Last week, I talked about some things about sexuality that most people would more commonly see as sexually dysfunctional. This week, I am swinging over to the other end of the spectrum to take on sexual self-denial and illuminate how harmful this is to all of us.

Debunking the Glory of Abstinence

Because of whatever puritanical traditions that have put fear and shame into millions of people around their sexuality, abstinence has become this vaunted term of purity. And it’s a huge problem. The idea is, of course, that you want to wait to have sex until marriage. But along with that, there’s definitely a strong implication that any sexual expression or action you take, such as masturbation, is almost equally bad. And it should never be openly discussed or explored anymore than is necessary. If you have to do it, just take care of it and move on with more important stuff in your life.

In many respects, the idea of abstinence for many is the total denial of our sexual nature with no relief in sight until marriage. And then people wonder why many individuals rush into marriage. It’s the relief of finally having social (and of course personal) approval to have and explore their sexuality that drives many people. For 2008, the divorce rate in the U.S. stood at 40%, btw.

Control, Shame, and Fear Destroying and Perverting Sexuality

The above descriptors are three of the top issues that we all have to clear as we come into a spiritual awakening. The fact that so many people think that those emotions and issues are acceptable in association with sexuality is grossly problematic. I already mentioned it’s effect on marriages (although there are a lot of issues with why people get married, but don’t underestimate the influence of sexuality in there). Let’s take a look at puberty and teenagers.

Puberty is everyone’s natural sexual awakening. While some families may actually talk with their kids about this, others don’t. And sexual education isn’t much for helping anyone understand the emotional, physical, and spiritual energetic aspects of coming into union. So in many ways, teens are left to fend for themselves or to pull together whatever ideas they can from each other and the media (and the media’s view of sexuality is really distorted, but that can wait for another blog post).

So what’s the harm? Here’s some stats to consider:

  • “The United States has the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and births in the western industrialized world. Teen pregnancy costs the United States at least $7 billion annually.”
  • 750,000 teens get pregnant every year.
  • 2/3 of teens who get pregnant won’t graduate high school (This leads to many of them staying in poverty).

And of course, a pregnant teen feels like she’s wearing the Scarlet Letter in this society or is a social leper. They aren’t embraced, and they are treated as if they’ve done something horrible and dirty. Granted, it’s important that teens learn to be responsible and take care of themselves, but we all need to look at puberty as the doorway into sexual understanding. Society as a whole needs to have much more compassion and support for single teen moms.

When Puberty and Sexuality Are No Longer Taboo Topics

Truly, when teens are coming into their sexuality, we really are sending them out into the woods with no tools to survive. On many other levels, we give them huge amounts of training. Think of all the training that’s offered to learn math. I loved learning math by the way, but my calculus knowledge has really not done much in my career. It’s nice to have the extra knowledge in case I need it. When it comes to sex, there’s almost no help, which is ironic. It’s such a basic, natural part of life. Sexual energy creates life. It’s the most powerful process that all of us possess, and yet, it’s locked in the bedroom or backseat of a car in the dark. This does create some of the perversions that I mentioned in the last blog post. This also creates a lot of fear projected towards anyone who is comfortable with their sexuality. There are some amazing Western Tantra teachers out in the world, but they’re approached with this mixture of fear and shame because many people are afraid of their sexuality and the rawness of its power.

Breaking Control and Coming Into Ownership of Sexual Energy

To heal abstinence and self-denial, you have to break this idea of control. Much of the media and other ideas floating around tell us that we have to have a specific sexual experience. Trying to control our bodies and our partners to achieve these sexual experiences distorts the process and gets in the way of the deeper union that you can have energetically with yourself or with a partner. I say “with yourself” because learning to understand the energies of sexuality through your own practice is crucial. When you can fully own your sexuality within your space, coming to a sexual relationship with a partner metamorphoses. You realize something very important: You realize that your partner doesn’t have your fulfillment.

After that realization, what happens in your sexual meeting with a partner will occur of its own intelligence. Much of what I teach is about helping you to recognize the natural intelligence within you. On every level from your heart to your intuition to your sexuality, there is a natural intelligence that knows what it needs and will move you to it when you let go of control. Trusting in that sexual intelligence will open you up to levels of intimacy and union that you could not imagine.

The Goal Is Not to be Out of Control in Your Sexuality

At this point, some people are so desirous of sexual connection and fulfillment that they want to interpret this blog post as a reason to just go crazy with sexuality. That’s not the point at all. Exploring your sexuality is important, but really, you should always start with yourself. As you develop a new relationship with your sexuality, then you should seek a partner. This new relationship with your sexuality is essential because if you’ve been buried in self-shame and self-denial, you’re going to have a lot of issues come up just within a personal sexual practice. (A personal sexual practice, by the way, is a little more than masturbation, but for now, stimulating and exploring your body in a mindful way is a good step one into building that practice.)

To begin to come into ownership of your sexuality is what is important. Controlling your sexuality is not ownership. Most of the time, it’s simply a denial of this energy in you. You’re going to want to spend at least a half hour every other day and then moving to once a day to build this practice to really learn about your body and to learn all the harmful levels of shame, control, and fear that you’ve absorbed. You can start to use the energy of the orgasm to release these things. It’s one way that you can start to comprehend the beautiful energy that you have and all that you can do with it beyond simple physical pleasure or creating a new life for this world.

Celibacy and the Sexually-Awakened Being

In some spiritual traditions, celibacy is used to cultivate and enhance spiritual energy. Many of the ideas in Taoist and Western Tantric sexual practices talk about circulating orgasmic energy, and they offer practices specific to men and women to hone and expand those energies. Celibacy isn’t a total self-denial in these traditions, but the focus is on the sexuality of the individual and melding the individual’s masculine and feminine energies. So while they aren’t taking a partner, they are still keeping those fires alive.

Because ultimately if you’re interested in the spiritual path and spiritual awakening, every inch of us has to wake up. Nothing is left out. If you try to leave something out, it’s probably a good idea to ask yourself why. All aspects of our body, heart, mind, and soul are beautiful. Our sexuality is so powerful that it is even a doorway to enlightenment if appreciated, cultivated, and owned properly. So if you are healing hurtful issues of shame, control, fear, and self-denial, find the courage to embrace your sexuality. As you do, a new energy and a whole new way of being in your body and in your human experience is about to come to life.

Next blog: Sexual Healing With Your Partner


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.

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