Recently I was missing a man I’ve been experiencing a deep connection with. In particular, I felt this longing to feel his physical body close and to feel his arms around me firmly. To feel our skin touch.
As I was feeling this I started to wonder if or how I could give what I longed for - to myself. I felt a curiosity about what can be possible if I explored this.
I then, without thinking, walked into my bedroom and removed all my clothes, and laid down on my back on my soft bed. I ran my hands through my hair and spread it around me. I began touching the sides of my face and then moved my hand gently across my shoulders and chest.
I said out loud “I love you Leela”. I kept saying this as I moved both hands over more areas of my body. I wanted to attend to all of me.
“I love you Leela” out loud, over and over. I began feeling more warmth inside.
Initially, some thoughts floated through my mind saying “This is not as good as being loved by him” and “This is silly, it won’t do anything”.
But I kept going and more energy moved sweetly through my body with subtle electricity. This felt intimate and I felt turned on but in a way of just feeling more alive, not strongly sexual (at least not in the sense of how we usually think of ‘sexual’).
Then there was a moment where the “I love you Leela” was no longer feeling like just me saying this. It seemed to be coming from beyond me, that it was the universe saying “I love you Leela”. My energy began expanding and my body felt lightweight.
Lately, I have been so drawn to being around and connecting to men. I’ve been loving and desiring the feeling of masculine energy (and in women that have that too). This is from wanting to feel contained.
As I have been opening my heart more and becoming much more vulnerable (sometimes fear, pain, or discomfort comes) - I have been awed at the support that shows up. So many times someone responds to me with exquisite kindness and care or wisdom or I hear something or read something that is exactly what I need in that moment.
So back to loving myself - as my hands moved down my body while feeling the universe tell me it loves me, it felt especially good to feel my hands caress down my legs and the best part was pressing the palm of my hand against the bottom of my foot and hearing “I love you Leela”. I then felt more contained.
It was nice being made love to like this from myself and the universe, to feel that quiet bigness of love all around me and inside me. To dissolve some of that feeling of being separate from life.
*** One way I would describe what feeling contained means: Have you ever walked and was unsure of where the ground is under your feet? That feeling of being wobbly and unsure and that you might fall at any moment? Feeling contained for me is the opposite of that - a feeling of the ground being very there, very strong and solid as it lovingly meets my feet.
Have you done anything kind for yourself lately? I would love to receive it in the comments. Nakedness not required :)
I hated talking about my feelings. Ugh. Sharing my inner world. It was awful. This is how I felt up till my early thirties or so.
But I would have times of intense depression and desperation and the psychiatric medications I took weren’t enough to completely numb it. There was this idea I had that when you have an emotional or mental problem you “get help”. Like some kind of magical solution happens when you “get help”.
At that time “getting help” meant therapy to me. Going to some kind of expert, a professional. So despite the dread, I would motivate myself to seek out a therapist. This happened a few times over the years. I would go to someone and hate the sessions and then leave feeling worse. After a few sessions I just couldn’t bring myself to go back. When I stopped seeing that person I felt I had failed at “getting help”.
One main reason I felt worse after these sessions was because I had so much repressed pain that would start to surface and I had no idea how to talk about it. I didn’t understand it at all.
But there were other reasons. I felt like a sick patient in those sessions. It was also awkward because I would be blocked and it was hard to talk and the therapist would stare at me waiting for me to say something. The pressure was difficult for me. Sometimes I would share what was happening in my life and would feel I was being psychoanalyzed and would get further labeled or diagnosed. They wanted to pick apart my childhood and my relationship with my parents and that was excruciating to me.
I was intimidated by them. But I could sometimes sense their fear of me too, of my self-destructiveness, of how traumatized I was (even though I didn’t really know it then myself). Other times I would feel the person’s projection on me and I knew their solutions and ideas had nothing to do with me, it was their own unresolved stuff.
But then one day I attended this short workshop on dream symbolism at a local holistic health fair. I was immediately drawn to the woman who led it. I’m going to call her Nan (not her real name). Nan radiated a certain presence. After the workshop I looked up her website and found out she gives therapy sessions in her home in my neighborhood.
I started seeing her once a week and this went on for several months.
I loved it. I loved her. I started to open up. I was coming out of my shell a little. I felt lighter and happier than I had ever felt up to this point.
Interestingly enough she seemed to have no desire to fix me or label me or even try to help me solve my problems. In fact, sometimes I would tell her about the latest health problem I suspected I had and wanted to obsess over it. She would refuse to even discuss it saying “No, we aren’t talking about that”. I would be confused and disappointed at first. Isn’t she supposed to help me figure this out? Doesn’t she see I could be sick, maybe even die? Doesn’t she see something is seriously wrong with me?
Other times I felt relieved and elated with her permission in letting go of guilt and doing what made me happy. But then I would start to blame the other person for guilting me. Again she would say “Nope, not doing that”.
I didn’t realize it at the time but I was forced to let go during those sessions. Nan refused to indulge my fearful obsessive mind and my tendency to swing from blaming myself to blaming someone else.
Sometimes on the way to our session I would feel there was no point to going. I had nothing to talk about and nothing was going on. Those times we would just sit silently together, no pressure or expectation for anything to talk about. Out of nowhere I would start talking about something seemingly random that happened to me recently. And then I realized that yes, something did happen and it bothered me. Nan would listen. She sometimes shared a story. Sometimes just reflect what she noticed in my sharing.
After a few months, she moved away and I instinctively knew it was time for me to move on even though I struggled with losing her. (After this I went on to the work I'm doing now which has given me a depth of knowing that was unimaginable and unattainable for me at that time of seeing Nan)
So why was Nan’s approach to therapy so helpful to me while all the others weren’t? Some therapists I went to had successful careers, books published, and advanced degrees in psychology. Nan didn’t have these things, she was a retired social worker.
It took me years to understand why this woman had such an impact on me.
The two things that stand out to me:
She Respected Me
She Was Present
It seems so simple. But it is profound. Why? Because in order to give these things to me she had to have done it for herself first. That takes focused inner work and wisdom. Can that come just from learning psychology? Can respect and presence come by studying ourselves or another solely through mental concepts and elaborate mental explanations and strategies? No, not in my experience is this possible.
I see it as a deep, very honest, and mystical personal exploration inward. It’s facing the unknown, over and over. And over and over. Until it begins to be more of a way of life. In the unknown we inevitably come to layers of fears and pain from the past. Transforming what we come across frees us and we no longer need to project that onto others.
At that time of seeing Nan, I had not yet learned to respect myself. I had not yet learned to be present with myself. She modeled this for me though. I was not a broken human being that she had to fix and put back together, even though sometimes I wanted her to. She taught me without teaching me. She did what was easy and natural for her. Because of this, I was not a burden to her. I was paying her for a service she provided, yet she refused to take on my worries and fears.
Was she perfect? No. Could she help me understand what was driving my obsessiveness and my guilt and blame? Could she help me see the truth behind my dependence on medications? No. That wasn’t her purpose for me though. That came later when I started working with Mada Dalian. That’s when I started to uncover in myself the respect and presence that I continue to deepen and grow today.
I don’t blame those other therapists for not being able to help me. How could they? They were suffering deeply themselves. In some ways they were also a reflection of myself.
I know now that LOVE is not what we think it is.
I write this in gratitude to all who have guided me towards the next step, regardless of their level of awareness. Most of all to my teacher, Mada.
Thank you for all your strength. For all the times you had to go into battle and face harm and even death. For all the hard work you have done under the pressure to provide and to protect.
For thousands of lifetimes, you have had to be the strong one. The one who knew all the answers. The one who took charge. Who fixed it all. Who could never show weakness. You have had to stay on guard for so long.
I know it takes time for the armor to come off. It’s not fair to expect you to suddenly rip it all off at once. It will come off when you are ready. You decide.
I know these are confusing times for you. First, you had to carry the job of being the bigger sex. Now there are messages out there telling you to make yourself small and be obedient. That it's wrong to be powerful.
You are seen as both, God and the Devil.
It's not just women. You too have also been manipulated and used. Projected upon. You experience deep pain and fear too.
Personally, I disagree that it’s your job to fix “patriarchy”.
I also know you have been shamed for your sexual desire and yet told it makes you a "real man”.
You feel pressure to perform and know what to do, without any guidance. Unrealistic expectations that no human could satisfy, much less experience love.
Vulnerability is a challenge for me. For you, that challenge is multiplied, many times over.
I think it’s so perfect and beautiful to be a woman. And it's so perfect and beautiful that you are a man.
I don't want us to be the same or to always agree or see life the same way. How boring would that be?
Thank you men. For teaching me to be compassionate and understanding. Thank you men for pushing me to find my strength and independence. To take responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings. And my boundaries. Most of all thank you for teaching me that my choices are my own.
I know the moments of power struggles and those little battles will still happen. But even when it's chaotic and messy, deep down I still remain so grateful for all of it. So grateful for you being you.
I have seen so clearly that we were never meant to save each other and satisfy each other's expectations. But instead to help know and love ourselves. And share our self-knowledge, presence, and love with each other.
I love our dance of interdependence.
Dear Men, you are essential. Essential to everything.
You are one half of this earthly experience. You are one half of me. I'm so glad you exist!
To all men, I just simply love you.
**This one felt too personal to use a stock image for. So I dug out some old photographs that I took and processed a long time ago in a college photography class. The model is my then-boyfriend. Back then I thought being naked was all it took to be intimate.
Leela Haris - Expanding Consciousness