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”?

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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: the creative use of ritual

What is the difference between a habit, a pattern, a routine, and a ritual? They exist along a spectrum of behavior, but a key distinction is that habits, patterns, and routines tend to be self-perpetuating to the point where they happen without effort or conscious choice. A ritual, on the other hand, is a ceremony with a specific intention to create or honor a special occasion.

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A birthday, for example. There are a bunch of traditional ways we celebrate birthdays — with gifts, a cake, making a wish, and blowing out candles (not to mention, these days, the cascade of Facebook greetings). It can be fun and fulfilling to embrace the traditional birthday celebration. But I had a lovely experience this week with a friend who wanted to acknowledge his birthday in a different way. He asked me to co-create a ritual with him acknowledging and honoring his family heritage. He was very specific about verbalizing his intention:

“I would love to have you witness and respond to meeting and seeing the menfolk ancestors that created the lineage that I followed down onto our Earth plane and then have you meet my womenfolk and childhood in an historic way. To reflect, shed, illuminate and strengthen my ability to heal/transform. I don’t quite know what this all means, but I am compelled at the moment to acknowledge and honor the life that is past, mine and theirs. ”

I was thrilled and honored to be invited to share his birthday this way. He arrived at my house with a shopping bag of materials. I’d laid out a table covered with a colorful fabric on which to create an altar for the occasion of this ritual. He brought some gems that were meaningful to him and some aromatic wood to burn. And then we spent an hour looking at pictures of his parents, his grandparents, his great-grandparents, and some other relatives. He said their names out loud and told stories about how they were related to each other and what impact they’d had on him growing up, and he showed me some pictures I’d never seen of himself as a child. And he read aloud a beautiful poem of birthday blessings that another friend had e-mailed him just that morning. I gave him a hand-written card I’d made and a wrapped present of a music DVD that I thought he would enjoy.

altar
It was amazingly fun. I learned a lot about my friend that I didn’t already know, and there was a sweetness and intimacy because we took the time to do something out of the ordinary, using pictures, storytelling, beautiful objects, sensory enhancements, and meditative awareness very simply to create some magic and to deepen our connection.

This is exactly the kind of experience that is at the heart of “THAT’S AMORE! — Creative Rituals for Intimacy and Connection,” the workshop for gay men that I will be conducting at Easton Mountain Retreat in upstate New York April 24-27.  In the course of three days together, I will be teaching the basic skills of creating ritual space and then guiding participants through the process of devising a whole string of intentional ceremonies to explore intimacy and connection through verbal communication, physical touch, and the use of artistic imagination (involving music, writing, movement, photography, meditation, food, and the natural environment).

The workshop is the evolutionary product of my private therapy practice — offering sex and intimacy coaching to individuals and couples — and “Authentic Eros,” the workshop I taught for many years with my friend Kai Ehrhardt. It’s especially designed for the benefit of two kinds of people:  partnered guys in long, loving relationships whose physical/erotic/emotional intimacy has gone somewhat dormant and wants to wake up; and single guys who really want to be in a relationship but can’t seem to get past the second date and want to discover some new ways to build intimacy and connection over time. It’s my intention for each participant to leave with not only tools for connecting more deeply with other men but also a great appreciation for yourself as a lover.  The cost of the workshop is $495-695 depending on accommodations.

For more information and registration, 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.

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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.