We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep. ~ William James
When I wrote Sex and Sacred Intimacy, I was writing just beyond my comfort zone, leaning into the edge of an abyss. I realized that, in the past, all of my romantic endeavors, though reckless and whole-hearted on the surface, were tinged with fear.
It was a beautiful discovery, and a very difficult one to make, because it was crouched in the shadows of my ego.
Oftentimes breakthroughs are sweeping gestures. We get crushed and as we’re clambering to put ourselves together something clarifies within us. We surrender, out of necessity, as we’re brayed into powder.
What power had I before I learned to yield?
Shatter me great wind, I’ll overtake the field.
~ Richard Wilbur
This breakthrough was a little different.
When I met a woman who seemed like everything I’d been seeking in a partner, my standards began to raise with my calibration of consciousness, and it slowly became painfully obvious that there were parts of myself lagging behind. In truth, I would either need to fall back and join them, or drag them up out of the shadows and complicate my experience.
It wasn’t a difficult decision. I’d fallen back before. To even consider that path ached in my soul.
Tears flowed as I witnessed old, very old patterns, begin to dissolve.
Tears of gratitude flowed after the deluge, when I saw the rainbow and finally was able to celebrate and feel the thrill of the romantic love I’d been seeking.
It wasn’t easy. It tore up my life for a while, and I didn’t quite know how to be.
I almost pushed her away. We almost pushed each other away. Our ideas of love and romantic partnership were tested by fire.
But I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was growing and evolving; transforming. Even if I were mired on a deserted island, I think I would want to know that I was growing as a human being, shedding artifice and evolving as my fully expressed self.
What else is love anyway, but the full expression of what we are?
When I put my hand on my heart, I feel so much. Mine has been broken-open. Nothing is left but space to breathe and love. From that space, these lessons flowed…
6 things I Unlearned
1. I have a wealth of knowledge. In Love, I know nothing.
I’ve read thousands of books. I’ve seen the world. I’ve experienced both sides of so many dynamics in relationships that it makes me dizzy to consider. I’ve meditated on the nature of intimacy and human connection for decades. I’ve spent months in silence, fasting, prayer. All to finally come crashing up against the limits of human thought.
Any idea of “knowing” gets projected onto the other. What we think we know, we cannot see. In the Eastern tradition, this is equated to a cup being full; there is no space left to hold what shows up.
I want to become an empty vessel for her; for her tears, her heartache, her past, her future, her body, her mistakes, her adventures, her friends, her wounds, her empires, her stories.
A stunning constellation of stories.
I love and accept every facet of your being. And when surprises come (not if), there will always be space for those.
2. If she and I try to heal each other, we’ll break each others’ hearts.
Love heals. Perhaps it’s the only force that does.
Show up fully in the field of love, like the moon among stars, and let time heal. Entering the sacred dynamic of the romantic partnership with healing in mind only leads to suffering (oh how I’ve learned that).
When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Love fully, deeply, ferociously, and healing happens naturally. And if it doesn’t, love the wounds fully, deeply, ferociously.
I am not here to heal you, but to love you. And if my love heals you, so be it.
3. Just listen and be present. Understanding can happen later.
A woman is meant to be loved, not understood. ~ Osho
We are two unique selves merging in a moment which is networked in a series of moments that, for convenience, we’ve labeled “life”. Human connection is contingent on embodiment.
Just listen to her and viscerally feel her, I tell myself. This is intimacy. I’ve wasted so much time attempting to understand the subtle dynamics of thriving in love. Fully feeling is thriving in love, even when it hurts. From this place, we can’t betray ourselves, and romantic love either floods our experience or it doesn’t.
4. Learn your Voices (or they’ll unravel the whole thing…)
We are saturated in memories from the womb and beyond, into past lives. There are so many voices that have entered our skull, giving this or that advice. The echoes of these voices ring in our ears at the most inopportune moments. Eckhart Tolle calls this the Pain Body.
For instance, she’s out late, dancing into the evening with friends. The mind chatter swells:
She met another guy. They are making out. She’s probably happy to be away from me. She’s drunk and couldn’t help herself. She gets all done up for others and never for me. The new guy probably has more money than me. Or he’s more muscular. Maybe he has a nicer car.
Instead of reacting, “thank you for sharing” is all I say. I feel the sensations, I watch them pass, and I speak the words. Each time a physical sensation arises and we witness it without responding, we shed a karmic burden (Sankara), according to the most ancient teachings of the Buddha.
I named my mind chatter Fragonaard to increase the level of detachment and add a touch of comedy. (Fragonaard is a french painter, of no relation to my mind chatter… which I imagine, with some delight, as a little red demon).
She is probably having sex right now, Fragonaard snarls.
Thank you for sharing… I say.
Witnessing sensations as they arise and pass is the highest spiritual practice. Breath helps. These inner voices are just another sensation. Make each moment that they chime in a spiritual lesson. Every time we listen to our voices without drowning, they get softer.
5. Give her the Freedom to Become New
As we hold each other close, our bodies are dancing with the universe. By the time you finish reading this, approximately 50 million cells will have died and been reborn, and here are an estimated 100 trillion atoms in a single cell. So … if you can’t even touch the same person twice, what are you holding on to?
The next time I meet her, much of her body will be new, literally. New organs. New skin to graze. Am I gazing into new eyes; caressing a new breast?
I strive to show up as an empty space. Let her cells bloom and decay as the leaves change color and the sun sets. Her freedom to become whatever the moment desires is everything for our love. Thinking I know her freezes her in time, in the moment when I think I “discovered” her.
Make each moment a moment of discovery, I tell myself, and look on her body with awe and wonder every time she reveals it to you. This is the universe revealing herself to me.
In each moment, I will be present to her unfolding, by being present to my unfolding.
6. Take Responsibility for your Own Experience
Whatever experience I am creating in this moment, I am creating. If my lover is showing up as something painful, I have created that container and locked her into it. Not because I want it. Because I need it. My soul needs it.
Sometimes her pain body (I’ll call her Hello Kitty) gets activated and it wants to fight. Mine gets excited too. A worthy adversary! The ancient and antiquated version of the warrior archetype puffs up.
I can crush Hello Kitty! Fragonaard snaps. She’s not a worthy adversary!
To paraphrase Tony Robbins, Would you rather be right or in love?
But I don’t ever argue with Fragonaard. I just acknowledge him.
Thank you Fragonaard. I heard you.
Instead, I ask myself; Why do I need drama in this moment? She’s showing up this way because of something I’m putting out.
I am responsible for my own experience. I am so grateful that the universe responds so faithfully to my vibration. And I’ll keep an ever watchful eye on what flows through my mind and body.
I’ve skirted romantic disaster for as long as I can remember; moved through rings of broken bones and hearts; learned. You either become bitter or better. I decided on the latter.
I’ve learned to remain calm in the center of some bone shaking storms. We all attract lovers who become our teachers, delivering the critical lessons that we desperately need to know.
In retrospect, looking out over the ashes of everything I thought I knew, it could not have been more perfect.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Brenna Fischer / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo Credit: Pixoto