A key tantric idea that Erik and I play with a lot is “Everything is an Experiment.” Erik likes to say, “Doing the same thing is an experiment too. But don’t expect different results.”
It strikes me that the holidays are a great time to experiment as it’s a time that tends to be super-charged with unconscious material and we tend to find ourselves playing out old patterns.
Creating an experiment is a great way to avoid slipping into unconsciousness. Most people I know — including myself — tend to fall into a funny kind of unconscious state around the holidays. We are suddenly in old patterns with family. The holidays can be like the poppy field in The Wizard of Oz. You wake up after a spell and wonder what happened?
An experiment is a way to do something different, change the story, and bring a breeze of new life into a situation.
There are experiments to create more intimacy and connection… Experiments to nurture a sense of greater belonging… Experiments to shake things up and feel the juiciness of your existence…. Experiments just to make a situation more tolerable because you have a saucy secret in your pants…! More on each of these below.
Here are a few experiments that I’ve done and found useful to wake myself up and shift a dynamic:
If you have a relative who tends to make digs, and you tend to be stoic or not know how to respond, you might try this: look at them and say, “Ouch.”
I’ve heard people say this is kind of victim-y or blame-y like saying “You hurt me” as opposed to the more responsible, “I feel hurt.” I get that AND I once shifted an entire family dynamic with one “Ouch.” You are letting your inner world be known.
An experiment in belonging:
If you are on the outskirts of a gathering or having trouble feeling like you belong, try playing the host for others. See if they are comfortable, if they need a drink, connect them with someone you think they may like. Make it your party.
This is a wonderful and useful experiment I have used often. I’ve tended to think of belonging and connection as states (I either belong or I don’t, I’m either connected with someone or I’m not) as opposed to getting the here-and-now possibility for choice in the moment. I spend a lot of time with friends on the holidays and I can go down a rabbit hole of “This isn’t my family! I don’t really belong here!” So thinking of belonging as a choice has been useful. When I notice I’m starting to make myself into an outsider (which part of me loves to do), I start to host. This way I can make myself belong rather than waiting for someone to invite me to belong. This one can be a real game-changer!
Get a packing cock or other magic instrument:
If you are sometimes a floaty unfocused person — as I can be — or tend to get wishy washy in some situations, a packing cock (a flaccid rubber penis that fits in your underwear) works wonders. Years ago, I became aware that I had a lot of “feminine” (expansive, chaotic) energy and I wanted to work on my “masculine” (directive, penetrative) energy. One of my tantra teachers recommended that I get a packing cock. Even if you just wear it while alone, cleaning the house, plowing through your to-do list, or writing… You will notice the difference. Also, I find it fun to have a secret in my pants. I’ve worn my packing cock to parties, to work, grocery shopping. It’s a whole new dynamic. And I tend to get a lot done!
Invite your shadow self to the party:
Bring out a part of yourself that is not usually invited to the party. Or a part of yourself you’d like to nurture. Since I was little, I’ve loved Mae West. I love a bawdy funny lady who is sexual but not too feminine. A lady who smokes cigars and lays on a piano cracking jokes. A woman who thinks she’s sexy as heck whether anybody else does. So I brought Her to a party recently. I prepared and got in the mood: I ditched my Whole Foods Red Earth lipstick made of hemp seeds in favor of a cheap drugstore brand called Metallic Seduction. I spent a long time in front of the mirror getting ready, appreciating my beauty, put on quite a bit of makeup and piling on too much jewelry. All night long, when I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror, I’d say to myself, “You are so fucking sexy.” I made inappropriate comments. I flirted with everyone: old people, babies. I was essentially my own party. I had fun.
What persona or part of yourself would be fun for you to trot out? A friend of mine experimented with bringing her jilted wife part to a gathering — a side she usually keeps to herself. She said it wasn’t quite fun but it was liberating somehow and she felt real and true. Others confessed to her their own relationship secrets. Another friend usually hides her psychic priestess-ness and she let herself tune in and act as an oracle at a party. A major caretaker who tends to be hyper-vigilant at family gatherings nurtured her inner absentee mother (modeled on her own mother who she’d been trying not to be her whole life) and took a bath in the middle of the gathering, and was surprised to see how her family stepped in to finish preparing the meal.
Experiment with Being Bad:
For me, this is somewhat related to the experiment above. But it doesn’t need to be. It’s essentially feeling around for all the ways I try to be a good person. A good person is helpful, doesn’t talk too much about themselves, makes sure others are comfortable. And then I experiment with doing the opposite. I notice where I might censor myself or be careful and then I experiment with not censoring and not being careful. I feel into the “bad girl smoking in back of the High School” part of me (who I never was). One of the gifts I got from doing this experiment was noticing how much fun I have when I’m bad and how much, for the most part, people like me when I’m bad. For me, being bad brought a lot more life force energy, an almost erotic awakeness, to the party. I also learned that people have more good will and are more forgiving than I’d expected.
Invite your inner child to the party:
Get in touch with your 4 or 6 or 10 year old. I once went to a baby shower in my four year old state. Here’s a snippet from my journal at the time:
“I was a four-year-old big time at the baby shower today. I’m worried my friend’s family may think I’m retarded! Hannah was there and she let me spit half-eaten jellybeans in her hand. I didn’t like them! And I made a baby out of play dough and it didn’t win the contest and I was angry and I squished the winning baby a little bit. And I walked around and took plastic animals and made them growl at people and told the women they were beautiful princesses and I said a lot very simple things like 'I like games.’ And I told my friend, ‘Your baby is going to come out your vagina.’ And I sat on the floor when she opened presents. And I ate a lot of cake. I got a lot of attention and I liked it. And I let myself roam around and not sit with the adults and I didn’t help and I went to look at the trees. There was someone who wasn’t nice and I just said ‘Bye Bye’ and walked away."
I don’t necessarily want to walk around squishing play dough babies all the time and eating piles of cake, but in terms of waking up my aliveness and becoming aware of parts of my self that I have suppressed, the experiment worked beautifully. I went whole hog on the experiment at the baby shower, but even just bringing 5% of that energy to a gathering or interaction shifts it up. I also learned that I can speak in very simple sentences and it’s enough! I don’t need to be smart or poetic or interesting. It’s enough to say, “You’re pretty. I like you. I want that. Give me a present.” (That could actually be another experiment: only speak in short, simple sentences.) I also noticed how much I wanted to touch people, especially their faces, something I usually would monitor: No touching! As an (adult) four year old, I let myself hug people and touch them as much as I wanted.
Gather the Data:
Erik and I have been taught that the only bad experiments are ones where you don’t collect the data. So reflect a little after your experiment: What was that like? What did it stir up? What did I learn? Did that experiment stir up an idea for a new experiment?
There are endless possible experiments. The key is whatever will help you feel more alive and connected to yourself and others. Hopefully, just the act of trying something new will be pleasurable. Erik wants me to add that it’s also about re-writing the story of your life. It’s your story!
Wishing you good experimenting this holiday season — and always!