Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sexuality + Love + Intimacy = Spiritual Awakening

Spring begins the passionate season of the year when young couples gravitate towards committed relationships with their lovers. Many will make promises of fidelity to one another and begin the arduous journey of engagement leading up to marriage.

Ken Wilber (Sex, Ecology and Spirituality) explores the spiritual dimensions of this passion as couples become better differentiated while exploring their sexual potential. Men tend to become more the men they long to be while becoming more like women - with an increased capacity for emotional connection. In the same way, women better appreciate their unique femaleness, and stop hiding their power and eroticism. They no longer throttle themselves down in fear of intimidating their man.

Sixty five years ago Carl Jung observed this universal process in the couples that came to him for therapy. As they became more individuated (his word for differentiation) and balanced (their anima and animus) they developed a greater spiritual hunger for God. Jung considered this a natural and spontaneous manifestation of Divine cooperative interaction with a willing and hungry human soul.

David Schnarch (Passionate Marriage) has written extensively about these insights. As a sex therapist, he highlights the writing of Sebastian Moore, who describes what desire out of fullness looks like. For the most part Western civilization has kept sex and spirit at a 'safe' distance, if not pitted irreconcilably against each other. Generally speaking orthodox theology has tended to portray spiritual desire as necessarily devoid of sensuality. Moore on the other hand embraces the unabashedly erotic spiritual 'passion' of the saints.

For him, spiritual awakening need not transcend all desire, because many desires set us free. The desire for wisdom, compassion, generosity and, justice, not to mention a greater capacity for love and understanding life. These desires expand our capacities for self-direction, connection with significant others and ultimately our communion with God . For these reasons Moore stresses that spiritual growth involves the ability to desire more fully, rather than the negative focus on the absence of desire.

Schnarch reminds us that as sex, love and intimacy involve a myriad of developmental task, so too, does true spirituality. These passionate desires from fullness are fueled by a growing internal source: a better defined, well connected and growing sense of what it means to be a human created in the image of God. These energized folks develop a greater capacity for sexual fulfillment and of deeply wanting their partner and their God.

Desiring our partner out of fullness requires our wanting to want. When we dare to embrace our talents, rather than believing we are a failure who's fooled everyone, we make a giant leap of faith. Instead of giving up as little as possible (a 'least lost' strategy for life) we go after what we really want. Imagine that.

We always give up something in this process, but that is an acceptable fact of life. We can't have it all. Happiness lies in not needing it all. Loss is always inherent in getting what we want - unless we want everything, which guarantees we'll be unhappy.

Our desire out of fullness is in essence a 'death wish' and crises like falling in love, undergoing conversion, or suffering bereavement present the challenging realization that the 'you' whose desire brought this about must die. To fulfill your desires, you must change in ways that make that fulfillment possible. Ultimately the smaller 'you' dies as the more mature, unique 'you', is born again. In other words we desire our self to death in the most positive sense of the word.

We may mourn the 'old self' dying in the process of our new self being born,but this death gives life. We may think we don't know who we are, but really we don't yet know who we are becoming. Ironically, we have never been clearer about who we want to be.

Once we recognize ourselves as a temple of the Holy Spirit, then our refusal to grow is not just an individual shortcoming but ultimately a thwarting of this same Holy Spirit. This is where sin comes in to the picture.

Sins isn't about unconfined desire. Rather sin is our refusal to desire more fully, and our refusal to believe in ourselves while living below our God given potential. Sin can then be defined as our 'not wanting to want.' Becoming is never safe or secure. We can't stop when we are frightened or uncomfortable, because we ultimately grow by going into the unknown, including the Great Unknown.

So to all you passionate couples out there I say Cheers! Don't be surprised if in pursuing the love of your life, you get more than you bargained for. Much more.......Amen!
O'

Highlights by O'Steven - Passionate Marriage - by David Schnarch


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