Sometimes it turns out to be really hard to explain the status of our personal relationship with another person. For example, there is no good word for what’s between friendship and a monogamous relationship…
“Friendship” traditionally implies a close emotional connection without a physical aspect to it, while being in a “relationship” implies a close emotional AND sexual aspect. That leaves us at a loss to describe anything in between. Clearly, conscious sensuality is living somewhere in that gap: so how shall we describe our connection with our partners on that level?
It’s a good thing that gay men have been prolific in finding words to describe these situations, but sometimes even those terms don’t hold up to scrutiny: what about someone I have met intimately and see on occasion? Is that a “friend with benefits” or a “fuckbuddy”? There is a difference, but it’s hard to grasp and seems highly personal.
What about that (possibly random) guy you just finished doing tantric practice with? He has experienced a very intimate side of you that few people have seen before. What do you call a person you had a very intimate, but non-sexual encounter with? A “lover without benefits” has a negative vibe to it and “soul connection” feels a little vague and at the same time too pompous for what it is.
In addition to this initial question, there are different types of intimacy you can experience through tantra: one partner could be a total match on a sensory level but you have no energetic connection, while you can practically smell another one’s aura but when he touches you there is no spark. This is neither friendship nor relationship, but they are meaningful, so what would you call them?
While this sounds like splitting hairs, it is crucial to examine our connection with our partners: sometimes we react to the vibrations of a voice, the way someone moves, or we feel an instant connection, and if that happens in a sensual context, we form bonds that require different approaches. Describing these bonds and naming them helps you move forward through experience.
you can only build on a connection you can identify
Even more important than your own truth is listening to what your counterpart has to say. Be told that ‘listening’ does not always have to be with your ears, other senses can listen as well!
Looking into your partner’s eyes could tell you more than you can imagine, and then there is the importance of the body language. Even those of us who claim to be oblivious to the signals other people send will be able to pick up the basics. Like any other skill, this takes practice, and you’ll be much aware that interacting with the same person over time will always teach you new ways to ‘read’ their appearance.
Touch is another great example for the sometimes unusual ways we communicate: I picked up a little thing when I was a student, often surrounded by North African friends. I realised at some point that they didn’t verbally interrupt a conversation, but they softly placed a hand on one the shoulder or back of the person they wanted to talk to. When this ongoing conversation came to a turning point, they could then turn around and engage with the new person. Yes: this is also a form of telling something, and listening to what is being said without words.
And then, of course, there is your voice! You could simply say something, or you make some kind of noise to draw attention. Communicating with animals often involves simple sounds – clicking, hissing, humming, etc., so why not use those for human animals as well? I like to think that those little sounds do enhance many experiences.
Food for thought? Absolutely!
Speed is of the essence
One of the more interesting aspects of conscious sensuality is the role of speed can play in conscious sensuality. You may have experienced yourself how it feels to be touched in different ways and how you react to that touch. If not, imagine this:
In an intimate moment, someone puts their hand on your arm. You would probably enjoy the fact that this creates a physical connection, but that might be where it ends. What if the hand applies pressure to your arm? Or the hand only touches you very slightly?
The sensation would be totally different in any of these (and many other) cases.
Pressure will most certainly get your attention and heighten your senses, but it could go both ways: it could be slightly threatening (and appeal to your slightly kinky side), or it could create a sense of safety. Soft touch tends to be very sensual, especially if the touch only reaches the hairs on the skin, like the “ghost of a touch”.
Any and all of these options may be sensual, but just imagine adding an edge to this: if that hand does what it does VERY SLOWLY, things will be even more interesting! Not only do you have the sensory experience, but you’ll add an element of expectation, that sense of ‘stop, but don’t stop’ that is the essence of so many deep experiences.
Have you ever given some thought to the question why it’s so sensual to touch knees under a table, or slide a naked foot up someone else’s leg, or put a hand on someone’s thigh? There is a level of secrecy, of course, but all those movements tend to be slow and sensual.
slow is sexy
The modern world has brought – and keeps bringing – a lot of change. One of the most deeply troubling one is the sense of separation many of us feel from the world at large. Looking back just a couple of generations, most of our ancestors were closely embedded in their families, neighbourhoods they lived in, a circle of friends, professional contacts, etc.
You might say “yes, but so are we today”, and you are right, of course. One thing is very different, though: in the past those circles overlapped quite a bit. Today, they all seem to be separate for many of us. We tend to live on our own, often far away from family. We live surrounded by people we have no connection with. Our circle of close friends is speckled across the globe, and our work and professional contacts tend to be separate from all of the above and only really on our radar when we are at work. I’m not saying this is all bad, there are advantages to do with personal freedom and flexibility, of course.
The crux of the matter is that not only have our networks been spread out very thinly, they also use the same space as a couple of hundreds of other people’s networks. This means not only are we spatially separated from our core group, but we end up seeing lots of interactions of other people that are completely unrelated to us, even right outside our front door.
As gay men, we often end up in noisy places with lots of people, drinking, dancing and generally ‘having a good time’. And while that may be true, many of those who revel one evening fall into a deep pit of despair the morning after: suddenly alone again because the wild activities of the previous night were just superficial.
I have given up on those evenings long ago, because I prefer to spend a meaningful time with someone in a quiet place. I don’t drink, I don’t like crowded places… so where does this leave me and – I suspect – many others like me? Falling back on Apps like Grindr or Scruff might bring about a bit of hot action on occasion, but does it really fill your emotional needs?
Maybe what we need is a more personal approach to those directly around us, and making a proper connection with a few of them rather than a superficial brush with them all?
a connection is worth it if it has the potential to last
Let’s say you are out and about, walking through a crowded place like a shopping centre or sitting in a train station, and you become aware of someone who is in distress. That could be quiet – yet inconsolable – of the guy walking next to you, or erratic behaviour of someone who isn’t quite herself. Let’s for a moment assume they are not under the influence of something, to simplify matters a little.
Would you approach them and ask if they are okay?
It’s unlikely, right? But why? Isn’t it a basic human trait that we thrive in groups for one important reason: mutual support? I know, there are more reasons that that, but I believe this is a crucial one.
There is one main reason why we do not proceed and make a connection: fear! Fear of rejection, anger or apprehension that person might express. But how likely is it they are actually going to blow up if you approach them? They may only need a bit of human connection to calm down, or you learn just enough to ask for help from someone more appropriate. They simply may not be in a position to ask for help because of the state they are in.
The main thing is: you have to put yourself out there and offer your help. It’s up to them to accept or refuse. What if YOU were in that position? Wouldn’t you have liked to be asked? Would you have refused a helping hand when you most needed it?
This is all about your own process, not the person in need! And while your fears may be there for a reason, wouldn’t it be nice to be there for that other person, or at least give it a try? A lot of this is about distance and proximity. If you have a hard time being close to your friends, it is even harder to approach a colleague at work or a perfect stranger.
If you open your senses to those around you, you’ll likely find that many of them would welcome a helping hand, a kind word or a simple question like “can I help you?” Maybe it’s a good thing to start this process by reaching out to those in need. Who knows then you’d appreciate someone else to do the same?
when you touch someone, proximity turns into connection
These are my own thoughts on aspects of my work I feel strongly about.