Posted On 12 Dec 2011
(1) Whence sexual desire? (2) What should be done about it?
(1) It comes from identification with form, with body. If you did not identify with your body, you would not experience sexual desire. It starts with a feeling of lack or incompleteness.
It is the physical urge to become one with another body. It seems to be universal among humans.
This topic is approachable from different perspectives.
Biologically, our hormones lead us to survive, reproduce, and raise our young.
Morally, insofar as it is selective and exclusive, sexual desire is antithetical to genuine love.
Emotionally, it is an attempt to overcome the negative emotions associated with loneliness and fear (of lasting separation).
Spiritually, since sexual desire is for bodily unity (wholeness, communion), it comes from a profound desire for oneness. Yet, because it is a desire for bodily unity, even when relieved there can only be a temporary, if sometimes deep, satisfaction. Because it is temporal, such satisfaction must be fleeting.
Like all desire, sexual desire is of the domain of Becoming and not of the domain of Being. Like all desire, it is a desire for future fulfillment; satisfaction is not now but, we hope, in the soon-to-be future.
Here is a spiritual trap. Real happiness (bliss, joy) is only available in the present moment. As Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “happiness does not lie in ideas about what we will realize in the future” (from Breathe! You Are Alive).
So connecting sexual desire to the Becoming/Being distinction immediately invites adopting an interesting, uncommon perspective.
What about relationships (encounters, affairs) built on sexual desire?
Sexual relationships are inherently dysfunctional. Obviously, they are temporal.
Insofar as they are grounded on the idea that the object of sexual desire will remain the same, they are delusional.
Insofar as they are akin to addiction, they are filled with clinging and intense neediness. Everyone except romantically deluded teenagers understands the brevity, instability, and insanity involved in “falling in love.”
They typically involve constant reinvention coupled with frequent injections of delusion and deception. They are based on using others to gain sexual fulfillment.
W. H. Auden: “Almost all of our relationships begin and most of them continue as forms of mutual exploitation, a mental or physical barter, to be terminated when one or both parties run out of goods.”
Sexual relationships are salvation’s substitutes.
To think “I want you” is to confess to a clinging state of mind. To cling is to suffer.
Who is the I who wants?
Who is the other who is wanted?
The idea that a person is a separate substance is unintelligible. There is no possibility of an intelligible relation between two unintelligibles.
This is my way of expressing the important reason why those who are open to Being have always taken the paradigm of love to be friendship. They have never taken it to have anything to do with sexual desire, sexual union, or sexual relationships.
The fundamental spiritual error with respect to sexuality is the underlying identification with body. It’s not that that identification is false; it’s that it is radically incomplete.
(There’s a sense in which this is good news. Even those who are thought by many others to have sexually desirable bodies have them for only a few short years. Coming to grips with a loss of beauty can be very difficult for such people. Since that is not a problem for many of us, it might even be thought to be an advantage never to have been thought to have a sexually desirable body!)
Instead of making the small claim that “I am this body,” why not make the big claim that “I am Being” right from the start?
From a spiritual point of view, the claim “I am these thoughts” is equally disastrous.
A sexual desire is either a thought or a craving concerning bodily fulfillment. Because it’s useful to set up the critical issue, it’s a wonderful example of the egoic mind at work:
“Do you want freedom of the body or of the mind? For both you cannot have. Which do you value? Which is your goal? For one you see as means; the other end” (from A Course in Miracles; the other otherwise unattributed direct quotations that follow in this post are from this book).
What is freedom of the body? What could it be? A popular entertainer with an endless supply of groupies?
“[F]reedom of the body has no meaning.”
So, you may desire either freedom of the mind or freedom of the body. However, there is no freedom of the body, which leaves freedom of the mind as the goal. Freedom of the mind is no-thought, freedom from compulsive thinking.
What could kill sexual desire? Months or years of a smorgasbord of sexual activities with multiple partners? How tiresome and empty!
John D. Rockefeller, Jr.: “I can think of nothing less pleasurable than a life devoted to pleasure.”
Even if it were possible, selecting that path would be going exactly the wrong way. “[T]he body is a limit on love.” Why?
The body is an entity in Becoming, whereas Being is the domain of genuine love. The ego, which is all about separation, interprets the body as itself. Love, which is all about union, comes from Being, which is empty of body.
(2) When you find yourself inflicted with intense sexual desire, what should you do?
I don’t know. Nobody knows. As I have argued previously in multiple places, there is no knowledge of right and wrong.
A decision either to do or not to do is required. There’s no escape.
Decisions always come from your understanding of yourself. “Every decision you make stems from what you think you are,” and, so “represents the value that you put upon yourself.”
Avoid underestimating yourself.
My best suggestion is to treat all cravings as opportunities for strengthening freedom. The best first reaction, if freedom is your goal, should be simply to stop! Inject some space between you and the craving. Instead of behaving as desire’s slave, seize control by deliberately putting distance between you and the sexual desire.
Once you have made that critical move, whether you decide to give in or not is secondary.
“In any situation in which you are uncertain, the first thing to consider very simply is ‘What do I want to come of this? What is it for?’ . . . The clarification of the goal belongs at the beginning, for it is this which will determine the outcome.”
Exactly! Once you are clear about what you would like the situation to be for, you will perceive the situation as a means to that end.
Is your end real release (liberation, freedom)? Do you want to open more fully to Being?
If so, sexual desire can be an opportunity, a genuine blessing in disguise.
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