I had a really lovely nourishing evening last Sunday. I hosted a gather I called "Cuddle Communion" which was based loosely on cuddle parties I'd been to in the past. I went over a short list of consent agreements to begin with, and then we did structured cuddles, had a break for snacks and coffee, and then had unstructured cuddles and played truth-or-truth. I felt really connected with almost everyone there, and I definitely want to do it again. Next time I'm going to set the structured part into a flow from least to most intense, because I just did them randomly this time and that was okay, but could have been way better. Also, I want to finish the structured cuddles before the break, because after it is too hard to get back into that. And I looooove that truth-or-truth was the mental focus of the unstructured part this time, but others might want something less intense, so I want to try to set up something to listen to or watch, at least as an option.
Here's the consent agreements:
1) opt out of anything you want: you are not obligated to participate in any part.
2) if you do opt out, don't watch (you can play on your phone, close your eyes, turn your back, leave the room, whatevs, just don't be an audience).
3) be sober (daily/ish meds count as sober)
4) if you feel unsure, say no. You can always change your mind if you feel sure later.
5) please express any discomfort (if you want me to be your proxy just let me know).
6) as much as you can, show gratitude for people expressing their boundaries, especially 'no' because that is hard to say.
7) if you get disappointed, go do what you need to get in a better space and then come back; don't make others experience your disappointment because that is pressure.
8) no expectations -- not of a particular person cuddling you, not of people initiating with you.
9) ask for what you want.
10) non-sexual energy only & short kisses only, to keep from creating a couple-y or sexual energy.
and the cuddle list for next time (we did most of these, but in a random order):
spiral hug: everyone holds hands and spirals in a circle around one person, tightening until everyone is in a lump of hug. They stay until someone is done and says "break."
melty hugs: hugging face to face, standing or sitting, and deliberately softening all of your arms, shoulders, and back so that you are fully melted into them. This usually requires some arching of your back, as keeping your back straight doesn't allow you to melt in, and it requires the other person to lean further towards you (especially if they have large breasts like me!)
hand focus: giving full attention to each others' hands, in petting, massaging, and looking.
face painting: taking turns running your fingertips over the other person's face while they fully relax (I prefer to do it while having them lay in my lap and vice versa).
braided legs: (Alison came up with this one but we didn't get to try it this time) sitting facing each other, each with their right leg over the other person's left leg, leaning together to hug, matching first one person's breathing and then the other, then halfway between.
infinity cuddle: sitting facing each other, each with their right hand on the other person's heart and their left hand on top of the other person's hand over their heart, either with eyes closed, making eye contact, or with foreheads together (this is my favorite cuddle).
eye gazing: facing each other and making silent eye contact for 3-5 minutes.
yin-yang: laying on one's side facing another head-to-toe, pulled close so that each person makes a pillow of the other's knees.
spoon line: everyone gets in a line laying down facing the same direction with knees bent and slightly forward.
After most people left, I was hanging out and talking with Serah and Alison about social change and leading things. Serah used to lead a spiritual gather but got burnt out, and I understand that feeling so well. I mentioned that that is why my ideal leadership is at least three volunteers who take turns and step down when they get tired. Usually what I see happen is one person leads and no one helps, and the leader gets so burnt out that they quit forever and the group disintegrates. I really think that any good leader doesn't lead because they want to lead, they lead because they see a need that no one else is filling.
Speaking of which, I felt so supported a few weeks ago when I was too exhausted to participate in intimacy practice, and the others took leadership and made it happen without me. I don't want to feel like it's mine, I want to feel shared ownership and care of IP, and that definitely made me feel that way.
I was talking with Saleena a few days ago about the same thing (good leaders just filling a need). Saleena and I are going to run a local community discussion/connection group together. The original idea was that it would be for trans people, but we want to expand it to all othered people and make it a safe space to talk or listen. I'm worried about creating a safe space where strangers can attend, because if an unsafe person attends that can be horrible, but there is no perfect solution. I think as long as Saleena and I are willing to call people on being problematic, we can make something good and safer than life in general while being imperfect.