• Peep_Show_by_David_ShankboneA friend and I had a great and heated argument not long ago about 50 Shades of Grey. (If you have not heard of this huge bestseller have a look on Amazon, you can read a few pages for free)

Finally there was a book that celebrated female desire, the female version of lust, she explained. Yes sure, it was pornography, and not exactly well written at that, but it had desire in it. Pornography, at long last, that appealed to women’s appetite and wasn’t it about time?

I really tried hard to listen. It might be fair enough that women have to culturally catch up and create their own version of pornography, including a seriously cliché prince charming and an infuriatingly self-deprecating heroine. We certainly have plenty to catch up with in all aspects of societal life. But hadn’t we dealt with this particular aspect in the Seventies?

But millions of women are reading this now, so obviously we did NOT go all the way, my friend argued. She also told me about studies that show that the large majority of women still do not experience orgasms when having sex with a man. Obviously something was amiss.

I could totally sympathize with the frustration. But the conclusion…

After quite a bit of noisy back and forth and literally being cornered into the kitchen counter, I found myself getting clearer about why I could not bring myself to praise this book as a break-through in women’s consciousness:

As far as I know it was men who invented pornography. Why should women want to follow that route? Is it really that worthwhile a track? Pornography is a mediated sterile substitute that will stimulate our minds, which can certainly effect our bodies. But it will never take us into our bodies directly, will never make us feel at home where, without mental imaging and linguistic stimulation, sexuality can find its real expression and release. Love is not really being made in the head.

Allowing ourselves to trust and relax, allowing our bodies to have sex rather than our minds, maybe we will come to a new relationship to sexuality that is much less charged, much less fraught with illusory ideals and dis-empowering longings. Maybe we will see that our bodies have their own rhythms and that sexuality does not have to be anything to fret over, read expensive magazines about or study in a book. Maybe it is one of the simplest things to untether from the mores of patriarchy. Maybe all we need is a trustworthy partner – and being trustworthy ourselves – and the courage to own up to being very normal, sexual beings.

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Simply Sex? Part 1

March 22, 2010

For the first while of being newly back  in relationship, our bodies could not get enough of making love. R had been abstinent for eight years, and me for thirteen, so there was a lot to catch up on and we were literally on a non-stop high from the experience for several months. I later read that this is what does indeed happen, that there is some kind on internally introduced drugged-out-like state. Of course, it feels great, and it passes and that can be a pretty insecure time and also a fertile one for looking closely at how intricately sexuality is linked to our sense of self-worth, our need for affirmation, our sense of being alive and a whole lot more. It’s no suprise then, that everyone is concerned with extending their sexual activities way past the point at which it has any procreative relevance. We want to keep it up and I am actually beginning to wonder why.

Speaking about this with a friend the other day, we both felt that there is something in sex, the pure pleasure and single-pointed focus on sensations, that is a big relief from the complexity and often futile rumifications of our restless minds. It’s a mini-holiday all right. Everything becomes simple. And so it was no surprise to read, that the part of the brain that is most active before an orgasm is the one, that  is also called the ‘reptilian’ brain, a part that developed in much earlier stages of evolution than, say, reason. Surprise! But the implications are pretty big and I don’t think we, as very sophisticated and developed humans have really begun to grapple with them. I am including myself entirely – the reason for this blog in the first place.

Sex and Letting Go

March 17, 2010

When I first started having sex again, after thirteen years of both formal and informal celibacy, I was very struck by how challenging it is to actually really be in the body. I noticed how I was constantly thinking, evaluating, worrying and controlling what was going on during sex, rather than feel. I thought a lot about it and had some very powerful conversations with girl-friends, who recognized the same thing. We felt it had to do with the layers of self-image and also violation and distrust that has formed in our psyches and seemingly even in our bodies around this subject. We tend to be self-protected to a degree and depth I have to say I was not aware of.

Maybe this is why letting go in sex, letting a man in and trusting him almost feels like a spiritual experience – the relief is so great to not have to hold on to self-protection. I don’t think it is truly spiritual – even though, as one friend said, there are different ways to define that word – but psychic or psychological in a way that seems to go beyond individual history. It seems to be embedded in the make-up of our gender, maybe even in our genes or hormones, to stay in control, always and forever.

Because I am with a man who has the same philosophical and spiritual leaning, and there is a deep trust in each others willingness to question ourselves and grow, I am given the opportunity to go beyond that and am constantly surprised and moved by how deeply connected and alive I can be – and not just with him – when I let go of controlling constantly. It’s a challenging practice, with a lot of subtlety, and one there is a lot further to go with – definitely not just in bed. I would never have done it, were it not for the larger context we share.

Maybe it is because sexuality is so much at the root of our relations and way of looking at the world, that it can be a window into the ways we work on many more levels.

Here is another section of the article I mentioned below, in the piece on Barry Long – this one is about my experience with the late spiritual teacher Osho Rajneesh, the (in)famous so-called ‘sex-guru’ of the 70s and 80s, whose ashram in Poona India is still a buzzing center for personal growth. I would love to hear your thoughts, as always!

With Rajneesh, we very seriously tried to use sex as a means of spiritual development. Half of the western world was on a free sex rock’n roll or in the process of trying to digest its consequences. For us sannyasins (here; follower of Rajneesh) though, I was sure of it, the wild life carried a deeper significance. There were two approaches to it: The first one meant to have as much sex as possible as quickly as possible in order to satisfy the urge once and for all and make room for higher things like meditation, or maybe even enlightenment. In the second approach sex was used to learn to transcend all the accompanying attachments and conditionings. This meant sleeping around like there was no tomorrow and then practicing to transcend the inevitably ensuing chaos of jealousy, broken trust and loneliness. It was, in a sense, part of our spiritual training to ride the emotional roller-coaster without throwing up. But after five years of diligent practice I only kept whirling around in the same pool of aimless confusion. Not even a trace of transcendence. My friends too did not show any signs of success. For years we would tell ourselves that all the insecurities and alienation were simply growing pains on our radical and revolutionary path. Old fashioned ideas like faithfulness, commitment and self-sacrifice made us yawn. I met my boyfriend when the leader of our mediation center decided to freshen up the stagnating energy by having all couples sleep with someone else every night for a week. That’s how D ended up in my bed instead of that of his seven-year-girl friend, who soon left the center feeling bitter and hurt.

Cynicism and distrust often resulted from these experiments. They disregarded simple, but throughout human history hard fought for values like respect, self-control and a more conscious and humble way to deal with the unpredictable and thoroughly unconscious fire of sexual energy.

A Beginning

January 23, 2010

Welcome! This is a blog about sex, love, relationship and gender inspired by and in the context of the teachings of Andrew Cohen, called Evolutionary Enlightenment.

What makes us tick the way we do? How can human beings truly live together? What does it even really mean to be human? What does it mean to be a woman today? What is the right realtionship between sex and spirituality? What is Truth and how can it be lived?

All these questions propelled me onto a spiritual pilgrimage that now, thirty years later has lead to some very compelling answers and vistas and new questions. Some of these I am sharing in an upcoming book called Sex,Love and the Search for Meaning, which describes my thirty year journey through three spiritual teachings, four continents and more beds than I counted (though I tried).

The only reason for focusing on the topic of romantic love and sexuality is that after thirteen years of being single, and three years of formal celibacy, I entered into a new relationship last winter, guided by my spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen. In this process, I became more intrigued and curious about the very different approaches my three teachers had towards the subject and discovered that they are a beautiful reflection of cultural development as a whole, pointing toward uplifting and empowering possibilities in an area of life that is by its very nature complex and charged.

I always appreciate your comments, thoughts, arguments, suggestions and questions!

Since a lot more, a huge lot more, can be said about this topic of LOVE than can ever fit between the covers of a book, I thought to start this blog in order to have more room to roam, to drum up a discussion and generate an investigation into this ancient, always popular and inexhaustable topic.

This is what my spiritual friends wrote to me and my partner when I, after thirteen years of voluntary and at times very blissful, single life, re-entered the arena of sex, love, partnership and a lot of things to think about:

…..Wishing you all the best for your future in relationship. May it never be the most important thing in your lives! With love……

They really meant it, and I know why. And so this blog (and the book) wants to look at the ideas, conclusions, fears and desires that so preoccupy us in regards to this subject and see, if, in an age of enormous de-mystification (think brain research) and dis-illusionment (2009 marked the first year in the US in which more women were living alone than in a relationship!), we can discover a context for this institution of romantic love, that actually makes sense.

Elizabeth Gilbert just gave it a really good shot. She is one of the best writers I know and an incredibly brave and wonderful woman, with tons of depth and heart, but her conclusions in “Committed” disappointed me a bit. So here is another tack and hopefully, you will feel inspired to jump in and explore together and in that, find a response to some of the craziness, heart-ache and cynicism going on in this arena of life.