Intimacy and Ecstasy
After six years of living in an ashram—three of those spent celibate—Jordan Louise Kirk knew intuitively that her life had to include, among other things, sex. "The missing piece in my spiritual growth was an intimate relationship. Nothing pushes our buttons more than an intimate, committed relationship. It's only through engaging in relationship that we can start to work through the muck of our own psyche and see where healing needs to take place. Our biggest spiritual awakenings result from how we relate to each other. To run from that would have stunted my spiritual growth." Then, the Scottsdale, Arizona, Anusara Yoga teacher met her husband, Martin, and things came together. Now, she says, "When I'm making love to Martin, I truly see him as the Divine incarnate. I see him as holy. When you're seeing that the other is a manifestation of divinity, you get in touch with your own spirituality."
For most of us, that sort of spiritual-sexual connection—if we've ever had it—is a very rare experience. You might even call it the elusive trifecta of great sex: feeling desired and cherished by your partner; experiencing a complete sense of comfort and of being present and awake in the moment; and connecting deeply to your partner on both the spiritual and physical levels for a satisfying release (whatever that might be). It's what sex therapist Gina Ogden, Ph.D., author of The Heart and Soul of Sex, describes as "a feeling of oneness and transcendence—being wrapped in a sense of universal love."
Chances are, "better sex" isn't at the top of your list of things to work on to bring yourself closer to enlightenment. But the two go hand in hand, according to yoga teacher Mark Whitwell, author of Yoga of Heart: The Healing Power of Intimate Connection, who goes so far as to say, "Sex is the principal means to directly experiencing our authentic life." Sex, at the very least, gives us a peek into our true essence. The moment of orgasm may be one of the most accessible (albeit fleeting) ways we can find nonthinking and nonduality.
Like the richness of our spiritual lives, though, the depth of our sexuality goes far beyond easy, quick satisfaction and often takes years to unfold. Says Ogden, "Our sexuality is much more complex than the Masters and Johnson model of arousal, orgasm, and rolling over and going to sleep. It's spiritual, and the body has memories. Sex always means something even if you deny that it does." That's why exploring the spirit-sex connection is best done in a love relationship, rather than with a variety of casual partners. As Whitwell puts it: "Dear friendship must be established as the context for sex as spiritual practice."
If linking sexuality with spirituality seems unnatural to you, it may be because Westerners are generally saddled with barriers to a deeper spiritual-sexual connection, starting with what Ogden calls the "performance model," which focuses on intercourse, with orgasm alone as the goal. Then there are conservative religious traditions that put the kibosh on anything that links God to the pleasures of the flesh, as well as advertising that parses us into a set of idealized body parts.