April 11, 2023

Craig Cullinane tackles body shame head-on

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Craig Cullinane speaks of how much body shame he experienced as a result of religious and family messages that he received growing up. His body shame was so great that he couldn’t even take his shirt off at the local pool. This translated into sexual shame that was debilitating anytime he engaged erotically. His journey and his wisdom learned will be helpful for any man who has body shame.

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Coach Maddox  0:03  
Hello, Craig Cullinane and welcome to The Authentic Gay Man Podcast. It's so good to see your face today.

Craig Cullinane  0:10  
Thank you, Maddox. Thank you so much for having me. It's good to see you, too.

Coach Maddox  0:13  
Thank you. Well, just so the the listeners know, the way you and I know each other is via the GCA, the gay coaches Alliance, and we don't really know each other through the gay coaches Alliance. But we, we found each other through the gay coaches Alliance. So we've had one previous converse, a brief previous conversation before this. So we're really getting acquainted, you know, real time right now? Absolutely. Is there anything you'd like to add Craig?

Craig Cullinane  0:48  
No, I just, I'm excited to dive in, I really appreciate you know, your invitation to really kind of dive deeply and authentically into, you know, things that feel and are real for me as a person in my journey of life, I really appreciate that, you know, that invitation and ready to go for it. You know, that's

Coach Maddox  1:06  
perfect. So, Craig is a life coach, and he's a teacher for an organization called Body Electric. And there's probably going to be a little bit of information come out throughout this episode about that. And if you want to know more, you can reach out to him. Thank you. So the first question is, tell me how you define or what it just what does it mean to you to be an authentic gay man?

Craig Cullinane  1:38  
What does it mean to be an authentic gay man? I think I have come to experience myself or life as this idea, it's kind of even like the Buddhist idea that, you know, we our essential nature is inherent goodness, or inherent value, inherent worthiness, you know, and growing up with, you know, being gay growing up in whatever culture you're in, you know, all of these things happen to us that shroud the truth of the, of our inherent worthiness and we start we like, forget about it, right? And kind of growing up into consciousness. For me, it was about remembering that truth of my inherent worthiness. So when I think about like, authenticity, it's like, Can I really, in an embodied way, feel, at home with myself, at home in my body, that I'm in alignment with my feelings that I'm in alignment in the way I treat people and what I speak, and and how I show up in the world. You know, so authenticity for me is being in alignment, being in integrity. Honesty, being real, and welcoming that authenticity, welcoming that realness as well important and worthy. Yeah, so and being a gay man. I mean, I'm so grateful. I'm a gay man. I'm so grateful. I'm gay. I love that I'm a gay man. And, you know, of course, it wasn't always that way. And I, of course, like, all of us, on some level or another, went through what I had to go through to deeply accept the truth of this. And to embrace it, and to love it and see it as a gift. And not as like a gift that's better or worse than anyone else. But in but that's who I am. And I love that I'm gay. I love other gay man, I love being with gay men. And I love what we offer the world in the various ways that the gifts of gay men express themselves. So being authentically gay, it's like, wow. It feels so such a relief, to walk in the world and just be like, This is me. And whatever story someone has about it is their story. Right? But I think ultimately, it's about coming home to the truth of my own worthiness. And at its most basic level, kind of a self acceptance and self love. You know, I have my issues, I have my stuff, I have my mess like you like everyone we do. That's what it means to be human. But can I kind of soften up a little bit about it all and kind of just embrace all of it. And part of it for me is being a gay man. And that that's, that's something I'm very grateful for.

Coach Maddox  4:32  
I love that. What a beautiful definition and there was so much in what you said that I resonated with. But the one thing that really stuck out to me is I love being a gay man. And I can recall a time when I, if you could have given me a pill and I could have taken that pill and woken up and been a straight person. I would have taken it but that was a very long time ago. And now I wouldn't change budget for all the, you know, tea in China or all the money in the world? I just wouldn't. I wouldn't do it. I like you am thrilled to be a gay man has hasn't had its challenges. Yes. But so would have been straight. It would have been different challenges perhaps. Yeah. But there have been challenges. I love that I really love your definition. So well stated.

Craig Cullinane  5:26  
I hope that there that I hope my my feeling inside of my heart right now is that what we just said would touch some people who are gay, who may not feel that way entirely yet? You know, it is a process. But I do know, from my own experience in hearing yours, that it is possible to come to a place where we just are like, Yes, I love this. I love that. It's such a gift. And who am I if I walk in the world from that place?

Coach Maddox  5:53  
Exactly. And I think it's important to call out that when we come to that place. I know when I came to that place of fully accepting and loving the fact that I am a gay man when I've really embraced it. So to the rest of the world. Yeah. I don't ever run up against homophobia. I don't ever know. Of course I don't I live in a major metro metropolitan urban place. But I just it there was something that shifted the day I fully embraced it. Yeah, absolutely. And I think there's a lot of people that don't they haven't gotten to that point yet. So they don't know that's possible. But something really big shifts on the day that you fully embrace who you are, just as you are. And I just like you would give anything if I could just wave a magic wand and have every person on that journey. reach that spot? Because it's a it's a game changer.

Craig Cullinane  6:54  
Yeah, for sure.

Coach Maddox  6:57  
Beautiful, beautiful. Well, I guess my big question for the day, and what we'll spend the remainder of our time talking. Okay, serious talking to me.

Craig Cullinane  7:10  
Lord, that's your

Coach Maddox  7:11  
knee, and I had it all. What is the biggest challenge that you have gone through in this lifetime? Or are continuing to go through that big thing? And sometimes it's a series of big things?

Craig Cullinane  7:27  
Yeah. It's such a good question. And it took me a while to really think about it, you know, when you asked me to consider that, I was thinking of specific incidences that have happened in my life or relationships. But what I really landed on and was something that has been a journey for my entire life has been my relationship with body shame, my relationship with how shame and the systems of shame have lived in my body. And I believe that it is, for me, inextricably linked to my experience of being a gay man. I remember feeling shame about my body from the earliest times of my life. And you know, that's not everybody's experience. And yet, it's interesting, because I think it is, but you know, a lot of gay men will relate to this. And I think a lot of gay men can. You know, we've had this experience of, you know, body dysmorphia. But for some reason, part of my experience, I think part of my experience as a gay man has had been how shame has lived in my body, and how I've walked that path towards liberating myself from those stories, those stories that live in my body as a pathway towards self love as a pathway towards freedom, liberation. And so I think that's what I want to talk about, I want to talk about shame, and body shame, particularly, you know, because it's alive, and it has deep impacts on people has on me, it has on me, you know, in my life, I can name all of these ways. Especially I guess one way I just want to name right now. In my life, one of the ways that body shame really impacted me, was my ability to be erratically or sexually intimate with other men. Because I had such a belief and unconscious belief that there's no way they could have be attracted to me or my body. That it was just this wall that I put up, I couldn't receive care or love or touch. I often had felt like I needed to control the situations I was in sexually with other men. And just my ability to kind of surrender to the beautiful pleasure of touch and connection and intimacy with other men has been something that's been you know, a real journey for me. So that's one thing but

Coach Maddox  10:00  
Yeah, I really resonate with what you're saying. And I know that they're just an insane high percentage of men that experience that that body shame. Now, I do have a have a question. I hear from time to time others talk about this. I've listened to podcasts where this was referenced or talked about the topic of body dysmorphia. Yeah. Now, how does that and I'm I'm asking because I don't know, is that the same thing? Or is that something different?

Craig Cullinane  10:38  
You know, it's a good question. I'm not sure about if there's if there may be like a technical, medical, psychological definition. I'm not entirely sure. I think ultimately, what it means is, the way we see ourselves is not in alignment with how we actually are. Right, that we see, or that that inner critic that can be so activated, will find the parts of our body that we judge so harshly, with such ferocity. You know, and and it will keep us from really being able to see ourselves in some kind of semblance of reality. And it's a feeling thing. It's a It's, I think it's a feeling in the body, it's a feeling an emotional feeling of repulsion, a feeling of judgment, a feeling of maybe even grief or despair. When one looks at your own body. You know, because of the stories we tell ourselves about how we're supposed to look out, we're not supposed to look. So I think Body Dysmorphia is about that. I teach a class, an online class with a wonderful man named Mark Fleming, who's a Tantra teacher, Body Electric teacher in Seattle. And we teach a class called Healing body shame for LGBTQ men. And it's a succession class. And it's such a deep dive. And one of the things that we talk about in that class is the difference between episodic shame like sometimes I can feel shame in a moment for something and maybe it's reasonable to I don't know, like, because of how I've acted, versus chronic shame. living with chronic body shame, where it is activated and alive for one, you know, for me, or for someone, that story of whatever the negative story is about the body.

Coach Maddox  12:27  
I can recall a time in my life where every time I took my clothes off and looked at myself in the mirror, I would say out loud, I hate my body. Yes, I can remember that with as clear as if it were yesterday. And that's been a very, very long time ago. Yeah. But, and there was a specific event that happened that altered that for me, I and I don't know that it ever completely cured maybe some of the shame. But it cured me of hating my body. It was just this, I was listening to an audio tape one day, and it just I just remembered as if it were yesterday, the the person on the tape was saying, you know, be grateful for your body and all the wonderful opportunities that affords you and all the places it takes you and it was going through all these things that this wonderful machine does. And I'm listening to this. I've never heard anything like this before. And tears just started streaming down my face, because all I could think about was how many times I had told this beautiful sacred gift that was given to me that I hated it. And I just cried uncontrollably. And I vowed that I would never, ever, ever tell my body that I hated it ever again.

Craig Cullinane  13:43  
That is a beautiful vow. And that is a life changing choice.

Coach Maddox  13:48  
It was and that was I couldn't have been more than about 32 or three years old when that happens. So a very long time ago. Yeah, yeah. And it was a massive gift. Yeah.

Craig Cullinane  14:01  
Totally. You know, when I was a teenager when I was in my 20s, probably really until I was maybe 32 Or three. I wouldn't go on the beach without a shirt on. I wouldn't go in a pool. I had to have a shirt on. And the story I would tell was that look, I'm fair skinned and I had to protect myself from the sun. And the truth was, is that I was ashamed of my body. And I couldn't I remember one time I was at a water park with these two friends of mine from high school, this girlfriend of mine, a girl who was a friend and her boyfriend. And for some reason, they wouldn't let me wear my shirt because of like the ride or we would get caught in something or something and I would have to take my shirt off and I left. I wouldn't even do it. I was like, I'm gonna leave and I'll come back and get you later. That is how crippling it was, you know? And like if I look at my body, I can be like, you know, my buddy's fine. You know what I mean? It's It's whatever it's not it's, it's it's a body, you know, but that deep, deep way that shame lived in my skin and my body was a prison. It was a prison and informed many things, you know, and not the least of which is kind of like, you know, look like you're saying, I mean, it's so rare and precious that we're in a body. I mean, it's crazy that we're even alive. We're on a planet hurtling through space right now, at 60,000 miles an hour, and we're in bodies. And it's crazy, miraculous and precious. And these bodies, like you were saying, give us so much, you know, not the least of which are these incredible senses to enjoy. And welcome the pleasure, the sensual pleasure of what it means to be alive on planet Earth taste, and touch and smell and sight, all of these amazing gifts that were given. And it's so rare and precious, and to nn them to kind of be like, Alright, how am I walking in the world, I want to walk in the world free. I want to feel relaxed with my body, I want to feel sexy, I want to feel alive, I want to feel good. And I don't want to walk around with a bag of rocks that I'm carrying that says that my body is ugly or not desirable. It's, it's, it's not how I want to walk in the world.

Coach Maddox  16:28  
You know, when you step back, and really looking at it, for most of us, being in our body is very much like driving a luxury vehicle. Yes. You know, our bodies come with power windows, power door locks, or maybe heated seats, and you name it, they come with all of the bells and whistles. Now, we don't always take care of them. And some of those bells and whistles stop working. But yeah, it really is. It's amazing that we don't really see it for what it really is. And it's it's a miracle.

Craig Cullinane  17:02  
It is. You know, I think about that inner critic, part of us that just can just, I mean, maybe you mean, you know, it sounds like maybe you've had some experience with that. And the way that you were saying that you oh my god, me to everybody, we all have it. It's it's one of the ways that we walk in the world, like join the human family, we all have that inner critic on some level. And I think gay men, and this is a generalization. It's not true for everyone can particularly hook in to the the body shame story. And in the question I have heard that is like, Whose voice is that? Whose voice is that critic? Is it? Is it? Is it culture? Is it family? Is it my mother? Is it my dad? Like is like, how did that voice get instilled in me? And what is it trying to

Coach Maddox  17:52  
do? And that answer would be different for probably each person.

Craig Cullinane  17:56  
Yeah. So it's interesting to think about, like, you know, ifs internal family systems, and that all we have these different voices and different identities inside of us and that you can look at it a certain way, like all of these different parts of us are trying to keep us safe, trying to keep us trying to care for us, even though maybe they're not doing it skillfully. Right, so even that inner critic, it's like, how is that critic trying to help me? What does it think it's doing? I'm curious about that. You know, maybe it's trying to keep me safe or something. I don't know. But an inner critic is not working for me if I want to be free. And I need to work with that.

Coach Maddox  18:41  
I have to agree. Completely. And it's a lifelong journey. You know, I know for me, I've been I've been working on that for as long as I can remember. Absolutely working on how I can. I mean, most of us if we treated our friends and family the way we treat ourselves, they wouldn't have any friends or family.

Craig Cullinane  19:01  
I know. Right? Yeah. And can we just soften up about ourselves? Can we cultivate some gentleness? Can we just let the story go a little bit? You know,

Coach Maddox  19:14  
what, what was the point for you? Craig, what was that defining moment? When you realized, you know that the inner critic was kicking your ass and that something had to give that something had to change. What was the catalyst that really brought you to that point of? Yeah, can't do this anymore. Yeah. Well,

Craig Cullinane  19:40  
honestly, it was my first time taking a body electric workshop. I took Body Electric when I was 33. It was 2003 in Eastern Mountain. And I had been living there for the summer I was living in New York City and and I was dating and I was in relationship and all this stuff that I I just Notice that my erotic life would eventually shut down with boyfriends or partners. And all of a sudden, it was like we weren't having sex anymore. We weren't radically attached. And I got really curious about that, because I was like, you know, what's happening here, like why, you know, in some level ways that those are tendencies of couples, and I get it. But on the other hand, it was such a pattern about how my erotic energy, which is totally shut down, and I started feeling like I'm getting this sneaking suspicion that it has to do with how I feel about my body being seen being witnessed, being adored, being loved, whatever, and letting that in or not. And so I took about the electrical workshop in August of 2003. And at Easton mountain, and at that workshop, there is this incredibly beautiful ritual and undressing ritual, because that is a weekend of being naked. With other my recall it well, yes, you did it. Right. I

Coach Maddox  21:04  
have done the Body Electric about 13 years ago.

Craig Cullinane  21:07  
Yeah. And so that that experience, there is an invitation to at a certain point in a certain way shed our clothes and the way the language we use, and that is that there were shedding these layers of separation that we will not need together as we continue our journey together through this workshop. Right. It's like a layer that can be shared, it's a level of intimacy that can be activated in the group, personally, and as a group. And I was like, Well, I mean, I knew that there was going to be nudity, I wasn't clear. And then we went into this, this, this undressing ritual. And it was so deeply profound for me. Well,

Coach Maddox  21:47  
and correct me if I'm wrong, it I'm not sure memory fully serves me but, and maybe different facilitators do it differently. But as as I recall, I just stood still and other people then dressed me,

Craig Cullinane  22:00  
right. So the way exactly it. So it's like kind of like, you know, you're you're when it's your turn to be undressed, you're surrounded by three other people. And they kind of massage you slowly out of your clothes as an invitation to stay connected to your body to breathe, you're being cared for the people touching, you're doing it with great reverence and care and sacredness. And slowly over the course of like, five or seven minutes or something, they, you know, they relieve you of your clothing. And then each person in turn does that. And you're a little group before or whatever, until everybody's naked in the room. And that was one of the biggest, personal, like, I guess, rings of fire I had ever gone through in my entire life, to for me to stand there, and let other people take my clothes off and see me without me having to be able to control it and control how they saw me and my body. It's like I went through some kind of personal initiation. And something very deep activated, some kind of shame in my body moved, or shed. And I was, you know, I was crying. And I was really very grateful for the sacredness and the care that the facilitators were taking with it, they invested it with the importance it deserved. And then from there on, now we're naked, and we can be naked anytime we want. And just for me to have a space where I can be naked with other people, other men. Pretty soon I felt more and more comfortable. Surprisingly. You know, I was able to relax, I was able to be like, wow, like, I'm naked. And it's okay. You know, and, you know, since then, I've done many, many, many, many, many, many body electric workshops, right and I have a teacher for the school right and it's still amazing to me, I teach this workshop and still that shame lives when we get to that moment when we all take our clothes off and I have to take my clothes off there's still a twinge but it is absolutely nothing like it used to be and the freedom I've experienced in my body through you know throughout the electric and through other work that I've done I know that it's possible to heal that on some level it may live with me always on some level there may be a shadow of it there may be some way that's deeply connected to me all the ways on some level but I know that it is not the prison it used to be because that's my experience but you know, and I still notice how it shows up in my life the way I I don't know tend to my body when I walk in a room or you know just kind of sucking in are all the things that we do like humans. Oh, Um, so that was a huge experience.

Coach Maddox  25:03  
You know, it's so interesting how it unfolds so differently for each of us. And I'm having all these aha moments as I think about my own experience. I, most of my life had not really believed I had that greater body. You know, it was just, I went from I hate my body to, you know, I don't hate my body, right. Now, I would say I love my body, but I but I love my body for all of the beautiful, miraculous piece of machinery that it is not so much for the way it looks. You know, every once in a while somebody will say something you know about nudity. And, and I'll say, you know, I, there would have been a time when I'd have been all over that nude beach, but now I'm not sure. You know, I'm 66 years old. I'm not sure anybody wants to see that. So, but I just got back from Dominican Republic, where my boyfriend and I walked the beach at sunset every night. You know, in swimwear? Yeah. shirtless. And, oddly, for most of my life, I have loved nudity. I've been to nude pool parties and nude beaches. And I can remember when Body Electric my body electric class, which was 13 years ago, so it would have been 53 at the time. I it just felt like a normal natural thing to peel my clothes off. I didn't have a problem being naked. I love that process. It was amazing. But for me, I think that it it affirmed me in a really, really big way. And that I it helped me to realize how connected I already was to my sexual energy and how comfortable I was, when that sexual energy. There wasn't anything in particular that rocked my world in the biII. That weekend. Like there wasn't a gigantic breakthrough. It was just like, I mean, I totally enjoyed it. I got a lot out of it. But it was very affirming in that, you know, you're already pretty connected to this part of your being.

Craig Cullinane  27:26  
Right. Yeah, you know, and absolutely. And, you know, and part of it is like, how do I? How do I come home to my body? This temple of my experience, how do I befriend my body? How can I be friends with my body?

Coach Maddox  27:42  
And you know, for the first for the listener out there that might not fully get that, can you? I mean, in real time talk about how you have have come home to your body.

Craig Cullinane  27:58  
I'm a real believer in this practice, I call touch affirmations. So I will do this. And I lead this with other with people with clients or even I, on Wednesday mornings I teach weekly body electric one, our online experience, kind of an erotic Men's Morning practice class, which every Wednesday we raise erotic energy, we spread it through our body, we you know, meditate. And it's like this very beautiful, nourishing experience of caring for your own body. You know, tapping and raising and spreading your pleasure energy making it available, right. So one thing that I like to do in that class and I do for myself is, you know, I invite people to place their hands on their own body, like they are touching something very precious, and very sacred, like bringing some real intention to how we touch ourselves. And I really invite people to start just caressing their own body, like activating their skin touching their body. You know, spending time doing that, like we can offer ourselves soothing. We don't always have to go to get a massage. I can sit for two minutes or three minutes and just touched my own body and my skin is nourished by that. Right. And so when I one one practice that I really love is inviting people to touch their own body slowly. It could be erotic, it doesn't have to be erotic at all. It could just be like, Wow, I'm just caressing my body and start saying kind of things as I'm touching my body. I love myself, I love my body. I'm good. I'm beautiful. I'm sacred. I deserve love. And from my perspective, this practice of doing these touch affirmations where I'm touching my body and I'm weaving those new stories into my body. Where previously these negative stories on only negative stories lived. It's a process an embodied process of supporting our bodies in remembering the truth of its value. And it informs how I walk in the world, I can release some of the old stories about how I feel about my body, or I can remember and care for myself in this nurturing way with this practice. So that's something we do in this class. There's times when I will invite people to touch their body and express gratitude for their body, like you were saying, I love my body. I'm grateful for this. I'm grateful for that. And I believe that over time, consistently showing up and giving attention to our bodies that way can really heal things can really move things can release what wants to go.

Coach Maddox  30:49  
I agree completely. I also do something. I do mirror work. Oh, beautiful. And I and sometimes I will combine it with the caressing, I will pile up in my bed. And look, I've got a hand mirror that I hope pretty close to my face. And I talked to myself, love it. And the caressing most of the time is not that I don't have my moments of erotic, caressing, caressing, but when I'm in that mode, it's it's not sexual energy at all. It's more about just compassion, and self love. And it's to me, it's kind of like, the way I would love on and caress a partner. Yesterday, were right next to me. I whisper sweet nothings into my own ears. That's right, I touch myself the way I would touch that partner, I say all the things that I would say to that partner, but I say it to myself. And it's particularly effective. When you know, I'm kind of down and out. It's particularly effective when I'm having some something that I'm struggling with it. It's soothing to me.

Craig Cullinane  32:06  
Yes. And it's good news, because most of us know how it feels to be able to offer loving kindness to another person. And part of the game, I think, is to just begin to imagine including ourselves in that just like you're saying, you know,

Coach Maddox  32:21  
I find that most people really struggle with that. Yeah. Even if I'm just talking about it socially in conversation, there will always be a certain percentage of the people I'm talking to that. Look at me like I have three heads. Or they'll say, Oh, my God, I couldn't do that. Yeah, if I'm working with a client, and I suggest they do that, they'll come back to me and tell me how hard that was. Yes. Like, like, they could only look in the mirror at themselves for one minute. And then they had to put the mirror down. It's very, it's an eye. Yeah. I don't know that I ever found it quite that hard. Not that it was super easy in the very beginning, but it wasn't quite that hard.

Craig Cullinane  33:17  
Well, I think that's a really beautiful, a really clear example of how shame lives how shame systemically lives in our bodies. And our, you know, the whole idea that like I couldn't, I couldn't offer myself love. You know, there's a story there. There's a cultural story, that's there's a family story, there's some story that we've ingested and believed deeply in our bodies.

Coach Maddox  33:42  
And were you able to uncover what the story was and where it came from? Well, for

Craig Cullinane  33:48  
me, personally, my family, I'm Irish Catholic. And, you know, I, you know, the Irish Catholic system is about is about shame and control. You know, it's about secrets and compartmentalization. And it's not about the joyful, erotic embodiment of who we are as humans on planet Earth. It's about squashing pleasure. It's about controlling how we think about ourselves. And I think, you know, from my perspective, I can feel into my lineage or the you know, whatever and many of us come from cultures that that's the story right. You know, for body electric, you know, the the weekend workshop, it's called celebrating the body erotic, and this whole idea that we would celebrate our bodies. You know, there can be a thought like, oh, well, that's immodest. Or that's, you know, you go oh egotistical or something like that. And that's, that's shame talking, you know, where we can celebrate our bodies in a way that doesn't denigrate it put anybody else down. You know? But yeah, I mean, I, you know, I don't know how erotic energy or bodies lived in your family system, but in mine it was everything was hidden. Everything was secretive. You know, one thing we talked about about electric a lot is like, where did I learn about self pleasure? How do what did I? How did I pleasure myself when I was a kid, you know, a prepubescent or pubescent? You know, I mean, what did that look like? For me, it was, you know, if I'm the youngest of eight kids, and for me, it was putting myself in the bathroom where I was the only place I could be private. And I had to be quiet, and I had to be fast. And I had to be quick. And I had to go for ejaculation. That was it. You know, there wasn't some kind of like, ooh, let me explore my body. And, you know, and and we get those messages about our erotic body about how we inhabit our bodies, I think very deeply in from from from the beginning.

Coach Maddox  36:00  
I think you're right, I think you're exactly right. I had a completely different experience, and that my family was not religious. Particularly Oh, we went to church occasionally. But we were not religious. And I never got any kind of messages that sex was bad or wrong, or dirty or nasty. II didn't get those messages. It's awesome. And I don't recall how I figured out what masturbation was and pleasuring myself. Yeah, I remember one day it just, it appeared. And I knew what to do. I don't know how I knew what to do. But I did

Craig Cullinane  36:41  
some, some human part of you activated and you knew,

Coach Maddox  36:44  
yes, yes. Because I don't remember it being somebody telling me how to do that. It just kind of emerged. And like you, you know, like myself in the bathroom and, and pleasure myself, or late at night, lay in my bed after the rest of the family had gone to bed and pleasure myself. And I never got caught. But I don't I don't know that there would have been any consequences. Had I? I don't think I would have been shamed. I don't know for sure. But I don't think I would have been shamed.

Craig Cullinane  37:19  
But it's even interesting. It's like, you know, why don't people just pleasure themselves in the living room watching TV? You know, we somehow we get the message that is not appropriate for, you know, general, you know, the family room,

Coach Maddox  37:34  
general audiences? Yeah.

Craig Cullinane  37:36  
And that's fine, that it's not, it's okay. You know what I mean, but like, what I'm saying is, it's so old and so young, that we learn that we need to be secretive about our bodies, our pleasure. And so few of us get any kind of meaningful or wise or skillful erotic education about pleasure. Who am I as a giver? Who am I as a receiver? How does my body like to receive pleasure? What's the topic? Yes. And it's deep. Yeah, we

Coach Maddox  38:06  
don't we don't talk about it. I mean, I had a podcast episode was a group discussion where we talked about the fact that most of the time when you're in any kind of social circle around your gay friends, the only talk about sex is locker room talk. It's never this healthy exploratory type of conversation about sex itself. It's, you know, the talk about the really well hung guy that I picked up on Saturday night. And we don't go beyond that. It's like, okay to talk about that. But we don't really talk about sex in any kind of creative or healthy or authentic, authentic. Yes, way. And I think that I believe we need to change that. Yeah. I agree. I believe there's so many topics that we need to bring into the open from, you know, from aging, to loneliness, all those things, we just pretend they don't exist. Yeah. In our community. Now, maybe that's also in the world in general, but it seems to be hyper. Yeah. Well,

Craig Cullinane  39:23  
it's interesting to me, if we step back from it all and just observe how it all works. You know, like we cultivate some kind of witness of how, how we talk about sex or how we talk about our erotic lives or how we don't or you know, just just watch the whole racket. Watch how it all works. And it's like you were saying it's like, you know, there's not often authentic communication about it and oftentimes, it's locker room humor or there's, you know, it's a joke or whatever, right. And, and our erotic nature, our erotic body is absolutely our birth. Right, it's fundamental to who we are. We all have that on some level. That is the most basic, beautiful sacred lifeforce energy in the universe, and it lives in our bodies. And we have these incredible vehicles, these temples, that if we actually spent a little time and got curious and got a little skillful about how to tap and raise and spread that energy, that is our energy in our bodies. You know, that is such a pathway to healing and transformation and living like you want to live in the world. It's such a medicine it's such an antidote to shame.

Unknown Speaker  40:41  
Yeah, you know, I agree.

Craig Cullinane  40:44  
It's like It's like there's okay, I can walk with body shame. Sure, I walk with erotic shame. And of course, why wouldn't you as a gay man walk with her Radek shame, every unconscious message we get that we download into our system from TV and media and family and church and culture tells us that who we love and how we love and what we love is not okay.

Coach Maddox  41:06  
And I did get some of those messages. But I don't think I absorbed them the way

Craig Cullinane  41:14  
a lot of people do. That's great.

Coach Maddox  41:17  
I I'm kind of the odd oddball when it comes to this. I you know, I rarely ever meet anybody that tells a similar story. I have never felt I have felt shame about my body. But I've never felt shame about

Craig Cullinane  41:34  
sex. And it's such a gift.

Coach Maddox  41:36  
I and I'm very uninhibited in the whole process and act of sex. I don't, you know, I'm amazed at how prominent hang ups our sexual hang ups are in our world and in our community. And I just didn't get that. And I you know, I feel really, really blessed. But it makes it challenging sometimes for me to relate to, to people that have so many hangups are so challenged by just the normal natural act of sex. Now, I went through a period a few years ago, where it seemed to be like a thing that was going around in our community where the tops really shamed at the bottoms. Yep. And I went through a period where that mess with my mind in for a while I had I did for the first time in my life, and you know, we're talking, I would have been in my late 50s, early 60s When I experienced sexual shame for the first time and it was centered around that. You know that the tops who bashed the bottoms type thing? I consider myself versatile, but I definitely you know, have a strong, yeah, strong lean into the It feels weird to even talk about this on my own podcast, but it to the bottom position. And I had never ever had any hangups about that until I started to hear gossip at parties where a group of guys would be talking down to negative about, oh, she's just a bottom or some reference to this. Yeah. And I got this whole message that, you know, it wasn't okay. And I went up, I went through a period. And it was, it was really weird to have something like that come into my life at that time, after decades of not having any kind of shame about sex.

Craig Cullinane  43:50  
Beautiful, thank you for sharing that. You know, one of the biggest hopes I have for gay men, one of the biggest, I just hope that there comes a time in their life, when they really embrace themselves at a bottom, really embrace themselves and the pleasure of what it means to be a bottom to take someone into you. There's so much there about trust and pleasure and surrender. That is such a spiritual lesson, frankly, you know, and it doesn't all have to be spiritual, like the you know, like, you know, it can just be hot and erotic, you know, but it's really interesting. Like, if you have a story of like, I'm just a top and that's fine. If that's how you roll. It's I'm not judging it. But I want to suggest that there's a whole world of pleasure and personal growth that can come with the curiosity about what it means to activate pleasure in your ass. Yes,

Coach Maddox  44:53  
I agree. And then there's just this part where it's it It's a skill not everybody can do it and do it. Well.

Craig Cullinane  45:02  
That's right. And we have to learn things and learn from each other and help each other and honor it. It's like, you know what it's, it's, it's, we don't get that education, and it impacts our lives. You know, that's one of the reasons I love Body Electric, it's kind of like the most, from my perspective conscious, one of the most conscious forms of kind of adult erotic education in the world.

Coach Maddox  45:24  
Well, I've never come across or experienced anything. Like it before, it feels like a one of a kind, maybe there's some things out there, but I haven't come across them.

Craig Cullinane  45:35  
You know, when you speak about what you're saying about bottoming and the shame and, and, and, you know, bottom shaming and stuff, you know, what I was thinking about when you're sharing that was kind of looking at some of this through a tantric lens. And, you know, there's different fundamental, you know, basic tenants of Tantra, and one of them is the dance between masculine and feminine energy, and how that lives in us and how it lives in our lives and in our bodies. And whereas, you know, QOC energy is more, you know, young and, you know, insertive, and, you know, it is aggressive out, right, the bottom game is more Yin energy, it's more surrender, it's more gentle, there's a, it can be, you know, and, and it's interesting to just notice, like, looking at our relationship to topping or bottoming or B inverse, or whatever, through the lens of like, how does that mirror my relationship with my inner feminine? My inner masculine? Those questions are very deep, especially for gay men, for everybody, but for gay men in particular, because, you know, for me, I was a very, very, I was very connected to my feminine energy as a boy, you know, I was very, I was feminine. I was a feminine boy, you know, I was sensitive. I was emotional. I was I didn't you know what I mean? I wasn't, you know what I mean? And it really wasn't until my late 20s that I started. All my friends were girls, always, you know, my first male friend, in my life I had when I was my first year in college. That was the first time every friend I had ever had my whole life was a girl because I felt safe.

Coach Maddox  47:21  
Most of my friends were were female. Yeah, I felt St. And I've been very in touch with my feminine energy my whole life.

Craig Cullinane  47:29  
And that's beautiful. And

Coach Maddox  47:31  
very sensitive. Yeah, I cry very easily, and very emotional, and very at peace, in fact, absolutely. Cherish that part of my being.

Craig Cullinane  47:42  
And there's so much judgment and shame for gay men around that part of ourselves. Because we're told that that's not okay. That we're supposed to be something else. And we ingest that. Right. But so anyway, yeah, so interesting. Kind of like, you know, my inner girl, my inner boy, my inner, feminine, my inner masculine, what's that dance? What's my relationship to those parts of myself? That's something to be curious about in terms of liberation.

Coach Maddox  48:08  
I agree. I had a breakthrough with that here about three years ago, where I finally just kind of integrated the two and it was a very powerful experience and a certain level of inner peace came with it, a pretty big level of inner peace came with it, I had been kind of in denial of the masculine energy most of my life, because I just didn't think it fit me it wasn't me. Right. And to say that I masculine was a lie, you know, because I wasn't, so I couldn't relate to that. And then there was just this moment, when I sat down, I sat down with a piece of paper and a pen, and I decided to ground myself on masculinity. And what came forth, it was almost like it was like, I was channeling it, it just poured out of me. Like I was just writing really fast. And when I finished I read it and was just absolutely blown away by what I had written. Like, where did that come from? And there was just this wound. I mean, something shifted inside of my, my spiritual body, my physical body, my emotional body, and I've never been the same sentence.

Craig Cullinane  49:19  
In Tantra, they would call that the inner marriage, right, that integration of these parts of ourselves and you know, I think so much trauma and shame can serve to compartmentalize parts of ourselves.

Coach Maddox  49:32  
I did have shame around the masculine that thing, you know, I always felt like I'd get on dating sites and it would say, masculine CPIC seeking the same and I felt like that eliminated me right there. Yeah, yep.

It's interesting how we all bring something different than yet similar to the table. Lou, what what would you say has has been the thing that brought you to that place? The I mean, it's it's certainly a progression and maybe there wasn't any one thing. But when did you know that you had come to a place of being at peace? With your erotic body, your physical body? Your what what did how did that unfold? And what did that look like?

Craig Cullinane  50:38  
Well, I would say that sometimes I still feel like I am and sometimes I feel like I'm not. You know, sometimes I mean, I wouldn't, you know, I mean, I will say now I'm turning 53. And next week, and I feel much freer and much more relaxed about being erotic with men. I feel very comfortable and skilled in being able to offer pleasure to men to other people. And so, because I guess I've, I've, I've tried to bring an intention and consciousness into those spaces. I've learned how to get my sea legs kind of with my body and with my erotic energy with other people, and, and just, you know, to really be true to myself, you know, if something's not feeling good that I can stop, or I don't need to go somewhere, because someone else wants to necessarily where I can make requests. And I can take care of myself as the if the answer's no. Right. Like it's I think it's I think it's kind of in some ways, the natural unfolding maturation process. But I think that, you know, we have to bring some intention to it. I like to say, you know, in body electric, we teach all of these different caulk strokes, right to pleasure, both our own COC and the caucus, someone else, right. And, you know, because typically, we just have kind of this one stroke, Old Faithful that is programmed in our bodies to get us to a jack Ulation. So we want to just add breath to the toolbox of how to pleasure other people or oneself and activate the breath and do all of this. And so we teach that in the workshop. And I like to say in the worship, and it's the absolute truth, it's like, after I learned like, six caulk strokes, every single man that I was with was like, Are you a tantric master? Because I knew a little more, and I was willing to pay attention.

Coach Maddox  52:38  
Well, then, you know, it doesn't take very much to it, because most people don't. They just, it's one thing that they all know. And that's it, we get hooked into, there's no variance away from it. It's like, I'm so blessed now to be I'm in a new relationship. We've been together for four and a half months. And he is the first man that I've ever met, that, like me, isn't inhibited, doesn't have a lot of shame around sex and isn't inhibited. And so we, we talk about it freely, like we really openly talk about it, whether it's before, during or after. And we agreed early on that we wanted to explore that aspect of life with each other. And they will we wanted to be very open to try just about anything that the other one wanting to do, you know, within reason. Yeah. Yeah. But we identified what those were, you know, pretty quickly. It's just been the most amazing experience to let go of all I thought I know, and just explore. But to talk about it, to really talk about it in ways that I've never gotten another partner to talk about it, whether it was a one night stand what we now call, you know, hook up, or whether it was a partner, you know, could what feels good? Couldn't get an answer. What feels good, he couldn't get an answer.

Craig Cullinane  54:18  
Yes. The mostly because we'll either don't know, or because they don't have practice communicating. Yeah, it's like just what you said. But you know, you might not have been able to be with that person 10 years ago. And so on some level, it's like, you know, the world meets us where we are as we continue to evolve. Yes,

Coach Maddox  54:36  
yes. And that's very true. honored him on an emotional intimacy level, I would not have been able to be with him 10 years ago probably wouldn't even been able to be with him two years ago. It just, you know, and kind of can clearly see that in retrospect like the timing was pretty impeccable.

Craig Cullinane  54:57  
So my my what I would say for people is just These are some thoughts that may be useful. Number one, what's my relationship to pleasure? How do I? How does my body feel pleasure? What is? How do I give it pleasure? Are there ways that I could expand that? Are there ways that I could experiment with stretching or offering different ways to explore my relationship with pleasure? And to give myself that permission? That's one thing. I think also, there's something about, you know, the amazing energy of curiosity and to say, like, wow, like, what are my habits? About how I am erotic with myself and with other people? What are they just that question? Hmm, what do I notice if I step back and just witness my habits? The, you know, I've always heard that line. The only difference between a path a rut and a grave is the depth. So like, what are my habits, right? About how I touch myself, how I touch others, how I interact with people are radically just noticing the habits. And then a real desire and curiosity to figure out how to gain some skill and offering pleasure receiving pleasure in and learning how to communicate. Those simple things can open up a life. Oh, yeah. You know, and, and it's available. You know, that's Florida. And that community is out there to help you wake up and kind of just unfold like in the beautiful lotus blossom, you are with your eroticism and your body. And that very energy that's inside of all of us. When it gets tapped, and it raises and spreads into our system. That's what heals shame. That's what heals trauma.

Coach Maddox  56:54  
I agree. And the willingness to just begin to lean into talking about it is a great starting place.

Craig Cullinane  57:02  
It is and it can be difficult, you know, because because it's like here's shame. And you know, my friend Mark Fleming who I teach that healing body shame class with he has a great line, which I really appreciate. He says, you know, in the here's the deal, when you poke Shame, shame pokes back. Wow. And part of it is the willingness to be with the feelings that come up when we're exploring intimacy and self love with our bodies.

Coach Maddox  57:29  
Yeah, I like that. When you poke shame, poke shame so that we hope shame. Shame pokes back. I gotta remember that that's good stuff. Yeah. Well, you've had a very profound journey.

Craig Cullinane  57:48  
Yes, I have and it continues, and some of you, it's so beautiful to hear your

Coach Maddox  57:54  
continues. It is hot. It continues. I hope I never arrive.

Craig Cullinane  57:58  
Right? Absolutely. You know, and we can awaken joy. We can awaken our bodies, we can awaken what we define as sacred. We can awaken pleasure. We deserve to feel good. And it's not something that it takes away from anybody else. It's something that actually adds to the world.

Coach Maddox  58:21  
I agree completely. Yes, it adds to the relationship it adds to your own relationship with self. Yes. And yes, it adds to it adds to the world.

Craig Cullinane  58:34  
And I think the healing of the earth. You know, you know, we're resonant beings. You know, if we tap this love energy that lives inside our bodies, and we make it available and it emanates out from us, it touches other people in our lives. It touches our communities, it touches the earth. You know, and it can be so confusing about like, what do I do to help this insane world we're in? Well, something very simple, I believe is what's my relationship with my own? lifeforce energy? Yes, you friend it how do I get in relationship with it? How do I welcome it out into my life in a way that is skillful, and of service to me and to others?

Coach Maddox  59:14  
lifeforce energy and that's what sexual energy is. That's it. erotic energy is the lifeforce energy they are one in the same there's no distinction is there

Craig Cullinane  59:23  
there is none. Yeah, have fun. That's beautiful. Have

Coach Maddox  59:27  
fun Have fun yes.

Craig Cullinane  59:29  
And have fun Yeah, literally

Coach Maddox  59:30  
you know I've all my life believed that whatever creator you believe in, put us on this planet to pair off and to enjoy each other. I you know, it you watch nature all of nature. Pairs off in foreign Cades

Craig Cullinane  59:49  
Yeah. That's that's erotic energy itself. erotic energy is God.

Coach Maddox  59:54  
Why are we exactly why are we any different from the animal kingdom other than that we Well, they don't have shame. That's how we're different. Yes, the animals don't have shame about sex.

Craig Cullinane  1:00:05  
I mean, it goes back right to the whole, you know, metaphor of Adam and Eve. Yeah, that story that is a story of how shame was activated in the culture. Yes, you're exactly right. And as a deep impact on our lives today, when we think about war and violence, when we think about all kinds of human problems, yes. You know, if we're feeling good if we're feeling like our needs are being met, if we're able to express our love, and receive it, that's a very different world.

Coach Maddox  1:00:39  
Well, and this is why so frequently, when you're not having a good experience, your friends will say, Dude, you just need to get laid. Yeah. I mean, we kind of think that getting laid is the answer for everything, but but on on a deeper level. Yes. If you could connect into that lifeforce energy, it will affect a lot of things that are upsetting the applecart.

Craig Cullinane  1:01:06  
Essentially, what they're saying is go have erotic pleasure.

Coach Maddox  1:01:09  
It's Yes. We need to say that though, we need to say go have erotic pleasure, because the

Craig Cullinane  1:01:16  
other ones. Let's say it or your your listeners 123. Go have erotic

Coach Maddox  1:01:21  
pleasure. Exactly. Exactly.

Craig Cullinane  1:01:24  
Do it with skill and wisdom. make requests? And yes, we're here recently. Take care of yourself around it be kind. Yes.

Coach Maddox  1:01:35  
Yes. Beautiful. Thank you. Thank you for that. Thank you for the wisdom bombs. I know you just dropped some really powerful things on the audience and I, it's impactful. It's good.

Craig Cullinane  1:01:49  
I'm so grateful to be here with you. I really appreciate the conversation a lot.

Coach Maddox  1:01:53  
Yeah, me too. It's been a great conversation. Very much. So. How about some rapid fire questions? Sure. You're ready. Got it. What has been the most joyful part of being a gay man for you?

Craig Cullinane  1:02:14  
Dancing with all of my heart and body being free to just boogie. That has been a gift of being a gay man, both with people and alone. B, I absolutely linked my joy of totally getting down and loving dance and begin to being a gay man.

Coach Maddox  1:02:34  
You know, I don't know that I would have thought that. But now that you mentioned it, I think you may have just called mine out. I don't know that I would have gone there. But my love for dance, and expressing myself and feeling the rhythm of music, either by myself or with another is just it's way up there. There's been many times when I've been on the dance floor and left that night. Really feeling like I'd had a spiritual experience on the dance connection

Craig Cullinane  1:03:01  
to spirit. It's medicine. And I don't think I would have that if I was not gay.

Coach Maddox  1:03:06  
I don't think I would either. That's

Craig Cullinane  1:03:09  
not to say there's not strict guys out there that love to boogie. There are but I just think like being gay, like, you know, come on. love to dance.

Coach Maddox  1:03:18  
Oh my god. When I was a kid, I had a record player. You know, you I'm aging myself now dating myself record player. And I would dance in my room for hours and hours and hours by myself. It was it was in there to very early.

Craig Cullinane  1:03:33  
Oh, for sure. And I had shame about that. I felt not about that. I did. Yeah, it was I did I there was I remember my first album that I ever got was fame. I wanted it for my birthday so bad. I was 10 years old and I was pestering my mother. I want fame. I want that elbow right. And she was so exasperated with me. She went to the record store to get the album. She told me this later. And she was and she goes she was like I couldn't find the album. And I was like why not? And she was like, Well, I went up to the person and I was like my son wants the album flame. And I was like

Coach Maddox  1:04:09  
oh my gosh. Well there's a little double entendre in there some clerical that is hysterical. Okay, so what is the most valuable lesson that you've learned in this lifetime?

Craig Cullinane  1:04:28  
Okay, I'm just gonna be honest, the most valuable lesson that I've learned in this lifetime is that I am God yes, I Am that I Am. So God a different word for that is love energy. A different word for that as the essential isness of being of energy that makes up everything in the universe. I am that

Coach Maddox  1:04:53  
you know there's some some religious people out that are gonna hear this and flop all over the place.

Craig Cullinane  1:04:57  
Well, and you know what, go for it, but I No, you know, it's even even Jesus said, you know, the kingdom of God is within you. Yes, that's what I'm saying. I know that in me in my very cells in my energy is the spark of divinity. Yes, yes, absolutely. And that's 100% The most important thing that I've learned in my life, because then Anyway, go ahead. Yeah,

Coach Maddox  1:05:21  
good stuff of the life that you've lived so far, what are you most proud of?

Craig Cullinane  1:05:29  
Well, I'm very proud to be a teacher for the Body Electric school. It from my perspective is some of the most important and powerful and healing work that happens on planet Earth. And I know when I'm doing that, that that's what I was born to do. It is feels like an honor and a gift to be a person who welcomes people into all of the things that we've spoken about in the last hour. Intimacy with self healing, eroticism, that I'm a teacher for the school is something that I feel very grateful for and proud of. I also spent six years of my life working inside maximum security prisons, welcoming incarcerated people at SingSing, and other prisons in New York into the process of healing and the cultivation of life skills through theater and art and music. And I feel very grateful and proud that I had the opportunity to enter those spaces and be a part of creating spaces where people who are incarcerated could heal and wake up and, and, and cultivate skills that were meaningful for them. So I'd say those two parts of my work in my life, I feel very grateful and proud of, and proud. It's not the right word. It's more grateful. It's more like, you know, it feels like a huge honor.

Coach Maddox  1:06:47  
Beautiful, yeah. Beautiful. Wow. The work in prisons is a whole different story in of itself.

Craig Cullinane  1:06:56  
Yeah. It was interesting, because I wouldn't be teaching. I mean, I'd be going into SingSing. And he's Max prisons in New York and facilitating these group experiences with incarcerated people. And then I would go on a weekend and teach about electric workshop somewhere. And one time, I was like, you know, it's actually really the same thing. It's creating this exquisite clear space within which people awaken and grow through some process. That would be an art. This one being arrows. You know, so it was it's really like, that's the work.

Coach Maddox  1:07:29  
Yeah. Wow, what what a what a gift. Yeah, that you, you have to have a gift you've been given to be doing something that you love it as much as you love this.

Craig Cullinane  1:07:44  
Yeah, it is a gift. And I don't take it for granted. I'm, I feel profoundly, you know, grateful and appreciative of it. For sure. Well, and

Coach Maddox  1:07:52  
I will just add, I mean, this is not spot on with the topic, but I would recommend Body Electric to any man that wants to get more in touch with themselves. Yes. I mean, setting that setting the sexual aspects aside. This just gets you comfortable in your own skin. Yeah. And that's a beautiful thing.

Craig Cullinane  1:08:16  
Yeah, it's a it's a powerful gift to the world. I believe Electric is one of the most beautiful vehicles for self actualization that exist on the planet.

Coach Maddox  1:08:26  
I really do. I agree, I would highly recommend it. That's body electric.org. And I'll put that in the show notes. So it'll make it easy for him to find it. Sweet. Well, Greg, this has been absolutely amazing.

Craig Cullinane  1:08:40  
Thank you so much.

Coach Maddox  1:08:43  
Joy and an honor to have you on the podcast. Thank you. And

Craig Cullinane  1:08:48  
I like your work. Thank you for you doing this. And I can only imagine how it's impacting your listeners and how that emanates in their life. So you know, like, I see you.

Coach Maddox  1:08:58  
Thank you. Thank you. It What I didn't know when I started. This was how I hoped that it would have impact on on others lives, but I didn't really foresee how it would impact my own life. It's been an incredible process that has brought me more things than I could have ever dreamed. I love it. Yeah. So the one thing I want to leave you with is that you know, I in my eyes, I see you definitely as an authentic gay man.

Craig Cullinane  1:09:29  
Well, thank you. Well, I received that that's important to me. I want to be that

Coach Maddox  1:09:35  
well, and I am looking forward to hanging out with you when we get to the the the gay coaches conference in May.

Craig Cullinane  1:09:44  
I am too. I'm excited. I'm excited for that. It'll be my first time. You've been there before writers

Coach Maddox  1:09:49  
once this will be my second time and it was just hit rocked my world.

Craig Cullinane  1:09:56  
I'm going to be doing some body electric stuff there. Cool. Yeah, that's

Coach Maddox  1:10:00  
Give me I love that because I want to at least have a soft introduction to my my partner about that. We've talked about it and he's interested. So that's great. I'm glad to know that. Yeah. Well, thank you so much.

Craig Cullinane  1:10:14  
Thank you so much Maddox.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Craig CullinaneProfile Photo

Craig Cullinane

Craig Cullinane is a life and embodiment coach, supporting his clients in centering their most treasured desires with simple habits that translate into real results.

Craig just completed serving as the Director of the Body Electric School for the last four years and has served on the Body Electric faculty for more than ten years.

For 6 years, Craig was the Director of Programming for Rehabilitation Through The Arts (RTA), inviting incarcerated people into a process of growth and healing through artistic expression.

Craig holds a Master’s degree in Service, Leadership, and Management from the SIT Graduate Institute.