EVENTS: Living Soulfully, Sunday April 6, 4-6 PM

I will be the guest speaker this Sunday April 6 at Living Soulfully, the monthly gathering of local guys who have been to Easton Mountain Retreat Center in upstate New York or who have an interest in belonging to the extended community of soulful gay men.

My topic is CREATING RITUALS FOR INTIMACY AND CONNECTION. Habits, patterns, and routines bring comfort and stability to our everyday lives. But what happens when those routines grow stale and we feel trapped in same-old same-old? Whether you’re partnered and puzzling over how to keep sex juicy or single and pondering new ways to make contact, what does it take to “get outside the box”?

get-out-of-the-box

In this lively interactive presentation (a preview of the workshop I’ll be conducting at Easton Mountain April 24-27), I’ll talk about using creativity to devise rituals that enliven intimacy and promote connection. Although often associated with religious services, a ritual can be any kind of intentional ceremony. It can be cooked up on the spur of the moment and be done in ten minutes, or it can involve elaborate preparation and go on for days. I’ll talk about what goes into creating a powerful ritual, then together we will explore how to identify habits we have and things we do that don’t serve us anymore and practice imagining new ways of connecting with each other that involve verbal communication, and touch, and artistic expression (music, movement, pictures).

photo by Adam Seymour

photo by Adam Seymour

Living Soulfully usually meets at the LGBT Community Center on West 13th Street, but because of construction, the meeting will take place at Ripley Grier Studios 520 Eighth Ave. 16th floor,
(8th Ave. b/w 36th and 37th Street). Tell the desk you are going to Ripley-Grier and proceed to the 16th Floor. Living Soulfully’s room will be listed on their board. The meeting goes on from 4:00 to 6:00. Newcomers are welcome. Bring a friend. See you there!

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GLOSSARY: on intimacy

What is intimacy? We talk about it all the time. We long for it. We fear it. But what do we mean when we talk about intimacy? There’s some part of it that is physical and erotic, but what part? Sex can be intimate, but it’s not automatically. Intimacy can include sex, but it doesn’t have to. Some part of intimacy is emotional – just having feelings, expressing them, sharing them with another person is pretty intimate, not necessarily something you do on a casual basis with just anyone. Some part of intimacy is verbal – it may not be easy to define, but you know the difference between an intimate conversation and one that’s not especially intimate.

At some personal growth seminar years ago, I heard intimacy defined as “Into-Me-You-See.” I know, it’s a little corny. But it gets to the heart of what constitutes intimacy – showing yourself to someone else, with all the openness, tenderness, courage, vulnerability, and individuality that requires. It’s great when you’re able to relax and feel free to be yourself with another person.

intimacy

I’ve learned through personal experience and through my professional practice that intimacy can be created. You can build it by hand, step by step, on purpose. That’s the essence of the workshop for gay men that I’m facilitating at Easton Mountain April 24-27, “THAT’S AMORE: Creative Rituals for Intimacy and Connection.” Starting with the process of creating ritual space, formally and informally, we will explore a dozen different ways of cultivating intimacy by devising intentional ceremonies and experiments involving verbal communication, physical touch, imagination, and artistic elements (music, pictures, movement, food, meditation, the natural environment).

The program is intended for single or partnered gay men who would enjoy spending a weekend in a structured environment that supports the quest for authentic love and affection. Each participant will leave with not only tools for connecting more deeply with other men but also a greater appreciation for yourself as a lover.

The cost of the workshop is $495-695 (depending on your choice of accommodations). For more information and to register online, go to http://bit.ly/AmoreEaston.

EVENTS: “That’s Amore!” at Easton Mountain, April 24-27, 2014

This spring I will be conducting a workshop for gay men called “THAT’S AMORE! — Creative Rituals for Intimacy and Connection” at Easton Mountain Retreat in upstate New York.

gRUFF!buds1504

For busy, active adults in committed relationships, it’s often amazingly difficult to make time to enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed and intimate way. Professional responsibilities, family obligations, and housekeeping get the attention they demand – but what about exploring and growing together, erotic play, Quality Time For Us? For single guys, it’s relatively simple to organize fleeting sexual encounters in the monosyllabic parlance of social-networking apps (Top? Bottom? Hung? Stats?), but negotiating the steps that lead from a quick hookup to a sustained, mutually satisfying relationship can be mystifying. In this weekend retreat for gay men, participants will gain instruction and practice in creating simple, elegant, and fun ceremonies intended to foster intimacy and connection.

1-10 workshop altar

We’ll begin with practical instruction on the rudiments of creating ritual space: using sacred objects, formulating intentions, making time commitments. Rituals can be simple outlines for intentional actions, devised on the spur of the moment, that employ whatever is at hand and finish up in 10 minutes – or they can involve elaborate preparation and go on for hours. We’ll experiment with many variations over the course of a weekend. Each day we’ll explore ceremonies based on verbal communication and physical touch as well as the creative use of music, words, photography, movement, touch, meditation, food, and the natural environment.

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The program is intended for single or partnered gay men who would enjoy spending a weekend in a structured environment that supports the quest for authentic love and affection. My intention is for each participant to leave with not only tools for connecting more deeply with other men but also a greater appreciation for yourself as a lover.

The workshop will begin at dinnertime Thursday April 24 and end at lunchtime Sunday April 27. The cost for the workshop is $495-695 (depending on your choice of accommodations).

Here’s a video of me talking a little more about the program. For more information, or to register for the workshop, go to Easton Mountain’s website here.

RESOURCES: John Ballew on anal touch

john ballew
John Ballew (above) is a therapist, bodyworker, and educator who lives in Atlanta and teaches workshops for the Body Electric School. (He and I for many years co-facilitated a program in Italy for gay men called “Come to Your Senses.”) He’s got a workshop coming up that focuses on anal pleasure for men, and the mini-essay he circulated is such a good introduction to this topic that I wanted to share it here.

What is it about anal sensuality that is taboo for some people, unknown for folks, and such a delight for still others?  We’re talking about a part of our body that commands our attention – yet some of us prefer not to think about.  We can’t really see this part of our body directly, though many of us have certainly tried!  While we are in touch with this part of ourselves every day of our lives, it retains a certain mystery, doesn’t it?

Our buttocks are rich in meaning as well as nerve endings.  Psychoanalysts say that as children, mastering control of the anal muscle is the earliest experience humans have of asserting mastery in the world.  (It certainly makes parents happy when they do.)  That’s the start of a lifetime of emotional associations associated with anal experiences.

Celebrating the Body Erotic is in many ways a class that cultivates male yang energy.  Anal sex and anal sensuality are ways of exploring the counterpart: male yin.  While male yin may be cultivated by being the receptive partner in intercourse, that isn’t the only way.  Sensual touch and erotic exploration can also nurture yin.

The Body Electric School brings important values to anal bodywork.  Anal touch is about sensuality, not performance; penetration is a possibility, not a goal.  Safety and hygiene are important concerns.  And because buttocks and buttholes are best treated with great tender loving care, we learn to love ourselves and our bodies more fully when we receive, and to develop great skill in what I call “listening touch” when we give.  This is no small thing.  Indeed, we can’t love our whole bodies unless we love everything about our butts as well.

The Body Electric School is happy to offer In the Valley of Delight, a wide-ranging exploration of anal touch that welcomes both “beginners” and those who already enjoy anal sensuality.  The next Into the Valley of Delight program will be offered at Easton Mountain April 18-21.

For more information or questions, contact John by clicking here.