“Sleep of trust, surrender of tear. With a kindness of rhythm, she sang soul back to love, warmth back to skin. Skin against skin, she slipped gently into the bed, returning his heart back to his body. And this is how they awakened. Wrapped around each other, tangled from their night, but tangled in a new way now – a good and lasting way.”
In Kiss on the Beloved’s Wrist, we explored the need for trust, surrender and holding a loving safe space for our partner. In Peeling Cinnamon, we peeled the layers of ourselves to reach the deep intimacy that true love demands; to find that love is a knowing not of flesh, but through the flesh. And today, we will sing soul back to love back to skin, having circled the staircases of our many years, to lay beside each other, skin against skin, awakening our body into remembering the love we still share.
Because sometimes love is a skeleton. And we need to sing warmth back to skins.
The years go by, and we get tangled in stuff. And we lose our way back to each other, and we lose our connection. Not every love story will be a life story. I actually think that there are a few marriages existing within each one marriage – befores and afters, and with each significant phase passing, we make new choices and decisions to perhaps move into something new, a new way of being, of connecting, a new opportunity to build upon or rebuild, as we too have changed through the years. And then there’s the physical intimacy which too can feel like it lost itself in the desert. But often times, it is the emotional connection that is the foundation of the physical intimacy.
Friendship, trust, compassion, attentiveness, prioritizing, kindness and cuddles. All these may not sound very sexy, but these are the secret ingredients, the secret threads that run beneath the shroud of our skins, and shape us back into aliveness and vitality, keeping the fires burning. According to sex educators, “the best predictor of whether or not couples will have a strong relationship and sexual satisfaction is not what kind of sex they have, or how often, or where they have it, but whether they cuddle after sex.”
Not being able to keep our hands off each other is what is known as “spontaneous desire” and while it is great to have, it is not what sustains intimacy and a strong connection in the long-run. In many ways, arousal and foreplay begin quietly at the end of the last orgasm. In other words: it is all those things in between, like the way we treat one another, the way we feel, the way we express ourselves, that are the beginnings of our next orgasm. We make love in many ways – eyes, lips, hands, words, gestures, touch, scent, movement, and on and on and on. Using only our genitals is quite a boring way to approach lovemaking in general, and it is certainly not what’s going to sustain a connection in the long-run. I talk more on the paradox between intimacy and desire, and how to rekindle passion through imagination in my article Eroticism and Mysticism.
If “spontaneous desire” begins in the mind, and then leads to the physical arousal because of the anticipation of pleasure, in “responsive desire” the body responds to pleasure – physical arousal is first and then the mental desire second.
Sometimes, we just need to let go of our busy mind, put our body in bed, skin against skin, touch our partner, and allow our body to awaken to their skin, to remember. I like this person.
Touch itself is a language, a movement, of our inner intimacies. Often times, we’ve just forgotten how to touch, and holding hands can be a great restart. You can read all about that in Our Sense of Touch and How to Nurture Deeper Connection.
All couples go through hard times and challenges. They face worries, disappointments, dissatisfactions, wounds. There are a lot of stuff, messy stuff, that we get tangled in. A lot of hurts, a lot of griefs. A lot of general annoyances. The difference between couples who sustain a strong sexual and emotional connection, and the ones who don’t is not that they don’t experience these difficult, hurt feelings, but it’s that the couples who remained connected turned towards those difficult feelings with kindness, tenderness and compassion, so that they can find their way back to each other. Kindness, tenderness, compassion. This applies to anything in life.
In the beautiful Inuit story of Skeleton Woman, we travel from the depths of the cold seas, all the way to the warmth of a little house in the tundra where a love was born – and we explore how we can sustain a strong connection in long-term relationships, and how we can rekindle the fires.
David Lynch Photography
The Story of Skeleton Woman.
Many years ago, a young girl was dragged to the sea cliffs by her angry father, who then threw her into the freezing waters. She remained there at the bottom of the sea for years; the fish ate her and soon only a frail skeleton was left of her once beautiful body.
Until one day a fisherman caught her into his net, but the more she tried to free herself, the more tangled she became. At first the fisherman was ecstatic because the weight of the net made him assume that he had caught a big fish! But when he pulled the net all the way back into his kayak, he saw the bones of the skeleton and screamed in horror, praying to the gods to be saved. His heart fell into his knees and his eyes hid in terror at the back of his head. In panic he knocked the girl off the edge of his kayak and started paddling to the shore like a crazy demon. But what he didn’t realize was that she was still tangled in the net, dragging behind him. At shore, he started running, faster and faster, and she behind him still.
When he reached his little snow house, finally at peace and happy, imagine his horror when he lit the oil lamp, and saw her all tangled in the net, like a little snow ball. One heal over her shoulder, one knee inside her rib cage, one foot over her elbow. A little time passed as he watched her, and he could not say later what it was, perhaps the firelight softened her gentle feminine features, or maybe it was the fact that he was a lonely man. But as if suddenly, a feeling of some kindness came into his breathing. Slowly he reached out his hands and, using words softly like a mother to her child, he began to untangle her from the fishing net.
All night he stayed up, untangling her, until all her bones were laid gently on the floor, where he even laid some fur in between them, as if to keep her warm. He even used some of his own hair to keep the fire burning longer. The entire time, the poor girl didn’t move, didn’t show him any signs she still had life inside her, for she feared he’d throw her over a cliff like her father once did, but that this time, her bones will be broken forever and she’ll never be able to return again.
At one point, the man fell asleep and started dreaming. A tear formed and came from his eye, and down his cheek. We never know why these tears come to us in dreams – sometimes it is because of sadness, and sometimes it is because of love’s longing. But as the tear made its way like a warm river across the man’s cheek, the girl raised herself above him. Gently, as he once touched her too, she touched his cheek to drink the tear. She drank until all her many years’ long of thirst were soothed. Now lying beside him, she reached her hands, pinned them to his chest, and she took his heart. She started drumming on his heart, with a rhythm of kindness, forgiveness, tenderness and love. And the more she drummed and hummed and sang, the more flesh wrapped around her bones. Her divide between her legs, her breasts, her lips, her hair, her eyes, her hands and legs and arms. And there she was, the beautiful young girl she once was.
She sang some more, and drummed some more. She sang the man’s clothes off his body, she sang his soul back to love, warmth back to skin. Skin against skin, she then gently slipped into his bed, returning the great drum, his heart, back to him.
And that is how they awakened, wrapped around each other, tangled from their night, but in another way now, a good and lasting way. Since then, the people say or so I was told, no matter what they hunt or what hunts them, with patience and compassion, it nourished them along the way, across the tundra and all seas, all the way back to their small snow house, where by the oil lamp, skins and hearts stayed always warm, for the rest of their days, and then, after, again.
David Lynch Photography
Sometimes love is a skeleton.
Initially we all look for that diamond to catch, the fish in our net, the animal in our hunt. It’s an accidental finding of a great treasure. It’s exciting. It’s unknown and anything unknown is mysterious, tempting and seductive, and it wraps our entire body in a dream. But once caught, once it gives itself to us, we face the reality that things don’t magically last forever, and we need to be willing to give back and make an effort also. There will always be challenges, so I suppose the question should be: Who do you choose to face the challenges with?
We’ll always have parts of us, and of our partners, that will go away and we’ll grieve. The parts of us that never became, the dreams that never happened, the disappointments, betrayals, losses, failures, and pains. We’ll mourn for these parts. All these parts harden us. In these hardening conditions, when we feel stripped down to our bones, barely holding on, we need someone to show us a softening – so that our skin comes back, so that we come back. We need compassion. We need tenderness. We need forgiveness – we need to forgive ourselves over and over and over again, no matter how many times we forget, fall and fail. We need support. We need understanding. We need patience too. Because it may take some time.
This is the symbolism of the skeleton also, in my opinion. The skeleton is the structure that holds us, and we need it to be of strong support, especially in our vulnerable times, so that we can be held by it, raised by it, supported by it. What makes it strong? It’s all that I already mentioned – compassion, tenderness, patience, forgiveness, devotion, trust – these are all the untanglings needed to love.
The inability to untangle Skeleton Woman is what causes many relationships to fail. To love, we must be strong in spirit and wise from experience. The fear of many in relationships is that things will change – there will be a kind of death of a phase, and we don’t want that. Well, things will change. But in that change is already something else rebirthing itself – there is another life ready to be formed. Skeleton Woman is an opportunity, an invitation for a deepening.
If it is truly love we are making, we must be willing to untangle some bones. We must be willing to touch and hold the parts that are not so beautiful. And when putting the pieces together, we must be gentle, because even if it is a tiny little bone out of its place, the whole will be disturbed. We must protect our movements through life, because we are all unique in our paths – and yet we must pay attention to the little limps along the phases and cycles and structures of our love. In simple words – we must attention to our lover and learn their unique movements.
Often times, we give to another what we need, and not what they need. We must be willing to re-explore and re-discover and even re-learn about one another, because we all change, our inners worlds change too. No matter how many years we’ve lived together under the same roof, we’ll never know another person completely. There will always be wild parts, unknown, in our partners, just like in ourseves too. And we must be willing to kiss them, and hold them, not in the way we always did, but in the way they need to be, right now.
And after we untangle some stuff, we then need to tangle ourselves, in another way, in a good and lasting way. True love, sacred love, deep intimacy, all of these require a kind of tangling, where divisions dissolve, and we become one.
Sleep of trust, surrender of tear, with kindness of rhythm.
The man gives his whole heart to her. He surrenders his tear also. He cries for her. He cries for himself also. And in his deep compassion and empathy, she nourishes her soul – she soothes all these deep pains and injustices that she suffered. She finds her way, in the way of water, from the depth of aloneness and loneliness and abandonment, to the warm skin of his body. His rhythm of kindness, the kindness in his heart, is what gives her her life back. And in the exchange, they can now both understand each other more truly and more deeply. There is sleep of trust. A state of innocence, purity and openness. He is no longer afraid – for all he sees and finally understands is that she may seem scary not because she is bad but because she was sad, and the pain robbed her skin of warmth.
When trust pulls us, love begins to thrive. And we come into the deep knowing, that whatever will be will be. And we need to fall into this sleep of trust, where in the purity of its waters, fears will be washed away, and tears will become the release needed to birth a new life again. In relationships, we can’t solve the same problems with the same thinking or solutions. We need a different perspective and a new way; we need to allow a process of change within us and get a bit creative. His tears also symbolize that he is facing his own fears and wounds, rather than projecting them onto her, which will allow for greater self-awareness, emotional intelligence and a deepening of their mutual understanding.
And it is the surrender of his tear, that pulls her closer to him, building her trust in him because she now sees that this is a safe space for her, through all the ways he cared for her before. As in many tales, tears call things to us, and it is tears that keep the evil away because through crying we soften ourselves and practice more self-compassion. In the Handless Maiden, the only reason why the devil can’t take the maiden’s soul is because she starts crying – and this water cleanses and purifies her, it keeps her in tenderness, it shows she has feelings, and deep wells of vision and perspective, despite the violence and injustice thrown upon her.
In a way, the fisherman’s heart breaks in the story – it breaks open. And the humility in this, the compassion in this, make tears fall, and love comes upon him. It is a love that he always had within himself, but he had forgotten about it.
The importance of kindness in our words is portrayed by the drumming of the heart, and the singing. All creation begins with sound – sound or a word, said loud, whispered, or even intensely thought. These mystical ways of creations is what initiates the changes of our life. This is why it is so important to be mindful of what we speak and listen to. There is also the dance of body and soul. The singing off the clothes of the one we love is a common folk motif in many cultures – and this was known as calling their soul towards you for a deeper connection. We speak ourselves and our lovers into existence, love itself becomes a prayer. A devotion of taking them in our soul, and caring for them the way we would for all parts of ourselves. Some days they’ll feel like all bones, and we’ll help take care of them; other days, we’ll be the ones needing the more caring putting ourselves together. Even the old parts, the skeleton parts, require to be made love to. We can be being together, dancing our natures together.
Like I wrote in Peeling Cinnamon, love is a knowing, and of being known, not of flesh, but through the flesh. Knowing, being known. Seeing, being seen.
A lot of women may think that men don’t want to know us but that’s not always true. So when a man asks to know you, to know your parts, all of them, open to him, tell him. Tell him not because – tell him because his soul asked you to.
The giving of our body becomes the last phase in this story of love. Make love not only with genitals, make love with eyes, lips, touch, hands, movements, scents, sounds.
Put your body in bed, skin against skin, touch your partner.
And allow your body to awaken, to remember. I like this person.
Soul-sized is the land of our heart. With a kindness of rhythm, we walk and explore the unique physical, emotional and spiritual wild lands of love, and of each other. In each relationship, a soul will be born, and will grow. And if the two learn the patient art of love, no matter what they hunt, or what hunts them, with tenderness and compassion, and skin against skin, they can find their way back, across the tundra, seas, and in their little snow house, hold each other beside warm fires.
This is the final part of my three part series on love and intimacy. In Kiss on the Beloved's Wrist, we explored the need for trust, surrender and holding a loving safe space for our partner. In Peeling Cinnamon, we peeled the layers of ourselves to reach the deep intimacy that true love demands; to find that love is a knowing not of flesh, but through the flesh. And today, we sung soul back to love back to skin, having circled the staircases of our many years, to lay beside each other, skin against skin, awakening our body into remembering the love we still share.
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Cover photograph by David Lynch.