The other day I wrote about how I’ve been paying attention to my presence… how present I am when I am doing mundane things. I’ve noticed that often my mind is elsewhere… I’m in the shower, under the steamy hot water, and I’m thinking about a session, or my kids, or my partner, or…
Part of my commitment to pleasure is being available to receive it when it comes. For example, part of my self-pleasure practice over the weekend was taking a walk in the woods, alone, and being truly present with my embodied self. I focused on my breath, my feet, the sense of being in my body, the sensation of movement, and the sensory input I was receiving. At the end, I felt just splendid… so juicy and full and loving myself and my life. I realized that I had just masturbated in public, and no one even knew!
Us sex-educator types talk about masturbation as self-love. But I’m not sure we take it to the next level, and make it about feeling the love. Feeling that deep, warm abiding sense of presence and care. Just like we have for somebody else; a loved one, pet or child, but actually this time feeling that same love directed toward ourselves, as well as feeling the receiving of that love.
Thich Nhat Hanh writes about noticing when you are doing the thing you are doing… now I’m typing. Now I’m drinking coffee. Now I’m noticing I need to pee. Apparently, suffering comes in when we are disconnected from our experience in the present moment. And how does this relate to masturbation?
Well, being truly present to our own touch, our own sensations can be novel. Often, we focus on porn, erotica or fantasy during masturbation. I love all of those things. And. There is a certain quality of touch that comes when my attention is ONLY on touch. Or perhaps we are numbed out, and can’t feel our own touch, or get aroused by it. This will not do. Barnaby Barratt says,
“We mentioned how being touched is essential to our physical welfare, our emotional vitality, and our spiritual growth. However, none of us would thrive if our being touched remained dependent on the love of others – the love of our self is prerequisite.
It is important line of childhood development that, as we grow from babies into toddlers, we are able to assume some responsibility for our need to be touched, as we become sufficiently coordinated to touch ourselves intentionally. This does not mean that the need to be touched by others disappears. Quite the contrary, it remains strongly important to continue to be touched by others, especially since we know that being touched by another human being has pronounced different energy dynamics than touching ourselves – an issue we will mention again. But it does mean that, as our child develops, touching can be reciprocal, and then, if these developments proceed well, touching can become energetically mutual or “synergistic.”
Very importantly, it means that our child becomes able to administer the gift of touch to ourselves – moving from being simply a recipient, to the possibilities of being actively self-giving. This is an enormously important shift for physical and emotional development as has been demonstrated in many ways that documented in the literatures of developmental psychology and psychoanalysis. It is also the foundation of our human capacities to receive love, and therefore to be able to give love.”
Today, I will practice administering the gift of mindful, present touch to myself, so that I may love and be loved to the full extent of my capacity. I understand that reclaiming my touch relationship with myself is a practice, and that it may take time to feel my own touch as fully as I feel a lover’s. However, I also recognize how self-love creates availability for loving others. I invite you to this practice with me.