Friday, January 30, 2015

The Friday Sex Blog [Tantra]

Hola Everybody…
Today’s blog photo comes courtesy of a Friday Sex Blog reader who wishes to remain anonymous. If you would like to contribute a photo to the Blog, feel free to let me know. 

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The Yoga of Love
Sex is the orgasm of the body. Ecstasy is the orgasm of the spirit.

Tantra has become somewhat of a fad in Western culture for its supposed emphasis on using sexual union as one of the vehicles to awakening. In reality, only a small portion of tantra has anything to do with sex, and only as a way to merge with the divine. There is a much larger tantric discipline that deals with allowing all feelings to be met with equal acceptance, and for each person to become deeply sensitive to what they are feeling. Tantra as it is practiced in the West is very different from the ways it was practiced originally. It is essentially a tradition in which awakening is pursued through embodiment union is sought through relationship and intimacy. 

Still, sex is a powerful manifestation of energy. Sex lies at the root of life, and it is crucial that we learn reverence for it. By reverence I don’t mean to say that sex should only be practiced under certain conditions and only with certain individuals. By reverence I mean that we must come to the realization of the essence of sex – a divine and transformative energy – and that we must learn to revere and cultivate that essence.

Orgasm brings us closer to the divine (however you define it) than any other experience. This is why organized religions have always tried to control sex: ecstatic people are a free people. In the moment of orgasm, a bonding between the right and left hemispheres of the brain occurs. When the creative, intuitive right side of the brain fuses with the center of logic and thinking on the left side, an akashic field (“zero-point”) of total connection can be accessed. When this connection is made, ego walls come tumbling down, time and space cease to exist, and you become one with energy and consciousness.

This form of sexual practice transcends mere ego needs so often heard in popular culture: songs wailing about “need,” and “I can’t live without you.” Sabotaged by ego needs, sex becomes a quick exercise in tension and release and obstructs the free flow of energy (chi).

Sexuality is a very natural instinct, a powerfully creative force. From the tantric perspective, each of us can put that force to work in the service of healing, transformation, and the actualization of our potentials. Yet, in many ways, we are conditioned to think about sex in ways that often confuse us. We often straddle the two extremes of viewing sex as something natural that should not be interfered with on the one hand, and the perception of sex as something hidden, dirty, and taboo on the other. Of course, that last part is what sometimes makes it so interesting and brings violence and exploitation into sex. In our culture, we find it so difficult even to talk about sex without defining it in deviant terms; we have to fight through all the cultural taboos to have a good time, it seems.

I first began to write the Friday Sex Blog mostly because I feel the damage caused by the condemnation of sex can’t begin to be measured. Instead of celebrating sex as a creative force, we turn it into a shameful, guilt-ridden affair or something closely resembling copping some fast food. Religions want to condition people to believe that a intermediary is necessary in order to have a relationship with the divine. They discourage any direct attempt to have an experience of “God” on their own. Religious institutions, for the most part, do not want us to wake up to our natural ecstasy. The moment a person wakes up, that person becomes a free thinker and for those in power, a free thinker is a dangerous individual. 

Tantra developed as a rebellion against the repressive moralistic codes of organized religions in India around 5000 b.c.e. It developed particularly as a response to the widespread notion that sexuality had to be denied in order to attain spiritual enlightenment. One meaning of Tantra is “weaving,” in the sense of bringing together the many and often contradictory aspects of the self into one harmonious whole. Tantra also means “expansion,” in the sense that once our own energies are understood and unified, we grow and expand into joy. Truly, Tantra is the “yoga of love.”

Characterized by what the Tibetan tradition calls crazy wisdom, tantric masters scandalized mainstream society and were often condemned and persecuted. Crazy Wisdom is a tradition in which the teacher uses paradoxical stories, seemingly absurd questions, and unexpected ("crazy") behavior in order to tease, jolt, and provoke people to drop mainstream conditioning and conventional attitudes so that they may embrace the whole spectrum of life, with no conflict between the sacred and the profane, the spiritual and the sexual.

The tantric vision accepts everything. There’s nothing forbidden in tantra. Everything that a person experiences, regardless of whether it is judged as good or bad, is an opportunity for learning. For example, a situation in which you experience sexual frustration is not viewed negatively in tantra, it is viewed as an opportunity for learning.

The best way I’ve heard Tantra described is through the use of the metaphor of weeds. While weeds, if left unattended, can bring a garden to ruin, one can also use weeds to fertilize the soil and make it richer. In this way, Tantra utilizes energies usually judged as negative as a path toward growth.

According to tantra, sex is first a matter of energy, and tantra views energy as the movement of life. For example, the nucleus and electrons of an atom have a certain rhythmic movement. The same goes for molecules, cells, and organs of the human body. Each organ -- the heart, diaphragm, intestines, lungs, brains -- pulsates to the rhythm of life. The vibrations from these rhythmic movements generate bioelectric currents that stream continuously through the whole body. They also generate energy fields that surround the body, and our moods and emotions generate specific vibrations that alter these energy fields as well.

One last thing, Surrender is an essential aspect of tantra. There is, however, much confusion about what surrender means. People are suspicious of this term, which is often equated with loss of free will and personal power. In fact, they are confusing surrender with submission, which is (to me) a passive attitude that implies giving up responsibility for one’s behavior. True surrender, at least within the Tantric tradition, is a conscious choice made from free will. It means opening your heart and trusting the person you are with.

Tantra is about wholeness, of embracing everything, because every situation is an opportunity to become more aware about who you are and about how you can expand your capacities. Because Tantra embraces wholeness, it embraces opposites, seeing them not as contradictions but as complements. The concepts of male and female therefore are not placed apart, forever divided by a gender gap, but are viewed as part of a continuum that meet and merge in every human being. Tantra recognizes that in each individual there exists both a masculine and feminine quality.

I guess I will have to write a part two on this Tantra thingee. LOL 

Practice: Cultivating Sexual Energy

Man: Sit comfortably on a pillow with your legs crossed.
Woman: Sit on top, straddling your partner with your legs.
Man: Hold your arms around your partner to support her back.

Looking into each other’s eyes, breathe through the nose down into the belly. It is best if your bellies are touching. With the breath, find the same rhythm. If you desire, you can start to rock your hips in movement with each other. Feel into each other as if wearing the other person’s body.

Man: As you enter your woman, feel your strength entering her as a gift. Fill her with your conscious presence. As soon as you start to feel a buildup of energy in your genitals, stop moving, breathe deeply, and have the intention to spread the concentrated energy throughout the rest of the body. If need be, tell your partner out loud when you need time to recirculate the energy.

Woman: Feel the gift of your man’s energy entering you, receive it in your womb, and draw it up into your heart. Give it back to him as love and nurturing through your breasts. Keep focusing on this as an act of worship and giving. You will inevitably be caught in feelings of physical pleasure. There is no need to try to stop them, but do not get stuck there. You will also become caught in strong personal emotions. Allow them, but go deeper. Allow the gifting to pass throughout, not from you. If you continue circulating the energy and allowing it to give through you, after some time your partner will become an invitation into something vast, something much bigger than the personal.

Man: As you keep giving to her with your body, you will start to feel that you are giving through her, to all women, to all of life.

Woman: As you pour love into your partner through your breasts and your heart, and keep opening your womb to receive more freely in undefended surrender, draw this up into your infinitely open heart, and you will feel through him to all men, to the Divine Source.

Unlike sex that is often only for physical pleasure and release, the need to reach orgasm may lessen in this kind of sexual meeting rather than grow. Instead of climaxing in an orgasm, keep circulating the energy until you come to a place of absolute fullness and stillness. Remain there without moving, and feel the great union, one you could never feel alone. This is the union of you and your partner, of masculine and feminine, of energy with itself. When you know union in this way, you come to the realization of why there is life.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…


Tantra: Tantra has many manifestations in many traditions. click here for more info

The “Akashic Field”: the notion of the Akashic Field, like the zero point energy field (ZPE in quantum physics), is that the Akashic Field records everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will happen from the birth of our cosmos till its ultimate end. In scientific terms, the “everything” that is recorded is the sum total of all events and the information they contain. Click here for more info
Crazy Wisdom: In Tibetan Buddhism, Crazy wisdom refers to unconventional, outrageous, or unexpected behavior, being either a manifestation of buddha nature and spiritual teaching on the part of a teacher or a method of spiritual investigation undertaken by a student. Click here for more information

Monday, January 26, 2015

The 12 Steps for Everyone [Step One]

I realize there are many people who see the 12-step movement as a cult, as misguided, or as a failure. That’s fine. I have no interest in debating the merits of NA/ AA or in trying to convince anyone to join. What follows is my experience as someone who’s been free from active addiction for 24+ years. I believe that anyone can benefit from some of the spiritual principles embedded in the 12 Steps... 

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Stopping the War

We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
-- The First Step of Narcotics Anonymous

I was once told that these spiritual principles were as a bridge back to life. What I didn’t know then was that this bridge is built on the very bones of those who came before me. This series of posts is an attempt to honor that.

The First Step confronted me with two problematic words: powerless and unmanageable. I also didn’t notice at first that every step began with the word “We.” I was a loner; “we” wasn’t a word I used much. Everything was about me. They say an addict is an egomaniac with low self-esteem, and I believe that was how I felt.

Let me just say that 12-step recovery is about action -- it is an experiential approach. Every step involves growth, exploration, and some measure of action. I think people have huge misconceptions about 12-Step Fellowships. People in recovery like to say that the first step is the only step you have to get perfectly. I disagree, recovery is an ongoing process, and my understanding of the first step expands as I grow. However, there is a level of acceptance necessary for the integration of this step. But I get ahead of myself…

There are several powerful psycho-spiritual factors at work in the First Step. Primarily, there is an admission. Admitting to a problem has become a popular notion in our culture that first came to prominence in the recovery community. Admitting touches on the first spiritual principle of the first step: honesty. However, admitting means nothing without acceptance. For example, at one point in my life I had no problem admitting I was an addict; I could be honest about that. But that admission and $2.50 got me on the train, which is another way of saying that admitting by itself it is worthless. It wasn’t until I embraced another core spiritual principle of the first step (acceptance) that I was then able to make changes in my life.

The more meetings I made, the more I heard my own story being told by others who were honest about themselves. I began to see that I had a lot in common with these people when it came to my addictive behaviors. On the other hand, it took me a long time to come to grips with powerlessness. I was raised to think of myself as powerful. I was taught that if I exerted my will on any issue, that I could overcome anything in the world. If I had enough cojones and worked hard enough, I could have power over anything.

Besides, it wasn’t my addiction that was the problem, it was everyone else. At least that was what I told myself. If only other people got their shit together and external situations in my life corrected themselves, I wouldn’t be in such a fix. The problem with my thinking was that it involved exerting willpower. The problem with my willpower was that it was warped. The more willpower I exerted, the more I fucked up. I tried everything: using only on the weekends, snorting instead of intravenous injections, drinking instead of using other drugs, using only certain drugs in certain combinations, etc. The irrefutable truth was that no matter what I tried, I always ended up in the same place: all fucked up.

Imagine a machinery part that was made to perform only one action, or to move in only one direction or in one specific way. No matter how much you oil that part, no matter how much you try to fix it, it will still perform what is was meant to function. If the part was meant to move back and forth in a forward manner, no amount of lubrication will make it move sideways. Similarly, if the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything begins to look like a nail. My will was fucked up, meant to move in a specific direction and no exertion of that will could bring about change. In fact, my will often brought more destruction.

Simply put, I came to the realization that if I wanted to change, I needed to develop new tools, to come to terms that my will wasn’t working too well. And what that really meant for me was that in order to begin my journey, I first had to surrender. In fact, as I look back now, the whole process of recovery is one long, beautiful, liberating process of surrendering.

The First Step is like the beginning of a hero’s journey. In the archetype of the hero (or errant knight), most heroes begin reluctantly, clumsily, and then forces beyond their control propel them past their ordinary lives into a journey of personal change and renewal. Like most addicts, I was unaware of aspects of myself -- my feelings, for example, and the wreckage I was creating. The first step freed me to begin my quest for self-knowledge and transformation.

Admitting to powerlessness took me years; accepting that admission brought me to the gateway of healing and sanity. That was also about another core spiritual principle: willingness. Instead of willfulness, what I needed was willingness. It’s part of what is often called the HOW (honesty, openness, and willingness) of recovery.

The common misperception about the first step for those who have never tried to apply it is that it is defeatist. The first step is not about defeat. It says powerlessness, not hopelessness. Powerlessness is not uncommon, in fact, and if we open our eyes, we realize that we have no power over many things. Take the weather, for example. As we Northerners brace ourselves for a blizzard as I write this, I understand completely that I can’t stop the snow, but if you take the time to stop, look, and listen, you may come to realize that preparation is a lot better that railing against the elements. Another thing we have no power over is how others act or think, yet we spend enormous amounts of time and energy trying to exert control over other people. Oftentimes, we don’t even have power over our own emotions, but we can learn to relate to them differently.

The first step is really about admitting powerlessness over living in the extremes. Try fighting the rain, or better yet, a hurricane, and you’ll get a sense of what it is to fight addiction. You have to surrender.

As part of taking the first step, you take an inventory of the consequences of your addiction. For me this meant documenting the jobs I lost, the people I hurt, and most of all, the harm I did to myself. In reflecting in this way, I could no longer deny the unmanageability of my life as an active addict. This was a hard nut to crack because I never wanted to admit my life was unmanageable. I had it together, I liked to think, I just went a little overboard sometimes.

I was also confronted with the insanity of the obsession that led to the compulsion and how my fight would be futile until I surrendered. If you’re fighting an inner war, then someone has to lose. If you’re fighting an inner war, it follows, you, or an aspect of yourself, will always lose.

Taking the first step clearly showed me that my thinking had little relationship to reality. There were countless times, for example, that I would experience a blackout. A blackout doesn’t entail being unconscious or comatose. In a blackout, you can sit down one minute and the next thing you know you missed an entire episode of your life -- while conscious.

It’s similar to what I imagine a time jumper would feel. One minute you’re in one time-space continuum and the next, you’re somewhere else and what’s horrifying is that you don’t know what the fuck is going on. One time coming out of a blackout, I had a whole house-full of people wanting to kick my ass, and I had no clue why. It seems I propositioned the bride-to-be (I was at an engagement party) and that kinda pissed a few people off. I once emerged out of a blackout in a different state and different year. It happened during an extended New Year’s Eve celebration. Several days later, I woke up in a strange house, sleeping next to a strange woman and I had no inkling of where I was or what day.

Still I couldn’t admit my powerlessness. It wasn’t that something was wrong with me, I rationalized, it was that other people were too stuck up or rigid, and besides, I know that bitch at the engagement party wanted me. Perhaps you may have never experienced this extreme form of powerlessness, but have you ever had a situation spiral out of control to the point that you were at a loss?

Most of all, the first step is the beginning of the undoing of the karmic consequences of denial. I had to be brought my knees -- from hopelessly addicted to institutions and even close to death -- and still I wouldn’t admit my powerlessness. There was definitely a lot of evidence of unmanageability in my life. Shit, I attempted suicide at least once. What “normal” person can say that? More than anything, I was addicted to insanity.

Oh, and yes, I’ve kicked more habits than I can remember. I just could never stay stopped. It was never hard kicking a habit. But addiction, I soon learned, was not merely about substance abuse. I would get “clean” and chill for six-seven months, but when I started again, it was as if I never stopped. My last day as an active addict, I had spent $300 after having been released from an institution for exactly fourteen days. I went from clean to a $300-a-day habit at the drop of a hat.

I would say that’s unmanageable...

However, there are other ways our powerlessness and unmanageability manifests in our lives. Whether it’s food or cigarettes, or relationships, I think we can all look where we’re being a little self-destructive or even slowly killing ourselves (cigarette anyone?), suffering needlessly, or causing ourselves or our loved ones harm. I believe we all can identify with the compulsive need to exert control and the denial of powerlessness. I use my life as an example because the extreme manner in which I lived it makes it easier to illustrate my points, but we all have the dark places, the places that scare us.

Today, I apply the first step to many things in my life, especially in relationships and to certain behaviors. Addictions like to migrate. One might be able to kick the heroin or the alcohol, but then you see people acting out sexually or financially. If you don’t do the inner work, applying these principles in all your affairs, then you’ll continue to be in the grips of addictive behavior. The first step stipulated that I was powerless over my addiction. Addiction is not about a substance, but a way of thinking.

Eventually, I began to conceptualize the first step as something similar to the concepts of Aikido or Wing Chun, two martial arts that stress the importance of never meeting force with force. In a sense, the first step is about learning to flow with the forces of life instead of fighting all the time. It’s learning to transform difficult emotions into opportunities for healing. It’s knowing that while you can’t stop the waves, you can learn to surf.

My name is Eddie… Addict


Addiction is one of the most pressing problems in our society -- a society that actually encourages consumption at the expense of substance. If you think you have a problem, give yourself a break and try something new, it just might save your life…

Alcoholics Anonymous: Official website

Narcotics Anonymous: Official website

Alano: "The Online Alano Club is a nonprofit association intended as a resource for Alcoholics Anonymous® members and groups, as well as any individual who has a desire to stop drinking. Members from other 12-Step programs, especially the Al-Anon Family Groups, also are welcome."

Note: The featured artwork is from Ben'h Usry.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Sermon [La Ofrenda/ The Offering]

Hola Everybody...
When I first wrote this, I had some responses along the lines of, “it was just some deranged lady... ” And I guess perception is an important consideration. However, being present (which is what this post is really about) is everything. As a teacher used to tell me, life is like the Lotto, you gotta be in it to win it.
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La Ofrenda/ The Offering
What you think you are is a belief to be undone.

One day, a few years ago, I played hookie from work. It was one of those early spring days and though it started with rain, a jealous sun struggled with obstinate clouds. It was lunchtime in one of my favorite reading spots in The City in Union Square Park. There’s a life-sized statue of Gandhi there and people often put fresh cut flowers in its hands.

I have done this many times. I have several “power spots” throughout the city where I go read, observe, and contemplate, alone yet surrounded -- stillness surrounded by frantic activity. On that day, no sooner than I had settled on a bench, a woman with long white, wiry wild hair came shuffling toward me. I was hoping she wouldn’t sit next to me; I didn’t want to smell yet another homeless person (such is the way we make people invisible). Perhaps reading me, she sat down rigidly across from me. I wanted to get back to my reading. But she stared at me intensely. Then slowly, reflectively, as if following some unknown anointment ritual, she emptied a bag of birdseed on her shoulders. It was a strange sight even for La Gran Manzana -- the capital of wierdness. I noticed how the seeds clung to her hair and clothes, pooled onto her lap, into the folds of her worn clothes, and scattered over her soiled sneakers. Then she leaned back and, after fixing me once more with that intense gaze, she stretched her arms and closed her eyes.

A brief moment passed and first one pigeon flew to her and then several more, and then a dozen or more. They congregated on her arms, pecking at the seeds and one another in a feeding frenzy. Soon the edges of her body were blurred in a flutter of wings. I sat there transfixed thinking this was an act of madness -- clearly this woman was crazy; it seemed as if the birds were devouring her. At the same time, the act took on an air of magic. All the while she was disappearing into this chaotic mass of feathers, she was whispering an incantation in a language I couldn’t make out. I sat there hypnotized, my open book now forgotten.
I noticed that others were staring also. People glanced up from their paper bag lunches or reading their newspapers and gasped. Young mothers pushing strollers stopped and gawked. It was a gesture of such tremendous force that it took us out of our little protective shells, from the cocoons of fearful lives, and for a brief moment we forgot ourselves. Her audience -- witnesses to what I call her offering -- came together for that ephemeral time and we were connected somehow. It was as if her act served to break down the walls between us.

In a few minutes, the birds had their fill and one by one, flew away, and the woman calmly grabbed her bag and shuffled away.

Such was the power of her act that for hours afterward I felt as if in a dream and the streets of The City seemed to me new again. 

And such is life in The City -- if we stay here long enough, we become immune and lose our sense of awe and forget even that we possessed it. Then something happens to shatter the routine: a blizzard, or a blackout, even a terrorist act and for a few miraculous hours, we come together as our lives are upended and we notice each other’s presence and come into the awareness of the possibilities of human connection. Strangers reach out to one another; aid is offered without condition, hearts are opened. In a sense, I see this awareness, this presence, is a form of meditation in action.

I guess part of the reason I live here because the challenge of The City is to figure if this experience of openness can be cultivated and made to last.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…


[un]Common Sense