I am really excited for you to hear this week’s episode of LaidOPEN Podcast. It features the remarkable Lyvonne Briggs, better known as “Pastor Baé,” who is an Emmy Award-winning, body and sex-positive womanist spiritualist. She’s also a writer, pastor, preacher, spiritual life coach, and highly sought-after transformational speaker and seminar leader. We sit down and talk about her experiences working in the church as an advocate of pleasure as its connection to resiliency, as well as, the divine design of pleasure. There’s so much to learn and grow from in this conversation for all of us.
Welcome back to Laid Open podcast. I’m your host Charna Caselle and my guest today is Lyvonne Briggs, an Emmy Award winner is a body and sex positive womanist author, transformational speaker and creator. She’s the founder of Beautiful Scars, a healing centered storytelling and coaching agency focused on fostering pleasure and resiliency, and the host of the Central Faith Podcast where she helps listeners reintegrate body and spirit. Briggs has been featured in multiple magazines is the author of the forthcoming book central faith, the art of coming home to your body. She is currently based in New Orleans and you can follow her across platforms at Lavon that’s L y v o n n e, Briggs— b r i g g s
I’m so excited to have her here, welcome. Lyvonne.
Thank you, Charna. How are you my love?
I am really good. I’m happy to see your beautiful smiling face. And I know
It’s good. I had zoom fatigue I’m not gonna lie but it is good to see you and to BC.
Yeah, I feel that deeply. I see three quarters of my clients in person and the folks I still see on zoom it helps to not see everybody but it really is truly fatiguing compared to what I used to feel like I was capable of.
My therapist is actually going back to part time in person with her clients in California so everyone that she sees remotely obviously I’m in New Orleans where remote she should think so I think monday tuesday remote and then Wednesday Thursday in office. So I was like somebody’s getting to see people
Yeah, I started back I have a big garden. So I started back quite early seeing people outside in person and that felt like a treasure you know, be like pause, go you know, tight tree round yourself looking at that. Listen to the bamboo.
That sounds lovely. I just moved into a new home a couple of months ago and I have the entire backyard so I don’t know if you’re familiar with in New Orleans, they have what are called shotgun homes, which sounds very violent, but not really. But on the outside of the back porch. Well first of all, there’s a porch, which I’m like, This is great. I can just sit here and then like a little green area and I’m so excited. Yeah, have outdoor space that’s like super safe and like still lush and pretty.
No I know shotgun homes and I love a good porch. Like, to me it’s like a romantic slow. It’s a symbol of like, Yo, I see a rocking chair and I just see like taking a moment to pause.
Mm hmm. I actually lived with my pastor for like three weeks last summer and she’s got this huge port I mean it’s like five rocking chairs out there and so she has no problem going out there to sitting by herself. But it was nice to be out there. I was like oh, I never got the rocking chair thing like I was in nurseries or like at Cracker Barrel against know, oh my God, I’ve now
They so I When my cousins were babies, I loved rocking them and feeding them and my aunt had to do an intervention she’s like, stop it. They’re never gonna sleep tonight. Stop rocking them. I’m not I’m a big fan. I find I just am super super by that motion and I can even just imagining it. I can feel my whole nervous system going hey,
I love that for you. The emotion it reminds because I grew up in New York City riding the subway. So when I went to school in New Jersey in the suburbs, it was quiet so like your garden like birds chirping and all that. And my first semester there. It was so hard for me to concentrate reading because I was so used to reading on the subway that I was just still at my desk. I need that motion.
That’s hysterical. That’s what it’s funny because I think of like, you know, babies get put in cars to be rocked to sleep Ethan and I really get that I find it very soothing. And so yeah, it’s interesting that in order to stay alert and focused, you needed the motion.
Right? I actually get really severe car sickness. Now. I don’t know. It’s like adult onset. This did not used to happen to me before.
Well, I’m glad you made it to a ripe age of what 3039.
I’m hoping that I’ll be 49 here. And can I just tell you I am. So looking forward to it there. The Instagram account is the name is escaping me now. But it’s basically an account that celebrates like the beauty of black women. Yeah. And I think like unapologetic black out or something. Anywho he said, You’re not fine. Fine until you’re 40. Anyway, in that resume? Yeah,
Yeah, you’re like, I am not just fine. Fine. I am fine wine, fine. And 40.
On the highest display case, you gotta get like, the loan arise, apparatus to reach me, honey. It’s a way like a humidity protected closet, with the finest shoes known to any New Yorker.
Exactly. Oh, my gosh, that’s so funny. But you know, I’m looking forward to turning 40 Because when you’re in primary school, you’re just like, What the fuck is this outside of my mom’s world. And then like your teens, your hormones are all over the place. And you’re like, trying to figure it out. And then you’re 20 you’re like taking all these risks and like making poor decision. And then your 30s you start to wide up. And so I feel like 40s when you’re like, I’m like, This is who I am. I love to do and how I love to show up. I’m really looking forward to that. Maybe I’m tapping into it already. Oh, oh, I don’t know you. But I’ve seen your Instagram. And I know some of what you’re about which I want to read your bio. So people know that. I’m being unapologetic. And being yourself, especially in the south in the church. You’ve already you’ve already got,
Yeah, no. And I live in Atlanta, Georgia. But now I’m in the Deep South. And so I’m like, Oh, it gets worse. In terms of like rigidity, so let’s get into that. Yeah.
So you were saying that you’re now in the Deep South? And so what brought you specifically there? How did you land there?
Great question. So New Orleans has always been my favorite US city to visit. I had been here for a birthday party, wedding, bachelorette parties conferences, rarely left the French Quarter slash Burbridge. Three and was just overtaken by the energy of the city, the mysticism of it. It’s a very magical, mystical city. It’s very much like Bali, in that you get this sense of sacredness like There’s sweetness in the air. And it’s not just the humidity, it’s actually the Divinity that’s just roaming around a man. So I was making plans to move to the island of Barbados. So my father was born, I was completing my first book manuscript, and we were heading into severe lockdown. So I was like, I gotta be quarantine, I’m gonna be quarantined in Paradise, and also do some research around my maternal lineage. And so of course, the UN lacks responsible leadership. And we were a high risk country. And so Barbados said, listen here. If you come from a high risk country, even if you arrive and you have a negative COVID test, you still need to quarantine for seven to 14 days in a government facility. China I was like, I don’t know what a government facility is, but I will die not knowing so I ended up with seeking refuge in New Orleans and I was on my third Airbnb when I finally just sat down with my spiritual counsel and was like living here, y’all, I need a home. This is not gonna work. And so I felt led to look at Craigslist, which was very odd because coming from New York City, Craigslist is like, where, you know, the killer’s got all this happening. And I ended up meeting this lovely chef who was obviously out of work due to COVID and wanting to get out of California to be with her brothers. So my sublet of three months, turned into a lease of a year and change and she came back and I moved into my dream townhome here and so yeah, I’ll close this part by saying my friend Eleni, she said, you don’t choose New Orleans, New Orleans chooses you. So I got chose.
Yeah, I just got shivers when you said that. Great, isn’t
It New Orleans? You know, what’s, What’s crazy to think because I’ve never been there. I was really into jazz as a teenager and so I wanted to go to New Orleans. When I was 15 years old, wow. And and it just and it hasn’t happened, but it’s been on my mind a lot just for three different people over the last year. And yeah, so I love actually that you sit you compared it to Bali in terms of the feeling of the sacredness and the mysticism, because that really appeals to me. I’m not I’m not much of I’m not really a drinker. And so when I think the partying aspect that is not the appeals, like the music, the aliveness the vibrance that, you know, yeah, that’s what I
Yeah, and we should, and I’m so glad that that resonates with you. Because honestly, it’s annoying that people sort of what’s the word minimize New Orleans, to this party city. Same thing with Vegas, like there’s so much to do in Vegas outside of the strip. And while 42% of the city’s revenue just come from tourism, I feel like the meat and flesh and bones and sinews of the city has nothing to do with whatever 12 by 12 block, you know, yeah, radius that the French Quarter is. So I love that it’s the heart and soul, the music, the culture, the food. I mean, New Orleans, unlike any other city in America,
I have to do it just just for you know, even if it’s just for a weekend, like I feel like I have to I have to make it happen.
Yeah, well, I’m here for now, you know, you’re thinking I’ll be here.
Yeah, I mean, it’s a it’s a wild thing to think I, when I think of New Orleans, I think of resilience. I think of grief and devolution, in addition to the celebration in the joy that, you know, yeah. And so it actually leads me to, you know, I want to talk to you about resilience and the work that you were doing. I know that your book is really front and center right now. But the work was beautiful scars. I was curious about what kinds of things you were doing to help people build resilience?
That is a fantastic question. And Dr. SHAN Jin right is an associate professor at San Francisco State University. And he wrote an article about his shift from trauma informed care, to healing centered engagement. And so when I think of resilience, I think of people of African diaspora, I think of Melanie to people the world over. And New Orleans, specifically, when I hear natives talking, and they’re like, the New Orleans of today looks nothing like the new wilderness of pre Katrina time. And I think about how natural disasters, which that’s another podcast episode, we could talk about that. But climate change, lack of city infrastructure, gentrification, right? How they’re these 21st century modes of colonization and colonialism, and it is tiring, being resilient. Yeah. And so when I first started this work, I was talking about fostering healing and resiliency, beautiful scars launched in 2018, February of 2018. So right after the huge meet to uprising that happened on social media, so shout out to Tirana, Burke, and Alyssa Milano and everybody who shared their stories. But as you can imagine, over a year of talking about trauma day in and day out, I was burnt out. Yeah. So I realized that if I talked about pleasure and resiliency, instead of trauma and resiliency, that we could focus more on the healing there. Because the speed bumps on the way to pleasure are going to come up, right if I’m talking about masturbation, and someone’s gonna be like, well, masturbation is a sin. Well, we can talk about the toxic ideology of the church, right? If someone says, Well, I don’t think that it’s right for me to touch myself because I have a partner. Well, beloved, you have a clitoris. So that tells me that our bodies are divinely designed to experience pleasure. Sex is not just for men. Right? And so, once we start to see where’s the resistance to pleasure, then we can start to pinpoint what needs healing in that person in their thought in their being in their theology in everything.
Yeah. Oh, I mean, this idea that, Oh, but I’m partnered so it’s kind of like my body belongs to that person, or I have to wait to have pleasure with this other person, right? Versus claiming this, you know, you’re like, you have a clitoris. It’s like, oh, this is my body first and foremost. And if I know what I like, it’s good to me. Then I can actually set my partner up for much more success.
Exactly. Right, but I don’t know many shirts. No. Teaching to women. Your body is your own. Oh, no, there was so much in my in what you just said, I feel like there, you know, we could have a seven hour conversation, because there were so many moments of what you said. First of all, I am so on the same page. I don’t you know, I worked with good vibrations over 2020 years ago. Oh, how can and so if anybody doesn’t know what it is, it’s a worker owned, it used to be a worker own sex toy store. And I was simultaneously doing somatic sexual. And so I was in these two worlds of like, okay, I’m like, How do I come into my body and real heal my own trauma, and then talk about sex all day. And right, so there’s this, this this practice that I was in, and then I found myself kind of bridging the gap going, Wait a second, like sex positivity. And which, which I would love to have you weigh in on because that’s one of the the ways that you identify as a sex positive womanist. Preacher, and what that means to you and you’re in the in the context that you’re living in. But there what I found was sometimes the that there would be an encouragement to almost override and always move towards, it’s like, oh, pleasure is the best thing. But sometimes there’s those moments that you need to pause, and you need to check in. What am I actually listening to? Am I listening to what other people want for me? Or am I good to me, for her? And so I’ve really seen myself kind of bridging the those two worlds between like the trauma world and the sex positive world, and so that there can be some meeting in the middle. And I’m yeah, you know, curious. Yeah,
Thank you for sharing that. And I don’t want to bleed over what you shared with me. So I say that I see you, I hear you, I acknowledge you, I believe you. And what happened to you was wrong. It was not your fault. And there was nothing you could do to prevent it or stop it. And if your belief system includes a higher power, no, that that higher power is pissed off, and your community’s pissed off. And unphysical Mm hmm.
It’s, you know, this piece of your your higher power is pissed off. It’s a very interesting theme. And this is one of the things I’d be curious to hear more about you and your work. Yeah. Is there can be a real break with God, or spirit or whatever. I wasn’t raised religious, but I was definitely spiritually connected as a little being. And I think that I had to not until my 20s, did I earn that relationship burn? A real connection? Because I wasn’t in myself to receive the connection. Right.
But given that you that your primary area that you’re working in is inside churches. And you know, you’re working with congregations. What happens there? How are you holding the complexity of that?
Well, the interesting thing is that even though I work with both sacred and secular institutions, I don’t often see it different. It might look different, aesthetic leasing, right, it might be a floor to ceiling, open window floor plan at lift, but then there’ll be stained glass windows at Northside Presbyterian Church, like we have this crossover that happened. Even if you didn’t grow up in a religious household. colonized Christianity has affected your life in some way. Whether it’s puritanical ideals, whether it’s the Virgin Mary Madonna, whore, binary, you know, the pressure to conform to get married to do all this stuff. And so what I’m sensing is that national statistics tell us that one in four girls and one in six boys will be fit. And this is a content warning for sexual abuse shop. So if you need to pause tapping later, fast forward where we need to do take care of yourself. But one in four girls, one in six boys will be abused before they turn 18. When you start looking at black communities, it the numbers are exponentially higher. Now granted, sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes and so we don’t actually factually know for real for real, but black woman’s blueprint is a sociological organization based in Brooklyn, New York. And they’ve been doing an ongoing study since 2011. And they have found that at least 70% of black girls are sexually abused before they turn 18 seven zero. If 70% of the black woman in your life get up and got the swine flu or migraine, like you’d be like, What the hell is going on? But due to the nature of the stigmatization, that shame that’s attached to it living in a culture that we are actively destroying, but that still protects perpetrators and blames victim. Like all of that is intensified when God talk is put on top of it. Exactly. So you have this idea that oh, you need to forgive and forget that’s what a good Christian does. You need to let go in Let God here’s what I need folks in the church to honor and admit and acknowledge and internalize. Forgiveness is inherently confrontational. There is no way to forgive something that the individual and the community will not acknowledge.
That No, no, no, I totally, totally oh my gosh, my whole my whole body is vibrating my legs and everything I felt that go through my whole system thou because even if you if you’re working on forgiving yourself, Oh, you need to it is its turn turning towards constantly. Confrontation gets a bad rap, it’s a turn towards. And that can be a great thing. Yes, with fake.
You know, but I think it’s like confront it’s like turn towards be with. It doesn’t have to be terrifying. I mean, no, no, it’s really it can be really scary to eight is not something I honor that I have compassion about that, you know, my Christian sensibilities lend me to lend me the opportunity to look at the life of the historical Christ figure, and to say, in what ways that this person and this Healer and this other worldly teacher, right show up and say, let’s look at this horrible thing. Let’s look at this horrific institution. Let’s look at this toxic leadership. Let’s look at this hypocrisy. And that’s the thing. Survivors are saying, Hey, here’s what happened to me. Right? And perpetrators are like, Oh, no, they’re lying. Oh, she’s mixed up. Oh, he’s confused. So shout out to my therapist, Dr. Briana Boyd, who helped me to see that the perpetrators don’t want us to do anything. The survivors want us to sit in the book. And so when you’re a bystander, what’s easier, quote, unquote, to do to turn away or to deep in the horror? Nobody wants to feel horror, no one wants to feel discomfort. As long as we can talk about rain. We can talk about that. Yeah, it’s cool.
Yeah, take a breath. There was an organization that I used to work with called Generation five. And started by one of the founders was Stacey Haynes, who is one of my first Cymatics teachers and and therapists and all. And the focus was on educating communities and doing community outreach around how can people respond, so it’s educating bystanders? And so much of where I see there can be harm and, you know, in in the perpetuation of it, it’s it happens everywhere. But inside churches is this by thinking, right? It’s like, it’s all good or all bad. And so, when we make someone who is an offender, you know, all bad, versus there are people that we deeply, deeply love, who also Yeah, less harm. And if we can’t hold that complexity and be in the gray, then that means we have to turn a blind eye and then that means like, okay, let’s not even look at that. Let’s Lipson Right, right. And so you’re standing in the heat, you’re standing in the, you know, you’re in the gray going, okay, all right, you can believe in God, you can believe in good you can believe in, you know, like, how do you hold all of that? And yeah, the gray in your role?
Yeah, it’s the idea that as a body and a sex positive womanist. Pastor, preacher, teacher, I am a black woman, spiritual leader who was no longer at war with her body. And so when I think about the Platonic lunacy that permeates many Christian doctrines, that tried to separate our body from our spirit that tried to bifurcate our being right, it’s impossible to do. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience. Yes. God gave us if our faculties are working, I know both have different varying levels of ability. But if everything is healthy, you can see you can taste you can touch you can hear, right literally your senses. Your senses are activated. For every fucking thing. When you have to pee. You feel that tingly? Like, oh, my bladder, let me go right. Imagine not paying attention to your bladder. When something’s burning on the stove, you’re like, oh, shoot, I smell the smoke. I see the smoke, right? What chaos would ensue if you did not send the smoke coming off of your meal. So when we think about the basic necessity of our senses, but then when we amplify that they are divine gifts. That didn’t mean oh, that’s how we’re supposed to explore the world. Right? Imagine having your beautiful garden Charna and you couldn’t see the birds hear the birds. Hear the rain, feel the rain. See the sun, feel the sun. We’ve been missing out on so much Until because we don’t bring our bodies to our spiritual experiences. I believe we’re missing out on God experiences.
Yes. 100% Yeah. And you know the title of your book, sensual faith, the art of coming home to your body.
So exciting. I’m really I look forward to reading it, I look forward to recommending it. And you know, this piece of coming home to your body and how you started to speak to it just now and you’re talking about your senses. But how do you know when you’re home?
What a juicy question. I feel my, it starts when you love yourself unapologetically. Because when you love yourself, unapologetically, you’re not going to tolerate certain behavior. You know, you’re going to nourish yourself in particular ways. You’re going to implement and enforce certain boundaries, you’re just going to treat yourself like the precious sacred object that you are. And so I realized that there’s work before we get there, you know, especially as healers, we always have, oh, you got to do the work, like capital T, capital W, what is the work for me, right? I’m a being of light here to help Earth evolve. And the way that I do that is by one decolonizing. Christianity, kind of Zen just needs to be liberated. I help black folks, singularly black women reclaim their spiritual base in practices. I offer support and resources for those of us who are feeling of sexual trauma. So once you piece through each of those things, you start to realize, Oh, that was oh, that was shame. Oh, that was a burden of that was caustic that never was designed to serve me. Right? Then you’re like, Okay, now let me replace that with spirituality that feels good. With sensuality that tastes good with sexuality that sounds good. All of these parts of myself together and say, you know, this is who I am and who I am is who God made me to be. And if you have a problem with that, take it up with God. And that’s how I feel about that.
That’s beautiful. I love the title of your book, by the way. Sensual, sensual faith. May we all may we all have center?
Hmm. From your lift that it is love that for? Oh, yeah.
Yeah, I really might. One of my first business cards. I was a somatic coach before becoming a psychotherapist and said, you know, my mission statement was like, everyone deserves comfort, safety and pleasure. Oh, and he right. And the funny thing is, is how triggered people had reactions, you know. And so one person was a therapist, who, who she was a therapist and training and I hadn’t gotten started grad school yet. And she was like, she was like, Oh, I don’t know. I mean, you know, I think you should change pleasure to joy because that’s a little bit much. And, and then my dad, so my dad spent most of my life until I was in my 20s in prison. And so being in prison, I think that probably informed this, but I think it informed her his life even before you know, when he was a little one, but he he looked, he read it and he went luxury, comfort safety. I don’t know about that.
A therapist and formerly incarcerated me, okay,
Right. But but that’s important, right? Because who is it is like bringing something up as someone doesn’t have the capacity to be with pleasure? Or, or does it deserve comfort, then that’s going to inform how they see what you’re about?
And when to ask? Yeah, what the therapist, man or woman was a woman. Okay, so whether a woman or man in between how have you identified female non gender conforming, non binary all of that? Isn’t it interesting that both a man and a woman were both resistant to pleasure? Oh, yeah, tell me that. It’s not just a woman’s issue. It’s not just the men’s issue. It’s a human issue, right to be uncomfortable with just the word pleasure, right? Because for me, I think about how we’re a blendable, divine feminine and divine masculine energy, right? divine masculine energy is very root and logical, linear, and it’s this and that. And divine feminine energy is much more linear and whimsical and creative and playful and entrepreneurial. And so when we bring both those energies together, whether you’re more heavy on the masculine, more heavy on the feminine and for folks who don’t identify To buy in binaries. I also want to add that in my tradition in African cosmology, we understand that these concepts predate colonization. And so our ancestors weren’t looking at it at the same time, like either or, in fact, genderqueer people in ancient West Africa were gatekeepers ritual. They were well respected leaders in the Dr. Village. So this is not anti LGBTQIA plus, yeah, so, and it’s more inclusive than we think it is. And this is why it’s so important to read people who are writing from an indigenous or African or ancient perspective, because it helps us to see the fluidity and the whimsy of creation, as opposed to like the staid, stoic, binary puts you in a box bullshit, you know, that we live in. So yeah, I just thought it was really interesting that both a man and a woman can be like, pleasure, me.
Well, and the other thing, it’s like, you know, for her to go pleasures, you know, that’s edgy, because that sounds sexual. And as therapists we’re not supposed to be sexual beings, and we’re supposed to, you know, and the reality. I mean, there’s so much in that. But first of all pleasure, like you were saying, as you know, there’s your senses when your senses are engaged in your inner Oh, and with what’s happening in your body and around your body. And yeah, that like the psyche, as you were saying, the sun, right, this smells everything. Pleasure, right. But you if you haven’t done the work that you need to do around shame that that covers and cloaks pleasure, or you can’t be with the sensations that arise in your mind. You feel pleasure, right? You’re going to be shut down to that for anybody, not just yourself, right? Oh, absolutely. As therapists or preachers or anyone out there working with people’s well being, yeah, being able to be with our own pleasure being in pleasure practices is so important, because we’re going to shame other people who want to be in all all ranges of pleasure if we right, right.
Correct. And shame comes from people shame doesn’t come from God. So that’s how I know that saying, and not an emotion that is serving to anyone, right? Think about the community that tries to shame someone for being SAME GENDER loving, or for a woman for owning and embracing and expressing her sexuality. Like, shame isn’t going to work on me, because I’m not ashamed of my story. I used to be when I was trying to live in to this idea of like, the Picture Perfect, good Christian girl, I don’t drink I don’t smoke. I don’t have sex, cuz I’m holy. Okay, man, but no one wants to come talk to you about their issues, because you seem to be good at that altogether. And the truth is that I needed that phase of my life as to be a part of my faith journey for that season, because I was not at the place to honestly truly engage the trauma that I did experience. So I needed that moment of nope, everything’s fine. I’m in my Christian bubble. And I am good to go. Because that could only last so long, right? Jesus can only be found boyfriend for a couple of years. And right, what sounds good. I’m gonna say and celibacy only made sense when I was the 22 year old sophomore in college. But once I got to grad school, and I started meeting men my age and older, okay, now celibacy is becoming harder. Let’s talk about right. So we unfold the different phases of our life when we’re ready.
Yeah, yeah. And as you said, different seasons, right. Yeah. What’s ready to ripen this season?
Yeah. Oh, good. That’s that’s a good question. I invite your listeners to journal about that.
So along those lines, you know, what, what practices did have you engaged in that helped you make that transition from that season of celibacy into a season of more embodiment? Or like practice Norden? Yeah,
it started with honoring that the story that I received in the religion of my childhood was incomplete at best and a lie at work. And so when I realized that I didn’t get the full story, I said, What else is there? Right? My mom loves to tell this story. And when I was four years old, we lived in Queens, New York, and we’re taking the subway into Manhattan. F train for those of you who are knowledgeable in the MTA New York City subway system. So she told us already like 6am and we’re on the train and I’m asking all these questions and these up grunting you know, certainly New Yorkers are like, mean mugging this four year old girl who’s just so inquisitive and have all these questions at six in the morning. Like it’s still early he you, she says they’re looking at her, like, can you get your kid to shut up? And so my mom, instead of trying to get me to her, she’s like, Oh, really what else? So she, you know, getting me going and hyping me up and I just feel like I’m still asking what else? And so my what else interrogation led me to wonder what what else was happening in ancient times? What else was happening around women’s empowerment? What else was happening throughout the African diaspora? And so it led me to this word sensuality. Most people think that I am not mostly say many, many people think that I’m a body and sex positive woman is preacher and pastor and spiritual leader because I want to upset and yes, I do want to have a lot of healthy, pleasurable state, consensual fit. Anyone who is loving themselves unapologetically. Right? And identifies sexual beings also want the same thing. And when I look at the word sensuality, in the dictionary, it says things like lascivious lewdness on chat city, sensuality, Jharna nah. Yeah. And so when I think about sensuality, sensuality, and simply being mindful of your current present experiences, sensuality is the ultimate practice in mindfulness. That is what it is. Pleasure does not always have to be sexual. And that’s the thing in our hyper repress hyper sexualized culture, we equated pleasure with sex, and pleasure, so much more than that pleasure is feeling the warmth in your mug, when you’re sipping your favorite coffee, or swallowing a sip of your favorite herbal tea and letting the rose and the cardamom and the you know, let it all just get into your olfactory area, you know, pleasure can be soaking in a luxurious level bath, pleasure can be going for a walk, and just taking in the sound of the stream, you know, beckoning you to stillness, all of those things are pleasurable. So when I invite people to embody essential faith, I’m saying tap in and tune in with what’s going on with you right now. And trust that God is big enough to hold you with whatever it is, it’s coming up for you.
Love it. So inside of your practice, inside of, you know, being a sex positive preacher, I’m really curious to see, to hear more about how you’re received, because you said, you know, people are like, Oh, she just wants to have more sex. And that’s, you know, very dismissive and, and, you know, like minimizing what you’re about. And so I’m curious how, when you are unapologetic, and you’re facing forward with, like, This is who I am, and this is, this is what matters to me. Did a church form around you for? Okay, because I was gonna find out about you and call you forward. Because, you know, you’re not, you’re not, yeah, go ahead.
Here’s what happened. So I was raised in a middle class Caribbean Episcopal Church. So I was an Acolyte. I always had this respect for liturgy. I was wearing multiple layered robes, and a crucifix and I carry my candle lighter and extinguisher I rang time, the bell, like I did all the things. And then when I got to college, I started going to a Pentecostal church. And that’s very different from the Episcopal Church, right? It’s very demonstrative, it’s very somatic. People are shouting and lifting their hands and crying and whooping and hollering and all that. So first Pentagon church service, I was leveling what in the world was then when I was in seminary at Yale Divinity School, I got in with a black woman Baptist preacher name is Reverend Dr. Leslie decal, and first woman, pastor of St. Paul’s Baptist Church, work Baptist Church in North Philly. And the very first day that I recorded for my internship with her not only that we listened to an r&b artist who shall remain unnamed, because she was supportive of a presidential administration that I do not support. But it was not gospel music. I will just say that was non gospel music. And we went to a protest that was against budgetary cuts to Philadelphia public school. And I said my first day on my job at this church and we’re listening to r&b and rad a protest. I would like what kind of Christianity is this? This is where it’s at. But I’m telling you about all of that. That means together. And so when I started to talk more about sexual trauma churches were eager to have me come. Right come talk about pain. Come talk about what we can do. Come destigmatize therapy. When I started talking about the pleasure, the invitations dried up. Oh, wait, you talked about that. sex before marriage is not a sin. Homosexual? Wait, I can’t tell my congregation that and why not? Sir, Ma’am, non gender conforming person. And so COVID COVID. And in March 20, Mark 1520 20 was the last time that any sane person was gathered inside of a church. Right. And so I think with both being vaccinated and still socially distancing, now, if they feel comfortable kind of being in an in person service, that’s cool, too. But we talked him back in 2020. And I’m like, No. And on social media, people were like, well, what are we going to do about church? Oh, it will be a couple of weeks, I can do something on Instagram Live, y’all want to meet at 11am, which was like a traditional church service our time, or 3pm, I’m thinking we could sleep in we can make brunch and then we can get and the votes were overwhelmingly for 11am Eastern Standard Time. So me being the woowoo practitioner, the ancestral indigenous practitioner that I am, I like Angel numbers and thought, I have an 1111 tattooed on my side, which 1111 is an angel number. If you ever see that time, if you always think that time, if you see those numbers is a divine gift and nudge that you’re on the right path. So you know, just make a wish, say your prayers and intention whenever you see it. So anywho I started the proverbial experience, because I do not see any church service that was spiritually somatic. I didn’t see a church service that incorporated all the different parts of ourselves, the part of myself that poured libation for my ancestors, the part of myself that phrase, the part of myself that pulls heroine, oracle cards, the part of myself that is a Yale Divinity School award winning preacher, right, aligned myself that loves twerking, and Chloe Bailey and Beyonce and black folks and loans and liberation. So yeah, we did that for a year and a half straight. And we got burned out and took a rest. And so now we’re, you know, discerning the next iteration of that, but I had to create what I wanted to see. Mm hmm. Yeah,
Create what you want to see in the world. Yeah, I’m glad that that you existed and that they found you, you know, saying how healing that is for so many people to see that, oh, I don’t have to divorce myself from these parts of myself. Right, in order to be connected to spirit, which is, you know, I have I’ve had a number of clients that are are queer. And then the end they were raised religious, right? And then that’s like, this process of either being totally rejected by their community, losing everything and everyone. Yeah. And how do you heal that? And how do you go wait a second, you know, another way to think about God or spirit is it’s it’s, it’s an internal experience, and it’s a quiet voice inside me. And it’s not necessarily some old white dude with a beard. And it’s definitely not.
And so what people see and can sometimes what can happen for people’s there can be a getting a divorce from your own intuition and your own stillness. And being able to re access that and yeah, you know, resting.
Yeah, right. Yeah, those gentle nudges to come home is you simply resting in your power, right? What some people call it intuition or gut feeling, or the Holy Spirit, just this innate knowing, like we all have these spiritual gifts, right? Like the church can teach us that a spiritual gift is to pastor or preach or teach or fried chicken dinners or cleaning the bathroom and be a servant, right? When you think about our body being a spiritual gift, that means everything that our body does is a gift. Just waking up this morning wasn’t good, right deep, deep gratitude. Upon first waking is a spiritual practice. Thank you are the first few words out of my mouth before my feet even hit the floor because somebody else did not wake up today, right? Yeah, they’ll look just transitional. Well, that’s gonna Yeah, how can I frame that might not time see me. You know, when I think about how many of our elders have transitioned there during this time when I think about the collective and communal grief that is going on process. We’re, you know, we’re almost at the 1 million mark. Americans have died due to COVID. And there have not been almost a million funerals for these people. Well, or grief circles or, you know,
And that’s, you know, I know that melodrama Some may pass yet, at least so much work. It was such a contribution around grief work as was Yeah. His wife who also passed
Yes. Football who still may we give thanks for the soulmate, tiny you.
And you know, and, and I know that he was someone that was part of a workshop that you were Yeah. And just you bring these people forward to be like you’re a resource, but you also are gathering these resources around you to be in service.
Yeah. Yeah, I guess if I had to put a colonized word on it, it would be a bibliography right like here are the texts that are liberated seems to me that as a Christian, I do look at the Bible as a sacred text. But I also look at poetry, music, art, dance, our live lives as sacred texts as living epistles. And so the hope for me is that we start to see God in more than just the church in more than just liturgy, but in the very existence, and nurturing and sustaining and flourishing and liberation of all of God’s reasons.
I love that. Pivoting a little bit, along those lines, so you know, it’s, there can be quite a connection between I mean, sex can be a spiritual Oh, trans. perience. Right. And I’m curious to you, given that you know, that connection, what is sexual freedom to you?
Oh, that’s such a good question. Yeah, I always love to tell people I’m like sex is definitely spiritual. Why do you think you say oh, God, like you forget my mark godness. And one of my dear friends and colleagues Did you base she is a hoodoo practitioner and an Orisha devotee. For those of you who don’t know, who is an African diasporic religion that emerged out of the context of formerly enslaved African in the US Global South. So those African traditions mixed with indigenous traditions and kept on through word of mouth. An oral tradition through a black community really honors the divinity of nature. That’s really what it’s about. It’s about being one with nature. And an Orisha is a deity in the West African tradition, the Yoruba tradition of BA in which there are these, again, these formerly human but now, Denny gods, who are also correlated with a particular act of nature, right, so we’re part of nature could be a river, it could be the sky could be whatever. So Juju Bay, what are we talking about?
We’re talking about sexual freedom.
Oh, right. All right. Okay. She talks about how orgasm. So let me put all that together. So yes, so that you do debate, you do talks about how orgasms are a portal, and talks about how we can use sex magic, so that we align our desire and our intention with our sexual pleasure, so that we can manifest what we want to see in our life. So to me, that basically means coming as a prayer, right? When I make a vow, how we pray, what is that but setting an intention? Sure, the language might be different, we’re all doing the same thing. We’re just using different links. And so for me to see sex as a spiritual practice means that I can absolutely have sex with myself, because Hello, like, either I consent or I don’t like the safest sex sponsible to when I do share my body with a partner, or for some people, partners, you know, let’s be real, everybody’s journey is different, that I’m allowing them into my space and sharing my sacred temple with you. And then it’s not to say that that can’t be you know, just that, it doesn’t mean that you have to love the person or want to experience a relational intimacy with them. But I do believe that there is an energetic exchange that happened. And so it makes me be more conscious of who am I allowing my speed? Right, make me take seriously sexual health and wellness, having a conversation about, hey, when’s the last time you were tested? And did you test positive for anything like those are now your things that are now normalized because I realized, this is not just a good time. This is also my body and my spirit and I want everything to be well so your sexual power actually helps you to breathe easier into your body, because you’re not terrified of it. You’re not trying to minimize it or defend it or pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s just a part of you, right? It’s not all of you, it doesn’t define you. It’s a part of you. But it’s a part of us that we haven’t been allowed to tap into so long for religiously and culturally, that it feels like it’s all of us. So I’m hopeful that these conversations are going to help us to integrate it so that it’s a delicious, juicy, magnificent, divine part of us. So we don’t get to talk about it all that day. Sometimes I just want to talk about what you’re watching on Netflix. You know what podcasts like? Goodness gracious?
Yeah, well inside of that I also really hear sexual freedom. Yes, there’s a surrendering to pleasure but there’s also a lot of intentionality in the choices that you’re making. Right? So that it’s not like, like, I’ve lost all control because I think that’s right, you’re right. It’s like, oh, God, I’ll be you know, I will be completely uncontained mess, maybe I’d never want to have on on on on and never want to stop having sex again. Maybe I’m just afraid of how much sexual power wants to move through me. But then you don’t have to lose your selectiveness and your discernment in the process of allowing erotic freedom into your life.
In her epic essay uses of the erotic Audrey Lorde is a beloved ancestor, queer, also Bayesian, okay, she from Barbados. So I claim her as my extended family poet, writer, thinker, intellectual. And she offered that the erotic for women goes beyond pornography goes beyond the need to get off and taps into our creative lifeforce. And that is the power that the church doesn’t want us to tap into that a patriarchal society doesn’t want us to tap into that a capitalist society doesn’t want us to fully embody because if we really really did that, we were turning some shit on it.
Right and the function of patriarchy is to make women feel less than unimportant. Second class. And so when a woman owns and embraces her sexuality, the system is afraid of up. So you got to be willing for let people be
afraid I remember when I first started to heal somatically. So coming into my body, when I say embodied for anyone who doesn’t know, it’s be living in my whole being, feeling the sensations through my whole body, often people have big chunks that are blank, and they don’t feel they might be numb, or might be there might be paying but being embodied is a very radical act. And you’re absolutely I mean, you’re taking like all the things radical and layering them you have like a radical layer cake happening.
I love that. You’re laying delicious and moist and well frosted,
you crave it now. But there’s, there’s embodiments, right? There’s, you know, there’s sexuality. There’s healing, from trauma, speaking what’s not spoken, and also calling out the church and outside of, you know, binary existence. And so yeah, there’s just so much radical activity that you’re inviting people into. And I just, I really, really appreciate it. And I’m grateful for what you’re up to.
Thank you. I appreciate that. And I appreciate you offering your own testimony about your somatic healing, because that’s an invitation to so many of us who’ve experienced some kind of physical, emotional and sexual harm is that sometimes we what’s the word I’m looking for? Sometimes we evade these experiences, because of what we felt the last time we were in a sexual experience, right? It wasn’t consensual. It was ready. It was traumatizing. It was terrorizing. And so yes, those feelings can be triggered and they can bubble up for you. And it’s not to condemn you. Right? It’s to direct you like things that come up are a compass. That’s your healing your intuitive nature, saying this is an area that we got to explore right here. So if you don’t feel comfortable masturbating, because someone touched your vagina without your consent, and now you feel like you don’t want anyone to touch it, right? That you could have PTSD, you might need to be in therapy, might need to go to a somatic retreat. Maybe it prayer, I’m not gonna be all those things, yoga, whatever, but honor that it’s possible. Right? I just want to leave that nugget that for folks who are feeling like that could never be me. It can absolutely be you because pleasure is your birthright and something that’s your birthright. You don’t do anything to receive it except claim it. You’re not the Tooru when something’s your birthright, you just Oh legit, though, I wanted to offer that vote.
Thank you. And they’re all saying thank you to
you are worthy beloved one,
anything else that you want to share with our listeners where they can find anything else before you share where people can find you any links social media.
So you want me to give final thought, or you want me to give where to find me.
First, any final thoughts, anything else that you want to share? As we start to wrap up for today?
So healing is a journey, not a destination, right? It’s very layered like an onion, just when you think that, Oh, I’ve got this, I killed this, I’m gonna tick this off my box, something else comes up. But just know that there is what’s the word I’m thinking of. Just know that there is an abundance of healing and pleasure available to you, and that you can get some pleasure, but you can only experience as much pleasure as you have experienced healing not and so I salute you on the journey and I’ll see you on the journey.
I look forward to seeing you. And where can where can our listeners find you? Where are you on social media? What links do you want to provide? Well,
I would love for y’all to follow me on Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter at Lavon Griggs, I’m always there. Say hello. If you would like to learn and community with me, you can visit patreon.com/laval brain. That’s where all of the writing and thinking is roundtables and exclusive access to conversations that are really stemming from this whole platform that I’ve co created with my community. Listen to me on my podcast and today’s podcast with Labatt braids wherever you can get your podcast and my book is coming out. So please, pre order it for your for yourself or your friends, for your lovers for your partners. And let’s continue this healing journey thing get there Yay. All this will be on my website to bomb break.com. So that’s my hub.
Fantastic. Lavon is not preaching to the converted. Many survivors are in homes and communities where there’s rigid, dual good bad black and white thinking. To accept that their beloved preacher, brother or sister or family friend molested their child goes against the notion they hold true, which is good people don’t do bad things. And this person is good, so they conclude their child must be lying. That then produces a shame riddled child who believes they are bad, who then grows into an adult drenched in shame and often has an aversion to pleasure. Let’s come back to the idea of pleasure as an act of resilience that was explored in this episode. You can look to books such as pleasure activism, the politics of feeling good, by Adrian Marie Brown, or the body is not an apology, the power of radical self love by Sonia Rene Taylor for more on this topic. For this week’s exercise, let’s come back to our senses to help build resilience beyond touch, taste, smell, sound sight. I’m also adding movement, intuition, visualization, thoughts and feelings. Before we get started, grab your phone or a piece of paper and a pen. You can take notes and write out what you’ll do later. If you aren’t in the space to do this exercise as you’re listening. Think about what brings me pleasure. Remember, this pleasure does not need to be sexual nature. Pleasure opens the body. That is what we’re looking for. Some people get stuck at thoughts and feelings because pleasure was not permitted. Give yourself permission to stop and try this again another time if you need to. Take five to 30 minutes or more to answer these questions for yourself. Number one, thoughts or emotions. Let’s start with thoughts because your beliefs can be the gatekeepers. Try to be in this present moment despite the to do list or past beliefs of ancestors creeping in. Choose what feels good to think about right now. What thoughts bring you peace? Help you exhale more fully, like a sigh of relief? Are you thinking all beings are safe? We all deserve to feel good, or I deserve happiness. I deserve love. It’s important that this is in your own words, because we all have certain words that we react to. When you say these positive thoughts what emotions arise. See if you can recall something you feel grateful for or that you’re curious about what happens in your body when you Do that. Touch? How can I receive touch or give touch that feels good to my body, mind and heart? What kind of contact feels good? Where do I want to touch myself or my partner? Maybe a light tickle on my inner arms, massaging my feet or neck firmly, or scratching my head. If you’re engaging with your own or someone else’s genitals, what kind of stroke feels best? You knowing your body helps you then advise people on what feels best to you. Remember, we all like different things at different times depending on who we are with and where we are. Taste. Is there something that I love the taste of? If you have any right now go ahead and eat or drink it. Otherwise, recall it. the coolness of a carbonated beverage going down your throat on a hot sticky day? Or is it the saltiness of someone’s skin? Or the sweetness of a flowerless chocolate cake? Describe the layered flavors, the temperature or the spice of what you’re tasting? Smell? What smell comfort, smear turns me on? How can I have more of that in my life. Smell brings us back to the past. So you may want to have a bottle of essential oil that you’d like to bring yourself back to the present moment where if something comes up, that doesn’t feel good, or if you find yourself spacing out. The thing you love the taste of may also have an aroma that makes your head float or makes you nostalgic, brings you back to a time of no responsibility and freedom perhaps brings you to being in bed or in a pine forest with a lover.
Sound with sound has my body relax. Maybe it’s listening to bird songs in my garden, or the melodic resonance of my neighbor or practicing cello. Or a baby giggling belly laughs that make her topple over. Or a moan that escapes you as you squeeze your own nipple in between your fingertips with just the right amount of force. Sight. When I see this, I immediately squeal with joy, smile and my chest expands. Maybe it’s a puppy, your best friend’s smile, a bouquet of peonies, your favorite team scoring a winning goal. Or maybe it’s your lover shirtless movement. How can I move that feels really good? Is it stretching? Walking more slowly, dancing, rotating my hips to rhythmic drumming or bass bits during sex with myself or another? Is it varying and mixing the kinds of movement of my hand or whole body up so that it keeps me in the present moment? How much can I listen with my lips and hands and then move accordingly. Intuition? How can I listen to that quiet voice inside me more that knows what I like. It is not what I should like. It’s what I authentically enjoy. But I may feel shame to voice it can identify it. What does it sound like? When does it show up? This inner voice is different than the part of me that shuts it down or overrides it. The override or is a voice of fear when that’s protecting me out of habit, and is often accompanied by a tighter chest and belly tried to ask this part to step aside and Keep listening for the other voice. Visualization. Let’s pull it all together. Now. Visualize yourself in a physical space that you enjoy. Either with someone you feel safe with or by yourself. What are you wearing? And how does it feel against your skin? Where are you and what is the weather? Is it sunny or rainy out? What do you smell? Can you taste anything? Maybe they’re salt air because you’re by the sea? And what type of sound can you hear in your environment? How are you breathing? Does it slow down or Quicken? How does your body feel overall? Scan your whole body and see if you can describe all the parts that feel good. Had does your body want to move perhaps dig your toes into warm sand or feel the strength in your legs as you run? As we bring this exercise to a close remember, you don’t have to actually be in a situation to feel something you can simply recall a positive memory to regenerate the positive feelings. You have the power to do this again and again.
The new neural pathway for receiving pleasure is strengthened every time, if you do this has been Laid Open podcast with your host Charna Cassell. Please join us again next week. If this show feels beneficial, we’d love if you’d please rate and review 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. If you found this exercise helpful or want to see it written out, it will be reposted in my blog along with a number of other exercises from previous episodes. Follow me at Laid open Podcast on Instagram and Facebook and read more about my work at passionatelife.org. Until next time, love and more love.