As the descendent of a long line of Catholics, it’s no wonder that I so clearly remember the moment when I learned that there is a spiritual path in which erotic liberation is seen as sacred and welcome. I was in the car with a friend, listening to an interview between two women, one of whom had realized that she could merge her spiritual life with her sensual life. As I heard her story, something came alive in me. I felt curious, hopeful and reassured simultaneously. It felt like a stirring in my soul. “What?! A spiritual path that celebrates sexuality? Sign me up!!”
Humanity has spent too long separating love, sex and spirituality. Most organized religions and spiritual traditions have taught that the highest levels of spiritual mastery result in or lead to the practice of celibacy. Even my beloved yogic tradition encourages spiritual adepts to transcend the very human realm of sexual desire. This teaching and separation perpetuates repression, suppression and oppression of our vital life force energy, the very stuff that makes us human.
I’m here to share illuminate the path that emerges when we apply the spiritual principles of reverence, clarity, compassion and dedication to our sex lives. I’m here to advocate for the place where intimacy and devotion overlap. Let’s step together into the realm of the heart. Let us embark upon the path of learning how to love ourselves and others, to love the whole world with our whole hearts, bodies and minds. This is the path of radical self acceptance, vulnerability and profound presence.
On the day that I learned of this new spiritual possibility for myself, I had already been a seeker for two decades. At the age of 20, I was initiated as a priestess of Oshun, the goddess of sensuality and creativity, in the Yoruba tradition from Africa. Over the next twenty years, I both participated in and organized countless rituals within this tradition and several other metaphysical modalities as my journey meandered and expanded. I learned to meditate, to sense my body, and to do shadow work. I began practicing Ashtanga yoga as a form of exercise, not realizing that my yogic journey would eventually lead me to India, completing a yoga teacher training program and to discovering the Tantric tradition. During these first several chapters of my journey, as a priestess, a yogini, and a seeker, I explored primarily the mind and the body.
Even though we would often speak of “love” as a spiritual practice, the realm of the heart still seemed like a pathless and confusing land. And sex was something that seemed dark, shameful and had no place in my spiritual life. I was drawn to practices and traditions that were clearly defined by others: by elders, teachers and lineages where I perceived a sense of “spiritual authority”. In moments of self-doubt, I would reassure myself of the value and weight of my life, because if nothing else, I was consistently showing up for spiritual practice. I was “improving” some aspect of my body or mind. In these decades, my heart just seemed to be along for the ride.
Then my marriage of 19 years came apart and all of my emotional coping strategies collapsed in the face of the biggest grief and heartbreak of my life. Before my divorce, I viewed crying in public as something to be avoided, kind of like farting or burping. But as I walked through week after week, unable to show up at work with anything close to a normal level of executive function, I realized that crying in public was just like sneezing… just hand me a tissue and let the tears carry on. My sex life was also a source of fear and anxiety; I lived in constant fear that I would never have sex again. I felt hopelessly awkward expressing my desires with anyone and it seemed quite unlikely that my desires would be reciprocated.
It was in this state of heartbreak that I had that pivotal moment in the car. I heard a woman describe how she went from growing up in a conservative religious family to defining her own spiritual path, through her study of tantra and sacred sexuality. I was intrigued, and began looking for guides and resources that would help me to connect these seemingly disparate parts of myself… my spirituality, my heart and my sexuality.
After some research, I signed up for a workshop with the Body Electric School, an organization that teaches transpersonal eroticism, a secular tantra school. I was quite nervous, showing up for the workshop, but I was so intensely curious that I didn’t even feel the need to ask many questions. My Yoruba initiation decades before had prepared me for plunging into mysterious realms. And this first workshop was indeed an initiation… into my own sense of erotic autonomy. Although it took me years to understand how this happened, now I know that transpersonal eroticism is a mystical path that helps us to understand that eroticism lives in us, not in a partner. This is a learning and a knowing that sounds simple to explain, intellectually, but takes a very particular kind of container in order to guide people into the experience of it in their bodies.
Also around this time, I learned about the difference between the spirit and the soul. The concept of the soul was a game changer. Soulful things are things that feel good in a different way from spiritual things. They have a more grounded feel. Sex, money, family and death are all portals to the soul. Art, home-making, gardening, nature, our sense of gender and identity, all soul portals. And the body. The body is the vessel in which the soul lives. In many spiritual traditions, the body is an inconvenience, something to be transcended or brought into line with the higher frequencies. There is an externally recognized sense of “progress” towards the ethereal realm and this often involves renunciation of the body. In the realm of the soul, the inner life is like soil… the complexity and the richness of the microbes and the nutrients are what create life. It’s dark and mysterious and happens largely in the unseen, underground realm of the subconscious. In this realm, passivity and benign neglect are sometimes just as nourishing as diligent daily practice.
As I learned more about caring for the soul, I read a quote about mindfulness being less instructive or valuable than soulfulness, and this changed everything for me. It gave me permission to continue descending into my body and listening to what my body wanted rather than what my mind was projecting would or should feel good or be admirable.
For ten years now, I have focused on the soul and ”embodiment” (the process of living completely in the body and in harmony with the body rather than ignoring or overcoming it as a limitation). My “spiritual” life now looks completely different, since I really focus on my soul instead. Focusing in my soul life also means treating my erotic, intimate and love life as a primary realm for self-actualization. My goal is to bring my soul completely into this body on this earth, at this point in time, in this lifetime.
The work of the soul often feels quite pathless. There is no external model or authority for what is right for me or for you. All the “direction” comes from listening to your innermost self. Which is why this process of reclaiming our autonomy from externally recognized “spiritual” authorities and traditions is so vital.
Turning towards the soul means turning towards my romantic life, my intimate life, my friendships and my family life. These are the relationships and connections that affect me the most deeply on a daily basis. It means turning towards my heart and learning to really listen to this often quiet and ignored voice.
When we give ourselves permission to really listen, our souls will tell us that it's our closest and most intimate relationships that are the most meaningful, the most fraught, messy, complex and the most powerful classrooms for learning how to love.
But even though “soul work” is a seemingly pathless, endlessly complex landscape, there are soul skills! That’s what I wish someone had told or shown me when I was just beginning to turn in this direction. I wanted someone to help me to understand how to navigate the complexity! Why keep it so danged mysterious and vague? Since each person is so unique and our paths are so diverse, there is no road map... even though that's what I sometimes want myself! However, I now have some tools to help you find your own path. And I love to share them with people.
If you'd like to contact me, please send me an email here and let's chat!