Easton is such a jewel in the mountains. It reminded me strongly of summer camp, but the cold breeze whipping through the mountains at all times provided a stark contrast. It was unreal how quiet it was there -- my first day, after setting down my bags, I wandered down to one of the ponds. Two Canadian geese flew over my head, and I could hear the sound of the wind rushing over their wings, simply because there was no other noise. It was surreal.
The workshop, CBE, pushed a lot of my boundaries -- emotional, physical, sexual -- in a place that was both safe and consent-focused. As I explained to a friend, the workshop begins with some basic consent skills and emotional trust exercises, then builds to help participants explore their comfort and knowledge of their physical bodies, leading ultimately to really intense connection with the sexual self. The workshop was structured very specifically to help participants learn their boundaries and connect with themselves and each other, though living in residence with the same group of people really helped me to get to know them in unique ways. I can see how it would be great to not be in residence -- just to go home, chill, and turn off each night. But one of my favorite parts of the weekend was the impromptu -- conversations about gender, sexuality, and identity over dinner, telling stories in the sauna, and late night discussions with the girls I stayed with.
I really enjoyed the chance to get to meet so many amazing women of different ages and backgrounds, each of whom had felt driven to Easton Mountain. How do you explain to friends, family, and others why you would choose to take a weekend and fly, train, or drive to a remote location to an erotic energy retreat? How do you explain that choice to yourself? And on the flip side, how do you go back into the world, having occupied an intensely spiritual, sexual, and emotional safe space, secluded in the mountains, and explain what you experienced? I don't have the answers for this. I know that, as the director of the workshop explained, the experience can leave you feeling expanded, though the world (and us) are constantly expanding and contracting. Pieces of the workshop, for me, will always exist at Easton. Other pieces have threaded so intricately into my life, into my thoughts and actions, my memory and future, that I see this work as a stepping stone at the beginning of a journey, not a door at the end.
CBE was a healing place for me. It was also a reminder that, as hard as it might be, we have the power to heal ourselves. I tend to turn to my friends for healing, which is important in its own right. But sometimes I must learn to turn inward, to listen and not run, to pay attention. CBE was at times, a scary place. Some of the exercises pushed me into emotional and physical places, outside of my boundaries. CBE also brought out a lot of things about myself, and my body, that I had forgotten -- how much dance has disciplined my movements, my own reservations about intimacy and receiving, the pleasure and pain of stretching my body and my mind, and the rawness of sex when it is unexpected and unpredictable.
I'm grateful for the experience. I'm grateful for the women who came to Easton, grateful to those who opened their lives and allowed me to explore in very personal ways. I'm grateful for the friendships and connections I made, and for the chance to walk away from my life for a bit and come back with a complimentary but new perspective. I'm grateful for the tools I learned, and I'm grateful that these places, these spaces, exist. Whether I get the chance again to go back to another workshop or not, I think this is important work. As Sinclair said, there is a connection between workshops like these and other types of sex-positivity, because they share the values and vision of creating a world where sex and sexuality are embraced as a positive force in our lives, a part of life and body to be explored and enjoyed, not a realm of shame, fear, denial, and pain.
The whole weekend, I was reminded of this quote, which is one of my most favorite:
“I am not arguing here for free sex or for more sexual expression, quantitatively speaking. I am arguing for living dangerously, for choosing to take responsibility for working through the possible consequences of sexual feelings rather than repressing sexual feeling and thus feeling more generally. I am arguing that our capacity to transform…the world is rooted in our capacity to be alive to the pain and anger that is caused by relationships of domination, and to the joy that awaits us on the other side [in a relationship of mutuality and equality]. I am arguing that to be alive is to be sexually alive, and that in suppressing one sort of vitality, we suppress the other.” -- Judith Plaskow