Sex Is Great...and Yet It's Not All It's Cracked Up to Be
Q: Yesterday I had a beautiful meditation in which just about everything was left to my awareness and then I began to notice sexual energy arising. This has happened in my last couple of meditations but has never really happened in this way before, and usually there is no sexual thought or feeling at all during my meditation. It felt mostly like this was not a sexual energy to act upon through usual means. It was almost as if the energy was occupying non-sexual parts of my body such as my hands, arms and legs, but it also felt like something should be done with it (though not the usual actions). Various muscles in these parts were also twitching a bit, especially in my hands.
My understanding of myself is that I generally have less sexual impulses and more sexual control relative to most people, though I am a human and certainly have sexual desires that I like to exhaust when the appropriate opportunities arise. I am wondering what this experience might be indicating and what might be a path to follow toward properly dealing with it or accepting it. I did a few web searches and came across a lot of discussion of kundalini and tantric teachings that seemed somewhat relevant, but often didn’t seem as practical as your writing. I read your posting “Letting Sexual Energy Be Bigger than Your Body”, which also seemed somewhat relevant, but I feel like something more was going on than just strong sexual desires wanting to be exhausted through usual sexual means.
In my web searches, some of the language described sexual desire as one of the major obstacles toward awakening. Should I be ridding myself of or letting go of all sexual desire? Is that something that is actually possible given human nature? If it is possible, I feel like I would be happy to achieve it as I can see how sexual desire does lead to suffering, although this seems like it would be a gargantuan task. Was the fact that these feelings were in other non-sexual parts of my body an indication of some type of harnessing of sexual energy that can somehow be useful toward my awakening?
A: First of all, the energy experiences you are describing are very normal and typical. It is a natural and common experience as our awareness opens up to have unusual and strong energies appear in our body. And there is no need to determine if it is "sexual" energy or some other energy, as there is not really a difference. We are used to describing energy in our sexual organs as sexual energy simply because sexual activity often follows when energy is localized there. But the same energy in your hands or limbs may or may not be associated with sexuality, mostly depending on your expectations and how you describe the experience. If you tell a sexual story about the energy, then it will probably feel that way, and may also then move more into your sexual centers. If you describe it as kundalini or some kind of spiritual energy, then it will seem to be more spiritual in its nature. The meaning of the energy is the meaning you give it.
While you can explore this energy from a tantric perspective (I would recommend Margo Anand's book The Art of Sexual Ecstasy: The Path of Sacred Sexuality for Western Lovers as a starting place that speaks about this in a way accessible to Westerners), there is a simpler approach that works very well. You can just let the energy do whatever it does, and let go of managing it in any way. There is a divine intelligence in this energy that knows what it is doing, and so you can let it unfold without any effort on your part. You do not need to figure it out, increase it, decrease it, hold onto it, get rid of it or worry if it gets stronger or goes away completely. The energy itself will unfold in the most healthy and beneficial way if you just allow it completely. The most helpful perspective is to simply trust that it really is all unfolding just as it should, and so you can be curious about and open to whatever happens next. In this context, letting the energy be bigger than your body can relieve the pressure to act, so that you can more fully allow it to unfold organically. Your only job then is to be very attentive to what happens each moment. And if there is some way in which this energy relates to or can serve your awakening, it will be revealed by simply being curious about it.
As to your questions about the place sexuality has overall in your spiritual unfoldment, I would suggest that it is a natural and normal part of the human experience, but that it is not ultimately that important in relation to realizing our deeper nature as Essence or Being. In some ways, having a body is like having a wild animal as a pet. Ideally if you have a wild animal as a pet, you would do everything you could to allow the wild animal to sometimes be very wild, while at the same time you would create appropriate limits on when and where it could express its wild nature. So you might give it a large enclosure to roam around in, but you also might not choose to let it roam around your entire neighborhood when it might end up eating your neighbors pets!
Similarly, a balanced perspective on your sexuality recognizes that it is a natural and healthy expression of the "animal" part of your Being, and so includes finding appropriate ways to express it. You can just reflect on the results in history when spiritual groups try to repress or deny sexuality (i.e. the catholic priesthood) to realize that it does not work to deny that part of our nature. However, sexuality is a very strong force and so there is also a wisdom in finding limits to its expression, just like you might want a strong fence around your pet mountain lion! These limits are both practical (they can keep you out of prison!) and also the limits can help direct your exploration of your life experience to include the deeper realities of your Essence or true nature. The bigger question is always, "Are you in touch with Essence in this moment, whether you are being sexual or not?" A simple illustration of this is how purely sexual experience that is not connected to love and tenderness is ultimately not that satisfying, wheras an experience of tender loving connectedness is deeply satisfying even when it is not at all sexual. This is what shows us the relative importance of these different elements of our nature.
Sexuality in itself is not an obstacle to awakening, but a strong attachment or even addiction to sex can be an obstacle. Any strong attachment, and any experience that becomes addictive can be an obstacle to awakening, so sex is not any different in this regard. It is the strong attachment and the addiction that is the obstacle, not the sexuality itself. However, the strong attachments and addictions we experience in life are tremendous opportunities to see the deeper truth that it is our resistance and grasping that cause us to suffer and not our experience. It is not really a mistake that we become overly attached to certain parts of our experience, as that is often how we discover the nature of attachment.
Ultimately, all there is, is Essence. Anything and everything is included in your true nature because you are everything. So there is no need to deny or avoid any experience. But there is also an inherent capacity you have to discriminate how important and how true different experiences are. All experiences are true, but some are more true than others. So a wise and healthy approach to sexuality includes discriminating how important and meaningful it really is, and then giving it the appropriate space and attention. It is not an exact formula, and there is no harm if you overdo it or under-do it in a particular moment. In fact, if there is the opportunity in a healthy and mutual way to overdo it sexually, then go for it! The balance then comes in the overall place it has in your life and in your spiritual path.
Sex is beautiful and amazing....and yet ultimately it is not all that it is cracked up to be. Enjoy it when you can, and then also pursue the bigger questions of life and your true nature.