In the Third Mindfulness Training on True Love, the words sexual misconduct are used. When it comes to working with our sexual energy and/or considering alternate ways to date and be sexually active without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends, it’s important to unpack what sexual misconduct means. From my point of view, while the training warns against us engaging in sexual relations without being in a mutually committed and love-filled relationship, I think there are ways that it can be done – though I also think it’s far more likely that more harm than good will be done, as most people aren’t on the same page when they enter into a sexual relationship and much flies under the radar and goes unspoken.
On dictionary.com, misconduct is defined as: improper conduct; wrong behavior. Well that doesn’t help very much does it? As soon as I read that definition, I thought: Improper by whose standards? and Wrong by whose moral compass? These are very relative and subjective words. When I looked up the word improper, I scrolled down the page and found this sentence:
Improper has a wide range (of synonyms), being applied to whatever is not suitable or fitting, and often specifically to what does not conform to the standards of conventional morality.
So, let’s say we define misconduct as an act which does not conform to the standards of conventional morality. It’s a little more to go off of but I’m thinking this still doesn’t help us very much.
Perhaps it would behoove us to simply come up with our own individual working definition of what misconduct means instead. I think this could be a good place to start for those of us who are interested in delving into this subject more in our own daily lives, as mindfulness practitioners. I think the chances are good that we’ve all had experiences that have shown us what doesn’t work for us on our end. If we were to put some intentional time into coming up with a list of actions that we ourselves consider to be sexual misconduct, it might start angling us in the direction of thinking, speaking, and acting with more awareness and skillfulness, as we’ve moved a critical component of working with sexual energy from the subconscious to the conscious mind. Recognition is always the first – and in my opinion the most important – step in transformation.
As a married woman, I might define sexual misconduct as any act that I feel the need to either hide, keep secret, or lie about to my husband. If I were single, perhaps I would define sexual misconduct as any act motivated by desire-filled impulsivity or a heightened sense of grasping. And if I were someone who was both single and drank alcohol, I would further include that any sexual act fueled by alcohol constituted as sexual misconduct as well.
I see the wisdom of enfolding the energy of True Love into the realm of working with sexual energy. If we solely used the guidepost of True Love to dictate our usage of sexual energy and actions in regards to having sex, we would save ourselves and others from a lot of heartache and hardship. But in being acquainted with a lot of folks on the single-scene and seeing how difficult it is to find True Love, I do think it’s worth investigating other ways to work with this Mindfulness Training that might be more fitting to one’s current reality. I think it’s important that we not get stuck in extremes when it comes to anything.
If we’re single and having a hard time meeting someone we feel compatible with and we’re also experiencing the effects of our sex drives amping up – or we’re in a committed relationship and our partner’s sex drive is currently in low-gear and ours is on high, which is a thing that happens – how do we practice learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy, as the Third Mindfulness training says?
Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others.
As mentioned above, I think moving the realm of our sexual energy from the subconscious to the conscious mind is where we would do well to start. So much of what we are propelled to do in the sexual arena is operating under the surface of our awareness. Oftentimes, the outlets of our sexual energy are something we are compelled to engage in based on our habit energies. When it comes to sex and working with our sexual energy, we are typically operating on a reaction pattern and not from a place of having an actively engaged response. Reactions happen with little to no thought involved, they unfold quickly based on past experiences, whereas responses require the spaciousness of engaged conscious consideration.
The old adage of Think before you speak comes to mind. Perhaps we can tweak it a bit for our purposes here and say Think before you leap into bed with someone or Think before you act on a sexual impulse. And an important insertion here would be to not just apply any ol’ type of thinking, but to apply Right Thinking. This is an important distinction to make because there is a way to think and still have our actions not be in alignment with proper awareness, understanding, and skillfulness. Someone could easily think they’re thinking when really they’re not.
For example, a gal could be all like: I’m totally cool with sleeping with this guy even though we don’t really know each other very well, he’s into me and I’m into him and it’s just sex, no big deal when really this is just a surface thought and she knows deep down that she’s been in this situation before and it did not turn out well. Had she applied Right Thought prior to sleeping with said guy, she would’ve seen clearly that while there’s part of her that would really like to be the kind of girl who can have sex without love and have it be no big deal, she’s not that kind of girl and the result has always been misery and regret afterwards, every time she’s tried.
Right thinking is crucial when it comes to operating in regards to sexual energy. It’s really REALLY easy to tell ourselves a bunch of crap when it comes to rationalizing our sexual behaviors. Even if we feel we have a highly tuned BS meter when it comes to encountering other people or while reading or watching the news, most of us have a terribly broken and dusty BS meter when it comes to dealing with our own story lines and inner thought patterns.
In our tradition we have two sets of Mindfulness Trainings: the Five and the Fourteen. In the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, True Love is number fourteen and includes this line, which isn’t in the Five Mindfulness Training version of True Love:
We must be aware of future suffering that may be caused by sexual relations.
I think this is a really powerful inclusion to this training. If we were to apply Right Thinking in the direction of possible future suffering and harm that may be generated as a result of our actions (to both ourselves and others), I reckon we would avoid all of the sexually related missteps we tend to make.
So often we are unable to extend our thought process towards the effects our actions have on both ourselves and those around us. I’ve been recently investigating for myself – and writing on this blog – about the difference between intention and impact. When I apply this dynamic to working with sexual energy, an example could be that let’s say a man and woman are in a committed relationship and the woman decides to have an affair with another man. It’s highly likely that the woman had no intention of hurting her partner. Maybe she was lonely and felt neglected and having lacked the proper tools to engage in open and honest dialog with her partner, acted from a place of desperation on an impulse. (This isn’t a way of excusing her behavior, mind you, I’m simply trying to flesh out the possible causes and paint a fuller picture.) Her intention was certainly not to cause harm. Then let’s say she either fessed up and told her partner about her misdeed or he found out on his own, and the impact of her infidelity was that he felt extremely hurt. It doesn’t matter that her intention wasn’t to cause harm, harm was generated as a result of her actions. If after her partner found out about her affair she said: I never meant to hurt you, would this be of any value or help to the guy? I think not. In fact, it would probably feel dismissive and invalidating of his feelings. He might even take offense to her having said that. Her saying I never meant to hurt you has way more to do with her trying to ease her own guilt and shame then it does with trying to truly connect with the pain she caused to her partner.
Collectively, we are not very engaged with the impact we have on others. We pull hard towards being incredibly self-absorbed and tuned out to our connected nature of interbeing. Especially in the west, we value: separateness over togetherness, independence over interdependence, and self over others. This level of separation has damaging consequences that range from mild to severe. Dismantling our view that we are separate from one another is perhaps the most powerful work we can engage and invest ourselves in.
But how do we do this? What are the practices we can do and the tools we can make use of in order to truly understand, experience, and actualize our interbeing nature?
Ah yes, I think a part 3 post is in order. Stay tuned.