Betty: The beginning of the book sees you braving an fMRI scanner to capture what happens in your brain during a breath and energy orgasm. What made you do it, and what did it tell you?
The other reason I wanted to do the fMRI was that the whole process was going to be documented on film and broadcast on The Learning Channel. I was pretty certain that the fMRI results were going to show that my breath and energy orgasms were, in fact, real orgasms. I wanted the opportunity to introduce the concept of expanded and alternative orgasms to a wider audience.
Betty: I was really interested to read different people’s accounts of their ecstatic experiences – they were so varied. Do you think we’ve got the wrong idea about ecstasy? Do we tend to see it as more inaccessible than it actually is?
Barbara: Absolutely. I like to quote Louise Hay on this point. Many years ago she gave a talk called the Totality of Possibilities. In her talk she pointed out that all of us see only a limited set of possibilities for ourselves. In fact, there are an infinite number of possibilities available to us at any given moment. The only things that keep us from seeing them are our limiting beliefs and fears. Each time you create an ecstatic experience for yourself you you shatter the false ceiling of those limited possibilities and taking a fresh step into the totality of possibilities.
Everyone can experience ecstasy, but each of us will experience it differently. For some people an ecstatic experience would be to have their first genital orgasm. For someone else it might be finding a moment of utterly blissful inner piece. For a third person it might be standing on the top of a mountain they’ve just climbed. Ecstatic possibilities are easily available. It’s just that sometimes they are difficult to imagine. That’s why I wrote this book-to give people a simple practical road map to everyday ecstasy.
Betty: You talk in depth about the need to set boundaries in relationships, and it made me think about how many long-term couples neglect to do this. How do clear boundaries help in relationships? And is it possible to establish boundaries many years into a relationship?
Barbara: I think boundaries are especially important in long-term relationships. The desire to merge into one unit called “a couple” can cause us to lose sight of our all-important boundaries-the places where you stop and I start. One way to start unravelling this in a fun, non-threatening way is to play the You-Me-Us game. Draw three columns on a piece of paper and head each column You, Me or Us. In each column list qualities, preferences or desire specific to You Me or Us. You might list preferences or desires for food, sex, colors, furniture, people-anything. It’s a fun way to acknowledge some places where we want to maintain boundaries and/or set new ones.
Barbara: Radical acceptance is a Buddhist concept. In essence, it means accepting things exactly the way they are with no expectation of change. Of course, the one true constant in the universe is change. So when we accept things exactly as they are with no hope or expectation that they will ever change, our death grip on the issue loosens and things actually do begin to shift and change. A creative window opens revealing an entirely new and unexplored set of possibilities. I think radical acceptance is an essential practice when we’re preparing to hear our partner’s desires. It can be really difficult to hear a partner express desires that don’t perfectly match up with our own. When we can accept a desire that surprises or even shocks us without trying to change it, talk them out of it, ignore it or assume it’s just a phase, we create a safe space to hear all of their desires-which will probably include a fair number that we’d love to satisfy ;-)
Barbara: Absolutely anyone can do it. Here are a few ways to get started:
Live what you love. This is hardly a new maxim, but it’s essential to an ecstatic life. Do as much of what you love as you possibly can. Do as little as you must of anything you don’t like. The more you commit to what you love, the easier it is to let the rest be handled by someone else who enjoys it more. Pay attention to your intuitive energy meter. Ask yourself: Do I feel an energy gain or an energy drain in this situation, or around this person? Eliminate or minimize your exposure to anything or anyone that drains your energy. Embrace that which feeds you.
Whatever you’re doing-do it whole-heartedly. Do not hold back. Give yourself over completely. Be bigger than you think you are. Be more than you’ve ever been. Be too much.
Embrace and celebrate your inner teenager. What was your passion at age 13? Or age 16? How did you pursue that passion? What was your most compelling reason for pursuing this passion? How did you behave if people told you that your passion was wrong, silly, or a waste of time? Revisit your most ecstatic, stubborn, passionate, activist years. Take notes. See your inner teenager as a vital part of your authentic adult self.
On a related note, redefine aging. What if as we got older we became more passionate instead of less? What if life were more fun? What if age freed us from the fear of others’ judgments? What if we became more hopeful and less jaded? What might we accomplish-for ourselves and others-if we combined the wisdom of our years with the passion of our youth?
Go to the edge. Fall off. See what’s there. Start a love affair with your own fear. Imagine your fear as your best friend. Throw a fear party. Invite all your friends and all their fears. Dance with all your emotions.
Seize the moment-and stay in it. Slow down! Spend as much time in each present moment as you can. We often complain that we want more time in our lives. Why would the universe give us more time if we can’t appreciate the time we do have? Stretch each present moment to its fullest. See how much ecstasy you can savor in each moment of the day.