OM gave me the courage to liveBY JOHN
Keep your expectations low, and you won’t be disappointed. I believed that for as long as I can remember. It’s not a message I got explicitly from my parents, it was always just there: aim low for what you’re sure you can have, rather than for what you might really want. A lot of my adult life has been unlearning that.
I joined the Navy out of high school. Part of that was that I wasn’t sure what to do with my life – and in the military, your day-to-day life is structured for you. I still shied away from anything that looked like responsibility. When I was in boot camp, one of the section leaders dropped out, and the NCOs who were in charge of the camp called me and this other guy into their office. They wanted to see if one of us had what it took to become a replacement section leader; they thought I might have it in me. They gave me and this other recruit a series of tests, and I failed them all on purpose. I knew what they were asking, and I was perfectly capable of doing the work of a section leader. I just was scared to be responsible for anyone else. I remember the NCO staring at me long and hard, like he knew I was throwing away this chance on purpose.
After the Navy, I moved to Austin, got married, and went through a whole series of jobs that were probably well beneath my potential. I worked as a line cook and as a mechanic in a bicycle store, and then for Dell Computers. I also met a wonderful woman named Kirsten, and we got married. Kirsten was pursuing her PhD at the University of Texas, and I thought about going for a graduate degree in mathematics. I realized I could do the work and that it interested me, but once again, bailed out. I ended up working as a tech in a university lab instead, and for a change, I stayed in that job for nine years. I ended up being fired from that job, declared redundant by a new department chair.
Not long after losing that job – the first one I’d really liked – my marriage to Kirsten began to fall apart. In retrospect, what kept happening to me with work and what happened in my marriage were linked. I aimed low, and set myself up to fail. Kirsten and I had never been able to talk about hard things, or frightening things. On the rare occasions when they did come up, I would always blame myself. I just defaulted to the assumption that if there was a problem, something was wrong with me and I needed to fix it. I don’t know if I always believed that I was to blame, but it didn’t matter. I just kept declaring “It’s my fault, please don’t be mad anymore.” You can’t sustain a relationship that way.
After these double losses of the lab job and the divorce, I was committed to working hard on myself. I began to get into yoga, and started to study to become an instructor. It was a fellow student in that program who mentioned OM to me one day, and said it had shifted everything for her. The idea of stroking the clitoris intrigued me, but not in an overtly sexual way. I was still eager for internal shifts, and this seemed like an unusual way to make that happen. So, I took a class.
What struck me most about my first OM experience was the aura and energy of the woman who was facilitating. She had this incredible calm power that just seemed to emanate off of her. She was so clear and strong, with this balance of masculine and feminine power. I found that reassuring, and just listening to her speak about OM, I was able to stay present. I had my first OM and still, my old tape played loudly: I was sure I had done it wrong. I was convinced I hadn’t even found my partner’s clitoris. I left that first session hopeful, but also uneasy.
My first OM partner and I decided to get together for coffee. We debriefed a little bit, asking each other what the experience was like. And then she said something I’ve never forgotten. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Don’t underestimate your power as a stroker.” At first, I thought she was referring to the general role of any man as a stroker, but then it became clear she meant me, personally. She was talking about my power – and that’s something I’d never thought I’d had. This chat over coffee reframed everything for me; I went from thinking it had been a total disaster to accepting that I’d done something well. That was a revelation.
What that woman gave me that day is something OM has reinforced for me: I need to step up and be responsible. I have permission to step up and show up, because I’m good at what I do. Sometimes, I repeat it in my head: John, you’re good at this. You can do this. What OM does is take that affirmation out of my head and puts it in my body. I don’t just think I’m good at stroking, I feel it. When I aim my attention into my practice, I am attuned and resonating with my partner. After so many years of selling myself short in so many areas, this is an incredible shift.
I had always been terrified of rejection. OM has taught me how to cope with that. Sometimes, I’ll ask someone if they want to OM with me – and they’ll say no, for whatever reason. And I’ve become completely okay with that. It’s not a reflection on me, it doesn’t require me to debase myself or ask annoying follow-up questions about what I lacked. I don’t curl up in the fetal position when I’m turned down. I feel as if I’ve learned almost as much from the women who’ve turned me down as I have from stroking itself; both are parts of the same learning process.
I’ve always been a rescuer and a blame-taker. I didn’t believe I had any power other than to do damage or to bail someone out. What OM showed me is that I am responsible for myself, and I can trust someone else to be responsible for themselves. My energy doesn’t need to go towards saving them. I show up, and they show up, and together, we connect. It sounds so simple, but it’s set me free.