A life-changing moment for me was in my Women’s Health class as an undergraduate at Lehigh University, run by Dr. Karen Hicks. She was inspirational in her work in lobbying nationally for more research funds for women’s health as well as advocating and bringing awareness to the medicalization of women’s sexual health through the New View Campaign. During her course, she invited a guest speaker – a close friend of hers – Dr. Gina Ogden.
My life would never be the same.
I remember being star-struck when Gina (she preferred to be addressed by her first name versus Dr. Ogden) walked in the room. She had a beautiful long skirt, flowing silver hair, and wearing a few necklaces, one with a big condor with turquoise eyes. She looked like a goddess or shaman walking out of a ceremony. (Little did I know that she had decades of study with a renown shaman.) Her presence emanated love, compassion, and spiritual wisdom.
I remember her asking us to move our desks to the perimeter of the classroom, and she created a big circle on the floor with long ribbons dividing into four quadrants without the ribbons touching in the middle. She placed notecards labeling the different quadrants (mind, body, heart, and spirit), and set tea candles all around the perimeter of the circle – one for each of us and one in the center.
I remember she had the class stand in each quadrant sharing our varying definitions of the quadrants’ labels. Then she gave us a word to work with: orgasm. How would we define orgasm? The initial commentary included scientific, anatomical, and textbook-based definitions – exactly what you would expect from an undergraduate “Women’s Health” class. Then she had us walk the 4-D Wheel of Sexual Experience and the definitions, and conversation, expanded. More than that, the energy in the room became palpable.
We were doing more than having an intellectual conversation – we were feeling our way through the dialogue. That’s one of the things that stood out to me the most about the 4-D Wheel – it’s ability to immediately cause the participant to embody what they were thinking, rather than stay in the cerebral, mental, intellectual realm.
I remember looking around watching eyes become red and tearful, some really getting into it while others started to withdraw and look down. I wrote in my class notes, “Wow – she didn’t ask us to share our personal stories…she only asked us to walk the Wheel…and here we are sharing more about ourselves than we had all semester…and it only took a few moments in the Wheel.”
Before Gina walked into the classroom, I didn’t even know “sex therapy” was a thing. After that class, I knew in my bones that not only did I want to do what Gina does, but I was going to learn as much about that 4-D Wheel as possible. I learned more in that one class than I had in all of my other psychology courses.
In walking the 4-D Wheel, I had found my calling.
I had the honor of studying with Gina for the next 15 years. She created the 4-D Wheel of Sexual Experience during her dissertation research on women’s sexual health and experiences. The details of her research can be found in her books, Women Who Love Sex, and The Heart and Soul of Sex. I had the honor of helping her write about the neurobiology behind the experiential aspects of the 4-D Wheel in her book Expanding Sex Therapy: Neuro Updates.
Combining her Peruvian roots and shamanic trainings and experiences, and with her research findings from over 3000 participants, she created the 4-D Wheel to highlight the integration of spirituality in sexuality. The original name of the Wheel was actually the “I.S.I.S. Wheel” to stand for the “Integration of Spirituality In Sexuality”. Unfortunately, Gina and the rest of the 4-D Network had to change that name after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001. We changed it to the 4-D Wheel to highlight the four dimensional aspects of the process.
Not only does the 4-D Wheel address the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of life, but it also highlights the past, present, future, and collective consciousness of our shared existence. As reviewed during last week’s blog, here are the definitions of the individual quadrants:
Mind – mental story, narrative, knowledge, judgments Body – physical story, sensations, pain/pleasure, rigid/fluid, hot/cold, function/dysfunction Heart – emotional story, feelings, energy in motion Spirit – spiritual story, connection/disconnection, relationships with self, others, higher power, the quadrant of memories and dissociation
The Center of the Wheel is the place of integration. As you move around the 4-D Wheel, always moving in the clockwise direction, you metaphorically and energetically create a spiral towards the Center, where wisdom, enlightenment, insight, and integration of our past, present, and future selves merge.
The best and ideal 4-D Wheel experience takes place over the course of 3-5 days. This creates a full immersive experience, allowing time for all participants to go deeper into their stories, connect with each other, and truly experience a life-changing transformation on many levels.
I had the honor and privilege of attending many of Gina’s longer retreats in her home, at Rowe Retreat Center (confirm the name of this), and at a beautiful artists’ abode (find name) on the west coast of Mexico. When attending a 4-D Wheel retreat, each participant brings two objects: one object that represents what you wish to release or change about your sexual experience, and one object that represents what you wish to invite into or expand upon in your sexual experience. This process helps create a concrete representation of the abstract thoughts, memories, sensations, emotions, connections, disconnections, and energy surrounding your intentions. Objects have been used for millennia in ceremonies and rituals, so there’s a deep part of our ancestral, generational, genetic, and cellular memory that becomes engaged when we incorporate the use of symbolic objects on our healing journey.
Can you think of a time when you’ve used an object to represent something more to you? Perhaps something as simple as a ring, or flower, or candle? Take a moment to set intentions for your greatest self. Then think of two objects – one that represents your intentions of what you wish to release, and what you wish to invite into your experience. Now, walk the 4-D Wheel as many times as you wish and explore all of the layers of those intentions for each quadrant. Notice how much deeper you go when you walk the Wheel. Notice the memories that feel connected with what you wish to release, and the dreams that feel connected with what you wish to invite in.
What relationships are anchoring you in the past?
What relationships encourage you to move forward, growing, and expanding?
What beliefs are holding you back?
What information and concepts help your spirit soar?
How do your physical sensations change as you tune into this narrative?
How does the energy in motion (emotion) change as you explore and the layers of your experience are revealed?
Take your time in walking the 4-D Wheel and keep a journal nearby to write down what feels important to you. Notice how you may feel inspired to move and transform your objects, especially as these varying layers are revealed to you.
The 4-D Wheel provides a beautiful map for your healing journey, no matter what your intentions. Relax, and enjoy the unfolding! ? You may wish to place the objects in a special place to remind you of your intentions every day and to keep them in the forefront of your mind.
One of the most important things you can ever do for yourself is to keep dreaming, keep imagining, and feel your dreams coming true every day. It only takes 18 seconds to sprout new neural nets (amazing brain fiber optic cables)!
Say this to yourself, “Even though I don’t know how, I allow everything to work out for my highest good.” We can often get stuck in the weeds of the details as we micromanage how our dreams and goals come to fruition. However, when we look back on our autobiographies (and even the autobiographies of those we admire) we notice all of the twists, turns, surprises, and serendipitous events and people that occurred along the way.
I encourage you to focus on how it feels to imagine living the life you love, and from that feeling, follow inspired action. When we take action out of fear, things feel forced and we often hit a lot of resistance along the way.
Life is meant to be fun.
When we’re having fun, we effort in an effortless way. This is honestly how I wrote and completed my dissertation in a year’s time (the shortest time ever I think). I loved what I was writing about and researching and the energy and effort flowed out of me. Some call it the “flow state” of being. Disney’s movie Soul describes it in a beautiful way, demonstrating how many musicians get into this way of being. I wrote my new book in the same way. Granted, I have been gathering information and resources and experiences my entire life.
When I was trying to stay alive during my brain surgery recovery, I promised myself I would write my book before my next surgery (they say this shunt needs replaced every 6-10 years…I’m working on healing my brain so I never need another one!). When I finally felt inspired to sit down and write it, it only took me 30 days, staying up late after putting my son to sleep. The words and exercises just flowed out of me, as if I wasn’t the only one writing the book. Prior to this month, I needed 8-10 hours of sleep per night to feel human, as I still navigate the symptoms of chronic Lyme’s Disease. Something happened to me this past May – I felt truly inspired and the energy came “out of nowhere” and here we are.
I am honored and thrilled to offer you something I’m very proud of! The book includes effective tools and techniques for “patient and provider” and everyone in-between to heal from chronic pain, stress, and trauma. The 4-D Wheel is at the core of all of my work.
Please see the 4-D Network’s website for more information on workshops, trainings, and certifications offered on an annual basis. You’ll find a variety of ways to utilize the Wheel personally and professionally in my new book, Hello Down There: A guide to healing chronic pelvic and sexual pain. I also provide guidance to walk the Wheel in a meditative way in my audio CD, Guided Meditations for 4D Healing. I’d love to hear about your experience with the Wheel! Message me on Instagram to share your feedback about my book and meditations.
Click HERE for more information about my book, Hello Down There: A guide to healing chronic pelvic and sexual pain.