Karma-Free Sex.

Via on Feb 16, 2011



Sex. What a compelling topic!

As a spiritual teacher, whether I’m giving a lecture or leading a retreat, whenever the subject comes up, a very particular form of focused attention immediately takes over the room. Suddenly everyone is listening very closely, hanging on my every word! Why? Because everybody wants to know the secret. What secret? The secret to how to handle the sexual impulse—the wild beast of our evolutionary heritage that is alive and kicking within us all.

I always find this so ironic, because we’re supposed to be the most sexually liberated generation ever. Since the cultural revolution almost half a century ago, most of us have experienced unprecedented freedom in relation to our own sexuality. I know I did. It has been a sex-positive, go-for-it, don’t-worry-be-happy, if-it-feels-good-do-it world for all of postmodernity’s children. But what’s so ironic is that all the freedom and sex-positive morals haven’t, for the most part, made us much wiser as to how to handle the beast. Why is it that with more freedom to experiment and more actual experience we still tend to be so confused, insecure, and victimized when it comes to sexuality? Why is it that when the wild one awakens, so few of us are deeply trustworthy?

Oops! . . . I have to be careful here, or I’ll sound like a square. Sex, among the spiritual crowd, is definitely a sacred cow. If anyone dares to question whether sex is all it’s cracked up to be or to suggest that it may be dangerous and complex terrain to navigate, they are almost automatically labeled as being an unenlightened, sex-negative moralist. It’s almost like daring to question whether God exists when talking to a religious fundamentalist.

Well, I’m definitely not sex-negative—I’ve been happily married for more than twenty years. But as a spiritual teacher and cultural critic who looks deeply into the nature of the human experience with unwavering idealism and uncompromising realism, I can say one thing with enormous confidence: Few areas of life are more of a source of karma, confusion, and mistrust than sex. So whenever I hear ordinary people or spiritual authorities speak in a cavalier way about this most complex and confusing topic, it’s obvious to me that either they don’t know what they are talking about or they haven’t looked very deeply into their own experience or anyone else’s.

We can look at this subject in different ways. Habitually, we tend to look at sex from the inside, so to speak, to see it purely from the perspective of the subjective experience—biological, emotional, psychological, and spiritual—of the individual. To put it simply, we see it through the lens of how it makes us feel. But there’s another way to look at sex, which in postmodern culture is much less familiar: We can look at it from the outside, which means we look at the long- and short-term consequences of sexual engagement for real people, in real time.

What we will find, if we take this perspective, is that sexual pleasure, emotional intimacy, and spiritual thrills never come for free. Even as much as I, being a healthy, virile male, would like it to be otherwise, the simple truth is that if we’re not extremely careful about how we engage with the beast, we will probably create karma in the long run. No matter how much short-term happiness, pleasure, or freedom we may taste, when the fireworks are over, the complex realities of our emotional and psychological selves have to absorb the multidimensional consequences of sexual intimacy, both positive and negative.

The traditional definition of enlightenment means coming to the end of karma. I have always defined karma in a particular way, as the suffering we cause to self or other when we act out of ignorance or selfishness. Ideally, therefore, the enlightened individual would no longer be creating karma, and to not create karma in the sexual arena is nothing less than a supreme spiritual attainment in our day and age!

As a teacher, I’ve always preferred to look at this particular subject from the outside. If we have spiritual aspirations, if our goal is enlightenment—emotional, psychological, and spiritual freedom—we have to look beyond the immediate promise of thrills, ecstasy, and intimacy.

Once again, don’t get me wrong. I think sex is wonderful. I love to awaken the wild one within. I just don’t want to get burned by it, and neither do I want anyone else to. I have high ideals—I want sex to be karma-free. I want its ecstasy to be experienced in a way that strengthens rather than weakens our fundamental confidence and trust in life itself. Deep and profound trust between human beings, especially now, is nothing less than sacred. In fact, I believe it’s the currency that a truly spiritual life depends on. For God—or whatever name we use to define that which is most sacred—to enter into this world through us, we must learn how to be deeply trustworthy. And in order to do that, it’s important that our experience of sex is karma-free.

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Andrew Cohen is a spiritual teacher and founder of the award-winning EnlightenNext magazine. Click to learn more about his new book Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening.

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About Andrew Cohen

Andrew Cohen is an American spiritual teacher and visionary thinker widely recognized for his original contribution to the emerging field of evolutionary spirituality. Through his talks, retreats, publications, and ongoing dialogues with the leading philosophers, mystics, and activists of our time, he is becoming a defining voice in an international alliance of individuals and organizations that are committed to the transformation of human consciousness and culture. The founder and editor in chief of the international, award-winning EnlightenNext magazine, formerly What Is Enlightenment?, Cohen is dedicated to creating “nothing less than a revolution in consciousness and culture.” Since 1991, Cohen and his small team of editors have met with mystics and materialists, physicists and philosophers, activists and athletes in an effort to create a popular forum for dialogue and inquiry regarding the meaning of human life in the postmodern era. You can follow him on his Facebook page. Download a free chapter of Andrew's book, Evolutionary Enlightenment, by clicking here. You can also join him for a series of free monthly broadcasts by registering here.

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6 Responses to “Karma-Free Sex.”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by anniegirl1138, Megan Cater. Megan Cater said: I'm currently reading http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/02/karma-free-sex/ [...]

  2. Carol says:

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  3. [...] a result of the emotional side-effects that sex has, I’ve come to know many people who don’t even attempt such levels of connectedness with anyone [...]

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  5. [...] finally, the other night, after clicking on an Elephant Journal article entitled “Karma Free Sex.” I learned that there is strong controversy in the Integral community around the piece’s [...]

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