I was just browsing Tricycle (the buddhist online magazine) and found this article by two women teachers, I found it very interesting. Usually all you can find on this topic is on not engaging in sexual misconduct and that desire is somehow bad, but that places one in opposition to the sexual drive, which is not a good thing. So I found this an interesting starting point to a discussion…
Sexual energy is pretty much the strongest desire we experience in our lives. Interestingly, one question that arises is whether sexuality is fundamental to survival, individually. It’s possible to be celibate, to live a life without being sexually active. In my life, I’ve moved through different phases of celibacy and being sexually active, and I’ve found it incredibly helpful to apply the basic principles and teachings around desire. Such as how to be present with craving and what fuels craving. A lot of sexuality is about what we project in terms of fantasy, and then seeing if it is possible to witness those projections in awareness and what happens when we do.
I've found examining sexual arousal to be useful for a number of things. It's a strong desire that flares up and fades away rather quickly, so it makes a good focus point for Satipatthana examination. Specifically feelings-in-feelings for me though the others apply just as well. You can really get a good sense for the mind's struggle if you just sit and don't do anything about it and watch. And often grabbing a snack or doing a chore is enough to get it to fade away for some time.
Second is what I think of as concentrated sexual arousal and dispersed sexual arousal. Concentrated meaning there is an object of desire, a body, a scenario, and it comes from an I-wanting. I want that body or scenario. There is an underlying energy driving the urge which is fascinating. That energy which drives the urge for the I-wanting of a body or scenario. It's a potent energy which, when seen for its components as short-lived, not-self, and ultimately unsatisfactory, releases into a more dispersed and refined kind of energy. Energy which I associate with the driving force fueling the 4 Brahma Viharas. A sort of energetic love of everything.
It has to be seen in Satipatthana for its component parts or it can just end up being a sort of I's horniness for the world. But when seen in the context of Satipatthana, the directed urge that comes from the self no longer has a bundled "self" as home and the energy is free to be evenly dispersed throughout all awareness. Text on Brahma Viharas speak of a sort of blanketing of the world or radiating outward in all directions that energy. That tends to be the nature of the energy once the urge to hump it has been properly dealt with.
Cultivating that energy over the course of some days or weeks also appears to have great impact on sitting meditation of the falling asleep while fully aware variety. Especially in the evenings.
The boulevards lining the path toward suffering's cessation appear to be mired with the pilgrims who have met their match when trying to address sexuality and desire in their own practices.
Trying to discern the differences between a biological urge and our common identities conscription of it, is a challenge that eventually trips up as many meditation adepts as beginners.
For most, it's a 3 steps forward, two steps back, kind of progression.
The most common experience of finding oneself face-planting about it, again, on such a path occurs whenever one's preceding thoughts have been that they've finally got a handle on it.
I haven't had sex for over 12 years.
It's something I'm no longer subject to...
I must admit, I haven’t looked very deeply into it, but I feel it must be important. Technically I’ve been largely celibate during this life, but I’ve lived through a lot of sexual fantasies in my imagination. So to say I have lived a life of purity is rather inaccurate. It just kind of turned out that way.
So in a way, I’ve avoided sex, and in another way I haven’t. I don’t feel repressed, but I also don’t feel totally natural talking about it? Perhaps I am a bit repressed after all. I certainly haven’t followed the usual path of Osho sannyasins and ‘free love’.
What I regret in hindsight is missing the opportunities for giving and receiving happiness. I’ve come to understand that sex is deep connection, that there is giving and pleasure on both sides if you do it right, that both sides want this experience.
I have a hard time interacting with most people. Especially those around my age range. They are often doing some subconscious or conscious sizing up and assessing along those sorts of lines. Like the first glance is "are they hot enough?" or maybe "Am I hotter than him?" and the eyes and face are always a dead give-away to the map of the mind.
They pass judgements without even asking my permission or seeking accuracy. It's like watching an ego at work. Then comes the small-talk and more determinations and judgements are made based on pleasantness of voice, body language, quality of chat. There's little just talking going on and it's all very anxiety inducing and exhausting. I find myself being bent into some form of identity or another, and my behaviors begin to shift to reflect that form which usually is not the way I would prefer to behave but find it just happens without my say-so.
Then on the rare occasion I talk to someone genuine, I'm often in BS-city mode and blunder just like those others. Good ol' Southern California. So staying at home's nice. Less judgemental eyes, less needless chat. Except for you poor folks here who end up with all my misguided and mindless chat.
A side question (for all): I found this paragraph by @how very interesting since when trying to adopt good habits/behaviors and avoid bad ones I frequently notice that it is easy to resist while it is difficult (while under "attack") but once the "attack" subsides and I think "nice, it's passed"... I still succumb. A strange phenomenon that I do not quite understand.
It’s difficult enough to understand what is good behavior and what is bad behavior in normal sexuality.
Agreed. But I was thinking in more general terms: with habits I know hurt me, such as drinking coffee in the afternoons (makes me anxious).
It’s very possible to feel a desire towards something that you know harms you. The usual technique (which it appears you know) is to wait until it passes, with mindfulness, which usually takes no more than thirty seconds, and then to carry on. It is possible that if the thought is still in your mind the desire flares up again and you still succumb, so sometimes it is necessary to wait until the mind has relaxed and moved on. Or that was my experience…
It's a false "passing". The actual attack is in the calm after the storm when the troops are tired and need a pick-me-up.
Sexuality and desire or any attachment.
Some compass notes on Life, in or out of the soap opera of self.
One of the best meditative aids in addressing our susceptibility to craving, aversion or the deliberate ignoring of any phenomena is learning how to meditatively discern the difference between our natural thoughts and our deliberate thoughts.
Natural thoughts allow for the plain observation of the arrival, life, and departure of any data past our sense gates, while deliberate thought reflects the ways and means by which we coerce any of that data to effect a specific ego-confirming result.
Natural thought allows for acceptance and equanimity in the presence of those data flows.
Deliberate thought reflects how our habituated impulses to control those data streams, inevitably imprison one within an identity's dream structure.
One allows for the potential of selflessness to reflect how we relate to anything.
The other adds the complication of a dream's agenda to muddy any waters of clarity.
Herein with every new nanosecond of thought, another opportunity awaits to either head towards a deeper slumber of dissatisfaction or head towards what the Buddha called an awakening.
I really like this observation @how, could you speak a little more about it? Discerning between natural and deliberate thought in the way you've described is much easier in the calm of reflection but what sort of ways allow them to be seen in the act?
If I were to describe it in terms of a surface of water, one is like the calm undulating swells of a lake while the other would be the waves caused by a boat moving across it. If that's the case, when I'm in public, the whole place can be full of speed boats.
Ah yes, that makes a lot of sense. Thank you.
"Sex is good,
Sex is fine,
Doggy style and sixty-nine."
But too much sex can make anyone go wild. Be careful with these strong treats!
It's something I observed regularly when I was quitting smoking cigarettes. The mental olympics that took place still show up as useful reflections. Setting lines in the sand and limiting allowances all established a sort of combattive approach against the inclination. Me verse it. There was never an attempt to understand it, just overcome it and control it. Needless to say without the understanding not only did the craving continue but so did the rewards to sooth the frustration that came about from the struggle.
For some reason that original me vs it mentality comes around when I forget that crucial component of understanding the inclination and maybe addressing it as an injury needing care rather than an adversary needing conquering.
Well thank you too because it's way too easy to gloss over and the reminder is very welcome.
Especially for those of us who tend to live in our minds.....
Meditation in the stillness of a formal sitting is the easiest state to see the differences between natural and manipulated thought. Here, in the stillness of meditation, our acceptance of the arising, living, and fading away of natural thought allows for a potential development of objectivity and equanimity, whereas our directing of natural thought into a deliberately manipulated thought is usually just another pandering over our ego's storyline.
A practice though is about moving the stillness in activity.... into the activity in stillness.
Of course, we need deliberate thought to survive in daily life but by bringing along the objective skills that you've developed in formal meditation into the equations of any arising, living or fading thought, our responses to it, no longer need to be dictated by a habituated storyline of our own selfishness.
As far as sexuality goes, whether in the mind or in activity, the skills of equanimity that you've developed in meditation, in any moment, are there to be practiced with.
Sexuality and desire, when met with sufficient objectivity & equanimity will usually result in harmlessness.
The same, when met with an ego's storyline will be hard pressed to not result in someone's suffering.
I wish it was that clear for me. I keep coming to the conclusion the only natural thought is to sit in stillness of formal sitting and continue to let all thought go. Everything else, arousal, hunger, thirst, the need to scratch an itch or relieve waste, it's all registering as directed and manipulated thinking.
Or is it the arousal, hunger, thirst...are the natural thoughts that bubble up and the directed and manipulated thoughts are the inclinations/urges of what to do about it? Hunger so I go to the fridge or I order fast food or I go to the market. Those goings are the directed thoughts? Or keeping it on topic, arousal leading to decide upon going with mind's fantasies, or internet, or the club or bar.
Objectivity and equanimity then maybe being sitting with the sensation until all the inclinations and urges subside? But in terms of food and water, one dies in days without following some directed inclination.
Natural thought being like the weeds sprouting in the garden and directed/manipulated thought being what the gardener does with the weeds once noticed. Maybe that's not a great analogy if the stillness in meditation is to watch the weed's lifespan grow and wither without taking any action at all.
This is a hard one to grasp before fully grasping the concept of natural and directed thought. Being able to distinguish the two more readily probably improves this just by nature of knowing. At least for me, the determining between the natural and directed does not feel clear enough. Probably need to meditate more often and hang out in the mind's "chasing after meaning" less often.
This eased some of my previous agitation. Maybe it helps someone else similarly.
Thanks, @fleamarket, that has done me good. I’ve found that thinking on what is beneficial for oneself and for others is wholesome. Acting from impulse is often fraught with ill-will and other negative influences, and you have to be both calm and watchful.