Reviewed by Nancy Eichhorn
One simple sentence says it all: “Great sex is a mind-set, not a skill-set.”
Maci Daye embodies the essence of her new book, Passion & Presence: A Couple’s Guide to Awakened Intimacy and Mindful Sex, in this short statement. Yes, readers receive exercises to practice concepts presented throughout the book, but the crux of success resides in mindfulness including presence, curiosity, and authenticity, and a commitment to one’s self, one’s partner and the relationship.
Daye offers a detailed experiential guide for readers wanting to increase their passion and deepen or restore their erotic connection. She shares engaging case studies and activities/exercises designed to help readers find and heal their inner obstacles to sex. She has designed a clear and doable process, what she calls the ‘naked path’, a path of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. She nudges readers stuck in a state of resignation and stagnation to turn toward intimacy and joy and pleasure.
“Passion and Presence is relational, embodied and goal-free.”
Aside from the Introduction, each chapter (7 in total) adheres to a similar structure: an opening vignette/case study highlighting aspects of a couple’s sexual relationship that many, if not all, readers will relate to; then cycles and steps, charts and graphics, and more to educate readers about what she calls our Pure Erotic Potential (PEP), its six barriers, and ways to move beyond. Readers learn they can access their Pure Erotic Potential by becoming present, curious and exploratory rather than goal oriented—she encourages readers to “look inward and to allow, instead of forcing anything or striving to reach a goal” (pg. 5).
The six barriers include: Automaticity; Trances; Fear of Vulnerability/Protective Strategies; Hidden Factors; Erotic Wounds and Trauma; and Shame. She also shares ways to create a safe container for exploration. Each chapter ends with “Mindful Activities and Naked Reflections”. The exercises/activities are user-friendly. Daye writes in a way that both explains what to do and offers support as readers enter new ways of seeing, hearing, touching, being, and revealing.
Daye is clear that while it may seem easier, maybe preferable to distance from one’s sexual partner and avoid feelings (including shame, anxiety, fear, vulnerability, or even joy and sensuality), but in the end, by avoiding one’s feelings and avoiding sexual interactions creates barriers between ourselves and our pain, and we remain stuck. Daye notes that when we mindfully approach our feelings, our hidden factors, our wounds, our protectors, and protected parts, and so forth, alone and as a team we can find a portal to healing and transformation.
Daye offers readers emotional support and validation while encouraging them to reach out and try something new. Readers who are already versed in mindfulness practices, who can tune into their body and listen and feel what is happening beyond their thought patterns, and who are committed to work on themselves and together with their partner have the upper hand in this process. But the concepts are also presented such that beginners can learn if they want.
At one point, Daye teaches what she calls the Stop, Study and Share process. Readers are called to stop in the moment of a sexual interaction as needed. To turn within and check what is happening: is it a feeling, a thought, a something? She asks them to linger with these sensations in an open, curious way and then share the experience with their partner, who must be able to listen and be compassionate and supportive. Daye notes, “These exchanges are delicate, which is why it is essential to talk about yourself rather than about your partner. You want to share discoveries about your inner emotional life, even if your reaction was triggered by something your partner said or did. When we share our experience without blaming our partner, in turn is partner is likely to provide a caring response” (page 110). This process relies on readers having a high level of emotional maturity and healthy/effective communication skills.
“The process of befriending, exploring, and ultimately transforming blocks to erotic expression requires a deep and abiding couple alliance” (pg. 7).
The depth Daye offers comes from years facilitating Passion and Presence workshops as well as exploring life with her husband Halko Weiss. She shares their struggle with age-related changes, bewildering stressors, and overfamiliarity. They too have felt the painful effects of personal early experiences and sex-negative imprints from their past. The tools she shares come from a range of sources including: Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy, neuroscience, sex therapy, trauma therapy, and systems therapy.
Each chapter is brimming with insights and exercises—there is enough to keep a couple exploring beyond the veneer of their current relationship and go within to touch the deeper recesses of their being to discover more about themselves, one another, and their couple-dom.
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To read a special excerpt from the book, please click here for the PDF
Maci Daye is an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, Licensed Professional Counselor, and Certified Therapist and Trainer of Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy. As a sex therapist, her focus is on helping couples deepen their erotic connection mindfully. Maci has been leading Passion & Presence® couples retreats and professional workshops in the USA, Europe, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand since 2010. A frequent conference presenter, Maci has graduate degrees from Harvard University and Georgia State University and a doctorate in Human Sexuality from the Parkmore Institute. She also completed the Level 2 Somatic Experiencing trauma training developed by Peter Levine. To learn more about her programs or to contact Maci go to www. passionandpresence.com.
Online Photo Credits
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