Sexuality and spirituality are closely intertwined. When sexuality is grounded in a loving intimate relationship with another person it can increase our ability to connect with the vastness and wonder of the universe. When sexual desire is separate from a loving connection it can become a negative or empty experience separate. What helps a sexual relationship feel satisfying and connected, is a relationship that is satisfying and deeply connected. For many people, the desire for sexual union and ecstasy reflects a deeper desire for spirit and a sense of oneness with the Universe. While sexual union with another can give us a glimpse of the ecstasy of spiritual fulfilment, sex alone cannot give us that fulfilment. Hopefully, the desire for sex that satisfies and goes deep, will entice us to opening up our lives and become transparent to our paratner.

Sexuality and spirituality are both deeply personal and connected to our life force energy. Our attitudes about life, love, care and compassion are all connected to our feelings about sexuality. We all came to this earth through a sexual act. If life is sacred, then so is sexuality. Unfortunately sex has been tremendously defiled in our patriarchal culture where sexuality has been paired with shame, control, domination, exploitation and evil. To heal our sexuality means changing our beliefs so that we associate sexuality with love, care, joy and commitment. To do this means embarking on a journey where we open our minds to re-think all we have learned about sex-role stereotypes, love, sexuality and spirituality.

Getting beyond our self absorption and being able to tap into the wonder and awe of creation can help us deepen our experience with sexuality. When we are full of tenderness, vitality, and openness to life, it helps sex have a flow and vitality that keeps it alive and fluid. If our lives are in a rut and we are out of touch with something beyond our separate self, sex tends to become mechanical and dull. We can use all kinds of techniques, but they are simply that, techniques. People tend to have numerous partners or lose interest in sex because they are unable to create a deep, loving connection that is fulfilling. Sex gets reduced to a physical high without the context of an evolving connection with another person. There is a tendency to blame one’s partner when the high fades–”you weren’t exciting enough”–rather than realizing something is missing within. This leads to a futile search for the “perfect” partner or more exotic sexual experiences. The pattern is broken when the person realizes that a sexual high will never quell the
underlying restlessness and emptiness which can only be filled with honest, heartfelt connections to others and to .

Sexuality grounded in love, and commitment and openness to growth can deepen and strengthen the connection between two people and intensify their sense of intimacy and oneness. When we open our inner world to our partner and allow the power of our energy flow through us, we naturally open our heart. Opening the heart may also put us in touch with our heart aches–the painful inner feelings and memories that have been buried. This is why new relationships can feel so bittersweet. You feel love, passion and connection partly due to the hormonal rush that comes with new love. Then the buried or avoided pain from the past comes to the surface and can result in the petulant, hurt, possessive, scared parts tumbling out. Painful memories often come to the surface, often of sexual violation. If we allow these parts to surface , face them and heal them, we will grow immeasurably. This can be done within the context of a loving relationship if the partners becomes allies to each other—work together to deflate the old goblins, rather than act out against each other. If we try to bury our memories and live out a role, we will suffer physically, emotionally and spiritually. We may become depressed and feel our life energy and joy draining out of us.

Sex can vary with the fluctuations in our lives–sometimes being sweet and tender, other times feeling powerful like the roar of an ocean wave. Like any energy force it waxes and wanes and changes like the seasons. New mothers sometimes lose interest in being sexual, especially if it seems like a duty. People who are overworked and tired, often lack the energy or interest to pleasure their partner and be open. Sexuality that sustains is a reflection of our inner worlds meeting each other. When two people first feel the electricity of sexual chemistry and attraction, sex may take center stage. This is fine so long as people don’t expect sex to be the only glue of the relationship.
Enduring happy couples have very different levels of sexual intensity, but for the most part those who have sexual chemistry between them from the start are more likely to have that sexual desire stay alive in a long term relationship. Sexual chemistry and attraction isn’t a guarantee of a healthy intimate relationship, but it is an important spark that helps keep relationships vital and alive. It also helps people surmount troubles and do the necessary work to stay together. That spark is part of our mystical bond with another human being. When people marry or become partnered because it they feel they “should’ or it is a good idea, often the sexuality does not stay alive and vital because the chemistry is absent.

When we are with a partner it’s important to remember that sexuality can be like a window to the rest of our relationship. Whatever is happening or not happening in our relationship may be reflected in the sexual relationship. Couples with long-term satisfying sexual relationships usually realize that when sex isn’t going well it reflects something deeper in the relationship–it’s not just about sex. It’s like a barometer for the whole relationship. “Now what aren’t we dealing with?” “What aren’t we talking about?” Have I been keeping secrets that have turned into guilt? In enduring , happy relationships people also realize the importance of keeping sex alive as an intrinsic part of the union. It would be very important if it were missing. It’s part of the glue, the very special union people have with their beloved partner and no other.

A first step on the journey to sexual intimacy is to make a commitment to oneself:
I am open to my feelings, to knowing myself and to knowing my partner. I am open to growth and change.
Unless you make this commitment, you will block your sexual energy from flowing through you. In other words you will dissociate from parts of yourself.

A second step is to say to oneself:
I am committed to becoming more open, aware and attuned–to listening, understanding and feeling empathy with my partner and all people. This leads us to learning about love, truth, wisdom and purpose.
When we make this commitment it’s as if we say, I will not make a god of sex or my partner; there is something bigger I am seeking. My partner is traveling beside me on my journey and we can learn from each and be helpmates, but we can’t replace the need to seek out the meaning of our lives as intertwined with all life.
A third step is to say to oneself:
I will allow my playfulness, creativity and joy to come alive in all that I do.
As we come alive, open our creativity and feel joy in life, we bring bright energy to our spirit, body, sexuality and our partner

Effects of culture on sexuality
Sexuality alone cannot create a bond between two people although the popular media would lead us to believe this is possible. Advertisements abound with images of svelte, thin, young women with flawless clothes and complexions linked to the arm of a handsome, tough/cool man next to a car or a bottle of scotch. The goal is to pair sex with looks, possessions and age in order to sell all kinds of products that supposedly make you more sexually desirable. In reality some very ordinary people have positive sustained sex lives and some very rich, attractive people do not. For anyone in this culture, it takes a lot of work to cast out the negative images of sexuality we have been taught. Enduring sexual intimacy is about what we bring on the inside–our joy, passion, humor, and ability to care and accept another person–as well as the packaging on the outside.

Too often seduction is mistaken for attraction. In reality, seduction is often about overpowering someone for self-centered reasons. It’s a false way to feel powerful. That’s why we have so many songs that say things like, “will you still love me tomorrow?” All the sweet talk is wonderful before the sex, but afterwards, when the partner rolls over and a chasm opens between us there is an empty lonely feeling. That’s because the sex was more about exploitation and a short term high than an expression of love and care.

To quote from Women, Sex, and Addiction
It’s important to remember that:
sex is not proof of being loved;
sex is not proof of being attractive;
sex doesn’t cure problems
sex doesn’t mean you’re lovable;
sex is not assurance against abandonment–even if you’re terrific in bed.
Sexuality is not always about partners and orgasm. It is related to the way we live in our bodies and experience the sensual pleasures of life. We can be alive to our senses, yet not be controlled by them. We can feel connected to the wonder of life when we smell bread baking, slowly eat a juicy peach, stroke velvet or gaze at the moon passing through hazy clouds. Connecting to our sexual energy is also about feeling joy and passion that come from honest conversation, giving to others, being in nature, being active and being of service. The concept of sexuality as kundalini–life force energy–resting like a coiled snake at the base of the spine ready to rise up and fill us with energy suggests that sex can be used as a tool for spiritual awakening. This is a tricky subject, because it is important not to fool ourselves by saying we are being sexual in order to be enlightened. We need to have a bond with our partner. One way sexual experience helps open our hearts is when we allow the sexual energy to fill us and then breathe the energy from the pelvis up into our heart.

If we think of the body, mind and spirit as one, then to have a sense of wholeness associated with our sexuality is to be tuned into all aspects of our being–our spiritual life, senses, feelings and thoughts. Sexuality is something we each possess and have available for our pleasure whether or not we are with a partner. In many ways the spiritual journey is about making love to ourselves in a myriad of ways–listening to our hearts, being honest, following our calling in life, giving ourselves pleasure and tapping into the wonder of the life force energy which people call God, Great Spirit, Goddess, Allah,Universal Energy, to name a few. Part of our sexual awakening can also be through making physical love to ourselves–taking time to pleasure ourselves, get to know our bodies and feel comfortable with our smells, sensations and erotic feelings. It’s important not to depend solely on another person for sexual pleasure. We need to know it belongs to each of us and is ours to experience and enjoy.

For some people the spiritual journey will entail a choice for celibacy. This may be for a given time period to learn to connect with people in a non-sexual way and to change our internal messages or it may be a long term choice. It is important that the choice for celibacy come from an inner evolution rather than from arbitrary external rules or a desire to control unwanted sexual feelings. We cannot escape the power of our sexuality. We either become at peace with us or it remains a troublesome force within that creates confusion, shame and separateness from our spirituality. If we are celebate yet still obsessed with sex, it is still controlling our life. Too often people who sexually perpetrate on others have created an inner duality of sex as an evil force that should be repressed. They are obsessed with sex in a negative way. The problem with repression is that it usually goes out of control in some way. How can we become at east with sexuality when we have taken a vow against it?

Feeling conflicted about sex sometimes stems from rigid teachings about sex, often in religious institutions where sex is associated with something dirty, shameful, secretive and extremely enticing. Religious teachings around the world put external controls on sex that are separate from love, care and goodness–it’s okay if you are married, heterosexual and want children–but it’s not okay if you are unmarried, of the same sex or are being sexual for personal pleasure. In reality there is often loveless exploitive sex in marriages and caring intimate sex between committed people of the same sex or people who are not married. As a result of negative teachings, many people need to go through a long process of shedding layers and layers of guilt and shame in order to have intimate, pleasureful sex with a loving partner–to realize that all love is God’s love.

The sex role stereotypes we have been taught also limit our openness and comfort with sex. Women are taught to act passive and demure and men are taught to act fearless and aggressive. In reality, women are perfectly capable of being assertive sexually and men are often afraid and insecure. If we only develop half of our potential, we are only half alive to our sexuality. Enduring, happy couples usually have a sense of equality about sex. They can both take a passive or an assertive role. There is not one who is the aggressor and one who is the receipient of sex, it is a mutually enjoyable form of pleasure and connection.

Sex is sometimes used in the hope of creating a bond. Two people who are unable to be honest and open with each other might have sex frequently in an attempt to create a connection or fill an inner void. The mistaken underlying
belief is, “if sex is okay then the relationship is okay.” This is like counterfeit intimacy. It is about using sex addictively to fill in our empty places in a relationships. In other cases, people who are emotionally distant or who are not honest with each other might cease having a sexual life. It dries up leaving a void in the relationship. In some cases people will have periodic sex that is mechanical and devoid of emotional intimacy. Some will use alcohol or other drugs to heighten the sexual experience. It may feel good momentarily, but there is usually a sense of emptiness afterwards. It is like using “spirits” to have sex, instead of finding the spirit within us.

Some people have difficulty sustaining a loving, vulnerable sexual relationship because the sexual act triggers unresolved feelings from sexual trauma or abuse. It feels okay to have sex with a near stranger or under the influence of alcohol and other drugs, but when the partner starts to feel like “family” then it triggers memories of sexual violation or abuse by someone who was in the original family. Many people flee relationships for this reason. They fall in love, enjoy a person for a while, and when the relationship starts having an every-day quality without the high, they leave. In these situations it is usually helpful to have counseling with someone familiar with sexual abuse problems. Three helpful books on this subject are Women, Sex and Addiction: A Search for Love and Power by Charlotte Kasl, The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz and The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis.

Becoming whole sexually is about becoming whole as a person. This means clearing out shame from our past so we are free to be open with each other. As a therapist I have repeatedly had people come to therapy wanting to fix their sex lives as something separate from the rest of the relationship. They don’t realize that the buried secrets, avoidance and resentments that have built up over time are reflected in their sexual relationship. The need to learn that everything in our relationships is magnified in sexual relationships–sensitivity, trust, understanding, acceptance playfulness, and the ability to be honest in a kind and caring way.

Bringing Sexuality and Spirituality Together

Here are some ways to bring more joy and spirit into your sexual relationship. Please remember in reading these thoughts that they are focused on bringing sexuality and spirituality together. There is no moral judgement intended. We have all grown up in a culture that separates sexuality from spirituality and we are all learning and growing. These suggestions are not a cure-all for serious sexual problems that may need counseling or professional help.


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