Fostering Intimacy With a Romantic Sanctuary

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The couples I work with all too often struggle with making time and space for sex in the context of the rest of their lives. When we have families and careers to juggle, sex all too often falls by the wayside. Yes, time and energy are at a premium for many of us. But there is also deeper level to this dynamic. We often find that juggling our different roles also makes it difficult to keep the fire alive. It is hard to switch from our role as a professional, or as a parent, into a sexual being. Instead, we may find it easier to numb, ignore, and starve our sexual selves.

The process of reintegrating this part of our beings can be a complex journey, one unique to each of us. And while it would be impossible to address the totality of this dynamic in a single blog post, I can offer you one of the starting points that has fostered intimacy for many of the couples I see, especially those with children.

Create a romantic sanctuary.

Have one place in your house that can transform into a space where your sexual self can thrive. Set the intention to spend time here a couple of times a week, whether or not you choose to have sex. When we build a fire, we need a physical pit or fireplace—a special place for that purpose alone. We also need enough space for air to pass through, and enough time to nourish the flame. So too with the fire within do we need space to breathe and time for growth. We also need to send it the message that it is an important part of our lives.

Here’s how:

  1. Pick a place in your home for your sanctuary.

The bedroom is the obvious choice for many, though it doesn’t have to be. If there isn’t one place that can be just for you and your partner (say, for example, you are co-sleeping with your child in your room), pick a place you can transform with candles, music, pillows, etc. when you and your partner want to connect. You could even add soft lighting to a bathroom and take a bath together. Wherever it is, make sure it is a place where you feel safe, comfortable, and confident that you will not be intruded upon.

  1. Let your five senses guide you in your transformation of space into sanctuary.

What smells turn you on? How does temperature affect your sexual enjoyment, and what is your ideal temperature? How do the fabrics on your bed or couch feel on your skin? How does lighting affect your mood? How about sounds? This is you gathering the wood to fuel your flame.

Consider adding candles, twinkle lights, or other soft lighting, a way to play music, or aromatherapy to the room. Leave your phones, TV, and other screens off or outside.

  1. Make sure you feel safe and comfortable to be yourself.

If you are worried about being seen through the window, make sure you to close your curtains/blinds. If you are concerned with being heard, try adding a white noise machine by the door.

  1. Set the intention to spend time together in your sanctuary fostering intimacy, whether sexual or nonsexual.

Make actual dates, and follow through with them, even if they are only for 15-minutes a night.

And if you are too exhausted/triggered/anxious/etc to have sex, spend time in your sanctuary anyway. Listen intently to your favorite album. Give each other massages. Take a bath together. Have a meaningful conversation. Create art. Enjoy a good glass of wine. Fall asleep in each other’s arms. Find a way to harbor connection to each other and to your sensory experience.

Have fun!

 

 

Three Ways to Love Yourself This Valentine’s Day

valentines dayValentine’s Day can be difficult for many reasons. For some, it brings about loneliness, sadness, or self-aggression. When this happens, a powerful antidote can be the cultivation of self-love and self-appreciation. Here are a few ways to intimately connect with yourself this Saturday.

  1. Take your inner creative out on a date

In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron offers the concept of the weekly “artist date,” as a crucial part of the creative life. Simply put, we take our inner artist, or our inner child, out on a date by setting some time aside, listening to his/her longings, following them, and having fun! On my first artist’s date, I felt nostalgic for my past home of Valparaiso, Chile. There, on free afternoons, I would often put on headphones and meander through the hilly city, letting my senses guide me to ocean overlooks or hidden pockets of street art. On my date, I decided to bring the ritual to Boulder, and aimlessly wandered the city for hours. I ended up back in front of old houses I had lived in during college—places I hadn’t revisited in many years. I let myself dance with old memories, while connecting with my gratitude for my current stage of life. It was a perfectly intimate and special day I could have only shared with myself. Try, for an afternoon, to touch into that intimacy you have with yourself—with the parts of you that only you can understand. If you are feeling nostalgic, revisit the past through old music, photos, or places. If you are feeling adventurous, try something you never envisioned yourself doing, just for kicks (it could be bungee jumping, but it could also be hanging out in a different part of town, test-driving fancy cars, or trying a spa treatment you’ve never heard of). If your soul is feeling hungry, take in inspiring art, or indulge your senses through a trip through a spice shop or a delicious meal. However you are feeling, have a special experience that only you will understand.

  1. Create a vision board

A vision board is a place for you to gather and clarify what you want to invite into your life. A simple way to start is by hanging up a corkboard (poster board can also work), and perusing magazines, books, or visual websites like Pinterest, paying attention to what images, words, or phrases stand out to you. From there, you cut/print them out and collage them onto your board. It can be difficult for us to know what we want with the next chapter in our lives, and a vision board is a great way to gain understanding of what your soul is longing for—what is to calling you. Vision-boarding is powerful because it puts you in touch with what you really want—a feat that can be difficult when noise from friends, family, and the media seem to want to tell you what you need and crave.

  1. Practice Maitri

Maitri, literally translated as “loving kindness,” is a Buddhist term that often refers to the practice of being unconditionally loving and friendly toward yourself in whatever experience you may be going through. This means that if you are feeling lonely, allow yourself to be lonely, remaining compassionate towards yourself as you have your experience. It means noticing when you want to be angry with yourself for feeling how you are feeling, and choosing to love yourself instead, acknowledging that your feelings are sometimes out of your control. There are times when we receive the message that to achieve happiness, we must transcend negative emotions like anger, jealousy, or fear. Practicing maitri teaches us that these emotions are normal and sane parts of ourselves, and we are whole and loveable, no matter what we feel. Here is a five-minute exercise to help cultivate maitri: Find a comfortable seat, and begin by closing your eyes and noticing your breath. Notice it just as it is, without any need to change it. If you notice your mind drifting away, simply come back to your breath compassionately, without judging yourself. Rest your attention here for a moment. Now scan your body from head to toe, noticing where you may be holding tension or emotion. Take a moment to acknowledge this part of yourself, again, without any need to change it. Let it be just as it is. Imagine that it is a physical mass of energy, and you are able to wrap your arms or a blanket around it to comfort and love it. Ask it if it needs anything else, and imagine yourself giving that thing to it.

What January teaches us

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January in Colorado has so much to offer us:

It teaches us to bask in a sunny, spring-like day on Monday. To enjoy it fully, knowing that spring is far away, and to let it go again before winter’s bitterness returns.

It reminds us that our planet is always in motion as we witness short days grow longer and longer.

It gives us a relationship with winter, calling us into its mountains to play or to wander or to simply rest.

It allows us to watch our breath, and our words as they enter the world like smoke.

It keeps us aware of our skin against the air of the world around us.

Why sex is a creative process.

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You, as a sexual being, are creative. You are creating and playing when you explore who you are as a sexual person. You may adorn yourself in lace, in body art, or in fantasy in the bedroom. You may choose to express your sexual self when you walk in the world as well: as flirtatious, as secretive, as erotically complicated. The way you whisper to your partner, the way you shadow your eyes, the way you dance—these are all expressions. You are expressing yourself just by being you, a carnal creature, completely unique.

Your desire is creative. Your body touched in a certain way. A part of you adored. A fantasy fulfilled—when you listen to your desires, you are listening to your imagination. You are holding a paintbrush to the canvas of your experiences and letting your inner creative run free, whether in collaboration with another or simply in your own fantasy. You are not creating because it’s logical or because it achieves a goal; you are creating because it’s what you crave. Because though it may not make sense, to ignore it seems to make even less sense.

The dance is creative. It’s where you bring your being and your desires to tango. To collaborate. To swirl with those of someone you love or like or just feel like creating with. You get to learn how to express yourself sexually, appreciate another’s expressions, and harmonize your unique rhythms to create a song unlike any other. This song includes attunement and compromise, which is all part of this beautiful process.

Your purpose is creative. Whether you are expressing your love or expressing your desire, you are expressing. If you are painting a memory or if you are conceiving a child, you are creating. Alone or with a partner, in your mind or in your body, when you awaken your sexual self, you are dancing. You are listening to yourself and to the world, and you are writing the story of what you hear.

Welcome to our new office!

Atacama Counseling has officially moved! It has been a hectic but exciting process to set up our new office on 30th and Pearl. Here’ s a sneak peak at the space…

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Come visit!

Therapy vs. Coaching: Which is right for me?

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As I launch my new coaching practice, people have been asking me about how this service differs from therapy. Here are some key differences:

Psychotherapy is intended to treat those blocks that keep us from thriving: past trauma, mental illness such as depression or anxiety, or unconscious patterns that hinder our relationships, work, and lives. Therapy is often an introspective process, which focuses on understanding the root of one’s suffering and healing these wounds. In general, therapy is done in person, though video sessions within the state of Colorado may be appropriate for some. You can use your insurance, victim’s compensation, or employee assistance program to pay for therapy.

In contrast, coaching is more focused on achieving goals and manifesting your ideal life. It is not intended to diagnose or treat mental illness or trauma, and instead places heavy emphasis on moving forward in a manner that feels fulfilling and aligned with your purpose, spirituality, creativity, and/or passion. Coaching can be done in person (in Boulder, Colorado), on the phone, or via Skype from anywhere in the world. Often times, it is a combination of these that is most effective. Coaching is private pay only; insurance, EAPs, and victim’s compensation do not cover coaching services.

If you are still unsure of which service is right for you, I am happy to talk to you about your unique situation and goals at no cost. Please contact me to set up this consultation on the phone or in person.

Colorado Storms

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Thunder Clouds-

A midafternoon dusk

whitewashed

by work shoes

and lunch commutes

and sugar as fuel.

Our sun sets

into itself

under the covers

of a Colorado nap.

We all feel a drizzle,

whether we are outside

or not.

It splashes our faces,

picks at our skin,

gets us out of our chairs,

remembering each other’s existence.

~~~

Have a wonderful holiday weekend!

A Word of Gratitude

upThis weekend, a training in Motivational Interviewing left me with a deep sense of gratitude. Sure, I was grateful for having a fun way to learn and practice helpful skills. I was grateful for the generosity of the trainer, who has been an amazing colleague and wonderful support for me in my professional development. I was grateful to be spending time with a group of wise and talented therapists and coaches over tasty scones and cherry juice.

But what left the deepest impression of gratitude was the continual reminder of the beauty and resilience of my clients, and how sacred it is to be invited into their life journeys.

Motivational Interviewing is a wonderful approach to therapy that calls on the wisdom of the client to move toward the changes they feel compelled towards making. And the therapist is lucky enough to be a travel agent and a guide in this profound process. As we learned new skills and reviewed the ones I had already been practicing, I thought of all of the growth and existential shifts I had been a part of over the last year with my clients. That I have had the blessing of knowing, over and over, on the most intimate level, how resilient the human spirit is.

Thank you to those of you I have worked with. It has truly been an honor.

Sensual Saturday: 5 ways to revive your senses in downtown Boulder.

IMG_2131Spring has sprung!

Which means that (if you’re like me) your long dormant senses are tingling with anticipation of warmth and vibrancy. Skin craving crisp sunlight and flowy fabrics. Eyes and ears and nose awakening to the abundance of human life now emerging from winter’s shells. Toes ready to cast those winter shoes to the back of the closet. One of my favorite places to engage my senses and gather inspiration is in downtown Boulder on a warm weekend afternoon. If you decide to indulge in some springtime wandering around Pearl Street, here are a few fun ways to practice mindfulness and enliven your senses:

  1. Sight

Try sitting and watching people come out of places where they have just treated themselves: women leaving the salon with fresh and bouncy hair, couples stepping out of a bookstore with new armfuls of inspiration, kids walking out of an ice cream shop, getting ready to take their first bite.

  1. Sound

Find somewhere to engage in some sound meditation. Hang out in front of a street musician for a while and soak up each note of music, or try sitting down by the creek and focus your attention on the newly melted water rushing by. If you are feeling like moving, take a stroll through a toy store and see what sounds you can derive from toys, chimes, and games.

  1. Smell

Try exploring these three shops with your sense of smell:

–       a spice shop

–      a tea shop

–      a store with natural beauty products and essential oils

Between these three, you can spend hours. Try to pinpoint how different smells make you feel or what they remind you of. Have fun with it!

  1. Touch

Enjoy raking through different fabrics in one a clothing store, or reconnect with the feeling of old paper in one of the many second-hand bookstores. Notice your feet pressing against the bricks and mix of hot sun with crisp air.

  1. Taste

I may have to let you decide on this one, as the sensual treats are endless. Ask yourself what draws you most: a perfect cup of coffee? A delicious handcrafted truffle? A refreshing and nourishing fresh juice? Let your taste buds explore!

Have fun and enjoy the weekend!

After the Flood

There are now mornings I have awoken without the smell of mildew on the back of my dreams. The fans have stopped their buzz and the gutter mud has settled into dry, frozen waves. My sinuses have fallen back into invisibility. There are moments when life feels normal again. Or perhaps I have gotten used to a new normal. Many of us have.

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My new normal is cleaner—simpler; it has to be. There is no longer the luxury of leaving clothes on the floor. Of taking a home—a car—a healthy body, for granted. Of forgetting to count the blessings around me.

Water washed out the path between summer and fall. As though crisp air and dark nights and pumpkin lattes sprouted from summer grass like flood-quenched mushrooms. Here I am in October, wondering how I got here.

But I’m glad I’m here, in this October unlike any other.

Some of us are continuing our path as normal—those leaves that yellowed in the usual September cycles. Others of us are stunted, grasping to green. A few of us fell with damaged branches, crashing abruptly into rivers that weren’t supposed to be there—now left thirsty and disoriented and alone. And many of us are bigger and cleaner and more vibrant than we have ever been, our roots having absorbed the abundantly saturated soil, filth and all. And we sway like trees twice our age, paradoxically angry and grateful, weighted and flexible, grieving and inspired.

Most of us are all of these—and integration of our September’s sun and debris. And here in Boulder, life will go on.

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Página en español veniendo pronto! Para aprender mas sobre mis servicios, llame (720) 515-5184 o mande un email a rachaeluris@gmail.com.
Rachael Uris, MA, LPC is the owner of Atacama Counseling, LLC, offering sex therapy as well as individual and couple's counseling for issues surrounding sexuality, love, and pregnancy. All services are located in downtown Boulder, Colorado, and are provided in English and Spanish.
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