March 08, 2015

The Birth of Bliss by Beth Wallace

Bliss Ireland Founder & Director Beth Wallace briefly shares what the project is all about for her. 
Beth has worked for almost 30 years in the sexuality field, she is, among many other things, a psychology graduate with special interest in forensic psychology, a professionally qualified psychotherapist, facilitator, speaker & published writer. She's received initiations in several spiritual traditions in over 30 years of spiritual seeking, including Wicca, Tibetan Tantric Buddhism, and Peruvian & Siberian Shamanism - she is no longer a spiritual seeker & walks the path of no path that is the mystery of life! 

I'm frequently asked how Bliss Ireland came into being, the truth is that it's both a very simple and quite complex creature. It's deeply personal, it's political, it's ''spiritual'', it's about me and it's not about me, it's the child of a marriage between all the different aspects of myself, it's the sum of my life's experience and work so far, and more often than not I'm more interested in what it means to you than it does me! 

It gives me great joy to create these events that offer space to explore and express this very fundamental aspect of who we are as human beings, it gives me great joy to raise these, sometimes uncomfortable, issues and subjects for discussion in Ireland, and the world, where we are experiencing both the aftermath and rise out of generations of shame, fear & silence in relation to sexuality, and, it gives me most joy to offer spaces in which people can experience, express and share their own freedom, power, and love.

I know about shame, fear & silence.
I also know about freedom, power & love.

I grew up in Ireland at a time, in the 1970s & '80s, when there was great cultural shame and silence in relation to sexuality. It was a time when, among many other barriers to freedom, homosexuality was criminalised until 1993, when a prescription from a GP was needed in order to access any form of contraception including condoms until 1992, and when sex education was not taught, any where in any way.

''The Bird's Nest''

I was born directly into, and of, that shame. As the first child of an unmarried woman I spent over a year at the beginning of my life in an orphanage having been born in a mother and baby home, before being adopted like many other 1000s of children who were not actually orphans. Many 100s, perhaps even 1000s, died in, or not long after being in, mother and baby homes & Magdalene laundries in Ireland in the late 19th and 20th century, the infant & child mortality rate was, at times, twice the national average, most were buried in unmarked or mass graves, including my brother. Adoption can be 'successful' & happy for many, equally for many it's a painful experience leaving lifelong scars in heart & mind. Feelings of rejection and abandonment, The Primal Wound, whether the adoption is 'successful' or not, can last a lifetime & manifest in addiction, difficulties in relationships, lack of self esteem and much more.

I know about shame, fear & silence.
I also know about freedom, power & love.

I then journeyed more deeply into shame, fear and silence as I experienced childhood sexual abuse over the course of several years. It's well known and reported how sexual abuse can have deeply damaging effects and I can see how it wove itself destructively through my life, and in some ways still does. I also see how it has manifest in Ireland as a whole. As a result of generations of silence in relation to sexuality, generations of shame and guilt have led to a dire lack of education for all in relation to healthy explorations and expressions of sexuality - abuse of children and assault of adults, including the so-called ''rape culture'' are a direct result of this, and this is borne out by research in countries where sex education is available from a young age and a more liberal and inclusive culture exists in relation to sexuality in general.

My journey out of shame, fear & silence began consciously at 14 years of age, my adult self began to emerge & she did not like what she saw or had experienced and so she began to set about understanding and changing it, alongside much raging against it. Nearly three decades of spiritual seeking followed, beginning with the Christian mystics, liberation & feminist theology as they were emerging then, moving into the western pagan & esoteric traditions. I explored the Kabbalah, Wicca, traditional hereditary Irish witchcraft, shamanism, several native American traditions when living in Canada and came ''home'' to an expression of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism for many years. In this searching and seeking for answers, explanations for, and distractions from, the hurts in the world & myself, I found a peace of mind and salve for my heart that I had longed and hungered for. I did not, however, find a fire to match my own! My experience was that most of these traditions focused beautifully on the heart, the soul, the mind, but they left the body in its', particularly the raw and wild, sexual expression behind, sometimes deliberately and shamefully so - I knew there was great power in sex as I had felt the force of it's shadow, I knew there was power in the idea of spirit, and I knew the power of the mind, but, I saw & felt no connection between the three. 

I know about shame, fear & silence.
I also know about freedom, power & love.

I found raw fire however, and was badly burned by it many times, in what I call my 'sexplorations'. It's very common for those who have experienced sexual abuse as children to 'act out' and become sexually 'promiscuous' due to a lack of self esteem, lack of healthy boundaries or simply an extremely damaging pattern of 'this is what I do' or 'this is what is expected of me', or perhaps an unconscious belief that sex equals love. A promiscuous nature, despite its' damaging cause, led me to sexual explorations that many others would not try, imagine or investigate, there is not much that is legal that I haven't experienced, even just once to see what it was like as my insatiable curiosity hungered for more and deeper understanding. And so I learned that sex has power, it can be used against the self and others in abusive situations, it can be used for oneself both with others and alone to EMPOWER oneself in ways that take nothing from others. But still I could not find a full and whole expression of sexuality that met my needs, that fulfilled me, there was always something missing. In my early 20s I spent a year with a ''Tantric Master'', learning all I could from him, receiving his transmission of the great traditional TransHimalayan mysteries that he had studied & lived in for decades - sex & spirit were connecting and it was the beginning of a new journey into freedom, power, and love.....

I wanted to understand this aspect of human nature and so my professional career, of course, followed my personal explorations and expressions. Over the last 28 years I've worked as a Rape Crisis Counsellor, also as a counsellor, trainer and senior manager in the HIV/AIDS field, with drug users, sex workers, teenagers, as a university lecturer of GPs and nurses, and many other groups, always with an agenda of pushing the cultural evolutionary edge in relation to what is ''acceptable'' in relation to our sexual explorations and expressions. I studied post graduate Forensic Psychology with a particular interest in sexual offending so that I could understand what had happened to me, and to so many others. I became the first Irish woman to 'come out' in the mainstream media as bisexual and since then have been vocal, publicly so, about many issues relating to sexuality.

It's my belief that there is nothing inherently shameful about our sexuality, any aspect of it, it can be and is for many people, a cornerstone of their experience of their own power as a human being, the aspect of their lives in which they experience the greatest freedom and passion. It is also the aspect of our lives that touches us most deeply and with the greatest vulnerability & damage when it is violated, when our trust is betrayed - and so our sexuality is an aspect of us that has the power to both destroy and elevate, to damage and to empower, and, to connect us most deeply, because it is embodied, with love for ourselves and others.

I know about shame, fear & silence.
I also know about freedom, power & love.

And so Bliss Ireland was born as a marriage of all these aspects and facets of my life experience - my 'sexplorations' married my professional expertise, my own sexual healing having experienced abuse, rape, and all that followed on from those experiences merged with decades of spiritual learning and practice, my desire to see Ireland and her people living deeply empowered lives, free from shame, fear and silence has all led me to creating this project, this community, and these events.

It's my dearest hope that the events we create offer space for whatever is desired & needed, whether that is healing from trauma, blissful celebration of love and union, a simple relaxation into nudity, a vibrant & ecstatic cosmic sexual experience or a hundred other experiences - it is now time to loose ourselves of generations of that which has kept us small, that which has kept us imprisoned in our own minds, constricted & contracted in our bodies - it is time for REAL freedom for fully empowered people living from deep love for themselves, for each other, for this land upon which we live & which supports us, and for our planet as a whole.

I want to conclude with the rich words & voice of one of my favourite women, especially given that today as I write, March 8th, is International Women's Day, and also my birthday, the anniversary of the day of my birth into this mysterious life! 
Maya Angelou talks about how one can be down trodden, how others may wish to see us with our shoulders hanging low, our heads bowed, but, the triumph of the human spirit is that we rise, and we continue to rise, we are unstoppable, this may well be our downfall as a species, equally, it may be our saving grace.
This is my invitation to you - if any of this very brief telling of my story resonates with your own then know that you are not alone in your sweet healing, powerful rising, & joyous celebrating; 100s, 1000s desire to heal, rise and celebrate with you in freedom, empowered, and with love in their hearts not only for themselves but also for others.
We rise!

8th March 2015