Patrick and I walk through Kaiser to the basement classroom. Around us, people shuffle and limp. Some use canes or walkers. For once I feel at home and on pace instead of struggling to keep up. In our class there are knee people and hip people. I look around at my tribe. A peppy and kind male nurse takes us through what to do to prepare for surgery, what to expect the day of, and during recovery.
One black woman there with her daughter, the patient, tells a horror story about a friend who broke her new hip in a fall and then the doctors broke her femur when replacing the hip with a new one. We all groan. Why would she tell us that? The daughter wants to know if she’ll get her swing back in her hips (I do, too!). There’s the 85 year-old black woman replacing both knees next to her dapper husband wearing hoop earrings, a hat, and sunglasses. There’s the older white woman beside us who reassures me that I can listen to a relaxing meditation in the holding room before surgery after I ask a question about mind-body stuff. The room is filled with patients and caregivers, all with their own desires and fears for this next phase. One caregiver takes careful, copious notes in the pamphlet. I write notes on my phone and spill my water bottle. We all handle nerves in our own way.
Maybe I’m the youngest patient in the room but I’m probably the weirdest. I ask the nurse if I can see my femur head after they take it out, maybe take it home. He says, It’s yours, God gave it to you so why not? Ask your surgeon. I have a desire to see it, this worn-down, bone-spur covered ball, this teacher and bane. I might place it on my altar.
After today’s class it hits me what a big deal this is. I didn’t get it before. I’m not allowed to sit normally, cross my legs, or rotate them in or out for three months. I already haven’t been able to cross my legs for four years so that one’s not a big deal, but having to be that careful getting in and out of the car, or out of bed, or when I start to exercise again for that long is more than I expected.
I’ll use an elevated toilet seat with handles, like my grandmother did. MY GRANDMOTHER. I will sit on pillows to keep my hips elevated higher than my knees and carry a pillow everywhere I go. When the nurse shows us how to stand up from the toilet to wipe ourselves (so we don’t twist and dislocate the new joint), all I see is pee trickling down my leg and not being allowed to bend over to wipe it.
Wide-eyed, I turn to Patrick and whisper, We’re going to get very intimate. I’m suddenly terrified. It’s too soon in our relationship for this. We’re only a year in and he’s going to clean out a bedside commode with my waste in it? Watch me use a walker? How’s he going to find me sexy, whenever we’re allowed to have sex again, if he’s been wiping pee off the calf that I can’t reach?
As I limp out, a black woman wearing a bright fuchsia top and radiating kindness says, You walk so well!, folded walker by her side. I thank her and we smile. I laugh to myself on the way to the elevator. I’ve tried so hard for so long to hide my pain, wanting desperately to appear normal, but here, among my tribe of deteriorated-joint-bearers, I walk so well.
It’s not even 8:00 yet this morning and I’m crying. My best friend, super busy with world-transforming projects, offered to come help out in November after my surgery. She told me something had been trying to fill that small window, but she knew she had to keep it open without knowing why. I said yes through my tears. Between not wanting to impose and being an only child used to doing things on my own, it’s not easy for me to receive help. I much prefer to offer it. My friend knows this about me so she offered and a tight spot in my heart cracked open.
Part of it has to do with being wealthy, like I don’t have the right to ask for any of my busy friends’ help because I can pay someone. I know it’s dumb, but I find it hard to value my physical pain in the face of police shootings, poverty, and injustice. I end up blocking true connection because my inability to receive creates a wall. My heart breaks for all the times I’ve turned down people’s offers of help because I felt undeserving or that it would be an imposition. I believed my needs didn’t matter as much as others’ needs. But what I’ve held as unworthiness is actually a form of arrogance in thinking that being a giver is enough.
Yesterday, when I decided to write this blog, which will include info about cool technology and supplements to improve the body’s ability to heal, fear came up that I would be criticized for being able to buy these things. I want to live in a world where we all have access to these unconventional healing options, where the technology is available at medical centers covered by the Affordable Care Act but that’s not the world we live in now. I hope that raising awareness about what’s available through blogging about it could, in some small way, move the needle in that direction.
Last Tuesday, I went to the grocery store for the first time in weeks because it’s been too painful to get around it. I eased out of the car, lifting my right leg out through the door with my hand, and took the elevator to store level. For years I’ve tried to walk normally, or stay seated, so people wouldn’t notice my pain, pity me, or see me as old. Now that the surgery is imminent, I no longer care who sees me. At the store I limped, used the shopping cart as a walker, and moved slowly behind the person directing me to the aisle where I could find culinary coconut milk without apologizing for my pace.
As I wrote this, Patrick came home with a surprise: my favorite special breakfast, avocado toast with salmon from the Bulletproof Café here in Santa Monica. He made me decaf bulletproof coffee. We ate. I told him our friend is coming in November and cried again. I gave thanks for the people who love me enough to knock the wall down.
I’ve decided to blog about my hip replacement surgery that’s coming up on Oct. 14th because I would usually not expose myself here. I want to stay present with and share this experience that feels like a portal into a new self and life. Being a biohacker and spiritual person, I’ll write about various tools I’m using to hack this process physically, as well as reflect on what’s happening mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Today I bought a portable hyperbaric chamber to use at home. I learned about them at the Bulletproof Conference last weekend in Pasadena, where there was a tech fair with futuristic products, like devices that heal using light and a headband that measures your brain activity while you meditate (more about that in another post).
Patrick and I drove out to the OxyHealth warehouse in Santa Fe Springs to try out the chambers and pick a size. Pictures of several famous golfers, including Tiger Woods, line the walls of the room with the sample units. It felt like a sign since Patrick is training hard these days to improve his golf game with a desire to turn pro. Lining the hallway, a signed Lance Armstrong jersey, who owns the oldest unit of theirs, Magic Johnson’s jersey, and others. Lots of athletes and pro teams use hyperbaric chambers to speed up recovery and now I get to join them with this hack to rock this surgery! I was going to do a short-term rental but decided to buy it instead, given how great its effects are long-term.
Hyperbaric chambers saturate the blood with oxygen, which has a range of effects you can read about here. In particular, I’m excited to boost my immune system and speed up wound healing. I have a couple of trips coming up before surgery and will use it to hack the jet lag when I get home. I like that it will make me rest for 60-90 minutes, something I find hard to do on my own.
Today I got excited about the chamber and cried looking in the closet at things to pack for our partial move next week. I fell in love with an orange tabby at Petco and cried after wrapping up coaching relationships with two clients. I prayed, cleared up hurt feelings with a friend, wrote down five gratitudes, and said, Enough!, through gritted teeth when I saw the HVAC leaking on the kitchen counter. I have to give up garlic and one of my painkillers (they both thin the blood) on Friday for the next two weeks and I’m irritated by having to be vigilant about garlic while I’m traveling and the possibility of even worse pain. I’m all over the place and it feels good to let it flow. Luckily Patrick makes lists of things we need to handle each day so I don’t have to hold it all in my head and spin out like I usually would.
Thank you for joining me on this journey!
Volunteering with Rescue Workers at the Javits Center
Most of our clients can’t stop
chattering, but one firefighter,
blue eyes watering, waits
until after his massage to say,
I found a foot today,
put it in a bucket,
and passed it down the pile.
What do I do with that?
I insert needles into earlobes
of another. She can’t sleep;
her rescue dog refuses to eat
because there’s no one to find.
A third proposes marriage, says
I’d love Miami, as I stretch his legs
and rub his back to prepare him
for twelve more hours on the pile.
You’re welcome, we say
when they thank us, we
who can barely manage,
we who have seen nothing.
from Steady, My Gaze
Yesterday, I caught it: an undefended loving look. We were in the car and I reached over to touch his cheek at a red light. I’ve been stressed out for several days, tight and withdrawn, so when I felt the impulse to reach out with tenderness, I acted immediately, not knowing when it would arise again.
To be met with naked love was unexpected. I asked myself why I was so surprised. I expected a resentful response, like, “Oh, NOW, you want to show me love instead of shutting me out? Where have you been the last few days?”
I have a story about having to earn love, to cajole it out with good behavior, sexiness, or being so thoughtful that someone has to return the favor. None of these ways of trying to get love works over time. Maybe for a short time they buy a semblance of love, but it’s like eating frosted pound cake day in and day out, instead of real food. This kind of love stays in the realm of commerce. It’s a finite resource and not the ideal basis for relationship.
Love is not a commodity to be bought or sold, at least not in the type of relationship I want. Love just is. It hums steadily under the surface of whatever layers we pile on top of it. My experience of getting to love has been one of stripping away everything I think it is, and everything I think I have to do to get it, to discover it’s what’s left when everything else falls away.
Through the practice of OM I’ve learned to lie down and receive. I don’t have to be nice, don’t have to fake more sensation than I’m feeling, don’t have to “give back” after the OM is over. The practice is the practice and it is enough. In those fifteen minutes, I practice feeling my body and the connection between us, nothing more. Whatever emotions and sensations move through me do just that: they move through me. No story. There’s nothing I have to do but focus my attention and be receptive.
When my partner and I first started dating, he was more of the withdrawing type. He’d get full on how much intimacy he could digest and would pull back to regroup. I could see that happening, so I didn’t take it personally and left him room to come back when he was ready. For the first time this didn’t feel like a strategy for how to buy his love, it felt genuine.
We talked about this before he moved in almost a year ago, how my ability to not freak out when he withdrew had it feel safe enough for him to come back and open more. We agreed that I would not hold my love back or try to manipulate myself to fit what I thought he wanted, and he would grow his capacity to receive all of me. And this is exactly what’s been happening.
I discovered yesterday in the car that I still, on some unconscious level, expect him to fill up and start squirming when I send love his way. I still expect to be met with resentment when I’ve been stressed and unavailable. So when he leaned into my touch and beamed more love at me than I felt I had earned in that moment, it stopped me. I forgot where we were, that the light would change, that cars behind us would honk if I didn’t move. I took his love in, exhaled, landed in my body, turned to face the road, and pressed the gas.
Originally posted on OneTaste
The black manta circles the group, pauses until a diver fins under him, and slowly swims forward as the diver’s exhaled air bubbles caress his belly. A trembling ripples over his skin. It seems as if the sensation of air bubbling over him gives him pleasure. When we’re deep, he circles at our depth. When we’re shallow, he circles up to meet us. When we get back on the boat at the end of the dive, he hangs out near the surface within view of the boat as if waiting for our return. On the next dive, he is the first manta to show up to play with us again.
This kind of interaction with mantas only happens in one place in the world: the Revillagigedo Islands, twenty-four hours off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, accessed only by boat. The Giant Pacific Mantas here have learned to welcome the scuba divers’ presence in their waters and derive pleasure from the thing we bring into the ocean with us: compressed air.
As a feeling person who practices Orgasmic Meditation (OM), I dive to connect with the animals I encounter underwater. I attempt to enter their field carefully, in a way that would have them not take fright and leave. I try to be as still as possible to let them determine the kind of interaction we’ll have and I delight in their evident personalities. Sometimes I hum or sing through my regulator if I sense that they like the way sound vibration moves through the water.
Given that I’m also taking photographs, I’m not always successful at not scaring them off, since my desire to get the shot sometimes overrides my ability to sense how slowly I need to move or how close each animal is willing to get. I notice how my push to get what I want from them affects them and it doesn’t feel good. This black manta surprises me with his evident desire to connect, which seems as strong as mine. I put the camera down and meet him eye-to-eye, until I snap out of it and realize he’s come to a full stop, waiting for me to get underneath him and stroke him with my exhale. We swim forward together until I need to peel off and rest for the next pass.
I look for him among the chevron mantas, the less-common one, the oddball, beautiful in his difference. Not unlike myself, the only OM practitioner on a boat with people intrigued, repelled, or scandalized by my profession as a coach and OM trainer, an “orgasm expert,” someone dedicated to her awakening through the cultivation of orgasm and meditative awareness, and a supporter of others who want to do the same. I find myself downplaying what I do to some and being fully open about it with others, depending on the openness I sense in them. It’s not unlike how I approach the creatures in the ocean, with all my feelers out for the best way to foster connection and for how much connection is available with each of them. With the black manta all my carefulness falls away in the face of his curiosity and invitation to play and we experience a pure, unmediated connection.
On the first day of diving, two dolphins out of a pod of seven swam directly at me. When they parted to swim around me, I saw they had been mating, the male’s small bluish penis erect and quivering before they conjoined again on the other side of me. Is that a coincidence? Of all the dolphins in that pod and all the divers in our group the ones in full expression of their sexual connection end up swimming around me? Maybe. Still it feels significant, given everything I’ve read about dolphin intelligence and intuition. I choose to believe in a connection here, a welcome to their domain with a nod to mine.
Something else has changed since I’ve been practicing OM: I don’t get as upset when I don’t get the shot I want. Though I notice moments of tension during the week, such as when another diver cuts me off while I’m swimming under a manta with my GoPro rolling, the tightness doesn’t last long and I’m soon re-immersed in the wonder of the experience. I also notice I don’t effort like I used to in order to be accepted or liked by the rest of the divers. If there’s resonance with someone and we have a conversation, great. If not, I do my own thing.
During a quiet moment underwater, it hits me: I’m having the experience of living from “full,” an effortless feeling of rightness like the sensation of perfect buoyancy, not floating or sinking but fully met and supported by the water. I experience a felt sense that everything is perfect as it is, even if the sharks are too far away to photograph or someone cuts me off mid-clip. My only role is to meet each moment with openness and willingness to play.
So when the last night arrives and I don’t feel like getting drunk with my new friends, I don’t feel pressured to do so to fit in. Sober, I hang out with them until I want to go to bed. I give thanks for the mantas, dolphins, octopus, sharks, and people I had the privilege to meet. I give thanks for the compressed air that allows me to experience orgasm and meditation underwater with creatures that seem to feel it, too.
Originally published at OneTaste
“Tie yourself to the mast,” I said to my coaching client.
“Your desire is the mast. Tie yourself to it. Don’t waver no matter what your thoughts say.”
My client’s head was swarming with Siren-like thoughts that wanted him to play safe, be appropriate, not ask for too much, and do the right thing. In The Odyssey, Odysseus figured out the way to survive the Sirens’ waters. He had his crew stuff beeswax into their ears and tie him to the mast. He went mad listening to the Sirens’ call and begged the crew to steer toward them, but because they had wax in their ears they kept steering straight ahead so that the boat escaped being dashed on the rocks.
I’ve found it useful to have a big D desire in life, a guiding desire that provides a focal point around which to organize smaller desires so that they lead me toward where I want to go. For example, a big D desire could be to love everyone unconditionally. Another, to end world hunger. Another, to be enlightened. Mine is to live a desire-based life and love and serve God with all of me. My big D desire is the mast that supports my back when I otherwise would give up on going for what I want.
My allegiance to my desire is the rope. Many people who are oriented toward freedom and awakening chafe against constraints. We work hard to free ourselves from conditioning that no longer serves. But some constraints are necessary and provide the structure within which we can find freedom. Allegiance to a big D desire creates a structure against which to gauge the small desires that surface throughout the day: do they bring me toward my big D desire or away from it? I willingly tie myself to the mast in order to allow my big D desire to free me from temptations that could take me off course.
My community also helps me stay the course by holding the ends of the rope and—unlike Odysseus’ crew who had to be deaf to survive—listening past the chorus of mental voices and helping me discern the choices that keep me going toward my big D desire.
As Stanley Kunitz wrote in a late poem, “Touch Me”: What makes the engine go? / Desire, desire, desire. When it comes to desire, no matter my efforts to control, numb, or shut it down, it always resurfaces. Three years ago, after several years of exhaustion and on-and-off depression from an autoimmune disorder, the desire to end my marriage poked through the layers of lucky, appropriate, good enough. Because underneath those layers was a hunger eating me alive. Because as wonderful as my marriage was, I wasn’t fed in ways that my desire found necessary. I had untied the rope and was steering toward the rocks.
Now, since becoming a desire-based coach, no matter how loud the voices get that would have me shrink, isolate, or make the safe choice, I stop and remind myself of my big D desire. In the moment, I choose one small desire that takes me toward my goals. Today that looked like asking a friend to tell me something she likes about me. Yesterday it looked like keeping the door open to my room when I wanted to shut it and hide from my friends. I’ve learned I can’t get through these waters alone. When entering rough territory, I ask my crew to remind me who I am and I hold my big D desire in mind. I press my back against the mast and ask my friends to keep taut the rope.
After a number of grueling days spent at the mercy of my mind, today I woke up with my head above water. I feel like I can breathe again. This poem came to mind, one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy it and find room to breathe through this holiday season.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.