Freedom and PermissionBY AUDREY STEELE
When I moved to San Francisco, in my twenties, I felt free to do whatever I wanted. I was raised in a conventional, middle-class, Catholic family, in a small town in upstate New York. By the time I reached the age where I became sexually curious, I knew I needed to get away. In the open-minded culture of San Francisco, where I didn't have to worry about my family or my reputation, it was exciting to push the edges of exploring my sexuality. Yet it turned out that sex did not lead to intimacy. There were always a few layers between me and the other person.
I struggled with alcoholism, and it was impossible to be present and close with people while I was in an active addiction. In that period of searching for who I was and who I wanted to be in the world, my life became hard and messy. I started seeking ways to feel more alive and satisfied and to get out of the cycles of depression. When I discovered OM, I was eager to try it.
The people I met through my OM practice made a lot of eye contact. They had an authenticity that I was hoping to find in myself. They were grounded in their bodies and in the truth of what they wanted.
I've never had a problem feeling pleasure in my body, but I sex like a performance. The first time I OMed, I didn't know the principles behind the practice, that it was a meditation, not a sexual encounter. My body was tight and clenched, and during the stroking, I writhed wildly. My OM partner was also fairly inexperienced, but he knew enough to stop and point out that I was “a lot more active” than the few women he'd OMed with before.
The memory of that first OM is hilarious to me because there used to be so much striving in my sexuality. As I went on practicing, I learned to totally surrender and relax. The relaxing was where I found more and more capacity for feeling, even beyond pleasure. Over time, I found a lot more space in my body and became intimate with the nuances of each experience. Sometimes I'd feel my genitals as juicy and wet, when the stroker was actually using only a tiny bit of lube. These amplified sensory experiences opened up a whole world of sensation.
I was dating someone, and we OMed together but also with other people. It was interesting that I'd have an amazing OM with a friend, then go back to my partner, and our OMs would be kind of flat, even though I had chosen him and I loved him. I discovered that intimacy does not necessarily come from emotion but rather from a quality of attention to the moments of an interaction.
My partner and I started out with an open relationship, mostly because that's what the hip San Francisco culture around us was doing. When I realized I wanted to be monogamous, I took a big step by claiming that desire. I felt empowered by deciding that I didn't have to go along with what others were doing. I used to live so much in the “shoulds.” Reorienting my perspective from this is what I should be doing, to, what do I want; that was pretty huge for me, like a massive mindset shift. It was a direct result of learning how to relate more intimately with my real desire.
I believe my ability to express that desire came from OM. First, I learned to be aware of the sensations in my body and ask the stroker for changes that would optimize the sensations and be in resonance with my body. Once I knew how to hear what I wanted in my OM practice, I took that confidence out into the world. I could honor the voice of desire by moving in the path it wanted to take.
Now, when I feel anxious, I can track what's happening and where the feeling is coming from. I pride myself on my ability to be present for high-intensity feelings and work through them instead of reacting or shutting down. When I'm in a situation where I get angry or I'm having a difficult conversation, I have more choices of how to respond.
People come to me for advice or to share vulnerably in a way they didn't before. They feel comfortable talking to me. I create an intimacy in the way I stay present, and they know I'm going to be open and non-judgmental.
I'm working as a coach, teacher, and facilitator. I don't think I would have given myself the level of permission required to put myself out there in those roles if I hadn't experienced the surrender of OMing. I offer my students the freedom and permission that so many women don't have until they encounter an embodiment practice like OM. Having gone really deep with this practice, I am a walking example of permission.
It's a joy to convey insights from the worlds I've seen within myself.