The Burn: The Beginning of Growth, Not the End
by Marie-Elizabeth Mali Feb 7, 2016
Most people stop when it begins to burn. Easy reps don’t mean much. Doing a few more reps once it’s hard is what creates change. Growth happens in discomfort, my trainer says, as we walk over to the bench to begin a new round of abs, rows, squats, deads, and bis.
I think of my Orgasmic Meditation (OM) practice and my relationship with my partner, both of which are shifting. As each one has hit an uncomfortable spot, I feel a combination of relief, fear, grief, and joy to be on the razor’s edge of my practices again.
Like any practice done over time, my OM practice recently hit a rut. It’s been harder for me to stay connected with my body, my hyperactive mind pulling me out of the experience more than usual. At the suggestion of a coach, my partner and I begin to experiment with a slower stroke in our practice. I discover I feel more sensation since there’s less distraction from the movement of his finger. The slower stroke empties, grounds and smoothes me. I can tune in more easily and feel when we’re on the spot and when we’re not. His stroking becomes more precise. This morning, as the stroke shifts from almost still to a small upstroke, it feels like liquid being stirred in a cauldron over a fire. Toward the end of the OM I experience my whole body as liquid, a slight sloshing sensation under my skin.
I focus my eyes on the ceiling, lift my chest, and engage my lats before pulling down the bar. I release the bar back up, feeling each fiber lengthen and strain to keep the weight from clanging down. The harder the reps get, the slower I go. The more I tune in to the burn, the quieter and more focused my mind as I ask my body for one more rep.
When my boyfriend begins talking today, just after I’d wept for 10 minutes not knowing why I felt so sad, so full-body-ache-exhausted, my training and practice kick in. Immediately the tears stop and I hunker down to listen. He tells me that a couple of months ago when we decided to be monogamous, parts of him wanted it, but not all of him, and the parts that didn’t got frozen back there. He’s been partially numb ever since.
The truth is, I had felt it, a small disconnect between us since that decision, a tiny change in the subtle energetics of our sex. I kept asking what was happening, but I couldn’t get on the spot well enough to have him give the real thing up. He said that things were fine and he was stressed out about work. Another time, that he was tired. Still, something felt off, but I couldn’t name it and he couldn’t find the right time to speak up.
This morning - my system already reacting to the intensity of what he would say - turns out to be the right time to finally talk about it. Now we both feel on the edge of our practice again. Finally naming the thing has us bright-eyed and soft-hearted.
What happens next? Do we open the relationship again until he has full buy-in for monogamy? How do I stay open through the process, however it looks? How do I forgive myself for not naming more clearly what I felt? How does he forgive himself for partially closing down for two months, the longest time he’s gotten stuck in years?
It makes sense. As I see it, the higher the stakes, the bigger the stuck. The stakes are high here because this relationship is great, feels sustainable, and has the potential to go far. No wonder he hid his unruly chorus and lost his voice. No wonder I didn’t push him harder to tell me what was happening, afraid to lose what we have. No wonder we started watching TV before bed. But the seeds of the end of the relationship are hidden in partial omissions and places we hold back. For this to work we both have to be willing to keep saying the uncomfortable things that scare us and stay open to hearing them. To feel our way through, stroke by stroke, rep by burning rep.
As exhausted and achy as my body still feels tonight, there’s a refreshing sharpness to my thinking that I’ve missed. Unable to face finding a parking spot in the crowded lot at the store, I come home and ask him to pick up food, which he does. I rest. He brings my slippers upstairs without my asking for them, sensing that I’m cold.
(Photo Credit: Unknown)