To be fair, I never understood the reason why I couldn’t just take my clothes off with him standing right next to me – we have all been in changing rooms or in shared showers – but I’m assuming that is part of the effort to keep the interaction as professional as possible and sending the right signals from the start.
So I did my thing, and ended up lying on the massage table with my head firmly embedded in the padded ring. My masseur was completely kitted out with facemask, face shield, and gloves when he came in. I was allowed to take off my mask for ease of breathing on the basis that he was the one breathing heavily from the exercise of kneading my muscles into submission.
And a good workout it was for him: I hadn’t received a massage in ages (nearly nine months) and my back was a bed of knots, really. I’m surprised it wasn’t worse than it turned out to be. On a purely physical level, this massage was already beyond my wildest expectations and I’ll be grateful for the treatment for a good while. It has also told me that I have to make sure to move more and keep my muscles engaged rather than staying seated all the time.
But the physical benefits were not why I write this blog post: in fact what had a far more important effect on my was the experience of touch that I had not had since mid-March. I have been isolating pretty much all the time and never really touched anyone. Even my rare outdoor get-togethers with friends were not physical beyond an elbow bump. I was aware that I was missing something and there was a longing for something, but it only dawned on me that it was actual touch that I was craving.
Well: that massage did the job. After the first couple of minutes I found myself thoroughly enjoying the ministrations and the sometimes gentle, sometimes more forceful movement of his hands across my back, my arms and legs, working my feet and hands, and ultimately the most divine head massage I have ever received. I had been seeing him for a good while and have received similar massages from him, but this one was exceptional because it filled such a need for human contact that I was ready to jump out of my skin from relief that this is still possible. To experience such connection was a true gift.
The lesson I learned that day was that I can consciously suppress the lack of physical touch, but the need for it is still there and when it is fulfilled… oh boy, it is pure joy! Don’t miss out on it.
I would also assume that under these circumstances the only real option is very careful doggy style sex. Not exactly my favourite: I like eye contact during sex… that leaves us wondering: how can we keep our distance? What comes to mind is the kinky side of sex!
There are a good number of kinks that may just work better than vanilla sex at this stage. Anything that involves full-body covers sounds like a good bet, like rubber body suits, medical play with full PPE or properly functioning gas masks. I can also imagine a kinky massage with the masseur in full gear, with mask, nice smooth gloves. While I agree that not all of these may be your taste in kink, don’t dismiss this as an option for those who are into this kind of play.
A great many people have kinks and some of them could just be helpful in this situation, so why not embrace them fully and explore how this could play out? There are some rules, though…
Whatever kinky option you try out, make sure it’s consensual, that you are doing your best to stay safe (and if that includes a face mask, make it part of the fantasy, by all means), and that you remain ready to change tack if things do not work out quite as you expect them to. All of you need to be comfortable with the arrangement and no shame can be extended at any cost towards someone who feels this turned out to be less enjoyable or acceptable than they initially thought. All of those are really standard provisos for any kind of kinky play, but it needs to be reiterated regularly, I believe.
That said, I want to make it clear that I’m in no way insinuating that you should try all of the above. My intention is to open your mind to possibilities you may not have considered yet, and to my own surprise, the thought of the kink scene came to mind. I’m certain there are other things around that you could think of, in which case please leave a message with me. Research in this matter is ongoing!
For some, this notion of a bubble meant that it’s okay to bubble up with one person right now, and another one in three hours’ time. For others it was within the rules to meet five friends at someone’s home today, and five others the next day. Personally, I believe that the spirit of the suggestion was to form groups of up to six people, within which no social distancing was necessary, provided all members of the bubble were totally distancing from everyone else. So far, I didn’t have much luck convincing anyone of this interpretation, because that would mean sex only within that group and – let’s face it – gay guys will run out of steam in this small a group quickly… no judgment, just telling it as it is.
So, assuming people create closed support bubbles, and engage with those people only, how is that any different from a polyamorous network of relationships? I believe it could be seen as a seed for such an arrangement. At the start, it would probably serve as a pool of guys to engage with in a less restrictive manner than would be possible with the outside world. But I would assume that it will only take a short while before more serious attachment will develop, especially since the group is likely to contain a group of men who already know each other from before.
Of course, this is a rather forced version of polyamory. Normally, such arrangements develop over time, with clear discussions ahead of time, and a gradual development of new connections with outsiders, drawing them in, finding ways to move forward with a new node in the network of a polyamorous relationship network. A support bubble has rather more urgency to it than that. Not only is there a limited choice of partners that may be compatible on the sexual, intellectual, sensual, mental or physical level, but also there is no seed structure to start with: everything will develop pretty much in one go and things might get bumpy while trying to figure out what’s what.
Polyamory requires a lot of communication, and I could just imagine that it will not time at all for misunderstandings to appear within that support bubble. In a traditional polyamory situation, the initial partners will have set certain boundaries before moving towards outsiders, and then gradually those will be incorporated, often with great care and lots of touch and go situations. It’s hard work to make it through that phase at the best of times.
A support bubble could go down that road, but honestly, I’m not sure that setup is a good enough breeding ground for a polyamorous network of lovers. Prove me wrong if you dare!
Patience means letting go.
When you feel impatient about something – the bus is late, or your performance in your studies is unsatisfactory to yourself – you become agitated to a degree. That sense of “it’s not quite right” and “not good enough”, “not fast enough” is working against your initial intention of being centred in yourself.
Patience does that by letting go of the idea that a goal needs to be achieved right now. Most of us are ensconced in a mental image that things need to be fast, instantaneous, dare I say ‘perfect’? All these and other aspects of our thoughts are not conducive to advancements on any plain of existence. Patience is the lubricant that – if applied generously – will get us where we need to be, and at the right time.
Sometimes, “now” is not the right time for something to happen. We may believe that “I have time right now, so why does it not happen for me”? and by asking yourself that question you actually indicate that this is NOT the right time for you. That there is need to be more patient and to have fewer expectations, maybe?
Patience also means forgiveness of self.
Part of our impatience is that we push ourselves all the time. We may see something that others have achieved before us and we are desperate to catch up. Or we believe that all the pieces are in place for some shift to happen and feel entitled for that advancement. But most of all, we feel somehow ‘lesser’ because we are not there yet, wherever ‘there’ may be.
All these and other sentiments and thoughts do nothing but holding you back, they are roadblocks that you put up for yourself, on your own. It’s time to realise that you have nothing to prove to yourself and stop chastising yourself for being ‘lesser’ in any way.
You are who you are, the best you can be. Forget about everyone else’s experience. Maybe you are simply blessed with a different path than all the others? And how can you tell that they don’t face the same troubles?
Just think of how much more motivated you would be working out in a gym or doing a yoga class with others rather than plodding along on your own! The same is true with tantric experiences: they can happen on your own, but are more likely in company! Such a thing happened to me on several occasions in the last couple of weeks. Once on my own, and several times in online workshops. I’d like to tell you about one instance that was truly remarkable.
I was in a weekly meeting with my tantra group – online, of course – and we were doing an introspective practice that involves sharing experiences and some level of inquisitive questions by the teachers. Something happened that nobody expected: one by one, those who shared something dropped into more and more severe states of energetic flow and increase that we formed a connection and enhanced each other to a point where it felt like we were in the same room.
Don’t get me wrong: each of us experienced things differently and was in our own world, but there was a very obvious connection and deep sense of energetic exchange. One of us was in deep pain and sobbing uncontrollably, one was riding the wave playing with energies surrounding him, one was just violently shaking, and I was privileged to be part of it all. I ended up with all the accumulated energy in my upper chakras dropping violently into my root chakra, leaving me with the most intense sexual drive I had in ages… and nobody to play with. Oh the sweet pain of ecstasy!
This went on in unison for at least an hour online, but it stuck with me for another couple of weeks to its nearly full extent, and still today, weeks later, I feel energetic shifts within me on several occasions each day, with associated shudders, moments of changes in breath that come from somewhere inside.
My mind has taken the steering wheel again since then, but it’s good to know that all that fluid energy stuff I accumulate during more mental experiences is available to be dumped into my sexual being when it needs to be there.
And that time will come. I’m sure of it.
Looking at the emotion proper, anger tends to start out with annoyance and gradually turns more powerful, becoming proper anger, perhaps even turning into rage. That development can take a lot of time. Usually, we can take being annoyed for a while, but then it becomes something more primal: it feels as if that annoyance is out of our control and keeps going on too long, too often, too loud, too much. The feeling of not having any influence over what makes us annoyed or angry is the final straw that may lead to outbursts of anger, or even rage. It’s all gradual, where annoyance is usually brushed away and builds up, anger is much more outspoken and direct, and rage may involve physical confrontation in drastic cases.
How can we BE with anger in all its shapes without simply disregarding it not letting it bubble up and explode?
I believe that much anger comes from that feeling of not being able to control what leads to the anger in the first place. Let me give you an example: I have had a daily train commute for the better part of 25 years, 45 minutes each way on a crowded train. What drove me crazy was the constant cacophony of basslines and screeching high notes from 10 different headsets all across the train carriage. I could feel a nearly physical sense of anger that was only controlled by the knowledge that ‘it’ll be over in 15 minutes’. Of course, that mantra had to be repeated twice a day, five days a week, 52 weeks per year… no resolution was possible.
The trouble was that I felt helpless and I had to let go of that wish to control borderline antisocial behaviour in others. So I made sure I did what I could to mitigate things and got myself some decent earplugs for the trip, and then I focused on letting those feelings go whenever they came up. On occasion I went to a quieter place within the train. I know, that feels like giving in to pressure, but sometimes that is exactly what needs doing. If you want to stay sane, that is.
I also learned that what annoyed me on the train had more to do with general unhappiness and lack of vision in my life in general than it did with the people on the train. The anger was fuelled from within and once I figured that out and dealt with the actual reasons, I could move forward and ignore the noise.
Ultimately, it pays off to dig a little deeper, disregard the apparent situation and find out what really ticks us off. Maybe this is something to apply to your own experience with emotional outburst of all kinds, not just anger...
Of course, I work from home and only ever see clients rarely anyway, and in terms of professional interactions nothing much has changed. When it comes to socialising, my life has changed in a huge way, though: even in normal times I was not particularly excited at the thought of meeting lots of people in noisy places, and the lockdown has shifted the general situation in my favour, really. Where in the past I had to constantly explain myself for not wanting to go out (and nobody understood my plight to stay away from groups of people), I suddenly find myself part of a silent majority of people who follow the rules of social distancing and/or stay at home altogether.
It turns out that I rather like staying on my own, and the thought of meeting ONE friend for a distanced walk or sitting somewhere with a cup of coffee and having a quiet chat excites me much more than anything else. In a way, I’m now in a position to meet people on general terms that work for ME rather than having to fall in with a ‘normal time’ majority that does not really understand where I’m coming from.
I always thought of myself as ‘shy’ when it comes to interacting with groups of people, not wanting to be the focus of attention, yet at the same time being annoyed for not being part of it. I had also wondered if I’m an ‘introvert’ at heart, but could not really align either of those two ideas with my feelings because I do like being around other people, listen to them and enjoy their company, being part of the group in some way that I could deal with.
These days, I find myself being apprehensive of crowds (and that includes people invading my 2m safe zone on a constant basis) to a point where I had a physical reaction only two weeks ago where my heart started to race, I got dizzy and weak in the knees. I guess I had my very first recognisable anxiety attack – and I hope this was also the last one because it was terrifying. Maybe this sense of terror was always there, and I was just able to maintain my safety barriers because I had to. Three months into my isolation, those barriers may have withered away and I have to learn again to keep them up.
Either way, the battle between shyness and seeing myself as an introvert continues. It’s even possible that they are both just symptoms of an underlying uncomfortable feeling of being around too many people. Only time will tell. For now, I’ll have to gradually get accustomed to being around people again.
Empathy is a very important element that keeps society together, it forms the glue that makes us realise that we are not alone, that there is a connection with others in general terms. The common denominator here seems to be ‘community’ and ‘collaboration’ rather than a more personal interaction with one or several people. ‘Being love’ in this context is selfless, altruistic and outward.
And then there is the other kind of ‘being love’, the kind that is more specific, often directed at one person in a very particular way that only means ‘being love’ for them but not for anyone else. This could take the shape of small acts of kindness to the benefit of that person, or maybe being intentionally present for them when you sense they need you. That love may be more generalised, too: offering your time or help to whoever needs it – irrespective of the fact that nobody might take the offer. It may just not be necessary at that time, but ‘being love’ is expressed in the sheer act of offering. No taking needed to seal the deal.
‘Being love’ could be expressed quite easily by giving each person you encounter your most brilliant smile when they pass you in the street, or waving out of the bus while you pass them by, or small compliments on something they do that strikes you as extraordinary.
Both ways of ‘being love’ can be described in a situation where you give a gift to someone. You can spend a lot of time and thought on finding the perfect gift for a loved one, and that involves a very specific intention: pleasing that person to the best of your abilities. Or you spend some time finding an appropriate gift because you feel a certain level of obligation to give one. That is not to say that the second gift is any less appreciated, but it involves a certain lack of intentionality.
Whatever you do in the name of love, make sure you have good intentions and it will be all the more meaningful.
Yes: I did see clients for work, of course. But let’s face it, mostly that was preparation, and the social element of my work is often rather unidirectional, and geared more towards emotional and practical support than it is to exchange pleasantries.
So here I find myself: stuck at home and kind of loving it. At first – like everyone else – I was panicking about money, if work will return one day, how to move forward, and what to change in order to survive this. But then, only a couple of weeks in, I realised that any further action would not really bring me any advantage – and I stopped racing forward and settled into this new situation.
There is a certain appeal to NOT having to rush and do things half as much as in normal times. Admittedly, I am attracted to this more solitary life, and I find it refreshing to just be on my own without having to find excuses why I don’t want to be dragged out to meet a group of people at once when I actually much prefer to meet them separately. That said: I do realise that I’m someone who needs people around me to engage with, I just don’t enjoy groups.
As a result of being on my own most of the time, I find myself more open to random thoughts and emotions, and to experience them to the fullest. I have laughed more in the last two months than I have for years – and I have cried more, too. I believe this to be a sign of liberation and acceptance, not having to hold in for fear of being misunderstood of judged for it. It’s a strange situation: I love being on my own, but in order to feel whole I have a need for people nearby. I guess that would be the quintessential description of monastic life: on your own within the embrace of a community.
I had more time to think and come to conclusions about ideas that have been churning in my mind for ages, and am finding myself drifting off into meditative moments throughout the day. Normally, I would be busy or call myself back to the tasks at hand, but now there simply is no reason to stop this from happening. And I like it very much.
Maybe I even like it too much: there is a gravitational pull to the idea of doing this forever. It is hugely attractive to let the world drift past me and stay away from it, and I’m not sure how I’ll feel when the time come to fully re-engage with my physical surroundings after being attuned to the metaphysical for a while. I guess this is a close as I’ll ever get to being a monk…
I realise this was a little different from previous blog posts. I actually hesitated before posting this as it seemed much more personal than other posts. And then I understood that others might be in a similar situation and may not yet have come to the conclusion that this is all right and, in fact, a chance to experience life in quite a different way from what passes as ‘normal’. I hope this encourages you to explore this wonderfully different path for a while as well.
And that is exactly where you may want to stay for a while: NOT making sense of it, but experiencing it for as long as you can. Stay with the fear, joy, excitement or wonder you just experienced and live with it for a while. Attempts at explaining such things are ultimately destructive: what has been given to you is a glimpse of something that ‘could’ be, something outside of your everyday experience, something ‘more’… and such things are precious.
Let’s look at something more commonplace: imagine you had a dream one night and you woke up and that one image stuck with you. It didn’t make sense until you entered a situation where it suddenly become a valuable thing to remember. Think of a peak experience in similar ways, but this time it’s not so much your subconscious that hints at something, but the universe showing itself in a way that you can ultimately learn to understand. It just takes time.
Speaking from my own experience, I had several such powerful moments and am learning to integrate whatever they have given me into what goes under the description of ‘real life’. It is not always easy, I admit, but I’m finding that my experiences have started to influence how I see the world around me in sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatically different ways.
One of the most surprising things I have come to understand is that everything is temporary. For many of you, that may sound unsettling, I know. But think about it: if everything good is temporary, so is anything bad. If you can think of bad things happening in the future, then you can also imagine good things. My personal outlook towards the future has changed through this: I can now see a positive side to most developments. There is a sense of balance that I never had before.
At the same time, I also perceive myself as part of something bigger, and it is part of me, too. Following one of my own experiences, I no longer feel like an unimportant cogwheel in a huge mechanism as I used to. I still am part in the whole image, but no less important than anything else. Lately, I feel like fading into a wall with increasing regularity during meditations, but so far I have resisted the urge to fade away in meditation. Maybe it’s time to let go and see what comes next if I allow that to happen?
These are my own thoughts on aspects of my work I feel strongly about.