Day 13 of 100 days of blogging
In college, I studied Human Sexuality as part of my Social Work degree from Temple University. Reading the book, “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” written by the Boston Women’s Health Collective was the first time I can remember hearing the voices of women sharing their experiences with vulnerability and information about a woman’s body. One evening, I sat in a woman’s circle where every woman was handed a plastic speculum, a mirror, a flashlight and lubrication. We were taught how to do the breast exam and pelvic exam on ourselves. All of the women took off their pants and underwear, lay down on blankets and pillows and prepared to follow the step-by-step instructions to touch and examine our own bodies. I remember the exclamations of awe and joy and tears when a woman saw her cervix for the first time. Women empowering women in a circle gathering. That was 1978 and I was 22 years old.
During the late 90’s, I taught medical students at Johns Hopkins University how to do the pelvic and breast exam, first with words and instructions. Then I gave each of them a hands-on-experience, using my body as a practice patient. Dressed in a hospital gown, I taught them how to hold and use the speculum, guiding their hands to insert the speculum into my vagina with me as their first patient. I talked about the importance of creating a safe environment and using a gentle touch to preserve each woman’s dignity. In five years of teaching, I had over 500 pelvic and breast exams with 500 different medical students.
In 2013, I entered a new experience with my body when I was introduced to a 15 minute partnered practice called Orgasmic Meditation (OM). In this partnered practice with a man, I experienced the potential for us to heal our sexuality through better communication, attention and connection. No goal. 15 minutes of connection, sensation and the awakening of desire. I practiced OM with multiple partners in a safe community environment and learned how to teach the technique by taking courses with a company called OneTaste. I have now taught individuals and partners around the world how to practice Orgasmic Meditation.
My deepest desire has been for women to have a place to connect, have conversations, share vulnerability and support each other; to heal their relationship with their bodies and with each other. In the ninth Heal My Voice book program, I finally had my wish. For nine months, twelve women from Sweden; eight women from the United States with Marie Ek Lipanovska from Sweden and me from the U.S. co-facilitating an on-line gathering in a secret Facebook group. We stoked the emotional fires to stir up the burning embers of desire, connection and sensuality hidden within our souls. In conversation and writing, we explored universal experiences of a woman’s body. Menstruation. Childbirth. Menopause. Sexual Desire. We discussed body sensations of sensuality, power, grief, abandonment, trauma, life and death with courage and vulnerability. Our experiences included writing and speaking, healing, reclaiming power tied up in an old story, connection with community, intentional space, deep listening and at the end of the process, clarity around the next step in leadership.
You must do the things you think you cannot do. ~Eleanor Roosevelt
When we started to write, I thought I was ready, really ready, to reveal my story: a journey of sexual exploration. It wasn’t until I began to write this personal story that I felt a new vulnerability and resistance to writing and exposing my story even to myself. I found my hands hovering over the computer keyboard afraid to write anything. I had a flood of fearful thoughts: Can I really tell this story? How will it affect my business? Will my organization, Heal My Voice, lose all credibility if I write a sensual story about desire and sex? Can I really write about looking at Playboy magazines when I was 11 years old? Can I write about the desire to have sex now that I am 58 years old and a widow, a mother, a grandmother? Can I write about the sensuality essence that is waking up in me? I had to walk my own path by diving into the places in me that held the darkness of shame and fear around my sexual desire and to write my own story.
This was the ninth personal story I had written in a Heal My Voice or Heal My Voice Sweden book program and it was the first time I was afraid to put my words onto paper even in the privacy of my home with no one watching. That was a clue that I am not the only woman who feels vulnerable to admit my desires, embrace the sensations and to have open conversations. I knew I had to write a story about Sensuality that connected to my Sexuality and to make the conversation visible.
It was the women in this community of co-authors who read the drafts of my story, who acknowledged my courage and who told me to just write the story without the need for approval and without justifying why I felt the need to write it now. Each woman was held with the same love, care and encouragement. And as each woman completed her story, it opened the door for the next woman to keep writing and complete her story. We held each other, shared our voices, one word at a time, until twenty stories were completed. We are in this together…
As part of my 1500 word story for the book Sensual Voices, I wrote about my 28th OM (Orgasmic Meditation). I shared the sensations, the healing, the emotion that was released and the connection with my OM partner. Tomorrow, I will share that experience with you in the next blogpost.
The journey continues…
Andrea Hylen believes in the power of our voice to usher in a new world. She is the founder of Heal My Voice, an organization that inspires women and men to heal a story, reclaim personal power and step into greater leadership. Andrea discovered her unique gifts while parenting three daughters and learning to live life fully after the deaths of her brother, son and husband. In addition to serving as Heal My Voice’s Executive Director, Andrea is an Orgasmic Meditation Teacher and Sexuality Coach.
She is following her intuition as she collaborates with women and men in organizations and travels around the world speaking, teaching and leading workshops. Her passion is authentically living life and supporting others in doing the same. To connect with Andrea and learn about current projects go to: www.andreahylen.com and www.healmyvoice.org.