Emerging into Ecstasy
By Natalie Vekony
was my 29th summer, the year after my mother died, and I was
camping in Alaska. Listening to the rain softly hitting
my tent one morning, I grew eager for the day's hike.
As I started to get out of my sleeping bag, I found I could
not put weight on my feet. Explosive pain, similar in
sensation to that of a badly sprained ankle, surged into my
feet each time I placed them on the ground.
struggled with repeated, awkward attempts to rise, feeling
more annoyed at the prospect of possibly having to postpone
my hike than alarmed about my sudden and bizarre situation.
Finally, I managed to stand up. As I hobbled across the campground,
I unwittingly took my first steps into the underworld of chronic
illness and disability, never again to return to life as I
had known it.
have inhabited the world of rheumatoid arthritis now for 14
years. Much of that time I've felt like an observer
standing at the edge of a mass grave, watching in numb horror
the parts of myself being methodically dismembered and thrown
away. First my graceful arms disappeared, then my strong
hiker's legs, next my enthusiasm for the sight of a sunrise
over the mountains, then my energy, my passion, my sexual
afternoon several years ago, as I lay plastered to my bed,
exhausted from pain, weary from years of physical, emotional,
and spiritual healing efforts that failed to halt the continued
erosion of my joints and overall health, and grieving the
loss of my former very active self and all the things she
used to be able to do, I challenged the Universe to either
take me or tell me what I could do with my debilitated body.
My dare prompted an immediate reply from an impish voice inside
me: "You could have sex." It was a preposterous
looked in the mirror at my sickly yellow face, my atrophied
arms and bloated knees, and the stiff, awkward way I moved
my limbs. Graphic x-ray images of severely damaged joints,
coupled with my doctor's disparaging observation that I had
no elbows left, roiled around in my mind. It was a painful
picture, physically and emotionally, and I had long ago ceased
feeling sexy or sexual. Then the mocking chorus of self-doubting
and self-hating voices arrived: "You're too ugly to be
sexual," "You'll just disappoint yourself,"
and "Who'd want you anyway?"
these voices, and despite lack of understanding and support
from the people closest to me, I inexplicably and urgently
sensed I was being called to reclaim my life. I knew
I had to rise to the task. From that moment, I began
the awesome adventure of sexual healing, and I have been graced
with amazing people and situations to teach, support, and
guide me along the way.
I did much to recover my passion by doing research, attending
numerous workshops, working with an extraordinary counselor,
and receiving a wonderful lover into my life, it is my involvement
with women's sacred erotic and Tantric circles that has most
greatly accelerated my growth work and opened me to levels
of healing that would have otherwise been difficult to achieve.
(Tantra is a spiritual practice that honors the body and views
sexual ecstasy as a pathway to the Divine. Part of its
practice involves breathing and energy-raising techniques
that increase the body's ability to reach heightened ecstatic
circles give women the opportunity to learn from and validate
each other's experiences, to break through the isolation and
shame that many of us have come to feel around our desires,
and to receive help and loving support for working through
obstacles and painful emotions that invariably arise when
we begin to explore the vulnerable territory of our sexuality.
A sacred erotic circle is a safe, protected space -- a womb
that nurtures each woman's self-exploration and rebirth.
It is also a cauldron in which the intentions and energy of
each woman join to create subtle but profound changes within
the circle, changes that can begin to transform our relationships
to ourselves and to others.
we participate in a women's sacred circle, we open to greater
self-awareness and self-compassion as we recognize a part
of ourselves in each woman who courageously reveals her pain
or long-hidden shadows. And, when we find that the circle
will hold the range and intensity of all our expressions --
fear, grief, joy, rage, numbness, or unbridled ecstasy --
and honor them equally as different faces of the Goddess,
we can also experience a deep sense of self-acceptance, and
an enhanced connection with the Divine essence in ourselves
and each other.
both witnessing other women and sharing myself in sacred erotic
spaces, I have begun to shed crippling beliefs about my sexuality
and myself -- beliefs that I am not enough, or that I am too
much, or that I am wrong in some way. I am coming to
a deeper acceptance of my body just as it is and the fascinating,
changing panorama of my own erotic expression.
of my participation in sacred erotic and Tantric circles and
the support and inspiration they give me in my individual
practice of Tantra, I no longer experience my body solely
as a source of pain or an obstacle to overcome. Even
with physical limitations, I sense the ways in which my body
is limitless -- a gateway to high levels of ecstatic pleasure
and connection to the Divine. It is capable of incredible
joy, sensuality, and passion for life. I can resoundingly
vouch for the truth of what my lover once suggestively remarked
to me early on in our relationship: "You want to climb
Mt. Everest, and your body won't let you. But, you know
-- there are other ways to get to the top of Everest...
many women have lost the connection to themselves and to their
passionate aliveness through illness, sexual or other abuse,
or the self-hatred taught by a society that dishonors women,
and fears and abhors the authentic expression of sexuality.
I feel a great deal of respect for myself and other women,
wherever they are on their sexual journeys, who are willing
to be hopeful and actively engaged in healing their sexuality.
And I feel a special excitement about undertaking this journey
together, not only because of the depth of personal transformation
that is possible, but also because I believe that as we assist
each other in reconnecting with and making sacred again this
fundamental source of our creativity and power, we are doing
important work in beginning to heal our collective wounds
and reclaiming our power as women.
The following people and resources are those I have found
most helpful on my own healing journey:
Evalena Rose, who teaches Tantra through LoveJourney:
The Healing Path of Tantra for Women. For info, call
707 824-1118 or see tantraforwomen.com.
Jalaja Bonheim, author of Aphrodites Daughters:
Womens Sexual Stories and the Journey of the Soul and Hunger
for Ecstasy: Fulfilling the Souls Need for Passion and Intimacy.
Jalaja periodically offers local workshops. For info
call 607 530-1105 or see meetingsinsacredspace.com.
The Body Electric School. For info or a brochure
of course offerings, call 510 869-4383, or see bodyelectric.org