The opening lesson from Bruce Lyons, leading facilitator, was that ISTA is all about Love. Divine Love. Returning to it, living through it and acting from love.
I did breath a sigh of relief at this point, considering the yogic spiritual journey is the same source, I felt a little more at ease. Here I was thinking ISTA was all about sex, a topic somewhat more confronting in a public arena and combined with a few stories I’d overheard… well, I’d expected to be challenged.
Challenged I was, but in different and unexpected ways than I had imagined. Whilst experiencing the source of Divine Love may be the energetic goal of the course, sexuality and intimate rites and rituals were the pathways chosen as the doorway to this realm. Here is how the week unfolded…
Opening evening: articulating between body mind and thinking mind. In small group we shed the layers of clothing and spoke from our thought concepts about our bodies. After this, we shifted into the body and allowed it to speak back. For me, having no real issue with nakedness, I didn’t flinch in undressing. However, I was surprised in how the energy of my body-mind spoke from a place of denial and betrayal. My mind, it seems, doesn’t have a problem with my body, perhaps mostly ignores it, but my body however had a thing or two to say to my thinking mind. Pause for reflection…
Each day started with meeting and sharing in our small group (pod) followed by free expression dance with the whole group. From my understanding, in most of these courses, clothing is optional. However, due to the culture in Egypt, many of the offerings had to be adapted, and in the open spaces we were to have a minimum of swimwear on.
The week had a progressive feel, a daily theme that built on the previous. We started by shifting stagnant emotion so the kundalini energy could rise up. It is quite common for our conscious or thinking mind to suppress the rising energy (especially in the yoga world where we focus greatly on ‘mindfulness’ and witnessing thoughts without delving too deeply into feelings and emotions). In order to allow the energies to rise, we cleared first the masculine channel, by ways of paternal father issues, in order to mature to the cosmic father energy.
This was quite a profound exercise for me. I felt a tremendous support return to the back of my body and a softening into the front. During my next meditation, I felt the breath had shifted direction and this fascinated me. During the evening temple ritual, the men in the group made their naked bodies available for exploration by the females.
We were led away from the men to be prepared and to meditate, each touch was to be as a reference point to our own body. I suddenly became quite activated by my inner child in this exercise and didn’t want to touch any genitals. At first, I made excuses in my head that it would upset my partner, so then I went to ask if he was ok with this (fully expecting him to say no) and he gave full permission which unsettled me even more.
Somewhere in my child psyche I was not ok with the phallus. Pause for reflection... Getting ok with not being ok.
The following day we moved to the feminine, and began by clearing maternal mother issues in order to access the energy of the divine mother. The evening temple ceremony was about women penetrating men in an energetic polarity reversal. The masculine energy in me was so angry, and I was quite worried I might harm my partner. I wanted to. There was some kind of angry revenge energy that wanted to rape and cause pain (nothing to do with the individual in front of me, but old suppressed anger from early trauma surfacing here).
I felt not only my own but the collective pain of women past, perhaps even that of the suppressed local women and the fight back, I’m not certain, but it felt bigger than just me. I’m reminded of the #metoo movement, and I’m reminded of the yogic teachings that revenge is another way to self harm. Feeling the energy, seeing it, acknowledging it, and sharing it to the group allowed it to move and pass without harm.
The next day we had to ‘date’ and have ‘pre-date’ conversations about intentions,
boundaries, desires and sexual history. This was a crazy trigger for me… for some reason I felt like the kid on sports day, stressed about not being picked… I found myself running around, worried about not completing the ‘homework’ or having the awkward conversations… finally I checked in with myself, relaxed and reminded myself that it's not a competition, nor do I need to people please, but that I can actually sit back and make decisions based on my own desires.
Unfortunately, or perhaps timely, I started to get unwell near the end of the week,
Egyptian belly made the peak of the week a little less heroic. Not wanting to miss
anything, I participated in the male sacred spot ritual, an incredible delve into
activating the orgasmic energy which was the most rewarding ceremony of the
week for me. I felt a new widening of the pathway unlock from my heart up
through the channel of throat and into the crown chakra. My jaw released and
tension dissolved. A deeply moving and connecting experience that made my
partner and I hold each other in a state of intimate connection for hours.
By the last day I felt so unwell, I could barely see or feel anything subtle. Whilst I
participated in the female sacred spot ritual, I was quite numb and out of body. In
hindsight I should have remained in bed, but FOMO pushed me forward.
In summary, the week reconnected me with heart energy, cleared some old
trauma around sexuality, showed me the difference between immature masculine
and feminine energy and the divine masculine and feminine. But mostly, it showed
me how communication and clear healthy boundaries deepen relationships.
Certainly not a subtle week, it was a ‘rip off the band-aid’ approach to break open
any blocks or dams and get the energy flowing to an awakened body mind. If you
feel brave and compelled, or even slightly curious but fearful…. Go for it!