Modern Hymnal: Sacred Sex

Oh, it’s time for something joyful! So, another edition of Songs for the Modern Hymnal.

The Modern Hymnal

The Modern Hymnal is my own creation. It’s full of songs you’ll never hear in a traditional church.

They are songs that I feel express some deep experience of being human. They are songs that should be in a church.

I hear them in the depths of my heart and soul; the most sacred place there is.
They are songs that speak to my soul, as a modern mystic.

This time around, I’ve got two songs about Sacred Sex.

 

Take Me to Church by Hozier

First up is this gorgeous song by Hozier, aptly titled ‘Take Me to Church.’ It is a bluesy, gospel, and ascendant song about the tension between the church and sexuality, in particular sexual orientation.

Hozier talks about the meaning of the song: (from The Cut)

“Take Me to Church” is essentially about sex, but it’s a tongue-in-cheek attack at organizations that would … well, it’s about sex and it’s about humanity, and obviously sex and humanity are incredibly tied. Sexuality, and sexual orientation — regardless of orientation — is just natural. An act of sex is one of the most human things. But an organization like the church, say, through its doctrine, would undermine humanity by successfully teaching shame about sexual orientation — that it is sinful, or that it offends God. The song is about asserting yourself and reclaiming your humanity through an act of love. Turning your back on the theoretical thing, something that’s not tangible, and choosing to worship or love something that is tangible and real — something that can be experienced.

But it’s not an attack on faith. Coming from Ireland, obviously, there’s a bit of a cultural hangover from the influence of the church. You’ve got a lot of people walking around with a heavy weight in their hearts and a disappointment, and that shit carries from generation to generation. So the song is just about that — it’s an assertion of self, reclaiming humanity back for something that is the most natural and worthwhile. Electing, in this case a female, to choose a love who is worth loving.

If I didn’t love this song for its own beauty in music and lyrics, I’d just love it for the intellect behind it. (Brains = sexy, ya’ll.)

The song is beautiful to listen to and the video is powerful and painful. It shows two men in a gay relationship and how they are persecuted when their community finds out about their relationship. (It is a blatant commentary on recent homophobic shifts in Russia.)

And while the song grapples with ideals and practicalities and the tension between Sex and Church, it beautifully acknowledges the communion of Sex and Spirit. I have found it inspiring both while sitting on a long plane ride and laying on my bed, awaiting my lover’s return.

There are too many beautiful lines to quote, but my favorite is this:

There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin. 

Oh, so gorgeous.
Go. Listen.

 

Nirvana by Sam Smith

This song absolutely wrecks me every time I listen to it. And it’s been rotating on my playlist a lot lately.

This song holds the momentum of every encounter you’ve ever had when you know, you know, that the erotic energy is going to pull you forward, no matter what.

It also contains the darkness and the weight of those moments when I have been so close to the Other- so close I can feel every inch of my own body, its glorious weight and rhythm. And I can also feel every inch of them, too. What space there is between us – precious little – is charged and magnetic.

 

I just want to go grab someone and dance in the dark, just writing about it.
oh.my.goodness.

It’s another song of ‘forbidden’ love. (Is there ever such a thing?)

We both know the truth/
If this were the real me and you/
It wouldn’t be the right thing to do/

The heart wants what it wants.

And Sam Smith sings it so beautifully.
This is one you hear and feel.

Two songs for the modern hymnal. Enjoy…until next time.

 

 

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The Kali Season

Ever so slowly, Autumn is arriving here in the Northern hemisphere.

The leaves, although still green, have started to fall from the maple in my yard. Soon it will be ablaze with leaves of yellow, orange, and red so dense it makes you stop and stare.

It is a season of fire, death, and burial.

What we lay down now, on all levels, can rest, be returned to the Earth, and find a re-birth in the future. What we let go of now can feed what is to come.

I have, in the past few weeks, come face to face with my Shadow. Again.

The Shadow is the part of ourself that we don’t like.
That we don’t let anyone else see.
That we often don’t let ourselves see.

The Shadow holds our doubts and fears.
Also our greed, lust, and anger. Hatred.
The Shadow holds our shame and secrets and cravings.

It shows itself in the most inopportune times.
And calls to us in the dark: you are not good.
Not worthy.
Unloveable.
Stupid.
Bad.

Recently, my actions (and therefore, I)  have been held up in front of the mirror of the Shadow to see my

racism

classism

sexism

homophobia

ageism

greed

lust

anger

It has been a painful few weeks.
I have been brought to the fire of reckoning: who am I in the darkest parts of myself?

 

The Shadow and Her Truths

I grew up in a very diverse part of the world. Lots of people from lots of different places. Lots of skin colors. Lots of cultures. Lots of food (yum). Lots of languages. To me, sitting in an auditorium with many types of people feels normal.

And yet, as the race riots in Ferguson became heated (pretty damn hot right from the start, actually) I was reminded of all the ways in which I still value and use my White Privilege. All the ways in which I was not doing anything to help because I was white and not sure if I should step in to do anything. Trained as a social worker, I didn’t want to disempower anyone by offering help or power from my position of privilege.

Because I didn’t step in, even from such a geographic distance, I was still being racist.

Dark Shadow, right inside me.

Although I grew up in an ethnically diverse place, I didn’t grow up with a lot of socio-economic diversity. Middle class we were. For miles in every direction.

To this day, poor people scare me and rich people make me angry.
I feel powerless among both groups.

My feelings of isolation and misunderstanding give way to hateful actions.

And down the Shadow list we go.

I often think women are better than men. In almost every way.
I bias towards the feminine and female ways of doing things.

I made a thoughtless comment on Facebook about how well the gay dudes at the airport were dressed (everyone else looked like a schlub). It wasn’t exactly supportive or celebratory.
Someone called me on it.

Hello, dark side.

Greed, lust, and anger. I’m just getting to see these three up close.

I put them way back inside me. So far into the dark.

“I am not greedy.
I am not lustful.
I am not angry. Well, not too much.”

And then he said something and I wanted to rip his head off verbally. I would have clawed someone to death, I was so angry.

Wow.
Didn’t know that was in there.

And then I open the door on them.
Start to look around.

I’ll be damned.

I’m quite angry.
I’ve got rivers of lust flowing inside my body.
And I Want It All. Fuck you. It’s mine.

I look at all this and, suddenly, the Shadow ignites the image I have of myself.
Like a tree with green leaves, suddenly set on fire by the Autumn changing.
Heat. Light. Gone.

 

Autumn tree with leaves of red, orange, and yellow, with a sky background the color of purple.

 

Kali

All of this opening to my Shadow side, and the accompanying loss of self-image, reminds me of the Goddess Kali.

She is the Goddess of Death and Rebirth.

Many hands full of bodiless heads.
Swords flashing.
A necklace of skulls.
Fire in her eyes and mouth.
She is fearsome.

She decimates whatever is before her.
No stone untouched.
No stalk left standing.
No ego image un-burned.

You are left with nothing.
Who you thought you were is gone.

Kali leaves nothing but scorched Earth.

 

Ashes Nourish the Next Growth

One of the worst feelings on the path of spiritual development is when you say to yourself, “Shit. I’ve come all this way and I don’t know a god-damn thing about myself.”

You feel like the biggest dupe ever.
Only, it’s at your own hand.

But when I get to that point (and I’ve had this happen more than a few times), I know: whatever in me has been burned is not the truth anyhow.

Kali only stopped her killing when Lord Shiva lay himself under her foot.
She noticed him, quite surprised, and immediately quit her killing spree.

That which was ultimate, true, and wise could not be destroyed.

That which is ultimate, true, and wise in me cannot be destroyed.

Love.
Compassion.
Joy.
Empathy.
Truth.

These remain. Only what is untrue can be burned away.
And what is untrue is burned away to reveal more truth. If we let it.

 

Like farmland, the ashes of what has been destroyed can nourish the ground for what is to come.

When I come face to face with my racism, my sexism, my lust and greed, it burns down my idea of who I am.

But in the fallow state, when the ground is ashes and nothing appears to be happening on the surface, the seeds for growth can be planted deep within.

I can examine the last pieces of my racism and then begin to change my thoughts and actions.
I can explore my feminine-bias and also get curious about masculinity and its finer qualities.
I might point my lust in a different direction and let it fuel something positive (like lusting after a house, perhaps).

In this way Kali begins the re-birth process.

The tree is leafless in winter, gathering its energy for Spring.
And then it unfurls its new leaves when the work is done.
Alive again.
Growing.
Stronger.

Facing the Shadow can makes us better people. At the very least, we can come to know ourselves better by engaging with the Shadow aspects of ourselves (even if we don’t do anything about them).

If we dare to work with this side though, we can expect big changes.
Death. To who we thought we were.
Fallowness. To let go, explore, and choose.
Re-birth. Into the clearer, ultimate part of who we really are.

It is a fiery process. But I know it to be incredibly valuable.

 

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The Worldwide Network of Unrequited Love

He was 18 and had just graduated high school.

I was 14 and was just starting high school.

He was the most lovely man I had ever seen.
(I am tempted to make fun of my own 14 year-old ‘worldliness,’ but I won’t. What can you do at 14?!?)

He was intelligent and humorous.
He was kind and also silly.
He was dedicated to God (we met at church youth group, what can I say?).
He was tall and brunette and played soccer.
He played the guitar and taught children songs in church camp.
His name was Mike.

And I loved him.

I spent the next 4 years watching him.

Every time he came home, we would talk.
I would always stay to the side, never pushing up to be near him or volunteer for his team at youth group events.

I listened to every word he said.

And I could feel every part of me – body, soul, and mind – wanting to be near him.
And also to kiss him.
Kiss him a lot.

I dated other people all through high school.
But Mike was my standard.
If the other boys couldn’t match up to him – out they went!
(Really, it was a denial of my developing sexuality- but I could only see that years later.)

I know now that I didn’t love Mike. Not in the way that adults do.

But I did love him as best as I knew how, at 14.

With everything I had, I loved him.
And I never told him.

He is my unrequited love.

– – – – – – – – –

Then there was Todd.

Todd was my best guy friend in high school.

We laughed and taught church camp together.
We passed notes during Sunday services.
We prayed for each other and ran errands together.
Listened to the same Protestant rock music and comedians.
We pulled each other into the ocean waves on church retreats.

(Okay, now I am going to make fun of my 14 year-old self- I was so scared of living! What ridiculous things I did to keep away from being a teenager!)

Todd was a great guy and I liked being friends with him so much.

And then he asked me to be his girlfriend.
Just before the Senior year of high school started.

And I just could not do it.

I know I broke his heart.

 

wooden door surrounded by brick and plants growing over it; symbol for love never spoken of

 

I have been thinking about how humans are connected lately.

What with all the racism-fueled shootings, the fearful predictions of invasion, the fact that my friend from high school, Tracie, is having her first baby – they are all examples of how we are connected.

And how those connections are of so many kinds and qualities.
Old life, new life, fear, joy, hatred, compassion.

I loved Mike, but he didn’t love me back.
Todd loved me, but I didn’t love him back.

Who did Mike love, I wonder?

Who loved Todd and never told him?

What a strange way to think of the world- connected by lines of unrequited love.
And yet, surely, this matrix exists.

– – – – – –

I still feel a pang in my heart – I am still 14 in some spots (aren’t we all?) – when I think of those days, and especially of Mike.

I have no idea where he is now.
(I know where Todd is: he found me on Facebook, of course.)

My own web of unrequited love has given me one gift through all these years: to love.

Although never shared (and thereby never acknowledged) I loved loving Mike.
It was a great gift to feel my heart so open, so ready to love.

And while I didn’t become Todd’s girlfriend, I stayed friends with him until college.
I gave him what love I could (more agape than eros).

Those two men taught me a lot about what loving really means.
The importance of both attraction and friendship.
And that we don’t always get to share it in the way we want to.
But that makes the love no less powerful.

Unrequited love has been a bittersweet gift.

So there we each stand, looking forward and back, at a connection we all share, we all know.
The Worldwide Network of Unrequited Love.

 

 

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Be gentle with yourself

flowers in a field, with pastel colors, and the text 'be gentle with yourself'

We are heading into a big transitional time at my house: getting ready to go back to school. Mr. NakedMystic is a professor and starts teaching next week. The kids start school after Labor Day.

There are many clothes to buy, book bags to fill, and new schedules to experiment with. It can be very overwhelming and stressful. (Some of it’s orgasmic; some of it’s not.)

Today, in meditation, when I asked what my spirit needed, it said: slow dancing, time watching the tea light candle burn, a quiet guided meditation, and some gentleness.

I think gentleness may be just the thing for these weeks ahead.

The one big way I will be gentle with myself over these weeks is to not yell at myself inside my head so much. Sure, it will happen. But I will either turn down the volume or call to mind this guidance.

Whether you are heading into transition or not, friend, be gentle with yourself.

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How To Have Better Orgasms – And More of Them

Entering the Gates of Tantra

When you start to study tantra, it’s very much like having someone lead you up to a big wall that you can’t see around or beyond or above.

And there is a door in the wall.

And when you open the door, the entirety of New York City appears before you.

Vast.

 

a library with sensual pictures on the walls as a symbol of tantric learning

 

Tantra has been around for thousands of years (as it is one aspect of both the Hindu and Buddhist spiritual paths). And as such, it has had many permutations- leaders, texts, teachers, interpretations, teachings, and perspectives. There is a city’s worth of tomes, temples, and ideas about the practice and the path. Tantra is a never-ending path that can take you into some beautiful places (and some seedy neighborhoods).

Even today, as the desire to understand and practice tantra grows, there are new teachers, texts, and lessons. New neighborhoods of ideas and interpretations to explore.

When I started down this path – to discover where sex and spirit intertwined with one another – I picked up Nicole Daedone’s Slow Sex: The Art and Science of the Female Orgasm.

In it, Daedone distinguishes between ‘climax’ – the ‘going over the edge’ most of us associate with sexual touching and orgasm – and ‘orgasm,’ which she defines as the capacity to feel pleasure.

Think about that for a minute: orgasm as the capacity to feel or experience pleasure.

An entirely new definition of orgasm.

It gave me pause as I read the book.

And over the months it has completely changed how I think about orgasm.

 

Personal Definitions of Orgasm

As I began to think about orgasm in a different way, I started to think about the components of my own orgasms.

Pleasure, yes.

Anticipation.

Flow.

Receptivity and penetration.

Joy.

Touch.

Connection.

Relaxation.

Focus.

Release.

Pressure.

Patience.

Fulfillment.

All of these things (and more!) fell into my personal experience and definition of orgasm.

I began to wonder, “What if any time I was engaged in an activity that held these experiences it was an orgasm?”

My mind sort of blew apart at that thought.

Because it meant orgasm was about my capacity – how much I could hold and experience – of the good things in life.

The moments I felt fulfilled.
The moments I was in flow.
The moment I felt my partner run his finger along my arm.
The moments I noticed simple things and felt joy or beauty.
The moments of release from pressure.

They were all orgasm. 

Suddenly, with this new definition, I could have a lot more orgasms.
Bigger.
Better.
More.
In public, even.

I began to understand one of the basic principles of tantra:
pleasure is available to us in almost any situation.

 

collage of reds and oranges as symbol of finding orgasm in all parts of life

 

Making Love with Life

And this new understanding also helped me in my greater goal: to make love with life.

The more I can be aware and open to all the touchstones on the orgasm path, and to all the different kinds of orgasms, the better chance I have of engaging deeply with life and loving all it has to offer. 

 

I tend to look for orgasms now.

I notice which moments I am in the flow, aware, receptive. There’s potential for orgasm there.

I look for beauty, even teaspoonfuls, because I know it is orgasm in itself.

I am mindful of my own heavy breathing and excitement at anything, because it is a step on the path of orgasm.

If you want bigger, better, and more amazing orgasms, the answer is simple: practice having more orgasms.
Widen your definition so that orgasm is about more than sex.
See exactly how much pleasure you can hold.

 

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