From Seeing Red to Reading My Feelings

BY EDWARD JOHNSON

Through my journey with Orgasmic Meditation, I’ve learned that as a cis male, I have to teach myself to feel. It’s an ongoing process and I’m still in it. But now, I have the tools to notice the physical sensations that arise with my emotions, and I can stay with them—knowing that they will pass.

Years ago, I was in a toxic relationship that was on again, off again, for four or five years. I’m a Londoner, a photographer, and she was American. Throughout our tumultuous, chronic breakups, I was unable to hold up my own boundaries, and I became reactive. Whether she was right or wrong, or whatever she did or didn't do—it doesn’t matter. I was completely drunk on trying to be heard.

On a base level, I felt hurt, though I wasn’t acknowledging that. The pressure built up in me through the turbulence in our relationship and other things going on around me. It got to a point where I saw red. 

What I know now that I didn’t know then is that there are warning signs in your body during situations like that. Alarm bells are ringing. You're clenching your teeth. Your heart is racing. But whatever is happening in your body is just sensations. The dangerous part is allowing those sensations to turn into emotions, and letting those emotions drive your actions.

I try not to hide away from my past. I can't correct it and I can't change it. But that person was a different version of me. I’m someone else now.

A lot changed when I began to explore the path of OM, which took my focus out of my head and into my body. I have found that following my own path, without judgment, allows me to get to know what I like and what I don't like. And it allows me to grow in ways that I could have never anticipated. 

I recently went through another breakup with a different woman, with whom I’d been involved for a little over a year. She was someone I was physically magnetized to—with a mane of long black hair, a stunning smile and an easy laugh. The part that didn’t work for me was that she was insecure. My mum was insecure, so that was familiar to me. I tried to work on being able to handle that part of my girlfriend. There were some successes and some failures, but it was work. It wasn't easy.

Though we were having problems in our relationship, I wanted to keep trying. When I asked her what she wanted, she was confused. So I gave her time to think about it. When it came time for the big conversation, I knew what was coming. 

I tried to go in accepting that she was going to break it off with me, and I had the intention of really listening to what she had to say. But during the actual conversation, in person, I could feel my chest tightening and my heart pumping. I could sense myself being triggered and starting to grit my teeth while speaking. But I was able to catch myself and notice that my body was telling me something. 

Noticing sensation is a key part of OM during the stroking practice. In real life, and in conversations like the one with my girlfriend, the sensation in my body gives me information. Once I notice it, I can tell myself, relax. Let go of your head. Let go of your mouth, breathe. Sometimes, I can slow my heart down. 

At one point in the conversation, I could feel that things were going toward the red zone. It was a millisecond of awareness. But I was able to say, “Should we stop for a moment?” We needed a timeout. We need to get out of our stories and stop trying to be right. 

When you do that, you’re able to take a breath, let go of the tension in your chest, and allow your heart to drop down. You can reset. It’s about noticing when you need to pause, or when you need to leave. It’s knowing your boundaries. There's always a story and there’s always blame. But being able to separate the emotion from the sensation helps dissolve the story.

I’m not always perfect at it, and I wasn’t perfect during that conversation. There are still things I wish I hadn't said. But in the end, I was able to leave without shouting and cursing. I was able to stay conscious and aware of myself. When I do that, I have the ability to drive my body—instead of my body driving me. It’s a skill that I can and do work on.

The journey continues for me, and I’m grateful for finding this path of self-discovery. I’m trying to make myself into the kind of person that I want to be around. The one that’s happy and free—like I am with my mates. The one that feels heard and accepted, but most of all, that is conscious, aware, and connected.