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About Healthy Relationships - A Journey
When you think "Healthy Relationships" - Where Does Your Mind Go?
Do you think there is a space where the physical needs of your body overlap the emotional longings we also feel? If so, what area of your life do you think acts as a "triggering mechanism" to let you know that somehow, somewhere, you have wants, needs and desires that aren't being met? As suggested by the title of this piece - relationships is an area where physical want, need and desire can easily overlap emotional want, need and desire. I know that's a broad statement I just made, so please, allow me to narrow it down a bit so that we can both get on the same page before I share how an experience I had in the beginning of 2008 got me off the edge of the edge of the tall building I was standing on, and more confident that I too, could have the privilege of enjoying what many people think of as healthy relationships.
Before I go further, I should let you know that I was not really planning on jumping off any tall buildings or calling it quits. But I was frustrated to no end with the physical desires that too often seemed to pulse through my body -- desires that burned like hot embers constantly sweltering and seeking to consume -- desires that simply did nothing to satiate the intense emotional longings I had to be in a healthy relationship -- you know...the kind where both parties involved actually liked each other enough to want to share time with each other -- the kind where nothing needed to be held back and there was trust and no secrets. More truthfully, the kind of relationship where I would be able to enjoy a romantic partners personal company, even after having sex with them.
Healthy Relationships and Sex, They Really Do Go Hand In...
Unfortunately, for me, the idea of connecting with someone whom I could share everything with - and by everything, I mean a "best friends" emotional bond along with "my sexual fantasies are coming true" steaminess with -- was an idea that I somehow felt wouldn't ever come to fruition...at least not for me, in this lifetime. For me, there was friendship -- and there was sex. Often, women that I befriended became great friends that I could "hang out" with and communicate with about whatever, just not sex. Not because it was unacceptable, but more because I had this thing. Once I was friends with you, eventually any ideas that I may have had about "hooking up" in a sexual way stopped. For the most part, I only became friends with women I wasn't sexually attracted to in the uncontrollable fiery way I wished for in the first place anyways.
Sex, on the other hand, was a completely different story. There had to be an element of mystery and excitement that went along with it. Often, my attraction was, for the most part, based on physical attraction -- then, on the occasions that I actually mustered up enough courage to go ahead and put a mask on "portraying" to be someone I wasn't -- a steady stream of b.s that was carefully coordinated and engineered to be spewed fourth with the full full intention of -- hot, somewhat anonymous, uber kinky, all knowing, all feeling, reality melding SEX.
Does this seem like the stuff healthy relationships are built on yet? Didn't think so...
The times the sex part actually came to fruition, there was pretty much, almost always, the 10 out of 10 times disappointment factor that ensued afterwards. Plainly stated, sex, on those terms, never, not even once, lived up to my hopes, aspirations and expectations of what I thought it should have been. In fact, most of the time, it was quite a let down. All the slick talking, all the effort, all the thick animal magnetism I had tricked myself into believing was there, somehow seemed to disappear just as the orgasm (that also rarely lived up to my expectations) was over. Those feelings were pretty quickly replaced with resentment, could shoulders -- or on some occasions, the ravenous desire to do it again because it had the potential to live up to "sexual fantasy" standards -- but even that was laced with the heavy fear that I might get hurt and if I do. A certain kind of painful "lust hangover" that would drive me to act out in all sorts of ways that even a 2 year old knows would land them in "cool down corner" if they acted in such a mortifying way usually trailed hookup style encounters that I actually felt had potential to be more.
Can you understand the dilemma I faced at that point? All I wanted was to enjoy what most people consider healthy relationships -- clearly, that wasn't happening, and I had no idea how to make "things" any different. It just didn't seem as though my heart and penis had the same agenda, but they both longed for the same thing. Strange, yes?
Despite this wheel of undesirable cause and effect I seemed to have become so good at riding, I somehow knew I was not along. There are plenty of women I knew (and still know) that have somehow seemed to master the art of "imposing the vagina" on men in such a way that they are absolutely genius at the "bleeding heart" and "nobody wants me" game. Friends of mine who prefer partners of the same sex often confide how frustrating it is that everyone seems so focused on just sex and nobody in the world seems to want anything of any actual sustenance (except them) -- so they are forced to live out a lonely life filled with dreamy hedonistic "hookups"until the unfriendly fingers of time cast the "ugly shadow" of old upon them - rendering them undesirable, destined to grow old and die alone.
If that wasn't bad, there's the ultimate antithesis of healthy relationships:
There's settling for a relationship that despite how many lies you tell to yourself and others in a futile attempt to believe otherwise, causes you to feel completely dead inside. The recollection of a recent lunchtime conversation with some colleagues of mine may help you get a better idea of this concept:
There were four of us, three guys one one woman. Freshly engaged, and mortified at just about the entire conversation, she listened. After all, it started innocently enough -- we were discussing television. Personally, I don't watch it. There are many things I can think of to do in place of television, including sharing engaging time with my current partner, writing, doing yoga, walking - and just generally living a life free of the direct influence of Fox News, CNN and other stations that seem to be so good at pontificating stuff that I do not find agreeable on a soul level.
As I was sharing my views on television, I felt a confession was in order. I wasn't always "this way." In fact, when I was married, television was a HUGE part of my life. It was the one distraction that helped me avoid dealing head on with the undeniable truth that I was in a relationship (one the government co-signed on) that my heart simply wasn't into. This was supposed to be a relationship that was to last the rest of my life -- an all that I wanted was out.
Sure, the beginning was, well, ok. Deep down, I think both of us knew that we were not a match made in heaven, but we were both getting older and I just didn't want to be alone, so it seemed like a rational choice. I mean...I had never experienced anything else to give me the impression that things were ever going to get any better, so I may as well give up this crazy dream that a deeply fulfilling relationship actually exists and accept what I had in front of me at the time.
Let me say, thank God for television. TV was the glue that prevented the fight that would inevitably happen when we started actually communicating with each other. TV was the glue that allowed us to both live a convenient "white lie" that what we shared, was as good as life gets. TV gave us the perfect distraction we both needed to make it through another day so when we were resting our heads at night, we could secretly both dream of what we both really wanted, and that wasn't a life with each other.
Upon hearing this anecdotal story, one of the guys (who has been married about 14 years) started laughing, and without even a trace of shame -- confided that television is a big part of their household. Without it, he would be forced to actually look at his wife! The other guy, who hasn't been married that long had a concerned look on his face. He seemed like a kid, waiting in the lunch line at school, who had just been bullied out of his lunch money when it was pizza day.
Then he confided...when he was single, he didn't watch television either. Now, he's married, with children -- and they watch LOTS of TV. The woman in our group, somehow, didn't care to finish the rest of her lunch. Mr. Married for 14 years reminder her that she just got engaged right?
We all want health relationships, but how often do we settle?
I'm not telling these stories to be mean or cast a cold grey cloud over anyone's idea of healthy relationships. If your idea of healthy relationships is snuggling up together and watching TV, who am I to suggest otherwise? Clearly, that's not my place. The point I'm getting at is that many of us simply don't face that which causes us to become miserable in the first place -- and try as we might, casting it aside or cramming our troubles into the closet isn't going to somehow magically make things better.
For me, and I'm using myself as an example because I don't want to speak for anyone else (although many people I have shared this story with relate a lot more than they wish) the soul source of discord in my life resulted from the disconnect, or lack of harmony between my emotional wants, desires and needs and my physical wants, desires and needs. I've done a lot of introspective types of meditation and plenty of other "seeking" related stuff -- I was even able to demonstrate to myself incredible powers of the mind in many ways -- but when it came to the idea of sex and connection, all bets were off. I seemed to become someone I wasn't, and it was increasingly more and more painful.
I had managed to leave the marriage I wasn't fulfilled in, but outside of that, I seemed to be doing the same types of things that got me into that space to begin with. The prospect of living out the rest of my live with such powerful, unrelenting unfulfilled desires was, to say the very least, daunting. However, as what some would consider fate, would have it, I was "destined" to find and experience that utopian dream relationship I had always wanted. You know, the one I was praying for since I was, oh, around 19 years old that I was never "given" -- and it came to me in a strange way (and it started with the relationship I have with myself).
Yoga has done a lot for me, including helping me to rethink the concept of healthy relationships...
I used to teach Yoga classes. That period of time was a bit of a stretch for me because the way I had usually shared Yoga was on a one to one basis. Anyways, it seems the general contention about yoga is that it is just as much about "meditation" "spirituality" and living a "balanced life" as it is for physical wellness -- while that may be the intent, however, that's a completely different story about people practicing what they preach that I won't go into here. Point being, as a teacher, I was expected to be up to speed with the latest and greatest meditation techniques practice styles, even bodywork! That being said, some of the conversations I found myself in were nothing short of mystifying to me -- and wouldn't you know it...about 80 percent of the after class conversations that "went down" were somehow about sex, and I was not the one to start them.
In case you're wondering what this has to do with finding a way to align emotional and physical desires that most of us feel...lemme tell you -- it was everything. Had it not been for the after class discussions that often took place I would have never learned about a documentary titled "The Sacred Prostitute" -- in which people holding onto various religious ideas were interviewed about sexual energy. I was gifted my very own copy. I even watched it...
For the most part, there was nothing I felt I could actually take away from the movie, as it was all pretty much philosophy from religious standpoints dealing with sex. Good thing there was that small "for the least part" that made a deep impact on the way I though and gave birth to a practice that has changed my entire approach to (from withing) transforming an area of my life that gave me pain like you wouldn't (or would) believe into peaceful understanding and alignment of emotional with physical.
My journey into healthy relationships started with a celibate Monk talking about sex:
Most of us know that Monks, who have the persona of living in solitude, take a vow of celibacy. There was about a 90 second segment in the movie in which a monk was interviewed about erotic energy and the concept of being celibate. He stated that in the celibate lifestyle they practiced in their community, the repression of erotic energy was not part of what they did. He stated "We do the opposite." The monk then went on explaining that instead of suppressing erotic energy, they embraced it and incorporated it into meditation. "We visualize a lover and making love, eventually, with practice, the sensation of orgasm flows everywhere throughout the body." Although, he cautioned, the process could take years and years to perfect.
After taking in what the monk had to say, my mind went into thought mode. I had studied many different meditation techniques and even got pretty good (relative term) at a few of them - but never had the idea of doing something such as "erotic meditation" ever occurred to me. Most of the "spiritually" orientated teachings I had investigated and practiced, did anything and everything possible to avoid broaching the topic of sexual energy at just about all costs. Yet, for me, I felt it was those feelings, desires and longings that tended to get my life to go off balance more rapidly than just about anything else. Something didn't seem quite right. I also knew that I wasn't alone. I know that sexual energy and the desire for emotional connection is a human condition that completely and utterly disregards race, creed and preference. We're all human and we all feel it at some point in our lives.
The next question for me was what to do. I rationalized that attempting to find out where these monks lived and defecting everything I knew so I could plea my case to live and study with them wasn't rational. Nor was becoming celibate. Nor was continuing to live life how I had been living life. The solution was pretty simple. I had to figure out a way that I was going to apply the idea of erotic meditation to my life, and if I was able to do so, perhaps I too would be able to finally enjoy the kind of healthy relationships that I believed I wanted.
Knowing I needed a game plan, I came up with a few ideas. First, I was going to be approaching practice a slight bit differently than just sitting down. As a student of Harmon Hathaway's Alignment Science I felt that if I incorporated the hip release (described in full in the instructional ebook I wrote detailing a step by step guide to practice) into the visualization part of the practice, any intense energy that may become awakened would have a place to go. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly to me at the time -- the hip release would prevent me from going to sleep. Additionally, I decided to commit to practicing for 6 weeks, 7 days per week, curtailing masturbation or any use of mind altering substances (alcohol included) until after practice. On top of that I felt that practice would be more effective with clothing on and outside of my house. Living in South Florida, the beach seemed as though it was a pretty good option. There was a lifeguard stand on a pretty remote area on the beach that I would be able to make it to during the evenings...
The first two weeks of practice were nothing short of miserably painful. Being as I had little to no clue as to what a starting point should be, other than the hip release, I decided to visualize my sexual fantasies coming to fruition. One thing that practice did very well was frustrate me. It felt empty, void, and served as a consistent reminder of what I wasn't getting that I thought I wanted. After a pretty rough couple of weeks wrestling with those demons and feeling more frustrated after practice than before, I decided to ask myself a question that I can't recall asking myself prior to that moment.
"What exactly am I searching for in a relationship?"
Ironically, the answer that came to mind was connection. More than anything else I desired to feel a sense of connection that could transcend words as there was such a deep understanding and beingness involved. I wanted a lover who I could feel -- even when there wasn't physical contact or verbal communication. I wanted a lover I could bare my soul to and a lover who could bear their soul to me. I wanted a lover who had similar life experiences to the ones I had and who understood how I was wired. I wanted a lover I could share with and someone to keep me company through this journey of life. I wanted a lover who was uplifting, radiant and loving. Interesting...the sexual stuff wasn't a priority...
I also realized that other than a few glimpses of having that feeling with a potential lover, this was something completely foreign to me. I had no reference point for that which I wanted the most...
That's when I came up with the idea of what I was going to do next. Imagine the sensations in my own body and being if that lover was there, next to me. Of course, I decided to avoid using images of past lovers of fantasy images, or even images of people I knew because I didn't want to perpetuate more endless cycles of unfulfilled desire.
The next couple weeks were interesting. I was able to get the idea of how I would feel inside, if there were to be a lover next to me, laying there, sitting there, connecting with me, without even speaking. Many flashes of past lovers came to mind -- often images of bad times I had and reasons I had for putting walls up and unconsciously blocking or preventing myself from experiencing that which I was laying on a lifeguard stand, at night, by myself, concentrating on. Interesting...
Instead of warding off the negative images that washed through my mind, I embraced them. I decided to let them tell a story -- and that they did. I started to understand some of the many ways I blocked myself. Mostly it was out of fer that undesirable situations I had already experienced with past lovers would re-occur and I didn't want to put myself through such difficult times again. As I was able to understand that, I was also able to let go and feel what it might feel like if that "dream" lover was there, next to me, sharing a connection that transcended time, space and physicality. I was even able to get ideas of how this lover would look and feel - on an energetic level. It was kind of strange in the essence that I was not directing the show, just the intent.
After a week or two of this -- feeling it until I was able to experience a deeply heartfelt connection and actually know how that would feel, if it were to happen, I understood that it was time for the next step. I was going to imagine becoming that lover and practice feeling that same heartfelt, all accepting connection with the idea of myself, as I was at that time. Ouch...
I rationed that if I was not able to imagine how someone else could unconditionally love and accept me, I was going to continue to block the experience from happening, again and again. So I forged on... Imagining myself as someone else was interesting. I was curious as how them might think, what sort of emotions they might walk through life with and how it would feel to be inside their body. Surprisingly, I was able to get a pretty good feel for that, pretty quickly.
The difficult part was seeing myself and feeling a connection with myself, the same beautiful, time defying way that I had been able to practice with the idea of a lover that was everything I wanted. I was ugly, I was broke, I was a failure in life, I was a negative creep, I was anti social, I was a narcissistic delusional child in a man's body -- and on and on and on... Self defeating surface thoughts marched in waves, through my mind. My body felt tight and constricted and the hip release had me feeling as though my body was one great big, grand mal seizure.
Yet I persisted. I observed. I released. After a few weeks, I was actually able to get past the self defeating surface thoughts and into the real content. I was able to recall specific events that happened in my life, and even though some of these events seemed insignificant - I realized how they formed the ideas of who I was as a person. I was able to access the deeper recesses of my mind that kept things on the hamster wheel... As my body released throughout the process I was able to feel the same connection with the idea of myself, from a lovers perspective, that I had learned how to feel a few weeks prior. It was about unconditional acceptance and for one of the first times in my life, I was able to imagine the feeling.
Outside of practice, interesting things were happening. I was becoming much more aware of my thinking. I was more aware of people, places things and ideas that triggered painful feelings of lack in my life - and I was able to more quickly, feel centered and balanced. The practice was working in ways I had not anticipated.
Being able to imagine the sensation of completely heartfelt, open connection with myself, I realized I was ready for the next step in my practice. The sensual part. Every practice started in similar fashion. I would imagine the lover (whom had vividly appeared in my mind) and how it felt to connect on a level of emotion and heart. Then I would imagine becoming the lover and connecting with myself the same way. Finally, the next step was being in myself and imagining, as vividly as possible - making love with my lover.
The first couple of weeks the results were unpredictable and "interesting." I had many changes of mind as to how it was going to work, where it was going to happen and what to focus on the most. After, however, a couple of weeks it seemed as if things went on autopilot. Never before had I been able to develop such a strong level of focus. Never before was I able to develop such a powerful mind sensation connection. To me, it felt as though I was really somewhere else, making love.
After getting used to the intense sensations in my body and identifying where sensation or energy was tight and "stuck" - such as my lower stomach, and letting go I was able to access an even more powerful state of erotic energy than I had ever felt before. It completely rocked me. If it wasn't for the hip release I would not have been able to handle it.
A couple of "practice mishaps" I had when things got just too intense made me, once again, re-evaluate. I rationed, if my mind was able to make all that happen, creating such powerful sensations and emotions, what if, when I felt as though I could no longer handle it, I just imagined orgasm and let my body respond as it wanted to?
That's exactly what I did the next evening at practice. And wow. After quite a scene produced my my body - that seemed to go on and on and on, complete with involuntary muscle contractions - I felt as though I had just made love. I felt high. I realized I never had to feel isolated and without again, that it was a choice - and I always had a place for that energy to go.
In retrospect, as that was a few years behind me at this point - that practice changed my life in many ways. I learned things about myself that I would never have realized any other way (at least, I don't think I would have). I was able to get into the type of relationship I had been dreaming about. Perhaps most importantly, that period of unique introspection allowed me to change the course of my life by 4 degrees -- enough to alter everything simply by learning how to and practicing having a healthy relationship with myself.
About the author:
Paul Bunting enjoys introspective writing. Blog: http://www.paulbunting.net