The Currency of Connection


 I was one of the best printed circuit designers in the world. It's like doing artwork for the semiconductor industry. I helped a four-person startup become a $2 billion-a-year company. I owned a recording studio for a while. I wrote music, and a poet friend and I put out an album that got airplay in Northern California.

I was resident sound designer for two theater companies in San Jose. If you go into a theater and you hear something, somebody had to plan it. One of my favorite cues was when a character walked into a dark room and played a cassette, and you could tell the cassette was playing from the middle of the room. Halfway through, the cassette faded away and came up seamlessly on the house speakers. Figuring out how to do that was fun.

My accomplishments were many, and I enjoyed my work. I was making Russel special, proving I was good or lovable. But inside, I felt it was not enough. I was married, and still am, after 35 years. Yet something was missing.   

I had a falling out with my business partner in the printed circuit design company. We had a petty argument, and he clearly didn't want to work with me anymore, although he wouldn't say it out loud. I just walked away. For a couple of years, I had no income. My wife and I had to sell our condo and move into a 400-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment.

It was a difficult time for me, having no direction forward but not wanting to go backward. I started to think how to get off the planet because everything sucks, but I didn’t want my ending to be violent or messy. So I practiced not breathing, exhaling and not inhaling. I'd take longer and longer and longer breaths, until I was able to make a really long exhale. I felt totally calm and happy, thinking it might really work, and I wasn't scared. But then something breathed me. I decided, I did my best to quit, but I'm still here. So I may as well do whatever I want. It was like I'd given up my identity, letting go of everything I thought I was to start fresh and find out what’s really in here. It wasn’t something I could figure out on my own, I needed to give myself over to something deeper and greater. 

I was stunned at this thing that wanted me to still be here. So I kept experimenting. I went on a yoga retreat where we were supposed to choose something to let go of. Your desire for chocolate, say, or your desire to have new shoes. I thought, That's dumb. How about we let go of the desire to be Russel? Yeah, let's do that. Then I got really sad. I still didn't know how to give over to something that was bigger than me.  

I decided I wanted to work with my hands. I trained in massage therapy and craniosacral, and then I was drawn to a practice called Continuum. It's about warming up your body and then letting it move by itself. It lets you slow down and understand your relationship to gravity. You become acquainted with the involuntary. I found a deep sweetness in the practice.

At the same time, I continued to search. I was looking for some other currency besides money, something like radiance or gratitude or generosity. I was drawn to OM because it was a partnered practice, and there was a strong focus on the feminine, which was missing from a lot of teaching.

For me, the first ten OMs were about getting the protocol in place. Once I had the structure down, more feeling came into my body. After a week or two, I felt like, Oh, I got this. Okay, this is cool. And then after a month, Oh, now I got this. And then after two months and three months, Ah, now I got this. And then after six months, I don't get this. Finally, I realized I was not in charge. Every OM felt like unfamiliar territory where I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. I had no plan, and there was no formula for a successful OM. After a good number of those, I had a space inside of myself for anything to happen. I became unflappable and unattached to the outcome.

I love the initial, awkward parts of an OM, when you're just starting out with someone. There's a poetic speed to sinking in with the other person and letting yourself be seen. How do you let that connection occur? It starts with knocking on the door, setting up the nest, getting in position. Everything's in place, and you settle down. You separate her labia for the first stroke and wait for the movement that indicates the next stroke. I like to feel the connection develop.

At one point, I had two OM sessions back to back and with both of them, I was amazed by the amount of electricity and thickness and sense of presence and rootedness available between my partner and I. There was a currency of connection. Instead of either of us taking something or getting something, there was no one in charge. I didn't know how much time had gone by. It took no effort at all. And there was all this humanity in it. I came away feeling like humanity is gonna be great. We're gonna be fine.

OM has changed my approach to life. I sense and appreciate things in a different way. One day I picked some grapes for a group dinner with friends. The grapes ended up in our salad and while I was eating the salad, I said “The grapes are really good.” My friend said, “Well, you picked those grapes, you know.” It was a simple little interaction, but it blossomed inside me. I felt a belonging that I totally did not expect, this sense that I’m part of something vast and bigger than myself.

Now that I know I’m not the one in charge, I’ve learned to let myself breathe. 

Because of OM, I have an understanding of the mechanics of staying connected. I also have the ability to look for the beauty in the world. When I find it, I feel a little bit of radiance or heat and a slight, playful dancing underneath the skin.