The evening is well underway when myself and a friend sit ourselves down for a catch up in the Earth quarter. It’s a Koinonia event, based as usual on the four elements. Next door, the Water space is a quiet haven of cuddling couples and massage swaps; upstairs, the sound of the base in Air – the dance floor – mingles with more suggestive sounds from the designated play space that is Fire, and drifts down to us where we sit, next to the bar spread with home-cooked treats. My Terrific Team are on duty, and my work for the moment is done – so I’m at liberty to indulge in a good long chat about semantics.
You see, my friend is confiding in me his reservations about attending one of the Making Love with God weekend intensives. Whilst he’s quick to affirm how much he enjoys Koinonia evenings, and how much he trusts me, he admits he is still put off by the “God word”. Could I do a little re-branding he wonders, acknowledging in the same breath that he’s aware how much of his wariness around that term is his “stuff”. He’s a dear friend, and we’re both always up for grappling with problems of a metaphysical and morphological nature, so an excellent conversation ensues – but it got me thinking it might be time to revisit the G-word issue again, and see if I could put any more minds to rest around why I use it.
Because I’ve got to be honest with you, it’s probably not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s a title that had been burning a hole in me for a while before the work finally began to take shape – and I love the way it makes you sit up and pay attention, even if you make the googly eyes and the raised eyebrows at me while you’re doing it (it’s OK. Googly eyes can be cute too). So I want to tell you a bit about how it started, why it’s still relevant to the work, and what it means to me now.
I’ve written before about my particular linguistic fetish: I have a taste for taking words that have been used to shame and belittle us, and re-appropriating them in sex positive, celebratory contexts.
For example, as I explain to my lovely friend, Koinonia is a Greek word that means simultaneously intimacy, community, and communion – which makes it a perfect fit for an event designed to sow the sparks of connection, the seeds of tribe, and the infinite possibilities of bliss. It’s also a word that happens to feature heavily in the Greek translation of the bible, which became the canonical text of the Old Testament in the Christian church. My choice of it may originally have been down to my being bilingual – but I confess, its use in, for example, the Orthodox culture I grew up in, and by the Christian far right in the States, only made me keener to reclaim it.
Many who are put off by my use of the convenient single syllable G-word for divinity/mystery/all that is, feel that way because of the shaming and belittling they associate the word with. Which is precisely why I’m interested in using it. Because Making Love with God isn’t just a convenient reference to the fact that this work is about integrating sex and spirit; it’s also a direct reference to the fact that we live in a post-christic society, and a lot of our erotic shame has been shaped by monotheistic religion.
It is my intention with this work to help my participants release that shame, without needing to throw the baby – intimate relationship with an unconditionally loving higher power – out with the bathwater – dogmatic fire and brimstone.
So what does the “God” element actually look like in terms of the work itself, and how does it manifest in an average weekend workshop.
Well, if you’re anticipating a litany of sins, the passing of so-called divine judgement, an exposition of God’s will for you, or indeed being required to buy into any particular beliefs in order to get the most out of the work… I’m afraid I must disappoint you.
In fact, on many of the weekends the most I will say about God directly is to explain my linguistic fetish as above – after which I encourage the participants to be spiritual adults, and replace my use of the word with something that represents a loving higher power to them personally.
However, divinity/mystery/all that is might show up experientially in the work in one of the following ways:
- During a workshop you may be invited to treat something as though it were divine. For example, if the weekend you’re attending is entitled Making Love with Self, you may be encouraged to connect with your inner divinity, and treat yourself as sacred for the duration of the weekend. Partly because I happen to believe you are innately sacred – but mostly because this will profoundly impact how you behave towards yourself.
- A significant percentage of workshop time is taken up with getting present – with ourselves and with each other. The kind of deep listening, and deep seeing, that we experiment with, can be profoundly revealing; you may catch a glimpse of a part of yourself you had not previously encountered, or something surprisingly familiar in the eyes of another. Feelings may arise of deep understanding, wonder, even oneness.
- The tools that we use to do this sex magic stuff – such as breath, visualisation, movement, and touch – can have side-effects. These side-effects can include everything from encountering and processing an old emotional wound, to the expansion of your capacity for pleasure. They have also been known to include feelings of ecstasy, experiences of altered states – and, yes, meeting God. This has even occurred in meditations or exercises that ostensibly have nothing to do with “God”. But – spoiler alert – this work is powerful stuff.
And ultimately, this powerful stuff is about relationship. Whether between you and yourself, or between beloveds, or between us and the Earth. It is about integration, and the peace and power that ensue from self-acceptance. We live in a culture that treats spirituality and sexuality – or God and sex, if you prefer – as fundamentally different, sometimes even as opposing sides.
This work is built on the radical proposition that they are inextricably intertwined.
So it is entirely possible that, whichever one you’ve come along intending to engage with, you’ll encounter the other in doing so.
There’s another aspect of this work that is threaded through the Making Love with God title. That sentence doesn’t just refer to making love in an erotic sense, but also in a creative one:
Making Love as in to create love in the world, or to create something in a loving manner.
With God in the sense of with life, the universe, and everything.
One of the possibilities this work offers is that of learning to create the life you long for in partnership with the cosmos
– as opposed to constantly feeling at the mercy of, and reacting to, external forces. A lot of the material arose out of my own experiences of surrendering, of coming to know and accept the ever-present love and support of the god of my own understanding (who I also rarely refer to as God, by the way) – and the ways in which my life changed as a result.
Ultimately, this work is called Making Love with God because my experience is one of creating it in partnership – with the Friend, the Beloved, with the Goddess and guides who accompany me on the journey. When I am holding space for a client, or at an event, it is my intention to show up, and let a bigger Love work through me. I consider every opportunity I have to do so a gift from her.
So when I call this work Making Love with God, it’s because that is precisely what I am striving to do.