Bob believed in romantic love and was disappointed over the failure of his first marriage, but in a reversal of the model of courtly love that is the basis for our notions of romance, Bob made himself into a receding object of desire. His girlfriends were like medieval knights questing after his ever-dissolving affections. Bob abandoned the role of the pursuer, but he had not freed himself from the entire schema. He had simply made himself into the pursued.
Bob and his lovers were not enjoying their desire, nor were they obtaining satisfaction. As we talked about all of this, Bob saw how much he blamed himself for the inevitable demise of his first marriage. He had not really let go of his ex-wife, or at least not of his feelings of failure in the marriage.
His incomplete mourning, like that of Freud's friends, interfered with his ability to give himself over to more current passions. His Tantra was not really Tantra. Rather than opening himself and his partner to unexplored states of bliss, Bob hung on to one particular state of arousal. He hid himself within that state, under the guise of being a sexual yogi.
In some ways, he was like a person addicted to his peaceful meditation. He found solace in his ability to prolong his arousal, just as many meditators take comfort in their self-induced relaxation. But he was stuck there, using notions of sexual yoga to limit his engagement with another.
There is an old Tibetan saying that goes something like this: "Just as the waters in the high mountains improve by falling, so do a yogi's meditations improve by dissolving." Perhaps the same can be said of a yogi's erections. Attachment to any state, no matter how idealized, only perpetuates suffering.
Mark Epstein is a psychiatrist in New York and author of Going on Being, (Broadway Books, 2001). He's been a student of Buddhist meditation for 25 years.
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