How Lara Catone Lives All of Her: Revitalizing Sex Education Through Embodiment

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This is part of the Live All of You Interview Series! For more on what this is all about, head over to the intro post and make sure to sign up to find out who I’ll be interviewing next.

When I first heard of Lara Catone, I was about to head out on a road trip to connect with my gravity-bound self again. I had been traveling by plane way too much, and I’d been feeling a deep need to commune with the earth.

I wanted to root, not route. I wanted to flow, not fly. I wanted to be humbled by gravity, not scanned for metal, put in metal and spit out in a different time zone.

And I wanted to touch in to my divine feminine—my creative force, my inner Shakti, my innate wisdom. And so, I headed to Shakti Fest, a festival that honors the divine feminine.

I spoke with Lara briefly via email beforehand, and I felt very called to attending her workshops at the festival. She defined the divine feminine to me as pleasure incarnate, as a dancer, as holy and irreverent. She is deeply well studied and interested not only in the spiritual aspect of things, but the scientific and historic. These dual aspects of her nature resonated with me.

Having experienced her exquisitely strong, soft, wise nature in workshops multiple times now, I am so happy to introduce you to her in the Live All of You Interview Series.

Lara is a somatic sexologist and sex educator who supports women in healing and coming into wholeness. As the founder of The Artemis School, the first and only educational institution weaving sex education with embodiment and nature-based mystery traditions, Lara believes that our sexual energy is the vital life force behind everything we create.

And… I have an announcement!

Finally, after having this in my heart for months… I’m delighted to share that in 2016, I’ll be attending The Artemis School!

I feel spellbound thinking about this journey toward becoming a sex educator and practitioner of women’s holistic sexuality—and even more so, about connecting more deeply with my self and other women in this context.

And now, I present to you: Lara Catone.

Amy Segreti: For those who don’t know you, what’s your informal, meeting-someone-on-a-plane description of what you do and why you do it?

Lara Catone: It’s evolving with The Artemis School, but I would say that I am a yoga teacher and somatic sexologist/educator with a specialty in women’s health. I support women in healing and coming into wholeness and in all kinds of transformational journeys that include their sexuality as a main part of who they are. My answer sometimes changes based on who is asking.

Yes! I have had other women share that sentiment with me as well. Lara, how does the work you’re doing help you?

Part of my real expression in the world is to make change, and to support people, so I’m fed by being able to do that every day. Also, in order to do the work that I do, I have to be engaged in my own evolutionary process, through my own learning and healing, so through it I also come more and more into my wholeness and full expression in the world.

What made you want to make a school specifically? As opposed to a “retreat” or a “summit,” etc.

My background is in education; in college, I went back to school to be a teacher. I’ve worked with youth from pre-school to middle school to high school. I love learning. My vision for the Artemis School is to bring aspects of it to college- and graduate-level. This is the beginning of a much bigger vision to change sex education and to bring more awareness around women’s health.

Part of it is that I love learning—I’m a geek and I love education and I’ve always wanted to have a school. I’ve been designing schools since I was 19 years old! I’ve had a vision of a school for a long time. I love general intellectual learning combined with embodiment—which is bringing in all of our faculties of knowing.

I’ve been with you in multiple workshops, and you hold such a beautiful, safe container for women to open up. How did you learn that art? Does it just come naturally to you?

I do think I’m living my dharma, and that’s part of it—I get just as filled up by holding space or more so, than the people having the experience. For me I have a natural ability to hold space, and this has been reflected back to me my whole life.

I used to work with homeless women in college; it was always reflected back to me, my ability to be present, hold space, and have a calm presence. I probably learned this as a child, because I played that role in my family, and I’m now able to channel my inner caretaker.

So, that is a natural ability. What is something you had to learn, rather than something you know intuitively?

I’ve had to learn to allow what needs to happen and not trying to control, but taking time. It’s become more apparent to me in the last few years. I allow for more silence, space and slowing down. These things are huge for me and help me hold space.

If you were coaching yourself, what would you say to Lara of 10 years ago?

I would reflect to her that she’s right where she needs to be, and I’d be encouraging more of the same: to keep trusting, keep surrendering, keep showing up.

Our job is to be present and not look for the things that are wrong or need to be fixed. When I coach, I really focus on what’s working for people and how to leverage that. So, I would reflect that back to myself.

What do you do before coaching or teaching to ground yourself?

It’s really important that I stay up on my self-care, and I do a lot of different things for self-care—I make sure I’m well fed, I do my own movement practice, I do a ritual at my altar every morning, I meditate… these things all keep me grounded.

Depending on where I’m at, I don’t have to do a specific ritual/practice before I see clients, but I do create a ritual of getting there and setting up my space, and I’m mentally/spiritually preparing the space for them. But if I’m going through something really intense in my own life, I might do a visualization of our energetic boundaries and take a little more time for that.

I’m always clearing my own energetic space in my home and office. I use palo santo, sage, etc. I talk to my guides and ask them to be present for me; sometimes it’s conscious and sometimes it’s happening as I’m doing other things. I ask anyone who’s not invited to the party to leave.

Paint me a picture of your inner child. What’s she wearing, what’s she doing?

She’s wearing pink—hot pink converse high tops with a pink dress, with a white flare-y, lacey fabric on it. She’s wearing pigtails and she’s jumping and dancing around. And she’s super happy.

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My website (and mission) is Live All of You. What does it mean for you to live all of yourself?

Living all of myself means allowing the parts I’m afraid to show others to be seen—maybe even especially those parts. It means practicing what I preach and being on an embodied, transformational, evolutionary path myself.

It means embracing all of the cycles: despair and challenge and fear, and also joy and pleasure and enjoyment. It means welcoming all of it, and being able to ride the waves.

What’s the most challenging thing you’re working on currently in your life?

Expanding my capacity to love. I’m learning a lot about that right now. Some days it really fills me, and some days it’s really hard, and I’m seeing where I create my own barriers to that.

Really, I’m working on being able to love fearlessly, without fearing loss or that it’s going to go away, or that I’m going to get hurt.

What have been some of the most influential books you’ve read that have impacted the way you operate in the world?

You’re talking to someone who just got seven books in the mail last week. ::laughter::

Sheri Winston’s book, Women’s Anatomy of Arousal, is quintessential for women’s sexuality.

This year, I read a book about Artemis after I named my school after that. It’s called Artemis: The Indomitable Spirit in Everywoman by Jean Shinoda Bolen. It was really powerful in terms of accepting all parts of myself. Artemis is really balanced in masculine and feminine. I’m a woman who has a developed masculine; I’ve often heard I’m too driven and focused. Reading this book helped me see myself and the feminine in a new light.

Sex at Dawn is another really important one. It really illuminates a lot of the story that turns norms on their head. It launched me on a path of seeking other resources for Prehistoric times and understanding people before patriarchy and before agriculture, and how we ended up in this current dynamic that we’re living in. It invites a lot of imagination and questioning in.

I have heard you talk about what life was like for women in Pre-historic times, and how it was quite the opposite of a patriarchy. Can you elaborate on that?

I don’t want to paint a picture that it was always perfect for women, but in Paleolithic and early Neolithic times when people lived tribally, no one was aware of men’s role in conception. This might have made things worse for men, because women were seen as having total creative power—they were communing with God, spirit and nature to produce and they were literally holding this creative force inside them unto themselves. Not understanding the male role in conception was huge.

It’s fascinating to see the power that gave women and perhaps actually disempowered men—and so the balance was in the other direction at that time.

In tribal cultures, everyone contributed and cooperated—women, children and men, because that’s how you survived. Everyone had a contribution; that created more of an egalitarian system, where people didn’t have power over one another. With that, sex was also shared.

There wasn’t monogamy, there wasn’t “I own this child,” because they didn’t understand the male role in conception. The children belonged to the woman and her family, so that freed up sexual freedom for them. There have always been forms of monogamy and also a lot of sharing sexual partners too. People in those times organized themselves in a lot of different ways.

What are your own creative cycles like? How did they help you create the Artemis School?

For me in terms of creativity, there’s a spark of an idea, then a germination time and an inward exploration time—just allowing it to seed and resting with it and giving it space. Writing is always important in this process. I’m writing at different phases; as I’m working out an idea I write more with pen and paper, rather than on a computer. That’s an important part of the creative process and feels more embodied for me.

For something like The Artemis School, I dial in how to put it out there in the world by bringing in reflection from others—it’s externally processing what I’m creating. Then, I need to have the space to spend time reading, researching, writing, and being in the creative aspect. Then I go inward again as it’s being birthed.

It’s important to have people supporting me, so I don’t feel like I’m totally alone. If I’m just doing it for me, it’s not as satisfying as continuing to connect to the service aspect of it. Connecting to others helps me feel into the larger vision.

Generally, I have support with the birthing as well. I try to align with the cycles of the seasons and moon cycles, and I track all of that in my creative process.

Do you find you’re able to consistently follow your cycles?

It’s pretty consistent. With modern life of course, we can’t always align the way we want to—we have deadlines and things move faster than we might like. But, I also sometimes like the push at the end.

For example, towards the end of a woman’s labor, there’s this time called transition, and it’s just before they start pushing when they’re getting ready. It’s typically the most intense part of labor, and there’s this moment where the woman thinks “I can’t do this” and they want to escape. Then they have to realize that only they can do it, and then everything shifts and the baby is born.

Reaching the edge of your limits allows the birthing to happen; having the structure or deadlines helps to get into that period. We can hang onto our creative ideas forever, and the birthing of them is the most vulnerable and challenging, because you’re birthing parts of yourself and going into unknown territory.

I know you are just about finished with your first year of The Artemis School. How will the format of the second year in 2016 be the same or different?

The Artemis School is occupying everything right now; it’s the first year, and I’m fully committed to that in every way. I am bringing everything to this school.

The second year will take the same format except we’ll have our final module of the year, Nurture, at a residential retreat center to enter the full experience of nurturing. We’ve also found that we desire to spend more time together so this will culminate a year of study together for the women.

What have you learned and shifted from doing the first year?

I’ve learned a lot and generally the shifts I’m making are logistical to better support the process. I’m looking at a larger location, and I’ve learned how I need to be supported by my assistants at these trainings. I’m continuing to learn to lead clearly, compassionately and fiercely.

I’ve remembered that I’m really great at developing curriculum and creative, embodied learning. In general, the programming and curriculum were spot on, though I’ll always be making small tweaks to make it even better. I’ve learned that this is exactly what I should be offering the world and I’m learning to own that fully.

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