Sex and Meditation
When I first started meditating, I never thought that sex was going to play such an important role in my practice. Surprisingly, the sexual impulse has been the most powerful catalyst in helping me to see through the veil of the mind and establish a rich meditation practice.
Indeed, there is new research emerging that draws compelling corollaries between certain neurological states catalyzed by both sex and different meditative practices. However, what I discovered about sex and meditation tracks a different terrain–one related to the subtle business of spiritual breakthroughs.
So how did this happen? First, a little backstory…
I started to meditate in college in 1995, after a powerful spiritual experience changed my life. It was an event that changed me over night. Something inside of me exploded, like a dam giving way. I was filled with ecstasy and joy and a burning sense of purpose and direction. Suddenly, I knew at my core that life was good beyond my wildest imagination. And I knew that goodness was the force of Life, animating my very own awareness.
After a few months, this experience of cosmic consciousness started to wear off. I embraced the practice of meditation to try and understand and maintain access to the part of me I had discovered through this awakening experience.
Falling Asleep Again
Now fast forward. It’s ten years later—2006. I’m still meditating. I have a spiritual teacher and live in a residential ashram. On any given day, we are performing a minimum of three hours of practice, meditating, chanting, prostrating.
But by now something has changed. I am constantly struggling to stay awake in meditation and have been for years. The connection I had to that original spiritual impulse seemed like a faint memory. I am committed, I am diligent, but I had lost sight of the goal and the living connection to that deeper part of myself I had found ten years before.
Soon I would find out that there was more going on than meets the eye. My struggle with sleep was a symptom of something deeper. I was avoiding something big, and I didn’t know it yet.
Struggling with Development
Then one day I am in my apartment struggling to meditate. My partner is coming from abroad to visit the ashram in a few weeks. However, the context for her trip isn’t about seeing me.
We lived under the guidance of an austere teacher, who was very serious about our mission. Our romantic partnerships were secondary, at best, to our spiritual development. Naturally, we all struggled at different times and resisted the relentless demands of our spiritual lives. My girlfriend had been struggling for a while and was coming over to spend time at the ashram to focus on taking a leap forward in her development. It was definitely not a conjugal visit.
So I am sitting there worrying and filled with questions about when she should arrive, will she be able to stay with me, how will I broach these questions with my teacher? My mind is consumed in the details and I feel divided, confused, and anxious.
Breakthrough: Understanding the Sexual Impulse
At that moment I just stopped and recognized the absurdity of the moment. I asked myself, “What does any of this have to do with being free? What does it have to do with meditation?”
BANG! The question must have come from a deep place, because suddenly another dam broke inside of me. All the worry and concern melted, and I saw that something else was going on.
All the anxiety and stress was about only one thing. The sexual impulse. I wanted to have sex. Of course, that totally makes sense—I hadn’t seen my partner in months. But I didn’t realize how that urgency to have sex was coloring everything and driving me to dwell on these questions.
Suddenly, all of those worries resolved into a single point in my awareness, and I saw the power and impersonality of the sexual force.
As a “spiritual person” I didn’t tend to think of myself as lustful or consumed with sex. But this moment showed me something different. As human beings, we are biologically programmed to fulfill the procreative impulse, just like every other living creature. It’s one of the the most powerful and persuasive forces in the cosmos. And now, I was seeing how my very personality and sense of self shifted in relation to that principle. When I was unconscious, my priorities became the priorities of that impulse.
But at this moment, when I wanted freedom more than anything, that universal sexual impulse was clear as day. Somehow, in the seeing, I was free from it.
The Day That God Trumped Sex
Now please don’t misunderstand me. I am totally human, and I love sex. But that’s not the point here. I’m not saying sex is good, bad, or neutral. What I discovered is how sex is one of the deepest motivations in a human being, and consequently, it can distort your perspective if you aren’t self-aware. If you aren’t clear how it moves and motivates you, it’s easy to act on that impulse in gross and subtle ways without even knowing it. Monks and nuns who practice celibacy understand this principle all too well.
All this became clear in a flash that day, and I just sat there, in awe of the clarity and ease of being that washed over me. For the first time in years, I sat there in a state of total contentment, falling deeper and deeper into meditation.
After that day, my practice changed, and I rarely struggled with falling asleep. When I stopped avoiding this part of myself, everything opened up and a new world revealed itself to me. Now, I think of that experience as the day when spirit became more important to me than sex.