human awareness institute
Date: September 12, 2006 07:14AM
I will be glad to answer everything I can without breaking my own agreements. I am hearing curiosity and skepticism, both of which I believe in and relate to, no apology needed. The subject is like a wet bar of soap in the bathtub since people have many different definitions of what sex is and isn’t but I will give you as clear an answer as I can and am open to follow up questions.
HAI focuses on connections between people far more than on sex, per se. I have been to non-HAI workshops that were techniques focused (e.g. tantra) or goal focused (e.g. people learning how to climax) and HAI is neither of these. HAI’s focus is on getting people comfortable with themselves and others. Sexuality is a piece but not the sole focus.
Having attended Level 2 (Loving Yourself) several times both as a participant and as a team member, I can’t think of any exercise that I would categorize as foreplay. To me foreplay has titillation as a goal and nothing in the workshop seems a match for that.
This being said, a religious conservative would look at all exercises and see foreplay in many of them. My sense of what is/isn’t foreplay comes from both the point of the exercise (e.g. is learning what your body looks like foreplay?) and my own experience with the mood of working on the exercise with a partner.
HAI refers to Sex as ‘sacred energy exchange’, it is a VERY broad definition which includes far more than what most people think of as sexual. My looking into your eyes and feeling compassion for you is sex by this definition. So, by this definition, yes, there is sex in all the workshops.
By my own sensibilities, having been active in HAI for many years, I see people making a rainbow of personal choices from my own of making pretty conservative choices to some folks using any ‘create your own exercise’ time as an opportunity to be wild with people who share their interest in being wild. What I want you to hear in my words is that there is a distinction between formal exercises and the personal choices some people make. HAI has never asked me to do any exercise I wasn’t comfortable with. (FYI - I opted out of an exercise at a non-HAI sexuality workshop that involved hand jobs so that gives you some idea where my boundaries are.)
The comments in several emails about rumored activities are just that – rumors. I will stretch my agreements to say that HAI does not have exercises which ask people to have intercourse (not even at Level 7 or Team Workshops)...it is a great fantasy but only that. As for asking each other questions…since HAI develops people’s thinking, questioning exercises can be used in many ways to develop thinking. Assumptions about where a question leads are merely assumptions.
Wondering what happens at higher levels is a source of much curiosity and much speculation. It was for me for each level. Not knowing the workshop contents is typical of all workshops I do whether they are at Omega Institute, Esalen, Integral Institute or elsewhere.
Because HAI includes sexuality in the scope it hits more of our vulnerability buttons but not knowing about the activities is the norm for personal growth workshops. My belief is that knowing would lead to a lot of intellectualizing on my part and would shift my experience of an experiential workshop. I make my decisions to sign up for workshops based on what calls to me, an organization’s reputation and my own intuition. There are tantra teachers I will not train with because my intuition has told me not to - I don't trust them to create a safe space.
Each of us feels nervous stepping into the unknown, if it feels like too big a stretch going to a workshop where activities aren’t known, I recommend you take care of yourself and not go, whether it is HAI or some other group. As I have said before, HAI isn’t for everyone and I strongly support people who say “This isn’t for me” regardless of their reasons.
As for the clothing optional question, I’ll be glad to share my own beliefs…my gut is that we act from a much simpler, more authentic place when we get beyond clothes and it is easier for others to see who we really are. I have a great wardrobe yet when I am in it you see me as a successful woman who can afford certain things. Without my wardrobe you see me at a different level, a fellow workshopper who looks tired or happy or scared. When I’m at a HAI workshop, I am less concerned about my persona and settle into just being however I am.
Regarding your comment about the clothing “must come off”, there is no “must”. As team members we are taught to support each person making their own choices around clothing. A good friend who has done a couple of HAI workshops (after years of saying “never”) takes great pride in having done her first 2 workshops fully clothed – for her that was a key step in her growth to make that choice for herself. One of my family members has made a similar choice. At most workshops (including team trainings) there are a variety of choices being made – many enjoying being naked, some sarongs, robes, underwear, shorts, sweats…Personally, I like each person figuring out what works for them, one moment at a time. Our freedom is maintained, we just have a few more options in the mix of possibilities than usual.
I laugh over your empathic comments about remembering higher levels since my memory is a sieve about these things. I just returned from participating in Level 4, however, so even I can’t plead memory on that one. Let’s see what I can tell you that is within my agreements…
Level 4 is about Spirituality and Sexuality. For me Level 4 is one of my favorites – the flavor it leaves me with is sweet and gentle. The essence of the workshop is finding our own answers to what is the difference between being in touch with our spirituality and being in touch with our sexuality. For some of us, there is a difference, for others there is not. For me, in several exercises, my partners chose to use our time together for deep conversations about their lives. I experienced gentle touch without goals throughout the weekend and had a variety of experiences that stretched my thinking about how I connect with others and how I hold myself separate.
As I indicated above, different people come to workshops with different goals, people in the workshop made many different choices. My focus in exercises is on my partner so I don't notice details about what was happening in the room. I have done level 4 several times, each time with a different flavor to it. After 6 months away from HAI workshops in CA, I went because I wanted to see some old friends and needed the support. I had a very good cry in the arms of a team member (personal stuff having nothing to do with the workshop) and felt much lighter afterwards.
Level 5 is one I don’t remember well (it's been a couple of years). It is about Control and Surrender; how we deal with getting and not getting what we want and how our thoughts shape our experience. Personally it didn’t push any of my buttons. For some of my friends, they love the workshop and claim it changed their lives radically. I guess we all have different areas we are working on. Even given the topic (which may sound scary) participants are always at choice moment by moment.
When we try to translate the HAI levels to levels of sexuality, the match is not linear. In fact some higher level workshops may feel less sexual than a previous one. With each workshop we learn some different aspects of sexuality yet is isn’t like junior high school first base, second base, etc.
The workshops are progressive but against a different foundation. It is more developmental that sexual in its progresion – I have to be able to love myself in a healthy way (level 2) before I can live life at choice (level 3). I need to be aware of my sexuality in the context of spirit (level 4) before I am up to thinking about how the world often tilts on me and how I respond to it (level 5)….
On Daydreamer’s comments about HAI’s focus on group sex. I see it differently. HAI is an educational forum about sexuality for people who are open to learning in this type of a group experiential forum. It is certainly not a good fit for many people and I respect Daydreamer’s making choices that serve her in deciding not to do any future workshops.
HAI is grooming people to find their own levels of comfort with their own sexuality, this is true. HAI is not grooming people for anyone else’s sexuality. Facilitators are typically in monogamous marriages. There are also a couple of single women facilitators. Facilitators do not cross any sexual boundaries in or out or workshops with participants. There is no waiting period – it just doesn’t happen.
What puzzles me about the discussion underway is that there are MUCH easier ways to find sexual partners – if that’s what one wants - then going on team and, frankly, going on team strikes me as one of the WORST ways I can think of…team members pay a lot each time we serve on team, we have many responsibilities which eat into our potential socializing time (e.g. cleaning bathrooms, making coffee for every break & meal, etc.) and if we do meet someone, we cannot let them know we are interested and we have to wait months to get involved. (Incidentally, there is a 4 month waiting period after level 1, not the 2 months mentioned in earlier posts.)
I see very few team member/participant connections happening even after the waiting periods are up. Perhaps that varies in different parts of the country, I don’t know, but here in Northern CA where HAI holds the largest number of its workshops, team members dating or getting involved with participants they met while on team is not very common. (Most HAI team members live pretty full lives and have opportunities to meet people in many ways outside workshops.) In my experience, when interns or assistants are looking for a new sweetie, they meet them in other parts of their lives or they attend a workshop as a regular participant so they are not in an official role and are free to get involved if they meet someone.
On HAI and love, love shows up in many ways. I love my sons and would do anything for them. That is one type of love. I care about a person injured in a car crash as I drive by and I say a prayer for them, that is another form of love. I give money to a homeless person who is lying to me - not caring about the lie, just focusing on the human need. Each of these is love showing up in a different way. bell hook's [u:dd0f4ae489]All About Love [/u:dd0f4ae489]and M. Scott Peck's [u:dd0f4ae489]The Road Less Traveled [/u:dd0f4ae489]have taught me a great deal about how we have to unlearn our definitions of love to find what love is really about.
I believe HAI is about reminding us of the choice points to be loving or not. I do not claim to love strangers as I do my sons yet my heart is big enough to find compassion, to take time to listen even when I have other things I had planned to be doing, to be there for another human being who needs something in the moment. Do I love participants, yes. It is a choice I make. How I show my love is also a choice I make. One of the ways I show my love is to treat every participant with respect and to not be the kind of sexual predator Daydreamer fears. I also show my love when I coach and mentor fellow team members. I believe we shape the world by our actions.
I hope my answers have been helpful. Please let me know if you have more questions.