Stretch Masturbation isn’t a Consolation Prize: Self-Love in Practice Wanderlust speaker Cara Kovacs shares her expert advice on developing a healthy and happy sexual relationship—with yourself. Happy Valentine’s Day! By Cara Kovacs Photo by Leighann Renee Cara Kovacs is a Wanderlust speaker. Hear her at Wanderlust Snowshoe this summer! Tickets are on-sale now. For information about the rest of our 2019 schedule and line-up, click here. In a world that sells commercialized date-nights to couples eager to celebrate their love, single people are encouraged to spend their Valentine’s Day eating cartons of Halo Top and being covertly reminded by the greater cultural landscape that “something is missing” from their life. The culture of Disney princess love stories, political and medical battles over sexual rights and healthcare, and the age of online-dating, there’s a key point being missed in the conversation about pleasure: it starts with the self. Let me say that again. Pleasure—and yes, we do mean that kind of pleasure—starts with the self. It’s true, as the saying goes, that “your vibe attracts your tribe.” Discovering and embodying your sexuality certainly has the ability to energetically attract your ideal partner. But the Valentine’s gift we all deserve it is the one that brings your full body to the bliss and abundance of its true orgasmic power. This is “Sacred Self Sexuality.” Your Body’s Ability to Connect This isn’t to say that craving a partner (or having one for that matter) isn’t something to desire or manifest. It is simply to say that it is a BIG FAT LIE that you can’t have an incredible, earth shattering, mind-blowing, deeply fulfilling sexual relationship with your own self. We talk a lot in the wellness community about self-love, and quite frankly, this is the ultimate form of it. Masturbation isn’t a consolation prize for when there’s no one else around—it’s a pathway to appreciation and understanding of the body, stress-relief, connectedness, and self knowing. Tantra, at its core, is about a union with the divine. The totally blissed-out, deeply-connected feeling that you have when you orgasm is akin to the one you get when staring at an awe-inspiring sunset. This feeling of deep connectedness can be accessed alone or with a partner, and should be equally delicious and soul satisfying in either case. A healthy sexual relationship starts with viewing masturbation as a celebratory practice of the power of your own body to connect. As a Sex Coach, I help people embody their sexual truth to reach new heights in their personal practice, or move and shift self-limiting patterns and paradigms that are preventing you from fully enjoying your experiences. What I teach is inspired by a personal journey of self-empowerment. A serial monogamist, I used to place all the responsibility of enjoying my sexuality on my partners. I would get bored of our sex life, and then masturbate, ashamed, when they weren’t around. When I was single, I would feel like masturbation was something I did to “make up” for the fact that I had no beloved, intrinsically creating the experience under the pretext of lack. Society shames us for declaring that we are beautiful or intelligent. Self-love is seen as self-aggrandizement- conceited and indulgent. Calling ourselves “fat,” “stupid,” or “unworthy” rolls off the tongue thoughtlessly at the first sign of frustration. Looking in the mirror we are trained to see all the things that don’t look like what an edited, photoshopped, filtered image of an Instagram model’s life looks like. What if we spent more time actively cultivating our relationship, mindfully, with the self, through pleasure? What if when we touched ourselves, we weren’t reminded of what was missing but rather the full and complete power of our self to experience divine love? A healthy sexual relationship starts with viewing masturbation as a celebratory practice of the power of your own body to connect. When used as a portal and reminder of your own infinite power, the expansiveness of your sexual narrative in general starts to look a lot differently. (And, yes, rubbing one out so you can pass out is also totally fine sometimes, too.) Photo by Hian Oliveira A How-To Guide for Mindful Masturbation Step one: Let loose. As children we relate naturally to our bodies. In fact, some research suggests that babies self pleasure in utero! It is only over time that we learn to associate shame or trauma to our genitals (ie: calling it a “hoo-ha” or a “privates” versus what it is: a pussy or a penis). In order to fully appreciate your body again, try reconnecting with it with a sense of childlike wonder. Take a moment to consider that any shame or negativity that you experience while masturbating, is shame you are feeling from touching your body while you are alone. If you pick your nose in the shower or pull a wedgie out of your butt with a huge sigh or relief once you are alone, why does fully emoting (making sounds, embodying a full range of movement, being experimental with your pleasure) give you reason to feel embarrassment? This is indoctrinated societal shame. One of my favorite sayings is, “If you want to be friends with someone, treat them like you are already friends.” This same statement can be applied to cultivating tantric pleasure of the self. If you want to be fully embodied in your sexual truth, treat it as something you are already comfortable and acquainted with. Maybe you bounce your breasts, or dance sensually to a song that lights you up. Perhaps you start slowly, with self massage or creating a ritual environment with candles and music that gets you in the mood. Whatever feels like a celebration of the self for you is a great place to start. If you are not sure of what it is that turns you on, how can you possibly enter that space with another with any sense of true knowing? In order to get comfortable experimenting, get comfortable pushing your physical boundaries by making them playful. Step two: Give attention to your wholeness. There are a lot of ways to interpret that statement and all of them are right. Often times, masturbation is focused on the genitals, and when you only focus on genitals, orgasm can feel like a localized, conditioned response specific to one part of the body. Alternatively, in Tantra, or conscious sexual practice, your orgasm can expand and contract and contain parts of you and all of you all at once. Go slowly. Massage your breasts and see how they respond to divine touch. Stroke your arms, legs, hair, and face with the tenderness you would offer a lover. Feel intuitively where your body is asking to be given love, and in those spaces bring intention. See here for a guided practice. You know the difference when someone gives you pleasure as if they truly want to and obtain pleasure from it versus because they feel obligated? Apply this same knowing to yourself. Intentionally and mindfully feel the difference between stroking your arm in gratitude, appreciation, and wonder for its existence versus passively. If you’re having trouble getting into the mindframe for being deserving and desirous of such luscious affection, gently remind yourself that: Pleasure is your birthright; and Your very existence is a miracle through which you are capable to create orgasm from self love. These affirmations may take time to settle, but these are the universal teachings of Tantra, and promises of the practice that you can adopt for your own empowerment. Step three: Pay homage to the self. Perhaps when you masturbate you imagine a crush, past lover, or celebrity. Or maybe you watch porn. Or maybe you create a fantasy lover who may or may not be based on a real person. In step three of mastering masturbation as a celebration of the self, we seek to eliminate this external driving force so that pleasure can be all about you. First, ask yourself, “Must I imagine the presence of another soul for this to be a sexually satisfying experience?” If the answer is yes, do a little practice back in steps one and two before proceeding. The first time I completely embodied an honoring of the self in mastubratory practice, I took the advice of a dear friend who sent me her Spotify Thunderstorm playlist. She told me that she self-pleasured with crystals, while imagining herself lying on a giant log in the Amazon covered in rain, orgasming with the culmination of the jungle. What struck me most about her fantasy was not that she astral projected to South America, but rather that there wasn’t anyone else in it. And I went home that night, put on said playlist, and masturbated with a piece of tourmaline, visualizing myself as part of, and priestess within, a storm. The storm became a thunder and crash of my own body, during which I verbalized and thanked myself for my capability to feel and be pleasure, and that the thumping of my pulse and orgasm was as natural, beautiful, and electric as a storm. What I realized was that I deserved to hear and feel what I was waiting for a partner to give me. I told myself aloud, “I love you. You are amazing. Look at your body, you feel so good.” Embarrassed at first, I then remembered that I was alone. I remembered the pleasure I felt, I had given myself. I remembered that I was made from similar pleasure, and that I deserved this space with or without someone in the bed with me. And I took that love and I carried it into how I ate, how I set boundaries, how I was vulnerable, how I claimed my power and purpose in other aspects of my life. I took that love and I carried it into how I ate, how I set boundaries, how I was vulnerable, how I claimed my power and purpose in other aspects of my life. When you pay total homage to the capability of your body to connect to the affirming force of pleasure, you create a conscious container of self respect. You give yourself the affirmation you no longer need to seek to receive. You ARE the love you seek, which may attract more love—and if not, feels much less urgent of a search than it did before. In the wellness world, we view the body as a sacred vessel. As a sacred vessel that literally breathes into life human existence through the power of orgasm (unless you are the product of insemination, which is its own also beautiful miracle), we do ourselves an extreme disservice to limit and shame this function through manipulated constraints of historical contexts and misguided social ideologies. And if there is any place you can free yourself, it should be in the privacy and sacredness of your own practice, because masturbation is—and most certainly can be—a spiritual conduit of divine love and affirmation of your own beautiful truth. I am doing a Sacred Self Sexuality workshop in NYC on February 14! Click here for tickets. — Cara Kovacs is a third generation healer, second generation oracle, and Sex, Love & Relationship expert trained by Layla Martin. Named as 2019’s one of “35 People Under 35 To Watch In Wellness” by Wanderlust, she combines modern science with ancient healing and spiritual philosophy to help bring people to truth through love. Past featured events have included Bustle Rulebreakers ft. Janelle Monae & The Big Quiet, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Wanderlust Festival, partnerships with Employees Only, Root Mamma, Salt Witch Studios, Soho House, Freehand Hotels, LadyBoss Social Club, Alchemist Kitchen, and more. She is an official card reader for The Poetry Society of New York and has been featured in Time Out, Cosmopolitan, Bustle, and Elite Daily.