Expand into Truth and Resilience
by Tina Peterson

As a performance artist and an entrepreneur, I was bucking the expectations of my conservative family. While living in Washington DC, I expressed my creativity by appearing onstage. I also networked like crazy and created a practice as a holistic health coach and a yoga teacher. For a naturalized immigrant, I was straying pretty far from the safety zone.

After getting divorced, I moved to Los Angeles, not realizing how many people on the West Coast were already working in the holistic health field. Faced with a saturated market, I ended up with a job at a restaurant, working long hours to pay the bills. For spiritual support to get through this transition, I took a course in sitting meditation. A woman I met there introduced me to OM, and I knew immediately it was something I wanted to explore. 

At the start of my first OM, my perfectionism kicked in. Am I doing it right? Is this gonna be okay? Oh no, I'm out of control here! Although there are rules, steps, and structure to the practice, I felt like I had no control over the situation because it felt so unusual, uncharted, a bit scary. But it was also thrilling, and I used the skills I had learned in sitting meditation, coming back to an established focus, whether it was a mantra or the breath. In an OM, you keep returning your focus to the physical sensation you're experiencing right at that moment, so I had a context that helped me adapt. By the end of the session, I knew I was on the right track. I wanted to keep OMing.

Early in my practice, I learned to ask for adjustments when the stroker wasn't quite on the spot. There's something about making a request and having the experience of getting what I've asked for, that is deeply validating. Growing up, there were so many times when I wanted something, or other girls or women wanted something, and the wish was denied and invalidated. I'd be told, “That's silly,” or, “You can't.” It's remarkable to ask for a simple thing--to have the stroker move their finger to the left, or to slow down the stroke—and then to have the request granted and translated, by someone who is not me, into a pleasurable sensation in my body. It's like going from feeling invisible to feeling real.

In one of my OMs, I had what you might call a mystical experience or a spiritual opening. As I focused on the sensation at the tip of my clitoris, a black dot appeared in my consciousness. More dots popped up, and they spread, growing larger and larger. I was aware of making vocalizations that were probably loud. I started crying and feeling far away from physical reality, in a dark space that felt clammy and cave-like. Panic came over me, but I held onto trusting the process. I'm sure it was because of the container that I felt safe enough for this opening to happen. 

As I came out of that space, my consciousness rejoined my physical body. I didn't know what the experience meant, but it unlocked a sense that there's more to existence than what we ordinarily perceive. Since then, I've talked with people who have confirmed that there's another plane we can experience. I'm not going to chase after it, but it did affirm that there's a context for more aspects of myself than our society acknowledges.

While my consciousness expanded, so did my ability to communicate. In my interactions with people who OM, I've found they have a level of authenticity, an ability to express raw truth, that brings a radical honesty to any situation. I've always been a truth-teller in my family, but through OM, I learned to reach a deeper truthfulness with relatives and with other people in my life. 

These transformational shifts led me to a new career as a coach specializing in helping people with their sexuality. I kicked and screamed against the idea when it came up, shaking my fist at the sky and saying, “You know who my parents are, you know the context I come from, you know it's not 'acceptable' for me to do this.” But everything in my life kept pointing in the direction of helping people relate in a direct and vulnerable way about sex, intimacy, connection, and relationship. 

The year 2020 was extremely stressful for me. The pandemic was not only frightening, but it also put an end to the events where I used to meet new clients. It was horrifying to witness the civil unrest of the country. Meanwhile, my husband's work was interrupted, and with both of us under stress, we had a lot of clashes.

Some days it was hard to get out of bed. I focused on finding ways to take care of myself so I could regain my center. Whether it was bathing, drinking a favorite tea, doing yoga, meditating, or journaling out my feelings, I listened to messages from my body to decide what I needed. Once I felt grounded, I could have a conversation with my mom or weather the storm with my partner and come back to a space where we felt connected and able to move forward. 

It took me almost a year of experimentation to put together a program that I could pass on to other women. I credit OM with giving me the skills to work the growth edge of my relationship and the growth edge of my personal development. I've found satisfaction and resilience in this time of challenge and change.