Episode 57: Francesca Gentille: Reuniting Sexuality and Spirituality

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What is “spirituality?”  What does sex have to do with spirituality?  What role does “ritual” play in our spirituality?   It’s a pleasure to welcome Francesca Gentille back to Sex, Love & Intimacy.  Francesca is a Sexual Shaman, teacher, coach, and host of Sex: Tantra & Kama Sutra, here on the Personal Life Media network.  Francesca has a way of talking about matters of the spirit and matters of sexuality that is real, down-to-earth and accessible.  With insights drawn from Assanas, Breathing Techniques, Chakras, Kama Sutra, Mudras, Pujas, Quodoshka, and Tantra, Francesca's honest and candid conversation will touch your soul.  Listen in as we compare sexuality with cooking, and talk about finding our deepest connection to the divine while snuggled in a sleeping bag.  And don’t miss Francesca’s sweet exercise for you to try for yourself. 

Transcript

Chip August: Welcome to “Sex Love and Intimacy”. I am your host Chip August. On today’s show we’re going to be talking about: sexuality and spirituality with my guest Francesca Gentille.

Francesca is an award winning poet. She is a sexual shaman involved with psychology and addiction recovery, depression recovery. She is a private coach and she’s got years of training and experience in health education, human sexuality, and anti-aging. She is also an expert in clarifying life’s purpose and integrative healing from dysfunctional families, compassionate communication, holistic relationships, and a whole bunch more.

Francesca Gentille: To me a very quick thing that I can do at any moment is to open my heart and there is the ancients, the sea of wisdom, was in the heart not the mind. The mind was meant to be in service of the wisdom of the heart. So we want to open our heart. And when our heart energy opens we are connected to our beloved, deeply, and to all that is in a way that is very precious and sacred.

We look at Shamanism, cross-culturally, and what I have found is that the shamanic way of looking at the world is very rich and multi-dimensional. What it says is that there are multiple levels of meaning and reality concurrency and that in a way you could say that in the shamanic world that everything has meaning.

Chip August: Francesca is a good friend, a fascinating person, and a fellow host on the Person Life Media Network. Welcome to the show Francesca.

Francesca Gentille: Hi Chip. I am really glad to be here this morning with you.

Chip August: I am so glad to have you here this morning.

So the whole subject of sexuality and spirituality is one that comes up a lot I noticed in the personal growth workshops I lead. It’s a question that I see in all the popular press and what not. So I just thought we would kind of dive in here.

First, I just want to kind of have a sense about, what is spirituality.

Most of the listeners don’t know, but I live near Silicon Valley and  I  have a lot of very technically oriented and engineering oriented friends and neighbors who the word spirituality is  very confrontive for them. So what are we talking about when we are talking about spirituality?

Francesca Gentille: I love your question. I just want to say that.

Chip August: Thank you.

Francesca Gentille: And I love taking things that we banter about in the culture, spirituality this, spirituality that, let’s be more spiritual, and no one has ever defined it. So I am going to jump in. And what I would say in terms of spirituality is that it’s personal and there’s a universal sense of it.

What I really enjoy and want to give to people is that spirituality doesn’t have to be just one thing, that some people experience a sense of connection or expansive connection in nature. They’re doing a hike and suddenly they look out over a vista and they take a deep breath and something expands in their heart or they feel their own body more fully as they look out over that rolling hills and rising son and something opens in them.

That, in and of itself, is spirituality. It can be very, in a sense, in the body. It can be very in a moment and spirituality is something that sense of expansion and that sense of connection with something bigger than ourselves is what religions seek toward. Is what great philosophers seek toward. Is what great lovers seek toward and it’s that it can be just so many things to so many people.

Our listeners get to decide what it is for them. And I invite them , if they have never thought about there own spirituality to just think what is it that connects you to something bigger than you. What is it that moves your  heart? What is it that uplifts you in some way? Follow that. Pursue that. That is your spirituality.

Chip August: So, in some way, what I think I am hearing you say is if I am out there have a hike in the redwoods and I’m looking and really loving the look of the redwoods and loving the feeling of being in the woods and just loving the experience of just being alive, that might be a spiritual experience.

Francesca Gentille: Absolutely!

Chip August: Very comforting, I think, for the people who keep thinking that God is supposed to tap them on the shoulder and talk directly to them.

Francesca Gentille: There is supposed to be a burning bush…

Chip August: Right, exactly.

Francesca Gentille: …and not one that you lit yourself.

Chip August: Exactly.

Francesca Gentille: And it’s supposed to be some sort of really ornate ritual where you have to stand and kneel or chant and sing and move in certain ways at certain times. And if you don’t do it just right God is going to be mad at you for doing that.

And I feel that it is something that is very very natural to human beings. They have done studies on peak experiences and the spiritual part of the brain. This is a natural tendency and a natural longing in humans beings.
I consider a very spiritual or magical experience for me is… I have a more earth based spirituality where I think all of life is sacred and sex is sacred. It means precious. It means special. It means full of aliveness, full of consciousness.

And that very, in a sense, animistic or shamanistic way of looking at the world, is mine.

I was camping. I was in the woods and I wanted to see the moon. And I consider the way that I work with the moon, not that this is real, but the way I like to work with the moon or connect to the moon is as a divine feminine, a mirror changing cycles of emotion and mood that I have as a woman. And so the title being that runs my own menstruation. And so I like to relate to the moon that way.

And one night as I was going to sleep I had been camping for a week and had never seen the moon. I had gone to sleep before the moon rose. And I said, “Momma I want to see you. I really want to see you. It’s my last night and I want to see you.” And I went to bed. I went into my sleeping bag  and I am the kind of person that cocoons in a sleeping bag. I pull it over my head. I mean, I am really down in there.

And somewhere in the middle of the night I start to feel this tickling at my ribs. It’s tickling. It’s tickling.  Suddenly I unzip my sleeping bag and throw it back, turn in my flashlight, and this moth flies out from my sleeping bag. And I am thinking how in heavens name did a moth, in this cocoon that I have, get all the way down to my ribs. And I am now totally awake.

And then I think to myself, hmm, I wonder. So I unzip my tent. I walk outside. I look up and the moon, this glorious radiant full moon, is just cresting the tops of the trees and I say, “Thank you.”

Chip August: Wow!

Francesca Gentille: And, in a sense, very natural. Was it a coincidence? Who knows? And yet to me that was a spiritual magical moment that was that connection in the allness. I don’t know how it works. I just know that it shows up.

Chip August: You used the word…You said something about some people think there has to be a ritual. So I know that ritual does play a part in a lot of people’s spirituality. What role does ritual have in any of this?

Francesca Gentille: Well, this is that paradox to that both and ness. I think of it a lot as cooking you and I have talked about this before, the metaphors between cooking and sex, and cooking and religion. In cooking some people have rituals. They get out all the pots and pans. They get out their cookbooks. It’s very prescribed.

My mother used to get out a silver champagne bucket, chill champagne, and put on opera when she would cook. And it was a ritual. And, certainly, my mother cooked some of the best food in the world. So it seemed to work. It was a good ritual. Keep doing that mom.

So we develop systems that seem to support our connection with one another, with getting things done, with good cooking, with sex, with God. And I would say that if this system of how you set things up, if you light the candles, put on the music, if you sing, if you kneel, if you go to your community church, and that supports you in the outcome that you desire, keep doing that. Good.

And what I want to invite people to look at is that if ritual ends up being something that blocks them, and there are some of us that it does- in a tantric ritual we can have the tantric cookbook next to us going, “Ok, now we need to breath five times deeply together [breaths deeply in and out] . Oops. We were supposed to do that while softly gazing into one another’s left eye.” And if looking at a book or trying to think of the steps actually takes us out of our creativity, takes out of our connection, takes us out of the outcome that we are actually reaching toward then I would say, “Let it go.”

There are people who cook by…And I am actually one of those. There are people who cook by opening the cupboards and looking for inspiration. You know, what is calling to me tonight. Then they start opening the spices and sniffing them and sensing into, well, what would be a good spice for this thing that I now want to cook.

And my lovemaking can be like that. I just tune into the moment and I say,” My heart is here with your heart and my body is here with your body and am I feeling something blocked? Am I feeling something open? Am I wanting to open it more? Am I wanting to bring healing to the blocks?” And so to me I end up working with it more as a flow. 

But that’s not better than someone who might say, “I want to talk to you about: what we’re going to do in lovemaking tonight: and  that I would like to spend a few minutes eye gazing; and that I would like to spend a few minutes rocking and breathing.”

Both are good but are they getting you to the outcome that you want.
 
Chip August: Got it.

So you see ritual as kind of a recipe that sometimes people like because when they use that recipe they kind of get the same result or they get the result they’re looking for over and over again. But there’s no reason that you require a recipe to cook.

Francesca Gentille: Exactly.

Chip August: Yeah. This is great stuff. I want to talk more about this. I particularly want to start talking as regards to sexuality.

But I also want to talk take a break. So we are going to pause for a moment and give a chance for our sponsors to support us and for us to support our sponsors. 

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Chip August: Welcome back. You are listening to “Sex, Love, and Intimacy”. I am your host Chip August. We’re talking to our friend Francesca Gentille. Francesca has been talking about sexuality and spirituality and we have been using cooking as a metaphor, which I liked a whole lot.

I want to talk about sexuality here for a moment because….actually, for more than a moment because it is my favorite subject.

When I learned to be sexual, when I first became sexual because it’s a little bit of both, my experience was that sexuality is a completely physical experience. I do these physical manipulations with my body with a partner or without. It builds up some sort of energy, which releases in some really good feelings in my body in a really great sense of release.  What does any of that have to do with spirituality?

Francesca Gentille: [laughing] I enjoyed your description.

Chip August: I was just trying to figure out how to actually say that exactly.

Francesca Gentille: What I hear in that is, what I would say, is kind of a dance or a balancing between the mechanism that we are- You know, the body is a mechanism. There’s these muscles. There’s these electric synapses. There’s the electromagnetic field that we have. There’s the ways that we are literally programmed by our DNA and the hardware. And the ways that we program ourselves in our lifetime by experiences, our software. And so there’s a mechanistic piece of us.

Then we could look at sex this way. There’s these things that you do…

Chip August: Right.

Francesca Gentille: ...with your body mechanisms and there’s these results. If you touch this enough this when then this thing will happen.

Chip August: Exactly.

Francesca Gentille: Push that button 25 times. And what’s really intriguing and what philosophers, mystics, and human beings have really grappled with since human being became human is that there’s something more than that. There’s these things called emotions. Ways that we connect and don’t connect with one another. There’s these peak experiences where we dissolve into something, where dissolve into bliss or into… Time stops for a moment in beauty. Time stops for a moment in love.

When a baby is born, you’re first holding your child in your arms, there’s these moments that something shifts. Then the mechanistic part of us goes, well, if that can happen, if we can have that peak experience, could we have it more often. How can we get there more often, better, longer?

And then there comes the study of, how do we get into that. And it the tantric, and in Hindu tantric, and in Buddhist tantra, and in Daoism they’ve studied these things for thousands of years.  How do we get these peak experiences in sexuality more often and more consistently? And is that spirituality?

Well, if anyone who is listening is allergic to spirituality don’t think of it that way. Think of it as this encoded into our DNA expansiveness that happens under certain circumstances that feels really really good.

And for those of us who are listening who really have a relationship with God or really have a relationship with the divine or with spirit or with the eternal soul then think of it that way. Think of it  as an access to that place of divine allness, of eternity, of infinity, of the everything nothing that really God is. To people who believe in God, I will say, “Is there anywhere that God is not?  If God is omnipotent, eternal, and infinite, is there anywhere that God is not?” Well no, or by definition God couldn’t be omnipotent, eternal, and omniscient if there was somewhere that God wasn’t.

So if I say that I don’t perceive sexuality as sacred, if I say that I don’t perceive it as spiritual, if I don’t perceive cooking as sacred, if I don’t perceive talking as sacred, the issue is not that the sacred is not present, the issue is that I have removed myself from that connection to it.

So really I believe that all of life is sacred. All of life, every single thing, is an opportunity to connect to the divine, right now.  [Takes a deep breath] I am just going to breathe that in.  We are connected to the divine right now. And the difference between whether I am or am not, I say, is my choice.

Chip August: So this divine that you’re connecting to, that we’re connecting to, that’s present in all things, is this a being? Is this a consciousness? You know, there are a lot of people who’s religion would say that  there is this being. His or her name is God.

Francesca Gentille: [laughing]

Chip August: You know there is a lot this being has given us. Handed down through Moses or handed down through Mohammed or handed down, you know…

Francesca Gentille: Well, let’s look at that. Let’s just go there. So let’s get back to that sense that omniscient that eternal infinite, which really all religions if you study cross- culturally- which I highly recommend-  you will discover that even religions that say God and often draw God as masculine on the throne with a white beard.

Even religions that have multi-theistic, pantheistic, where they might say there’s a Zeus, and there’s a Herat, there’s an Aphrodite. If you go into the African religions, there is a Jimayaha, there is an Oshood, and there’s a Mango. If you go into some of the Buddhist where you say there is a Tara. There is a white Tara. There is a green Tara. There is a quan yin.

If you go deeper into those religions you will find a point where the true leader in the religion will say really those godnesses, those labels, those archetypes, those pictures are actually pointers to something that is beyond all of that, that there is belong all of that the primordial, the godness from which everything arises.

And when you get to that godness from which everything arises then we’re really all one. We’re all there together. And these concepts that are so much bigger than my finite brain can handle. My finite brain lives in a finite body.

So to relate to God…I had a break through in this at one point in my life where I was very detached from spirituality and the divine.  And I was suffering in that internally. I was just feeling very alone in the universe. And when I started to dwell on is god eternal, infinite, and omniscient, and everywhere, and all these things  and then really all religions agree on this then God is bigger than anything I can possibly define. And the each religion is in its own sacred way trying to develop those recipes that help us connect with something that is beyond what the human mind can reach.

There was a medieval mystic who wrote a book “ The God of Unknowing”, which was his search for the connection with the divine where he is said there is a point where you leap into this unknowingness that is beyond anything that you can possible grasp and you just let yourself dissolve into that and that’s where God is.

So when I reach out into this everything and I say, well then, I want to relate to it as a person. I think to myself I can relate to God as anything, really, because God is everything. So at that point I said, “If I need a hug then I am going to just think of God.”  Not like this is really God. I think of God as a teddy bear today because I need a hug. And if I really want adventure in my life today, just for today, I think of God as Aero Smith and Robin Hood.

And holding the paradox that that’s not really God… I mean, in a way that is God because God is everything and God is everywhere and I get to choose on any given day, or for my whole life time, what is the way that most connects me to the principles of most major religions, compassion, peace, harmony. What way of practicing, in my mind, in my heart, around godness? What way of thinking, in my mind, in my heart about godness gets me that result, piece of compassion, harmony, in my life?

Chip August: Wow! That is a really beautiful sentiment.

We’re going to pause, take a break, give a chance to support our sponsors and let our sponsors support us.

Listeners when you were just listening to that, if you were realizing, boy I wish I had that in writing. I would love to sort of just take what Francesca just said and cut it out and put it up on my desk so I can look at it every day. I just want you to know that we transcribe every single episode of “Sex Love and Intimacy”. So if you want to print and read, or cut, or forward copy, you can always find it on my Episode pages at personallifemedia.com. Just look for the show “Sex Love and Intimacy”.

We are going to take a break. We’ll be right back.

[Sponsor Break]

Chip August: Welcome back to “Sex Love and Intimacy”. I am talking with Francesca Gentille. And we are talking about God. And we are talking about sex. And we are talking about spirit.

I know that one of the things you describe yourself as is a sexual shaman. And  just for a moment here…I’m not sure…I hear the word shaman kicked around a whole lot and shamanisms kicked around a whole lot. I am not actually sure, in contemporary terms, what a shaman is. So what do you mean by that?

Francesca Gentille: You know, you are just so going there today, aren’t you?

Chip August: I am.

Francesca Gentille: Let’s not go for any of the small stuff like where is the g-spot or…

Chip August: I really don’t want to waste any of the listener’s time.

Francesca Gentille: No. No. No. Let’s go for things like, what is spirituality and how does that relate to sex. Let’s just go there. I love that about you. And we’ll go there with shamanism. Let’s go there.

So in the sacred book of Francesca- and I encourage every person to develop there own sacred teachings that guide their life together and harvest from what really inspires and moves you. – In the sacred book of Francesca we look at shamanism cross culturally. And what I have found is that the shamanic way looking at the world is very rich and multi dimensional.

What it says is that there are multiple levels of meaning and reality concurrently and that in a way you could say in the shamanic world that everything has symbol and meaning.

So yesterday I was leading a seminar- I was on the phone- on dreams. In the  middle of the seminar a black and white cat walked through my front door and out my back door. And I stopped the seminar. It was my shamanic chain seminar. And I said, “Here it is symbol in meaning.” A black and white cat walks through while we are discussing a dream about coming into our power and about coming into our vision. This in the shamanic world could be a sign that’s inviting us to come into balance.

So in the shamanic world you get to do things like that. You get to say, “ The flock of birds flying across from left to right means that I’m opening up to a new direction.” It’s symbol in meaning

And the shamanic world also…Another thing that I love about it, the world view, is that everything can be our teacher like the cat walking through the house. The Native Americans follow this, of course. The trees are our teachers. The animals are our teachers. All of this is part of Great Spirit and the great mystery. Everything is communicating to us. Our dreams are communicating to us.

Everything is a part of the sacred. Everything is a part of the great soul. Everything is guiding us and teaching us to be connected to the divine all that is.

And in the shamanic world all the cycles of the seasons are sacred.  Spring is not better than winter. Winter is not better than summer. Each of them has their gifts. The cycles are the seasons of life. Being a baby is not better than being an elder. Being an elder is not better than being a teenager. Each one has its gifts to the culture.

And darkness and light both have their gift. I love this in the Shamanic world view that we can have endarkenment as well as enlightenment. And that the below, the great below, can be the womb. It can be the cave of initiation that going into the darkness are where the jewels are.

And so the shamanic world view is very very rich and very alive. And for me it leads me into a sense of joy in life.

Chip August: I love it. I love it. It’s another filter for seeing the world in a way that will bring you into your heart and into your joy. I love it.

I understand that you are in a conference coming up sometime in the next few months that’s something about reuniting spirituality and sexuality. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Francesca Gentille: Yes, I can. And, in fact, this amazing conference is also going to have you.

Chip August: Yeah, that’s how I understood it. That’s how I heard about it.

Francesca Gentille: Even better.

Chip August: It is actually going to include me.

Francesca Gentille: It’s “Reuniting Sexuality and Spirituality” and it’s going to happen in Minneapolis. I love this for a reason. Not only because part of my family lives in Minneapolis, so it is part of a homecoming for me. I love it because there’s a myth sometimes when you are in New York or LA that the really cool things are only happening on the coasts and that it’s impossible to find anything that’s really edgy or really intriguing in the middle of the country.

So here we are in Minneapolis. And there’s going to be eight amazing teachers including you and I. In a very gentle way, in a very honoring way, in a clothing on way, guiding people into some of these concepts and practices. So not just the concept or the discussion or the, you know, the historical teaching, but the practice of: how do we connect with spirit in our sensuality, in our sexuality; how do we deepen our intimacy; how do we just even combine, bring back, reclaim, reconnect to that concept of the sacred of the spirit into our relationship and our sex life, in a way that it’s nondenominational.

It doesn’t belong to one religion or another religion. Every religion can use it. You don’t have to be Buddhist. You don’t have to be Hindu. That’s some of the things we’ll be looking at, is how sacred sexuality belongs to every culture around the world.

Chip August: And I’ll be talking a little bit about how to raise sexually positive and healthy kids. So that’s a nice little extra piece that I do that I haven’t talked about in a long time.

Francesca Gentille: Yeah. And you and I will be having a workshop on bringing the sacred into our communication in and out of the bedroom. I will be also teaching to women- It’s just for women. You can not be a fly on the wall. – the inner mysteries and secrets of how we as women deepen into our divine feminine and how we evoke the sacred lover in you men, how we really become that and what works to bring forward that in you.

Chip August: So when is this and how would people find out more?

Francesca Gentille: This is in October. And it’s… I left my calendar at home.

Chip August: October 17th, 18th, and 19th.

Francesca Gentille: Thank you. That’s when it is. And it’s www.lotusworkshop.com. That’s how people would find it. And registration is in August. Save money, register early. And there is a wonderful discount at the hotel. It’s going to be at the beautiful Marriott. It’s Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And some of the teachers, like myself, will also be doing private teaching sessions, if people want to come with personal issues and longings, and find out more about those things.

Also, it is going to be a journey where Friday is open for everyone, very connective, just a little bit of a smorgasbord of what everybody is doing. Saturday goes a little bit deeper with hour and a half to two hour workshops. Sunday is going to be intensive. So people can really dive deeply into some of the topics and areas that they want to know much more about.

Chip August: Well, I strongly recommend all the listeners show up because you and I are going to be there.

Thank you so much for being a guest on the show. I really appreciate you making the time for this.

Before we go I always like to ask my guests; is there an exercise people can do at home that, in your case, might enhance, that connection. that reuniting of sexuality an spirituality. Is there something listeners could try that might give them a taste of what you are talking about?

Francesca Gentille: To me, a very quick thing that I can do at any moment is to open my heart and that the ancients knew the seat of wisdom was in the heart not the mind. The mind was meant to be in service of the wisdom of the heart. So we want to open our heart. And when our heart shocker in the middle of our chest that energy opens we are deeply connected intimately and to all that is that is precious and sacred.

A very quick way that I will practice that is I will look at my beloved and think what if this were the last time that I were to see my beautiful beloved. How would I want to touch him if this were the last time? What would I want to say to him if this were the last time.

And, you know, you can hear in my voice that that immediately gets me deeply moved and wanting to slow down and just say the most loving things and touch in the most adoring way. And I am right there.

Chip August: Well, as usual, you have been a delight to talk to. I love the information. I love the spirit that you bring to this. I hope all the listeners right now are just transported into states of ecstasy.

Those of you listening, if you have comments or you want to make suggestions about the show you can reach me at [email protected].
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This brings us to the end of another show. I’m your host Chip August.

Thanks for listening.