Episode 30: Personal Growth Workshops Part 2 with Chip August
“I felt loved, appreciated, accepted. I felt like it was OK for me to be loving and appreciative of the people around me without it being misunderstood . . . and for me it was like ‘I’m home!’” -- Chip August, personal life coach and Human Awareness Institute workshop leader
In Episode 30 the focus shifts from the individual participant to how this work can benefit relationships. Chip argues that relationship is the fast path to enlightenment because each of us will draw from the other what is most divine.
To learn more about Chip August, please see listings under his name on personallifemedia.com and on HAI.org
Beth Crittenden: Hello, and welcome to A Taste of Sex: Special Guest Speaker Interviews. I’m your host, Beth Crittenden, coming to you from One Taste Urban Retreat Center, located in San Francisco, where we are weaving orgasm into the world conversation one body, one person, one message at a time.
Chip August: You’re looking at me.
Beth Crittenden: Chip August is here with us today on Personal Life Media. We are two hosts joining forces, here. Chip is here on One Taste to educate on his particular brand of sex-love and intimacy, and tonight we’re going to talk even more about that, and especially about how to keep the passion in your relationship through sex and some good practices around that. You may ask, “How does Chip know this information?” He’s actually been a facilitator for seventeen years for the Human Awareness Institute in San Mateo, and we’ll talk more about that wonderful place a little later in the show. He’s also a personal growth coach, and he works with individuals and couples and families on a really wide variety of issues. He sees individual clients and he also leads workshops on such things as teambuilding, active listening, and even parenting. Chip kind of covers it all, and we’re really glad to have him here on A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews.
Chip August: So I went and, for a weekend, and the dream that I had when I was fifteen or sixteen, I was living. In that room, nobody asked me what I did for a living, nobody asked me how much money I made. Nobody cared. I didn’t feel like I was competing with other people in the room. I felt loved, appreciated, accepted. I felt like it was okay for me to be loving and appreciative of the people around me without it being misinterpreted or misunderstood. It was an environment that valued hugs. It was an environment that valued looking into other people’s eyes and saying what you were actually feeling. For me it was like, “I’m home!”
Beth Crittenden: Welcome back to A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews. I’m your host, Beth Crittenden, here with Chip August, a high facilitator and personal growth coach, which now we’re going to talk about more. Let’s jump right into what does spirituality have to do with all of this?
Chip August: What does spirituality have to do with all of this? Okay. First, words. We use words. We use words like we know what we’re talking about, and my experience is we all have sort of this internal dictionary that only kinda-sorta matches up with everybody else’s internal dictionary. Just enough so that we can have a conversation, but not enough so that we can know what the words mean. So what is spirituality? What is it? Who said so? Who wrote that definition that you carry around inside you when you think about the people who taught you about your own spirit? How many of them knew anything? I start with a basic premise: human beings are spiritual beings. We are beings endowed with, imbued with some internal life sparks. A soul, a spirit—there are lots of names for it. Some people call it their “higher power.” There are a lot of names for it, but I have a working belief—now, I was a philosophy major in college, so I already know this is a belief. This is not something I can prove. Okay? But I see a lot of evidence to support my belief that we all have a soul, we all have a spirit. So if we are spiritual beings, if we accept that the definition of spiritual means “having a spirit.” Well, if we’re spiritual beings, then isn’t everything we do, in fact, spiritual behavior? Can a spiritual being do something that’s non-spiritual? Well, that’s a pretty interesting question, isn’t it? So what I notice we do with our spirit, with our thoughts about our relationship to the universe, with our thoughts about the Divine, with our thoughts about sort of the higher power or higher wisdom in the universe. Most of us, pretty unconsciously, position that spirit somewhere far away from our body. Well, that’s pretty weird. Now I’m walking around in this vehicle sort of knowing that I’ve got some spirit out there somewhere, but it doesn’t have anything to do with my kissing my wife, it doesn’t have anything to do with my eating, it doesn’t have anything to do with when I’m on the toilet, it doesn’t have anything to do with—so what does it have to do with? Well, we develop a spirituality that’s kind of missing us. Most people have this. You ask most people about their spirituality, it’s something they bump into in church. It’s something they bump into in some other building when they’re focused on something other than them. I think relationship is the fast path to enlightenment, okay? This is really what I believe. I believe why human beings come together is my spirit yearns to be in connection with someone else’s spirit in a way where each of us is going to draw forth out of the other what is most divine, what is most godlike, what is most heavenly, what is most beautiful, what is magnificent. That’s what we’re looking for. That’s why infatuation confuses us so much, because when we’re infatuated with somebody that’s all we see about them. And that’s all we feel about ourselves, is how magnificent and beautiful we are, okay? So what does spirit have to do with this? Well, if I can feel my connection to spirit all the time, and I can be present to your spirit, and I can get clearer that our purpose has a spiritual component to it, then I’m probably not going to be as mislead by the circumstances that life throws me. Because life is going to throw us all circumstances, it’s going to throw us all shit. You know? Stuff that happens. Does that answer?
Beth Crittenden: Yeah, it does. When you say “relationship,” does sex need to be involved, or do you feel that friendship is on a similar playground with sexual relationships?
Chip August: I don’t really know, okay?
Beth Crittenden: You don’t know?
Chip August: No, I don’t know. Here’s what I see. There is something—I have two children, a stepson and a daughter, both fifteen years old, and there is a spirituality in our relationship that is different, but powerful and palpable and real, but it’s different than what I have with my wife, which is different than what I have with participants when we create a weekend together, which is different than what I have with my clients. There’s a big story. And I know a little bit about this big story. And I’m really glad I know a little bit about it, but a whole lot of it, I’m not really quite sure. Maybe all life is, is my spirit keeps interacting with other people’s spirits and we just keep polishing each other. The Buddha had this great image. In the story of the life of the Buddha, there was a morning when he was sitting under the bodhi tree and the dew had fallen, and he saw a big spider web. He looked at the spider web, and in every intersection of the spider web, he saw a little drop of dew. He looked really closely at each drop of dew. Each drop of dew reflected every other drop of dew in the web. And he had this moment of, “That’s us. That’s what we do. That’s human beings.” We each are unique and contained to ourselves, but within us we see the reflection of everything else around us. If you remove one drop from that web, you affect every other drop in that web. You don’t ruin or destroy every other drop, but you change every other drop in that web. I think that’s what I see. I have these moments when I get to see, “Wow, we’re all unique and separate, and yet all somehow reflecting everyone else,” and it is that web to be what it is to be alive. So that’s the closest I can come.
Beth Crittenden: And you’re a Tantric Buddhist practitioner.
Chip August: I am a Tantric Buddhist, yeah.
Beth Crittenden: I love that.
Chip August: Isn’t it great?
Beth Crittenden: What do you take from that that you share with people, and how do you translate it in a way that people who have never heard of Tantra or any kind of orgasmic practice as spirituality—how do you have it so that they can hear it?
Chip August: I’m a pretty nuts-and-bolts guy. Astrologically, I’m all fire and air. I’m no earth. But personally, I’m a pretty earthy guy. So I tend to spend less time in the realm of talking about spirit and more time in the realm of talking about joy, of talking about pleasure, of talking about—we have a family motto. We say we’re going to make a crest sometime in my family. Our family motto is, “No pain, no pain,” It’s a great motto, right? So many of us have embraced sort of this view of “life is pain.” Life is pain and suffering, and no pain no gain, it’s just hard, and that’s how you learn, and if it’s not painful you’re probably not working hard enough. I don’t buy any of that. So, what I found in Buddhism, I believe Buddhism is the teaching of joy. I think when you read the sutras, when you read the life of the Buddha, it’s really clear that what the Buddha taught was life as we know it is suffering, and that the path of Buddhism is the path of the cessation of suffering. It’s the cessation of the suffering of others, and the cessation of my own suffering. It’s the stopping suffering. And that path is a path of joy. That path is not a path of “feel pain but don’t suffer,” although that’s one thing to learn. There’s a deeper truth here that there is a path here of enlightenment. Of getting lighter. So that’s the Buddhist. So now what’s Tantra teaching? Tantra was a yoga, but it’s developed into more than that. It’s a series of practices which, from my perspective, recognize that there’s sexual energy, there’s energy that runs through our body, and that if we can learn to embrace that energy, harness that energy, be present with that energy, and actually learn how to move that energy, we can actually have an experience that actually feels like oneness with the universe. So the experience that the Buddha is teaching seems very similar to the experience that the Tantric yoga people are teaching. And then you go look into literature and you discover that there’s this whole set of literature of other Buddhists who noticed this. So what do I teach people? I teach people how to be present in their body, how to not go away, how to be able to feel pain but not embrace pain so that pain becomes suffering, and then to hang on to our pain. In some ways I feel like I’m the antithesis of a good psychiatrist. A good psychiatrist is going to teach you the name of your syndrome. “You have this. This is what’s wrong with you. Now that you know, you can hang onto it really tight, and if you take these medications then you’ll know you have this syndrome, because these medications work.” And I’m sort of the antithesis of that. I’m sort of, “Yeah, that may be true, and if I can help you, as an individual, find that spirit and then find that energy in you, that life energy in you, and learn how to be present to it, learn how to move it in your body, magic happens.” And if I can teach you to do that with your partner, that doesn’t wear out. Infatuation wears out. That doesn’t. So it’s all that.
Beth Crittenden: Let’s wrap up the show with talking about that couples’ work and what people can do to re-ignite.
Chip August: I really like sex, okay?
Beth Crittenden: We have so much in common.
Chip August: I’m a very sexual person, I like sex, but—no “but.” And, because there’s no “but.” I like sex, and what I think I learned as a teenager and as a young adult, was that all behavior with somebody that I was sexually interested in was focused at getting to orgasm. It was all sort of, “Can I get this person in bed? Can I actually do these behaviors which are going to have them come and then I’m going to come.” And after a while, as human beings we get really good at that. We get really good at, “Okay, I like you, you like me. Great. Let’s fuck.” And I think we miss an extraordinary realm of pleasure and joy and fun and energy in our rush to get done. Because it turns out, rushing to get done isn’t actually a good thing. Yeah, all right, there’re some nights when I don’t have a lot of time. I like quickies now and again. It’s a fun thing. It’s okay. But boy, that’s no way to live a life. And I think by the time we’re in our thirties, a lot of us are pretty disappointed with it all, and if you’ve been in marriage ten years, it’s really hard. There’s a few that after ten years the sex is still good, but most, the sex has kind of become this, “it’s a release, it’s nice, we touch each other, we hold each other, but it’s not what it was.” My mother used to have a coffee cup from the Pennsylvania Dutch country that said, “Kissing wears out, cooking don’t.” And I think that’s what most people experience. So what do I say to couples? I say “slow down.” Slow down, slow down. Here’s a great exercise. Every day for a month, find five minutes where you get naked, and you sit together—if you know the position yab yum, you can sit that way. If you don’t, basically you want to sit with your legs sort of set over each other, so you’re kind of body-to-body, face-to-face, genitals-to-genitals, kind of up close. And naked. For about a minute at first, just look into each other’s eyes and breathe. You don’t have to say anything, you don’t have to do anything, just look into each other’s eyes and breathe. And then notice all the feelings that come up. Then take a minute or two to just talk about those feelings. Just talk about, “Wow, I’m sitting here, I felt really shut down, I felt afraid, I felt my walls go up, I felt bored, I felt impatient.” Whatever’s real. You don’t have to lie about it. Whatever really happens. And the person that’s listening, your job is—we borrowed something from those cotton swab Q-Tips, “Quit taking it personally.” It’s not about you. If this person says they’re bored, they’re not bored with you. We just empty out. And then I suggest, for a few minutes, take turns one of you stroking the other person from head to toe, the other one stroking from head to toe, and then just stop and now notice what you’re feeling. I think if every couple did that every day for a month, all kinds of realms of possibility would open up. If you choose to have intercourse after that, that’s great, if you choose not to that’s great. What you choose to do after the exercise I’m not so concerned about, but you gotta do the exercise.
Beth Crittenden: Five minutes.
Chip August: A minimum of five minutes.
Beth Crittenden: Who could not spare five minutes?
Chip August: That’s what I always say. I want to say, having two kids and for a while being a single dad, I get that sometimes it’s really hard to find that five minutes. But I also get that it’s not impossible. It’s just challenging, and sometimes you gotta meet the challenge. You gotta find the five minutes, because it’s going to make a difference.
Beth Crittenden: Very nice. Thank you.
Chip August: My pleasure.
Beth Crittenden: Do you have a personal website where people can contact you?
Chip August: I do. There’s lots of different ways to get in touch with me. These days, probably the best way to find me is actually through the Personal Life Media network. So if you go to personallifemedia.com, and then just look for either my name, Chip August, or Sex, Love, and Intimacy, my show, that’s going to steer you to my podcast and to my blog and from there you’ll find other places to reach me. Also, you can reach me through the Human Awareness Institute website, hai.org.
Beth Crittenden: Great. Thank you so much.
Chip August: My pleasure.
Beth Crittenden: This has been A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews, from One Taste Urban Retreat Center in San Francisco. We’ve been speaking with Chip August, who is presenting here tonight. Should be a great workshop. And if you would like to send us your stories about your five minutes of rekindling, you can email us at [email protected]. Also, if you visit the Personal Life Media website that Chip just said, you can find texts and transcripts of this show and others. We have a reality audio show on life in an orgasm-based community on One Taste, and we also have our erotic open-mic readings on another show. So check out the suite of A Taste of Sex shows, and thanks a lot for joining us.