Sunflowers & Make-Believe: Discovering My Sensuality As a Child

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sunflower // annemiek groenhout

One of the fondest memories I have is when my sister & I were kids & used to play in our backyard & pretend we were Pocahontas. We created teepees out of pine trees with low hanging branches—we each had our own designated spot—& the the two of us would get on our hands & knees in the desert dirt to nurture the little plants (i.e., weeds) to grow with water & song.

Our stuffed animals were the woodland creatures, our clothes (old rags & blankets my mom didn’t need anymore) were animal skins, & we would dance in our fortresses in our bare feet, stomping ceremoniously on pine needles & dirt clumps. We’d make mudpies & leafy vegetable soups, & pretend to stoke bonfires with tiny twigs as kindling & a magnifying glass to create small billows of stinky smelling smoke.

Once, a sunflower randomly sprouted in my teepee, & over the next few months I watched with wonder as it transformed from bland stalk to brilliant blossom. One day, out of sheer curiosity I crouched down & plucked one of the tiny black seeds out of bloom & ate it. It was so delicious, unlike any sunflower seed I had ever had, & I spent the rest of the summer lying underneath that sunflower & slowly eating its seeds one by one right out of the bloom.

Those moments I spent in my “teepee” as a child, making up songs & nibbling fresh sunflower seeds, were some of the most sensual of my life.

I was never taught about sensuality as a kid. I was familiar with my senses, that was a lesson I was given at great length, but what it meant to be sensual was never touched on. I can’t even recall hearing the word sensuality until I was far older (& when I did it was attached very sloppily to sex).

But clearly, I was a sensual girl, naturally; I didn’t need to be taught, it was innately within me—all I needed was curiosity explore & time to play, & I had more of those things than I needed. Especially time. Minutes traveled much slower when I was a little girl, & I seemed lose myself in every second of what  I was doing—playing, creating, make-believing—while savoring every single moment.

Fast forward to now. . . Gone are the days of lying on my belly to watch ants commute to their homes. I find myself moving so fast in a world that moves even faster than I, & time is of the essence. There’s shit to be done, commitments to fulfill, & deadline to meet. My to-do list often tries to dictate the way I live my days.

Of course, in these moments of fastness, self-care gets thrown out the window. I forget to eat. My temper is short, my patience sparse. Everything feels hurried, detached, helter-skelter.

When I am disconnected from my body & senses, life merely becomes a sequence of events rather than rich, well-savored moments.

And I deeply desire the well-savored moments.

I want to get my hands dirty. I want embraces to overwhelm me with love & warmth. I want to lose myself in moments of creation, without distraction. I want the sex I have to transfigure & swoon all of my senses. I want spaciousness & pauses & sighs of pleasure.

I want to taste every note of sweetness in moment, in the same way I nibbled tiny sunflower seeds in my fortress as a little girl—with slowness & indulgence.

It’s very clear to me: The enjoyment of my life depends very heavily on my ability to slow down, to embody, to feel a connection to the world around me.

That, in essence, is sensuality. And I believe that it is my birthright. Yours, too.

So, how do we get there? How do we, inhabitants of a fast-moving world & participants in a culture that doesn’t always foster living with our senses, get back to our birthright? What does that look like in practice?

I’ll tell you. In the next post.

What Does It Mean To Be a Woman?

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makeup // catalina montaña

This is a question came up twice for me last week: once in my sensuality e-course, & another in a one-on-one session between me & a client. In both cases, it stumped us.

As soon as I heard that question, my mind began to fill with all kinds of proverbial frou-frou images that have, for most of my girlish life, represented woman: red lipstick; panty hose; shoes that go clip-clop! as I walk; pearls; tulle; eyelash curlers; pink bows; Victoria’s Secret’s super padded push-up bras; Chanel No.5; oven mitts.

But I know better. These are just things, empty tropes that have senselessly carried the weight & sacredness of adult femaleness for centuries. I see these “emblems of womanhood” & feel an instant sense of disconnect with them, because I know that there is a lot more to a woman than what brand of perfume she wears or where she buys her bras—simply because there’s more to me & my womanness than the perfume I wear or the bras that I buy.

Oh, I wish it were that simple. If only I could just by a tube of lipstick, a lacy bra, & a frilly skirt, & then—bam! Sensual adult woman activated! Wouldn’t that be nice?

And while it is true that those emblems of womanhood can contain within them an essence of the womanness one seeks, they’re only meaningful when they are worn, embodied. Otherwise, they’re just perfume on a shelf, bras on a clothes hanger. Empty.

So if being a woman (& I mean the essence of a woman, not the caricature of one) is not found in the lacy bra or the frilly skirt or the sugar, spice, & everything nice look & feel. . . then where is it & where can it be found?

What does it mean to be a woman?

Here’s what I think.

I think what it means to be a woman is as vast & varied as the women who claim the word themselves. I think that the expressions of womanhood are truly unique & intimate & personal, & cannot be defined by any one person—that is, not without using some of those empty tropes I mentioned above, which, as I’ve seen, can be useless.

I think that if anyone on the planet ever says to you, “Look here, being a woman means this & this & this!” run in the opposite direction. I don’t believe that anyone has any jurisdiction in telling you (in telling me) what it means to be a woman. Yes, even if she herself is a woman.

I don’t think that we can ask that question “What does it mean to be a woman?” without also asking “What does it mean to be who I am?” Because your womanness is intrinsically tied into the truth of who you are—all of your quirks, all of your traits, even the ones that are not soft.

I believe that if you incarnated into this life as a woman, if you claim that word as yours (regardless if the claiming is done with pride or uncertainty), it is your task to define what it means to be woman. Namely, to uncover who she is—who you are—in your own way, on your own terms.

So how do you uncover her? You give her safe space for her to be conjured. You honor her presence whenever you feel her pulsations inside of your body. You open yourself up to feel the pulsations of her inside of your body. You embody the truth that you are already a woman, that there is nothing that needs to be done or applied.

That’s a start.

I like to ask this one question whenever a client of mine is unsure of her womanness (or “lack of”):

When do you feel most like a woman?

I love this question because it has an air of lightness to it, much more than “What does it mean to be a woman?”, & there’s all kinds of curious things within its answer(s), things that can help her (you) to begin that journey of uncovering & actualization.

So, when do you feel most like a woman?

As for me. . . it’s true that I tend to feel most like a woman when I’m sporting red lipstick or when my hair looks just right or when I’m baking a pie. But mostly, the essence of my womanhood comes out when I feel at total home with myself. When I am unabashedly in my body—every crease, curve, & freckle. When I am honoring all of my inner rhythms—including the ones that feel dark or “unlady-like.” When I am tuning into my inner voice. When I’m speaking my truth.

My womanness includes much of the frou-frou images mentioned above, yes, but those things do not define me as a woman. And that, for me, is liberating, because it’s exhausting (not to mention unsustainable) to put such precedence on products or symbols & not on my own inherent magnificence.

I am a woman because I say so.
And so are you.

I Am A “Too Much” Woman

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Note: This writing is inspired by & dedicated to all of the Too Much women I have worked with, who, very bravely & against all odds, rise.

There she is. . . the “too much” woman. The one who loves too hard, feels too deeply, asks too often, desires too much.

There she is taking up too much space, with her laughter, her curves, her honesty, her sexuality. Her presence is as tall as a tree, as wide as a mountain. Her energy occupies every crevice of the room. Too much space she takes.

There she is causing a ruckus with her persistent wanting, too much wanting. She desires a lot, wants everything—too much happiness, too much alone time, too much pleasure. She’ll go through brimstone, murky river, & hellfire to get it. She’ll risk all to quell the longings of her heart & body. This makes her dangerous. She is dangerous.

And there she goes, that “too much” woman, making people think too much, feel too much, swoon too much. She with her authentic prose & a self-assuredness in the way she carries herself. She with her belly laughs & her insatiable appetite & her proneness to fiery passion. All eyes on her, thinking she’s hot shit.

Oh, that “too much” woman. . . too loud, too vibrant, too honest, too emotional, too smart, too intense, too pretty, too difficult, too sensitive, too wild, too intimidating, too successful, too fat, too strong, too political, too joyous, too needy—too much.

She should simmer down a bit, be taken down a couple notches. Someone should put her back in a more respectable place. Someone should tell her.

Here I am. . . the Too Much Woman, with my too-tender heart & my too-much emotions.

A hedonist, feminist, pleasure seeker, empath. I want a lot—justice, sincerity, spaciousness, ease, intimacy, actualization, respect, to be seen, to be understood, your undivided attention, & all of your promises to be kept.

I’ve been called high maintenance because I want what I want, & intimidating because of the space I occupy. I’ve been called selfish because I am self-loving. I’ve been called a witch because I know how to heal myself.

And still. . . I rise. Still, I want & feel & ask & risk & take up space.

I must.

Us Too Much Women have been facing extermination for centuries—we are so afraid of her, terrified of her big presence, of the way she commands respect & wields the truth of her feelings. We’ve been trying to stifle the Too Much Woman for ions—in our sisters, in our wives, in our daughters. And even now, even today, we shame the Too Much Woman for her bigness, for her wanting, for her passionate nature.

And still. . . she thrives.

In my own world & before my very eyes, I am witnessing the reclamation & rising up of the Too Much Woman. That Too Much Woman is also known to some as Wild Woman or the Divine Feminine. In any case, she is me, she is you, & she is loving that she’s finally, finally getting some airtime.

If you’ve ever been called “too much,” or “overly emotional,” or “bitchy,” or “stuck up,” you are likely a Too Much Woman.

And if you are. . . I implore you to embrace all that you are—all of your depth, all of your vastness; to not hold yourself in, & to never abandon yourself, your bigness, your radiance.

Forget everything you’ve heard—your too much-ness is a gift; oh yes, one that can heal, incite, liberate, & cut straight to the heart of things.

Do not be afraid of this gift, & let no one shy you away from it. Your too much-ness is magic, is medicine. It can change the world.

Don’t believe me? Check this: All of your favorite women, the ones who’ve made history, the ones who’ve lent their voices for change & have courageously given themselves permission to be exactly who they are—some examples: Oprah, Ronda Rousey, Danielle LaPorte, Beyoncé, Kali, Misty Copeland, Janet Mock, Mary Magdalene . . .—they’re all Too Much Women.

So please, Two Much Woman: Ask. Seek. Desire. Expand. Move. Feel. Be.

Make your waves, fan your flames, give us chills.

Please, rise.
We need you.

I Deserve to Take Up Space

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I have become so good at making myself small, of keeping a low, cramped profile so as to not draw attention to myself. It is second nature now for me to stand, speak, & be in ways that keep me from taking up space.

It first started as innocent shyness, keeping myself small—a subtle kind of humbleness; a holy, noble martyrdom. Then, it began to mutate into something more dangerous: meekness, insecurity, shame.

No one thought to pull me out of that dark, stuffy pit designated for me—no one truly wanted to. A nice girl is meek, they resounded. A pure girl gives up her space, they reinforced. Sacrifice. Back-step. Apologize.

Good girl.

And so I learned. I learned how to not be the one who takes up space, for she—the space-taker—is a steamroller, “a moving mountain,” an ancient tree whose roots damage cemented foundations.

Her energy is bigness, raucous, unapologetic. She is loud & demanding. She makes others uncomfortable because her truth is often stiff & challenging. And she is capable of exposing the truth in you, upturning rugs that cover dirt & dust & bones from your past.

She doesn’t want to be good, doesn’t want to please or sit still. She only wants to blossom, to grow her lengthy stems up & up, thriving in light, becoming & transforming wherever she occupies.

This is why she’s so dangerous.

No wonder I was taught against her. No wonder her presence is abhorred. Why would anyone want to be that woman? Who would willfully choose to spur or embody her colossal, unwavering spirit? Certainly not me.

And then I read it somewhere, this short & sweet sentence that emboldened me to think about taking up space (or, essentially, to examine how little space I was taking); I can’t remember where I found it. It was just six words, seven easy syllables; simple & to the perfect point. . .

You deserve to take up space.

It was then the proverbial record scratched & I could hear this small, muffled voice inside of me simultaneously go, “Who, me?” & then rejoice, “Oh, yes. This. Finally!”

I read it again. And again. And again once more, each time feeling like that tiny little voice was being resuscitated, as if the words were waking up parts of me that I didn’t know ever existed—the sleeping giant, the moving mountain.

And then I realized that this—this dangerous truth, this powerful wisdom—was what I’d been seeking my whole life; this was the truth that could finally (finally!) take me home to myself.

But before that ecstatic voyage, an interruption of disparaging thoughts courtesy of my Critical Voice:

How could you possibly take up space? You’re not a space-taker, you are a wallflower. You’ve existed so long crammed against these walls, you have no idea of what it means to be big. And anyway, if you take up space, you’ll leave nothing else for the rest of them.

I could feel myself shrinking back into that cramped space, that too-small fishbowl. And as my Critical Voice continued to prattle on & on about all the ways in which it was impossible, irresponsible, reprehensible for little ol’ me to take up space, that tiny small voice—the one that, in the beginning, rejoiced so happily, Oh, yes, finally!—it seemed to burst up & out.

No, it boomed.
You are wrong, it defied.
I belong here.

And so it has been.

I’ve been sitting with this voice & this notion of taking up space for months now, unsure of how to actualize it into reality. I mean, how does one claim space? Is it a psychic expression, an energetic shift of perception, or must I literally go around town saying aloud (or to myself) “Mine! Mine! Mine!”?

But the biggest question that continues to come up for me is: Who am I as a space-taker? What forms does she take within & without me? What truth does she have to speak?

I began to write it out here, & this is what came through unfiltered:

I am a moving mountain. I am expansive energy.
I have thunder in my voice & fire on my breath.

My laugh is lightening. My eyes are lazor beams.
My hair is a lion’s mane. My wisdom is crashing, salty waves.

I am large, bigness; I contain multitudes.
I am unafraid of invoking reactions, truth, emotions in others.
I am unafraid of my power to shift the energy of a room. 

And no longer will I martyr myself.
No longer will I apologize for occupying space that is rightfully mine.

I will not shrink.
I will stand tall & big & wide. I will rejoice in my capacity.

I belong here.

And you. You do, as well.

A Room of Your Own: How to Make a Sensual Fort

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Every woman should have a place of her own, a place that is all theirs, a place that they can go to to rest, relax, regenerate. Every woman must have this space, especially the wild, sexually liberated woman, for this place is her creative cave, her love nest, her sacred sanctuary where she can retreat to create or think or rest or paint or dream.

I have such a place. I call it my Goddess Space.

I created it on the eve of my big hiatus from work; a hiatus where, when before entering, I felt disconnected, despondent, & out of sync with my self, & when I exited, I regained creative consciousness, my sense of self, & my purpose in this world.

So my Goddess Space, this room of my own, is quite powerful, I think.

Having this space of my own to retreat to has been paramount in my practices in unearthing my wildish, sensual, intuitive, feminine self. It is a a safe haven where I can retreat to & in, & shut away the rest of the world for a few moments to become one with myself.

In this space I have gemstones, dried flowers, & altars to mantras & Goddesses I hold dear. I practice my divination here, I soul collage here, I meditate & pray & journal journal here. I conduct all calls with my clients here, too, as I feel that the atmosphere harnesses my ability to “speak from between my legs & write from womb.”

I have blessed this area with my wishes & curiosity & the magic that gets conjured when I allow myself to go deep within. In my space, I have birthed ideas & poetry. I have let things burn. I have cried & laughed & sighed heavily. I have especially come face to face with the essence of my being, for this is a space that helps spur realizations of greatness & power I have within me.

I’ll say it again: I think every woman needs their own sacred space—a room, a closet, a corner, a haven.

Somewhere, anywhere, that is all theirs, where they can decorate & curate & contemplate, where they can allow themselves the freedom to unfurl & undo if they wish.

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How to Create Your Own Sensual Fort

// Pick your space. Is there an area in your home that is going unused?—a closet, a blank wall, an alcove, a crawl space? Is there a room in your apartment that is more of a catch-all than anything else? Or a space where, each time you pass it you think, What I could do with this. . .? Then that is your space.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t even have to have a door or be in a room. It could be a spot above your dresser or a corner in your bedroom. It could even be in your basement or your attic or your laundry room. It doesn’t matter where it is, really, just as long as it can be easily transformed into your sacred space. (Bonus if it has natural light, electric sockets, & room to move around in.)

// Gather up all of your most beloved items; things that you’ve collected along the years, things that tickle your fancy & incite feelings of nostalgia, delight, & joy. Things like flower petals from bouquets, seashells from that trip you took to the ocean when you were little, the string of pearls you never wear but you’ve held onto them for some reason. Also: postcards from old friends, love notes from your beloved, a photo of yourself that captures the essence of your vibrancy & the infiniteness of your spirit; old fortunes from fortune cookies, rocks & gemstones, twigs & moss & feathers (you can never, ever go wrong with bringing in bits of nature), & more.

Don’t have any of these things? Go on a nature walk or to your favorite vintage store & hunt for things you can invest in for your special space. Be on a lookout for the things that produce a lilt in your heart, that put a smile on your face. Even if the things are small, even if to someone else having this one thing would be ridiculous, gather it anyway. Trust your heart & your first impulse when picking these things, too. The soul knows.

// Gather your creative tools. Your very best pens & barely written in journals; paints & blank canvases; colored pencils & a sketchpad; your grandfather’s old Smith & Corona & a book of poetry that inspires you. Also: magazines, clippings, glues, scissors, & a composition notebooks; beads, string, & bejeweled pendants; knitting needles, your favorite yarns, & your favorite mug for tea. Whatever you need to create, whatever you need to brainstorm, whatever it is that fans the flames of your creative genius, gather it up & get it ready to go into the space.

// Accessories. It’s time to set the mood  for your space. Go wild here with candles, incense, beloved affirmations written on post-it notes, a mirror, strings of lights, drapes, matchbooks, airplants & fresh flowers, sea glass, chocolates, pillows, a soft blanket, old perfume bottles, your favorite books, crosses, pentagrams, ankhs—whatever you desire & anything that will be a feast for the senses.

// Assemble with intention & intuition. Don’t think too much about the order of things. Assemble the space how you want to assemble it; put it together the way you want it to look. Use thumbtacks & tape to hang art or handwritten mantras on the wall. Hammer in nails so that your vision board stays put. String lights around the corners to illuminate the space & create a soft halo of light around you & all of your treasures. Hang curtains or put up a partition for privacy. Put fresh flowers in a vase & incense sticks in a mason jar.

Let the space speak for itself. Don’t put pressure on it to be perfect.

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// Make an altar. By definition, an altar is a sacred place where one goes to connect to the Divine. As for me, I use altars to not only pay homage to the Divine but to honor the beautiful things that I have collected, things that hold powerful significance in where I am currently in my journey. But of course, it depends on what the altar is for. I have an altar for Isis, for Buddha, for my wellbeing, for my bedside, for my tarot readings, & for the celebration of nature.

So ask yourself, who would you like this altar (or shrine) to celebrate/worship? Perhaps you can make an altar to yourself or to your inner child. Or maybe one to your creative genius or erotic muse. There are no rules to creating an altar, just bring with you materials & keepsakes that you feel can serve as an offering (or representation) to whomever you made the altar to (for instance, if it’s for your erotic muse, a shiva lingam stone & red rose petals might resonate).

Put your items on piece of fabric or a wooden plate & lay them out just so. Light a candle. Say a prayer. Give a bow.

// Create a ritual. How do you want to enter your space? How would you like to honor the sacred area you’ve created for yourself? For me, I enter my space with comfortable clothes & bare feet. Then, I burn some sage or palo santo wood to cleanse myself & the space. If I’m doing a reading, before ever taking out my deck, I’ll light all of the candles & some incense, & then begin to center myself as I play some music that grounds me. If I’m about to soul collage, I’ll meditate or pray before diving in. But usually the act of entering the space is enough to leave me feeling ready.

You might consider creating some kind of ritual for yourself whenever you step inside, one that gives the signal that the rest of the world has fallen away for a few minutes. Rituals (routines in general) are incredibly powerful, especially when they’re done with intention.

// Rules & regulations. It’s so important that your sensual fort isn’t treated like any old space in the house. You’ve gone through great, concentrated efforts to create a blessed-by-you space. it’s important to respect it & keep it clean—both clutter-wise & energy-wise.

Some rules I have for my Goddess Space: no technology—laptops, television, video games, browsing the internet, etc. (the only thing I do allow is my cellphone, but there are boundaries in place with that); no “hanging out,” such as phone calls with friends or eating lunch inside. I also don’t allow just anyone inside of my space; I like to keep the energy clean by having me be the only person that frequents.

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Now. . . your space is created. Here are some questions to ask yourself to go even deeper:

  • How do I want this space to feel?
  • What do I want this space to represent?
  • What is the intention of this space?
  • What am I going to call it?
  • What will I do to keep my space sacred?

& a blessing for your sacred space, from me to you:

May this space be built in honor of your feminine wisdom. May it be a special safe haven for your sensual spirit to blossom.
& may you find the fullness & juiciness of yourself as you step inside.

Will you be making a sensual fort? If so, take a photograph of it via Instagram & tag it with #sensualfort. I’ll be tuning in & cheering you on.

 

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