The title of my website is Massage By Ki implies massage and you might wonder what the link is between massage and Somatic Sex Education. It seems like quite a jump.
Telling my personal story of how I got into this work and how I’m still growing in it might make it easier to understand.
In 2003 I had an epiphany and I knew that my life had to be directed toward doing healing work. I quit my jobs as a white water raft guide and an environmental activist and I took up massage. I trained in Lomi Lomi massage and Thai massage. I loved massage and I was good at it.
I wasn’t a Registered Massage Therapist, so I got a lot of requests from people, men especially, to massage their whole body including their genitals. At first I was righteously and indignantly opposed to the idea. That was just wrong and bad!
Then one day a beautiful young woman came to see me for a relaxation massage. We got to talking during the session and she told me how she did sexual massage, ran her own porn production company, and did professional dominatrix work. This woman was not a victim. She was radiant with life energy and confidence. I was inspired. Something inside of me shifted.
I starting questioning myself, “Really what is my problem with sexual touch? Why am I so uptight about it? Why do I touch people’s body all over except for their sexual organs? What message am I sending to people about their bodies?”
Well I decided the answers to those questions were all based in some narrow minded morality that I actually didn’t agree with. So I just up and decided to change the way I thought and what I was doing. Actually it’s truer to say that I changed what I was doing and the way I thought eventually changed too. I had to do some serious inner work to see and change my own negative biases toward sex.
So in my massage practice I just jumped into the deep end and started advertising that I did erotic massage, or “full-body” massage as we say in the biz, as well as my regular relaxation massage. That was in early 2004.
My work became a challenging and interesting learning environment to say the least. Immediately boundaries became an issue – a lot of people, men and women, wanted more sexual play than just an erotic massage. In some sessions I felt like I went further than I wanted to. Communication was difficult too – many people wanted an erotic experience, but they didn’t know what it was they wanted exactly, or they were too ashamed to express it to me, and I was left trying to figure it out. Needless to say there were mixed results – some sessions were deeply unsatisfying for me and my clients. My own unresolved issues around sex got activated while working with clients. At times my own needs and desires would mixed up with those of my clients. Or I’d try to please my clients without exactly knowing what they wanted. Those early days were messy.
I hadn’t yet found any mentors or community to help either.
What helped me most in those early days was a supportive group of friends with whom I was open with about my work and my own personal meditation practice of Vipassana. I gave myself a lot of self love and forgiveness and I genuinely desired to liked this work and wanted to help people. Even with the challenges, most of my experiences were very positive. I learned a lot about myself and my relationship to sex. I got a front row seat on the huge diversity of sexual problems and desires that people have.
After a few months of working on my own, I found my first mentor, Maryse Côté, a tantra teacher with decades of experience. I took a couple of 2 week tantra intensives with her and also became her assistant helping her organize and run other trainings. I learned so much from Maryse. I love and respect her dearly. Her teaching focussed on tantric ritual, erotic massage and the sacredness of sex.
What I learned from her was a good start but not enough. When I touch someone, especially when I touch their genitals, I’m not just touching their body, I’m touching their whole history with sex. I’m touching their emotions, beliefs and meanings about sex, themselves and the world. Unfortunately Maryse didn’t explicitly teach about how to deal with that tangled web. Certainly she is a master at doing it herself but she didn’t teach it. Only now, years later am I even able to describe what I was needing at the time but wasn’t getting.
So I kept looking for guidance and I kept doing my work with my clients – to be honest they were my best teachers. I’m still learning.
My next teacher was Dr. Joseph Kramer. Dr. Kramer is truly an erotic education pioneer. He started the Body Electric school, an innovative series of workshops focusing on attaining ecstatic states by combining breathwork and erotic massage. He is a master at creating experiential erotic learning environments using massage. Out of this work he created an academic program and a certified profession, Sexological Bodywork, in California. This program is taught in San Francisco at an accredited university, the Institute for Advanced Study in Human Sexuality.
I thought, “Wow here is something accredited that includes sex and touch – that’s leading edge.” I signed up for this training as soon as I found out about it and graduated in 2007. The training gave me some important pieces that I needed for my work like technical training in using breathwork and erotic massage. I also got a whole new perspective on using bodywork as a modality for teaching people about themselves – Somatic Education. There were some unusual teachings as well, like masturbation coaching and anal massage. The course also had some great reading material like Jack Morin’s book “The Erotic Mind” which expanded my understanding about what turns people on.
The Sexological Bodywork training was great but I still didn’t get training in dealing with people’s emotional and psychological material. Sexological Bodyworkers are supposed leave that to other talk therapists. Well ideally that is what should happen. But many of my clients didn’t have a talk therapist. And even if they did I still needed tools to deal emotional material that arose during our sessions because the best time to deal with it is in the moment it arises.
In that moment a window to the unconscious opens briefly (a memory arises, an emotion is felt); and, if I’m skillful, I can use that opening to help my client complete a healing process (come to a new understanding or make a new meaning around an old unresolved experience) before the window closes and the material disappears into the unconscious once again. What I just wrote may seem incomprehensible to you. I can only even begin to describe this process after years of my own training and coming to understand how emotional healing process works. You really have to experience it yourself to understand what I mean.
So my search for tools for dealing with emotional material continued.
One of the unexpected benefits of taking the Sexological Bodywork training was that I met Dr. Betty Martin. She became another one of my teachers. Betty is dedicated to bringing a level of professionalism and ethics to the practice of using sexual touch for healing and education. Betty is an expert in boundaries, consent and communicating desires. She has devised a conceptual model in this area which I believe is revolutionary. And she has devised a way teaching that conceptual model in real life situations between people – be they lovers or a practitioner and a client. I was already learning the hard way, hit and miss with my clients, but her work just made it explicit for me and teachable to my clients.
Her teachings and the Sexological Bodywork training totally shifted my practice. Up until this point most of my work was with men who would come for a sensual pleasurable experience. There really wasn’t so much of a healing or educational intent. I didn’t have a problem with that. Even in those single sessions which are “just for pleasure” there were often unintentional sexual healing and learning “side effects”.
For example, a man, after getting a great massage with a release, will often spontaneously opened up and share a meaningful event from his sexual history, usually painful in some way. All he needs is for me to hear him, to see him with compassion, and stay with him for a moment in a quiet non-judgmental space. Something shifts, some deep tension in his body lets go and there is a new possibility for joy in his life. It’s wonderful.
After the Sexological Bodywork training and my studies with Betty these sort of experiences increased and become more intentional. I started attracting more ongoing clients. There were a couple of women that I saw weekly over the course of a year with serious sex and intimacy problems. My work was still focused on massage but there was more talk and inner exploration. I learned a lot from them as I helped them. My biggest personal growth areas were about the delicacy of maintaining such an intimate ongoing connection with someone on a therapeutic basis.
But the missing piece for me was still how to skillfully deal with people’s emotions and belief systems – how they see themselves and the world especially in the context of desire, the erotic and the sexual. That inner world is murky, complex and fraught with fear and shame. All of my trainings skirted around the edges of dealing with it – either ignore it or send them off to another expert. That didn’t work for me.
By sheer chance I stumbled upon Hakomi. Hakomi sounds like some foreign metaphysical therapy but it is actually a very new form of body centred, somatic, depth psychotherapy. It’s based in mindfulness, loving presence and all of the new brain science.
Ron Kurtz, the creator of Hakomi, calls it assisted self-study. In Hakomi you do not look upon the client as a person in crisis seeking therapeutic help but rather a person curious about getting to know themselves better. It reminds me of the writing above the entrance to ancient Greek oracle at Delphi, “Know Thyself”. I like that – it’s empowering. At the time of writing this article I have been studying and using Hakomi for 2 years.
Hakomi uses the body and touch as a way to access the unconscious mind, emotions and beliefs so that they can be examined and changed. And the learning of Hakomi has nothing to do with reading books but rather practicing how to enter into a deep resonance with clients and create a space of trust and communication where healing can happen without effort. It was the last major piece that I had been missing in my work and really gave me the confidence to work on a mental and emotional level with my clients and not just their bodies. Nobody in the Hakomi world as far as I know is doing sexual touch.
I’ve actually become somewhat circumspect about just jumping right into doing erotic massage with someone who wants to do deeper work in finding more freedom and choice in the areas of sex and the erotic. A lot of people come to me out of desperation and think that they need something radical like a tantric massage to “breakthrough their resistances” or “remove their blocks”. Sure they could possibly have a great “WOW” experience with a tantric massage but it often doesn’t translate into anything useful for their day to day life. It’s similar to the “workshop effect”. If you have ever done a weekend personal growth workshop and feel like a new person on Sunday evening but by Wednesday morning you have a hard time remembering what you learned and life looks pretty much then you know what I’m talking about here.
These days I’m looking to create more lasting changes in people. To do that requires spending more time creating a deep trust with clients and teaching them about mindfulness and communication before we get into sexual touch. After studying Hakomi I use less sexual touch to do more somatic sex education.
So it feels at this point I have all the major pieces in place for my somatic sex education. But I have to say that I still feel very much like a beginner. And to be honest I feel comfortable with that. Beginners mind and being open to the spontaneous rather than “knowing” is the appropriate response to have when dealing with sexuality. So much of what the experts know about sexuality is dead wrong in my opinion. It’s much better to just approach each person as a mystery and create a loving space where they can discover themselves.
That being said I am constantly digesting new material about sex, the erotic and sexual healing. My education will never be done.
For example, I recently became very much interested in the work of Esther Perel the author of Mating in Captivity. Here is a woman who has deeply examined the elements that give rise to, or kill, the erotic in long term loving relationships. This is especially interesting to me because so many of the individuals and couples who come to me seeking help are in relationships that are devoid of the erotic. I’m also interested on a personal basis because I am in a committed relationship with a 7 month old baby and I’m feeling like my old erotic identity has evaporated and I’m searching for a new one. Often my own life is a fertile field for learning about sex in ways that I can bring to my clients.
So bringing it into the present, if I had to describe my area of “expertise” it would be in using touch and mindfulness to help people develop mastery in what I would call the “satisfaction cycle”. It goes something like this:
– Feeling safe with intimacy. Which depends largely on developing healthy boundaries e.g. being able to say No and Yes and feeling like you have sovereignty over your body and personal space.
– Feeling good about enjoying eroticism and sexuality. Or in other words seeing yourself as an erotic and sexual being and that being a good thing which means getting over sexual shame.
– Knowing what it is that will satisfy you, referenced from yourself, especaily by paying attention to what your body is telling you. This is in contrast to the default position that most people have which is trying to please someone else and give them what they want.
– Communicating your desires to another person which requires specific erotic communication skills which may be verbal or non-verbal. This also requires self confidence.
– Receiving and enjoying what you asked for. Receiving touch is a definitely a learned skill. In our touch starved culture there are a lot of people who don’t have it. Getting the touch you want might also require that you be able to teach another person how to do it. This is another skill.
– Allowing the cycle to repeat over and over and deepening into your satisfaction, pleasure and the connection with yourself and your partner. This is the ultimate goal.
Every step of the way there is stuff hidden in the unconscious, habits and beliefs, that will sabotage the process and keep you from fully getting the pleasure and satisfaction you want. I don’t know anyone who is completely satisfied and at peace with their erotic life, there is always another level of erotic mastery that can be attained.
So there you have it. That’s a “brief” history of my evolution from a masseur to a Somatic Sex Educator. If you’d like to discuss how I might be able to help you please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 604-618-3381. I offer an initial free consultation of 45 minutes. Go ahead take a chance – all you’ve got to lose is the stuff that’s keeping you from having the erotic satisfaction that you desire.