Day 10: Relaxing

Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer. (Burroughs) Click To Tweet

Today’s objective: Appreciate the importance of relaxation and scheduling small, short relaxation exercises into the daily routine.

On day 4 we already briefly touched on relaxation as an important part of self-care. Not relaxing will leave you stressed, cranky, unproductive, unable to deal with every day problems – and actually less able to take care of both yourself and others. Therefore, even though it might sound paradoxical, if you don’t have time to relax, is probably the time you need to make relaxation a priority.

Relaxing doesn’t need to come in the form of a long holiday. In fact, it may be wiser to

End of the preview.

“I went from questioning myself and self doubting to
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Interview with urbangay founder Stephan

Tell us a bit more about the idea behind urbangay?
Urbangay is really an invitation to pause and build an individual philosophy about your life and your sexuality. As such it is collection of different tools and ideas to help live happier and more purposeful lives for gay men. In some ways, I guess, it is about finding a positive response to the often toxic environment in which gay men live. It combines both life-coaching and sexuality skills and tools to help guys create the life and sexuality they really want: a place where they can fully live and be comfortable and happy with whom they are.

Why do you think modern gay life can be a toxic environment?
If you look at gay life, despite all the advances in gay rights, a big issue is that there are still far too few positive examples, which show how to live a happy and purposeful life, or even develop an individual, positive philosophy for yourself as a gay men. Much of the gay scene is based on competitiveness: Often, happiness is synonymous with having the most beautiful body, being young and having lots of a particular kind of sex. The more you fit that ideal, the more ‘successful’ you are assumed to be. And while that is really great for some, and interesting for a while, it can become quite shallow and unhappy as time goes by. For others, especially if you don’t fit into one of the established categories, many people who don’t fit that particular ideal feel excluded and lonely. Either way, rather than liberating, welcoming and inclusive, the quintessential gay life often makes people feel unhappy – others seek more and more ways of finding happiness and fulfilment, often self-destructive. The results can be really devastating. But the point is, they don’t have to be.

What alternatives does urbangay provide?
With urbangay I’m trying to build a community of men who want to embrace a more meaningful life together, including both life in general and their sexuality. Rather than being based on competition, appearance and material and sexual success, urbangay is based on working together and helping each other, accepting differences, encouraging finding your way in life and sex and embracing diversity. That, in a nutshell is the urbangay philosophy.
The core is about developing an individual philosophy, where you combine both happiness in life and sexuality to define who you are and who you want to be. For me, it is really important to be comfortable with whom you are first: only when you feel secure and happy with yourself can you really embrace others and different ideas. As a first step, the programs are designed to make everyone question what it is that they want to achieve in life, and how they want to express and embrace their sexuality as an important part of whom they are. Based on that, everyone develops their own models and puts them into practice. Once they have achieved that, they can then help others achieve the same.

How does the urbangay philosophy work in practice?
There are really two different, interconnected parts: life and sexuality. As for the life part, urbangay offers different tools to ‘design’ a life that you are really happy with. Something that is fulfilling and bring together different skills closely resembling traditional life-coaching ideas.
For the sexuality part, urbangay follows a similar path: the programs try to broaden the mind and let you experience and explore different types of sexuality and ideas about it. Then everyone can choose what is right for them, based on their own ideas and experiences, rather than what ‘is expected’ (or often expected to be expected!)
Both parts are then fused together. This is really important, so that every urbangay is both comfortable with the sexuality they are living and the life that they are living.

What methods does urbangay use to achieve this?
Urbangay mixes different methods or tools if you so want: the main tool is mindfulness. Mindfulness brings awareness to the feelings and emotions in us. This helps to observe and define what you want out of life and sex and see more clearly how and what is important for you, irrespective of what others tell you. So that establishes a foundation from which to grow and develop.
Apart from mindfulness, the different programs borrow other tools: for example, there is a focus on tantra as an alternative to the usual sexual paradigm. But as it is about finding your own way, nothing is prescribed, and you don’t have to become a tantra practitioner. The programs simply contain many  tools and ideas, and everyone is invited to pick and choose to establish their own mix – and share their experiences.

How is urbangay different to other programs out there?
It really depends on which programs you compare it to. In many ways, I think it complements lots of programs more than being different. Mostly it is about developing and individual philosophy for combining life and sex, rather than either one in isolation.
So, for example, there are many general life coaching and happiness programs out there, but they are never really taking account of sexual orientation, and rarely try to bring sexual expression into life as an important aspect of the individual.
Similarly, there are many really great alternative sexuality programs out there, some of whom are linked on the blog. They do fantastic work offering seminars and meetings to explore different forms of sexuality rather than the typical suck, fuck, cum idea. The difference there is that they are often based on particular philosophical or spiritual ideas (e.g. Tantra), and they are often quite focused mostly on sex, rather than bringing both sex and life together.

What about the bootcamp? Is that all that there is?
The bootcamp has just recently finished. I’m really excited about the positive feedback and many people seem to really enjoy the experience. Of course, it is more like dipping your toe into the urbangay ideas. It spends a few days on each of the points. It gives a pretty good grounding of the main ideas, and a basis from which to explore everything more in depth.
Over the next year, there will be many more programs coming up on the site, which explore individual aspects of the urbangay ‘philosophy’ if you so want. So look out for them! They will be available for free during the time they are scheduled to run. So check the website for the details!

Day 20: Stress Reduction

Stress remains one of the main causes of health problems in our society today: from heart disease, depression, cancer to erectile disfunction… many health problems are either caused by stress or are made significantly worse by stress. But not just health suffers: decision making under stress is notoriously bad and flawed. Over the nearly three weeks of the bootcamp, you probably have noticed how quieting the mind can actually lead to much better outcomes. You may also have noticed how your mind has started to quiet down as a result of the practice and training to focus.

The success of mindfulness to reduce stress and the potentially terrible consequences of ongoing stress are so impressive, mindfulness-based stress reduction programs are increasingly common, financed by major health systems as well as more and more employers using mindfulness training to increase productivity.

Of course, this bootcamp isn’t about the potential financial and health consequences of adopting a mindful lifestyle: but it is about creating a more healthy, happy and “present” you. And one of the most important things you can do to achieve this, is to reduce the amount of stress in your life.

Stress can have many reasons, and what causes stress can be very different from person to person. Discussing this goes well beyond the scope of this blog. However, with increasing mindful practice, you maybe starting to become increasingly aware of stressor or situations that are creating stress in your life.

For many people the immediate response is to respond quickly to the stress-creating situation, for example, by doing something to counter-balance the stress that has been caused (note: this could be by doing nothing at all!). This can, sometimes, be a good response, of course. But often it is not.

Unfortunately, stress is pretty much unavoidable. However, with a little practice mindfulness cannot just help to reduce general stress levels, but also take away some of the stress-creating issues (or at least lessen their impact!). The trick to successful stress management day by day is often to recognise a stress-creating situation early – and respond with a stress-lessening counter-action: so don’t respond to the situation, but first reduce the level of stress. This is, of course, easier said then done.

Any of the previous mindfulness exercises can be really useful if you feel a situation is arising a feeling of stress (or anxiety) in you. Today, I’ll give you one more quick activity you can easily use in those situations.

1) As soon as you realise something is causing you stress, focus on your breath for at least 3 breaths. Take deep and long breaths. You should feel a little more calm as a result of this.

2) Visualise the situation or emotion that is causing you stress. Visualise the situation as being in a box, on a river, coming slowly towards you.

3) When it reaches you, extend your hands and take the box out of the river. Look at the box for a few moments. Turn it around. Examine how it feels.

4) Once you are finished examining the box, place it back in the river. See how the river carries it away. Visualise how it moves in the water, moving away from you: first slowly, then more rapidly.

5) Take a few more deep breaths as you see the box disappearing far away on the river, and come back to the present.

Try and use this quick activity (it shouldn’t really last more than two or three minutes) two or three times today when you feel something potentially stressful might be about to happen or has just happened – instead of either avoiding the activity or reacting in a particular way.

How does it feel to take a look at the situation? Do you feel it makes any difference in how you react or feel? Share your thoughts below!

Day 15: Erotic Meditation – Meditation for Sex

Now that you have the power to bring your mind to where you want it to be, either in the present or in a place or space of your choosing, it is time to try and have a fun day before we move on and apply all of the learned techniques for different aspects of (urban gay) life.

For today I have two different types of meditation/hypnosis for you. If you have the time, maybe experiment with both, or do one today and then comeback to this later. One is meditation/hypnosis session to achieve orgasm (or a feeling of it, see below), the other to increase your sex drive.

The first one is a session which will gently guide you to orgasm. Some people manage to actually, physically cum during the meditation. However, the majority does not, however, their feelings closely resemble orgasm and they are often very excited.  Try it out for yourself and see how you feel after this short activity.

The second activity is an hour long hypnosis session to increase sexual arousal. It is recorded by Steve G Jones, who has many fantastic videos on YouTube – so do check his meditation/hypnosis sessions out. This session doesn’t try to lead to orgasm or an increase in feelings, but focuses your mind on increasing your libido. Take the time and go for a journey, maybe a little before meeting a partner or loved one.

If you want to explore other forms of sexual meditation and hypnosis, there is more available on YouTube if you feel like experimenting. This included “master and slave” sessions and tantric partner meditation, which we will come back to later in the bootcamp.

But for now… let me know how you are finding the experience. Please use the comment function below – or tweet using the hashtag #ug30bc. See you tomorrow… when we are moving into applying all the skills from the previous days to daily life.

Day 14: Meditation as a tool for change – Affirmations

Today’s activity is around affirmations. It’s not strictly speaking meditation nor hypnosis, but something that can “switch” your mind to a different mood. If you are skeptical at this moment, you are probably not alone. But give it a try and see if you feel any effect.

The good thing about affirmations is that they tend to be quick and easy ways to stop negative thoughts or even a negative mindset and focus on something positive. You can therefore use them as a tool in everyday life – or use them more long-term as a way to train your mind to think more positively.

For a short-term thinking change, you can use the affirmation technique simply by repeating something in your head (or out loud if you are alone). Then act the way as if that would be true. So, for example, if you feel like being in a bad mood, take your mind off it, by saying to yourself “Wow! I’m really lucky. I live in the most amazing city in the world.” (or something else that you are grateful for, or that is positive). Repeat this affirmation a few times in your head, and believe it to be true until your mood changes. Note: Of course, please don’t use a clearly untrue affirmation. So, on a cold winters day, don’t attempt to “talk” the day into a hot summers day 😉

If you want to try a more general approach to affirmations, with more long-term effects, try guided affirmations. This short collection of affirmations (10mins approx) for example. Produced by the Honest Guys, it is a set of general positive affirmations. I very much like their voice and music (so do explore the rest of their videos if you like!). With general affirmations, remember though, that while they may be shifting your mood temporarily, too, they generally take a bit longer to become perceived reality. While you are doing them, however, please visualise that they are true right now for them to be effective.

I hope you are enjoying the affirmations, and that you are starting to feel the effects of the mindfulness and meditation exercises we have made so far. Let me know how you feel things are going. Please use the comment function below – or #ug30bc on Twitter. Tomorrow will be the last of the “first section” of the bootcamp: We will be heading for erotic and sexy meditation practice… see you then!

Day 13: Meditating for relaxation

Today’s activity is a relaxation meditation/hypnosis. The actual track is from Michael Sealey. I really like the way he conducts his guided meditations/self-hypnosis sessions – and he has a really calming and soothing voice (IMHO).

For today, try and ease yourself into a relaxing state with this session.

If you like his works, you can find many of his recordings not just on his extremely popular YouTube channel, but his recordings are also available on Google Play, iTunes, Spotify and many more platforms. He also has some sleep meditation sessions, if you want to go to sleep immediately after finishing the session. Check them out.

See you tomorrow for a different type of mediation/hypnosis session. And don’t forget to let me know how you found the Michael Sealey experience!

Day 12: The basics of Meditation

Today we are moving on from mindfulness, that is to say bringing our mind to the here and now and to observe the present, to more actively engaging the mind in the way we want the mind to do. This is a subtle difference.

Previously I said: Meditation is a silent, stationary activity with a purpose (often focusing on training the mind to do something). This means to actively engage the mind to examine a chosen object (feeling, emotion, sensation…), or the “meditation object”. This can be something very similar to mindfulness, for example when focusing the mind on the breath (then we have mindfulness meditation!), but can also be something very different, for example, focusing the mind to visualise a situation in order to calm and relax (then we have a purposeful mind away from the present).

While practicing mindfulness is relatively easy to do without guidance, simply by focusing on yourself and your presence, this can be a bit more tricky with meditation. Today and the next three days I will therefore include links to guided meditations as part of the exercises. I’ll include different styles and topics: relaxation, motivation and sexual meditation.

Today’s activity is a simple guided meditation of just over 10 minutes, designed to increase your general motivation. To access it, click the link here.

Meditation is very much like mindfulness practice: it gets better with time and the more you do it. The effect takes a little until it unfolds, so don’t expect immediate effects, but you will notice changes slowly over time. If you want to do more meditations, just take a look around YouTube or SoundCloud for some more examples.

See you again tomorrow for an example of deeply relaxing meditation!

Day 6: Daily life as mindfulness practice

Yesterday you started to focus your mind by using your breath as a way to stop the mind from wandering. You can repeat the exercise every day, especially when you have a quiet space and are able to come inside you. Today, however, we add a little extra to the same exercise, by integrating additional, easy mindfulness training into every day life.

Think about how much time you spend during the day just being idle: waiting for a train for example. Waiting for your coffee. Waiting at the supermarket check-out. There are many times in a day you are likely to have a few second or even some minutes just by yourself.
Often these minutes just pass us by, maybe you think about something you need to do. Maybe you get annoyed at the time it takes to serve you your drink. Or the delay of the train, which should have been here five minutes ago.

Of course, those little fragments of time can be a source of big frustration: few things seems to get people as angry as waiting. Just think how many people make angry comments on social media when they are waiting.

But at least for today, and maybe even from now on, I invite you to see those little fragments of time as an opportunity to “check in with yourself”. Therefore, the exercise for today is simple:

In one or two situations where you are waiting (and where it is safe to do so), practice mindfulness for a moment or two. To do this, focus on your breath and your current position while standing or sitting. Attempt to focus solely on how you feel, on your breathing, on the way your body is positioned. Focus on the little details of the here and now: smells you can detect, maybe faint noises you would not normally pay attention to. The wind or the feeling of movement. Essentially be present in the current moment, avoid judging the moment (e.g. don’t attempt to classify the waiting as bad or good). Focus on your experience of the moment and try to observe yourself and the moment you are living without judgement, as if you were an outsider with no emotional connection to you.
If you can, try to do this a few times today wherever the opportunity allows.

I hope you enjoy the checking in with yourself today, and maybe you consider incorporating this small exercise into your daily life from now on. Just imagine how many fewer negative thoughts about the train company, the slow cashier or the person serving drinks you might have if you use these small tokens of timeto visit the most important person in the world: you.

If you find this exercise works for your, then why don’t you share it with your friends? To share it, click here – and also let me know how yo are feeling. Don’t forget to include #ug30bc when you tweet, or use the comment function below.

Day 5: Breathing

After completing the two mindfulness exercises yesterday, you may have noticed how difficult it is to keep the mind focused and switch from mindless to mindful activity – especially when the activity is relatively quiet. Luckily though, there is an activity we perform all the time, which we can use to focus the mind: breathing.

Normally breathing is, of course, very much an autopilot exercise: we hardly ever think about taking a breath, unless the situation is very particularly: a stressful situation for example. However, breathing is as close at you can get to perfect for focusing a wandering mind: it is rhythmical, easily observed – and we can even focus on it anywhere we want. Not surprising therefore, breathing focused exercises have become quite something of a “staple exercise” for many mindfulness practitioners and trainers (with “body scanning” a close second, but we will get to that later).

For the time being let’s try a simple and relatively short breathing focused exercise. If you don’t need to time the exercise, I’d encourage you not to. But otherwise, use your timer from yesterday again. The total exercise should take about 7-8 minutes.

1) To start sit down comfortably in a quiet space. This exercise is best done upright at first as it allows you to focus on different body parts. Later on you can vary the position. A cushion is ideal to sit on, but a sofa or chair will do, too. Just make sure you are comfortable.

2) Now focus on your body, and how it feels to sit down. If you feel any tension or discomfort, maybe change the position a little to make it comfortable. Focus on how your body feels: the weight, the way you are sitting, all the little details you can feel.

3) Once you are comfortable start focusing on your breath. Feel your nostrils or your mouth. Can you feel the air entering your body?  The way your nostrils move when you inhale? Or your mouth? How deep are you breathing? Is your breath reaching your shoulder? Your chest? Your abdomen? Sit and observe the way you breathe. Don’t alternate or change the way or speed you are breathing. Just observe it.

4) After a few minutes, to end the exercise, focus away from the breath and back to your body. How do you feel? More relaxed? Have your feelings changed?

Often, people struggle with things “popping up” in their mind when they do this exercise. Even after a lot of practice it is not unusual for this to happen. Don’t worry about it at all, it is perfectly fine. The best way to deal with any such thoughts is to kindly acknowledge their presence, but then let them go. In other words, “speak” to the thought directly by telling the thought “thank you for coming here. I’m busy at this moment. Please come back later when I can give you my full attention”, then focus your thought back to the breathing.

Note that the exercise can be very hard to complete if you haven’t done meditation or mindfulness training before. Don’t let that discourage you. If you feel it was difficult, why not try it again tomorrow? Or, for that matter, if you liked it, you can try to repeat it again tomorrow.

Hopefully, with some practice, you will start to enjoy the feeling of focusing on something as simple and universal as your breath. Later on we will see that the ability to focus on breath can be very useful – as you can use this to bring back your mind to the present in many situations.

However, for today, this is all. Please share how you are getting on with the exercise. How do you feel? You can do so by using the comment function below – or use #ug30bc to share your thoughts on Twitter. Thank you for being part of the journey!

Day 3: The Urbangay Manifesto

As said yesterday… today we will talk about some basic rules to make the bootcamp work – and some more overarching principles for the urbangay lifestyle.

To start off, here are the three simple rules for the next few days. The rules are not there to make things complicated – and I don’t think they are overly complicated. Instead, they are designed to be easy, simple and to help you get the most out of the bootcamp experience, for you and for everyone else who is ‘bootcamping’.

1) You can only fail if you give up.
This is hopefully pretty straight forward: there is no way to fail the bootcamp. At least not if you give it a try. The bootcamp is structured in days, but don’t let that stop you from going back or staying with one activity for a few days. The bootcamp is all about you. You decide. This also means that:

2) There is no right or wrong way.
Because we are all different, we like different things, and dislike different things. What makes it interesting is that we have different perspectives. Respecting different views is important during the bootcamp and in the urbangay community. Because of this…

3) Your opinion is valued, please share it
Share what you think. We are all in the bootcamp together. If you like something, why not comment on it? If you improved an exercise, please share it with the others. I love to hear your feedback, and I’m sure everyone else will appreciate to see how different participants feel. So… let’s share, be social and learn from each other.

Secondly, I invite you to think beyond the bootcamp. I’m “borrowing” these five principles from the general Buddhist ethics (I’m sure you will agree they are quite similar to other ethics). As promised, you don’t have to subscribe to this perspective, they are not part of the programme. But I invite you to reflect on them – and adapt them according to what you feel comfortable with. They are, after all, guides that make life easier and more enjoyable. Importantly, these are not rules or tick boxes. They are, in the Buddhist tradition, simply aims to live by. There is no shaming or blame involved if you feel you have failed. People have flaws. The Buddhist tradition simply asks you to acknowledge that you have failed and try to do it better next time.

1. Don’t kill – or cause harm.

2. Don’t steal.

3. Avoid false speak.

4. Avoid intoxication.

5. Don’t misuse sexuality.

1 to 3 should be pretty straight forward (I acknowledge, you can have a long discussion about them, but let us just accept them for the time being as given and the way you interpret them). 4 and 5 are more open to interpretation, particularly in terms of the bootcamp. As with 1-3, I invite you to use your own judgement when interpreting these for you. For example, traditionally, avoiding intoxication is interpreted often rigidly in terms of drinking or drugs. For me personally, I interpret this as not just referring to substances – but also to other forms of intoxication: for example, (mis-)information and other things that “numb” the mind. On the other hand, I don’t interpret this for me as something that prohibits alcohol, but rather that cautions not to over do it (and I’m sure you’ll agree… , trying to be mindful, do exercise or just about anything with a massive hang over is not going to work.). Similarly, I would interpret ‘misuse sexuality’ as meaning using sexuality to deceive or manipulate, including, of course, making sure sexuality is practiced only with consent.

I hope these three rules for the bootcamp – and the five principles to think about are a good foundation.

We also need to bear in mind, this is a journey we are taking together, and what has brought us here together: Lives that may have been lacking “that certain something”, or maybe just being curious about if there isn’t a better or alternative way. Something more fulfilling then what we have now.

Thus, let us combine all of this, together with all the topics and objectives of the bootcamp, into one easy “manifesto for the urbangay” (of course, you don’t have to live in an urban area. You are welcome to be an urbangay no matter where you are!). Something to guide the rest of the program and to define how we are growing as human being, during and after the program. So here is my “draft manifesto for the urbangay”… please remember to contribute and amend it how you see fit.

1. We are the urbangays.
We seek fulfillment through love, purposeful action, happiness and sexual expression with kindness, affect, freedom and respect for ourselves and each other. We use mindfulness, meditation, love and sexuality to create a fairer, happier and healthier world.

2. We are a community.
We come from different backgrounds, this is our strength. We are inclusive, diverse and welcoming, bound by the love and respect that we share for each other, united by our core principles. We support each other with kindness and generosity, with love and affection.

3. We embrace vulnerability and reject the perfect.
We acknowledge that nobody is perfect and everyone is vulnerable. We welcome our imperfections as showing us ways to grow and acknowledge ours and others vulnerabilities as possibilities to give and receive comfort and joy.

4. We live a fulfilled, purposeful life.
We may have different paths and objectives, giving us the opportunity to respect each others rights to live a fulfilled, purposeful lives, supported by the love, care and kindness of our fellow urbangays.

5. We have the right to ecstasy and to give and receive pleasure freely.
We have different forms of expressing sexuality and sexual identity, and we respect and cherish this, acknowledging everyone has the right to give and receive pleasure and experience ecstasy in a way they seek.

So… tomorrow we will finally get going. I hope you’re as excited about this as I’m! … See you tomorrow for the first activity introducing mindfulness.

But before we go, why not share the bootcamp with your friends?

Join me for 30 days of life, love, sex - mindfulness, meditation and tantra. Click To Tweet