and say that's all just a bunch of West Coast new age double speak, and there were a few newcomers to the event who uncomfortably admitted they felt that way about it, but in the end, I'd say his words just about sum it up. By the end of the night, I felt more alive and present in my body than I have in a long time, and less self conscious about my inadequacies.

To learn more about Whole Body Wisdom and the Church of Soul, visit:

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