Thursday, May 14, 2015

My Relationship With Religion

When I was a child, my visualization of God was that of an old man with a long beard who resided in heaven.  He took on human emotions: He was generally kind and benevolent, but could become angry and punishing.  He pulled levers and turned knobs to control the weather.  He also looked down on mankind with a watchful eye to determine who would and would not make it through the pearly gates. 

By adolescence, my beliefs remained relatively unchanged, however my image of God matured and became more abstract.  He lost His human characteristics, no longer pulling levers and turning knobs, and became Spirit.  At the time, I had very little understanding of Spirit beyond what I was able to glean from church teachings: God as Spirit was all powerful, but mysterious.  Spirit, in fact, has been mysterious to me much of my adult life, as I have struggled to define and understand my concept of Divinity.  (The Catholic Church, and I assume most Protestant denominations, define Deity as the Holy Trinity, of which Spirit is one of Three Persons comprising one Being.  However, I did not learn this until much later in life.  Here, I am using Spirit to mean God.)   

I was raised in a North Dayton Jewish neighborhood and observed the rich traditions of the Jewish faith through my friendships.  I came to understand that Jews attend church services, weddings, funerals and the like, just as Protestants do.  More importantly, I came to realize that the Jewish faith served all of the same needs as my Christian religion, even absent a belief in the human manifestation of God.  Judaism helped me learn, even as a young boy, that no one religion is better or more right than any other.  Judaism also likely played a role in my decision to convert to Catholicism much later in life.  I admire the ritualistic practices of both religions and Catholic ritual played a significant role in my spiritual practices, especially during the nineties while living in Louisville.

College also played a role in the development of my beliefs.  As a curious sociology student, I learned about many cultures and cut through the superficial differences to discover that religion is present in virtually all societies and that the practices of each serve the same basic psychological and social human needs.  It was also in college that I came to appreciate the genesis of various religions and the passing of dogma down through the generations of believers.  Through my studies, I learned that religion is man-made, created to serve societal needs and desires.    

Catholics, of course, make the sign of the cross before and/or after prayer.  I remember studying the Trinity in my adult confirmation class years ago.  I thought then, and believe now, that it is great fodder for theological debate, but far too complex for my simple mind.  While I enjoy the idea of the Trinity and the practice of signing, I have never considered the doctrine to represent literal truth, meaning divinely inspired.  I do believe in the historical Jesus and in the historical accuracy of parts of the Gospels.  For example, I have read that most modern religious scholars consider the circumstances surrounding His baptism and crucifixion to be historical facts.  Much of the rest of the recorded life and ministry of Jesus is up for grabs, accepted or rejected based on faith.  This has never been a concern to me; I have never considered it important to accept religious teaching as being factually correct.

I am surrounded by vast numbers of people here in the South who believe the Bible represents absolute truth, the literal Word of God.  This literal interpretation can border on the insane, especially when it comes to educating our children.  There are many who favor teaching Creationism in lieu of actual science and who object to the teaching of critical thinking.  The controversy over critical thinking stumped me until I learned religious conservatives fear that the development of critical thinking skills in children will lead to a breakdown of parental authority.  Go figure.  These things, of course, represent only the dark side of religion.  I am well aware that the practice of religion has many virtues and is very important to a vast majority of folks here and almost everywhere. 

I do enjoy religious practice, probably for the same reasons as the religious faithful.  The difference, I think, is my ability to separate the spiritual from the dogmatic aspects of religion.  While I find the Catholic mass spiritually enlightening, Catholic doctrine dealing with such matters as birth control, abortion and homosexuality is abhorrent, and I believe, immoral.  Like other denominations, Catholicism is practiced more conservatively in the South than in the northern states.  In a former northern church my wife and I attended, there was much less emphasis given to negative Catholic values.  

I have a curiosity about the Unitarian Universalist Church (UU).  Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion with little dogma.  The Church has no one doctrine of belief; instead, members share seven common ethical values.  The Church advocates for social justice and human rights, and welcomes everyone, including those who retain a strong connection with another tradition.  There are those who self-identify as Jew UU, Pagan UU, Buddhist UU and Humanist UU, among others.  Many of my Pagan friends in Florida attend the UU Church.  I have not as yet received this calling, but if this comes to pass, I will become a Pagan UU.    

Atheism is definitely not for me; my true nature is spiritual and it would be impossible for me to reject theistic belief.  Nonetheless, my association with polyamory has given me some insight into atheism.  Most polyamorists are either Pagans or atheists, with the latter representing the majority.  I have attended workshops and heard talks about skepticism and atheism.  I lack an in-depth understanding of these subjects, but agree with some of the objectives of the atheist movement.  Most especially, I would welcome a secular society free of religious-based politics.  It is my belief that religion needs to be completely divorced from politics.  For example, the Georgia legislature recently passed long overdue legislation legalizing the use of medical marijuana, providing the only available relief to children suffering from severe seizure disorders.  Regardless of the known efficacy of medical marijuana and the resultant humane treatment of children, a great deal of misguided opposition, much of it religious based, had to be overcome.  And, of course, the same could be said about marriage equality.

My connection with the Universe is at the core of my spirituality today.  I believe in a holistic view of the Universe, the Universe as Source and the energy connecting us to the Universe and to each other.  We are all energy and we all One.  I am most spiritual at the Pagan festivals I attend semi-annually in Florida, especially during sacred sexuality rituals.
  (Imagine how much better the world would be if mainstream religions enjoyed such a healthy relationship with sex?)  These beautiful rituals raise energy levels and send intentions out to a receptive Universe.  They are a time for love and peace, a time when people love people, a time for joyful reverence and a time for sexual pleasure.  It is my time, a time when I am one with the Universe, one with those I share the experience, and most importantly, one with myself.     

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Guidelines for the Poly Man

The body of work on polyamory is now large enough that the same core material can be found in many different works.  Thus, the ideas and concepts presented here are by no means original.  I have read about them often from many different authors.  Far less common is gender-specific writings.  Knowing much more about the male than the female psyche, I decided to fill this void by writing to heterosexual men, hopefully in terms men understand.  I have some credentials for doing this: Firstly, I am a man, and secondly, I come from the school of hard knocks and have learned many what-not-to-dos from personal experience.  Of course, with the exception of some obvious guy stuff, much of what is written here can apply equally to any relationship consisting of any persons of any sex, gender or orientation.

I.  Polyamory transcends common perception and is often misunderstood.  Polyamory is defined as having or desiring multiple simultaneous romantic relationships, with the knowledge and consent of all concerned.  While accurate, this definition fails to convey a complete understanding.  Polyamory is heart-driven and about allowing love to flow freely in whatever direction or form and to whomever the heart desires.  It is about loving radically.  In her book, Redefining Our Relationships, Wendy-O Matik says it this way: “Radical love is the freedom to love whom you want, how you want, and as many as you want, so long as personal integrity, respect, honesty, and consent are at the core of any and all relationships.”

The point here is that polyamory is not about goal setting.  Do not predetermine the number of partners or poly configuration you might want and then try to make it happened.  And for god’s sake, ditch the elusive unicorn fantasy.  Bringing a young, single, hot, bi woman into your existing relationship, providing a convenient plaything for you and your partner/s is not likely to happen.  (Demand far exceeds supply.)  Instead, love radically.  Allow your heart to lead the way and you will find the place where you are supposed to be.

II.  Women are complex, at times confusing, and always amazingly awesome!  She will likely find fault with you more frequently than you would like, justly or unjustly, so don’t overthink the situation.  Don’t sweat the small stuff and accept constructive criticism gracefully.  Own your shit and fix yourself as needed.  Offer her well-deserved compliments whenever possible.  When you are physically together, be sure you are emotionally present.  Always act with integrity – always.  Love with reckless abandon and fuck her to smithereens, then love her even more.  She is well worth it or she wouldn’t be your partner.  And if you are fortunate enough to have more than one partner, treat each fairly and love each with reckless abandon.  Your partners are precious and you are damn lucky to have them.

III.  Relationships are like water - they naturally seek their own level.  Any healthy, happy and fun relationship with a woman is better than no relationship.  Relish the relationship for what it is and don’t worry about what it is not.  You can very successfully be friends, lovers or partners, so long as you honor her and act with integrity by allowing growth to happen (or not) naturally.  If a relationship fails to meet all of your needs (and it can’t be expected to do so), find additional complementary relationships to fill the void.  In the monogamous world, the grass is always greener and a mostly satisfactory relationship can be trashed in the hope of finding a better one, and this unseemly cycle often repeats.  Never lose sight of the fact you are privileged to be polyamorous. 

IV.  Our cultural conditioning must be reevaluated.  Our churches, schools and parents pile on us large mounds of shit that run counter to nature and become the source of enormous pain to many later in life.*  Mature, thoughtful adults have a responsibility to rise above the stench and reject the fairy tale ingrained since birth about soulmates, sexual exclusivity and living happily ever after.  Monogamy, as the sole societal norm for relating romantically and sexually, has a long and tragic track record of failure.  Nonetheless, monogamy, consciously chosen, as opposed to a cultural default, is a valid love-style.**

So, love and cherish your monogamous friends, even if their love-style doesn’t work for you.  There’s a better than even chance yours won’t work for them.  Further, there’s a better than even chance they are really only socially, not sexually, monogamous – it’s called cheating.  Cheating is so pervasive that in the majority of committed dyadic relationships (married or shacked up), one or both partners cheat.  Unfortunately, cheating is not limited to the socially monogamous couple, and cheating can and does occur in poly relationships as well.  Always honor all agreements with your partners.  Always be ethical – always.   

*Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá makes a very strong case that humans, like almost the entire animal kingdom, are non-monogamous by nature.  Mother Nature wants us to fuck many and often; monogamy, both the good and the bad, is culturally programmed.

**Deborah Anapol, author of Polyamory in the 21st Century, makes the point that even a monogamous relationship is poly if this is the direction love is allowed to flow freely, bearing in mind that culturally imposed monogamy is forced, involuntary and certainly not poly. 

V.  Your partners are goddesses.  All forms of ethical non-monogamy, whether it be polyamory, swinging, friends-with-benefits and so forth, are always about the women in our lives.  In our society, they have far more cultural bullshit to rise above than we do; and, because they have a higher mountain to climb, they are deserving of our awe, reverence and admiration for allowing us into their romantic and sexual lives.  Never take for granted the privilege of vaginal access, without which, we would be doomed to a life of solitary dick stroking.  Your partners have faults, just as we do, but at their core, they are goddesses and amazingly awesome.

VI.  A successful relationship is founded on trust, integrity, honesty and consent.  If you fail to build trust, you will likely live in fear, which is the most common core emotion underlying jealousy.  If you fail to own your shit and instead project it on her, you lack integrity.  If you are dishonest, she cannot give informed consent and uninformed consent is not consent.  And always be mindful of fairness; these things apply equally to all of your partners.  Only an unmitigated jerk would try to preserve one relationship by trashing another.  Even if your configuration is hierarchical, the partner you are with at the moment is always your primary partner.  If you are unable to behave accordingly, you do not deserve her and the relationship must end; but, end it honestly, honorably and with integrity.

Polyamory is complicated at best.  This complexity explodes exponentially as partners are added to a poly grouping.  In a dyad, there is only one relationship to manage, a triad requires four (3 dyads, 1 triad), and a quad eleven (6 dyads, 4 triads, 1 quad).  Love is infinite, but our time and energy are finite. The only way to successfully traverse the highs and lows inherent in the human experience is with trust, integrity, honesty and consent. 

VII.  Jealousy has the power to turn you into a possessive, controlling, flaccid prick.  She owns her mind, body and emotions.  You have no access or rights to these things, except as gifted by her.  And her gift is by no means permanent or unconditional.  Do not try to change her to meet your needs or to sooth the pain associated with a fear of abandonment or any other fear.  You are destined to fail, and in the process, greatly stress your relationship.  Own your feelings, learn from them and grow up.  Develop sound jealousy management skills; by doing so, you will grow in ways you never thought attainable and the best version of yourself will proudly emerge from jealousy hell.  Don’t be a prick.

VIII.  When she is jealous, be gentle and understanding.  Don’t be stupid and say dumb shit: “Why do you feel this way?”  “What are you afraid of?”  “There’s no reason to be jealous of so and so!”  Feelings are always real, only behavior can be controlled.  Validate her feelings with empathy and compassion.  Let her know how sorry you are that she feels so awful.  Provide lots of reassurance.  Tell her how much you love her and that you look forward to having her back in your arms upon your return.  But never reinforce bad behavior by agreeing to change your plans.  With your kindness, compassion and reassurances, the best version of your partner will likely emerge unscathed from jealousy hell.               

IX.  Learn and practice tantric sex.  Unlike other branches of human relating falling under the ethical non-monogamy umbrella, polyamory does not emphasize sex; in fact, a relationship does not have to be sexual at all to be poly.  Having said this, there are poly configurations and circumstances that may require you to fuck often.  This can be true if your partners lack other partners or their partners are long distant, or if your configuration consists of more hetero women than men, or for any number of other reasons.  While this may sound exciting to a mono man accustomed to an average frequency at home, this can become exhausting to a poly man in high demand.  The solution is tantric, employing techniques such as partner focus, ejaculatory control and redefining of orgasm.  These things are beyond the scope of this writing, but the reading of tantric works and engaging a tantric teacher can go a long way in maintaining an appropriate state of emotional and physical readiness.  I highly recommend a tantric approach to sexual fulfillment under any circumstances, but it is especially important if stamina is critical to the wellbeing of your relationships.

X.  Women are amazingly awesome!  Women want, hope and need, just as we do.  In this regard, we are all one.  Women lust, love, caress, fuck, nurture and wish for goodness, grace and good health for themselves and for those they love.  They are incredibly insightful and serve as our life mirrors, helping us grow and be better people.  They do view the world through a slightly different lens, but this is not a bad thing.  This challenges us to learn, grow and better understand those we love.  As sexual polar opposites, energy flows freely and is exchanged between us with joyful abundance.  And for those fortunate enough to be polyamorous, there is always the potential to realize all of the sex and loving energy we could possibly want or need.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

More Than Two - Final Thought

I mentioned in a previous post that the book, More Than Two, has made me think - and it has.  Its reading resurrected thoughts about my many past mistakes and failures: about the early jealous years when I lived in fear of loss, about my possessiveness when I tried to change my partner's behavior to meet my needs, about how futile and ugly this strategy played out, and looking back in amazement, about how I behaved at times like an insensitive jerk.  In short, I failed to own my shit until many hard lessons were learned.  

Is it possible to avoid, or at least mitigate, these mistakes through a thorough reading of the book?  Can a poly newbie absorb so much of the valuable information conveyed to overcome a lifetime of cultural conditioning and successfully navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of multiple relationships?  In my case, I would have to say "no" to both questions.  In large part, the book is meaningful to me because I can relate to the issues raised through personal experience.  If I had read it as a newbie, I would likely have failed to completely grasp its truth, considering it more applicable to other people, because - well, you know - I am too smart to mismanage all of that relationship shit

I think someone new to poly or considering poly for the first time should build a strong knowledge base about the basics of polyamory, then tackle the subtleties often only thoroughly understood through personal experience.  My advice to newbies would be to read Opening Up by Tristan Taormino, Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines for Responsible Open Relationships by Wendy-O Matik and More Than Two, by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert in that order.  

However, the best advice of all is found in the close of More Than Two: "Love more and be awesome."

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Infinity

During APW 2014, I purchased two pieces of art: the larger work filling the frame and the infinity heart in the lower right corner of the frame.  I overlayed the infinity heart and the two pieces now hang on my office wall as one.

The larger work represents outer space to my eye, for I can readily identify the sun, earth and distant stars.  Interestingly, the artist told me this was not her creative intent.  When I foolishly asked for her interpretation, she said, "Anything you want it to be."  

Okay, I can work with that.  I stand pat on my original interpretation and see the work as outer space.  The infinity heart, of course, is a popular poly symbol for infinite love.  The two go together well: the infinite vastness of space and the infinite human capacity to love.  

I have read arguments about our capacity, as humans, to love others.  Some researchers believe there is a limit to the number of people a person can love in a deep, romantic sense.  In other words, they argue that the human capacity to love many people is exhausted when some large number of lovers is reached.  "Is it really possible to love, 600, 6000 or 600,000 people?" they might say.

Of course, as all poly folks know, our time and energy are finite and effectively limit the number of lovers any one person can have at any one time, and this number is much smaller than the human capacity to love.  Any argument challenging the infinite nature of love is highly theoretical, and as a practical matter, completely moot.  Love is indeed infinite.

The picture on my wall also has a spiritual connotation for me.  Many pagans consider the universe deity and worship accordingly.  When I see the picture, I am inspired by the awesomeness of the vast universe and the awesomeness of the vast human capacity to love.  We are all one, absolutely the same, and fully connected by energy.  Our sex-negative culture that conditions us to place absurd limits on how, and how many and who we relate to romantically and sexually is nothing short of cruel.  I believe the Universe (God, Source, Higher Power, however perceived) expects much more from us.  As humans, we have been given a mandate to love more and love better.               

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

More Than Two

More Than Two, published in September, 2014, is a book with a sharp focus on ethical non-monogamy.  Its authors, Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert attended APW 2014, where I had the privilege of meeting both.  At the conference, Franklin gave the keynote address and they jointly held informative workshops, which I attended.

Franklin is well known in the poly community, largely due to an expansive online blog which he has maintained for years.  Eve is a professional writer, editor and entrepreneur.  They are partners in work and life, and maintain a long distance relationship.  He lives in Portland, Oregon; she in Vancouver, BC.

I recently read somewhere that 36 books have been written on the subject of polyamory in the last thirty years.  This number sounds about right and I have read at least twenty-five of them.  More than any other, this book forces me to think.  Many well-grounded ideas and concepts are presented (some through the authors’ personal experience) which can be of benefit to those in any romantic relationship structure, even a monogamous relationship.  Although I am poly and well read, I learned some new things.  One of the more interesting is Eve’s poly structure, which was formed and is currently maintained for reasons I had not previously thought of.  I’m not going to give this away; you’ll have to read the book and you will be glad you did.           

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Utopia 2014

The Temple of Divine Ecstasy is an earth-based pagan church, which sponsors two annual festivals: Utopia in the fall and Body Magick in the spring.  I just returned from Utopia 2014, held on the church sanctuary grounds in the Tampa Bay Area of Florida.  The festival, like all Temple events, is a joyous celebration of life, love, spirit and sex.

On Friday evening, we gathered in the Community Center for Moksha Magick, a sacred sexuality ritual created and practiced by the Temple.  Moksha in general means freedom, release, liberation, and more specifically, freedom from our world of mundane, ordinary experiences.  Magick, spelled with a ‘k’ to distinguish it from stage magic, can be defined as any willed action leading to intended change.

To repeat, Moksha Magick is a sacred sexuality ritual.  It is sacred, involving a connection with divinity, and it is a form of sex magick, using sexual arousal to heighten energy levels.  Moksha Magick, then, uses the potent force of sexual energy to send out an intention or intentions to a receptive, loving universe.

The term energy, of course, can be used in either an esoteric or scientific context. Subtle, or non-physical, energy is used in spiritual practices and in alternative forms of healing.  This form of energy is unknown to current science and has many doubters. Physical energy is undeniable and well known to current science.  It exists in many forms and can be measured by the amount of work done.

I have witnessed on numerous occasions the effects of subtle energy, and thus, I have no doubt whatsoever about its existence.  My personal belief is that non-physical energy is really physical energy that will someday be understood by science.  Throughout history, there have been many examples of this as science has evolved.  Two hundred years ago, the effects of electricity and magnetism were often attributable to “spirit”, as a result of being unprovable.

Now, back to Utopia and Moksha Magick.  Each time a peak of sexual arousal was reached by the woman on the table being stimulated, the music player crackled.  With each peak of arousal, came a crackle: moan - crackle, moan - crackle, moan - crackle.  As this pattern continued, her pleasure spikes and the subtle energy interference coincided perfectly.  Clearly, this was no coincidence.  Afterwards, some folks, more sensitive to energy than me, gave testimony that they could feel the energy rise with each peak of arousal.  I found the experience to be a fascinating intersection between the physical and non-physical worlds of energy.

I am eagerly awaiting Utopia 2015.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Utopia 2013


The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. -- Albert Einstein


A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.  Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge.  -- Carl Sagan


The religion of the future is here, now, alive and well, and practiced by the Temple of Divine Ecstasy in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. Last month, I had the privilege of attending Utopia for the second time, one of two festivals sponsored annually by the Church. The other festival is Body Magick, held in the spring. As mentioned in last year's post, Utopia is a little more festive and a slightly less solemn than Body Magick, but with the exception of the Wheel of Life, a ritual reserved solely for Body Magick, the differences are subtle.

Utopia 2013, like each of the three previous temple festivals I have attended to date, featured excellent workshops and entertainment. During the workshops, an interesting array of topics covering sensuality, energy work, relationship issues and other matters of interest were presented. Friday evening featured a burlesque show by a beautiful young woman who performs burlesque professionally. She is well known nationally and has earned many awards and accolades for her dancing. Her performance was nothing like the burlesque of old I remember watching as a young man. This smokin' hot woman is genuinely talented!      

The main ritual, held Saturday evening, was labeled an elevation ceremony, during which two acolytes, a man and a woman, were elevated to the priesthood. The double Moksha Magick ritual was beautifully done, with two massage tables positioned in a "v" pattern, connecting at one corner. An alter stood in front of the tables, covered with items of significance to the new priest and priestess. Overhead, Christmas lighting dangled from trees. Soon, naked magicians surrounded the tables and loving energy was released to a welcoming universe. 

The new priestess was my instructor in a class I attended as a prerequisite to becoming a Moksha Magician. This was not coincidental, as teaching Moksha is one of many requirements that must be met before qualifying for the priesthood. To learn more about the Moksha Magick ritual, read my post dated July 5, 2013.

At the All World Acres store, I purchased a djembe, an African drum that is played in drumming circles each evening during the many festivals at the sanctuary. My goal is to participate in the Wheel of Life drumming circle this spring, so I am now hard at work learning how to play this beautiful instrument. I enjoy the drumming circles very much and am looking forward to contributing my dubious musical talent. Although I did not camp at All World during Utopia this year, I have fond memories from past festivals of falling asleep in my tent to the rhythmic sound of the drums, beating until the wee hours of the morning. 

Incidentally, the djembe has gained some popularity since the release of The Visitor, a movie about a disaffected college professor drifting aimlessly through life before connecting profoundly with three strangers. One of his new friends is a musician who teaches him to play the djembe. His friends and the djembe open the professor's heart and dramatically change his life. See the movie, if you haven't already done so. It is well worth the investment in time and money. 

Retirement is a major life change for anybody, and I am no exception. At times, I have been concerned about my purpose, fearful of driving through life on cruise control, although not nearly as aimlessly as the professor. While I realize I am not contributing much to society now that I am not working, my rate of personal growth has never been greater. I have read every book I can find on the subject of polyamory and am now re-reading some of the better ones. I have studied paganism and attended festivals. I am a Reiki Master and a Moksha Magician, learning all that I can about energy and energy work. Understanding relationship dynamics, and supporting the freedom to choose, while practicing and supporting the practice of divine ecstasy is a very important part of me.

Going forward, my guiding light is the topics written about here, on this blog. Now, it is up to me to do something constructive with my newly acquired knowledge and experiences. I'm still working on this part of the puzzle. 

Namaste 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cheating - What is It?

As this is being written, Connie and I are in the process of renegotiating our Open Relationship Agreement.  This is a living document providing us with a roadmap for our emotional and physical interactions with persons outside of our relationship, which is a dyadic partnership and legal marriage.  We review the document annually and update it as needed.  This exercise gives me an excuse to share my thoughts on this important subject.

Polyamory can be defined as: the desire for or the practice of having multiple, simultaneous romantic relationships with the knowledge and consent of all concerned.  The definition contains two key elements: romantic relationships and knowledge and consent.  The use of the word romantic clearly differentiates polyamorous relationships from casual hookups, but the poly community lacks unanimous agreement about what exactly constitutes romantic relationships; however, there is little disagreement about what constitutes knowledge and consent.  Polyamory demands honesty, meaning disclosure to and approval of by all those who have a right to know and approve.  Simply stated, this means every partner knows what every other partner is doing and with whom.

The idea of having open, honest relationships is, of course, not limited to polyamory.  Poly falls under the broad umbrella of Responsible Non-monogamy, which can take many sexual and/or romantic forms, but open honesty is always required.  This is true if a person swings, has friends-with-benefits or hooks up for one night stands.  If it is done with the knowledge and consent of all concerned, relating sexually and/or romantically with persons outside of the relationship is considered Responsible Non-monogamy.  A frequently heard definition of Responsible Non-monogamy is simply stated as: not cheating.

Unfortunately, by a wide margin, the most common form of non-monogamy IS cheating.  I recently heard a TV psychologist define cheating as: doing anything with another person behind the back of a spouse or significant other.  This sounds too vague to have any real meaning, but given context, the definition becomes slightly more clear.  The speaker followed a lively panel discussion about cheating and what constitutes cheating.  Many activities and forms of innuendo were debated, including such things as flirting, sexting and meeting for drinks after work.  And while not explicitly stated in these terms, the panel was unanimous in its agreement about fucking and blowjobs; however, the debate raged on and on about more subtle behaviors.  As you might expect, at the end of the day, all of the gum flapping resolved nothing.

The TV psychologist and all of the panel members completely missed the point.  There is no universal definition of cheating.  Cheating, and inversely, acceptable behavior involving another person outside of the relationship can only be defined by agreement between the partners or spouses involved in any given relationship.  It cannot be defined by culture normative thinking and behavior.  You may have been raised to believe the only right way to relate with another romantically and sexually is to adhere to the cultural norm of lifelong monogamy.  Your spouse or partner may share the same belief, but belief and behavior don’t square up when it comes to our sexual nature.  Studies have shown that most people who cheat believe it is wrong to do so; regardless, most people cheat anyway.  Cheating is so pervasive, it is believed that cheating occurs in seventy percent of marriages on the part of one or both spouses; and of course, the consequences can be tragic, especially if children are involved.

Since acceptable behavior is defined by agreement of the parties, what then constitutes an agreement?  Firstly, it is NOT: the assumption of monogamy due to cultural conditioning; or a wedding vow, which is a unilateral promise, not an agreement (often made under duress in eagerness to get to the honeymoon); or a threat, such as: I’ll cut your balls off if you cheat.  It IS (according to my online dictionary): an arrangement that is accepted by all parties to a transaction, or a contract or other document delineating such an arrangement.  An agreement can be verbal or written, but a written agreement usually sets forth the intentions of the parties in a clearer, better thought out manner; and psychologically, if not legally, it has more teeth.

Of course, the terms of an agreement can be broken, and sometimes this happens.  In the poly community, this is essentially how cheating is defined.  However, an agreement removes ambiguity; there can be no such thing as accidental cheating: I’m sorry, honey.  I didn’t know you disapproved of me groping your best friend’s boobs at the party.  And, as mentioned, a well thought out written agreement demonstrates a stronger intention than casual verbal exchanges between partners.  Often, these exchanges are really unilateral, since they can give the other party little room for negotiation: Of course, I trust you completely and know you would never cheat on me.

What about content?  What should an agreement say?  This is a matter between the parties to the agreement, and all of the parties stand to benefit from some points of agreement.  For example, even if the parties desire a policy of don’t ask, don’t tell, an agreement void of required disclosures can still outline safer sex practices or allowable time away from home.  An agreement of monogamy can still define monogamy, something easier said than done (as expressed in common usage, meaning sexual exclusivity; not as expressed more accurately as married to one person).  Generally, an agreement should outline whatever provisions are needed to keep each of the parties feeling safe and comfortable.

Begin by deriving a meaningful title.  The title to any agreement can speak volumes, so think of an appropriate title that says more than Relationship Agreement.  The first word can be Open, Closed, Non-monogamous, Monogamous, Polyamorous, Polyfidelitous and so forth.  This sets the tone for whatever it is that is to be agreed upon.

Secondly, think about specific terms, such as allowable and non-allowable behaviors.  If the relationship is open, specifically what sexual behaviors are allowed?  Intimate kissing?  Hand pleasuring?  Oral sex?  Intercourse?  All of the above?  If the relationship if closed, specifically what is monogamy or polyfidelity?  Is flirting or sexting or drinks after work in violation of your defined meanings of these arrangements?  What lines are not to be crossed?  Think of the W’s: What? (ex., no anal allowed); When? (ex., not on our anniversary); Where? (ex., not on my bed); Whom? (ex., not with my sister).  Why seems self-explanatory, but can be used for clarification: We fucked to express our undying love, or by way of contrast, it was just meaningless sex.

Next, determine the disclosures needed to keep all of the parties emotionally safe and comfortable.  Safe and comfortable, not sameness, should guide this exercise.  Disclosures need not be the same for everyone due to differing emotional needs.  Graphic details of an outside encounter that one person might find very comfortable, even titillating, could make another person turn green and vomit.  Generally, required disclosures should be detailed enough to keep all of the parties feeling safe and comfortable, while maintaining an agreed upon right to privacy.

And don’t forget the all important safer sex provisions of your agreement.  If the relationship is open, and all of the parties are fluid-bonded exclusively with each other, condom usage is an obvious must for vaginal and anal penetration with others.  But do all of the parties understand what the CDC means by consistent and correct usage?  What about oral sex and disease transmission?  What about foreplay that might involve inadvertent genital to genital contact?  What about the possibility of blood transfer during BDSM play?  Safer sex is a comprehensive subject that deserves much thought when drafting any type of non-exclusive relationship agreement.

Relationship agreements are more prevalent in the poly community than in society at large due to the added layers of complexity inherent in multiple relationships.  However, whether you are part of a dyad, triad, quad or larger multi-member adult family, agreements, preferably in writing, usually best serve the interests of everyone concerned.  A well written relationship agreement, when honored, satisfies the knowledge and consent demanded by the poly community and functions equally well in dyadic relationships, including legal marriage.

If you have not already done so, get to work on that agreement.  If you already have an agreement in place, make sure it reflects the current needs of yourself, your partner(s) and your relationship(s).  I think you will find the exercise to be challenging, yet fun; and hopefully, you will find it to be a positive bonding experience for you and your partner(s). 
 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Reiki and Divine Ecstasy

Soon after completing the Moksha Magick Ritual post, I received an email notification of the Our Energy Connection post on the Healing Today facebook page.  I copied the post and published it on this site, both because it is about energy and because the words have been and continue to be a great source of inspiration to me.  The identical message, which in all likelihood I have read no less than a hundred times, can be found on the Temple of Divine Ecstasy website. I find it interesting that Richard chose to share the message with his Reiki audience. While there is obviously much commonality, in the past, he has maintained a strict separation between the businesses of the Reiki school and the Temple.

The Catholic Church has played an important, but inadequate, role in my spiritual practice.  I am inspired by a beautiful cathedral, a moving homily and the Eucharist.  I also have a great deal of respect for the Church's world-wide good works, benefiting the poor and disadvantaged. Unfortunately, I find some Church teachings to be highly offensive, even immoral.  This is especially true with regard to homosexuality and women's reproductive rights.  Even going as far back as my college days, I remember rejecting Christian dogmatic teachings as a societal tool designed for the express purpose of repressing human sexuality.  

While critical of institutional religion, I have never been tempted by atheism.  Although I respect the views of my poly, atheistic friends, my spiritual needs transcend non-theistic belief.  I understand those who say they are spiritual, but not religious; however, I've never been able to wrap my brain around how to be simultaneously spiritual and atheistic.  Thus, I have always believed in the Divine, all the while struggling for years trying to conceptualize who or what he or she really is. 

After meeting Richard, reading his writings, sitting in his classes and hearing him speak at festivals, my true spiritual self is starting to emerge and I feel much more complete.  Through his teachings, I have gained an understanding of our connection to the Creative Source, to each other and to the Universe.  For this, I am grateful.

Our Energy Connection

Much of the way we think about ourselves is gained through distorted information we accumulate from our culture and our mundane lives. Sadly, these misconceptions regarding our essential nature have caused many to develop poor habits that deny them an opportunity to experience true spiritual awakening.

To better understand self one must become familiar with the multiple dimensions of our being and the intelligent energy that works through these dimensions of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical self. This understanding will lead to embodiment, realizing the divine self within and then manifesting it in our physical form. The enlightened self is able to make use of this power for healing, personal growth, and experiencing a better connection with the creative source.

This path of self discovery begins with accepting and engaging the multi dimensional self and the energy that moves through it. The physical body is made of the same matrix of energy that surrounds and composes all matter. We are part of a quantum field that is present everywhere with the potential to manifest as a material substance or the energy around it. All physical matter is simply a more dense concentration of this energy field. Because all matter including ourselves is connected, we are able to affect and be affected by one another and the whole of the universe.

The individual consciousness is able to engage the essential energy of all creation for a wealth of personal power. This empowerment allows us to create the life that we desire and the ability to share unconditional love with the all of existence.

Take back your power.

Richard Fiallo

Friday, July 5, 2013

Moksha Magick Ritual

Recently, I attended a Moksha Magick workshop in Clearwater, Florida.  My family accompanied me and we took advantage of the opportunity by spending an enjoyable four day mini-vacation on Treasure Island and Clearwater Beach.  Following the workshop, I became a Level 2 Moksha Magician, certified by the Temple of Divine Ecstasy.  This means I am qualified to organize, participate in and teach the ritual.      

In a very broad sense, Moksha means liberation, release, emancipation or freedom from something not so good in order to migrate to something much better.  In Buddhism and Hinduism, Moksha is freedom from the endless cycle of reincarnations into a much higher state of bliss.  And when I studied tantra many years ago, I learned the third purpose of sex, along with pleasure and procreation, was liberation; meaning freedom from mundane ordinary experience into a state of bliss.

When referenced with regard to nonphysical energy, magick is always spelled with a "k" in order to differentiate energy work from stage magic.  Magick is about intention and focus; it can be defined as any willed action leading to intended change.  Magick takes many ritualistic forms, such as yoga, divination and sex magick.  Even the Catholic Eucharistic ritual can accurately be called magick, although I've never heard it referenced as such in church and probably never will.  

Sex magick takes many forms, but in general, energy is raised and released to the universe through sexual activity.  While energy can be raised in a multitude of  ways, sexual energy, in particular, is highly potent and can be used for healing, personal growth and connecting with god, goddess or the universe.  When sex magick is used for spiritual purposes, it is referred to as sacred sexuality.

The Temple of Divine Ecstasy members practice Moksha Magick, a marvelous ritual employing sacred sexuality.  As part of the ritual preparation process, the ritual participants agree on an intention.  While this is a group intention, private intentions are equally valid.  During the ritual, energy is raised through sexual stimulation and released along with ritualistic intention to a loving universe. 

Moksha Magick has been called Reiki on steroids and the analogy is somewhat accurate.  It involves the use of a massage table and the flow of energy through the chakra system of the person on the table.  Like Reiki, the ritual is about intention and focus; and like Reiki, a feeling of well being is imparted, although the experience is much more profound.  Unlike Reiki, the ritual is performed with all participants nude.  Orgasm is not the focus of the ritual, but it does occur, especially with women.  Men will often not experience a physical orgasm or ejaculation, but I can say from personal experience that the energy orgasm is incredible.   

The core purpose of Moksha Magick is healing, self-empowerment and personal growth.  It is also about connection, both among the participants with each other and, of course, with the divine.  However, no one denies the pleasurable aspects of the ritual.  Yes, the ritual is undeniably sexual, but also, so much more.  It is an old adage, but some things transcend the explainable and must be experienced.   Moksha Magick is one of these things.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Polyamory and Pregnancy


I met Jessica Burde at the Atlanta Polycon in March of this year. We chatted briefly during the conference and exchanged emails after its conclusion. I thanked her for her presentation at a workshop I attended.
 
Jessica is a professional freelance writer and the author of the Polyamory on Purpose blog (www.polyamoryonpurpose.com). At the conference, she announced the release of her first book, Polyamory and Pregnancy, which I recently finished reading. It is intended to be the first of a series of guides on practical poly issues. I sent her the following email message:
 
Jessica, 

I just finished reading your book. 

Frankly, because of my stage of life, I wasn’t sure beforehand the topic would interest me. I put your book on my reading list mainly because we met at the Atlanta Polycon. However, due to the poly context and your intertwining of personal experience, I found the book to be an interesting and fast read. Because so little has been written on this aspect of polyamory, I’m sure the book will be of great benefit to younger poly folks. 

Keep up the good work and I look forward to the next book in your series.

Keith  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Body Magick

Body Magick
April 18-21, 2013
All World Acres
Tampa Bay, Florida

There is so much to tell, so many wonderful experiences, it is difficult to know where to begin.  But, without a beginning, the story of this marvelous pagan festival cannot be told.  And with a beginning comes an ending, and everything in between can only scratch the surface.  So immersed in the experience, the attendees, including me, became the experience.  We were one, inseparable.  

A few memorable highlights follow.  I share this with you knowing my words, at best, can only impart a small flavor of the totality of experience living free, loving and aware.  Nonetheless, I will try.
 
H
e is right out of the sixties in his appearance, attitudes and actions.  With long white hair and beard, wearing only a loin cloth, he was the presenter of our Oneness workshop.  Just as I was settling into my chair, he pointed at me and asked empathically, "Do you feel like God?"

"Huh? Are you asking me?" I stammered and foolishly went on to say, "No. I don't feel that powerful at the moment." The class chuckled, but I wasn't trying to be funny. I was caught off guard and these were the first words that came to mind.

In one giant leap, he was suddenly in my face and while jumping up and down in a squatting position, he yelled incredulously, "Why not?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why not?  Oh, my god!"

Fortunately, I regained my composure and responded in a way that seemed to satisfy him.  I explained that his use of the word God caused me to revert to my Christian upbringing, perceiving Him as transcendent and omnipotent.  I went on to explain that if he had asked if I felt like the Divine, I would have responded more appropriately. 

"But the meaning is the same," he argued.

"Yes, but for me, the words act as different triggers.  When I hear the word God, I am Catholic; when I hear the word Divine, I am pagan."

He understood.  I was in an audience of folks who believe that everything in the universe is fully connected by energy, so the Divine and me and you are all part of All That Is.  Thus, the Divine is within, in which case, I should feel and acknowledge Divine presence.  And back to the original question: yes, I do feel like God (at least, some of the time).

I have seen photographs of the human aura, the electrical energy surrounding all living things, but I had never before been able to observe the aura with my naked eye.  The presenter stood before us in a darkened room and taught us how it is done.  She has an amazing ability to manipulate her aura and did so by causing it to expand outward from her physical body.  I witnessed her aura moving outward several times and it was a powerful experience.

We learn early in life that there are five senses, limiting us to only five ways to perceive the world around us.  But, this limitation applies only to our physical being.  As energy beings, we are not so limited.  To prove this point, the presenter had both a man and a woman come forward and take sitting positions on either side and slightly in front of her.  The upper torsos of each were bare and they were asked to close their eyes and visualize her hand placements.  She was standing behind, making it impossible for her hands to be detected visually.  She expanded her aura, increasing the energy flow, and placed her hand at various positions just off their bodies.  Both accurately described the location of her hand placements, sensing the locations as a feeling of either hot or cold.

Is there a sixth sense?  Of course, and actually, many more for those able to manipulate and perceive energy.

She's been referenced a couple of times on this blog.  She is young and draws me in with her beauty and warmth.  Her romantic partner chose not to participate, so she too found herself sans partner for the event.  For reasons known only to her, she asked me to partner with her during a beautiful ceremony, appropriately referred to as an Oil Puja.  (Puja is Sanskrit meaning worship.)

While meditative music played in the background, I tenderly applied oil to her bare shoulders, arms, hands, neck, breasts and belly.  Afterwards, she returned the favor and rubbed oil on my naked body.  I gave her no boundaries, but she chose to mirror my movements and limit touch to the upper torso.  This somehow seemed even more erotic than a more complete sexual experience.  We gazed into each other's eyes, exchanged smiles and felt fully connected to each other.  We parted with a simultaneous Namaste bow, knowing we just made incredible love.

As the festival draws to a close on Sunday, it is common to hear someone say something like, "Yuk, back to the real world."  While I understand the sentiment, I am always reminded of a response to this I once heard: "But you are in the real world, right here and now at this place, our sanctuary.  This is how we are supposed to live our lives.  Things only get unreal in the day-to-day living of our mundane lives."  This is how we are supposed to live our lives.

It cannot be described - it must be experienced.  I've heard this expression applied often to the main ritual on Saturday evening, called the Wheel of Life.  And it is true.  The ritual cannot be fully described, although I tried to do so on this blog last year; the post is dated April 29, 2012, if you wish to reread it to refresh your memory.

I provided factual detail of the ritual, blended with a peek into my soul.  I did my best to describe my feelings as a participant (even observers are participants), but fell woefully short of conveying the true essence of the ritual.  You must live it for yourself to gain a meaningful  understanding of the experience.  I have no doubt that the experience is very personal and unique to each participant; however, no one questions the transformative and healing power of the ritual.  I received frequent private and public confirmation of this:  privately, in personal conversation, and publically, in the Village Council wrap-up session.  The latter often brought the speaker to tears, overcome by emotion.

There were a few differences in this year's ritual, the most substantive of which was an increase in the number of loving partners from five to seven.  During the calling of the quarters, each set of lovers were brought forth representing Spirit, the four elements, the ground below and the sky above.   Thus, seven blankets were strategically placed around the campfire.  This seemed to create greater energy, making the ritual even more powerful than last year's event.  To repeat, it cannot be described - it must be experienced. 

A chance encounter with an attractive, engaging woman occurred late Saturday evening.  I was walking toward the bathhouse and she was walking to her car when our paths crossed.  She had a personal matter to attend to, so it was necessary for her to leave the festival early.     

Earlier in the day, she gave a very nice presentation at a workshop and I had a few questions.  I cornered her after the workshop and we spoke briefly in private.  She answered my questions and we soon parted ways.  This represented our sole prior interaction with each other. 

Meeting once again, we greeted each other with a warm hug, which is not out of the ordinary in the loving environment in which we found ourselves.  What was unusual, at least for me, was her unwillingness to interrupt the physical union we shared.  I instinctively relaxed my grip after our initial embrace, but she held firm and I responded likewise.  Her arms encircled my neck and I held her waist.  We stepped back just enough to look each other in the eye.

We spoke of routine matters.  She asked where I lived and thanked me for driving down.  I thanked her for a wonderful presentation.  We expressed the mutual desire to meet again and I told her I would be at the Utopia Festival in October.  She echoed a desire to attend.   I'm not aware that either of us started to lean in - our kiss just happened.  It was warm and tender and lingered for a fleeting moment longer than a casual peck on the lips.  We were strangers, yet somehow friends and lovers.    

For a brief moment, two strangers fully connected, one in spirit.  It was rare and felt magical.  This is how we are supposed to live our lives.  Yet, I am all too aware that such a warm interaction between strangers could not happen in our day-to-day living experiences.  But why not?

The Village Council meeting corresponds loosely to a conference wrap-up in the mundane world.  It is always the last event of the festival on Sunday and each audience participant is given an opportunity to speak.  A talking stick resembling an Indian rattle is passed among the throng and used as a pseudo microphone.  The comments run the gambit from light-hearted and humorous to serious and deeply moving.

One man, the romantic partner of my Oil Puja workshop partner, came to the festival as a newbie with no expectations.  He dabbles in BDSM, but is otherwise vanilla with no other alternative lifestyle experience.  So overcome with emotion, he was unable to speak when the talking stick was handed to him.  The audience waited patiently in total silence for what seemed like an eternity.  Finally, and with great difficulty, he was able to express how deeply the Wheel of Life affected both him personally and the relationship with his partner.  They were one of the chosen seven and he was blindsided by the power and empowerment of sacred sexuality, something he had never before experienced.

This was my third Village Council and I have come to highly value this event.  I'm working on this flaw, but all too often I find myself overly protective of my emotional privacy; thus, I have never fully revealed myself.  However, I respect those who have and it is always fascinating seeing the world through the eyes of another person.

Why feel like God?  Why not?  How can something so hidden from the view of most people be seen?  Be felt?  Why would a lovely woman choose me to anoint her body?  How can a sacred sex ritual mean so much to so many?   What makes two strangers one in spirit?  Why not live our lives as we are supposed to?  Why not always live in an open, loving and free way?  (And not just at festival.)  Where do people find the courage to reveal themselves so openly?  I don't know the answers to these questions.  Frankly, I don't want to know the answers.

I now leave you with a quotation containing some of my favorite words of wisdom.  I don't know the original source, but I have come across it a number of times in my reading.  It is a reminder to remain fully present in the moment:

"Make no judgments, make no
comparisons, and release your
need to understand."

Namaste