About sensuality, sexuality, spirituality — When we are born, we are “all senses.” I received a question from a writer, who is working on an article, the gist of which is, “Why are kids joyful, and then learn not to be?”
Last week, I started a series of articles. I suggested that four areas could be looked at for guidance on how our lives are progressing, and that the four needed to be no less than neutral in “feel,” and to be in balance.
Here’s a graph of what I mean:
There’s a book called High Level Wellness, by Don Ardell. His theory of wellness really hit home. His scale runs from “dead” (1) to high level wellness (10). He says that most people get to 5 (asymptomatic—i.e. not in pain,) and stop—stop therapy, stop exercising deeply, just coast. Ardell is making the same point I was—settling for less than neutral is silly, and neutral is only marginally better.
This week, we’ll look at sensuality and sexuality from this same perspective.
First of all, you might be wondering, “why sensuality and sexuality?” I would suggest that our sexual nature and our ability to be sensual (engage, at will, with our senses) is fundamental to our human natures and to our well-being.
And, I know this is an issue because of how many of you are now squirming or wondering where I’m going with this.
When we are born, we are “all senses.” I received a question from a writer, who is working on an article, the gist of which is, “Why are kids joyful, and then learn not to be?”
I wrote a couple of things to him:
1) Physiologically, there is no difference between an adult’s and a child’s experience of anything. (We are all hard-wired the same.) The difference comes as we socialize our children. We add to the experience the idea of judgment. (“SHOULD I be feeling this way?”) This evaluative process is necessary for the child’s survival (so, for example, they don’t walk into the “pretty” campfire.) It goes off the rails as, more and more, the child is taught to repress bodily sensations in favour of “over-thinking.”
2) Children experience their feelings directly, and “in the moment.” That’s why they can be having a tantrum one moment and giggling with pleasure in the next. They stop doing this spontaneous living as they gain a sense of past and future. They begin to question their experience, its validity, and pack onto it what others have told them they ought to be experiencing/feeling.
3) I would suggest that therapy and Bodywork are two tools some people use to re-learn to experience the here and now. Sadly, most people (to paraphrase Thoreau) choose lives of quiet desperation, and die with their song still in them.
The way out is not to think of it as “re-capturing youth,” but rather to commit to freeing one’s spirit to fully and completely experience life.”
Our sexuality is a deep and hard wired part of us. Children are sexual beings. We all know that kids, to put it politely, like to rub certain portions of their anatomy. This tendency seems to go background around school time, only to re-surface with a vengeance at puberty.
Most of us learned about sex literally or figuratively in the back seat of a car. Fast, dumb, and not much fun. Most people never get much farther. There may be some experimentation with bells and whistles, but mostly, the experience is a mile wide and an inch deep.
Most people never learn about sensuality. Many of my female clients bemoan the lack of “cuddling.” By this they mean that they want sensual or erotic, non-sexual contact, and every time they try to get it, their partner thinks it’s an invitation to sex.
By the time people get to therapy, their sensual and sex lives, in the main, are boring, shut down, predictable and infrequent.
We’ve lost more than a bit of cuddling—in a sense we’ve lost our souls. Many moons ago, I wrote about the sculptures at the Khajuraho Temple in India. The Temple at Khajuraho is described as a sculpted Kama Sutra. The idea seems to be to display the naturalness of sensuality and sexuality. And the best place to study this, the architects decided, was in a Temple!
There seems to have been a golden age of sensuality some centuries ago, which got pushed background around the time of the Dark Ages, through the influence of Augustinian Christianity and Islam. There came a time when women were blamed for polluting the minds of men (like men need any help…) and many religions literally and figuratively wrapped women up and stuck them on a shelf.
To see the other side, all we have to do is read the Song of Songs in the Bible, or study Tantra and Kundalini practices in India, or “The Jade Chamber” in China.
Our sensual and sexual natures are not optional. They are a part of us—a fairly big part, actually. We are turned on, at the cellular level at the least, by many things. We may go into our heads and try (or succeed) in blocking our recognition of what we are feeling (we push it down to the sub-conscious level—by denying our nature— and create a background hum that feels like a painful longing—familiar?)
So, what’s up with “neutral or better” as regards sexuality and sensuality? Well, the temple in India points us in the right direction.The temple sculptures demonstrate how sensuality, sexuality, and spirituality are entwined. (Given the positions demonstrated in some of the statues, a great choice of words.) This golden age was a time of experimentation—and the experimentation involved using yoga, massage, meditation and Tantra—all designed to open participants to the free movement of kundalini energy in the body. The goal was to use that which is pleasurable to build up, strengthen, and move the energy up the spine, toward the top of the head, and in this process, to open to a deeper spirituality.
Sensuality and sexuality, then, became tools and devices for deepening one’s self-knowing, and in that process, opening the person to bliss.
Or, as Joseph Campbell put it,
“If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.
Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”
Here’s the point. Your sensual and sexual nature are real. They are fundamental to who you are. The energy “lives” in the root and 2nd chakras, and for most, this energy stagnates there. And then people complain that their life is not stimulating, fun, inspired, passionate and creative. Most people just put up with this. Many are the people who have had “bad” experiences in this area and “stick there,” refusing to move past the accumulated pain, judgment, and distress. Neutral or worse.
Others shut down and pretend to be “spiritual.” They live in their heads and deny their bodies. (Hair shirts, anyone?) Ungrounded spirituality is senseless (get it ??) and foolish, and unworkable. You can be spiritual when you are dead. In the mean time, grounding into all of your feelings is crucial.
Now, some of those feelings will be uncomfortable. If you breathe into them and accept them as a part of you, they will release you from their thrall. And you will move past neutral.
Sensual experience is not a head experience. You’ll not find a satisfactory explanation for why it is essential that we feel, and feel deeply. Rather, to move beyond neutral, there must be a surrendering into the feelings, and a surrendering of the need to know.
Neutral, really, is half-dead. Why would you choose that?
Next issue, some ways to work with this energy, alone or in groups!