Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Mythology, Menstruation and the “Woman with the Issue of Blood”

Christ and the Woman with the Issue of Blood, by Paolo Veronese
Christ and the Woman with the Issue of Blood, by Paolo Veronese,
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria
Concern from the Vatican about environmental issues has been in the news lately. The ‘seven deadly sins’ have been updated to include environmental pollution and during his American visit the Pope repeatedly spoke of his concerns about damage to the environment. In July, on his Australian tour, “his holiness” recycled his speech on this topic once more.

I am a little reluctant to welcome these comments from the Catholic Church, particularly as in the Bible the best publicised environmental vandalism - the deliberate and senseless destruction of a wild fig tree - was in fact perpetrated by Jesus himself. This is how authors of the Good Book report it in the Gospel of Mark (11;12-21):
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it… In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus: "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"

Today, of course, a well-known public figure could never get away with such pointless vandalism, and anyone openly destroying a budding tree, in front of witnesses, would probably be crucified by the British press. At the time, however, only Juno, the Goddess of the wild fig tree, was watching with horror the obliteration of Her sacred tree.
Lammas (and fresh figs)
This is the time when thanks are given for the fertility of the fields. It was traditional in the Scottish Highlands to sprinkle drops of menstrual blood on doorposts and around the house using a wisp of straw and on Lammas Day people smeared their floors and cows with menstrual blood, an act of especial protective power at Lammas and at Beltane.

Lammas is the Festival of First Fruits. Fig trees in the Holy Land also produce their first fruit about this time and up to late September. Modern Bible criticism also has a field day with the fig tree enigma. Scholars question if this took place in the spring, as reported in the Gospels, or late summer/autumn. They point out that Jesus was familiar with the seasons of the land and would not expect fruits on a fig tree in the spring. Others remark that it is completely out of character that a religious Jew, like Jesus, should destroy a fruit tree.

Tantra and Christianity

"While meditating upon the yoni of a beautiful woman, the adept shall utter the sacred mantra 10 000 times. He shall become wise as Brhaspati. 10 000 more shall he repeat it, whilst meditating upon the yoni of a woman in her moon-time (menstruating) and he shall become as captivating as any practitioner of the poetic art...." Mantra Mahodadhi (1589 CE.)

Yoni meditation (Madhya Pradesh, 12th century)

French missionary, Abbe Dubois writing on Tantra in "Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies (1807): “The ceremony takes place at night with more or less secrecy. The least disgusting of these orgies are those where they confine themselves to eating and drinking everything that the custom of the country forbids and where women and men … openly and shamelessly violate the commonest laws of decency"... and practices involve “things too abominable to be revealed to a Christian public”.

The Church Father, Epiphanius of Cyprus (CE. 310 ca. – 403), suggests that a Christian group called the Phibionites indulge in lavish feasts that begin with a special greeting: The men shake hands with the women, secretly tickling or stroking their palms. An erotic gesture or perhaps a code designed to alert members to the presence of outsiders. Epiphanius' testimony carries weight, because he admits that he himself fell in among them. Married couples separate to engage in ritual sexual intercourse with other members of the community. The union is not meant to be for procreation, however, for the man withdraws before climax. The couple then collects his semen in their hands and ingests it together while proclaiming, “This is the body of Christ.” When possible, the couple also collects and consumes the woman's menstrual blood, saying “This is the blood of Christ” (Panarion 26.2-8).8 Other Gnostic groups have also consumed women's menstrual blood for the Eucharist, while pagans, as has been shown, considered it a sacred gift from the Goddess.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Judaism and Tantra

In Jewish tradition, a man without a woman is not complete = 'shalem' שָׁלֵם, it follows that alone, he can not achieve peace = 'shalom' שָׁלוֹם

The Kabbalah reminds us that in Hebrew, the words for man (ish)  and the word for woman (isha) are the same except for two letters Y and H, which spell the name of God: "When a man joins himself to a woman in holiness, God dwells among them"
Manאִישׁ  &  Woman - אִשָּׁה
God - י ה

"Hence a man (ish אִישׁ) leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife (ba’ishto בְּאִשְׁתּוֹ), so that they become one flesh."(Genesis 1. 23)

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Older Women, Sexual Desire and Tantric Massage

Sexuality is an important part of health and identity in every stage of a woman’s life. However, in western societies sexuality is often considered the domain of the young. The idea of mature women having and enjoying sex sits uncomfortably with many people. It is still the case today that it is more acceptable for older men than older women to be sexual.

Today, ideas of older women's sexuality often stem from traditional Christian values, where the woman was passive in her sex life, and sex was mainly for reproductive purposes. The early Christian system of belief, that declared women unclean by nature, inherently sinful and dangerous, stifled and subdued all expressions of female sexuality and creativity. The creative wisdom of mature women, were seen by the Church, as especially dangerous and the Inquisition prosecuted women healers, seers, herbalists, midwives for centuries, burning them as witches.

In sharp contrast, many “primitive societies” view menopausal women as embodiments of wisdom and creative sexuality as the Native American saying illustrates: “At menarche a young woman enters her power, throughout her menstruating years she practices her power, and at menopause she becomes her power.” Many women-centered writers in the last few decades celebrate the menopause and subsequent years as a time of positive change and a time to find new fulfillment - including sexual satisfaction.

Sex is linked to youthfulness, and a woman is often portrayed as desirable and desiring only if she has a slim and youthful body. It follows that older women whose bodies have changed are often perceived as not having sex at all! However, research has shown that many older women have sex as often as they used to in their thirties-forties and for many different reasons, sex often gets better in later life and feels more fulfilling for women.

In many indigenous societies, this is far more recognised, and older women often play the role of sexual initiator or instructor for young men.

In fact over a third of women report an increase in their libido, during and after the menopause. Sadly, when this happens, many women think, that there is something wrong with them. Often religious and social conditioning forces women to suppress sexual desire subconsciously and this can often lead to chronic depression.

Because of the physical changes that occur, some women may feel less satisfied with their body image. In fact research, published in the Journal of Sex Research, suggests that women’s lack of desire is more to do with their changing body image, not their hormone levels. If stress and psychological illnesses such as depression or anxiety develop, they (and medications given: anti-depressants and tranquillisers) can also interfere with libido and sexual desire.

Women going through the life-changing forces of the menopause can find the oft-needed reassurance of strength, beauty and femininity in Tantric Massage. It offers both a time for support and inner thought, as well as a chance to attend solely to her body and spirit. Open discussion with regard to sexual needs, desires, and expectations will also improve sexual confidence and allow older women to express their sexuality with much more freedom. Overall, mature women are said to be much more likely to have fulfilling sex lives and achieve multiple orgasms than women half their age.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Letter from A.

I wanted to apologize again for running so late today.
Your hands truly speak for themselves...! The session today was very enjoyable and pleasurable. I felt, alive, fresh, envigorated and I felt like the most beautiful woman on the planet after this session :) it was an amazing experience.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Therapeutic Massage for Survivors of Trauma and Sexual Abuse

Bodywork for Survivors of Trauma and Sexual Abuse  #01 Treatment for survivors of trauma and childhood physical and sexual abuse is a highly specialized field, in part because of the complexity of issues involved in both the original trauma and in the psychological and physical symptoms that can emerge in the aftermath. Resolution of the trauma is never final; recovery is never complete. The impact of a traumatic event continues to reverberate throughout the survivor’s lifecycle. With each new life event comes the potential of a stress-induced return of traumatic memories.

Psychotherapy has been and continues to be the first-line order of treatment for survivors and is essential in working through deep-seated impairments in trust, relationships, body image and self-perception. For many, the adaptations they created to cope with the abuse will later emerge as maladaptive barriers to healthy functioning in adult life. While verbal therapy is critical to retrieval and integration of the fragmented mind, there is another aspect to recovery that has more recently gained attention and validity: that of retrieving the body as well.

Recognition that the body also holds the scars of trauma has led to increasing use of Therapeutic Massage/bodywork as a valid treatment for survivors. In addition to traditional massage, some therapists have developed specialized modalities. Other somatic therapies integrating aspects of body awareness and emotional release as part of a body/mind approach are also helpful. Since the body was integral to the trauma, it must be integrated into the healing process.

Quite commonly, the traumatized person resorts to defensive coping mechanisms, dissociation that can carry into adulthood. With any future stress, there can be a tendency to escape through dissociation and a separation from awareness of the body’s experience. While dissociation may temporarily serve an adaptive function, in the long term, lack of integration of traumatic memories seems to be the critical element that leads to the development of the complex behavioural change that we call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The effects of abuse on regulation of bodily and emotional states are well documented. Chronic hyper-arousal and attempts to adapt can lead to disturbances with sleep and digestion, eating disorders, and other forms of body distress. Survivors are prone to experience depression and anxiety, and in some cases resort to self-mutilation to block out emotional pain. As the child grows up the fragmentation of self, both in body and mind, increases fragility as the adult tries to navigate life with maladaptive defences. What occurs is a gradual breakdown of defences, surfacing as problems in maintaining relationships, jobs; alcohol and substance abuse, or even suicidal thoughts.

Therapeutic Massage
As the body was integral to the trauma, it is also integral to the healing process. In the past, psychotherapy was a stand-alone treatment, and it remains a necessary element for processing and reframing the psychological effects of abuse. But with the growing understanding of body/mind connection, there has been increased interest and practice of providing bodywork to facilitate wholeness. For some clients, after years of verbal therapy, there comes a time when they need and want to reclaim the body.

It is important to note that not all survivors are appropriate candidates for this approach. Several factors can influence suitability, including ego strength, the readiness to embrace change, level of dissociation, potential for psychosis, and a desire to explore this option for resolution at a deeper body level.

As a backlash to abuse, aversion to touch leaves some victims touch-deprived. The experience of touch is another important benefit of bodywork. It involves learning that touch can be pleasurable and positive experience. Even for those in a relationship, may have difficulties with trust, intimacy, receiving touch, etc...

The therapist has to find the appropriate touch for each individual client. Asking for constant feedback, clients can assume ownership of their body within this safe environment and determine their boundaries. What pressure to use and when to touch, when to hold you, when to stop and do absolutely nothing. It’s the immediacy of touch, the caring and nurturing it conveys, that makes it a highly therapeutic experience.
A male therapist?

When there is a history of emotional, physical or sexual abuse, the lack of trust is often coupled with a general fear of men.
In therapeutic massage the empathic witnessing by a male therapist is in itself a reparative relationship, and can provide the quality of touch and presence that can restore health in mind and body. The quality of this presence will also create safety and in this safe space healing can happen.

Friday, 26 March 2010

The Chemistry of Tantra

Tiresias was drawn into an argument between the Goddess Hera and her husband Zeus, on the theme of who has more pleasure in sex: the man, as Hera claimed; or, as Zeus claimed, the woman, as Tiresias had experienced both. Tiresias replied "Of ten parts a man enjoys one only." Hera instantly struck him blind for his impiety. Zeus could do nothing to stop her, but he did give Tiresias the gift of foresight and a lifespan of seven lives.

Until recently, exactly what happens in the brain during sex was something of a mystery to scientists. American researcher now have uncovered what goes on in a woman’s head during an orgasm. The scientists from Rutgers University, New Jersey, used scans to monitor women’s brains during orgasm and found that different brain parts are activated when various parts of her body are aroused. They found that up to 30 different parts of the brain are activated, including those responsible for emotion, touch, joy, satisfaction and memory. The scientists found that two minutes before orgasm the brain’s reward centres become active. These are the areas usually activated when eating food and drink.

Immediately before they reached the peak, other areas of the brain became affected such as the sensory cortex, which receives ‘touch’ messages from parts of the body. The final part of the brain to be activated is the hypothalamus, the ‘control’ part which regulates temperature, hunger, thirst and tiredness. The scientists also discovered that sexual arousal numbs the female nervous system to such an extent that a woman doesn’t feel as much pain — only pleasure. The team now hopes to map what happens in a man’s brain during orgasm.

A key hormone released during sex is oxytocin, also known as the ‘cuddle hormone’. This lowers our defences and makes us trust people more. It’s also the key to bonding, as it increases levels of empathy. Women produce more of this hormone, although it’s not clear why, and this means they are more likely to let their guard down and fall in love with a man after sex. However, the problem is that the body can’t distinguish whether the person we’re with is a casual fling or relationship material — oxytocin is released either way. So while it might help you bond with the love of your life, it’s also the reason you may feel so miserable when a short-term relationship ends.

Men, on the other hand, instead of getting a surge of bonding hormone receive a surge of simple pleasure. The problem is that when a man has an orgasm, the main hormone released is dopamine — the pleasure hormone. And this surge can be addictive. That’s why so many more men tend to suffer from sex addiction.

Clinical Research - healthy sexuality linked to general health

Although many of the benefits reputed to come from sex are drawn from inconclusive studies, there are in fact, many positive health benefits have been substantiated by scientific research.

Depression in women - One study, conducted by psychiatrist Gordon Gallup of the State University of New York, Albany, found that females having unprotected sex were significantly less depressed than both sexually inactive females and females who had sex with protection — indicating a connection between exposure to semen and elevated mood in women. Gallup said some of the chemicals found in semen can be found in the female bloodstream after sex — having been absorbed through the vaginal epithelial tissue — within about an hour of intercourse.
His study, published in 2001, also found that depression scores went up as time after the sexual encounter increased, suggesting the possibility of a “semen-related withdrawal effect.”

Endometriosis - Another study, conducted at Yale University, fertility doctor Harvey Kliman, explored the effects of orgasm on endometriosis — a condition in which the uterine lining grows in other areas of the female body.

Kliman’s study found that women who had a high frequency of orgasm during menstruation— either through intercourse or masturbation — had the lowest instances of endometriosis. While orgasms ordinarily produce upwards contractions to suck semen inwards, during menstruation, orgasms instead intensify the outward motion of orgasmic contractions, thereby pushing debris out instead of pulling it in, he said.
Logan Levkoff, a sexologist who spoke at Yale on the female orgasm, said sex increases the production of DHEA, a natural steroid, and releases hormones that reduce stress, improve muscle pain and cramping.