Sex, Yoga & Spirituality

PC: Energy is Everything

I woke up this morning thinking about sex. Er.. ok let me rephrase that.. I woke up at 4 and then after my 2 hour practice, chanting, japa, meditation, etc, I got to thinking about sex. I got to thinking about sex in a very objective way (with some subjective inputs, of course) but I started off with a few questions that I have asked myself and friends before and have very compelling answers (again, subjective input).. 🙂 but this is what I started with:

  1. Does one have to be naked to have sex? Can fully clothed sex – yes, your underwear comes off for this question – but can fully clothed sex be equally powerful?
  2. Have you experienced the mindblowing experience of a non penetrative orgasm? (not referring to manual or oral or any kind of mechanical stimulation)

As an anatomy educator and a yoga practitioner/teacher, I have explored this area in many ways – physically, and intellectually and also looked at the philosophical / spiritual dimensions of how this is approached.

Firstly, my answers to the questions above:

Ans 1. No, one does not have to strip completely for powerful and pleasurable sex. Some of the most intimately profound experiences can be had in most used and greyed out cotton nightgowns or sleep T-shirts

Ans 2. Yes!

So, this isn’t a post on my personal experiences (haha!) but a sharing of thoughts that arose this morning on the importance of the aspect of sex & sexuality in spirituality.

I’ll start with the second point of discussion – the non penetrative orgasm. There is a common myth that sexual stimulation needs an object as a precursor – someone we have a crush on, porn, our own long term partners/spouse, etc. to possibly even think about and then get on with the motions. The next part would be either engaging in the act with them or by yourself – regardless of foreplay…. until the goal of the activity, the big O is achieved – either simultaneously (if with partners), or at different times, or sometimes even not. (btw, an orgasm isn’t the end goal of great sex!)

The actual sensation of an orgasm is a deeply psychosomatoneurological response that cannot really be explained in words. although there are a number of physiological responses that show up.

In spiritual context, however, an orgasm is often likened very closely to the bliss and ananda of merging with the supreme consciousness, brahman – that experience of union when nothing else exists but for a sense of completion or purnatva – realised after coming out of it.

Some years ago, while exploring this idea, I had stumbled upon the practice of sexual awareness to the point of coordinating the breath of partners while making love. Interestingly, even if one partner would attempt to match their breath with the other’s, the experience was significantly more intimate and powerful. Ask me, I know. So, the coordinated breath along with all the other motions of sexual intimacy (communication, consideration, care and presence, etc) all allowed for a state of uniformity and synchronous movement of mind, body & breath – and a very closely matching state of consciousness. I didn’t keep track, but I would say the orgasm was usually deeply powerful and simultaneous and embodied a tremendously euphoric psychospiritual response.

In later years, I worked with this idea of breath with and without any objects of stimulation – with meaning, a mental image or an incident or a conducive mental environment; without meaning purely focusing on my own breath directed towards my body. Guess what? It was possible to replicate the same sensation! Not just once, many times over the years. No partner required! (erm.. no hands or external devices required either!)

I’ll let you do your own further research on that science …. and I’ll circle back to the spirituality of sex that I was thinking of today.

So, an orgasm is likened very closely to the feeling of completeness as in merging with Brahman. It is also a sense of union of two bodies (let’s stick to two for the sake of simplicity for now) – bodies that have a mind and sense of spirit too. The ‘sexual act’. then, becomes a deeply spiritual one – almost an act of worship – and not just one of carnal desire. It is the union of two bodies, minds and souls – the partners being the medium for each other to experience that blissful glimpse towards a deeper spiritual pursuit. The physical bodies and their actions stimulating, nudging and encouraging each other towards that experience.

Sexual intimacy, thus, becomes a sacred act of worshipping the Divine through out bodies and not an act to be taken lightly.

Orgasmic pleasure, however, can be very ‘addictive’, for lack of a better word, because it is a momentary glimpse into the purnatva (completeness) that we seek in moksha. Anything less than a feeling of wholeness may disturb us and an orgasm gives us that momentary satisfaction. However, this desire may lead some individuals to an addiction to sexual activity that may not always be available through one partner and may lead to sexual promiscuity.

Sexual experience is often said to leave an energetic imprint on sexual partners. Multiple partners, may dissipate the energy further – especially when emotional intimacy is lacking in the act. The search for spiritual compatibility / partnership / companionship may be missing completely from the encounters leaving behind a deeper sense of desolation and incompleteness…. opening the doors for a vicious cycle of sexual addiction and multiple partners in the search for completeness.

This spiritual idea has often been presented as a moralistic and virtue signalling calling for monogamy with the spiritual pleasure of sex subsequently devolving into to a mere perfunctory act – at best to procreate, at worst to violate, dominate and control another body.

The human condition, then, is still yearning for deeper answers. (psst – yes, the answers lie beyond our genitalia!) They may not always be in sex, for the pursuit of moksha, liberation, is one that we are all in for, even if we’re unaware of it. (Think of the number of times we’ve said that we wished all this pain & suffering we gone! Yes, moksha)

Shastras understood this. The Kama Sutra is not just a compendium of sexual positions. It is a scripture on the erotic arts! A scripture expounding the means for people to explore liberation through their sexual senses and organs – sexual stimulation being one of the strongest. Sexual partners were lovers who cared for each other so deeply that the entire courtship, foreplay, intercourse, ensuing pleasure and culminating experience of orgasm is a journey for them to explore together.

Further, think of the spiritual energy that we refer to the kundalini shakti, that we understand to be dormant in the mooladhara chakra – the root chakra – the point that can be stimulated easily enough in the female anatomy. The male body requires a knowledgeable approach to access the mooladhara. There is a reason why the Kama sutra gives the various positions. I believe it is a way to get the partners to help each other in raising the energy from the mooladhara through the anahata (heart chakra) and towards the sensation of a higher chakra / energetic experience (a.k.a. the Big O)

In fact, even Adi Shankara, after winning his debate with Mandana Misra, was left without answers to the quesions posed by Mandana Misra’s wife, Ubhaya Bharati, on the erotic arts and sciences! Knowing this to be an area that needed experiential response, Shankaracharya used siddhis to learn, comprehend & understand these and came back to her with answers that sealed his victory in the debate and also established the path towards spiritual knowledge, jnana, through overcoming the passion & lust. (You can Google for the complete story)

I didn’t have any objective for this post. It was just a putting out there of the thought process and multiple ideas that surfaced on the topic that usually gets a lot of eyeballs because it is the very starting point of our existence. Rational debunking of shastra at this point is not invited – simply because the study of shastras cannot be contemplated by a rational mind. It just is. The texts usually are highly poetic & symbolic with a style rich in metaphors and literal translations often lead to misinterpretation and an ignorant / unproductive debate that I will not engage in currently. I am talking about sex, which is much more interesting.

Hope you enjoyed a moment with the thoughts that go on in my head on random days. I just felt that this one needed some documentation even if it is just for me to revisit sometime in the future.

So…. let me know what you think! Open to comments, ideas, thoughts….

Strictly No Propositioning.

Yoga: To Judge or Not

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This morning, I came across a Facebook post from my friend, Kaya Mindlin. She was sharing her thoughts on how some spiritual teachers would suggest that “for the sake of spirituality, you must put your logical mind to rest” and in the process set the stage for bypassing and even inviting guilt for using logic and reasoning in an instance.

This was an intellectual thread and it was quite interesting to note that it was common for many yoga teachers to ask this of their students.

What I’ve observed is that many, if not most, yoga teachers today knowingly or unwittingly assume a place of spiritual high-ground. There is an assumption that if one is a ‘yoga’ teacher, then they have immediately received some spiritual secrets of life that are universal truths (along with their YTT200 certificate maybe). An assumption like that often, in my very humble (yet blunt) opinion, brinks either on stupidity or more seriously, on a lot of potential harm and danger.

This was my comment on Kaya’s thread:

Humans are gifted in that that have a mind that thinks like animals and also possesses the ability to discern with multiple facets – logically, intuitively (although this isn’t necessarily logical) and by taking into account sensations, feelings and emotions. All this is logic- and body/ personality-based judgment and subjective. The objective way is to go beyond these ‘personal’ and objectively look at it as the bigger picture – that takes the discernment to a Manasic level(higher order thinking) & tapping into inherent wisdom. Teachers who use spiritual cliches are usually unprepared to answer their students questions and end up making such statements as a way to shut them down using scriptural verses/ thought as a crutch. Viveka, vichara and dharma are all a part of human endeavor.

Our strength as human beings is our ability to sense, feel and emote and to make enough sense of it to express. However, our sensations, feelings & emotions are all subjective to our own experiences. In other words, they are purely based on the individual perceptions of our personality… and our ego. Ego here, referring to our individual self and not the attitude thereof. The experience is largely ‘I ‘based because it happened to ‘me‘. This experience also doesn’t hold true for everyone else and hence remains to be a subjective one and arising largely from the physiological & psychosomatic response to situations.

These responses and experiences are body-based and allow us to choose based on what our physical body, and our mind, wants, likes and desires because it feels good and nourishing. This is important. This is also discernment at a basic, personal level. This is where we use our ability to think and assess what is beneficial and what isn’t as it applies to us / our individual self and to some extent taps into our next level consciousness to include our immediate close ones (family & maybe very close friends). Everything is subjective. It is in this state when one doesn’t overly bother about the community or state or country because they align themselves with choices, policies, actions, etc that are beneficial to them and them alone.

Very subjective and rooted in the ‘Me, Myself & I

However, humans are higher order thinking beings – gifted not just with an intellect, but also with a higher sense of spiritual understanding and evolving wisdom. We have the ability to not just be stuck in the ‘me, myself & I‘ but also to move to a consciousness rooted in the ‘We, Ourselves & Us‘. It is, essentially, the philosophical path of righteous action – dharma – based on our elevated consciousness. It is an action based on an elevated level of consciousness when we can see the bigger picture of the series of incidents and situations and understand the larger perspective – the manasic perspective.

It is stepping out of the well and understanding that there is a whole world beyond it! It is important, though, to recognize that the process does not mean discounting or dismissing the subjective sensations, feelings and emotions, but acknowledging them as a part of the personality. Allowing ourselves to acknowledge the physical experience and emotional washing over and still be able to hold ourselves accountable to look beyond that subjective experience.

This is easier said that done.

But there in lies the work of the disciple, philosopher, aspirant and yogi. That is the austere work of our path to freedom and yoga – our tapas.

Many spiritual ‘teachers‘ – the ones who may have gathered various concepts from diverse self-help or healing modalities and traditions but lack a solid grounding on the existential philosophy and deeper meaning and wisdom of scriptures or even philosophy, often have a collection of quotes & cliches to offer their followers & students. The harm here is that the confusion the students may feel would be met by the poorly prepared teacher who offers a cliched statement as a bandaid instead…. only to either invalidate the student’s experience and natural questioning or dismiss it has being judgmental of yoga and yogic practices.

The risk is in assuming that everything about yoga, philosophy and the scriptures in abstract. To some extent it is – for that matter even science, to some extent begins with abstract assumptions and hypotheses (until proven). But using a partially understood abstract to shut away questions that students may have and by asking them to pause their thinking mind or be less judgmental and ‘go beyond‘ it is a ripe setting for physical, physiological, emotional, spiritual, mental and psychological trauma and harm. Not to forget, making a case for guilt.

At the end of it all, if the teacher is unable to connect the principle of ‘going beyond’ judgment to explain where exactly he/she is asking you to go to, it is just plain old spiritual bypassing. It is worth remembering that this ‘going beyond‘ will involve work, determination, commitment and a bit of sacrifice as it would mean letting go of the stronghold many of us have with our subjective feelings, emotions & sensations.