Each New Year and the month of January inspires people to renew their commitments to meaningful intentions. This is why people take on resolutions, whether to lose weight, get in better shape by joining a gym (More than 12 percent of gym members join in January, compared to an average of 8.3 percent per month for the full year, according to the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA)), partake in a “Dry January”, or to decrease stress and improve their relationships by starting therapy. The commitments that are made globally the minute we cross into the new year express a collective consciousness of shortcomings and individual strides towards living more fully and healthily. Instead of resolutions which often get put on by the wayside by mid-February, I propose a practice of RENEWAL to integrate throughout the year. This RENEWAL includes actions, internal inquiry, to go beyond the goals set by folks when they make New Year’s resolutions. This RENEWAL practice strongly reflects the way that I invite clients to subtly say or begin new behaviors to align with their sex therapy or sex coaching goal. At times I will encourage partners to create new rituals for themselves and with one another when they are creating time for intimacy to shift their oft-repeated sexual script or routine. Through R.E.N.E.W.A.L., I have created an acronym representing practices you can cultivate throughout this year not just for the first 30-90 days.
French Sociologist Emilie Durkheim wrote about his studies of rites and rituals in his book Elementary Forms of Religious Life and regarded religion as the incarnate of society’s conscience collective–or its “collective consciousness” or “collective conscience.” While a 2020 Gallup poll stated that only 47% of American adults say they belong to a house of worship, many clients who come to sex therapy self-identify as spiritual. And like many spiritual practices worldwide, rituals express the consciousness or larger mission with which people align their larger life’s purpose.
R: Rituals were, for Durkheim, sites of “collective effervescence”, moments when the very fact of congregating to perform set religious actions imparted special energy to the participants–which lends meaning to a certain point in time, a specific event or a particular life cycle moment. For this new year, I invite clients to create a ritual from scratch, adopt a ritual from another culture to address a specific experience or emotion one wants to process, or collaborate with a partner to while paying tribute to either or both your cultural or religious heritages. Sometimes people create rituals for a joyful occasion like moving in with a partner, deciding to open up a relationship to welcome another partner, or deciding to adopt a child as a single parent. These are moments in one’s life that contain many emotions and psychological meaning but are not necessarily represented in traditional religions. People may invite people they feel closest to to cocreate the collective effervescence of the ritual or decide to do it on their own.
E: Engage with people you care deeply for. In this societal era where digital communication–where we convey our emotions using emojis and profess our feelings through text–is considered touching base, strive to engage in person or through video calls with those you hold dearest or those with whom you’d like to become closer. Opt to engage with more intention: intention through physical proximity and intimacy, as well as intention with whom you choose to spend your time.
N: Nesting is a practice we associate with parents who are expecting a baby, where to-be parents adjust their behaviors to ones that demonstrate a protection for the child coming into the world. However, I say we extend this practice of creating a warm, clean, loving home space to part of a yearly cleaning out and bringing in peaceful energy. A Feng Shui for the soul, to sweep out the past and create a peaceful place for new opportunities and connections to grow.
E: Erotic Embodiment is for anyone in the relationship they have with themselves, and it is important in developing great Sex Esteem. It is accomplished through engaging one’s body in a mindful way that focuses on the development of a deeper body/mind/spirit connection. This mindfulness and bodily connectivity, be it through yoga, T’ai Chi, or a dance class, is helpful in renewing your sex life, whether or not you have a partner. Learning how to identify and cultivate your own erotic energy is a key element of juicy sexuality.
W: Wonder Cultivation is accomplished in adults through acknowledging what captivates your wonder–a feat admired in youth, but often shut down in adults–both now and from your experience as a child. By allowing space for noticing what captures your current curiosity you allow room for wonder to grow. Wonder allows for inquiry and the opportunity to learn new things about the world around us, the people with whom we share the Earth, and ourselves. One doesn’t have to accept that wonder is lost after working hard to achieve once-distant goals; one can utilize adult wonder in a complex manner. Psychologist and researcher Jeffrey Davis describes how, compared to his children, he has a larger awareness of mortality, which “heightens my experience of wonder and actually helps me be even more present to the moment with them or with you or with other human beings that, understandably, they don’t. They have a wide eyed wonder, and we have a more grown up wonder.”
A: Allow yourself to create a real period of time to relax. True relaxation means a quieting of the internalized “shoulds” list of things to be done in the future and “should-haves” of regret of things that weren’t done in the past. Without truly being at rest, the blood in our veins and capillaries can’t flow freely. Without relaxed blood flow, we can’t fully feel pleasure in intimacy.
L: Lovingkindness as defined by renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg, “about opening ourselves up to others with compassion and equanimity, which is a challenging exercise, requiring us to push back against assumptions, prejudices, and labels that most of us have internalized.” Lovingkindness, which is different from what is presented as romantic and/or sexualized love, is a feeling and an action of compassion that need not be suppressed but, through its expression, can enhance deep moments. Lovingkindness is not a soft virtue, but a powerful force whose power can spread exponentially just through expression. I invite clients to either use the traditional blessings of lovingkindness or create original blessings for oneself, one’s loved ones and then all the world’s beings.