Joy

I bought a lawnmower a couple weeks ago and I love it. It is a super, sweet $40 push mower that doesn’t require any gas or electricity. Instead, it is powered by calories and it is perfect for our small yard (1,200 square feet is small, right?). I could have opted for a more advanced lawn mower, but that would have been crazy. Why would I spend more money on an object that reduces my pleasure? Particularly one that is going to have continued costs like gasoline or electricity?

What it comes down to, I guess, is that I get joy out of mowing the lawn. In fact, I get joy out of all of the yard work. Trimming trees, raking, sweeping the driveway, planting a garden, etc all bring joy into my life. Not only do these activities get me outdoors into the sun (get that D!) and fresh air, it provides an opportunity for me to meet my neighbors. If I was pushing some loud, gas-powered beast or paid someone to mow my lawn then I wouldn’t be in a position for small talk and neighborly bonding. Yard work provides an environment to meet people without it being super awkward.

It is also pretty good exercise. It certainly isn’t an aerobic exercise, but there are health benefits to neglecting automation and getting your hands dirty. Cooking, cleaning, and house maintenance can all be accomplished more quickly with advanced technology, but they also create missed opportunities to become more healthy. Little micro-exercises of chopping and cooking my own food, cleaning my house, and working in the yard burn a few extra calories and keep me up and active throughout the day. Instead of sitting at my computer all day and letting machines do my chores, I have an excuse to take a break from the screen and get moving.

Now, I’m sure for some people the idea of getting out into the yard a few times a week sounds worse than rusty razor blades being pressed into their gums. So, where does this difference come from? Is it something that we just chalk up to the variety of humans and how our experiences (including joy and sorrow) are objective? Or can we learn to get joy in things that we used to hate?

Personally, I think we can train our minds to get pleasure from things that we used to hate, and that is actually something we should pursue if those things create a healthier life. One of the things that struck me about the individuals in “Born to Run” is how often they described 100-mile runs in almost child-like terms… they felt joy and excitement, it was a fun activity. I’m sure we all remember running as fast as we could when kids and ecstatically screaming in joy, but somewhere along the way we lost that. I don’t really know why, but I hope I can get that joy back for things that make me healthy.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, meeting new people, exercise, and yard work can all be sources of joy… not just because of the result, but actual joy in the moment. We can practice mindfulness during these experiences in a way that enrich our lives and make us better people. At least I hope so, I’m going to try and reset my views on things that I “hate”. Instead of saying “I hate running” I’m going to try and find that childlike feeling of running as a form of play. That type of negative mindset limits my life options, and I like to have lots of options. I don’t think dislike or pleasure in a particular act is something that is determined for us by our genetics, our minds (and all the emotions that come with it) are within our control. I can learn to love running, just like I now love Brussels sprouts and yard work.

I wonder what else I “hate” I can learn to love… maybe I should give pickles and Seinfeld another chance.

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Worldwide Naked Bike Ride

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of participating the Worldwide Naked Bike Ride in beautiful Los Angeles, California. The weather was perfect for a ride through the city and my friends and I had a great time joining 250ish others in the peaceful event. Like most things it meant different things to different people, some were advocating for green energy,  body positivity, both, and neither. The participants themselves were generally courteous, polite, and friendly. There was also great variety in what people “wore”, our group was mostly body paint but some people had costumes, masks, and “au naturel”.

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As a self-proclaimed sex-positive, body-positive advocate I felt incredibly comfortable laughing, talking, and biking with people in their birthday suits. It is just skin and it is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. I strongly believe that the world (and America in particular) could benefit from more non-sexualized nudity. Making the the body taboo is harmful to every individual and society as a whole. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees and many of those who disagree did not believe in passive, peaceful, respectful dialogue to voice their disagreements.

There were two times during the ride when I actually felt a bit unsafe. While I am comfortable being naked in public and private it is not the optimal condition if I need to defend myself or others. The first time was when the route took us down skid row. I’m not sure who planned the route but I feel like this was a mistake. Skid Row is a generally impoverished area of Los Angeles where many homeless people settle. While most of the people we encountered either ignored us or laughed when we were in the Skid Row area we were met with profanities and sexual comments being shouted at the women. It quickly became uncomfortable when people started leaving the sidewalk and approaching us on the street. Luckily things did not escalate and we were on our way quickly.

The second time was a little more concerning. We were all riding along a beautiful bike trail along the Los Angeles river when we passed a group of men who did not appreciate the beauty of the human form. Instead of ignoring us and waiting for us to pass they ended up trying to fight one of the organizers and threw at least one punch. Regardless of your views on public nudity, sexuality, or anything else you should not resort to violence. I do wonder what these individuals who were shouting homophobic slurs at us would have done if our crowd of 250+ naked people would have decided to defend ourselves with force. I can’t imagine it would have ended well for them. A few minutes later along the bike path we passed a park where a women had two small children playing, she started yelling things like “faggot”, “gays cause AIDS”, “I wish you would all die”, and such at us. I’m not sure how she could look at a naked body and determine sexuality (I sure can’t) but this definitely confirmed that homophobia is alive even on the Left Coast, and the example this mother was setting for her children is that anyone who is different deserves death. A scary thought.

But, I hate to dwell on the negative. It was an incredibly positive experience. The VAST majority of people who saw us waved, honked, flashed peace signs, and laughed at our group as we passed them. I’m sure their are dozens (hundreds?) of videos of us on YouTube, I’m tempted to check them out just to see if me and my body make a random appearance. There are some pics floating around and we had a camera which was misplaced, but hopefully it will materialize soon so I can share some. I had a lot of fun and I look forward to doing it again next year, though I should definitely wear more sunscreen.

Well, it seems my backside made the news, I have “Your Body Is Beautiful” painted on my back. Most of these articles show nipples and penises (THE HORROR):
LA Weekly ArticleLAist Article, Grist.com, Huffington Post

And here are a couple links if you are interested in more information:
Official Website, LA Bikeride FB Page

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11th Sex Suggestion

Yesterday I posted my thoughts on a recent “Sex Commandments” ad by Max Arousal. Sex was on my mind this morning when I woke up and I realized I there was one more suggestion that I’d like to add to my list.

11a. Seek improvement. No matter how much you love someone your sex life will eventually get pretty boring (or non-existent) over time. Seeking advice and information from others can be hugely beneficial. Whether it is columnist Dan Savage, YouTube star Laci Green, or reading books like Sex At Dawn or The Ethical Slut, increasing your knowledge about sex and applying that to your relationship can help keep the spice.

11b. Talk to your partner(s) about what you are learning. In high school I heard the best advice for sex. Now, I wasn’t the one having sex. Conservative geeks who play Star Trek: TNG CCG, wear dc Talk t-shirts, and hang out in the drama department don’t get laid much in high school. I was also saving myself for marriage at the time so I wasn’t exactly pursuing it. No, the lesson I heard was from other students talking in my German class, I don’t remember who they were but it was irrelevant. The conversation went something like this…

  • Student One: “My girlfriend and I are getting close to sex but we can’t seem to be able to discuss it”
  • Student Two: “Really? How do you know you are ready for sex then?”
  • Student One: “I don’t know. We are just heading that way and it seems inevitable”
  • Student Two: “Talk to her about it. If you can’t discuss your boundaries you aren’t ready for sex”

I think student two is correct. Once you know your desires you need to be comfortable communicating them.

Sex Commandments

Well, after yesterdays stream-of-consciousness flood of randomness I think I am ready to start blogging again regularly (a claim I realize I’ve made before). I’m particularly inspired by someone who was able to do a daily blog for an entire month, which is something I haven’t done since my bike ride. So, I’m going to try that but that means things are going to get a bit more personal and often involve current events or whatever is on my mind (probably sex… especially since I feel like part of my calling is really in sex and relationship therapy).

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Today I found a cool infograph (below) about the 10 Sex Commandments for Men’s Arousal. While I hate the word commandment due to the coercive enforcement it implies I found the list interesting and think it should be tweeked to be accurate for all sexual partners regardless of the number of people present or whether they have a penis or vagina.

So, here are my 10 Sex Suggestions:

  1. Pay attention to what you are doing to your partner(s)
  2. Add variety to the way you touch and the places you touch
  3. Communicate. If verbally expressing your desires is difficult come up with other ways like pre-determined signals (ie tell your partner(s) before hand that if you put your hand on the side of their head while they go down on you that means you want them to go faster).
  4. Take your time, it isn’t a race.
  5. Be open to new things, we all have fantasies and want partners who are willing to indulge them from time to time.
  6. Try anal (guys and gals). If done right it can be extremely pleasurable.
  7. Be clean. Showering and such can be a fun activity together but really it is up to each individual to maintain themselves. You don’t need necessarily be clean-shaven everywhere but trimming is usually appreciated.
  8. Don’t fear experimentation… much like 5 you should not be afraid to try things with someone at least once. If a person is willing to share their kinks, fetishes, and fantasies with you it means they trust you and want to share that part of themselves with you. It isn’t something to be feared. Even if it is something that you can’t find yourself ever being able to do be supportive. A kink isn’t a dysfunction, it is a way they get pleasure. It is a good thing.
  9. Oral sex. Do it. EVERYONE! Seriously. It’s awesome.
  10. Thou shalt not overcomplicate sex! Remember, it’s just sex and it’s fun for a reason. Enjoy being close to someone and let the pieces fall into place. (I stole this straight from the infograph but it is pretty much perfect)

So, go out there and have some fun. Life is pretty short and there is so much to experience.

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Light Up

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Last night I lit up my fire staff for the first time and did a brief performance in front of friends, colleagues, and strangers. It was the culmination of the last six weeks or so of staff training that I have undergone at Fire Groove in Los Angeles. To be honest, it was an incredible experience. Not just the fire and performance, but the feeling of accomplishment and support that came from all around. My performance had plenty of flaws and it was obvious (to me anyway) that I have a lot of work ahead of me to still master the basics but I am certainly looking forward to the more advanced classes starting soon. I love fire dancing and am hooked.

It is more than the dancing and fire that I love though, it is really the community. Since leaving DC I have really been searching for a community. Much of my bike ride and my trip to Burning Man 2012 was part of the longing for a community that I have not felt recently. I have many friends but here in LA, and I love them each dearly, but it still felt like a bit was missing. I hope that my training and work with fire dancing will open doors to alleviate that.

The fire dancers I have met so far are a very open and caring group of people (they are also very beautiful people, I wonder why that is?).  They welcome all who come in peace and they encourage the sharing of knowledge about their art. There is no desire to restrict knowledge or prohibit competition, instead collaboration is encouraged and sought after. Artists of all stripes are part of the community in one way or another, whether it is designing custom outfits, performance art, or traditional art, it is all welcome and those who support the community are loved. In fact, I hope to start designing some glow staffs in my spare time, I don’t know if my model or design can really compete with the others out there but it should be fun.

As much as I love the community I feel like I haven’t taken full advantage of it. I approached it with extreme caution and my introverted side kicked in a lot, but I think that will change. I don’t quite know what I have to offer yet but I hope to contribute more than just taking classes. This is a group of people who won’t judge my polyamory, open relationship, anarchist views. Even if it doesn’t work out that I become a greater part of this group it has opened doors for me, given me greater confidence, provided me with a skill to gift to Burning Man next year, and has been a hell of a good time.

If anyone is interested in taking a classes with Fire Groove, there will be a free intro class on January 5th and 6th. You should definitely come by and check it out.