Posts Tagged ‘Sexuality’

Eros Blooming

April 5th, 2013


by Vyana Bergen

Yesterday, I saw a crocus in the front garden of Shalom Mountain . . . no buds yet, just a green shoot of things to come, a glimmer of spring. I love that spontaneous surprise, after the long winter wait, when a fresh, newborn causes my heart to sing with joy. This season reminds me that each moment holds the potential of rediscovering the wonder of life, like the crocus which reminds me of the vulnerable beauty of the whole planet.

Gazing into a beloved’s eyes, seeing depth of their soul and the reflection of my own is another way to spontaneously awaken to the sacred. Throwing a ball for my eagerly bouncing dog, who has boundless energy to fetch, teaches me that the whole game of life is actually for play and fun. Calling a friend in need to offer consolation and warmth, and discovering it was me who was in need of giving love because my heart was feeling so full.

These are examples of opening to eros – the powerful force of love – in each moment. The erotic is not something that is meant to be limited to the bedroom, rather it meant to be discovered throughout the day . . . in every part of our lives. To build an erotic partnership is to practice and deepen with one’s beloved so that we can make love to each moment, to each crocus with our hearts, to each fetching dog with our laughter, to each friend with the warmth of our souls.


If you are interested in exploring the erotic in your life and partnership, consider Erotic Partnership:  A Sacred Sexuality Retreat for Couples, May 2-5, 2013.  Led by Vyana Bergen, Cristian Graca, Shelly Reichenbach and Jeff Hilliard a sacred space will be created to explore Eros and the Divine through sacred partnership.  Call or email Shalom Mountain:  845-482-5421 or with questions or to register for this couples retreat.  Shalom Mountain is located in the Catskill Region of New York.

Wisdom School Update

September 24th, 2012

Victoria Myer


By Victoria Myer

The Wisdom School at Shalom Mountain is an esoteric mystery school dedicated to transmitting and evolving the deep teachings of the spiritual traditions in service of the continued evolution of a world spirituality that spans and expands the wisdom across spiritual practitioners and religions.  The Wisdom school was co-convened by the Shalom Mountain leadership and Dr. Marc Gafni.  Marc brings an incredible depth of knowledge and wisdom from a lifetime of immersion in the study of the great spiritual traditions, along with continued deep conversation with current thinkers and philosophers of the modern world.  The Dharmic transmission that he brings to the Wisdom School is a process of teaching which brings to the student an understanding and experience of the essential elements of reality and expanded consciousness.  At the Shalom Mountain Wisdom School, he has also coordinated with Shalom leaders to integrate process work into the workshops to ground the teaching experiences.

Shalom Mountain has at the core of our own tradition been a community of seekers ultimately dedicated to the “journey to God”.  The deep personal work done at Shalom is the individual’s doorway to living into one’s unique contribution to the larger evolution of god consciousness in the world.  The commitment to honoring and understanding the sacredness of spirituality and sexuality as a core expression of God has been a place where Shalom has held a leading edge.   The Wisdom School with Marc Gafni, has offered our next step to a much greater level of depth and expansion in evolving our journey to God and evolving our love and expression of the erotic and holy.

Many of the leaders at Shalom Mountain have been part of the core committed members of the Wisdom School and some are also private students of Marc.  As the work has been so transformational at a personal and professional level, Shalom is receiving the benefits of the work being done at the Wisdom School in a wider context.  I recently attended a couples’ retreat in which much of the work was informed by teachings from the Wisdom School.  I was thrilled to experience the couples’ work unfolding at a new level of exploration that transcends gender-based exploration of sexuality and holds the work in the context of an integrated masculine and feminine dance, individually and within relationship.  I felt that once again Shalom has stepped into the next level of consciousness that is arising.   The teachings of the Wisdom School have also touched the Mystic work, the Tantra work, and even the broader context of deepening the Shalom process work .

Marc is the director and Scholar in Residence for the Center for World Spirituality, a think tank which is writing a series of groundbreaking books and creating new templates for spiritual practice, education, and community. An integration of the leading-edge emergent evolutionary insights taught by spirituality, psychology, and the sciences, World Spirituality paves the way for the next stage of spiritual evolution.  The work in the world is focused in three areas: leading-edge scholarship, publications, and programs.    Marc holds the center of the teachings and the organization, working along with a group of respected spiritual teachers, leaders, authors, and activists on the Board and Wisdom Council, who are creating publications, programs and trainings to expand and inform the work of mental health organizations, personal growth organizations and spiritual communities across the world.   Five Shalomers are on the board of CWS.

The Wisdom School at Shalom Mountain is an example of a place where the work of World Spirituality is taking place.  Marc has met 9 times with a growing and committed group of people who are studying and living into the teachings, and in the process actually become the vehicles that are practicing and evolving spirituality.  Marc has also been working with a small group of leaders at Shalom to develop a weekend curriculum that could be offered as a signature retreat of the Wisdom School.  Shalom leaders would lead these retreats for the larger community.  As part of developing an accessible library of the important work that is being done, the audio recordings of Marc’s teaching sessions from around the world are being collected.  All his sessions at Shalom Mountain have been recorded, edited and filed and will be made publicly available.

The Wisdom School at Shalom Mountain is thriving with attendance beyond maximum capacity, personal commitments to living the teachings in the world, development of new programs, and the delight of a group of fellow journeyer’s in the act of transformation from the personal to the cosmic.

The Eros of Spring

April 6th, 2012

Vyana Bergen

by Vyana Bergen

Yellow daffodils dance in the woods behind my home, the myriad of birds bring a cacophony of song, and the frogs have already begun their peeper mating cries – it’s spring in the Catskills! Someone said to me that it felt like spring had arrived in a sheer explosion of sight and sound this year, a sure reminder of Eros moving its life force through the manifest world.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary reminds us that the word Eros has Platonic roots and defines it as “a fundamental creative impulse having a sensual element.” Sight, sound, smell, touch and taste drive our lives as we move through life in these bodies created to explore being alive.  So why when we hear something described as erotic do we automatically think of sex? Perhaps it is because sex contains some of the greatest teaching for being fully engaged in our lives.

Marc Gafni describes sexuality as a place where our erotic nature is at it’s most intense, but this potency of the sexual realm is only pointing toward something  much more universal and essentially sacred.  Here are some of the faces of Eros that Marc distinguishes:

  • Interiority, which is to be deeply connected to oneself – to really experience the divine presence within. In this place, we loose the distinction between ourselves and God and we are one with the divine.
  • Fullness of presence, which is to be really awake and alive in the moment. If are with another, we might attempt to see who is really there, hear what is actually being said, honor what the other is thinking or feeling, we might commit to really staying with the other’s process (hmmm .  .  . sounds familiar).
  • Yearning, which is really our desire to love and be loved (again, I think I have heard this before somewhere). Our desire in its deepest form is sacred and we can trust that it will take us to God.
  • Interconnectivity, everything in the universe is connected, we are part of a larger whole.


If you are interested in exploring how your sexual desire and erotic nature can inform and transform your spiritual journey, whether it is with a partner or with the divine itself, you might consider joining us for retreat on sacred sexuality.  Two retreats are upcoming on our calendar.  The first is  “Erotic Partnership:  A Sacred Sexuality Retreat for Couples” May 3-6, 2012 led by Vyana Bergen, Cristian Graca, Shelly Reichenbach, and Jeff Hilliard.

The second opportunity is the Sexuality and Spirituality retreat, June 18-24, 2012 with Vyana Bergen and Cristian Graca.

For more information or to register for either retreat, call or e-mail Shalom Mountain:  845-482-5421 or

A New Chapter for Women Loving Women

December 2nd, 2011

Stephanie Roy

by Stephanie Roy

In October of 2011, LJ Wooden left a message on my voicemail asking me if I had any interest in co-leading WLW Retreats with her at Shalom Mountain.  It only took a moment before I heard a deep and resonant “Yes” in my heart.

I’ve always been something of a late bloomer and coming into my authentic sexuality was no exception. In many ways, I have the Shalom Process and the incredible Shalom community to thank for my own awakening as a woman who loves women.  I first came to Shalom in 1991, with almost 3 years of sobriety, to work on (what else?) unfinished business with my mother.  In the ensuing years and over the course of retreats too numerous to mention, the Shalom process held me as my soul attended to the broken places with my parents, my perpetrator, my ex-husband, my Creator and ultimately of course, with myself.  This amazing community gave me a perfectly imperfect place to re-play some of my oldest stories to entirely new conclusions. I came ‘of age’ at Shalom, discovering and exploring my boundaries, gifts, power, femininity, and sexuality with some incredibly amazing playmates and teachers.

As I gradually returned ‘home’ to myself, journeying out of my head and down through the chakras into my voice, my emotions, my power, and my sexuality, I found that my heart opened the most deeply to women.  And finally, all the questions I’d been pondering about my sexual orientation were fully answered in the spring of 2004 when I began my relationship with Beth, who is now my beloved wife. We celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary this past October!

From the very beginning of my healing journey I’ve also been called to both study and pass along what I’ve learned. I was part of Shalom’s first “Wizard School” in 1996 (a seed which eventually blossomed into the Shalom Leadership Training Program), attended two rounds of Process Therapy training with Carol Jud, and was among the original four who participated in the first Internship Program in 1997.  Since then I’ve facilitated numerous Shalom & Unmothered Daughter Retreats, workshops on a variety of topics (including “The Work” of Byron Katie), and maintained a private Process Therapy practice. (Note: Bonnie Moore and I also have an Addiction & Recovery Retreat coming up August 9-12, 2012 .)

Stephanie Roy & LJ Wooden

I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to co-leading the WLW events with LJ.  I have enormous respect for her as both a retreat leader and a fiercely committed journeyer.  We each bring a very different set of gifts to the table and together I think we’ll make a fun, exciting and powerful team!  Please support us with your open, loving hearts as we explore and develop this new chapter in the on-going story of Women Loving Women on Shalom Mountain.


Stephanie Roy is a Process Therapist and Retreat Leader with 22 years of sobriety. She has a B.S. Degree in Human Services and extensive post-graduate training including two years of Process Therapy and two years of Retreat and Leadership Training at Shalom Mountain. She has facilitated workshops and retreats in the Northeast USA and Ireland and has maintained a private therapy practice since 1995.

The next WLW retreat led by Stephanie and LJ is January 5-8, 2012.  For more information or to register, call or e-mail Shalom Mountain:  845-482-5421 or

The Healing Power of Pleasure

August 20th, 2011

Vyana Bergen

by Vyana Bergen

I can’t begin a conversation about Tantra with anyone who is new to the topic, without at least acknowledging the connection between tantra and sex. Tantra is definitely in part about pleasure – as one friend said recently, “out with the yuck and in with the yum.” Thus, one central principle that I practice in tantra is the healing power of pleasure.

Although sourced in ancient Eastern truths and traditions, the need to clearly articulate this principle has emerged out of the importation of Tantra to North America in the last forty years. As Indian gurus and Western practitioners have endeavored to share these teachings, the West has revealed both a fascination and repulsion to the idea of using pleasure, let alone SEX, as an arena for legitimate spiritual exploration. On the one hand, the cultural revolution of the 1960’s welcomed Tantra’s invitation to expand beyond our usual constrictions on sexuality. On the other hand our Judeo-Christian moralists have sought to diminish it at best, and totally reject or outlaw it at worst.

The push-pull around pleasure in general and sex in particular, make it vitally important to articulate the idea of the healing power of pleasure.  First, what do I mean by pleasure? Generally, we define pleasure as an experience of gratification or happiness brought on by external events or people in one’s world: “It was a pleasure to see her again.” In addition, every modern dictionary I checked included the words, “sensual gratification”, which is a very broad category referencing the five senses. Sensual pleasure might include the taste of chocolate, the feeling of fur on the skin, the smell of lavender, the sight of a sunset, or the sound of water lapping on a shore.

The word pleasure also includes the realm of the sexual, in fact for many sensual and sexual are synonymous. There is nothing wrong with sexual pleasure. From a tantric perspective, everything is an experiment and sexuality is definitely one place to experiment. But pleasure is far too essential and pervasive in life to confine it to only one vein of human awareness. So, if sexual pleasure is only one dimension of physical pleasure and physical pleasure is only one dimension of a far wider and deeper experience, then what are the other dimensions? Marc Gafni suggests there are five levels of pleasure:

  1. the physical pleasures of the five senses,
  2. the pleasure of intimate emotional connection with others,
  3. the pleasure of working for causes we believe in,
  4. the pleasure of satisfying the longing to connect with a divine presence through expanded realms of consciousness (like meditation or prayer),
  5. the pleasure of knowing our unique path in the world and living it fully.

The beauty of Gafni’s model is that each level opens us outward into wider and deeper realms. For instance, receiving deep touch opens us to experiences beyond the merely physical and into connection with others, the world and the divine.

Multidimensional pleasure embraces both depth of feeling and breadth of awareness for all that supports life in the world. Pleasure reminds us why we want to be alive. On the one hand, pleasure is part of our primitive survival system: our biological instinct leads toward pleasure and away from pain. On the other hand, expanded pleasure is about far more than pain avoidance and simple survival. As pleasure opens doors beyond our habitual pathways, we have the opportunity to enjoy our bodies with our minds awake with clarity, and even beyond that, to take in the glory of the world. Here the lines between where I end and you begin start to blur. We are in a tantric expansion of our ordinary frames of thinking.


If you are interested in expanding your frameworks from a tantric perspective, Shalom Mountain has two retreat opportunities in the coming year.  Vyana will be assisting her teacher, Rudy Ballentine at the Training in Tantric Principles Retreat, November 17-20. “Training in Tantric Principles” will be focused on the principles of tantra as outlined in Rudy’s new book, “Kali Rising:  Foundational Principles of Tantra for a Transforming Planet.

The second opportunity is the Wisdom School:  Falling in Love with the Divine Devotion and Tantra of the Heart with Marc Gafni, assisted by Vyana Bergen, March 8-11, 2012.

For more information or to register for either retreat, call or e-mail Shalom Mountain:  845-482-5421 or