Awakening Aphrodite: A weekend away to rekindle your passion.


A mere five hours after my arrival at Miraval Resort in Catalina, Arizona, I was swiveling my hips in a borrowed hot pink skirt with a bindi decorating the middle of my forehead. Laughing, I kept botching my attempts to make playful calling noises by flicking my tongue against the roof of my mouth. Arms swinging above my head, I was trying to master the ‘Moroccan flirt,’ a sassy dance move. By the end, I was looking like the real thing in a place I never imagined I would be: a crowded belly-dancing class. It was opening night of Miraval’s Awakening Aphrodite retreat and this was some icebreaker.

Thrilled with the prospect of receiving applicable advice about sex, the next morning I joined twenty of my fellow dancing queens in a circle that became our home base for lectures and discussions. I looked forward to this rare opportunity to speak candidly about sex. With such topics on the roster as “How to be an Exceptional Lover” and “How to Empower Your Love Life” I wanted to know how to bring forth erotic qualities true to my nature as opposed to fulfilling a sexual image promulgated by pop culture. With the additional knowledge that the American Medical Association has linked stress in women with “arousal difficulties, lack of libido, and the inability to reach orgasm,” I wanted to discover how women could use sex as a source of fulfillment when faced with stress. As a group, we wanted to learn how to remedy common issues with sex, including fatigue, betrayal, insecurity, the misplacement of our femininity, and the fear of vulnerability in the sexual realm. We sought guidance in overcoming the emotional and psychological burdens present in daily life that hinder our ability to attain radiance and foster sexual energy.

Lana Holstein, M.D., and Holly McCarter, M.S., took the helm of this retreat with confidence and gusto. Holstein is the managing director of medical programs at Miraval. With a B.A. in psychology from Stanford University and an M.D. from Yale Medical School, Holstein offers a wide breadth of knowledge on women’s health, garnered from twenty-five years of experience as a doctor, sex expert, speaker, and author of such books as Your Long Erotic Weekend Four Days of Passion for a Lifetime of Magnificent Sex (Plume, 2004). McCarter joined the Miraval staff in September 2003, bringing with her more than twenty years of psychotherapy and lifestyle counseling experience. Some of her many areas of expertise include relationship enhancement, improving self-esteem, and emotional healing.

Each day was filled with enlightening lectures and discussions with activities that promoted bodily awareness, such as a water-nymph class complete with an underwater massage, and a pelvic-awakening class interspersed. Talks ranged from “Body Basics, Anatomy and Sexual Physiology” to “Male Sexual Facts and Fictions” and “What Holds Your Goddess Back.” We learned that allowing the goddess to unfold in our lives would enable us to overcome past frustrations and revel in new ways of thinking. This healing source of divinity was hibernating just beneath the surface in all of us, and once beckoned, she blossomed and celebrated.

Ultimately, we concluded that being a goddess means opening your life to greater intimacy, self-acceptance, love, and sex gifts bestowed upon us by Holstein and McCarter. Below are their insights regarding what every goddess needs in her repertoire.

Draw a circle

Appreciate and share the goddess you are by enjoying ample time with your circle of female friends. Being with fellow goddesses allows you to be both a source and recipient of positive feminine energy. McCarter offers, “A relationship with a female friend is like a well that nourishes our femininity.” The instinctive nurturing that sprang forth from our spontaneous community at this retreat moved us all to laughter and tears while offering safety and unconditional acceptance. The experience reminded us that female friendship is a priceless gift; and by cheering on the beauty in other women, your own beauty emerges.

Indulge your femininity

Surrender to the sacredness of being a woman. While it is necessary to possess a healthy balance of both masculine and feminine traits, many women throw away the key on their femininity to pursue their careers, thereby allowing the masculine side to take over every facet of their lives. If this has happened to you, fret not. Re-introducing femininity into your life will be easy. McCarter describes the return to femininity as, “Coming home to a resting place that is natural for us . . . and it is only from this place that we can appreciate our partner’s masculinity.” You can lace feminine beauty throughout your day in accordance with your style. Whether you place a fresh flower on your desk or wear sexy underwear, engage and indulge your feminine side in a light-hearted ‘use it or lose it’ sense. Doing even the smallest gestures will build a momentum that will make you want to enhance your femininity all the time.

Too tired to skip sex

Is your bedroom indicative of the goddess who inhabits it? One arena in which to be entirely feminine is your bedroom. Drape or remove items from this haven that aren’t conducive to lovemaking. Computers, TVs, and exercise equipment (aside from your bed!) detract from the focus and passion of sex. If mental distractions are a problem, set a pad of paper and a pen outside the door and write down your thoughts and to-dos. Once you cross the threshold, leave  it  all  behind.  And  if  you’re  using  your  bedroom simply for sleep because you’re always tired, you’re not alone. “Not only do women spend the day vying for the corner office, they’re also busy making sure their co-worker down the hall gets a birthday cake,” explains Holstein. But the next time you feel spread too thin, try rewarding yourself with sex as opposed to seeing it as a burden. Holstein relays that sex is a great source of nourishment and energy. Instead of saying “I am too tired or stressed to have sex,” say, “I’m so tired, I must need to have sex.” Holstein explains, “A chemical cascade is released during sex which energizes both partners. Dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins, which are the body’s natural morphine or ‘feel good’ chemical, all work together to provide the energy of loving and connecting.” She continues, “Emotionally it’s very energizing to re-establish a great connection with your partner, reminding each other of what’s truly important, which is being in love, not just having sex.”

The sun has nothing on you

Holstein’s husband, David Taylor, M.D., led our discussion on “Attracting Men.” Taylor earned his degrees at Harvard and alongside Holstein at Yale Medical School, during which time they met and married. Together they conduct “Partners, Pleasure and Passion: A Couple’s Retreat” at Miraval, which focuses on re-connecting with your significant other and learning the pathways to divine sex. He proposed that men seek feminine radiance over physical beauty. He explained, “Men view a woman’s capacity to love as a direct correlation to her radiance.” The light in a woman’s eyes and her smile as well as the way she carries herself are what draws a man to a woman. The deeply feminine is irresistible to men because they crave femininity in their lives to balance out their masculinity. Holstein adds, “A woman may increase her feelings of radiance by spending time alone and re-connecting with her body by dancing to some great music, taking a luxurious bath, practicing meditation, gardening, or doing any activity that makes her feel connected to her core being.”

Replace the gift of gab

Instead of ‘bonding’ with your husband at day’s end by complaining about your job or fretting over bills or housework, try “soul-gazing.” For two to three minutes, sit facing your husband in child’s pose. With your left hand palm up and your right hand palm down, hold your husband’s hands in yours, realizing that hands are extensions of the heart. Look into each other’s eyes and synchronize your breathing. This silent activity changes the energy between you and connects you on a deeper level,  enabling  your  problems  to  melt  away.  If  your husband isn’t eager to partake in this exercise, Holstein recommends calling the activity “sex-gazing” to peak his interest. She explains, “This is an efficient way to get deeply connected at the start of the sexual encounter. It’s like a little blessing that acknowledges the fact that you are letting go of the outside world, and just the two of you are focusing on each other.”

Healing Lifestyles & Spas Team
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