It was 2012, and life … sucked.
I toiled at a dead-end job writing about sex toys that I couldn't seem to leave. Great coworkers and a modicum of freedom, but the work had long ago lost any excitement or challenge. I wasted my days shamefully scrolling celebrity-gossip sites. I spent shifts commiserating over g-chat with my BFF, trading stories of excruciatingly boring assignments and existential dread.
After work, I went home to a narcissistic boyfriend who once passionately told me, "you know, your body would be perfect if you got a boob job." I took Xanax and MDMA often, partially to escape and relax, and partially to keep up with his sexual demands, which included an endless string of threesomes. I liked sex with him on a primal level, but spent much of it checked out, in an effort not to feel my emotions. I hated that our relationship had to include threesomes to be enough for him. I never felt like I was enough.
Finally, I broke up with him. He moved across the US, and I fell apart. I began dating someone new to keep my ex off my mind.
… I began dating someone I hated to keep my ex off my mind.
Gucci shoes, Maserati, coke-head, alcoholic: you name the thing I was completely against, and he embodied it. He bought me expensive gifts and toted me around town proudly, like I was a new toy he'd bought. I mean, I kinda was.
(trigger warning: un-detailed sexual assault)
Then one night, he drugged and raped me. I'll never know the details of what happened that night, but from the aftermath, I know it was violent.
I stayed with him for a couple of months after the sexual assault. I was deadened, despondent. I didn't call it rape for years—I blamed myself for being drunk and hanging out with a man I knew was a loser. When I asked him what happened that night, he told me I liked it rough, and that he didn't remember.
Neither of which were true.
I became suicidal, rightfully so. I started drinking a lot. The assault happened a few days before a planned trip to go see my narcissistic ex in California. I remember the intense pain of telling my ex I wasn't coming, because I was seeing someone else–as if that were the reason.
Feeling that I had ruined my chance with my ex, I immediately booked an appointment to get breast implants, the ones he had always wanted.
My inner child reaching out for the approval she oft mistook for love. "Look at what I'll change for you. Look at who I'll be."
A couple of weeks before I was set to leave on my boob-cation (the plan was to travel 1,000 miles to get breast implants; apparently I wanted to cause as much strain on my healing body as possible), I attended a New Year's Day yoga class near my mom's house. Just your standard hot, sweaty vinyasa class.
I'd been an on-and-off yogi for years. Yoga was my beacon, one of the only places where I felt real, where I had no choice but to feel all my emotions, and to face myself. To face the incongruence between who I truly was, and how I was living my life.
There was something about yoga, the way it broke me open, the way it forced me to get quiet, the way it showed me what was True.
I couldn't escape it. I ran from yoga for months at a time, because the Truth pissed me off.
Yoga was tough love, a trusted friend sitting me down and telling me: "There's another way. Stop giving yourself away to men who don't honor or accept who you really are. Stop pretending for their approval."
(The irony in that: it's not like these men benefitted from me pretending to be their perfect little women. In the short run, sure. But in reality, I was fake and filled with resentment. No love was being transferred in either direction. Just two people playing out their childhood wounding, entrapping one another in a cycle of hurt.)
At any rate, in savasana that day, New Year's Day 2013, yoga again had her way with me. As I lay on my mat, sweaty and used up, I saw something Divine. A green light, emanating from my chest, connecting my heart to the cosmos.
For five minutes, I remained in awe, watching the light dance and pulse. I didn't know about chakras, or that the heart chakra is traditionally depicted as green. I just knew something from beyond the veil was speaking to me. Something deeper. Something more.
I remember driving home from that yoga class, deeply knowing that something HUGE had happened. A portal had opened, an irreversible path revealed. The inexplicable had chosen me. I knew instantly I could keep throwing my life away, keep giving my gifts away to jobs and men that weren't big enough for me ..
or I could step into the unknown.
I could trust the call.
I could choose life
instead of this slow, painful death
I'd been inflicting on myself for years.
The next week, I cancelled the boob job, and used the loan I had taken out to start yoga teacher training instead.
(Yes, you can clap and cheer.)
Was it all golden light rays and infinite love from there on out? Mmm ... Not exactly.
It's not easy to change your life.
(Though I must say, it’s 100 times more doable than people think.)
It's not easy to ignore that drip of energy down the back of your neck, the prickle of the skin that says, "Hey, Lynn, it would be really fun to go out dancing tonight, get wasted, and meet some random guy to spend the night with. Who knows? Maybe he'll be The One! And we can stop having pain forever because we'll be seen, understood and taken care of. Oh, and we'll have amazing sex for the rest of our lives."
... You don't have that voice? Well, perhaps you have a version of it. That voice that makes your addiction sparkle, that makes it temporarily glisten with hope and possibility, that hides its deadened, muddy colors with a glossy sheen.
My yoga mentor explained it succinctly: when we remove the negative aspects of our lives (i.e. our addictions: men we desperately want to give us attention because our fathers never did, unconscious sex, drugs/alcohol, binge eating, etc.), we are left with empty space.
That empty space is terrifying. Boring. You bite your nails there. You marathon annoying sitcoms. You go to bed early and writhe awake in bed. You yearn—you long—for release.
To move through recovery successfully, you need to put something in that empty space.
For me, it was yoga. Working out. Spending time with new, awkward friends who didn't totally get me, but had to do, because I couldn't be trusted near the wily old friends.
I spent my time learning about chakras, reiki, and energy healing. I discovered self-compassion and gratitude (concepts my critical, judgmental mind had literally never encountered), meditation, ecstatic dance, shamanism, astrology, and other personal growth tools to fill the space—painfully-slow-like. I found an amazing therapist and coach. I became more spiritual and open to life. I discovered sacred sexuality. Though I still encountered setbacks, I began amassing the tools that would help me out of sticky situations and low spells just a little bit faster.
A couple of years into my journey, I found myself single. I began drinking a bit more, and staying out late. Okay, I was getting wasted. Getting hung over. Hanging out with pretty much any dude in my city that I hadn't dated yet.
And then, him.
I found myself drawn to a man with dark, charismatic energy. Repelled yet magnetically wanton, I made my way to his bedroom, and had shitty, rough sex that I felt unable to stop. I went into freeze, into past trauma, and abandoned myself.
It seemed my karma of catering to narcissists, letting them feed off my compassion and softness, wasn't done yet.
You see, a few months before I met him (we'll call him The Darkness), I had discovered sacred sexuality and the yoni egg. My practice was delicious and nourishing. I had awakened the feminine within myself, and participated in shamanic ceremony, forgiving myself for my past. My sexuality was shifting; I was truly becoming mine, instead of belonging to, and changing for, a man. I even got a tattoo to alchemize the experience. It read, “I am Mine.”
Yet there I was, dating The Darkness.
I was dating my Darkness too, to be honest. Courting the the familiar pattern, the ease and comfort of mounting doom.
You see, when you claim a new identity, life tests you. When you claim yourself, as I had done, life will give you the sexiest narcissist ever (one who spouts spiritual sermons to boot), to see if you really do belong to yourself. To see if you can stay the mission.
Will you self-abandon to your addiction again? Or will you give yourself the life and love you deserve? Will you pretend that salvation can be found externally ... or will you come back to the Source within?
I spent a month dating the Darkness. A month, in what felt like an altered state—observing his alcoholism, the ways he pitted his friends against one another, how he used his off-the-charts charisma and intelligence to set people up to hurt themselves.
It was fascinating.
And intoxicating. In his beautiful moments, he was hilarious, creative, and alive. He lavished me with compliments that somehow managed to be both see-through and ego-boosting. He kept me close: a confidant.
I wanted to help him. Fix him. Make him into a reformed bad boy, a King fit for a Queen (me, of course). I wanted him to desire me so badly that he would just fucking change already. I wanted to be the catalyst, the impetus for his monumental shift, from Darkness to Light.
What I'm saying is, I was in my ego a little bit too.
Week four of our month together. It's the same week I'm studying Kali in a jade egg course. As I immerse in the goddess of fire and destruction, the Darkness recounts a particularly gross night of debauchery. A night spent with a 17-year-old girl (he's 35). Last night, to be specific.
Why did he have sex with her?
To get back at a friend.
I let this percolate.
It's. the. last. straw.
Kali moves through me quickly. I destroy him. I do so with compassion, I think. I do so as that friend who sits you down and tells you who you really are. No sugar.
And I leave.
And (ugh) it's not as easy as you think it would be.
I think about him, and I dream about him, for months.
I berate myself for it. I go over and over what I should have said, what I should have done, fixated on my mistakes.
Then, through a podcast that comes just at the right moment, I learn about trauma bonds, and the way our brains are designed. When someone hurts us, they make a stronger imprint on our amygdala. When we can't stop thinking about a lover who was awful to us—that doesn't mean we have some deep, cosmic connection. It's just science.
So, I set about my work of getting over him. I use ritual to unwire my body and brain. I dig into my tools. Yoga. Emotional release writing. Ceremony. Fritz Perls' Empty Chair Process. Tarot. Jade egg. Energy work.
Most importantly, I forgave myself, and emerged into the light.
What do life and love look like these days?
Present day: I'm in my lover's arms.
We are connected in every way. He's inside me, looking into my eyes. His arms are fully wrapped around me, and he rocks back and forth, slow, so slow.
I can feel the energy, the compassion, the love, the desire that he has for me, emanating from his heart and his penis. I feel the same love and desire for him, showering from my pussy, my heart, and my third eye.
Sometimes when we make love, I can see our past lives. I see us in red, dancing around a fire: witches. He draws runes on my body with his tongue.
Sometimes when we make love, I am full of the week's frustrations. I can't feel him. I cry and he whispers, "I love you. All of you is welcome here."
When my hips start to hurt or I need water, I tell him, so we can take a break. If I feel grief or rage, so I can move into the emotion and feel into what's next.
Sometimes I feel myself slipping away, going into old patterning, checking out when something doesn't feel good, instead of requesting a change.
I might catch myself, or he notices and asks, "Are you okay?" We've spent time creating this agreement: if he notices I'm not fully engaged, he checks in.
Sometimes we play for an hour, sometimes three. We have sex to connect, to feel and give pleasure. We laugh when we drool on one another. We laugh and sigh when no one has a climax. We laugh in delight after we come. We have heart-centered, hot sex. The two can co-exist.
It's not always perfect. And it turns out, that's kind of the point. Being with sex and self-pleasure in all its iterations. Being with your body in all its feelings. Being with your emotions in all their magnitude. Being with your lover in all their selves.
My lover and I share our messy humanness, vulnerably, as much as we can. On the foundation of our love and chemistry, we walk into the unknown and create
And honestly, I feel the exact same way about myself, with or without a lover. In the same way that I am fully here, fully present in sex ... that's only come about because I've been willing to be present and here for me.
Of course, self-pleasure is much different now too. More expansive. More joy, more bliss, more sorrow ... more permission to feel what's really there.
These days, I go slow during sex and self-pleasure. There are certain tools I've learned over the years that help: both practical and more esoteric.
I stay present—and I notice when I'm not.
I practice sex breaths, sounds, movement, relaxation, and visualization that move energy throughout my body and raise my capacity for pleasure.
I use my yoni egg to transmute and let go of the past.
I work on sexual development solo and with my partner, the same way I work on personal development.
When it comes to sex:
I let all the emotions come up. Bliss, desire, boredom, frustration, grief. I voice them.
I only have sex when I want to, and without alcohol or substance.
I check in with my partner, and I request that he checks in with me.
I co-create the experience rather than depend on him to read my mind or lead the way.
I cultivate gratitude, rather than focusing on what's missing.
My sexuality belongs only to me, and I honor my needs and desires first and foremost.
How did I get to sexual and personal autonomy?
All of the above, and ...
Becoming aware of my patterns and false beliefs, learning self-compassion, and truly listening to my body and nervous system.
Putting my need for self-expression above my need for connection, and realizing that when I act against what I really desire, just to get approval from a lover, I don't get the real connection and love I desire.
Specific Taoist, Tantric sexuality practices.
And now my work in the world is to help you become truly yours, in life and in sex. My story doesn't have to be your story—the trauma inflicted by our culture of shame may have made you hyposexual (low desire, shut down around sex) rather than hypersexual (the way I used to be).
Most of us don't know ourselves around sex. We haven't been given any sort of education, any model of what it might look like when sex is healthy, pleasurable and empowering. We haven't parsed out what society and our parents told us about sex, from what sex could be, what we want it to be. We haven't made it ours.