Monogamish: Navigating the Hall Pass with Sarah Marshank
Today's episode touches on a cultural phenomenon that often takes place at dinner parties and on social media: the celebrity hall pass. And while there's a non-threatening safety built into this because of the unlikelihood of the opportunity to act on the desire, it still plays the role of a culturally sanctioned admission of a desire to be sexual with someone outside of your committed monogamous relationship. With the resurgence of conversations around open marriages in the zeitgeist, there are many of us out there with questions on how to navigate this territory in a way that is mindful and honors everyone involved. Our guest is one of my most-admired friends and relationship role-models, Sarah Marshank, who is the founder of Selfistry, author of Being Selfish, and a prolific sharer of practical spirituality and conscious awakening in spaces from packed auditoriums to white-sand beaches, to boardrooms.
This enriching conversation kicks off with defining what it is to be ‘monogamish’ and unpacking the two very different concepts of being intimate and being sexual, before exploring the importance of keeping your heart and mind focussed on the lifelong journey into self-actualization. Sarah outlines the integration of three realms that will anchor this journey to open pathways of expansive intimacy and honesty, before diving into how this work sets you up for being able to show up fully and authentically with others. Hear how knowing yourself involves giving all your desires and feelings permission to exist, and the importance of finding a community that supports this work. We finally look at what is involved in a conversation where you are bringing having ethical non-monogamous sex to the table. This conversation is rich beyond measure and speaks directly to the soul of every being who lives in relation to others. We dearly hope you can join us.
Key Points From This Episode:
- An introduction to today's topic: the Celebrity Hall Pass.
- Our guest Sarah Marshank kicks us off with the definition of ‘monogamish’.
- Unpacking the two different things of being intimate and being sexual.
- Establishing the intimacy part so that you can show up honestly with your feelings and desires.
- How dealing with feelings of ‘not-enoughness’ and jealousy is very individually specific.
- Sarah shares how she and Steven embody radical intimacy and good communication.
- How the foundational importance of knowing yourself is not a static thing.
- About ‘Selfistry’ and organically unpacking its two realms: spirit and psyche.
- Excavating and replacing the belief systems that we've inherited that aren't really ours.
- The reality that we're all living a spiritual life, whether consciously or unconsciously.
- Hear the Copernicus story about reorienting your human experience of ‘self’ and ‘no-self’.
- Approaching the disorientating integration of ‘no-self’ with grace and support.
- Talking about ‘witness consciousness’ and the nuanced guidance of Ram Dass.
- Touching on the third realm in Selfistry: witness.
- Hear the incredible story of Ram Dass's personal support of Sarah's work and book.
- How we can invite in a foundation intimacy that honors everybody.
- Finding your community to walk the road of self-exploration alongside each other.
- Navigating what to do when you want to have sex with someone else.
- Giving unconditional permission for all your wants, desires, and inner feelings to exist.
- Our question segment with Sarah's favorite words: sounds, career, and after death.
“Within that container of our committed relationship and our primary partnership and our marriage, making the vows, then within that, our intention from the start was to give the other person full room to grow in every arena of their lives.” — Sarah Marshank [0:05:16]
“The importance of knowing ourselves is not a static thing, nor is that something that we accomplish and then we're done. It's a living, emergent experience of our humanity.” — Sarah Marshank [0:09:59]
“You find the tools and techniques that are suited to you in this moment, based upon your life circumstance, your history, your DNA, and where you're feeling like you don't know yourself or you do know yourself.” — Sarah Marshank [0:13:11]
“Most of us spend our attention and our energy being self-absorbed, literally. So the witness is that mindfulness piece.” — Sarah Marshank [0:27:01]
“Let's give permission for our fullness to come forward because once we open that, there's beauty, there's goodness, there's truth. There’s wounds, there's shadows, traumas as well. But once those come into the light of day, they don't have a hold and a grip on us.” — Sarah Marshank [0:42:03]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Zoë Kors’ Links:
Zoë’s Book: Radical Intimacy
[00:00:14] ZK: There's a cultural phenomenon I want to speak to. It takes place at dinner parties, on social media. I'm talking about the celebrity hall pass. Just about everyone I know has one, and most of us know who our partners is. Mine is Rachel Maddow. Duh! There's a safety built right into the idea of a celebrity hall pass. Because it's with someone famous, there's virtually no possibility of finding oneself in the position to act on the desire. It's generally non-threatening to a relationship because it remains relegated to the world of fantasy.
In effect, the celebrity hall pass plays the role of a culturally sanctioned and safe admission of desire to be sexual with a person outside of a committed monogamous relationship. You most likely heard the term ethical non-monogamy in connection with Will and Jada Pinkett Smith as they went public in the last few years with the structure and agreements of their marriage. Although open marriages are not a new thing, there's been a resurgence of the conversation in the zeitgeist.
I invited one of my closest friends, Sarah Marshank, to talk with us about how she and her husband, Steven, handle their occasional desire to have sex with people other than each other, which really is a reflection of the general ways in which they embody their love and honoring of each other and their partnership.
The TLDR is that Steven and Sarah are my role models for marriage. When I met them in Maui at a Ram Dass retreat years ago, I had been blissfully single for years. And the idea of a real partnership to me was not appealing. Getting to know them and witnessing the way they did marriage showed me what was possible.
Several years later, Sarah spoke at my wedding when I married Andrew. I attribute my availability to my partnership with Andrew to what Sarah and Steven modeled so beautifully for me. Sarah is the founder of Selfistry. She leads workshops, host retreats, teaches courses and consults with organizations on life transformation all over the world. She shares practical spirituality and conscious awakening in corporate boardrooms, packed auditoriums on white sand beaches via online courses and in cozy living rooms.
Selfistry provides a framework for understanding your present state of being at a toolkit for your journey to wholeness, so that you can step into expressing yourself authentically, and living the kickass life you deserve. It's my great pleasure to have Sarah on the podcast to share with us her thoughts, her feelings, her experience and her wisdom.
[00:03:02] ZK: Sarah Marshank, my dear friend, welcome to my podcast.
[00:03:08] SM: Thank you. So excited to be here.
[00:03:10] ZK: So I've already said in my intro that you and I are dear, dear friends, the closest of friends. So I'm not worried about having an interesting conversation with you. We're just going to do what we always do.
[00:03:24] SM: Good.
[00:03:25] ZK: Sarah, when I met you, and Steven, your husband, we were in Maui. And I can remember even where we were standing when we were talking about relationships and sort of conceptually and all the things that we do. And you and Steven told me that you were monogamish. I asked you, “Oh, are you in an open relationship?” And you said, “Well, we say monogamish.” So I wondered if you can sort of define that. What exactly does that mean? And how is it different than an open relationship or fully monogamous?
[00:04:05] SM: Yeah, it's a great question and kind of why I love the ish word, right? Putting the ish on the end of a word really gives it more this feeling sense of kind of, sort of, but not 100%. There's room. Some people say it's gray area, but I like to see it as room to breathe and room to create or to personalize what it is that you're talking about. So when we talk about relationship, Steven and I are – We say, essentially monogamous. Monogamous. See? Now I'm like ishing all over the place.
[00:04:41] ZK: Yeah. Well, we’re editing. So it's good.
[00:04:43] SM: Yeah. But even that is fun, right? [inaudible 00:04:45] all over the place. No one edit that. Right?
[00:04:47] ZK: Right. Okay.
[00:04:51] SM: We're essentially monogamous in the sense that we chose to step into a primary partnership relationship, which means we want to build a life together. And we have built a life together. And that isn't based on sexual desire, though that's in there. It's based upon shared worldview, right? Shared spiritual orientation, shared values. And so then within that container of our committed relationship, and our primary partnership, and our marriage, making the vows, then, within that, our intention from the start was to give the other person full room to grow in every arena of their lives.
So there's two things. And we may need to unpack this being sexual and being intimate, because they're different in my world. I often put them together, but they do not have to go together. So a monogamish relationship is regarding sexual freedom if and when there is a longing or desire in either of us to explore that. Our commitment is to bring it to the other and to discuss it and to explore so the other person can have what they need.
I don't know about you, Zoë. But I never want to be the person that prevents somebody I love from doing or experiencing something they're longing to experience because of my own fear, or insecurity, or judgment.
[00:06:17] ZK: Yeah, I feel exactly the same way. I think for a lot of people, that sounds good. But when the rubber hits the road, how do we handle that? What do we do with the feelings that we have? The fear? The anxiety? The not-enoughness? The jealousy?
[00:06:35] SM: Yeah, it's interesting you bring those up. It's funny, because you're going towards what do we do with the feelings if we're the one who doesn't want it? But there's also the beautiful question of what do we do with the feelings if we're the one who does want it? Oh, my gosh!
So the first thing is to establish the intimacy piece, that trust, and the willingness to bring it to the other, right? So it's not you have full permission to just go act on it whenever you want. Unless that's your agreement, which is not our agreement. It's more let's bring it to each other so that we can find a way for us to give each other that freedom. And then what you're bringing forward is whatever the feelings are.
So on one hand, it could be like, “Oh, my gosh, I feel ashamed that I want to go have sex with this other person. But I really want to. And how do I inhabit those feelings?” And then the other side could be, “Oh my God! I'm totally scared and terrified if my partner does that, because of XY and Z.” So your question, how do you handle it is a very specific to the individual answer.
[00:07:44] ZK: What I hear in this relationship paradigm is a real capacity to allow the other person, their reality, their feelings, their thoughts, their desires, who they are, and not make it about you, right? If you're making it about you, knowing that and unwinding that, or having that.
And what I'm making up about you and Steven, for instance, as people who sort of you're letting us into your personal life. But what I'm making up and what I know of you two, for years now, you have a really beautiful ability to communicate with each other. I wrote this book, Radical Intimacy. And you and Steven, you practice that, really. I mean, there is this sort of you know yourselves. You know each other. But you know each other so well because you know yourselves, and you can share that. And there's a real – I mean, I've seen it in a million different scenarios. And I've seen you two. For a while, he was running your business. You’re business partners together. Then he was traveling a lot. Then he was in a phase of his career where he was traveling, and you had a lot of time that was separate.
When I first met you, you were still living in Oregon, in Ashland, right? And he was in the Bay Area in California. So there was that. And I've watched you two do this sort of relational marriage dance in a way that is fluid and flexible. And really what I see sort of a pillar of that or what makes that possible is this really beautiful level of communication and intimacy. So can you talk about what you said, like intimacy versus sex?
[00:09:39] SM: Yeah. Well, I haven't had the great good fortune to read your book yet. But I'm super excited to have in my hands. But I know you also enough to know that – And the content of what you teach and what you also embody and live in your life is this notion about the importance of knowing ourselves, right? And that's not a static thing. Nor is that something we accomplish and then we're done. It's a living, emergent experience of our humanity.
And so the foundation of intimacy, in my definition, and this would apply to my relationship with you, as well as my husband, though, you and I have never been sexual. The intimacy piece for me is the honesty and the vulnerability in our sharing of ourselves and communicating the dark spots, the hard spots, the uncomfortable spots. So everything is welcome. There's a certain safety and trust and in that vulnerability. And so sometimes it takes a while to establish that foundation in a relationship. And as you know, as a Zen practitioner, it takes a while to establish that foundation in our relationship with ourselves.
[00:11:02] ZK: Yeah. I mean, I can hear listeners saying, how on earth do I do that? How do I even have that relationship with myself? Or how do I even know if I already have that relationship? How do we get to know ourselves, Sarah? You're the person that is like – I mean, you wrote a beautiful memoir called Being Selfish, and your entire modality, your methodology is selfistry. So tell us, how do we get in touch with ourselves?
[00:11:33] SM: So selfistry’s approach – And again, you'll really appreciate this because you are living this as well. It functions on the premise that there's basically two poles, you could say. It is almost a polarity, and they feed one another, that humans throughout all history have had to navigate in order to really know themselves and figure out like, “What the hell's going on here? Who am I? How do I get happy, or find peace?” or whatever it is we're longing for, right?
So there's the one pole, which I call like the spiritual pole, where we kind of have to get ourselves straight around the mystery and the mysteriousness of our existence. And then on the other pole is more the personal, or the self, or the psychological pole, where we unpack and discover our psyche, right? Some people might call it psyche and soul, spirit and soul, or personality. And selfistry, I use the word source for the spiritual pole, and self for the personal pole. And so what I do with people, and this is where it's very organic, because here we are, right? We live in 2022. We have access to so many different tools, and techniques, and modalities, and belief systems in both of those poles, both of those realms. I call them realms.
So what I guide people to do – And as I'm doing it myself, again, like I said earlier, it's not like you finish. You just get better at the artistry of inhabiting both of these realms. Is you find the tools and techniques that are suited to you in this moment based upon your life circumstance, your history, your DNA, and where you're feeling like you don't know yourself or you do know yourself. So it's a very beautiful, alive, in the moment inquiry process.
[00:13:36] ZK: And personalized.
[00:13:38] SM: Personalized.
[00:13:40] ZK: So you're not necessarily asking somebody to do something that's way out of their comfort zone. Or maybe you are? But it will feel organically like you. The practice of selfistry is native in your native language.
[00:13:56] SM: Yeah. Because selfistry history, it's built from the artistry of the self, right? So there's this confluence of artistry and self in selfistry. And so, for example, on the source realm, I will talk about meditation. I will talk about prayer, I will talk about religion. We'll talk about whatever way the individual has entry into that realm. That's where we begin. And then we excavate and sort what's already there, because many of us are living from a belief system that isn't really ours, that we inherited.
In fact, most of us do until we start inquiring and sorting. So we do this excavation, and then we try on other ways, which may be uncomfortable because they're unknown. Not because they're harmful. And so I work with people to be with that discomfort because I help them understand what exactly is happening for them because of my – As you know, I spent 10 yours in retreat, excavating, sorting, trying on, practicing, all these different tools and techniques for mostly spiritual realization. And then when I got out of retreat, it was more of the psychosomatic self-realm work. And then now is the beauty of the integration of them together. Does that make sense?
[00:15:24] ZK: Does it make sense. It does make sense. I'm really interested, and I don't know if this is something that you can kind of bottom line, because it's really an enormous topic, and so much of what all of your work is about. But what is the importance of having a spiritual life? What is the importance of the source realm in your work?
[00:15:46] SM: Well. I would say, maybe there's a different question that you're really wanting to ask. Because whether we value it as important or not, the reality is, we're all living one, either consciously or unconsciously. Because, fundamentally, we don't know what we are, or where we come from, or what the hell this whole thing is about, right? We have lots of stories about it. And some of us don't even care. We're just happy to be here and doing our life and having family, making money, doing art, whatever.
But for those of us who at some point, life hurts, or doesn't actually turn out the way we had hoped it would, there's often a moment of existential awakeness, like, “Oh! Ha! Ha!” right? And in that regard, we can just go the psychological route and go into therapy. But I found in my own experience, in working with people for all these years, that it's not enough. And we even notice nowadays that many psychological schools are starting to bring in spiritual values. And the line between psychological work and spiritual work is now – Again, it's not that it's getting gray. They're starting to merge, which is super beautiful. You know?
[00:17:08] ZK: In my own experience, I think about that. I think about your two realms, the self and source. And I can remember, at a certain point, in my 40s, I had been in therapy on and off since my 20s. And by the time I was in my 40s, I had a great, fabulous therapist. But I felt after being with her for a couple of years that I was tired of hearing myself talk.
Krishna Das says you can't think your way out of a box created with your thoughts. And I felt that way. Like I needed access to a bigger context. That I needed to tap into maybe it was a bit of an existential awakening. But I wanted another frame of reference for what I was dealing with. And that is really when I stepped into this deep dive into – I was already a yoga practitioner for decades. But I got more heavily into meditation and into mantra, and then found my way into Tantra. And then it was like I often think of it as the form and the formlessness. And that really enrich my whole life.
[00:18:22] SM: Yeah. Well, I would say that you're pointing towards is – When we go to the extreme pole of source or emptiness, as you just named it, in certain Buddhist schools of thought, there is the experience of no self. And that perspective, embodied experiencial perspective, not just cognitive, which comes through prayer, meditation, austerity, sometimes even just the beauty of a sunrise or a sunset, there is this recognition that there is no self. And what that does in that moment is it shines a light on all the self, the rumination and the therapy, right? Right? That is helpful to a point. And then like you said, it's like I'm just spinning and spinning and spinning, because there's only so much we can change about ourselves. So there's something really beautiful about opening that perspective. And then the two of them dance with each other, like I am somebody and I'm not somebody. I do exist and I don’t – Your listeners may love this. I love using the example of the Copernicus story. Do you want to hear that?
[00:19:33] ZK: Yes, please. Yes.
[00:19:35] SM: So can you relate to going outside and seeing the sunrise and the sunset?
[00:19:41] ZK: Yeah.
[00:19:41] SM: Right? You see it through the sky. That's a real experience. Like that sun is moving. Well, before Copernicus in like, I don't know, 14, mid-15th century, 1450 or something like that, all humans believed that the sun moved. Now why did they believe that? Because that was a real experience for them. They weren’t like making it up. That was their real experience. Then Copernicus comes along and say, “Hey, dudes, you're wrong. What’s happening? Check it out. The sun is stationary. We're moving. Not only are we moving around it, but we're spinning on our own axis. And that's why it looks like the sun is rising and setting.”
Nowadays, we're like, “What? It's obvious. We know that. We’ve been to the moon. Duh?” But at the time, it was this real internal reorientation of their human experience. So it wasn't that once we discovered that the sun was at the center of the universe, and the earth was moving. That, therefore, our experience of sunrise and sunset is wrong, or should be removed, or devalued in any way. We inhabited it in a different way. We could fully experience the reality of sunrise and sunset, while knowing the truth that it was the earth that was actually moving. And we began to inhabit a life that integrated those two truths.
[00:21:10] ZK: Right.
[00:21:11] SM: Well, the same is true for the self and the no self.
[00:21:17] ZK: Sarah, do you think that in your experience in the work that you do and the people that you sit with and talk about such things, do you find that people are nervous about the idea of no self?
[00:21:33] SM: You’re so good. Yeah, like, totally. I mean, can you imagine? For me as well, in the beginning of my journey, it’s like, “What do you mean, I don't exist? What do you mean, I'm a phantom? What do you mean, I'm just a bunch of neural firings? What do you mean, I'm just a –” It's very disorienting. I think disorienting is a good word, which is why we want to do it gracefully, and graciously, and –
[00:21:57] ZK: In community.
[00:21:58] SM: In community, with support. And we toggle back and forth. It's not like you have to go completely into source, right? You go back and forth. You talk to yourself to accommodate the possibility so that the self can metabolize that truth. And what it does is, I think what you said really beautifully, Zoë, which is, at some point, you want to just get out of yourself and open to a bigger picture in the hopes that that will then inform how you then be yourself, continue to be yourself.
[00:22:31] ZK: Yeah. It’s very meta. It's very meta. And Ram Dass – I mean, we met at a Ram Dass retreat. And I talk a lot about Ram Dass, and even in the book. He calls it witness consciousness, right? So the ability to have your drama, but not be your drama. To be able to step back and witness and look at what's going on. And it's a common mindfulness technique, that when I find that I am triggered, or I'm upset, or angry, or usually these days some form of moral outrage, I sit and I say, “This is Zoë having a reaction,” in the third person. This is this person, Zoë, getting angry. This is Zoë feeling a tightness in her throat.” So there's that ability. And I think that is really what I was craving when I was sort of in therapy, is like observing the ability to observe myself and bring some sort of wisdom to that. Use that ability to witness myself.
[00:23:32] SM: Yeah. And so Ram Dass would call that going into nobody training, right? It was a beautiful teaching of his where he would say we grow up and become a somebody, somebody important, and special. And our western consumer society just kind of hammers that. You need to be successful, and you need to look this way, have this much money. It's crazy making, right? So what Ram Dass is saying, “Okay, that's somebody's training. Now put that down and go into nobody training,” which is the meta perspective that you're speaking to.
I want to add one more subtle nuance here, because this might really help people orient themselves as well. And that is in selfistry, I added a third realm. So it's the self-realm and source realm, which is that polarity we've been talking about. But the third realm is what I call the witness. So what you were just presencing was, well, maybe source is the witness perspective. And I'm suggesting there's like an intermediary or there's a third realm here, because it's still me or some sense of me witnessing myself, right? So there's still a sense of I. Whereas in source, even that dissolves. And there really is the complete dissolution. Whether or not we experienced that in our lifetime is not as important as recognizing that it is there.
[00:24:52] ZK: I'm going to submit to you that whether or not we experience it, I think we all experience it. And I think that there are moments when – I live in Southern California, two blocks from the beach. I have spoken to many surfers. And in that moment, there are moments. And maybe it's like a flicker where you're sort of aware of yourself, and you're on the board, and you're navigating, and a wave is coming in, and there's a little bit. But there are moments when it's pure source, when you are just so fully present in those moments. So there are times when I'm hiking or what happens a lot in nature. But there are also times when – And you're a visual artist as well. You'll understand. And a writer. There are times when I am creating something in the creative process where I'm making decisions, I'm evaluating. Do I like this? And there are moments infused there where it's like it's just coming through me.
[00:25:54] SM: 100%. Which is grace, right? And so because we can't – Number one, we can't stay there all the time. Or Ram Dass says, we wouldn't know our zip code. So it's not functional. It's not the human ideal to always be in that zone and lose ourselves in it. We have tastes of it. It's accessible to us all the time. Some people then get a craving for that experience, like almost an addictive, like I want to be in that zone. And what the witness realm helps us do is to just notice when we're stuck in either poll. Notice when we're too much in ourselves. Or notice when we're too much craving that zone. And then how to integrate them? How to, in the moment, remember source even if we're not in that state?
Ken Wilber talks about the difference between states and stages, right? So we can have a state experience of source. And I love what you said, we all do. Making love, we can have it. In sports, creativity. Just in the moment. Doing laundry. You can get there, right? But most of us spend our attention and our energy being self-absorbed, literally, right? And so the witness is that mindfulness piece. The witness realm is that.
And I remember, I sat with Ram Dass a few years before he died, and I shared with him the three-realm approach in selfistry. And he sat there in his lounger chair, beautifully stroked. His cats on his lap. We’re looking out at the ocean. And I could see him just stroking his chin and just trying to figure out, “Is that really true, what Sarah is saying? Is that really true?”
And after sitting with him and asking me a few questions, he said, “I like that.” And he basically gave the thumbs up and wrote a blurb for my book, which is coming out in a few months, that really recognizes that it's just an approach. It's a framework. It's a way to orient ourselves into the totality of our human experience so that we can be more fully expressed while we're here.
And Ram Dass used to use this really beautiful metaphor. Do you remember? He used to use the turning the dial on the television, right? Which is not so relevant nowadays. There are no dials. But he would say, “You know, you're on the self-channel. Just turn to source. Or turn to witness and [inaudible 00:28:24] there.” So, yeah.
[00:28:25] ZK: Yeah, really beautiful, Sarah. I heard you say in a video on social media somewhere and talking about that self-history is a roadmap to our humaneness.
[00:28:37] SM: Oh, beautiful.
[00:28:38] ZK: That really felt good. I felt it like right in my chest, like, “Oh! Someone to show us around.” And in these times, I think more people are reckoning with their humaneness and the context that we're humaning in.
[00:28:57] SM: Yeah. Love that. Make it a verb. Yeah.
[00:29:02] ZK: So one of the things I heard you say just now is that we can have these moments of pure source when we are making love, right? Like when we're having sex. And so we started out – We've traveled a distance here. But we started out talking about how do we invite in a sort of foundational intimacy in our primary relationship that allows for us to experience ourselves and each other, and others in a way that is honoring of everybody?
[00:29:40] SM: Start by taking the first step. I mean, I realized I didn't finish that one thought about Ken Wilber when he talks about states and stages. So he talks about the state of oneness, of unity, of source, that we have those state experiences. And what we're trying to do is develop stage maturity, which means we have access to that, even though we're not in that state in the moment. So sometimes I like to say it's as if it's in my peripheral vision. And I'm aware of it. It's not lost to me, right? I'm aware of it. And my attention is focused here on being with you. So I carry that context that you mentioned with me in every moment. That's the mastery there. That's what we are practicing in our humaning.
So I would say to the listeners, and to anybody who I'm speaking to. People ask me, “What do you do for a living?” And I'm like, “I talk to people about the meaning of life.” Yeah, I think that's what I do, right? And so I start with a question. Like, “Tell me, where are you at right now? What are you feeling? Or what are you up against in your sexual life? Your relational life? Your work life? How's your physicality?” right? And then I also ask, “So what's going on with your spiritual life? Do you have a relationship? What does that look like?” And we just start to inquire very simply, very gently. As we do that in our own interior with ourselves, we're more resource to do that with our children, and our partners, and hopefully, at some point, with all of humanity. With those people who are perceived enemies, or are perceived threat, right?
So we grow that skill. Zoë, I know it sounds like, “Oh, great. There is no magic pill. There is no –”” It’s start where you are and get curious, and talk to people who are also doing this and who are also curious.
[00:31:37] ZK: Right. And we mentioned community earlier. And the beauty of community, I mean, when we think about it, when we get involved, if we take up chess, then we're going to immerse ourselves in a community that speaks our language, where we can learn and absorb and bounce things off of, right? And so the same is true when you're starting to wake up to a larger context to a sort of an existential thing. Like find your thing, whether it's selfistry, or a million other things. But find the group of people that you want to be around that you want to have this sort of self-exploration with, alongside of, a cohort, if you will.
So Sarah, forgive my selfness in this. But on behalf of listeners who might be like, “Okay, this is so enriching, all of this. I clicked on this podcast, because I'm really curious about –”
[00:32:33] SM: Monogamish.
[00:32:34] ZK: Yeah, like having a conversation with my partner about my desire to have sex with someone. And I've either felt bad in the past, or I think I might feel that in the future. I don't know that I even want to do anything with it. Everything is great right now. But I love the idea of that. And so I'm really curious about concrete steps that people can take. Like all of the meta, all of the self-awareness is great. And it's all I think what we're getting at is like, it's really a foundation for living a sort of fruitful life. But when we focus on navigating and negotiating our own needs and desires in the self-realm – I mean, look, you and I both know plenty of people who there's this term spiritual bypass, right? And really what that term means, at least, and you can weigh in on this, Sarah, but it's people who are so enthralled with the source realm and the feeling that the source realm gives them, the freedom, the liberation from the humaneness and the messiness, and the angst, all of those things that happen when we're human beings. They hide out. They avoid the messiness in the realm of source, the transcendence.
And so, sex at its best is transcendent, right? So that's an opportunity there with each other, with our primary partners, but then potentially, with someone that comes along that would provide an experience for us that would facilitate transcendence, or growth, or whatever. How do we then go back to the self-realm and say, “I'm having these feelings?”
[00:34:27] SM: Well, the first thing is, what you're pointing towards, is to remember that this meta work that we're talking about isn't peripheral. It's integral, right? So that is a step right there, what we just talked about for the last 20 minutes. So remember that and to find a community or resource where you can start to get to know yourself as a self and as a no self, right? Both of them.
[00:34:50] ZK: Yes. Beautiful. Yes.
[00:34:52] SM: Okay. So then we go into the self-realm, and I have a self that wants to have sex with my neighbor. What do I do? Now, here's the thing. I want to just offer to your listeners. It doesn't have to be I want to have sex with my neighbor, because I'm going to have a transcendent experience. It's I want to have sex with my neighbor because he's fucking hot. And my husband, it's not as hot with him anymore. And I want to feel that hotness again. And it's like, “Amen.” That is the first thing that I always say to people, is every self is welcome. None of them get exiled, right? Whether we act on them or not is the inquiry process and the exploration. So the first thing I would say is just own it. Like I have this desire, right?
[00:35:39] ZK: Yes. And I'm not wrong for it.
[00:35:41] SM: And I'm not wrong for it. And that goes all the way to I want to have sex with an animal, or I want to be beaten, whatever those shadow desires and longings are to at least bring them forward and acknowledge them as legitimate and even beautiful desires. I know, right?
[00:36:02] ZK: I'm fanning my eyes, because I'm like crying. That permission and validation is just really moving. It makes me realize how wrong we make ourselves.
[00:36:13] SM: And this goes back to unpacking the source realm and all the shit we've been told about what is moral, what is ethical, what is right, what is sin, what is – Oh my gosh. That contracts us in the self-realm. So if we can clear out a little bit more space by going to source and going, “Oh, my God, from sources perspective, anything goes. Are you kidding me? You have permission for anything.” And that somehow liberates the self to go, “Okay, I'm not bad. I'm not wrong. Let me explore this desire, either to have sex with my neighbor, an animal, to be beaten, to be – Whatever form that desire comes in without the shame and the guilt. There's room for exploration.
And if you're in, and you are the guide for Radical Intimacy, if you're in a relationship, and you're developing the skills that you teach so beautifully, and how to be resonant with the person in front of you? How to energetically feel them? how to bring language to your emotions? How to share and reflect back what you're feeling? Those selves can come out to play. And then together, you decide. What are we going to act on? And is it safe? Is it productive? Is it good? Because it's not just is it good for that one self that wants that experience. But is it good for the whole community of selves inside of me, and my relationship, and my family, and my community?
But the permission to let it be is really essential to then exploring, working out the agreements, because that's the next step. So let's say your partner says, “Okay, babe, I'm open to you having sex with our neighbor. I agree. He's definitely hotter than I am, right? Okay.” So then you work out, right? You negotiate the agreements. Well, what do you need to feel secure and safe? But secure and safe doesn't mean you're not going to feel fear, or jealousy, or anger. Those feelings may arise. And then we just feel them.
[00:38:23] ZK: Yeah, you feel safe to feel is really what it is.
[00:38:25] SM: Exactly. Yes. Nice.
[00:38:28] ZK: I lost my thought. I get so entranced and seduced when I'm listening to you speak. You're so articulate and clear. I could just listen to you tell stories and explain complex concepts all day long. And sometimes I do. Really, my fantasy, Sarah, is – I was going to say, is not to have sex with you, but to like go to a cabin somewhere and just lock ourselves up for a weekend and just talk and just do the deep dive. And that to me, I'm like, “Well, but that is our version of making love.” That's our sort of intimacy. And really, when I think about intimacy in general and intimacy with a partner or a dear friend, it's that opening up. There's a vulnerability and a curiosity. And I feel like I let you in to my inner realm, introduce ideas and to introduce me to myself. I love that.
And that's, in a way, like when you take that sort of model of intimacy into a partnership. And I can imagine. I know, I lost a thought earlier. And the thought was, is that I can imagine that when you give yourselves permission in an essentially monogamous partnership, if you didn't have – Like in order to have that level of intent intimacy, you want to be able to know yourself and to bring your full self to the partnership. So to be able to talk about these feelings, it doesn't mean you're always acting on them. Maybe you do have sex with a neighbor. And maybe there's a way in which that conversation gets had that everybody feels good about it. There's also an opportunity to talk about it where it doesn't lead to taking action on that desire. But the conversation builds intimacy, builds trust, builds, builds exploration, builds self-knowledge and knowledge of each other, and maybe even fuels some heat back into that partnership sexually and in terms of like the desire.
[00:40:47] SM: 100%.
[00:40:49] ZK: Yeah. So I love that too.
[00:40:52] SM: Yeah. The intimacy is about – There's something in what you said I think that's really beautiful, that you're open to knowing yourself through the relationship with the person in front of you. And Zo-zo, imagine taking that to everything, the cup of tea, right? Life itself. Like I feel like that's what life is longing for from us as humans now is to make love to life, to be intimate with life, because we're taking it for granted. We're wreaking havoc on it, on ourselves and each other. And so there's this longing for intimacy with life. Again, we're starving for it. And nature's life is starving for it.
So I love how we, you, me, we, are taking these concepts of intimacy, sexuality, spirituality, and weaving them together into a framework for how to human, right? How to do our humaning more better.
[00:41:55] ZK: Yeah, right.
[00:41:57] SM: Because we're on the brink of potentially extinct in our species, people. Let's go Let's wake up. Give permission for our fullness to come forward. Because once we open that, there's beauty. There's goodness. There's truth. There're wounds. There're shadows. There're traumas. All of that as well. But once those come into the light of day, they don't have a hold and a grip on us in the way that they do when we hide them under the rug or in the closet. We see this over and over again.
[00:42:31] ZK: Sarah, you are such a gift. You're such a gift. I want to ask you. I'm sure there are people who just want more of you at this point. So how can people find you?
[00:42:45] SM: So you can find me through selfistry.com. So that's S-E-L-F-I-S-T-R-Y. And I do have a – I don't know if you're familiar with Mighty Network platforms. beautiful platform for building these kinds of communities that you're talking about where we can gather and learn about chess, or knitting, or source itself. and off of other social media channels, I'm really appreciating getting away from algorithms, and ads, and all that kind of stuff. So I do have a Mighty Network community. And you can find that at community.selfistry.com. And those are the best ways to connect with me right off the bat.
[00:43:24] ZK: That's great. I'm going to end this episode how I end each of my episodes with the questions from the French journalist, Bernard Pivot, and his show Apostrophes. Are you ready?
[00:43:35] SM: Yeah.
[00:43:36] ZK: What's your favorite word?
[00:43:38] SM: I made it up. It's called onomatopoeish. Like onomatopoeia is one of my favorite words. But things are onomatopoeish. So that’s my favorite word.
[00:43:53] ZK: I love you so much. What's your least favorite word?
[00:43:57] SM: My least favorite word these days is like. Like. Like. It's just so flat. Give me love. Give me – It's like this. That's just boring. Yeah.
[00:44:08] ZK: What turns you on?
[00:44:11] ZK: Conversations like this.
[00:44:13] ZK: What sound do you love?
[00:44:15] SM: Silence.
[00:44:15] ZK: What sound do you hate?
[00:44:18] SM: Leaf blowers.
[00:44:21] ZK: What's your favorite curse word?
[00:44:23] SM: By far, fuck. It’s like no questions on that one.
[00:44:30] ZK: What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?
[00:44:33] SM: I think I would like to be a professional dancer. Yeah.
[00:44:37] ZK: What profession would you not like to participate in?
[00:44:41] SM: To be honest with you, Zoë, when I read these questions yesterday, I could not think of one. Every time I thought of one I was like, “Oh, that could be interesting.” Steven was like, “What about a janitor?” And I'm like, “That can be interesting. [inaudible 00:44:53]. So maybe a veterinarian would be the one, because I'm not that into animals in that way.
[00:45:00] ZK: Yeah, okay, I'll take that. Thank you. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
[00:45:09] SM: Oh, that's a weird vision. Replace with source, “Hey, Sarah, hungry?”
[00:45:19] ZK: I particularly love that. We have shared many, many, many meals. And you know how to sit down and have a nice meal.
[00:45:27] SM: Oh, beautiful.
[00:45:28] ZK: Yeah. Sarah, thank you so much for everything that you brought to this episode of The Radical Intimacy podcast. We will have you back. There's so much more to talk about.
[00:45:39] SM: Thank you, Zoë. Can't wait.
[00:45:42] ANNOUNCER: Thank you for listening to this episode of The Radical Intimacy podcast. We are committed to facilitating courageous conversation about things that are hard to talk about. To support what we do, please subscribe, review and refer us to your friends. To connect with us directly. Visit theradicalintimacypodcast.com. To learn more about Zoë, visit zoekors.com. You can buy Zoë's book, Radical Intimacy: Cultivate the Deeply Connected Relationships You Desire and Deserve wherever you buy books. You are worthy of love and belonging. You are enough. We see you. We got you. We loved you.