Sexual and Spiritual Awakenings with Jessica Graham

Sexual and Spiritual paths are often intertwined, which is the case with this week’s guest Jessica Graham. They are a mindfulness teacher and author of “Good Sex: Getting Off Without Checking Out.” Join us as we discover we’re both proponents of somatic therapy and the journey of a spiritual awakening. Additionally, we talk about shifting identity, connecting more in and expressing anger, and using sex and romance as an escape. I loved speaking with Jessica and hope it’s as engaging and uplifting for you as it was for me.

Show Notes

Welcome to Laid Open podcast. I’m your host Charna Caselle. And today, my guest is Jessica Graham. I’m so excited to have her here. I’m going to read you a little bit about her and then we’re going to dive right in.

Jessica Graham is a meditation teacher, sex relationship and spiritual guide for couples and individuals, grief and trauma resolution guide, international speaker and author of Good Sex: Getting Off without Checking Out. Her work can be found in many apps and publications. And she has offered workshops and retreats at various centers internationally, including Esalen Institute. In addition to this Jessica is also an award winning actor and filmmaker connect with Jessica on Instagram, @jessicaclarkgraham and at yourwildawakening.com

Welcome, Jessica. 

Thank you, thank you so much for having me. I’m really happy to be here this morning, I have a couple beloved people that that have connected me to you. And I look forward to getting to, you know, to know you without any other filters. I have another friend who’s a sex therapist, who we were like, we have to start a book club and your book was the first book we’re like, Okay, we’re gonna, we’re gonna do this. And I’m always looking for good resources for my clients. And I, I’m a trauma trained psychotherapist, and a sexuality educator. And, and this book has so much to offer so many people. Right, there’s like a little, a little bit on everything.

And the thing that I really appreciate, and I think we can just dive into this part, which is, I feel like you approach sexuality and sensuality in a similar way that I do, which is that this is just a part of your integrated existence. It’s not what a lot of people think about a sex, which is, you know, if you’re heterosexual, P IV, penis and vagina, you know, that it’s like, Okay, now we are going to have sex. It’s like, no, actually, you can open your whole body and you can be present to life.

And you’re in it, you’re in the stream. Yeah. If you, if you if you feel moved to say more specifically about that, but I do have a question that I’ll wait and see if there’s something. Okay. Yeah. Well, thank you, thank you for the kind words, thank you for using my book for your book club. That’s awesome. I’ve heard of a couple of book clubs with my book. And I’m like, it’s so it’s like, that’s so special. To me, that means so much to me to think about. And I also really love and feel really proud of the fact that therapists are into my book, because I often hear that people found out about my book from their therapist, and to me that’s like, what’s, what’s a better like, word of mouth than that? So it’s really that’s really meaningful to me, thank you for, you know, for sharing that you and other therapists were talking about my book, the book, definitely, some of the criticism was like, this isn’t enough about sex.

Anymore about sex, she’s talking about meditation. Again, you know, without getting into the details of something I’m not allowed to get into the details of, I will say that there were some snags earlier in the process of publishing, regarding the book being too sexual. And it’s really interesting. So you know, for some people not sexual enough for some people to sexual so it’s really interesting in that way, but yeah, for me, whether, I mean, I knew it consciously at the time, I don’t think I knew it as fully in a fully embodied ways. I know it now. But that book, ultimately, it’s, it’s a book about awakening. It’s a book about healing, and it happens to be talking about sex. Right? And for me, you know, I don’t call myself a sex educator because I’m, I’m not like I I actually don’t know the anatomy perfectly. I mean, I know basic stuff, but like, you know, and I there’s a lot that I couldn’t necessarily.

Sit down and speak on or speak to a group on. And so when I get asked to do that I say, you know, I’m not a sex educator, here are several black women who are, that’s what I tend to do I just tend to do it that way. And I’m, you know, I’m a meditation teacher that talks about sex. Right? Right. And then I’ve sort of, over time developed to being a sort of coach and guide in in certain, various realms. But yeah, it is about the integration. And so often, in spiritual circles, and certainly, you know, in many religions, there can be a sense of this part being cut out, or being really compartmentalized in a really specific way with really specific dogma. And, you know, I wanted to do something for, like you said, for everyone, for someone who’s like, I want to have casual sex that’s really connected, or someone who’s like, I want to like, pick the spark back up with my long term partner or, you know, and so on and so forth. Not necessarily just one specific version of what like mindful sex can be, and definitely, looking at it as the whole, not just this one little sliver of what human is. Right. Well, and, you know, there’s this piece that the in this isn’t this is not an exact quote from you, but the gist of it right, is that, you know, you talk about having a spiritual awakening in your sex life is giving up using sex and romance as an escape. Right? And yet, yeah, sex can be many people’s pathway to awakening. And I think that it’s, again, it’s the mindfulness with which you approach anything that makes it a meditation, or makes it something that you can become more conscious through and learn from.

Yeah, I think it’s also important to say that, you know, and I didn’t know much too too much about this when I wrote the book, but you can be on the asexuality spectrum, and still be awakening sexually, right? Sexuality doesn’t lead to have already said, it doesn’t mean just one thing. Right? Like, if you have a partner, if you don’t have a partner, if you ever want to have any sort of sex or not, you can this can still be a part of you that that awakens, and that leads to, you know, deeper overall healing and evolution. Mm hmm. Yeah. And so I’m curious.

When I think of, and I don’t know, I don’t know, if you identify as Buddhist and I think in your book, you say you don’t. But so I’ve spent time at Spear rock, and a variety of different, you know, extended meditation retreats, and I was once at Spirit Rock where I was doing there was 40 of us were writing and 40 of us were painting. Right. So it was a creativity and meditation retreat.

And I the piece that I ended up at the end, we would share a piece and I shared a piece that was about passion and sexuality. And it was the kind of an intense piece, but it felt very awkward to share and speak about turn on and sensuality, in a Buddhist space. Like there was that much permission for it. So part of my interest in in the work that you’re doing, and my gratitude for the work that you’re doing is you’re like, Yeah, I’ve been teaching teachers. Let’s talk about sex.

Right, like it is. It’s a normal integrated part of life. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And it’s like,

Look, I’ve very much wanted to present fully respect if someone’s choosing like a monastic path, or even like, householder path that involves a lot of monasticism when, I don’t know that’s word, but you know what I’m say? Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. And if we leave this part of ourselves out, unconsciously, right, like unconsciously leave this part of ourselves out because it’s, you know, not included in being a monastic. For example, like I go to Spirit Rock as well. And I sit with forced Thai tradition, monastics, and that’s not part of what they do. They’re like sex is not part of their life. And, and that’s a conscious decision. And so if you’re influenced by that, and unconsciously cut that part of yourself off well, that’s, that’s kind of the opposite of what we’re doing, which is becoming more and more conscious. If you consciously say, oh, I want to emulate that. That’s what I want. Great. Awesome. Let’s go for it. But let’s keep getting let’s just keep getting curious. Right like it’s just keep being curious is kind of my take on it. Yeah, it’s an interesting thing that you know, the spiritual bypassing and not going into it feeling emotions while thinking about spiritual bypassing as a way to also cut off from sexuality?

Yes, I mean, yes, yes, yes, I think that happens a lot. And the you know, the thing is, is that, because so many of us, of all genders have sexual trauma. Mm hmm. The spiritual bypass around sex can be really strong, because it’s such a painful place to be. And it’s such like, all of the complicated tangled up emotions and behaviors that are associated with trauma and unresolved trauma. They don’t necessarily go along with the idea of speaking of like, our idea of who we are our idea of being spiritual, of being mindful of being, you know, a good person. And so we want to avoid that. And when we avoid our trauma, I mean, I don’t need to tell you, it’s like it does all kinds of things. It adds up to the mind to the body to the Spirit. Right, right. Right, whether it’s in the form of inflammation or unconscious behavior, or all sorts of things. Yeah. Yeah. And, and so what has been the evolution of your relationship to your sexuality? On this spiritual path? Yeah, it’s really fun to talk about it right now. Actually, it’s like kind of a really cool time to talk about it. So thanks. Yeah. So I was always very sexual. And from a very young age, and some of those some of the reason for that was trauma. And some of the reason for that was just, that’s just how I am like, I just came out that way. And I’ve, you know, done the work displaces a part over the years, but it was always very interested in sex. And I was also very interested in spirituality and meditation from a really young age, I was introduced to meditation by my mom. And I loved it like as a little kid. And I think because there was a lot of turmoil in the home given alcoholism, mental illness blots, and lots and lots and lots and lots of trauma, many generations back. While the meditation was amazing, it was also sort of coupled with other stuff that wasn’t so amazing. And so I separated away from it. But I’d find myself every so often, like sitting somewhere quiet in nature, or in a church just go into an empty church. And I’d be like, I didn’t know what I was just sitting in awareness. I didn’t know that at the time. And I also had lots of sexual mentors. So when when I when I got sober when I stopped drinking, I also decided to be celibate for a year because I had had a lot of there’d been a lot of harm caused to myself and to others through romantic sexual relationship. And so after being celibate for a year, I got into a relationship with a really beautiful human who, ultimately, like our, our sexuality pads sort of went in different directions. And I started meditating, we both meditative but my meditation led to like, such a paradigm shift so quickly, that very soon, I think, after coming back from a retreat with one of my teachers, Shinzon young, I was like, Oh, my goodness, sex, like sex. Wow, what could it be like now, and I really wanted to explore it. And it wasn’t, it wasn’t available in that way in that relationship. While there were lots of other wonderful things available that wasn’t. And so I explored it on my own. And I started to explore my sexual trauma at that time. And shortly after that relationship ended and I got into another one. And it was like, like, just like, sexual awakening central just like amazing. Just like, Do you know the book? Passionate marriage? Yeah. Shards, sharks. Yeah. So he talks about, I think, light socket, sex, electrical socket, sex, and I and he talks about overnight orgasms and talks about all this stuff that when I originally read it, I was like, oh, rube. And it was just all spontaneous. Just like I was like, Whoa, this is what he was talking about. And it really deepened my my spiritual practice as well. And that relationship lasted 11 years. And it was amazing in lots of ways. And we it’s also where I really delved into ethical non monogamy, which is something I’d explored ethically and non ethically over the years. But I delved into that, which is its own awakening process, because of everything that brings up and at a certain point, right around the time where my book came out, I ended up in a health crisis and having to come to terms with the fact that I had actually been in chronic pain and chronically ill my whole life. And it had gotten worse and worse and worse and worse. trauma. Like it’s all trauma related. 

Yeah, maybe some chronic Lyme, but all trauma related. And I had started my trauma healing journey when right around the beginning of that relationship, and I just I hit this point where I’d done a lot of work, I had changed my nervous system in amazing ways. But my body was just falling apart. And so was my sex life, because I actually literally couldn’t do the things, right that I used to do, I couldn’t have sex the way I wanted to have sex I, I have gotten in trouble for this, but I’m gonna say it, you can cut it out if you want. But like, I used to fuck, like a porn star, you know, and I loved it, and so did my partner’s. And that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t, you know, other other kinds of sex happening too. But like, all of that stopped and my relationship started to really, the parts of the relationship that weren’t functional started to really pop up more. And I went through like three years of a very dark night of the soul in life, the traditional sense, actually, and luckily, have good teachers, good therapists, good all the good psychiatrist, like all the stops, and was able to move through it. And part of that process was like, the self really, really, really, really, really disappearing. Right. And I had had those experiences in smaller doses before but not like this, not the pit of the void. And so I had to learn slowly, how to how to how to live again. And my sexuality was not the top priority. Even though I teach about it, I talk about it, I help other people have amazing sex lives, like I have a book about it, I do podcasts about it, it was not a part of my life, that I was just like, I’m just, that’s not a place, I’m going to put a lot of attention right now. Because I just have to figure out how to actually get out of bed. Like not because I’m depressed, but because like who’s here to get out of bed. An that relationship ended in summer, and I’ve been able to really rediscover this part of myself, the sexual part of myself, and it’s been a really, really beautiful process. And I am in like, a place that I’ve never been, which you know, is how it goes. It’s really very different. 

Well, and it takes it takes beginner’s mind to a whole new level, right? Like beginners, body, beginners, beginners, everything. Yeah, I was sitting with Adi Shanti years ago, when I was dealing with I’ve burned through karma. Through my body. I’ve gone through very, very intense cycles, I was went through like a 15 year cycle. And, and so in these mysterious, you know, and I think this is, there’s, and I’m just going to, even though not all of this might make sense to all of our listeners, I’m just going to speak to you the way I would speak to you if we were having tea. So I think we’re probably on the same page with the awareness. And I listened to another podcast, we were talking about the ACE scores, right? And so that there’s this acknowledgement, even by the medical field that that emotional, physical, sexual trauma, different occurrences and events in childhood have take a toll on the physical body and long term health of, of people. And, and then in the spiritual world, there’s the there’s the acknowledgement of like, okay, so there’s what’s happening in this lifetime. But there’s also, right, there’s ancestral trauma, but there’s also potentially other timelines, whether you believe in a multiverse or we’re past and, you know, lives and all of that. And so, think that when you’re wanting to become as conscious as you can you open, you open all these doors, and you don’t necessarily know what doors you’ve opened, and stuff starts to come through. And it sounds like it was happening in your physical body and that there are intense healing crises I have gone through many myself, it’s like every, it’s been every time I go through a healing crisis, it’s like the next spiritual up leveling. And I, you know, I asked my spirit to show me a different way, like, can I get the message without landing in my body, please? And it just sounds like you’ve really went through it. And it was transformative and intense. Yeah, yeah. It has been I mean, I think it’s, it happens for a lot of us. And I’m, I’m really interested in ways in which to mitigate that experience for people that I work with. 

And I’m still still exploring that and discovering that and, at least at least, like what’s the harm reduction, like how can it be as gentle as possible if it needs to happen, and when you’re at that intersection of spirituality, sexuality and trauma? Mm hmm. It’s like there’s just there’s just so much there. And so I’ve been leaning in a lot lately to how can I make sure that my folks are set up with really good focus on the physical body from the beginning. It’s sort of it’s part of actually my aunt Kasha Nanda. She’s a brilliant yoga teacher. And we were doing, we’re having a conversation slash lesson the other day, talking about, like, the process in in yoga is like you, you start with the physical body. And like the physical body, being healthy and being fed well, and getting water and pranayama. And all the things I know, for me, like when I came into the spiritual path,

I wasn’t thing about my body at all. Like I was denying my body, I was more of an aesthetic as far as that goes, how much pain and discomfort Can I sit in? Because I was used to sitting in pain and discomfort my whole life. Right? Right. Right, I had a high tolerance. And because I was sort of getting rewarded for it, I was getting these peak states and I was getting these, you know, good jobs, sort of, you know, great, wonderful teachers, but like, they were seeing these classical experiences happening and like, great, keep going. But, you know, now I’m like, okay, like, Let’s slow way lately. That’s all right. That’s always what I’m working on. Like, how can I slow down? How can I slow down with my clients? How can I support my clients and slowing down?

And really let the nervous system and the whole physical body be part of this? Because spiritual path can be gnarly? Mm hmm. No joke.

Yeah, well, and I think that a more trauma informed approach is infiltrating the world, not just the meditation world. Yeah. And that it touches on that piece that the difference between how do you, you know, how do you be mindful? And how do you be present or, versus transcend your body and dissociate from your experience? That’s right. And, and you don’t even I think, you know, I don’t know if you even use the word dissociate in your book ever. But this piece of like, checking out, and everything is about bringing more presence. To each moment. Yeah, right. Yeah, yeah. We’re gonna say some something came to mind in that in that journey, which I think is worth is worth mentioning, which, again, will will resonate for some and not for others. But when you are combining all of these modalities in you know, these different pads that we’re talking about here, your ability to escape into sex, to escape into romance to get high off of it, it it will fall away. And part of your process of integration will be learning, how do I connect romantically and sexually when it’s not being run on these sort of unconscious, these unconscious patterns? And when I’m not feeling that, like, yeah, yeah, yeah, feeling like revved up feeling that hyper aroused railing? How do I not actually drop down into a Hypo? Because I’m like, wait a second, I don’t have the, the that thing anymore. How do I hang out in that window of tolerance, while also being in my full sexual expression, when my full sexual expression no longer involves those high highs? Right? So a lot of people you know, I’ve had clients where we’re talking about the window of tolerance, and with a history of trauma, there’s an addiction to being outside of the window, right? It’s kind of like a high doesn’t feel high, unless I’m totally dysregulated. And I’ve been hyper arousal and, and so that life inside that window can feel really boring to some right and that that stability is like wait a second, this isn’t this isn’t what I want or how I know myself to be and there has to be a really then allowance of that falling away and going okay, actually, what what could Can I experience the more nuanced subtleties of, of energy running through my body and sexual and intimate connection with another person and not have it be like the kind of intensity you know, you’re talking about electric socket turn on Dad. I mean, that’s that that’s it’s great. And it’s crazy making, especially if you have unresolved trauma, and it made me crazy back then, because I only just begun my trauma resolution journey when all that started, man I was. I was I was I was I was a little little off my rocker. It’s one of my teachers, Rachel Maddox, who runs the rebloom coach training which I’m in and about to complete if all goes well is she talks about safe and sexy or new familiar new unfamiliar pain versus old familiar. No, no, no, I got the wrong new unfamiliar pleasure versus old for millier pain and the sort of limbic revision process, which I didn’t know, that’s what I was doing all these years, but I was and now now that I know that term, I’m like, I am ruthless about limbic revision in all areas of my life like it’s on.

Beautiful. Can you give us a couple examples? Of what you mean? I have I have a sense of what you’re talking about. But yeah, so I’ll just give you a recent personal experience. So. So like I’ve been, as you know, it’s COVID. So you can only date to a certain extent, but I’ve been dating a little bit. So mostly, that’s been, you know, some FaceTime and some texting and things like that. So I was there, there were two guys I was messaging with, and one of them. Whenever I saw a selfie, my whole body would be like, oh, like I would, and I could kind of observe it and witness it. So it’s like, again, it’s different. That’s the, you know, that’s all the meditation disillusionment stuff. It’s like, no longer me, it’s just like things happening. But I would recognize it like the I mean, response, right?

Explicit photo, it’s not even a sexy photo, it’s just a picture of the person’s face. And I knew I knew from the gate. I knew from the gate that like, there’s something here that this doesn’t have to be a terrible person. But this mirrors my original wounds, this mirrors me not getting mirrored, right, like, this mirrors my stuff from infant. And that’s why my body’s responding this way. But I didn’t want to stop like I was like, I’m probably never even going to meet them. And it’s so fun and enjoyable, is it? No, it’s not even all that enjoyable. But I just feel like I need to keep Oh, wait, is this sort of just that addict? Its own lead is this? Oh, right. It’s that thing, and then telling Rachel, who I’m in a coaching container with right now, like, at the end of a session mentioning it, and her being like, Oh, really, she’s like, and I’m like, Yeah, and I have a FaceTime day with him tonight. She’s like, Oh, really, like she’s very, like, she’s gonna give me full permission to do whatever I want to do. She’s not there to direct but that’s all I needed. Because she’s like, Listen, you can you can carry on with it. Or you can, you know, carry on with limbic revision and say no to that. And it was such a small things. It’s somebody I had a huge connection with, but like, just saying no saying thing, just canceling the date, and then saying, Hey, I’m just gonna move in another direction was so empowering.

It was so subtle, but it just felt like a massive leap. Like a massively. And look, my relationships worked horrible when I was younger, and they got so much better. There’s tons of limbic revision that happened, but now, I’m like, oh, no, no, no, I’m not. I’m not gonna do any of that. Now that I have this level of clarity, and so yeah, and right after letting go of that, like, all kinds of fun, cool. opportunities arose that hence my mentioning, like, kind of in a new space with my sexuality. Mm hmm. Right. If the universe is like, hey, we’ll see. Are you going to say no to this family fluttering man?

Yeah, just a fanny fluttering.

Oh, I love that. You’re like the reaction, right? You’re in? Oh, you’re going whoosh. You get all that eat and it feels so good. And then you’re like, my mom’s friends when I was a teenager used to say is the fucking worth of fucking, so go, I didn’t know what it meant then. But I grew into the knowledge. Yeah, good. Yeah. Yeah. So that there’s a there’s a really choice full, you’re you’re you’re honing even more discernment.

And having that witness are accountable, minute person holding you accountable really helped.

And then you’re like, Okay, I’m choosing myself and I’m choosing this revision instead of the sandy flutters and, and then there’s good things opened up. Yeah, safe and safe and sexy opened up. Yeah, totally. So so what I think is important for everyone to hear, probably us included is, is that you know, I think there can be that fear of if you say no to that thing, what’s going to come after that? Right. What do you then what’s, you know, is anything gonna follow? And so it’s really important to remember that Yeah, indeed things do. Yeah, yeah. And it can feel so scary. I mean, it was interesting because I was definitely in sending the voice notes saying like, Hey, I’m like, it was nice. Nice to note nice to know you basically said in a very nice way, but I got like, I got activated. I felt you know, low level activation compared to what I used to experience but I got like a slight trigger. And I was like, to him that I mean, it’s just so deep. It’s it goes all the way back to like pre verbal like

He’s just goes back so deep. Yeah. And that’s the areas of trauma that like, the last couple years I’ve been working in personally as like pre verbal and even pre birth, and then maybe maybe even further. And that’s been I mean, that’s been incredibly transformative. Of course, when we’re talking about who we’re attracted to, you know, that those are the times when the limbic system is wired, to who we’re going to be attracted to sexually. So it’s like, that work is is deep and important. And it’s, it’s hard, and we don’t, we don’t do it on our own. And I’m really grateful to have all the support I have, because what that means is each time, like I get to expand and heal and grow, then I have more capacity to do that for others, right. Like I have a deeper ability to support the folks that come to me like when I wrote that book. I mean, I was,

I mean, I was just a different person. I mean, if I wrote that book today, it would be a completely different book for one. Like I work with tons of people that are not on the binary, I no longer identify on the binary. You know, there’s another section of that book, where I talk about not a non consensual sexual experience that when I went into the booth and actually read my book out loud for the audiobook, and I hit that part, I was like, I just started sobbing. I was like, Oh, my God, that was great.

I didn’t know it. Because I said it wasn’t in the book. I said, I don’t consider it to be for you. It could be right. No, it was all Yeah. And so there’s so many and, and there’s lots of other changes, obviously, that have occurred since that book was written. But it’s so interesting, you know, each step along the way, you know, we do have to gently and with love and with compassion show up for these like, just incredibly tender, tender parts inside of us.

There’s, there’s so much and what you just said, and, you know, the part that you’re referring to, for people who have not read the book is, you know, an incident where you’re under age, your 14 year old and you’re blackout drunk and on drugs, and an older man is having sex with you. And that occurred repeatedly. And and I think it’s really important what you just said, because I also I’ve listened to some of the other podcasts you were on and and I heard where that light bulb went off for you and how even me to help to face some things that maybe you hadn’t seen from a different perspective before. And that’s hopefully what collectively giving voice to things does. And even this right, so that and also the the generosity and gentleness, to let our opinions that our sense of self, our self as well as other things, not just us, right? How we see the world and how we see other people change. And so you’re like, Okay, so my might my gender identity might be different. And my sense of like, I knew that you’ve described it as as not give, you know, it wasn’t consensual sex, but it wasn’t great.

And then what does that mean? What does it take for what has to happen in someone where they’re able to feel themselves enough? And be with a powerlessness to acknowledge that something happened that wasn’t in their control?

And what is it you know, what does it mean to you to now call it rape versus be like, Oh, it was just just non consensual sex.

I mean, I think that the thing that comes to mind is feeling safe.

The more safe that I feel, in this body and in the world, the more I can open up to these areas that were once too scary to look at. Right. And it’s interesting, because around that same age, and, and the thing that really clicked for me with that particular person is that there was grooming that happened from the time I was 12, which I mean, now I look, I’m just like, Oh, my goodness is just just terrible. But there is another another guy that like I write about in the book, it’s the first guy I ever had sex with. And he was older than me, and not not quite as good. And I was high but like, it was conceptual. Like I did not revisit that experience and say, because he actually asked for my consent. He said, Do you want to do you want to do this? Are you like, are you okay? With like, it’s just a different experience now, again, to someone else, because he was older because I was smoking pot that might, but I at this point, like, I’m pretty clear. I’m like, yeah, no, that was I really wanted to do that I set out on that mission that night. And so to be able to be empowered by by that as well feels good. But again, it’s like it’s about the feeling of I think of safety, embodied safety, as well as if we zoom back out to sort of the spiritual perspective, the sense of unconditional safety like that all as well all as well all manner of things are well like it’s like.

Like I put that in quotes, because that’s a that’s a quote from Eamon just like underneath. She’s a very famous mystic Teresa abelia. I believe any case, like that sort of expansiveness and the dance of emptiness and form that I am, that I am, huh.

That is unconditional safety. And so the combination of the personal the human, the embodied safety, which comes, if you have CPTSD, like me comes through a lot of work, and kind of investment of time and money, and I’m lucky, I’m privileged, I’m white, I’m, you know, I’ve been able to pay for this stuff, you know, can be hard if you don’t have that option, the combination of the Divine, and the human, everything and the right here, this like nervous system, that’s, I think, what has made it possible for me to delve into these areas that once I wanted to bypass, or I just couldn’t see, I just wasn’t conscious of, and then for them to become conscious. Right? Well, and it’s, you know, whether you’re someone who has been assaulted, or whether you’re a bystander, or whether you’re even an offender, I think that the amount of shame and guilt and layers of emotion, you know, denial protects us from having to feel right.

And so, you know, or dismissal, and minimizing protects us from having to feel and so it sounds like you’ve been on a path where you, you’ve, you’re feeling more and more and more. Yeah, yeah, definitely. That’s a beautiful way to put it. And, yeah, that’s a really beautiful way to put it. I think. I think that is, that is the journey, like that’s, that’s sort of my point in anything I do is like, How can I be more human feeling that, that resonates with me so deeply, because I you know, I responded to trauma and to dealing with physical ailments in a way of like, like, I didn’t eat sugar for 25 years, I didn’t do you know, like dairy for all the things like 15 years sugar, 25 years theory, 25 years, coffee, all that. And I knew how to be rigid and deny myself things for the betterment of my health, supposedly, right. And there was this turning point where I had this pain that I could not, that was sort of interfering with all my joy, whether was dancing or sex, or, and I couldn’t meditate my way out of it. Like, of all the things I’ve done, every kind of healing modality and meditation was profound for me, like would heal things that nothing else touched. And in this case, I couldn’t. And it started a period where I think of it as I’ve started to become more human.

Right. And it was literally, like, recovering from a surgery. And my friend brought over, you know, I wasn’t a pot smoker, I lived kind of a pretty clean existence and did all that in high school, right. And it was like milking a joint and eating a cookie. Right? And, like, I was like, Oh, I’m stuck you man right now.

And, you know, and it’s this, it’s a really, it can be a very tricky dance, when you’re having these odd spiritual experiences, or embodied experiences that are not relatable to everybody. And then they’re guiding you, I call it I have an emotionally psychic vagina.

And, you know, she, she keeps me on the path in a particular way.

I don’t, I may want to have like what you were talking about, like, go off the limbic resonance into the bushes with somebody. Yeah.

But, but that’s not a physic. My body has a physical immediate physical response to that that that goes no, you don’t. That’s not the right choice.

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, I very much relate.

And yeah, the Oh, I’m so human right now thing like, Ah, I love that story. I feel like what I thought that meant, like, a couple years ago, I had no idea like this past year. And a big part of it has been being in this you know, trauma resolution coaching training. It’s called rebloom. And it’s like really rebloom thanks for being a lot of ways but or bloomed for the first time but like, I got, you know, I got diagnosed with ADHD this year.

Last year, which is something that like, never.

I just it was so far from possible like, what what

I actually learned about what it was I was like, oh my goodness, this explains like, huge, huge portions of my life. And I got to that, because I was like, I’ve done so much trauma work in so many different ways. And there’s that there. And there’s that there’s this and this and this, and they’re not shifting. And that was a key actually was a huge key when I got that diagnosis. This level of self compassion, I didn’t know possible came in. Yeah. And that diagnosis then linked up with other symptoms I had from other illnesses. And it like it was like this magic, you know, like, whoa, and you know, same thing with it’s, it’s funny to say, because as someone that’s been like facilitating and guiding and supporting others for so many years, it’s like, kind of humbling to say, but I got in touch with my anger for the first time, like, in a real way this this past year, last year, and like, I had watched people go through it, I had supported people through I had seen my friends with threatened I was like, maybe it’ll happen some time, maybe it won’t.

And I knew for a long time, that that a lot of the pain and especially the inflammation in my body was I knew that, but I had no way of getting at it. I couldn’t get at it. And I just got it man, it was just like, luckily, I didn’t cause too much too much wreckage, I was able to work with it mostly skillfully. But wow, coming out the other side of that, like, not only do I feel more human, but I also feel more connected to, for lack of a better word, where the divine, I feel more I forget less. And I remember more, you’re having that human experience of like actual complete anger, experience of anger. What comes to mind is thinking about, you know, a DD, like, like Kali, some kind of creator destroyer, and that you’re, you’re holding the whole, the whole spectrum and the whole picture. Right, and you get it. You get the vastness of the power there inside you. Thank you for that reflection.

Yeah, and I appreciate you acknowledging I mean, it’s, it’s a big deal so that you’re able to be with it and other people, because often when someone can’t be with something in themselves, they can’t hold it in another. But what it what I wonder is about your own if you’re actually able to be even more present with people’s anger, and if did some part of you have to kind of dissociate or not fully be in you when you’re holding other people’s anger back then? Do you have a sense of that?

Yeah, that’s a beautiful question. I was really lucky because I learned about transference and countertransference. Really early on, like before I was even teaching before as even teaching meditation, working with my first teacher. And now like one of my best friends, Michael Taft, he taught me about it, because I was transferring all all over him going goes all over him. And he didn’t say like, this is what you’re doing. He just like gave me books. And he’s like, read these. I was like, later, I was like, that was what you were doing there. Let’s see what you’re doing. And so I was lucky in learning about that, and understanding it.

Because I think if I hadn’t, then the question you’re asking, I would answer differently.

Like, I think there would have been a lot of countertransference happening when it came to people’s anger. But I had that awareness. I think what it is, when I, when I now sit with it is it’s actually probably that I was supporting, but I wasn’t a main support person for that. I wasn’t actually the one who was really facilitating folks to move through their anger. And I would refer people out actually, it’s interesting, because I did just say like, oh, I supported people with it. And it’s not that I didn’t, I did, but not in the way that I can now.

Not in the way I can. Now it’s a different, it’s a really different thing. And I can just, it’s like I said earlier, like I can go deeper, I have more capacity, because I’ve that part of human has come online, that part of human has had a chance to experience some level of awakening, and so creates that possibility. Thank you for that question.

You’re very welcome. Absolutely. It’s so funny. I have, I have this long sheet of questions that I prepared in advance, and we’ve gotten to one of them. And I love that I love that we’re just organically in a conversation together. And so I’m going to turn my attention to this to see like, what would be relevant in what we’re speaking about right now. So

I don’t feel like it’s a seamless transition, but I’m going to ask this anyways. So just this this can you speak to the necessity the necessary role of acceptance of self and other in having good work great sex?


Yeah, the very first thing I want to say that sort of as a preface to this is that I am not someone who thinks you can only love someone else if you’ve if you fully love yourself or you can only accept others if you fully accept yourself, because I think that that sets us up room to never feel good enough. And it sets us up to always be doing and working and trying, can I love can I love in in deeper and more complex and layered ways as I love myself deeper and more? Yeah, absolutely. Do I have more and more acceptance for the outside world and the people in it as I have deeper acceptance for me 100%. And, like, that’s a lifelong process, like that’s gonna keep going and expanding. So I just think it’s important to say that, I think for me, and for what I’ve seen with folks, sex enters a really different realm, a different paradigm, when self acceptance is a given, when we’re not when this sort of self referential thing isn’t happening as much, because it allows us to actually just be fully there, right? Not trying to bring up the self, that we’re supposed to be there based on what we unconsciously or consciously believe about sex and pleasure and all of this, but rather like just the authentic expression of human in that moment, which is going to be different moment to moment, sexual experiences, sexual experience, partner to partner and so I think what happens is, it becomes more fun it becomes it can become a lot more intimate, a lot more like, quote unquote, deep, it also changes, it raises the bar, right? We can’t necessarily engage, or we can’t engage with someone who doesn’t accept us.

Right, like, if there’s a certain level of self acceptance, and they’re below that, as far as how they are experiencing as well, it’s just not going to work, it’s just not going to work. So change is the type of person that you’re going to be engaging with.

And also, you know, when we’re in acceptance of ourselves, you know, we’re an acceptance of, of, you know, the spots where we still forget our healing the spots where we do have various insecurities, or where we are dealing with various physical abilities or limitations, and that compassion and that acceptance for ourselves then extends, right, and we might find that, you know, for example, someone someone’s insecurity doesn’t hit us as problematic anymore, or as not attractive. Instead, it’s like, oh, yeah, like me, too. Mm hmm. Me too, like, oh, human it is and like, how can we be human here together? So I think, in doing that, you know, we’re inviting ourselves and our partners into a really different kind of relating, which again, is fun and is, is there’s freedom. And there’s more, as far as pleasure goes, you know, there’s so much around like, how that’s supposed to look, what’s climax, supposed to be like, what? When is it supposed to happen? How long is it supposed felt like all of these things about how how sexual pleasure is supposed to be, that will only get in the way of sexual pleasure, right. And just, I see, I work with a lot of actually work with a lot of cisgender heterosexual men, that tends to be one of the main demographics that comes my way. And the amount of like, shame and shame that they have around sexual pleasure around their pleasure, which is understandable on a lot of levels. One because they don’t talk about it with each other. I can’t tell you how many of these men have been like, I’ve never said this to anyone before. And to me, it’s like, it’s like not, it’s it’s not like a huge revelation. It’s like something that we should just be having a conversation about over dinner with our friends, you know, but it’s not happening that way and happens a little more. I think, with with women, there’s a bit more of a conversation around that. But you know, not with men and then as much as I’ve personally benefited from the cultural shift and as grateful as I am and so happy to be alive at a time where, you know, me too has occurred and we just had the me to bill passed like phenomenal, phenomenal. We can’t you know, you can’t throw somebody in arbitration anymore around you know, sexual assault and harassment and you know, in workplaces in certain workplaces amazing. And what I’ve seen with my cisgender heterosexual white men is a lot a lot of fear about, am I gonna say the right thing? Am I gonna do the wrong thing? I’m going to be canceled and see scared to let their desire be seen.

Scared to prioritize their pleasure. And yes, we need a correction. And yes, sometimes overcorrection is what needs to happen, but it’s like, I’m really well being very much 100% feminist. I’m also like, really passionate about supporting these men and like, it’s okay that you saw a woman on the street and you had a sexual thought it’s okay. Did you go up to her and grab her pussy? Well, no, of course. It’s okay. Like, you’re a human being like, I’ve seen women on the street men on the street, I felt sexual bad. Like, it happens. It’s okay. It’s like, how do you relate to those thoughts? And how do you respond to them? It’s, it’s totally normal and human. So it’s just, it’s, it’s really, it’s really interesting. I don’t know how I got onto this topic. But it’s an important topic.

So, now I can, I can help you thread it back. But what I will say about this, I think is important is inside of that I hear them going. I don’t know what my role models are for embodied, grounded kind sexual men. What is what does that kind of masculinity look like? And who are the people that are modeling it for me? And when we just went through having a quote unquote, father figure who grabbed women’s pussies without consent? I mean, it was.

It’s a devastating. That was what, you know, I think that how he got elected in a way was because people have a lot of authoritarian father experiences in the world in their personal lives, right. And it’s like, okay, we were talking about acceptance and self acceptance. And I also I was curious, because I actually did come up with a connection between what we’ve been speaking about, which was you actually accepting and moving into and feeling through more of your anger?

And I’m curious, because you know, that as big as your, your capacity is to fee grief, it’s that large to feel joy. And I think the same thing for anger and passion. And I know that you have a very, you know, ruckus full sexual existence in your path. So I don’t know, wreck that that’s not really the right way. But, but But you know, like you lived, and what are you seeing now that you’ve embodied that and accepted that part of yourself that that anger, that angry part of yourself? How has that shown up in in the realm of passion? Mm hmm. Excellent question. And I will just also add in there that, along with the anger is the gender identity stuff and is Yeah, neurodivergent stuff. I feel like they kind of it’s the Trinity for me right now. And I would say that, that combination, how that’s impacted passion. I’m writing poetry.

I’m reading poetry. I’ve joined Jen pasture love has a 30 day poetry challenge. And I found out about it through doing a workshop with her where I wrote poems and poems, and she gave a prompt of what you don’t know about the story is, and I did a retelling of your Odyssey and Orpheus, the looking back moment when he looks back when he’s not supposed to. And my retelling was like, she wanted him to look when she asked for it. She said she whispered and got him to turn around. So that he could, he could finally see her, the body that was never like plucked and strum the way that he did did with his instrument. And, you know, she wanted to go back down. She wanted to taste everything. And that was my retelling. And it was like, I got a really strong response when I read it to the to the group, which was a big group, and I ended up like, coincidentally, someone from the group was like, Hey, there’s this there’s submissions going on for a book an anthology about that myth. Wow. Okay. And I submitted it and who knows, like, what will happen, but I submitted it, and I heard back and they said, it’s in the file and look it back to him just like, whoa, like, it was wild the way that all happened. And it relates to passion for me because first of all, it’s very passionate poem, but also my passion for poetry started when I was a tiny kid, I before I could read, I would ask my mom to read me poems, poems, poems, cookbooks and the telephone book.

Or the Bible, but the telephone book that was and I went on to continue to read the telephone. We don’t have him anymore. But to continue to read the telephone book as I was like a child and like, you know, an adolescent, it’s very interesting. And maybe that’s the neurodivergent. I don’t know. But But I loved poetry. I loved it. And I’ve always loved it. And I went through my Sexton phase. And I went through my book, Kowski Bayes, and you know, my roomie phase, and I used to write poetry. Nice. I’ve continued to write poetry, but I’ve never been like, I’m going to write this and I’m going to edit this. And I’m going to share this and I’m going to submit this. I’ve never done that before. And I think that is actually a direct result of connecting to my anger, as well as these other pieces. And so that and then, you know, the other thing I’ll just put in there for for spice is like, I’m having sexual experiences that are, like, so fun and so communicative in a way that goes beyond what was available before even though I’ve always been very sex positive and communicate about it. But like, it’s like, there’s an armor that fell away. Like, it’s not like now we’re gonna communicate about sex. It’s like, oh, yeah, that Oh, yeah. Okay, yeah. Oh, in that, Oh, yeah. Oh, like, it’s like this dance, rather than something that feels sort of,

You know, more, a little more rigid, or a little more like, contained. And that’s just so fun. It’s so fun. So I can go on, but those are the things that come to mind. Well, in it, it makes so much sense to me. Because what I hear inside that is when you’re actually able to move through an emotion that’s so intense and could potentially feel so scary to connect with that a whole volt level of vulnerability, and you opened up a softening, right? If you’re, if you’re containing anger containing containing, containing, right, of course, it creates, like, like tension in the body and rigidity on some level. And then when you are able to release and surrender to it, then, you know, then you’re able to even surrender and be softer, and all these other ways. So, absolutely, absolutely. And I think, you know, it’s important to say that, like, I couldn’t have forced, the couldn’t have made this anger, ready to come out until it was ready to come out. Right, and there needed to be, I needed to be safe.

Again, I needed to be safe in in more ways than I was before, in order for it to surface because for me, anger was connected to violence, and it was connected to being physically hurt. And so you know, plus the lineage of all the, my burn the burned witches and stoned women and all of this, right? Like, it was dangerous. And, and I say that, because like if you haven’t had your anger, or your first Mecca phase yet, like, it’s okay, like, you can’t rush it, you can’t push it. And I don’t recommend, like, try to dig in there and like primal screaming it out like, gentle, slow, safe, gentle.

Absolutely. And that, you know, you’re speaking to a harm reduction approach to these things. And it’s like, yes, there are times where catharsis can be useful. And that that can also be re traumatizing. And to be able to do it, especially if it feels scary for you. I mean, I’ve never met a single person who doesn’t have the fear that whether it’s pleasure, whether it’s anger, or fear or terror, that if they feel into a certain emotion, it’s going to either destroy the people out there or destroy them. Right. And so we all have our thing to move through. And having a safe and supportive person to do that with who knows how to help you. Like I as I as huge of a proponent of meditation, as I am, you know, somatic therapy was was instrumental and a version and you know, energy work all the range of, of hands on healers to help move through things in a safe way. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I love teaching meditation, and I’m probably going to write a write another book about meditation. But the work I do with clients, now I have, I have my meditation people, but then, you know, everything I’m doing is like, So somatic resolution work, like that’s, there’s other modalities that come in there, but because that’s what was most transformative for me as well. So really, it’s in the book, The Body Keeps the Score, right in the body, and the work that you’re doing the reblooming process is that that’s lovely. Yeah, that rebloom Yeah, every bloom, and is that where you’re bringing in some trauma and somatic work through are from your own. Yeah. So I, I’ve had such amazing practitioners who and some of them have also served as mentors and that’s therapists and healers and all kinds of people. And so over the years, I incorporated more and more of what I was learning through my reading and through my own personal experiences into my work and, but didn’t necessarily say I’m doing this thing. It’s but of course, sexuality, spirituality, you’re going to run into trauma, it’s just going to happen and, and I was good at it. Like, even though I wasn’t necessarily trained in it. So I would refer out I would always refer out if we hit anything that like to like, Okay, this and I still do, I definitely do. I work in conjunction with therapists and psychiatrists. And oftentimes, we all like I end up can we have conversations and email exchanges to support the client, but it got to a point where I was like, This is so much of what showing up and it is the thing I feel most passionate about, and so phenomenal to see someone.

Come to Life like, I mean, I wish we had a whole other hours just talk about No, maybe we’ll have to come back. Yeah. But seeing someone like it’s so I just it’s so regenerative for me that process especially working with complex developmental PTSD, that I wanted to have certification, I’m not going to I didn’t go to high school, I didn’t go to college. I’m not going to go become a therapist. It’s just too many years. I’m just too much but but I want to get a certification. So I’m and I have a grief, Grief Recovery certification already. And this a lot of it was stuff I was already doing with people. But it’s all been deepened. My my style has been adjusted to be more and more and more trauma responsive. And I’m able to work with folks who in the past, I would have felt, even if I could like I would have felt like no, no, I need to refer them out. And now I’m like, I can refer them out. And I can support them. Like we can do both. And so yeah, the rebloom process has been a big part of that in, in educating and empowering me to step more into it. And then there’s also a whole archetypal, you’d probably like it a whole archetypal component, which is just amazing. Like you might, if you haven’t, you haven’t had Rachel, on your podcast, have you know, I would love to be connected and check her out more, we need to close. But, you know, I would love to have you back and have conversations about you know, we were talking, we didn’t get to talk about healing, sexual shame, orgasmic shame and anxiety and relaxed orgasms. I mean, there were so I could go on. And so I’m going to bookmark that for a future conversation. And I’m really excited for you this new phase that you’re in and have to let me know what happens with the poem. I will I will, I’ll send it to you if you want to read it. Yeah, I would love to. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me. And yeah, we’ll come back anytime. I’d love to love to continue the conversation. Beautiful. Thanks so much. Thank you. It felt like we were just getting started. But I’m excited to have Jess back in the near future as returning guests to finish our conversation about how to have engaging, present and mind blowing sex.

One of the topics we touched on was what is known in Buddhist circles as the dissolution of ego. Jessica shared how surprised they were by some changes in their life over the past few years. Their understanding of the self they thought they were expanded and shifted because they were capable of allowing this to happen. That takes practice for many people, shipped like these occur based on increased consciousness that may be generated internally, or because new information enters our field of awareness. In just this case, it was both with new language and permission generated by younger generations and social media. A new way of seeing themselves led to an identifying as non binary. With more information about add, just discovered this diagnosis fit, and they now have more ease in their life in general. We all have a sense of identity that can be rigid, flexible, or permeable. The more we hold on to who we think we are, we often encounter more suffering. Think of someone who knows they’re gay but is terrified of coming out. Or someone who’s loveless marriage or pleasure. This job is not working but they’re forcing themselves to stay in it because it’s their duty.

Having a flexible identity allows you to see yourself and gather new resources that make life easier, or allows you to walk away from situations and people that don’t support who you are becoming or who we have always been.

Our egos are invested in us being seen in a certain way. Some perfectionist may feel this more strongly than others. But most people want to be seen as they see themselves and when they get feedback that’s dissonant with that sense of self. It’s hard urge to not get defensive or reject it. The more work you do to become conscious and have a flexible, ever evolving sense of self, the more you live in self acceptance.

One person may not want to embrace having money or being productive because they associate that with their straight laced parents. So they rebel and sabotage themselves, and what they want to achieve again and again. It’s valuable to uncouple things that may have become associated in your mind. You can be wildly creative and also be financially secure, you can be dependable and still be a dynamic, playful person.

Working somatically I warn clients, when your physical body, your connective tissue, you’re so much shifts, so will your identity. When you carry yourself differently, it impacts your sense of self confidence and ease in the world. The story you tell about who you are will also shift we have beliefs that are our operating system. These beliefs show up in our body, and how we carry ourselves as well as in what sensations we feel inside if we threatened to act outside of our subscribe belief systems or identity as we do this exercise, pay attention to what sensations and emotions you feel in your body. And what thoughts and memories arise as you answer these questions.

This is a journal practice that you can do over time, or you may want to do it all in one sitting. This exercise is an opportunity to look at your identity and see if there is a way of being that you are ready to redefine or lay to rest.

Ask yourself, how do I see myself? How do I want to be seen?

Make a list of all the ways you identify.

This could include being an artist, activist, mother, vanilla, gay, generous, powerful, dominant, or good listener.

When you have time, you can also ask your friends and family how they see you.

Have you been identifying yourself in opposition to your parents? Or in relation to an aspirational way of being?

What part of your identity feels fixed and unchanging? Is there a way you’ve been in the past that you feel is in a question or you’ve outgrown?

If you let this go, who are you? When I think about this, what sensations such as heat, tension spaciousness shows up in my body? What emotions arise?

Considering change and the unknown often brings up fear.

If that’s true for you, what are you afraid of?

If it’s judgment or failure, keep going and ask it again. If I fail, then what?

If I am judged then what? If I lose community, then what?

Can you embrace yourself? If this part of your identity dies?

Ask yourself how do I benefit from my attachment this identity?

What do I lose by remaining in it?

Have I chosen certain roles or ways of being because I want my family or culture to approve of me?

Who would I be without this?

What do I need to be willing to feel to choose based on what makes my heart sing? I hope that feels helpful. This has been Laid Open podcast with your host Charna Caselle. Please join us again next week. If this show feels beneficial, we’d love if you would please rate and review it and share it with your friends so others can find us. If you have additional questions around sex and trauma, you can submit them at charnacaselle.com. Follow me at Laid Open Podcast on Instagram and Facebook and read more about my work and passionatelife.org. Until next time, take good care.

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© 2022 By Charna Cassell, LMFT. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. MFC 51238.

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