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Sex in the Age of Reason

Reason, it seems, has taken over our world. The questions of who we are, what we are, and how we’re doing are most often answered by a lightning-quick association with our head and what we think. It’s brain-association. It’s what we identify with when we think ‘me.’ Our American or Western mantra could be I think, therefore I am.

Worse yet, we have created an all-encompassing, brain-oriented, sense-depriving, screens-everywhere milieu, in which every beep or buzz takes us out of our body sensations—our here and now, if you will—and jump-starts our brain with hits of sensuality-zapping and mind-commanding attention-getters.

And we’ve heard all of that before: ‘The dangers of a screen-oriented, notification-driven life experience…’ blah, blah, blah...

But apply that brain-identification to marriage and what we get are dead and dwindling sex lives. How come? Because when we value the gifts of the brain over the gifts of the senses, we lose touch with what it feels like to generate desire.

We lose track of what it is to feel, to touch, to sense, and to want, skin-to-skin, in the real world of our bedroom. When we’re brain-identified, we tend to drift in love. We forget how to access our sexual need. It’s not that it’s not there; it’s just that we’re deadening it, and have forgotten how to access it.

Mix that up in a lethal cocktail with the religious training most of us were given about sex—that somehow sex and spirituality are very, very separate poles of a bad/good continuum—and we have a recipe for marital shutdown and deep dissatisfaction.

Matthew Fox, in his brilliant book Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh makes the incredibly important, spiritual point that sensuality is at the heart of creation, evolution, growth. That by separating our self from sensuality, we actually spit in the face of God’s or Life’s greatest gifts. We bar our self from aliveness, from feeling love (not just talking about it), and we refuse to humble our self before our human need for touch and sensitivity.

That explanation is a short version of what I call our “sexual resistance” in marriage. We know that sex is good for us, it’s good for our marriage, and it’s a barometer for how well we’re doing in our love affair. You read that right—I said ‘love affair,’ not ‘relationship.’

A love affair is what we’re really after. Yes, I know that adult marriage pulls us earthbound with weighty responsibilities. It truly does. But the satisfaction we’re after won’t come from sitting on the sidelines of our sensual life with our face in a screen, or our resignation leading us away from our partner with thoughts like, “well, we’re just going to drift away from each other and that’s just marriage.”

No it’s not. Drifting is a modern-day experience built upon distractions, excuses, shutting down, and a lot of real-world busy-ness—which we have created as a culture, and which truly does drain the desire right out of us sometimes.

So what’s the antidote? I delineate this in detail in my brand new book (upcoming from a new publisher). First, we have to put down the goddamned screens and pay some attention to our partner; that is, we need sensual experiences in the real world with him or her, even if it’s as simple as holding hands and going for a walk.

Second, we need to get this clearly: our sensuality is God-given, or Life-given, and it’s the great blessing of adult loving. We deserve to have a regular and sensual sex life. It’s good for us.

Third, we need some tips to help us get into our sensual experiences with each other more easily, without a lot of guesswork, dodging and ducking around each other, or heavy emotional lifting.

Here are some simple tips:

Put the kids to bed at a reasonable hour (8 o’clock) and don’t let TV time unravel through the whole evening and steal all of your paying-attention-to-each-other, intimate time.

Do something for yourself or with your spouse that awakens your body-intelligence—that helps you put your head on a shelf and gets you into the sensuality of your being. Singing in a choir together; taking a painting class, hiking; fishing or hunting; yoga.

When I’m teaching my yoga classes I’m well aware that what I’m doing is encouraging my students to drop down into the wisdom of their senses and bodies, to feel into them, and to wake up to the gifts of being alive in their own skin. That’s where desire comes from, by the way—from being awakened to the gifts of life, love, sensuality and being fully alive.

May we each find ways to drop down into our bodies, and let our sensuality enliven us to the tactile, physical, and intimate touches of the beautiful worlds of our loving.

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