This is part 2 of this thread, to read part 1 please see previous post.
– Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy.
When I read this part of the Third Mindfulness Training, I think to myself: What does appropriate mean? This is an important inquiry to investigate for our self. There is a good reason both the Five & the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings in the Plum Village tradition offer a limited description for each one. As practitioners, our focus is on developing an ever-deepening relationship with our own self. While it’s true that we as humans are interconnected and share many similarities in functioning and feeling, we are also each a little different too. We need to use our own intelligence, our own experiences, and our own levels of discernment in order to discover what works for us, as an individual, and what doesn’t. The reason the trainings don’t go into specific detail in regards to how to act most skillfully in our daily life is because there are a myriad of ways to do life. And in this context it means: there are a myriad of appropriate ways to take care of our sexual energy and we must discover what works for us – and also those around us – and what doesn’t.
We each have varying sex drives. So just because we’re in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean our sexual needs are being met and just because we’re single doesn’t mean we’re ticking sexual time bombs either. So learning how to take appropriate care of our sexual energy is something that impacts & effects all of us in different ways at different rates and at different times in our life. When we don’t know how to take appropriate care of our sexual energy, the chances of engaging in an act that is somewhere on the spectrum of sexual misconduct, increases subsantially in likelihood as a result.
I’ve been with my husband for over 20-years and I would say that our sex drives have spent a lot more time not being in sync then they have being in sync. Some of the appropriate ways that I work with my own sexual energy are by channeling it through: movement/exercise/dance; masturbation; the ongoing development of creative self-expressive outlets (spoken word/music/writing). Any kind of self-growth work or creative forms of self-expression will better assist us in taking good care of our sexual energy because our physical energy/mental energy/emotional energy/and our spiritual energy is not separate from our sexual energy. As humans, we cannot separate out our sexual energy from the whole of who we are. So anything we do that is: productive, constructive, nourishing, or joy-creating, can potentially be a skillful way for us to be channeling our sexual energy in healthy and supportive ways.
One of the most important – and often highly underestimated – facets of working with our sexual energy involves media. Not only is it important to investigate media as it might pertain to the stimulus we use for the purposes of masturbation but it’s equally important to keep a close eye on the more subtle forms of how we might be watering unskillful seeds in the sexual energy arena.
I realize this is a strong statement and one that might cause confusion or upset but in my view, rom coms can be just as detrimental as pornography can be, as both have the high potential to negatively skew our world view of reality and our views on love, romance, sex, and relationships in general. This isn’t me saying that all rom coms are bad or that all pornography is bad, simply that we need to really tune in to our media choices and habits in order to understand how they might be contributing to our propensity for our actions to lead to more suffering and shame vs. more liberation and contentment.
So when we’re watching whatever it is we’re watching, it’s extremely important to know what seeds we are watering by choosing to watch whatever shows/movies/clips we spend our time interacting with.
We can ask ourselves questions such as: Why am I watching this? How does watching this make me feel about myself during and after watching? How does this show/movie impact my thinking the next day?
Recently on Netflix, the banner at the top of my home page was advertising the TV show Friends, which aired from the mid-90’s to early 2000’s. And I used to love that show. I watched it all the time, including reruns of it after it was over. But when I went through a long period of media watching investigation for myself a few years back, I came to see how Friends was one of the most detrimental shows for me to watch. It made me feel insecure and crappy about my body image; it fueled negative and irrational thoughts about how my sexual and romantic relationships should be; and it propelled a number of damaging stereotypes and unrealistic life scenarios. Now again, I’m not saying Friends is a bad show. What I’m saying is that me watching Friends is a bad idea. It doesn’t work in the favor of my well-being for me to watch that show.
In order to work as skillfully as we can with our sexual energy, we must learn how to widen our perspective of it, so we can better navigate the more subtle forms of how it shows up. Because it’s the smaller things that can often lead to the bigger acts, over time. And I personally really relate with that – because from past experience from when I was younger, I know that if I watch programs now as an adult that slowly chisel and whittle away my self-esteem and make me feel subpar about my body image, I can easily see myself trying to drum up an attraction from another guy in order to bounce back my self-worth as a temporary fix. This is something that stays alive for me in regards to my own sexual energy because if I’m not careful, if I’m not attentive, I can see myself slipping back into my old habits and patterns, even though it was over 20-years ago. I feel confident in saying that had I not come to this practice tradition at a young age, in my early 20’s, I would not have been able to stay faithful in my marriage. So I actively practice to stay engaged with this part of myself in relation to my sexual energy.
It’s difficult to wrap this topic up, as there is so much more that can be covered. But I will end here by saying that this is our sangha’s first venture into really unpacking this mindfulness training and shining the light on sexual energy and I really appreciate everyone here helping to hold space for this process to take place and I think it’s important that we continue in this direction together as a community of practitioners.