Being Real

BY ERIN

My parents were kissing. My father dramatically bent my mother over backwards, and she gushed, “Oh, kiss me!” Even though I was only ten years old, I could tell they were showing off for us kids, that there was no authentic love behind the feelings they were acting out. In fact, I had a conviction they were going to break up, as they did ten years later. I was walking on eggshells at home, trying to figure out which of them was about to blow up, then gravitating toward that one and manipulating the environment to calm things down. 

My parents taught me the attitude that said, As long as you look good, you'll feel good. If you're not happy, it's okay. Because when you get to the party, you'll have a few glasses of wine and put on your clown act, and everybody will like you. Just as they assumed happy faces, I became a comedian, performing with different voices and facial expressions. In groups, I made fun of other people, not in a mean way, but to give them attention. I would shape-shift, depending on what the crowd needed, again using my skills to adjust the environment. My act hid my own insecurities. 

I developed anorexia in boarding school, reshaping my body to be accepted and get attention. Then someone I cared about died, and I responded with an about-face, gaining 60 pounds in eight months. The advantage was that my brain was working again, because it had fats and serotonin and was clicking in. Then I went to college, where everyone was drinking and taking ecstasy, and I went back to being the performance person, the fun party person.

After college, my work as a massage therapist was the only grounding aspect of my life. I was using my feminine sensitivity to earn a living while sharing non-sexual intimacy with a stranger. I'd work on them for an hour and then never see them again. Afterwards, I would go party and sleep around, confident that I'd bounce back to my spiritual, grounded side the next day. I was always going from one extreme to the other. It was toxic for both mind and body. I opened myself up in ways that were not safe, which led to a series of accidents, including a fall from two and a half stories that caused a concussion and broke a lot of bones in both my feet. 

When I was in the hospital, my best friend talked to me about her experience of OM. She had mentioned it before, but this time I was really listening. I was in desperation mode, knowing I needed healing, and trusting that she wanted to see me survive and grow from this traumatic accident. After a year of learning to walk again, I went to her house to meet with some women who were discussing OM.  

I was blown away by their words and the quality of attention they paid to whoever was speaking. These women were able to talk about themselves with so much detail. I felt they could show me how to be a strong female, since I didn't have that model growing up. I loved my femininity, my emotionally driven way of life, but I didn't see how to make it practical in the world. I sensed these women could teach me just by talking about themselves. If OMing had helped them become so strong, I was eager to try it.

My first OM was super comfortable. It was just me sharing my body in a new way, without being drunk or having a romantic connection. I liked the idea that an interaction like that was possible.

Through OMing, I gained the courage to explore what I was actually feeling. I was so used to performing that I was in the habit of trying to adapt my experience and make it sound a certain way for the other person. In the frame step at the end of each OM, I had to describe something I'd felt in the session. I could hear myself, and I could feel in my body if the words and the feelings were matching up. More often than not, they weren't, and that was heartbreaking. But it helped me see the importance of being more conscious of my feelings and learning to express them. If I was faking it, the connection with the stroker was broken, and the experience fell flat.

I remember a particular session where I was trying to follow the OM principle that relaxation would enhance the flow of energy, so I was struggling to let go in my hips. Be as open as possible, I told myself, like those joints don't even exist. Like they're mush hips. But it wasn't feeling right, and the stroker could tell. Finally I followed my instinct to just let go of thought, and then I could feel vibration in the connection point between my clitoris and his finger. From that moment, I was engaged and able to follow his finger, contributing more of myself to the practice. It was exhilarating to discover I had developed the ability to sense my own need and then act on it.

I learned to use my real voice by asking for adjustments in the way my partner was stroking. In that situation, I wasn't trying to be something other than myself or mimicking anyone or dumbing down. I was just me in the moment. If the stroker wasn't connecting with the spot of highest sensation, I wasn't going to wait for him to figure it out. I used my voice to be self-directed and actualizing.

That voice has helped me become more effective in my work. Instead of waiting for someone else to see what I see, and then following, I can speak up a lot sooner than I used to, and people will listen to me. I'm not doing it for praise, as I did so much in the past. I'm doing it because it feels like the right thing to do and will help us work as a team. 

In my current job, there's a lot of communication by email. I used to be hesitant about expressing my ideas to people who might seem intimidating, but now I send off messages right away. Yesterday, for example, I sent an email with a question that ended up going three levels above my immediate boss. By the end of the day, the answer had been forwarded to the whole team, and we all had information that would help us grow and work more efficiently. If I had tried to plan that exchange, it would have taken two weeks. I just followed the impulse that felt most resonant in that moment. Without controlling everything, I can still create what needs creating.

As OM taught me to be present with what's actually happening, instead of always trying to manipulate situations, I learned not to hang onto something that's not serving me in a relationship. I had a boyfriend who started moving in another direction, and when I gripped and struggled, he ended up leaving. I decided it was okay that I'm not in control. I'm still here, and I'm still alive, and the world is great, and there's so much love, and I can still love him even if we're not together. I went through sadness and mourning, but I didn't try to get him back. Within a month, he came back on his own, and our relationship was better than ever. 

I have so much love. I've always had it, but now I'm learning to share it with the world, and my heightened awareness of love is what helps me let go when it's necessary. There's a feeling of wholeness, of who I was before birth and will always be. That wholeness is within me, and I can always find my way back to it. I could be trapped in a prison cell, and it would still be there. Love takes fear away.