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Sacred Pause

Image description: There are two pink paws on a purple background. The picture is titled "Sacred Pause" and describes three steps: 1) Stop and breathe; 2) Scan your body and 3) Make a decison to move forward, stop or do something else.

The sacred pause is a great foundational skill to use when doing all the other consent exercises that somatic coaching has to offer.  I did my somatic sex education training in Canada with somatic coach Kai Cheng Thom, so I always like to think of a big bear, feeling its way through the forest with its sacred paws. 

Before we begin making agreements with other people, we need to be able to recognise our own desires, preferences, boundaries and limits. Doing this at pace in intimate relationships can be hard! Slowing down can give us a moment to use our sacred paws and tune into what’s going on for us. Until we’ve noticed this information, we can’t make consensual agreements with other people. If we move too quickly, we are at risk of treating ourselves and others non-consensually. 

For example, if a request is being made of us, we might default to saying yes because experience has taught us that keeping people happy is the safest strategy for us. If this isn’t really what we want we risk:

  • Treating ourselves non-consensually because we might go along with something that we don’t really want. (See my post about Tolerating and Enduring on Kai Cheng’s Spectrum of Consent). 

  • Treating someone else non-consensually because we find ourselves in a position that doesn’t feel good. Renegotiating because we realise that we have changed our minds is to be expected. But if a person ends up in a situation that transgresses their own boundaries, this might bring up difficult feelings that make it difficult to renegotiate consensually.

There’s also a risk that we are a person who defaults to a no when there’s a feeling of pressure. This might mean that we miss out on things which could be fun for us or offer us an opportunity for growth. Or it could mean that we risk alienating people through perpetually disappointing them. 

Slowing down gives us an opportunity to identify what we’re feeling so that we can give other people accurate information. It also gives us a chance to explore the maybe zone, a place which some people find threatening due to its uncertainty. We don’t always know how we feel about something until we try it and a sacred pause can allow us time to think about what we might need to feel safe while exploring the uncertainty. Perhaps you try the activity for a short time and take another pause to see how you feel. It's sometimes useful to think about your options on receiving a request - do you want to accept, reject or modify it? Modifying gives you the chance to explore something that might feel less intense if you are a maybe.

If we are the one making the request, we can also use our sacred paws to notice what’s going on for the other person. If consent for everyone is our aim, that means that we are not pushing to obtain permission at all costs. If we notice hesitation on the part of the other person, we might want to raise this with them and see whether they want to take a break and return to the conversation later. 

Many of us spend large portions of our time feeling totally disconnected from our bodies. Taking sacred pauses throughout the day can allow us to reflect on whether we are treating ourselves consensually. Taking a minute to do a quick body scan can be a great way to cultivate somatic awareness, which is a crucial foundation for pleasure.


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