I met Claire six years ago. She has been a photography client of mine and she’s someone any photographer would love to work with. She is beautiful, smart, open, thoughtful and confident.
Claire is a student of human sexuality and gender studies, a devotee of Tantric Spirituality and Shamanism, an avid world traveler. She is also an agent for healthier sexual attitudes, experiences and relationships.
After our last photo session we talked more about the work that she does and we decided to do a photo blog interview. Our topic for this interview is Sacred Sexuality and Empathy
Kyer: What does “sacred sexuality” mean to you? What is sexual shamanism? How do sexuality and spirituality intersect?
Claire: For me “sacred sexuality” has to do with my own state of Being and Presence during a sexual encounter. How attuned, mindful, and responsive I am being toward myself and my partner is more important than what we are doing. It doesn't’ matter if it’s a quickie or an all day love fest, a play party, a puja, or a solo self love session in front of porn; in the morning, afternoon, or night; slow love making, fast fucking, fisting, or even fighting – none of these are or aren’t inherently sacred. However, any of these details or doings becomes sacred when I bring my attention, my attunement, my presence and responsiveness, and my Self to the experience. Then, BOOM! Instant sacredness.
Sexual shamanism is a practice to cultivate more life force energy (chi). The more chi we have, the more we mature as human beings and the less we need the structures of attachment and energy enmeshment that we grew up in.
Sexuality and spirituality intersect differently for everyone, but for me they intersect when I bring mindfulness to whatever I’m doing.
Kyer: You were raised a Catholic in the south. How did your upbringing influence your own path to becoming an educator and healer?
Claire: Profoundly. Being raised Catholic in the south meant I was conditioned to choose a conventional life, traditional relationships, and abstinence until marriage. When I was young, there were few alternatives. After I left the Catholic Church, I began studying sexuality, gender and identity through a sociological lens, which opened my eyes to alternatives and fluidity in sexuality, gender, relating, and beyond. I’ve devoted my life to learning about myself in relation to these themes so that from a place of on-going self “gnosis” I can share with others who are beginning their path toward sexual self-understanding. That’s my life’s work.
Kyer: In your work, what are the goals of Tantra and sexual shamanism? How are you re-educating men and women about sexuality and intimacy? Do you also incorporate exercises that help create more empathy for couples and individuals?
Claire: The goals are to dismantle the “self” that conventional culture has created out of us and to learn about & create ourselves anew from a sovereign, self-loving place. We leave the trappings of conventional life behind and we move toward a more integrated, enlightened existence – as a “me” and as a “we”. Sexuality and intimacy take on new purposes for people when they exchange mindless convention for mindful Self-mastery. There are some exercises that I include for creating more empathy; however empathy is a natural bi-product of doing the inner work to know and love yourself more deeply.
Kyer: There is a deep sexual wound in our culture, our country. It spills into politics, and how we treat each other and the planet. What are some of the ways that we can individually and collectively heal our wounds, as well as Mother Gaia?
Claire: There’s the phrase “as within, so without.” This means that the external is a reflection of what exists inside of us. If we don’t like what we see or are experiencing outside of ourselves, it’s time to turn the focus inside and do the inner work to unravel the unhealed traumas and shadows that underlie our choices and behaviors, which the world is mirroring back to us. We can do this work individually, as a couple, and as a community; however, it starts first with the individual’s commitment to their own healing and self-awareness. The Earth heals when we heal.
Kyer: At YourSensualWisdom.com you ask the following question, “What might there be to know about yourself as a sexual being?” In light of the fact that the “sensual and sexual natures of us humans can be mysterious and confusing, as well as nurturing” and full of personal growth potential, how would you answer that question?
Claire: This question has infinite answers. We are constantly growing, evolving, and expanding; thus what there is to know or learn about ourselves as sexual beings is ever evolving and expanding also. However, a Rumi quote comes to mind. “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” The quality of our sexual experiences and relationships is commensurate with the quality and fullness of our loving of ourselves and of others. Am I loving at my fullest capacity? What other barriers, like fear, anxiety, righteousness, impatience, etc., need to be dropped?
Kyer: I sometimes see an “us verses them,” framing when it comes to women and men, and sexuality. How can we move beyond this divisive paradigm? Where can we start? How does empathy come into play in our collective and individual sexual healing?
Claire: We can start by first realizing that men and women both have an inner masculine aspect and an inner feminine aspect that have a relationship going on inside of us. As we put attention on this inner relationship (with the help of a coach, through journaling, in meditation, etc.), healing its inner divisiveness and cultivating more harmony within it, the outer divisiveness between men and women will transform too. When we can have empathy (I’m defining this as understanding and acceptance) for our inner aspects, and thus for our entire self (this is an important element of self-love), then skillful empathy becomes easier to have for others. We only fight with others when we ourselves are in pain.
The subjects of these photo blog interviews have approved all the photos and text.
All photos by Kyer Wiltshire