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

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pedestrian Polyamory


Shira B. Katz is a personable young woman and a very polished podcaster.  She and her husband, Gavin Katz, record a podcast series called pedestrian polyamory, which can be found on iTunes.

Shira recorded two shows during the poly con, one on Saturday night and the other on Sunday morning.  On the Saturday evening podcast, Shira interviewed several of the five members of one of the two poly families featured on Lisa Ling's Our America series.  The program aired on the OWN network several weeks ago and represented poly life objectively, one of the few programs to do so.  I watched Lisa Ling's program, the podcast and sat in several workshops with members of this sizable and very interesting poly family.

The final segment of the podcast featured a comedic performance by CJ Wells, a kick-ass, crazy talented funny man.  The audience was in stitches during his entire performance.  I can't begin to describe the hilarity of his show; you will just have take a listen for yourself.

On Sunday morning, Shira recorded an excellent show on the topic of  impermanence.  While not presented as such, impermanence is a Buddhist philosophy of non-attachment.  With an understanding that nothing in this world is permanent, we can live in the now without getting distracted by the future.  We can better appreciate what we have now without clinging to someone or something out of fear of abandonment or loss.  We can learn to let go.

The philosophy of impermanence is very pertinent as it applies to polyamory relationships, which can be fragile due to the complex dynamics of multiple relationships.  It reminds us to enjoy our relationships to the fullest in the now, absent undo worry about fear of loss or abandonment.  And if the time comes to let go, we are better prepared emotionally to do so.        

The following quote is known as the Broken Teacup: The Buddha purportedly told a student, "Every morning I drink from my favorite teacup. I hold it in my hands and feel the warmth of the cup from the hot liquid it contains. I breathe in the aroma of my tea and enjoy my mornings in this way. But in my mind the teacup is already broken." 

I had the good fortune of sharing a few moments alone with Shira at the hotel bar Saturday evening.  Not surprisingly, I found her to be a very friendly and charming woman.  This comes through on her podcasts, so listen to as many as you can.  Unfortunately, the con podcasts have not been uploaded as of this date, but they will be so keep an eye out for them. 
 
This concludes my five post series sharing a little information about Atlanta PolyCon 2013.  I hope you have enjoyed reading, and perhaps, learning a little more about polyamory.  As always, call, text or write if you have questions or desire more information.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Purposeful Polyamory


Jessica, a young woman around thirty, started a blog two years ago, calling it Polyamory on Purpose.  The blog addresses many life problems encountered by poly families, including such matters as living arrangements, safer sex, pregnancy, raising children and legal matters.  She is working on a book series covering each of these issues in depth; the first book release, addressing pregnancy issues, was celebrated during the conference.

I attended her workshop on Purposeful Polyamory Friday afternoon.  It was immediately obvious that she was distraught and unable to maintain the flow of her presentation.  People began walking out of the room.  They should not have.

Jessica abandoned her presentation and asked the remaining attendees for permission to tell a story.  The few of us remaining gave her a resounding show of support with an affirmative response.  She began by saying that her two relationships lacked purpose and within a brief time, first one partner, then the other left her.  She blamed herself for the lack of purpose, and while not defined, I took purpose to mean direction and focus.  Instead, her relationships drifted like leaves in the wind, and absent purpose, they were lost. 

As if this was not bad enough, her dumbass parents sued for custody of her three children, which was awarded to them by a dumbass judge.  There is still hope as she has another custody hearing next month, hopefully in front of a judge who understands his or her job absent moralistic judgment and infringement.  I pray her children are returned to her.

Jessica fought through her emotional anguish and completed her story.  This required courage, as her instinct could easily have been to run out of the room.  The story was gut-wrenching to tell and gut-wrenching to hear.  Yet, her story is important and deserves telling.  It speaks to an intolerant society where only a cultural normative family (as in a family consisting of one man, one woman and 2.5 children) is relevant.  Families outside of this cultural norm are at risk of losing jobs and even custody of their children.  Sadly, Jessica is only one example of this tragedy.

Upon returning home, I sent an email to Jessica, thanking her for her courage and inspiration.  Nothing drives home a point like a real life example, and her story was a reminder to always work hard on relationships and to take nothing for granted.  Purposeful couple-hood is hard enough; purposeful polyamory is much harder. 

Polyamory and Skeptics

I have been observing and studying polyamory for about two years now.  Over this period, I have noticed that poly folks often come in one of two flavors: mystic or skeptic.  I am a Reiki master, practice sacred sexuality and attend pagan festivals, so you can guess my flavor.  For 15 years, I have studied and/or practiced differing aspects of nonphysical energy.  I'm certainly not an expert, but I do know a little about the mystic flavor.

Certainly not all, but some mystics are a throwback to the sixties and can accurately be called hippies, both in dress and attitude.  Religiously, mystics practice a broad range of paganism or attend the Unitarian Universalist Church, a denomination strongly committed to social justice.  Politically, many identify with the Green Party, consistent with their earth-centered religions.  On the other hand, it seems skeptics are atheists and often libertarian.  (I don't mean to imply an overly strict dichotomy.   As with most matters, there is a continuum of belief in the poly community.)

While somewhat knowledgeable about mysticism, I have to plead much ignorance about skepticism and atheism.  The study of atheism has been on my radar for some months, but I have yet to get around to it.  For this reason,  I was excited to find a workshop about skepticism on the Atlanta Poly Weekend 2013 schedule.  It was called Polyamory and Skeptics and proved to be the most interesting workshop I attended during the conference.

I have noticed that the poly skeptics who cross my path seem to be highly intelligent.  The workshop panelists did not disappoint in this regard.  All three were knowledgeable and very committed to skepticism, which they use as a philosophical approach to various issues and beliefs.  While the workshop centered on religious skepticism, one panelists gave an example unrelated to religion of how she used skepticism to solve a life problem.  I don't remember her circumstances, but I'm sure many examples unrelated to religion can be found.  For example, a scientist undoubtedly employs skepticism in the course of scientific research.  

Skepticism, as I understand it, is a process of seeking truth by using rational thinking and logic in search of evidence supporting whatever it is that is being tested.  If solid evidence is found, it is true; if not, it is untrue.  While often synonymous in common usage, skepticism and atheism are not the same.  Rather than blanket non-acceptance of the existence of God (or gods), skeptics apply reason and logic in the search for evidence that God exists.  In the absence of such evidence, skeptics become atheists.

I did learn some interesting nuances about atheism.  Theism is the belief in the existence of God; atheism is the absence of such belief.  Thus, those who have never been exposed to theism, such as newborns, are sometimes considered atheists.  I had never before given thought to the possibility of a newborn being an atheist. 

The difference between atheism and agnosticism was explained as the difference between belief and knowledge.  Agnosticism is the view that whether or not God exists is unknown, and probably, unknowable.  Stated another way, the knowledge needed to justify either theistic or atheistic belief is nonexistent.  Further, there are blended bodies of belief such as agnostic theism and agnostic atheism.  In other words, in the absence of knowledge, it is still possible to either believe or disbelieve in God's existence.

Sometime in the future, I will share my thoughts about atheism as a movement.  This was not presented at the workshop, but I have overheard atheist activists discuss the atheist movement at poly meetups.  But first, I have to educate myself on this topic.