Monday, April 7, 2014

No Sex in the City

The last time I took a new lover I spent a few months learning about him and carefully considering his candidacy before shifting the relationship tone. This was a new thing for me. Sex with strangers is not a normal occurrence but jumping right into a sexual relationship with someone I already know has been. I used to say that all my sex was surprising because I never thought about it ahead of time. It would just...happen! Whoops! This area of unconsciousness began to stick out like a sore thumb in my normal life of thoughtful reflection and self-examination. I recognized within myself the tendency to only act in the interests of my short term self in the arena of sexuality, living from the groin on instinct, and how this short term thinking was negatively affecting my head and heart.

So I made an earnest attempt to properly vet my next potential partner. I asked him big questions, met his friends and family, and spent neutral alone time with him. I waited, yes, in this I was successful. But I also ignored the abundant and obvious warning signs- apparent alcoholism and unresolved trauma, general poor choice making and the creeping sense that I was not being adequately valued. I took the time to get to know him well, but then ignored the findings because they didn't agree with my hypothesis that he was going to be dateable. I liked him so much in theory, but in reality he was just as much of a poor choice of partner as all the others. And since what all the others had in common was me, my own judgement came into question.

This shift in consciousness around sex happened to coincide with a lecture series on freedom at Mosaic LA. We were asked to examine different aspects of our lives to determine the ways in which we were bound or limited. I clarified that the way I'd been conducting my sexual life was causing me to shut down my heart and shy away from real intimacy, and concluded that I would abstain from sex until I was with my beloved. I wrote, "For as long as it takes, I will wait."

Ladies and gentlemen, I have now been celibate for 11 months...not that I'm counting or anything.

This is not to say that I haven't swapped scandalous words and photos, or thought salaciously about all the ways that I could break this self-pact. My ovaries are almost 30 years old and they shriek violently about making a baby. Everything in my biological being wants to get laid. But I haven't so much as traded kisses in almost a year. I'm a lusty, passionate physical affection junkie- if the kissing is any good it escalates expeditiously to nakedness. It was all or nothing, and it's been a whole lot of nothing for a good long while.

"My lord, how?? How do you do it?! I couldn't do it." I hear this a lot.

It's not easy. I'm honestly not that good at celibacy. There have been instances where, if circumstances had been different, I wouldn't have made it this long. My "success" can be attributed as much to self-control as to poor timing. All the same, here I am, all city and no sex. How, then, have I done it?

Over the din of hormone rush, I managed to hear a higher call that couldn't be unheard; the truth of my sacred heart begging me to make choices that create a space for love and true intimacy to flourish. I wanted to feel safe to let my guard down and be soft and receptive, but had come to realize that I couldn't trust myself to maintain the right conditions for that to happen. Like my former lover, I have a history of poor choice making in this area. In order to break the pattern, I had to examine and rewrite my entire sex, intimacy and love story. This would take far more time than I realized, require that I keep my head clear by keeping my hands to myself and lead me into the murky waters of my own sexuality.

What you realize first is the raw, primal power of contained sexual energy. It must either be released or channeled- I'm convinced that stagnancy in this area causes madness. There was a period of time during this last year when I needed all the energy and focus I could muster, so I decided to stop making self-love and began working to move and distribute my sexual energy in meditation. This went on for about two months, during which I experienced the electric vitality possible in learning to mindfully master this energetic flow.

Raising and channeling my sexual energy in yoga and meditation has been an ever present part of my celibacy practice, but I added a seemingly contradictory method a couple months ago: pole and erotic dance. Suppressing sexuality is the source of all manner of societal problems (I'm looking at you, religious institutions), but involving oneself in an admittedly sexy activity seems to be inviting unnecessary struggle. Wouldn't you want to minimize the amount of sexual energy generated in your body? Had this occurred to me earlier it might've been a cause for concern, but instead I just jumped into something I instinctively knew to be good for me. Best not to think too much sometimes.

The result has been a noted rise in sexual energy but it is sublimated through the circular sway and shake of my enlivening body to give rise to a still, deeply rooted confidence. It's a fully self-contained positive feedback loop; the more I move, the sexier I feel, the more confidence arises, the more I want to explore my dance, the bolder I become, the sexier I feel, the more confident I become, etc. My dance belongs solely to me for my own exploration and enjoyment, revealing parts of me to myself that I have never seen. I am titillated by the thought of sharing my dance with my beloved some day, but for now it is the most delicious and satisfying experience of my life so far to be my own witness to this transformation. No one and nothing outside of me is required for me to feel okay about myself. I am enough.

One of my most deeply held patterns was the tendency to look outside of myself for validation from men. This is something I've had a vague awareness of since I was a teenager, but really started trying to curb a few years ago when it became a truly problematic entity. I was having a hard time in other parts of my life, and would lean heavily on the guys I was interested in for gloriously distracting attention that made me feel less overwhelmed and messy. When they would fail to deliver what I needed, I would become irrationally resentful. In giving myself plenty of love and support, and through the validation supplied through my dance, I find the need for this male attention waning. In arriving at this place, I see how bound I was by my reliance on other people's approval. Letting that go means being free to be exactly who I am without concern for maintaining this outside feedback. I am beginning to earn my own trust, knowing that I'm less likely to make compromising choices in the search for approval.

When you detox from something for which you have a strong attachment, you can begin to see just how much it is emotional as it is biological. This is just as true for reliance on substances as it is for food or sexual attention. Deeper, subtler motivations lie beneath our urges and cravings which are difficult to clarify when we are still actively using our drug of choice. I had to consciously choose to abstain from sex to understand what it was that I was really after in my encounters. It was not a big leap from there to see how the choices I had been making were unsupportive and far from healthy. My celibacy and everything that's come from it have shown me who I am, and who I have the potential to be.

Celibacy may not be as educational or necessary for you as it has been for me. It's certainly not an entirely pleasant experience. However, if you have ever felt that sex or your sexuality is a burdensome or otherwise unhealthy part of your life, I'm here to tell you that there's another way. Yes, it's possible to go days or weeks or even months without having sex. No, that doesn't make you a prude, and no, your sexual organs will not stop working. If anything, if you take your period of celibacy to do some thoroughly, bravely honest self-discovery, you may come out the other side with much more confidence and self-knowledge, and that can't help but make you a better lover. Our inner workings can be scary places to explore, especially in the realm of sex and sexuality, but without going there how will you ever know who you are and what you really want? Explore, clarify and rewrite your story. Free yourself to confidently live your most authentic life.

Sometimes, at least for a while, the best sex is no sex at all.

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