I recently learned that the transformation of the caterpillar to a butterfly isn’t just about the effort of spinning their cocoon. Once inside, the caterpillar literally liquefies in its metamorphosis to its adult form as a butterfly, which, while short lived, optimizes the astonishing feat of beauty and freedom that most all living creatures aspire towards. In humans, I would argue based on recent life events, the transformation to our fully free and beautiful selves is no less epic. Yet, instead of spinning a cocoon of silk, we transform through forgiveness, through our courage to feel and dismantle the stories that have defined us and remarkably re-make our cellular memory.
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Sexual dissatisfaction is one of the top reasons cited when we leave our relationships. It is also one of this life’s most worthy challenges to take on- not only for the meaning and pleasure it can bring to our relationships, but also for the very real health benefits that a satisfying sex life bestows on our wellbeing. I also believe that learning how to satisfy our sex drive and grow our comfort with our erotic selves is a window, which reveals our deepest humanity. It is no surprise that a massive consumer market designed to offer a quick fix for our sexual desires has ballooned into a billion dollar industry. But despite the millions of options available, there is no magic pill (even those that manage to sustain erections), toy or DVD of new sexual techniques that is going to bring you the kind of passionate intimate connection that we all long for. There are however, some pretty straightforward shifts in focus and attention that will lead you towards more satisfying sexual experiences and a comfort with who you are as an erotic human being. Here are a few ideas which are not listed in order of potency and even if you only try one at a time, take note on how your intimate life responds.
“Conservatives say teaching sex education in the public schools will promote promiscuity. With our education system? If we promote promiscuity the same way we promote math or science, they’ve got nothing to worry about.” ~Beverly Mickins
Most of what matters and gets better in life happens through education; yet remarkably, when it comes to sex, many people were not only deprived of sexual education in their youth, but have carried the ignorance is bliss thing way too long into adulthood. In fact, when it comes to cultivating and sustaining an erotic life, persisting in not knowing may well be the kiss of death. Usually what we don’t know about is shrouded with our fear, which can easily turn sexual encounters into regretful decisions with risky consequences. Consequently, three of the most powerful predictors of an evolving and passionate erotic life include cultivating a natural curiosity about your sexual self, opening up to the vast expanse of sexual experiences that live inside of you and discerning true sex education from sexual entertainment.
Sexual freedom is on the rise. Just this past week, several notable Republican law makers came out in favor of the right for marriage equality regardless of gender preferences. The interesting thing about change is how after it is done, we can hardly remember how it was before. Before long, coming out will no longer refer to gender orientation and who we have sex with. According to a recent article reported in the NY Times, ‘coming out’ will increasingly be about how people choose to have sex. Thanks in part to the 65 million copies of Fifty Shades of Grey in circulation, practitioners of kinky sex are now coming out and their numbers are multiplying fast. Fetlife, a website catering to kinky persuasion has added 700,000 new members this year bringing their total membership to over 1.7 million.
One of my husband’s most reliable responses to my often high level of emotionality is: “Can you just be neutral?” He is a psychiatrist, so he has a lot more practice at finding a neutral objective view. Yet, even before we each chose our respective professions, he would often find his way back to center with more ease than I. Over the years, as I have learned to lean towards this middle space of witnessing reality without the storm of emotions that literally cloud my view, I have witnessed how my relationship has grown up to not only withstand conflicts, but has given each of us the room to really listen to opposing points of view. Actively seeking a neutral perspective moves relating beyond the knee jerk reactions of right and wrong and adds real time to the challenging exchanges that make or break a relationship.
Most people would probably agree that if all they needed to remember about giving and receiving love, they learned in kindergarten, they might also add the caveat that most of what they need to forget is what they learned in high school. I have noticed in my dealings with the many teenagers that I find myself around lately, through the Positivity Club I helped launch in our local high school, as well as the strained relating with my own teens, that there are a few consistent behaviors that disrupt relationships and impede emotional development that are worth forgetting. In the Valentine’s Day spirit of opening up to all the love that surrounds us, here is a short list of useless habits of the heart that will only enhance your feelings of being loveable by letting them go.
It is an odd and painful irony that often just as things are really coming together successfully in life, we often lose touch with the love that had inspired us to get there. We expect just the opposite. In our longings for whatever we aspire to, we believe wholeheartedly that achieving our dreams and succeeding in our plans will bring us only happiness. The reality is just the opposite. More often than not, great success and windfall opportunity doesn’t connect us more deeply to what we love doing or the people we love. Rather, it increases our stress levels and turns our heartfelt work into a need to prove something or, worse still, a fear of failure.
“One day a monk spoke bitterly to the Buddha. All he wanted to talk about was the unbearable sorrows of the world. The Buddha remained silent while the monk talked, then a faint smile appeared on his face. He pointed to the ground below his feet and said,“On this earth I have attained awakening.” -Buddhist Mondo
It is easy to become bitter by the weight of so much unresolved sorrow in life. I feel my heart get hard and my attitude towards life turn sour sometimes when I spend too long scanning the newspaper or fixating on the CNN newscasts while at the gym. Bad news travels faster than ever and the continuous in-your-face coverage of the unceasing violence from seemingly endless human conflict and its destructive aftermath can overwhelm me to the point of withdrawal, or worse still, indifference. But my indifference doesn’t stick; over and over I am pulled back into the stories of suffering from around the world with an earnest desire to know what is happening and to find my way into being part of the solution. I know that I am not alone, struggling to find center in this pendulum swing in my relationship to suffering.
“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” -Fyodor Dostoevsky
As I read the caption “disgraced” under Lance Armstrong’s photo documenting the interview of him finally admitting to drug use throughout his notorious cycling career, I wondered if he would walk away finally relieved of the enormous burden of his deceit or in the planning stages of his next role as the repentant star. Now, after 13 years of denials and false accusations, there is no simple truth that he can share that will reckon the years of aggressive manipulation of the truth in which a single lie became an extravagant lifestyle that he forced onto everyone and everything he touched. Apologies at this late juncture feel puny and almost like adding insult to injury. What we want instead when people are finally willing to speak the truth is a true reflection on the whys; a window into the slippery slope of lies that consume us whole.
The new year is a good time to re-orient our experience of pleasure. It is easy to confuse the continuous onslaught of instant gratification that our culture gorges on with the deep healing experience of pleasure. Here are a couple of guideposts to help distinguish and navigate oneself towards the healing experience of real pleasure. True pleasure does not cause harm. True pleasure resets the chemical balances in the brain and body towards centered-ness. True pleasure heals the past in the present, releasing us into a new way of seeing ourselves and the potential in our lives.