About 9 months ago, I had a really big ugly cry. You know the ones. I was outside, walking my friends’ dogs, in a neighborhood where I could easily run into people I knew. It was around 8pm, and maybe the darkness gave me permission, but it was the kind of ugly cry that was going to happen with my permission or not, bursting forth from some built-up internal geyser of emotion, and in this case, that emotion was despair. I was overcome with a deep loneliness and longing I had been avoiding for months, and as I rounded a particularly well-lit corner that night, it caught me. But before the tears could dry on my face, my call-for-help was just as quickly answered. I returned from the walk, opened my computer, and like a scene out of Sex and the City, I had an invite in my inbox, a giant billboard-sized nudge from a friend for something called “Aphrodite Circle,” led by a woman named Eva Clay. I was told she was a sex goddess, and this thing, this Aphrodite Circle she was leading, had one opening left with my name on it. I clicked on the link and a website opened, asking, “Feeling frustrated, hopeless, or bored with your love life? Starting to feel like you’ll never meet ‘the one’? Do you get emotionally wrecked after casual intimate encounters that result in radio silence for days to follow?”
“Yes. Yes. Yes.” What was this Twilight Zone? Was this some sort of divine intervention? Within the hour, I was on the phone with Eva, my new therapist/heaven-sent coach in all things sex/love/relationship related, her delight washing over me as she listened to a condensed version of “my story.”
Nine months later, not only has that story completely disintegrated, but I try not to tell myself “a story” anymore. I’ve thrown the narrative out the window. I feel more present moment awareness and a general current of self-love, so that life, as it shows up, delights and stimulates me, dependent on nothing but my own pleasure, which is like a garden I tend to every day now. There’s been a lot of weeding, A LOT, but what Eva has taught me is that as women, our power, freedom and confidence are directly rooted in the rich soil of our pleasure, which is ultimately our responsibility to cultivate. It has changed the way I eat, smell, love, laugh, enjoy, and generally show up for life.
So yes, I joined this Aphrodite Circle. We gathered once a week for two hours in an online virtual chatroom that looked kind of like the Brady Bunch squares. At first, my resistance was SUPER high. I was skeptical and wanted to see results over night. I was convinced that unlocking my inner Aphrodite was going to be hard, because a part of me didn’t actually believe she existed, but what I soon found was that although she was buried under shame, she was just waiting for the permission to come forth. She was that soft, vulnerable, loving part of myself that wanted me to slow down in a fast-paced world, so I could feel my own subtle, sensual, supreme wisdom.
The women that gathered on these calls were of all ages, backgrounds and relationship status, all in various points on their personal and sexual trajectories, and all desirous of more pleasure. So much more. A Pandora’s box was opened into a whole world of research and dedication to female arousal and pleasure. I hadn’t read any of the books. I hadn’t watched any of the talks. I had Eva as my guide, which was what I needed more than words on a page. I needed a person who heard me, saw me, and got me, and with Aphrodite Circle, I had Eva and an instant sisterhood of women who wanted me to succeed. Aphrodite Circle lasted six weeks, but the journey with Eva was far from over. I went on to her next program Path to Pleasure, which included women from Aphrodite Circle and brought in more women from around the world. Path to Pleasure led to a retreat in Topanga Canyon called Bliss, which was one of the most freeing and life-altering experiences I have ever had.
At first, I couldn’t comprehend that the practice of living in pleasure is the key to everything. Consciously going for pleasure throughout my day has been a gradual shift, a slow habit to build, that simply started with asking myself, “what’s the most loving thing I can do for myself right now?” and then doing it. Sometimes it was drinking a glass of water. Or having a square of dark chocolate. Or running a bath for myself. Or buying myself flowers. I was learning to become my own best lover. I was learning how to date myself and treat myself like I was deserving of love. That is hard after years of self-deprivation, but it’s cumulative. It grows. The inner “yes” begins to beckon. “Yes, you can have it. Yes, you deserve it. Yes, you are worth it.” I started remembering my true essence and seeing myself through the eyes of love, after seeing myself through the eyes of “not enough-ness” for so long.
I began to think that reclaiming pleasure might just be the most sacred and important work women can do to heal the collective over-shaming and over-sexualization of our gender and to usher in the divine feminine energy that will help transform society and the planet. Eva has invited into our calls her incredible Rolodex of female sexual health experts, educators, bodyworkers and healers with information that is reality-altering and downright holy. I’m literally relearning my own anatomy and awakening to my pleasure potential at 37, working through blocks that would have taken years of one-on-one talk therapy to get through. It feels like a full-body exhale of relief from stuff I didn’t even know I was carrying.
Women in circle is an ancient practice that produces transformation on the most subtle, cellular level. You almost don’t know it’s happening until you look back and you remember that night of the ugly cry and how you feel so drastically different. With each circle that gathered, I was amazed by how quickly a group of women could go from not knowing each other to fully relating and loving each other, because somehow, every story feels universal and shared. To witness other women confront and blast through sexual shame, openly share their trauma, be vulnerable, support each other, and cultivate new relationships to their bodies is nothing short of amazing. It’s like learning how to play the whole instrument after only knowing a couple notes our whole lives. I resonated with each woman’s story, struggle and desire, and longed for all the women in my life to have this experience, too. I thought of my mom, my aunts, my sister, my cousins, my nieces, and every female friend I had, and I felt them all there, supporting me, like a bigger network, the network of “WOMAN.” I felt I was healing my shame on behalf of all the women in my lineage and re-writing the story for future generations in my bloodline.
Six months ago, I would have said my love life was nonexistent. Now I say I have a great love life, and there is no man in the picture. This work has helped me to reclaim a sense of myself I thought was lost. Pussy power is real, and I can understand why it’s threatening to the toxic masculine, which I realized I also have within me. A recent practice with Eva was embodying my sexual archetype. When I was given my archetype, I judged “her” harshly, felt that “she/me” would get rejected by society, would be an outcast. I had within me the virgin/whore complex that many have studied and written about. That toxic masculinity appeared in my dreams for three nights after the exercise, asking me to examine where and how I was taught that my eroticism and sexuality was “bad” or needed to be hidden. I also learned where my feminine had become unhealthy, how spiked estrogen from birth control had taken me off the rails, how to manage fantasy and detect more quickly when hormones take over. I’ve learned how men and women are simply wired differently and how to have conscious, loving, supportive conversations that ignite a man’s power and his “king-dom.”
Learning together how to approach sex and relationship, first with myself, in a more authentic and conscious way has changed everything. The study of my pleasure feels like the first real, healthy sex education I’ve had in my life. I’ve learned that recognizing pussy (a word, a name, I am only now, at 37, comfortable saying), is recognizing myself and aligning myself with my truth. Though I’m not dating anyone in the traditional sense, my friendships are benefiting, my family relating and communicating is more present, and my relationship to myself has deepened into a really sacred thing. Learning that feminine turn-on can flow through me all damn day doesn’t mean there’s gotta be a goal involved, just being turned-on by life is where it’s at for me right now.
I’m starting to think that worshiping my own womanhood is my new faith and what will lead me to spiritual wholeness. I feel like my cells are upgrading and my nervous system is expanded and calmed. I think ultimately, all this work is helping me recognize life in everything, in all moments, and being more aware of how the feminine IS creation – birth, life, and death – and how she always brings me back to myself, in her sensual, warrior and compassionate incarnations. I feel so lucky to have been led to this work and to have such an exquisite teacher to gently guide me back to ME. I am profoundly grateful to Eva Clay, and the women I have circled with. If this speaks to you in any way, find Eva or your own “sex guru,” because I believe, with my whole heart, that this work will change the world. Learn from them and from yourself what you deeply need and desire, because you deserve it. Pussy is just waiting for you to say, “Yes.”
To learn more about the amazing Eva Clay, visit her website for blog posts, videos and podcast links. www.evaclay.com