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Spirituality and Sexuality
by Susan Gregg
Sexual energy is one of the most powerful energies human beings can access,yet so often we waste or misuse it. Many spiritual practices require celibacy, the traditional religious community has very strict rules associated with sex, and the AIDS epidemic has turned sex into the subject of one of those "just say no" campaign slogans.
We are not encouraged as children to discover what sexuality means to us. For many centuries, the bodies and sexuality of women have been thought of as unclean or sinful. Sexuality is so much more than just having or not having sex; it is an intrinsic part of having a physical body. Unfortunately, for many human beings, sex has become confused with the concepts of power and control.
I am a firm believer that whatever is going on in my reality is a mirror image of an issue residing fully within myself. So as I look at the issue of sexuality, I find myself asking what society's vision of sexuality, femininity, and women as a whole says about my own interior landscape?
I still remember the feelings of embarrassment and bewilderment when, as a child, I stole into my bedroom with books about the facts of life that my Mother had "hidden" around the house. Even as a young adult, I was unable to talk about sexuality with my mother. Until the day she died, Mom would turn bright red whenever the subject was brought up. What did this say to me as a young child?
When I first began my menstrual cycle, I was terribly embarrassed and confused. I literally hid under my bed because I felt I had done something terribly wrong. In societies where sexuality is considered a normal part of life, things are very different for young girls. In many indigenous cultures, the young girl is honored with a ceremony celebrating her becoming a woman.
In some societies, women remove themselves from the tribe during their menses -- not out of shame, but because they honor themselves and their body. The women go to a special hut during this time of month and allow themselves to be cared for by the other women in the village; they rest and use their energy to turn inwards. When "civilized" men first encountered the custom, they assumed women were sent away from the tribe because they were unclean.
While we are bleeding, it is a time of power, one best used to reconnect with yourself and your spirituality. It is an important time to listen to your emotional and physical wants and needs. Are you tired? Do you need more rest? Do you feel lonely or unappreciated? On the first day of my cycle, I like nothing better than to take the day off, relax, read, nap, drink warm herbal teas, and just pamper myself. I make space for myself to feel my connection to my body and my spirituality.
I feel that all of life is sacred and I try to make all my activities sacred acts. When I live my life that way, I feel connected, as if I am no longer alone in a hostile universe, but instead I am part of everything and everybody. Occasionally, I like to take a day of silence when I speak to no one. The first time I did that, I was amazed at how much energy I expend on communicating with other people. I was also amazed at how uncomfortable the silence was. When I take that day of silence on the first day of my menstrual cycle, I find that I have much more energy and stamina the rest of the month. I feel fuller and so much less drained.
Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) is a huge problem for many women today. I believe it is caused by our disconnection to ourselves and our bodies. The release of hormones prior to our menstrual cycle makes it impossible to continue to ignore or suppress our emotions. When I work with women with PMS, the first thing I have them do is take a day off at the beginning of their monthly cycle. I also have them keep a journal, paying particular attention to their emotional and physical wants and needs. Usually, as soon as they learn how to take care of themselves at a profound level, the symptoms of PMS disappear.
As I found myself approaching menopause, I began to look at my beliefs about this stage of my life. When I was a teenager, my Dad sat me down one day and told me my Mother would be a little crazy for the next few years and I needed to be nice to her. That was the sum total of my knowledge about the subject. As I began reading, meditating, and exploring the subject, I realized what a gift menopause could be. It was the beginning of another phase of my life, not the end of it.
In Native American cultures, women who had gone through this passage were honored for their wisdom and knowledge. They believed that when a woman stopped bleeding, she held her wisdom and power. It was a time when a women truly came into her own, when her energy was totally her own, when she became whole. I prefer that idea over the idea of going crazy. As I meditated about it, I also realized that it was a time for a woman to deal with any unresolved issues. I had to begin looking at any ways I gave away my power to anyone or anything, or the emotional pressure to become whole would drive me crazy.
While I was studying with a shaman, he talked a great deal about the power of sexual energy. The moment of orgasm is incredibly powerful. At that moment, a women is wide open energetically and can access a large store of energy. It is a point in time when a great deal of energy is shared between the partners. That energy can be love. Women frequently connect with their partners at that instant and lose energy as well, as a little bit of themselves. My teacher suggested I make having sex a sacred act.
If I did that and made it my intention to connect with my spiritual self and universal love, I would gain energy and deepen my connection with myself and the universe. Several years ago, I did a ceremony for a group of women that was very powerful for us all. I created a circle with stones and placed a piece of paper under each stone. On each slip of paper I wrote a word like integrity, honor, freedom, or acceptance. As each woman stepped into the circle, she was to celebrate becoming a woman. The rest of us were there to witness her joy and celebrate with her. After each of us had stepped into the circle, we picked up a stone and the slip of paper under it. It was a very moving experience. It was a rite of passage most of us were denied as children.
No matter where you are in your life, honor your process and yourself. Give yourself a gift, take time for yourself, gather a circle of women to honor your rite of passage. Listen to your body and make every act in your life a sacred one. Take time to explore your sexuality and your relationship to your femininity, and have the courage to throw out any old beliefs that no longer serve you. Celebrate yourself.
If you have any thoughts or feelings you'd like to share, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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