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Join me in Love

A take on Sex and Sacred Service

hartmans Thursday November 27, 2014
A while ago, I wrote a post on one of my first interactions with sacred service in a much more private forum. I'm sharing that post here, lightly edited, in the hopes that it will spark thought and discussion. You can log in with facebook or create an account to comment.

I had a really wonderful opportunity to explore sexuality, spirituality and the different levels of connection with deity. I am nervous talking about it because it does stomp on a lot of traditional taboos about sex.

There had been mutual attraction between the two of us for a long time, but we'd never acted on it. I'm not entirely sure why. Eventually, it became clear that there was a lot of interest and there was nothing standing in the way except nervousness and lack of certainty about what exactly we wanted. I don't know what all the causes of the nervousness were. It had been a long time since she'd started to approach a new lover. She had recently been through a situation where her sexuality, spirit and sensuality were not valued. We did not want to disrupt our friendship or shared spiritual interests.

We came together and Venus sparked within me. I realized that I had an opportunity to offer myself in service to Venus, to love and to focus on welcoming my lover back to the sexual and sensual side of Venus's path. I embraced this intent and began to work to create a safe space in which to welcome my lover. I focused on acceptance, on rejoicing in our sexuality, on saying "you are beloved." She was able to step into that space and to join me there in ecstasy. it was both magical working and offering:a gift to my lover, but also an offering of love to the goddess.

Yes, it was absolutely an experience between two humans in our relationship. We explored the physical manifestation of love between us; we grew closer. We had an experience that was ours. However, the working and offering of the previous paragraph transcended that. I was there not only as Sam, but as Venus's. I was working the magic of love. This was both less and greater than the interaction as Sam and beloved. Less in that I think I could have created that experience for anyone sufficiently open; anyone I could trust to treat the experience with respect, anyone who could trust me and be open enough to walk into the space I created and join me there. That is, there are aspects of the experience that did not depend on the unique relationship between us. More in that I felt a connection with the eminent deity within me, the spark of Venus, the part of her that we remind people to find within their own heart. I was acting out the role of lover, welcoming the beloved. I was the flame, stirring the cauldron. And together, we were love. And acting that out, creating that for someone, experiencing the joy of giving that is bigger than any of us. The connection between the two of us was something that was uniquely ours in that moment. The specific experience of the working and offering of the sexuality of Venus's path was uniquely ours, but it was a manifestation of a relatively universal mystery that can be offered to anyone who is ready.

I said that to the extent I was acting beyond myself I was Venus's. But Venus's what? I was not her host, not manifesting her. I was connected to her within myself, and offering an act of worship to her transcendent beyond that. I felt a connection to her, a sharing of the energy of the experience. The experience was sacred to her, but she was not called into the space, not a participant. (Nor would I feel comfortable with that without explicit consent of everyone involved.) I felt her approval, her joy to my offering, to bringing more love into the world, to helping someone re-open to a kind of love. I think the realization of this possible intent and the skills necessary to pull it off came from my study and work with her. However, the decision, the desire to offer this service came from within myself. In the moment, going forward was easy, only because I had pondered and explored ideas like this for months before. More than anything I was Venus's servant, her whore. Yeah, this is the first thing I've ever done where the term sacred whore really seems to apply. There I'm emphasizing both the idea of sexual service offered as well as the idea that this service is somewhat generic, offered to advance the goddess, not offered between lovers in a relationship. Obviously we use the term today very differently than the historical temple slaves that were the genesis of sacred prostitution.

Before I explore my reaction and conclusions, I want to make it clear that I met the beloved in a position of strength. She had the strength to return to the sexual aspects of Venus's path on her own. Similarly, even though I will always be able to reach out to that side of Venus's work, some day I may be accepting the gift of this type of experience. I'm open to helping people go places where they could not have gotten on their own, but that isn't what was happening here. There's a special joy in accepting a gift that you could have reached for yourself, and that was part of what made this interaction special at the level between us. In no way did this diminish the strength in love of either participant.

I love pulling apart this experience because it illustrates so much of what I feel in being open to spirit. It existed at multiple levels. It definitely was a sexual experience between two people building their love. No other level can take away from that. At the same time it was a instance of a sacred experience that could be shared with others. Those levels could be separate and could happen without each other, but here they were combined. So, did I care less about the person sharing the bed because I brought in something more universal? No, our experience remains ours; it is both complete alone and a component of the whole. What if the connection wasn't shared at some level? Well, that happens all the time; things mean different things to different people. For myself, I've chosen to accept my experience even if it has meaning and connection that is not shared. And yeah, the reality of a connection that is not experienced on both sides is an interesting paradox of human love. In this instance, that paradox actually both happened and didn't happen. When we were talking later, I described my perception of the multiple levels of the experience. She said that she hadn't experienced it that way, but having experienced the mystery, once I pointed at it, she was able to view things from that standpoint. She then shared her view, and as it happened I connected with that. So, we walked away with a multitude of views of the experience, broader than either of us found on our own. For myself it would not have taken away from anything if we had ended up experiencing things differently. Even the motivations are complex. I did this for myself wanting to connect with another, I did this for myself wanting to offer to Venus, I did this for Venus, and I did this for my beloved. This experience also helps me think about how slippery a connection to Venus is, how difficult it is to capture how I relate to her in any given interaction. Where do we draw the lines between worship, offering ourselves as the gods servants, and calling the gods into us and offering them a chance to work their will. I've pointed where I felt the lines are for me in this experience, but things are a bit fuzzy and different people might interpret things differently.

For me, the experience was beautiful on all sorts of different levels. The human connection was wonderful and I'm glad that opportunity arose. It helped erode some additional taboos around sexuality to be able to experience offering my service in a sexual setting. I've believed that sex is something I want to treat as sacred, but we can help each other approach the sacred, even approach mysteries of sexuality; having a safe way to validate that helped me grow. There are a lot of reasons for approaching sexuality; multiple reasons or intents may apply at once. I reject the idea of judging peoples motivations for sex. You engaging in sex for reasons I do not value does not take away the value of my sex. You engaging in sex with me for multiple reasons, some of which I value, does not take away from the shared part of the experience where our values overlap. I believe this with a passion, and having an opportunity to put my will behind my words and embrace an experience with intent that I valued but that others might not was hugely significant for me. It felt that in addition to putting my will behind the experience I was acting to give power to the idea that I do not judge others' value in sexuality. Having my beloved see my work, respect it, and treat it as sacred is huge. Being able to do it in a context where a more traditional sexual interaction was also taking place helped me be free and comfortable enough to bring my full will into the experience. being given the gift of acceptance, being told that acting as Venus's sacred whore didn't take away from anything and was actually valued as sacred is huge. Having someone strong and connected with their love enough to explore this sort of thing is really wonderful. Actually, I have multiple people like that in my life; that blessing is of uncountable value.

How would I react if someone I knew less well approached me and asked if I could create an experience to help them come closer to the sexual side of Venus work? It depends. I'd need to do it for my own reasons, not theirs. I would need respect, I would need confidence that our ideas of sacred were compatible. I'd need safety. I'd need to have confidence that the value was worth the cost. It actually involves a fair bit of connection with someone to confirm those things. However, it's something I'd at least consider. I have actually been approached by someone where I didn't have a sexual connection wanting to explore a particular sacred sex experience. That didn't end up working out because we were not able to approach each other in a mutually sacred context. Perhaps this is something that will only work for me in the context of relationships that would already have a sexual component. Who knows; the future will tell.

Venus and the Ocean.

hartmans Tuesday November 18, 2014
After IETF 91, I spent some time vacationing in Hawaii.. I love the ocean.
I've always connected with Venus rising from the foam on the sea. It seems a much better creation story than a love goddess rising out of the blood of castration. I've found the ocean to be a place for meditation, relaxation and healing.
The FOV community has focused on fire as a transformational symbol, and I've found power there. However, take a moment to ponder the sea. The sea is a birthplace of life, an environment where complexity has evolved, ever changing. Magically, we have the joining of earth and water. The strength of salt, the change of water. I can connect with Love springing forth from blood, sex, tears and life-giving water. Or if love is the goddess fracturing so that the lover and beloved could embrace change in order to sacrifice and know love, well, I can see that too in the sea.
I've found it easy to reach out to Venus in the sea and ocean. More the supportive goddess, Venus of the cauldron filled with the universal potential of love than Venus of the flame, the spark that chooses one love, making it real.
I got a lot of time to spend in the ocean. I was there floating, meditating letting hmy consciousness wonder, touching, being touched by spirit. I spent a couple of hours in this space over my stay. It was very healing. The first few minutes especially were quite intense. I needed to relax, to remember the Three Truths; to offer these truths back. I found that.
Later, I was on a boat; a brief pleasure trip. I think there were about 30 people on the boat. We were running into the wind at between 17-20 nauts in what I'm sure was light chop for the Pacific. However, I was enjoying myself and sat on the front-most seat. As the ride became more rough, I found myself alone. My world shrunk to the throbbing of the engine below me, the tossing of the boat, my hands holding me in place, and a face full of wind and spray. It was wonderful, exhilarating. I found myself truly in the moment, and reached out to the spiritual with a heart filled with joy. I laughed. I sang to Venus, thanking her for an improved ability to enjoy moments like this. I honored the ocean, but most of all, I simply was.
I like these experiences because they combined both very modern elements with very spiritual elements. I am very much a creature of technology, of the modern world. I'm happy that I can have a spiritual experience at a resort beach that is carefully maintained and that is nice to swim at. For good and ill, we are part of the world; we change the world and reshape it just as it shapes us. My spirituality isn't something only to be found in woods or ocean untouched by man. I'm pleased that when I reach for it, it's there. Similarly, I'm pleased that even on a party cruise, if I can get a little distance, I can find it there. However, I'm also pleased that the ocean has deep roots in time and legend. It's still the same ocean, dangerous and healing, whether approached with all our technology or approached many years ago.

Compassion and Debian

hartmans Tuesday November 11, 2014
Life has been too stressful to write about the entry that had me nervous. I tried writing about something else, but found that I was not getting anywhere. Then I stopped to ask myself where my mind was and where I was working with Venus and love. I realized I was spending a lot of time on Debian.
In the near future I'll talk about how I'm trying to take the lessons and magic of Venus work and thread them throughout all my life. I've talked a little about that in Love in Daily Life, but here's what has been for me a fairly intense example of what is becoming an increasingly important pattern. Debian Linux tends to be an emotional as well as technical investment for its contributors and members. We tend to believe in the importance of building the best operating system we can for our users and the free software community. Through focused intent and a lot of hard work we've brought something together that artists, activists, and corporations find valueable. I feel like I'm really putting my energy behind giving everyone access to technology when I spend energy on Debian. We work hard, and because we care, we fight hard. The last while has been really rough for our community. Lately I've been trying to bring the magic of compassion and healing into our work, because soon we're going to need it a great deal.

We've been having a discussion about how Linux computers initially load software when you turn them on. However, it's really about what kind of community we want to be. Ian Jackson describes how he wants to see us as a forum for technical cooperation where people have an opportunity to pursue their goals and find those who have similar goals even when it's not obvious to everyone that the goals have sufficient support. We try to enable people to do work even when that makes things somewhat difficult for others. Ian feels that is threatened by a ongoing discussion. As I write, sometimes things get tough when goals come into conflict. Some people want to work on different approaches. Others want to take systemd, the most popular approach, and see how much we can advance the state of the art by running with that and building lots of new ideas into it. People working with less popular approaches are worried they will be unable to get enough man power to keep up with the innovation in systemd. They are worried that if enough people start depending on advances made in systemd, their ability to keep working on things they value will be compromised. They are worried that they will be denied the ability to pursue their goals and dreams.

It's been bitter. The discussion has been going on for over a year. The initial decision was decided by a casting vote of the committee chair. The casting vote had never before been used and broke a 4-4 tie on the third ballot. There wasn't even agreement on what the ballot options should be. There was at least a majority agreement that some decision was better than no decision: our voting system would have allowed either side to force a further discussion result had they chosen to do so. We've been subjected to death threats, harassment and all sorts of badness from outside the project. Within the project there have been attempts to have people removed from their positions, claims of dishonorable conduct, claims of folks acting in bad faith, pleas for help coping, and resignations. Eventually some aspects of the decision were brought to a project-wide vote. Some folks are going to be really unhappy no matter what we decide. There are five options on the ballot; there may not even be a clear winner (although our voting system will do better than you might think at avoiding things like runoff elections).

There's a lot of pain. Here's where the Venus work, compassion and magic comes in. I care a leot about this community. I want it to be somewhere where I can work and bring about a better world. I asked how can I bring about that intent? How can I bring more love to the experience? Then, I began. I wrote about the world I was hoping for, shared my feelings, and exerted my will to offer that to people. I invited them to contribute to the world by being open about what they were hoping for in terms of healing. Several people joined me and opened up about their hopes; many more wrote and said they appreciated the reminder for compassion. My message helped another share their desire that we focus on the joy , happiness and love we bring from this experience.
I find that a lot of Venus work is having something between the strength and foolishness to believe you can change the world and to just go and do it. I was pleased with how things are going, but sadly, the pain runs really deep. This weekend one of our developers opened up about his disgust with Ian Jackson's behavior in this process. Unfortunately, that too is part of love and compassion: we need to be able to open up about our hurt and see how the world will respond. Is this a place where our pain will lead to positive change, or is this a place we need to leave because those who do not consider our needs and feelings will continue to hurt us without a response from the community. I had a challenge. How do you respond with compassion and build a world of compassion and respect in the face of that? The best I came up with was a attempt to respond to this while acknowledging the hurt, trying to build empathy with what caused it as well as Ian's position, while challenging people to meet me in the strength of constructive compassion. I was sad to learn that things had gone too far for even that. Another developer raised his belief that someone was not engaging in the process constructively, but instead viewed it as a war with enemies to be defeated. He thought that action needed to be taken to remove this person. What a mess. I left with one final message arguing for compassion even when we take actions to remove people from our discussion. My hope is not that we judge people but we simply take the actions we need to in order to preserve our community. It shouldn't be about "we hate you," or "we dislike you," but more like "we are removing you so we can have a constructive discussion, but we welcome your return when you are able to participate constructively and show us you can." Obviously, sometimes it may take a while to show that. I've tried to argue for empathy in all sides of this. To some extent I've been successful. I think the messages expressing real hurt today were heard mostly with understanding and a flame war didn't really break out even though the messages were hard. Firmness and compassion go together.
I don't know how this will all end up. However, I feel that I've acted honorably in my path, finding a way to offer the lessons I've learned to a community I value. I think I've done what I can: people need to make their own choices. I'm very close to pushing things as much as I can while still offering the respect I value.
To me, this is as much about Venus work as any ritual I plan. I'm working with will, magic and energy as much here as I am around any fire. The drums are quieter, at least when I'm not hearing the pounding of my blood as I feel challenged to preserve that which I value.

The Fear of being Open

hartmans Tuesday October 28, 2014
I'd planned on writing something else. In fact, I wrote about something else, but as I began the final proofing of the post, my stomach began to twist itself into knots. It's not the first time I've been scared being open about my love related work, and so I decided to see if I had better luck writing about the fear of being open itself. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one: even people who have been teaching and leading for years find it scary to open up and be more public.
For me several things make it scary. I feel vulnerable when I share my love work because it's really important to me. I'm hoping for connection, to help others. It would hurt to find that my offer of openness was not respected or that people value me less because of what I'm doing.
I'm afraid that by being open, I'll be less effective. I'm worried that my openness will get in the way of my professional computer work. I'm worried that people will evaluate my spiritual work and somehow find it wanting and use that against me somehow. Perhaps I'll find it harder to learn what I need or to find people to work with.
I'm worried that by being honest and open, I'll make people who are important in my life uncomfortable. This has actually happened a number of times and it can be quite painful.
It's kind of scary to open up and write and speak your thoughts into the void, wondering if anyone out there is reading, and wondering whether they value what you have to say. I suspect all authors have this fear to some degree.
At some level I'm worried about being perceived as a freak. Hmm, that last isn't a very NVC way of putting it. Perhaps I need a certain form of acceptance and desire to be secure in my human interactions. Sometimes when I've learned that someone has read something I've written, I feel exposed and naked. I'll find myself in a social situation and realize that someone I only know professionally or know hardly at all knows rather a lot more about the intimate details of how I interact with my gods, lovers and self than I would have chosen to share in that context. So, when I talk about being perceived as a freak I'm talking about that need for acceptance not being met.
I'm also worried about respecting others and their paths. I talk to gods; I mean that quite literally. Some people are uncomfortable with that. Someone might reasonably feel uncomfortable when they consider other aspects of my path. I want to find a balance where I can be open but not force openness on people in contexts where they are uncomfortable with that openness.
It's interesting that context figures prominently in two different directions. I'm happy being open in a context where I'm hoping/asking people to consider my words as a way to consider self-growth and love. I'm uncomfortable when I find that openness pulled into another context where I would not choose to be as open. Symmetrically, I'm sad and disappointed when I think someone might find themselves in the context of my openness without wanting to be there.
Writing these fears down is helping to make them mine and bring them somewhere constructed. Understanding the fear, I can contrast it against the good of being open. I want to build a world that rewards openness and where people can choose to be open about their growth. I've got to take the first step, and that drives everything else. Yes, it's painful when I am open with those who I care about and they are not comfortable with the openness or with who I am. I think it would eventually be much more painful were I to hide from them and let their perception of me drift apart from the reality.
In principle people could try and use my openness against me. I haven't seen that happen very often, and it seems far outweighed in my experience by the good that comes from being open and challenging others to grow.
Yes, I do sometimes feel exposed when people know me in different contexts than I expect. However, over time as I gain confidence and comfort with all the aspects of myself, this matters less. Generally people respect boundaries and if they choose to find me in a personal context, they will respect that in other settings.
So, yeah, this is kind of scary, but it's also very rewarding. Thanks for listening. I think that reasonably soon I'll feel comfortable sharing posts I have queued.

Compassion and STI Testing

hartmans Thursday October 23, 2014
Messages about the importance of testing for sexually-transmitted infections are all around. I agree with the importance of that testing. However, often when talking about testing, people fail to adequately consider the very real impact of testing on our feelings and how to approach that compassionately. Approaching testing with compassion is a hard-won love skill for me.
Why do I say compassion. Well' let's take a look at what happens when you ask someone to get tested. You're asking them to take a risk. Probably they will learn that there's no concerns identified by the tests. In some cases this might be a relief, but often people are nervous and worried when seeking medical tests. People are typically frightened when they think about learning they have a STI. How will it affect their sex life, and the rest of their life? What will the people who care about them think?
I've been there multiple times when someone told me that they found an unexpected problem as a result of tests I asked them to get. They were frightened thinking about how I would respond. My first reaction was to think about my own feelings. How do these results affect what I'm willing to do with them. I typically feel relief that I asked for testing, along with fear thinking of how easy it would be to choose a different strategy.
However if I've asked someone about their test results, it's because I care about them enough to be more physically open with them. It's easy to forget them in the moment, but they are there hurting and worried and very vulnerable as they tell me test results. Over time it has gotten much easier to focus on their feelings and needs and show them empathy. I try very hard when people ar reporting results to focus on them. I'll have plenty of time for my reactions, but in the moment when they are reporting their results to me is an excellent time to honor and respect the risk they have taken at my request. I can offer a reminder that an infection is not a judgment about them. They are not bad because they have a medical condition. They are still desirable and valuable; they love, and are loved; they are love.
Reporting results is the most obvious place for compassion, but there is room for compassion throughout the process. There's wide variability in what tests people consider important and in how often people test. Some doctors are really reluctant to order certain tests (HSV especially comes to mind). It's hard to ask someone to go out of their way to get some test that their doctor doesn't seem to think is necessary. I don't like to be difficult. However I need to live in integrity, and I need to do what is necessary to feel medically safe. Sometimes that involves asking others to take tests. I can try and explain my feelings. It is really wonderful when my lover shows understanding and is supportive of my needs in this area.
Safe sex practices are about responding to our needs for safety; there is no right answer. There's no right answer. Sometimes medical knowledge can inform things and sometimes when someone understands new information it changes what they are comfortable with. Medical facts and probabilities are only one factor that informs our comfort; often no matter how much data you present to someone, their feelings remain. It's not a group decision; each of us needs what we individually need to feel safe. The question is what can we find in the overlap while respecting each others' needs. Also, of course the importance of handling situations when we're not comfortable with something that our lover wants with compassion. They aren't wrong for wanting it; we aren't wrong for being uncomfortable. This one is hard; I've found that even in the best relationships, there's some sadness and frustration when one person's needs for physical safety don't match another's desires.
In conclusion, I've found it very valuable to think about the human side of testing as well as what I want medically. I try to be supportive and think of my lovers' feelings throughout the process. I try to be strong and own my own needs, while making it clear that conflicts with those needs are a judgment of no one. I hope that you'll give compassion some thought the next time you approach a conversation about testing.

Being in the Moment with Sex

hartmans Sunday October 5, 2014
In a number of future posts I'll talk about ways I've found to appreciate myself as a sexual being, treat my body and sexuality as apositive part of the experience of sex and to appreciate and rejoice in the physical act of sex. I want to take a moment to talk about why these are things I value before I discuss how I've accomplished these goals. The last—appreciating and rejoicing in the physical act—probably requires the most exploration.
A number of years ago one of my lovers noted that I tended to focus a lot of the physical details of a sexual experience. When discussing it I might recall how a particular toy was used or what positions were used. She wondered why I focused on this rather than the emotional impact of the experience. I was confused at the time, because these aspects all seemed very related. I didn't understand myself enough to articulate an answer.
As I've studied ritual, I've gained the vocabulary and experience to explain this to myself. A big part of what we do with ritual is use shared, repeated symbols to help us into a particular emotional/spiritual space. Lighting candles alone does much less than lighting candles with the intent of connecting with the elements or the gods. Lighting candles with intent does more when the participants in a ritual share that intent and understanding or when the intent and understanding are shared in a community.
The physical aspects of a ritual aren't why I participate. Typically I value the deeper levels, the connection, the work that is done, the spiritual experience. However, I try to pay attention to the physical level too. It tends to be a set of symbols I share; the physical serves as cues for other levels. I can form associations with the smells of particular incenses or with a sequence. Together these can help guide me to a spiritual space.
Just so with sex. As with ritual, there's skill involved in constructing a sexual experience. As an example I've learned a lot from Christine's classes about anatomy and the interaction between mind and body. Paying attention to the physical details helps me understand how to create sensations in my body and that of my lovers. By paying attention it's easier to teach and be taught how to physically connect with a new body.
However, for me, there's more value in mindful awareness of the sensations and acts of sex than just learning to be a better lover. As with ritual, we attach feelings and spiritual connections to the details we notice. Just as I have formed a sense of anticipation and calm with three breaths I've learned to respond with anticipation and excitement when being touched in certain ways. These associations matter a lot to what space we will find ourselves in. We can influence these associations. Will I be embarrassed by the noises I make worried that the neighbors will know I'm having sex? Alternatively I can embrace the experience and over time my cries will be associated with the joy and wonder of connection and self acceptance both for myself and my lovers. When I smell my excitement do I hope that my lover is unaware, or do I point it out to them, showing them another signal they can use to understand what they are doing to me and showing them the amazing affect they are having on my body? When we share the details we notice we can create a space based on connection and openness where we're not hiding from the wonderful bodies we have but instead using them as tools to create emotions, connection and spiritual experience. I've found pleasure in being open to taste, smell, and sensation, working them into my awareness of the other wonderful levels of the experience. I've found joy in being able to use the physical symbols as part of sharing my experience of sexuality.

How Do Venus Revels Differ from Dionysus or Pan Revels?

hartmans Friday October 3, 2014
A while ago I had an opportunity to interact with Dionysus. He asked me "When the maenads come calling, will you join." I interpreted this roughly as if offered an opportunity to join his revel would I or would I resist. I answered roughly "I would join up to my limit." He responded, "That wouldn't be joining at all, now would it?"
Not wanting to provoke a scene with a god I left it at that. Later in the evening a group of us were discussing the worship of Pan and how those who work with Pan find their limits pushed and find themselves challenged to let go and live in the moment.
I've never been at a Dionysus revel, although I have been at a relatively tame Pan revel. I've certainly been at a number of Venus revels.
Dionysus's question started me thinking. "I'll join up to my limit," is very much the kind of answer I'd give Venus when talking about all sorts of surrender, and it's the kind of answer she seems to expect. There does seem to be a difference in how I approach a revel in my Venus work and the sorts of things Dionysus and Pan seem to be looking for. All three gods seem to value living in the moment, embracing your feelings, relaxing your limits, connecting with your primal self.
However there seem to be some differences, and I think it would be interesting to explore them. I find that my Venus work is focused on transformation of myself. I work on getting comfortable with fewer limits. I do spend a lot more time living in the moment in my daily life. I'm less self-conscious. However as part of letting go, I carefully consider my safety and that of those around me. The limits are very situational and I am generally very aware of what the limits are.
When I enter a Venus revel, I know where my limits are as much as I would entering a BDSM scene. Typically by this point, I'm comfortable enough that I can go through an entire revel without coming close to feeling unsafe. I know where the limits are, but they are in the back of my mind, out of the way, not interacting with me in the moment. Sometimes as I interact with someone else, I'll focus on their safety and for a few moments understanding the new situation and its limits will come to the foreground.
being very aware of the limits has helped me have much more relaxed limits and be much more open than I was in the past. I know that there are a lot of risks I'm comfortable with because I've thought about them. I can live in the moment without worrying about whether I'll second-guess myself later.
This works well for me. However I'm getting the impression thinking about Dionysus and Pan that there's another mechanism for surrender out there. Something more about finding a time and space and letting go in that space. I suspect it gets somewhere similar in the end, but the path is very different.
I've found it useful to consciously think about how much of the Venus work seems to be about explicitly understanding your limits, exploring them and how to adjust them for a situation. I had an intuitive feel for how this fit into Venus work, but now this is something I can actually try to explore and write about. I don't think I will personally explore either the path of Pan or Dionysus, but I'm very interested in thoughts on how these paths compare and contrast with Venus's exploration of limits.

Join me in the Strength of Love

hartmans Thursday September 18, 2014
My work with Venus and her exploration of love has focused on approaching her and approaching love from a position of strength and self knowledge. With this approach, we start by understanding what we want—what we need—accepting this, and drawing strength from our needs. I managed to capture this while writing to a girlfriend about a year ago; I'll share an excerpt from that essay :
I hope you will meet me in the strength of your feelings, sharing them even when it is hard. I hope you will meet me in the strength of your needs, acknowledging them and meeting your own needs even when that is hard. I hope you will meet me in the strength of your love for your self, strong in the conviction that you are worthy of love, that you embody love itself. I value you, the you that is true to yourself.

I wrote these words to her. However, every time I read them, I also hear the lover speaking to the beloved, the goddess speaking to all those who would work with her.

This is a message about coming to love with agency, with an understanding that we always have choice. I do not have to do what Venus asks; I can and have spoken to her where what she asks conflicts with my needs. I can work with someone in a relationship, but it is not a judgment of either of us if we need different things. Sometimes, often actually, we can find common ground. Venus's path has helped me develop the skills to do that. When we cannot find that common ground, sometimes the choices are very difficult. However, even when we leave a relationship, we can leave respecting the others' needs and feelings, honoring them as the embodiment of love sacred but on a path different from our own.

It's a message of trust. When I hope that someone will meet their own needs, even when that is hard, I trust them to do that. When they say that we've found common ground, when we find a compromise, I trust them to accept that only if it is right for them. If I have lingering doubt, I discuss that doubt as my own feeling rather than pretending to know them better than they know themselves. More importantly, I trust them to stand up for themselves and not to settle for less than they need. I support honest compromise, but I hope people will stand firm rather than denying their own value.

However, this idea of coming to love from a position of strength extends further back than that essay, running through the core of my entire Venus work. Looking back at my notes on the first Venus ritual I attended, I find the entire invocation of Venus into the space was based on this principal. The priest asking as consort told us that we needed to take responsibility for what we made of the opportunity offered. We were asked to commit to doing that; Venus was brought in on the energy of that commitment, we and she bound willingly by that sacred vow. The strength of Venus and my resolve to respecting our needs was surely tested over that first ritual as I struggled finding a balance that was right for me to open to her while respecting my existing commitments and some long-held needs.

Later, I was considering whether to accept dedication to Venus. I was evaluating it as a very serious question because it seemed like there would be no turning back from that decision once made. Venus had other ideas; she told me that if I ever needed to leave, there was a way and she showed me a ritual for respectfully leaving the community. On one level, i felt safer, more certain that she was a goddess who respected my agency, my needs. On another level she was asking me to commit more fully to meeting her in the strength of love. Every time her path requires surrender, I surrender willingly. There is a safe word; I can walk away. The surrender is deeper because it comes from a stronger position of power, trust and knowledge. The commitment to Venus and love is ongoing, renewed each time I live in the moment with my needs and feelings, embrace them, and actively choose how her path interacts with my needs.

This strength is also echoed in the Three Truths. I come to love knowing that I am loved. I am strong in my capacity to love; this is true and nothing can take it away from me. No matter what my needs, no matter how painful the consequences of my choices, these things are true to me and they lend me strength. I also hold the truth that I am love. I come to the table where we build connection as a peer; like everyone else around the table I have sacred value.

I hope you will join me in the strength of love, exploring and discussing your path and mine, finding common ground. In that spirit I welcome you to my blog and offer what I have learned in openness and strength.

These are the People Who Share my Life

hartmans Friday September 12, 2014
Recently, I realized that many of the people in my life now are going to be the people who support me and who I support through the rest of my life. I watched as I helped friends grow and face challenges. I sat beside my girlfriend in the emergency room. I asked the people closest in my life to pitch in and help me out. and later, thinking about the challenges that some people in my life are facing, I realize that I'll be there through the rest of their story.
Ten years ago, having names to put to my circle of love would have been such a relief. Ten years ago, my greatest fear was that of being alone. I imagined growing old without a primary partner, somehow drifting apart from my friends, and eventually finding myself declining through life with no one. I wanted to find someone, find relationships so that I wouldn't have to face that darkness.
I've come to see things differently. First, love is dynamic; it's about risks and growth. The certainty I find today relates to my confidence that I can continue to grow, continue to connect with others. I watch my parents, others older than I, and I see that throughout a life it is possible to build, establish and strengthen connection. So, I can approach the rest of my life with confidence that I will be able to find love and connection. I'm no longer worried about whether the connections I have today are strong enough to last the rest of my life, but instead, I draw strength from my skill at maintaining these connections and building new ones.
As such, I can face the inherent vulnerability of love, drawing strength and joy from it rather than approaching my fear. Sometimes I'll be taking joy from my ability to support someone else, being there so they are not alone. Because I have strength in where I am, I can connect with them and their needs.
I've even found growth in how I approach accepting support from others. I come from a position of strength. Even though I may be vulnerable today, there is no shame or fear in expressing that vulnerability. I have offered something in the past, I will have something to offer in the future. I can rejoice in accepting the help of my friends in connecting through being cared for. I can do this without fear of taking too much and ending up alone clouding my connection.
Most of all, I can live in the moment of love with the people in my life. I can feel that I am loved, that I love. Yes, death and other forms of distance will change the future. I've chosen to believe in my future self and those around me; I don't need to solve all the future's problems now. I have the rest of my life to work to not be alone but instead to be love.

End of a Season

hartmans Tuesday September 2, 2014
Last night was my final fire of the season. After skipping saturday's Primal Arts ritual, I attended the final ritual of the festival, which will be my final fire of the season.
I'm told the plan had been an impressive grounding ritual. However, the gods made their will known in the form of rain. Yes, there was a fire, but it ended up being a different fire than intended, and apparently other elements were disrupted. So, we had a community fire where we all worked together to create our experience. The themes of the ritual were supposed to be connection with the earth, and each other and ancestors. If you are a bit expansive in the last part and speak of connection with what came before, we accomplished all those in style.
The first dance was one of the most amazing experiences I've had around a fire. I might have been the only dancer at the beginning, perhaps one of the fire tenders was also dancing. However, I really let go, offered thanks and my service to my goddesses. I opened, connected with the drummers and the fire. It was delightful and wonderful; the drummers and dancers built together to this amazing climax to get the evening started.
Then it took off: a beautiful combination of fire, drumming, music, dance, sexuality and performance!
A wonderful end to a wonderful season.

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