Finding out what you want is hard
Of course, we are all able to think ahead and hope for things to happen. However, hoping for something and wanting something are two entirely different things! When you go out for a walk, you’d hope that the rain clouds won’t open their floodgates. When you start a business and set out to make it a success, you may have a goal in mind, but mostly you will be engrossed in the work you do rather than forward planning, right?
It is useful to make time and sit down with yourself and nobody else, and consider not just the next steps, but what the ultimate goal is supposed to be. Rather than having a vague goal and some solid steps in its general direction, it may be better to start with a clear goal and then take one step at a time in the general direction of that goal. And there’s the rub: it all depends on just how clearly you can see that ultimate goal and how to determine what it actually is. Here are some thoughts on that subject.
First of all, defining goals needs a mix of realism and the ability to dream big. Oftentimes, a goal seems impossible to reach at first, but that’s not to say it can’t be a goal. I’m not part of the “if you can dream it, you can do it” brigade. I believe there are obstacles we simply cannot overcome in a single lifetime. But that doesn’t mean you may want to work towards that goal! Any progress is a step in the right direction.
How does this relate to conscious sensuality, then?
Well, what works for life in general also works for your emotional, sensual and sexual needs. You may not be able to achieve what you wish in the first place, but if you take pains to find out what exactly you WANT to achieve – be it a long-term partner, a particular sexual experience or a more spiritual way to live your daily life – it is important to define what exactly you are looking for. All the above examples are too vague!
Look at the ‘sexual experience’ option, for example. Do you want to experience this in real life? Or watch in? Or is it enough to fantasise about it? Who with? Under which circumstances? How safe do you need to feel doing it? Will it involve a friend keeping you safe?
These and many other details need to be clarified to transform this idea into a proper goal. And interestingly enough, the process of defining your goal properly already gives you some first steps to take to make it happen. Answering those questions that come up and considering carefully how you answer them is how you find out what your true desires really are.
That said, you don’t need a book to interpret in order to be under some kind of influence from teachers (who pass down their truth) or your own interpretations of whatever you are confronted with. It’s all about learning a particular truth.
Spirituality can, however, work differently: all those ways of passing on a truth must be based on some kind of personal experience that someone had at some point in the past, and THAT is where it’s at, really. That person had a spiritual experience that they felt strongly enough to shape into words and pass on to others in written or spoken form. The real question is: how did they come to have such experiences?
As usual, things become less clear as soon as we stray from the path of the written word and what we perceive as a tradition within whichever faith we follow. Ultimately, if we lack the personal experience, we have to rely on scripture to ‘learn the path’. Unfortunately, an experience of this sort is hard to put into words, let alone allow others to experience whatever you have experienced. Words are not enough, a more visceral exposure is required.
The mind is a powerful tool to interpret, but it’s the body that ultimately provides the means to register an experience. We need a brain, for starters, to think. But we also need a set of sensory organs to provide the input. Our bodies are made to register things that happen, a finely tuned instrument that sends readings to the brain at the speed of electricity. If you have ever been touched unexpectedly, or heard a small noise that made your hairs stand on end, you know what I mean. Some of this is in our imagination only, but who’s to say that what your brain imagines isn’t just as real as how you react to a physical encounter in the real world?
Our sense of touch is a main channel that we often neglect: we humans focus on eyes and ears mainly to navigate the world, but besides our sense of smell and taste, our sense of touch is too amazing for words. It can take you to pain and ecstasy, often at the same time, and open your mind to possibilities and experiences that were unexpected, to say the least.
Who’s to say that those experiences are not spiritual ones? What is your definition of the idea of a ‘spiritual experience’. To me, it’s anything that takes me out of my body and allows me to experience what is beyond the ability of my body to sense. A place where the mind starts to function on its own, without external input.
From a tantric point of view, it’s all about riding the wave of excitement. Masturbating or otherwise doing exciting things with your cock, creating friction and travelling on the road towards that point of no return is not necessarily a one-way road. If you hold it for just a moment before it becomes unstoppable, you’ll be able to cool down just a little and start the process again. Think of it as ‘sweet pain’ that leads to the antsy feeling you get when you simply cannot finish it. The proper term for this is edging, of course.
Tantric practice seems to run circles around this concept, and has done so for a long time, but for slightly different reasons: in Tantra it’s all about preservation of the energy that you bring up through your physical practice. It’s considered best to conserve that energy and redistribute within our body to the places we need it. Sexual energy like the one you raise with a good masturbation session is perfect to redirect to, e.g., your Heart chakra to increase the connection with your partner. Or to improve empathy it needs to go to the Third Eye chakra.
You may have come across edging as a technique that is employed in kinky encounters, in a context of domination and submission, controlling the sub’s ability or right to ejaculate. An experienced partner can feel or read when it’s time to take their hands off of you to stop that last sprint towards ejaculation. Interestingly, the sexual tension does not reduce along with the physical contractions. Energy builds and can lead to what we experience as orgasm.
I mentioned in the beginning that the physical ejaculation is just one part of it, the orgasm is an internal mental process that can be triggered by the ejaculation, but also by an accumulation of the need to ejaculate. Now ask yourself: have you ever experienced a dry orgasm, where your body went completely out of control and you found yourself riding the waves without any further intervention? If you have not felt that feeling, I strongly recommend trying the edging method, maybe combined with some massage elements to distribute the energies, and find out where it takes you…
Create the container first
Similar things apply in most every walk of life. Explaining to your family why you’d rather spend your free time with your friends than watch TV with your parents needs the arguments and chutzpah to stand up for yourself. But most of all, the conditions need to be right to do whatever you intend to do, and THAT is what that container is all about.
That concept of a container can be seen as wide as you wish, or as narrow as you feel it could be. In the context of interaction with other people, this can be of utmost importance for success or failure, for joy or despair, and any outcome you might wish for.
Having sex in a damp alleyway may be kinky, but it certainly is not the epitome of comfort. If it is comfort you are hoping to get during sex, this particular container is not suitable and you may better find another spot for your hot encounter – or end it right there and then.
You want to spend a romantic evening with your partner? Well, you better bring out the candles and the enticing music, put on that outfit he likes and display all the toys you intend to bring into play on this occasion. On the other hand, you could do nothing, pull him onto the bed and have sex. The latter option lacks all the romantic elements you were hoping for because your container has not been prepared.
Are you starting to see where this is going? The right experience needs proper preparation! But worry not: that preparation could be minimal… as long as you give it a bit of tender love and care, you think ahead and make sure you are ready for what you want to happen, things will be more likely to be fulfilling and meaningful. There is not always a need to go full throttle and fill the house with rose petals, light two hundred candles and feed your partner with a couple of dozen different nibbles.
Sometimes an indoor picknick is enough to create the right mood, or some strategically placed cushions and blankets are enough to get your started the right way. Be inventive, think outside of the box, be different for a while, and things will go much better. Also, don’t go overboard too much…
And you are allowed to go back to “normal” tomorrow, if that is what you want.
However, whichever situation you find yourself in, and whatever action you are currently focusing on, it’s important to keep part of your mind open to communicating with the person you interact with. That means keeping an eye out for your partner’s reactions to what you are doing. But it also means that if you are experiencing a moment of being taken care of, you need to stay connected to your partner.
Some positions are more conducive to this happening: if you manage to see your partner’s eyes, you’ll be able to get a read quite a bit of what is going on with him, of course. Just reading each other’s expressions can be enough to guide your next actions. Besides that, using your body to push or pull at the right time can be a very powerful way to tell the other person what to do next! Don’t forget: you can give the right signals by moaning sounds, grunts and screams. If all fails, just tell them what to do!
This exchange goes both ways, too. If you find yourself actively doing something to someone, it pays to keep an eye on their reactions and increase what makes them go all excited, while tuning down whatever feels like they are not enjoying quite as much as you do. As for being on the receiving end of things, it’s good to keep an eye on your partner to find out if he is getting something out of it as well. Either way, it’s good to work on several levels at once: if you are receiving sexual attention, there is nothing in the book saying you cannot return favours in other ways: touching his skin, tugging at a nipple, liking his hands, kissing him… anything goes.
Ultimately, the point of sex – besides the relief it can bring – is to create closeness, and that includes doing all kinds of things. Sex is brilliant, of course, but there is more to it than just the mechanical stuff.
All that said, there are times when you just want to relax and receive what your partner is dishing out, and that is perfectly fine too. Switch it up occasionally, is all I’m saying.
What constitutes 'sex' for you?
But then, what IS sex? Why is it so hard to separate sensuality, embodiment and sensory experience from sex?
The simple answer is that all those things mentioned above are part of your sexual experience, but sexual experience is not always part of those other experiences. Think of it like this: Water, tea leaves and heat are all part of a cup of tea, but they also exist without the cup of tea.
We need to be able to feel the constituent elements of the experience we call sex on their own, so that ‘having sex with someone’ does not equal sensuality or embodiment, but sees them as independent experiences that play a part in having sex.
More importantly, you’ll have to define what exactly constitutes ‘sex’ for you! When do your actions cross the line between ‘being touchy feely’ and ‘having sex’? There are so many thoughts on this subject that it is impossible to tell at which point ‘sex’ begins: it’s different for each of us. Where do you draw the line? Do you have to be naked? Does it need to involve more than one person? Does it have to involve genitals or penetration? Do you have to be close to each other, either physically or emotionally, or both?
Approaching this from the other side, we probably agree that hugging is not sex. But is that always the case? What about caressing or massaging someone?
I want to float the idea that it is less about the action and more about the intention: I can give my auntie Doris a friendly hug, and that hug is VERY different from hugging a boyfriend in the middle of an extended sexual moment. Massage is similar: a sports massage has a very different intention from a tantric massage. Expectations and intended outcomes are different!
After this introduction I have some homework for you this time: ask yourself properly “what constitutes sex for me personally, where am I switching in or out of ‘sex’ mode?" You’ll be surprised at just how hard it is to define those boundaries. Good luck!
Beyond simply “not lying,” practicing satya means living in a way that aligns with your own highest truth. It's about being honest with yourself, honest with others, and refraining from judgment — making sure that you speak and act with thought and intention (not just saying whatever is on your mind).
This entails that you need to be very clear about your own highest truth, right? But have you ever really given any thought to those absolute truths you hold dear? This kind of truth goes way beyond “I want my pay check to be enough to be good for another month and save a bit on the side” or “I want to be healthy”. We are firmly in the territory of “what is it that ensures my happiness long term?”, “how do I want to be as a human being?”, and ultimately as far as “where am I not truthful to myself?”
This is about norms and demands we put on ourselves, and how we perceive ourselves with regard to being able to uphold those norms and fulfil those demands: how truthful are you to yourself when it comes to judging your behaviour against your own standards? Don’t you occasionally slip and tell yourself that something has been more successful than it really was? Or have you not found on occasion that what you took as a good result for yourself ultimately didn’t hold up to your imagined outcome, and yet you quickly decided that it was good enough?
There is something to be said for ‘good enough’, as long as you are not being untruthful about it. ‘Good enough’ is okay unless you lie to yourself in the face of hard evidence telling you otherwise. It’s about proper alignment of what you believe is true with what you see is true. In the end, being truthful is something that starts with yourself: if you are lying to yourself, how can you be completely truthful to others about anything?
This is where satya starts: right here, in your own mind, with your own thoughts and actions. And then it radiates out to all those around you. So be truthful in your ideas, thoughts and assessments of what is real, and act accordingly.
Shame vs being shy
Some of you may not be comfortable such activities, though. I certainly felt a little out of my comfort zone the first time around – luckily that concern faded away quickly. But it made me wonder about why this even happened. It’s not like I have not had similar interactions with lovers before that first workshop, nor was having other men around while doing this completely new territory either. Why did I feel uncomfortable, then?
Was it shame? I never considered being ashamed of my involvement in any sexual activities: those had been part of my life for many years and never really bothered me. Of course, having sex with someone is one thing, going through a workshop that involves more than just reaching a point of no return and then saying goodbye is something very different. Also, there are other men doing the same thing, looking around for inspiration when they run out of ideas.
If you are the recipient in an exercise, it’s easier to forget about what is going on around you – unless someone is extremely vocal about their experience – but being the giver usually requires a certain level of creativity within the structure that has been set out by the teacher. Oftentimes, you may have trouble following the path without running out of ideas. And then you start looking around for inspiration. As a giver, you are usually aware that others look around, believe me!
This said, I don’t believe that I really felt shame as such during such workshops, most certainly not with regards to what I was doing. However, I would agree that there are different levels of shame with names like “feeling shy”, “low self-esteem”, “body-awareness” and similar. I believe that for gay men, those might play a bigger role here than original “shame”. Speaking for myself, I don’t believe for a moment that my physical body is anything particularly special. I may have put on a little weight, and I never really felt very proud of my body. If anything, there may be a level of “guilt” for not looking after it better than I do. But shame? Not so much.
Also, I strongly feel that there is a clear distinction between being ashamed and being shy. Shyness usually shows up when you consider taking the first step to engage with another person, while shame might make an appearance at crucial times during the sexual encounter, maybe because you are not bendy enough, or your body feels out of shape. Even after many years of thinking about this, I find it very difficult to distinguish between shame and shyness, though.
My thoughts often go round in circles when it comes to this particular subject and I usually end up thinking to myself: just get over it and get with the program. For me, that is a way forward, and maybe that could be yours as well. I believe that much of what we perceive as shame at first, is really something totally different, and it’s up to you to find out what it is for you.
Is it lack of self-esteem? Or are you too shy to ask for what you want? It helps to find out what exactly holds you back and deal with it specifically, rather than staying in a sense of vague shame that inhibits you when you should be opening yourself up to new opportunities.
What would Love say?
What I’m more and more concerned with is the sheer number of my friends who have started showing signs that the physical restrictions have had an effect on their mental health. And to be perfectly honest, that includes me. It’s a gradual process in which we slowly slip into a more and more strained mental state where one little thing after the other ends up out of our grasp.
We all need to take good care of our own physical AND mental health, but also take care of those who surround us. And this is where the title of this short blog post comes into play: what would Love say?
We often think of love as something we receive from others or that we give to others, and that is most certainly part of the equation. But have you considered just how much you are giving to those you take care of? How much can you give without lacking support for yourself?
I think of love as something that is given without much thought, but I have found out the hard way that giving too much depletes my own store and makes me feel left out, washed out, and in need of attention. It feels natural to hope for that attention from the outside, but never forget that your first source of attention is you!
How can you be present for your friends if you don’t take care of your own needs, first of all? I think of this as a pond that holds my ability for love and care for my friends, but there is an indicator there telling me when I’m running low on care for myself. Call it an alarm that goes off when I’m in danger of running low. And then I find things that make me feel better myself: taking a bath for as long as I want, walking on the beach and watching the waves, calling a friend and have a chat without touching on the difficult subjects, a full day of gardening, reading something that makes me emotional,… there are lots of options, and most of them involve taking a step back from ‘the matters at hand’ and just letting my mind drift.
Love’s advice is simple: look out for your own wellbeing first, and then take the peace this brings you to your loved ones. Don’t run out of steam taking care of others. When you feel you are washed out, in need of a friend… take some time out and regenerate before doing anything else.
These are my own thoughts on aspects of my work I feel strongly about.