I know this might sound crazy, but it's true. Everything I ever needed to know about sex -- and life for that matter -- I learned from stepping off a telephone pole. It wasn't what I would have expected when I signed on for a sex workshop at Miraval in Tucson, Arizona. But then I wouldn't have expected that I could or would be climbing up or stepping off anything either. Gotta love surprises.
The workshop was called "Better Communication, Better Sex" and was being led by Evelyn Resh CNM, MPH, their resident sex educator and the author of "The Secret Lives of Teen Girls: What Your Mother Wouldn't Talk About but Your Daughter Needs to Know." I expected there would be some lectures and discussions. I even imagined there might be some laughing, crying, or even fighting. But climbing and balancing and scaling and jumping? Not so much.
We had our "getting to know you" dinner and then began the series of six lectures. I was relieved to discover that Resh was both brilliant and hilarious, as well as being one heck of a straight shooter. This was clearly going to be a "no whining allowed" kind of event. She basically told us that if we wanted to have great sex lives we had to let go.
We had to quit complaining about not being in our twenties (when most of us had no clue what we were doing in bed anyway) and enjoy being where we are now (knowing the ropes and free, hopefully, of our inhibitions). It sounded simple enough and I loved the idea of what Resh called the "embracing the new normals."
Twenty something bodies and lives free from responsibility are no longer our normals. So what? Kids and marriage and jobs and maturity are. Learn it. Live it. Love it.
I understood the concept. But I wondered what the chances were that I could make it my own. That's when things got interesting
Miraval, I quickly found out, is not your typical spa resort. The Oprah approved property itself is beautiful, with a dramatic mountain setting, an award-winning spa, and luxurious accommodations. The beds alone are reason enough to stay there. All I can say is, don't lie down if you want to get back up anytime soon. The food there is stellar too and all included, though not at all like typical all-inclusive resort food. This is made-to-order spa cuisine plus a top-notch ready made spread that's too good to call a buffet.
And the service. Geez Louise. I challenge you to find better. After one day everyone knows your name and whatever you need, they can make happen. I brought a new camera that didn't have a memory card and within hours one appeared in my room. Now that's what I'm talking about.
But that's just the physical aspects of Miraval. The real treat is that they offer all of that as well as what they call a challenge course, with activities like Quantum Leap, Quantum Leap II, Out on a Limb, and Desert Tightrope, all high in the air and all designed to get you out of your head and into the moment.
Quantum Leap II was our first challenge, and when it was finally my turn, I climbed the 25-foot pole, focusing on the tiny platform on which my brave new friend and challenge partner balanced. There was no way to climb to the top and negotiate that platform with another human being if doubt was clouding your mind. So like the Little Engine, I chanted to myself, "I think I can. I think I can."
And I did. And, boy, did it feel good.
As I stepped off into the air and floated back to the ground, I suddenly realized exactly what Resh meant. I had let go. And that was how I both accomplished and enjoyed the endeavor. I shut out all the noise in my head and "normal" for me suddenly became climbing a telephone pole and teetering on top and stepping off despite a supposed fear of heights and lack of athleticism and adventurism. I will never accuse myself of any of those again.
The next few days unfolded in much the same way. Two lectures and one challenge a day. We talked about sex toys and raising kids and what makes us feel sexy and committing to better sex lives. We walked across sky high telephone poles and tightropes and scaled rock walls, some of us for the first time.
Interestingly, the spa treatments there didn't hurt the cause either, especially ones like Thai massage and Aqua Zen, which also demand that you relinquish control. Thai massage, if you're not familiar with it, is, as my therapist David explains, "lazy man's yoga." He pulled and stretched and twisted and bent me. And it was incredibly intimate, although sensual, not at all sexual. Still, it fit in nicely with the theme of my exploration.
Aqua Zen is a Watsu treatment where you are cradled and stretched and pulled across the water. The practitioner, Amy, made me feel like a mermaid. It wasn't easy to allow myself to fall into a stranger's arms and to be held so close. But the experience was nothing short of wondrous. Amazing what an hour in the pool and a little letting go can do for you.
It's true about nearly everything in life -- and certainly in sex -- you have to let go.
It's a hard message to ignore when it's coming at you from all sides. I guess that's why they're the host of this particular workshop and and not the Cleveland Holiday Inn, for example. Sometimes you just have to live in practice of what's being preached.
I have no idea what other sex workshops are like. But I can tell you that "Better Sex, Better Communication" at Miraval is more exciting than I could have imagined such a supposedly tame event would be. The title might be a little misleading. The truth is that I learned that talking is great. But doing is even better.
Resh will tell you, if something's blocking you, kick it to the curb. And if you need a little push, you can always go to the Better Communication, Better Sex Workshop at Miraval September 19 -23 when she's scheduled to do her magic for another group of likely unsuspecting lovers. And even if those dates don't suit, I'd still highly recommend checking the place out.
But I'm warning you. It'll change you. I've been to beautiful places before all over the world. But never before have I gone looking for a story only to find myself instead. Miraval answers the question -- who would you be if your mind and body lived in balance? What could you accomplish surrounded by support, all your needs met, everyone around you cheering? "You can do it." "You got it." "One more step."
And being at Miraval isn't about doing things in one particular, prescribed way. It's about having whatever experience you are meant to have. Maybe you'll walk the tight rope and only make it to the middle, like I did. Maybe you'll spend your time in yoga and fitness and meditation classes and never even hit the challenge course. Maybe the pool will be calling your name. The secret to Miraval is listening to what you need. Mindfulness in whatever you choose. No accidents, just what's meant to be.
It's incredible to have the time and space to do just that.
I shocked myself, as well as my friends and family, with the feats I took on, and I got to take home something far better than a t-shirt or ball-point pen. I returned home with a renewed sense of what it really means to be present, without fear or expectations. Just present. And I plan on doing my best to apply that to everything I do. Sure beats a magnet.
I write about a lot of things. But mostly about sex and life. This time I was sure the big story would be the former. What a glorious surprise that it was really the latter. The two are eternally connected, of course. Good sex comes out of feeling whole or, as Resh explains, "When you feel like a powerful person, you want to share that. And that is what leads to great sex."
I learned a lot in my five short days there, some of which I haven't even sorted out just yet. But I can tell you one thing for sure -- I will never, ever look at another telephone pole the same way again...