The Sexual Shadow
It wasn’t till I was in my early thirties that I began to discover my true and authentic sexual energy and expression. It was then that I set off on a journey to explore this part of myself, after I realized that everything I’d thought I knew about my sexual energy had only been barely scratching the surface.
It was quite humbling to realize this. I’d thought I knew a lot about sex, especially when I was in my twenties, when I worked in the sex work industry off-and-on for seven years. Back then sex was hot topic in my daily life, whether swapping stories about clients at work with the other ladies, or writing humorous and entertaining stories about my personal, and work- related exploits to read on stage with the feminist spoken-word troupe that I regularly toured with around the US and Europe. I was very open about my work, I would march in the streets on International Sex Worker’s Day shouting for sex workers rights (I was a privileged sex-worker, cis-presenting and Caucasian who was only mildly afraid of law enforcement), and I rolled my eyes when a friend, or new lover, suggested that the job might be, “messing me up in a psychological kind of way,” and would passionately defend my choices with feminist theory. I believed the work was empowering. I could tell you what this empowered feeling felt like because I felt it every time I counted stacks of one-hundred dollar bills sitting on the floor of the erotic massage collective in my underwear, or whenever I got the girl-boss high of being my own boss, or took vacations whenever I wanted, or decided not to go to work because I felt like making art instead.
During this time I certainly came off as a sexually knowledgeable and liberated queer, and sometimes polyamorous, sex-positive woman with an unabashed freedom to do whatever she wanted with her body.
Having felt so unapologetically expressive in my sexual expression for so long, you can bet that it was pretty eye opening when I began to discover that I actually didn’t know anything about my true and authentic sexual energy, let alone to realize that I also didn’t know much about my own authentic personal power, and especially how to connect to it and express it through my entire embodied being.
The first time I experienced that there might be something more to my sexual energy and power, was around the time I learned about the word Shakti. It was a warm spring day and I was a 32-year old sex worker on the verge of a nervous breakdown who had just found herself in a tantra-esque workshop. People threw the words tantra and Shakti around often in certain San Francisco communities, and they always seemed to twist their meanings to match their own personal agendas, so I wasn’t ever sure exactly what these words meant. I ended up at the tantra workshop. After I’d gone with a friend to, The Sex Worker’s Self Care Day, which was part of the city’s bi-annual, Sex Worker’s Film and Art Festival. The event was at a local eclectic hotel with various workshops offered in the rooms. I got a complimentary foot massage from a twinky gay man wearing a boa in the courtyard by the pool, and then my friend said she wanted to check out the tantra workshop. The woman leading the workshop was named Anastasia and she’d recently gone on a trip to India, and apparently as my friend put it, “learned a bunch of spiritual shit.”
The tiny hotel room was crowded with about fifteen other sex-workers. Anastasia had thrown a cloth over the TV and covered the top with a scattering of crystals and a picture of a blue wild-looking woman with many arms who she told us was the goddess Kali. She then explained some stuff about the practices she was about to teach us. She talked about awakening our inner Shakti as women. I was mostly spacing out but my ears perked up when she talked about this part. She said in India, Shakti means power. She then guided us into some intense tantric breath-work practices. The room darkened as evening turned to night while we were doing the practices, and all I could hear was the sound of all the women breathing in unison, a room full of strangers connected by our underground, fringe society jobs and our breath. It felt both beautiful and bizarre. When Anastasia switched on the lights after we stopped the last practice, the first thing I saw was the blue goddess on the altar, her eyes locked with mine, tongue undulating and gaze intense and challenging.
In the cab ride home an energy coursed through me that I’d never felt before. It enlivened and energized my body and mind and made me want to rush home and make passionate art until the dawn’s early hours. The top of my head tingled and pulsed, which I had no idea at the time but was probably my crown chakra beginning to open. I could only explain what I was feeling to my friend in context to drugs. She wasn’t having the same physical effects as me to the workshop. She just shrugged and said she didn’t feel much, while I jittered in the back of the cab and gushed to her about how I felt like the entire universe was vibrating through my body.
Perhaps something in me had been ready to awaken that day. Perhaps the Kundalini snake asleep in my spine had been seeking an opportunity to uncoil and emerge, because for me the experience felt like an opening of sorts, even if I wasn’t even aware of what I was opening up to. What I did know was that my energetic high lasted for days, leaving me deeply curious, and intending to learn more about what Anastasia had been sharing. I’d already been seeking something different. At this point in my life I seemed to be always hovering on verge of a breakdown, regularly in the depths of darkness, abusing opiates and alcohol, deeply depressed and anxious, and with zero self-love and dangerously destructive past times. I knew I needed to change my life and often dreamt of running away to the desert to live a simpler life tuned in with nature. But I felt stuck in my fast cash job, like a quicksand I couldn’t get away from.
Soon after the workshop I got an opportunity to make a clean break from the industry. Incredibly synchronistic events began to align in my life. I fell in love with my soul mate. I started having spiritual experiences that continued to open me up to even more. I began to believe in magic again, in a way that I hadn’t since I was a child. With these new openings also came the painful destruction of the old. As if I’d invited the energy of Kali home with me in that moment I’d locked eyes with her in that hotel room, and she ushered in a transformative kind of rock bottom, the kind that helps you see through all the bullshit and illusion. The kind that shifts the entire course of your life, and slowly and painfully, decimates your big-ego, hardheaded mask of Self, eventually shattering it and everything you ever knew, making room for a new phoenix version of yourself to slowly claw its way up gasping from the ash.
I got Kali’s message loud and clear. I quit the heavy cocktail of pharmaceuticals, and everything that had been keeping me in a distracted fog, and I began to look for ways to heal my deeply out of balance my body, mind, and spirit.
My healing path was been long and winding, but the breadcrumbs from the universe I followed the most fervently were the ones that led me to sexual healing. After quitting sex work, a bunch of sexual issues manifested in my life that hadn’t ever been issues before. Things that I’d been repressing and avoiding my entire life boiled to the surface. I suddenly had severe intimacy issues, triggers and flashbacks during sex, an even deeper disconnect from my body, and confusion as to the authenticity of my sexual persona. My vagina began to physically express that she was deeply energetically imbalanced by vacillating between either yeast-infections, or bacterial infections for the next two years.
All of this was in complete opposition to the proud, liberated and free, sexually connected and empowered woman I’d thought I was. It become clear to me that perhaps when I was younger what I’d actually known a lot about was sex acts, and what I’d thought was empowerment was actually just how great the capitalistic rush of a money-high felt for a girl who was raised poor and had deeply rooted scarcity issues.
On my healing journey I began to learn terms like, “the shadow”, the parts of ourselves that we try to hide or deny, or just can’t accept, face, or process. I learned that mine was full of un-integrated trauma, emotions, and lost aspects of myself. My sexual shadow especially was a messy and tangled ball of shame, guilt and unprocessed sexual trauma, including violent rape and childhood sexual abuse. Also throw in a big ole dose of distorted beliefs, and limitations, stemming from oppressive patriarchal, religious and societal programming, and inherited beliefs around sexuality and feminine expression that I’d patterned off of misogynistic and abusive parents, and caretakers, who’d had their own unhealed sexual trauma.
Before I’d began to consciously face all this heavy stuff in my sexual shadow, I’d been unconsciously drawn to energies that matched the dense energies. This is what had appealed to me about the sex work arena, it was there that I unconsciously danced, a dis-embodied dance, in the realms of my sexual shadow, like a marionette on a string. It was there that I was unconsciously attracted to situations that triggered feelings of guilt, shame, fear, sexual power, and self-disgust. I say unconsciously because I’d had no idea I was narrating my unprocessed shadow material at the time, and because I was mostly checked-out of my physical body when I was working. I started checking out of my body at a young age due to early childhood trauma and during my time working in the industry this was also my mode of operation with extra assistance from alcohol and painkillers. Most of my clients were doing the same unconscious dance as me, especially my dominatrix clients who paid me to role-play, or to humiliate, dominate, shame, control, scare, or belittle them. We were all doing this dance together, narrating humanity’s collective sexual shadow.
And although these experiences were not necessarily healthy for my body and psyche, and my sexual energy was regularly used as a battery for other people, and other entities, mostly capitalist and patriarchal agendas, I will say that I learned a lot from exploring these realms, like the difference of having your unprocessed subconscious shadow material navigate the direction of your life, magnetically pulling you to certain things, or people, like a cat in a daze following a feather on a string, versus consciously diving into shadow-work.
Consciously diving into the darkest depths of my shadow has been intense to say the least, but the rewards have also been so wildly worth it. As I healed the deep wounds to my sexual expression and feminine power, I could feel each healing extending out to my female ancestors and assisting in healing all of the ways that women, and their sexualities and bodies, have been physically and energetically traumatized and oppressed for generations upon generations. I was liberating and reclaiming the divine feminine Shakti power that had been suppressed for thousands of years, and it was re-igniting through my body, awakening me to an entirely new way of being.
The more I cleared my own sexual blockages and wounds, the more I reclaimed my sexual energy from the places were I’d disconnected from it, the more Shaktified I became. My liberated sexual energy was creating new pathways for the spiritual Shakti energy and I began to experience the most profound spiritual power, larger, and more transformative, and divine than any kind of power I could have even imagined existed. This was my true feminine power, fully opening to it is a process that is still unfolding for me, but so far it has brought magnificent gifts and magical experiences, including connecting to full body Shakti bliss states and menstruation experiences that are often ecstatic and mystical, (instead of the torturous physical and emotional experience I used to often have where I often didn’t leave bed for several days). I’ve discovered new landscapes of sexual pleasure, and many new types of orgasms that I never even knew were possible, including full body, or specific to different layers of the energetic body, or the deeply healing experience of having separate orgasms in each chakra, each with it’s own unique energetic and orgasmic flavor.
My deepening connection to this cosmic Shakti flow also allows me to channel an incredibly healing divine feminine energy in assistance to others. I now have a private healing practice, and I often work closely with the guidance and energy of pantheon of vibrant goddesses who assist me in this work. I believe that all women have access to this same guidance, and healing energy. The goddess walks in every single one of us and is just waiting to be expressed.
To further illustrate my belief that all women are capable of healing themselves, I will share an experience I had early on in my healing journey. I once had a session with a male healer, who called himself a Shaman, who after I told him I’d been a sex-worker, gave me a long hard gaze and told me I would need to travel to another country and dish out a large amount of money for a hard to find Toltec recapitulation ceremony to get my sexual energy back from all of those sexual encounters. I was ashamed and disheartened by his statement for nearly a year, feeling that perhaps there was something so broken about me that it was unfixable.
Now, I laugh at what this healer said, because I now know deeply the inner power I have to heal myself. On my path Spirit has guided me to every medicine, or tool, or modality, that I’ve ever needed to heal, transform, and expand. As long as I’m patient in knowing that I will receive the lesson, or medicine, only at the time when I’m ready. Many times these tools exist inside of myself and I do not need anyone to, “heal me”. Working with my guides I can travel through time and space to reclaim any lost energy, and heal any part of my childhood or even past lives, by using ancient earth-based healing methods. By working with Kundalini yoga practices I can clear energetic exchanges with others from my energy body. By working with tools from the earth in the form of crystal yoni eggs and wands I can clear cellular memory from the vagina. By working with the power of my own womb I have the incredible ability to alchemize, transform, and rebirth any energy into something else entirely by tuning into the Shakti flow and the cosmic portal power of the yoni.
I offer my life walk as an example of what is capable of being healed and transformed, and what is capable of becoming a source of unwavering power, and potently healing medicine in service to others. I stand in honor to all the women who are rolling up their sleeves in these times, and diving into the depths of their own inner worlds and wounds, each of us processing our own personal shadow material, and with this also healing all our ancestors who stand behind us.
The time for awakened feminine power is now.