Archive for the Devotion and Desire
hello and welcome to 2013!
i am a bit of a thesaurus addict and dictionary devotee.
when writing this post about vows and commitments (good and worthy topics for the top of a new year), i found these definitions striking:
:: to solemnly promise to do a specified thing; to dedicate to someone or something, especially a deity.
:: to pledge, devote or bind to a certain course of action; to be in a long-term emotional relationship with
somewhere in the moment when 2012 became 2013, i made some simple vows to myself for the upcoming year:
* Be Oracle Led. (have my Sourced bodily wisdom, the deity that is in me, lead the way)
* Take My Full Share. (of the moment, of life, of love)
* Be Bold. (insert my wisdom into the moment, with exuberance)
for the ceremony in which i committed to these vows, i created an intricate dance performance – involving a projection of me dancing with my live dancing self, a beautiful musical score, to an audience of the most extraordinary humans i know.
here’s a sneak peek image from the performance:
and here’s my guideline for creating your own vows and commitment ceremony:
your own commitment ceremony (your vow exchange with You), need not be as complex as all that. it can certainly be involved, and include the goodstuffs of ceremony, or you can keep it simple and simply Hear Yourself as you make your vow(s).
all that stuff of ceremony (like candles, incense, singing, dancing, setting the space, gathering witnesses, etc) PREPARES you to step into the Sacred, Holy and True, but you don’t NEED any of it.
the moment your heart speaks the vow IS the moment of commitment, and that can happen anytime, anywhere, no bells, whistles or cathedrals needed.
the Divine is everywhere. the Holy knows when you mean it or not. and you know when it’s True. (if you liked that, feel free to tweet it)
so, your mission, should you choose to accept it:
Your Commitment Ceremony To You
1. create a vow (or vows) to You.
what do you solemnly pledge to do, be and uphold for yourself this year, even when you don’t feel like it – especially when you don’t feel like it?
(said differently, what course of action are you devoted to? what do you promise to yourself? what do you agree to uphold? who do you vow to BE, in rough times as well as smooth, in this long-term relationship you happen to be in, with Yourself?)
i say, come up with ONE powerful vow. or two or three. when you can remember them off the top of your head, you know you’re really going to do ‘em.
2. plan (and do) your commitment ceremony.
it can be long or short. take yourself on an afternoon, a day or a weekend getaway. or grab 2 minutes of silence on the bus on the way to work. rent out a church, or do it on the toilet.)
it can involve real jewels and killer duds, or a gum-ball ring and your favorite sweats. however, i do recommend you have some item, like a ring, a necklace, a picture, or somesuch that acts as an anchor to remind you of your vow or vows.
(that’s the real reason we use a ring in a marriage commitment ceremony: to look down at your hand and see the daily reminder of your vows)
get Real, get Sacred, bring your vow(s) and your talisman and do the deed.
and of course, make my year by letting me know a vow or two of yours in the comments below!
welcome to 2013 and the You you are bringing into it,
My husband sent this blog post by Arjuna Ardagh to me, quite a gift to receive from a man, to a woman. Enjoy!
* * *
“I have had many, many great teachers in my life. A super abundance. No one and nothing comes close to the woman who is now asleep in the bedroom. My marriage has become the guru, the salvation, the muse, the crack through which the divine shines through.”
When I woke up the next morning, there were the usual offerings of people who liked the post as well as comments. One man had the vulnerability and courage to post this on facebook:
“Thank you Arjuna for this sharing, I feel like [I’m] in front of a choice which is between feeling envious of what you have and I don’t, or instead to decide that ‘I want that too,’ and, as you show, it is possible…”
I was touched.
Over the next days, I got several more messages like this from men: vulnerable men, honest men, rare and courageous men. They came in as private messages on Facebook or through our website, and they all said basically the same thing:
“I read your Facebook post. I want what you have. Show me how to get it.”
So, friends, here it is. The short guide on how to worship a woman, and why it’s the wisest thing that a man can do. First of all, lets pop a few very understandable doubts that you might have. I’m familiar with all of them.
1. “I’m wounded and damaged in my relationships to the feminine.”
So am I, dear brother, so am I. My parents divorced in a messy way when I was four. I grew up alone with my mother. She did her very best to provide for me, but she was unhappy and insecure. By the time I started to have relationships with women myself in my early teens, I discovered that I had a mountain of resentments, fears, and separation in my relation to the feminine. The conscious practice of worship can become a part of healing the wounds.
2. “Arjuna, you’re lucky. You’ve got an incredible partner. I’m together with a woman who’s not like Chameli.”
I really don’t have the ultimate answer to that doubt or question. It certainly could seem to be the case that I’ve been lucky in finding a great woman, but here’s how it happened for me. I’ve had a lot of less lucky connections in my life. I’ve experienced my share of the manipulative side of the feminine: the victim, the rageful, the revengeful. And I have seen the ugly side of the masculine psyche in myself. A few weeks prior to meeting Chameli, my wife, something deep and profound shifted in me, which I believe can shift for anyone in the same way.
3. “I don’t have a partner at all, and I sometimes doubt if I’ll ever meet anybody.”
Being with a partner where worship is not flowing, or not being with a partner at all, are basically two aspects of the same situation: you’ve had an intuition or a glimpse of the possibilities of a deeper love, and you want more of it. The solutions are the same.
4. “I feel my heart is closed down. I live in my head a lot, and I wouldn’t even know what worship was if it broke into my house at 2 o’clock in the morning and held me at gunpoint.”
That’s where the whole thing starts for all of us, when we realize that we don’t yet know how to love. And that’s that the big question that you have to consider: “Is that okay with me?” Never mind how much money you make, or how many friends you have on Facebook, no matter how nice a house you live in, or no matter how big a car you drive, no matter how impressive your partner’s bust size, or how much you meditate and become spiritual… have you loved for real, in a total and undefended way? If not, and here’s where you have to be honest with yourself, is that OK with you? Is it OK to die one day without the heart’s gift having been fully given?
Eight or nine years ago, I came to that question in myself, exactly that, and I discovered that the answer was, if I was was raw and vulnerable and uncomplicated, that it was actually not OK. If I died one day without having fully loved, it would not have truly been a life well lived.
Many many years ago, I went to Bali for a vacation, on my own. I met up with some other young travelers there and we hired a Jeep to take us on a tour of the island. We drove up right to the highest point of the island, where Tourists don’t usually go. Our guide took us to one of the most sacred temples. It was surrounded by a big brick wall with an ornate entrance. After removing our shoes and wrapping scarves around our heads, we stepped together through this entrance. Inside, there was a short courtyard and then another brick wall with another entrance. After more preparations of lighting incense and giving offerings, we stepped through the second entrance. We were allowed to go through the opening in one more wall, but that was it. All together there were ten walls around the deity in the middle. Hindus could go beyond the fourth wall. Devotees of that particular deity could go beyond the fifth wall, and so it went on. The only people allowed to approach the deity directly were those who had given their lives completely and totally to its worship. Everyone else could come a little closer, a little closer, to the innermost beauty, but not all the way to the center.
I’m not a big believer of the worship of statues, but there’s a beautiful symbolism to what I saw there, because a woman’s heart is just like that. At the essence of every woman’s heart is the divine feminine. It contains everything that has ever been beautiful, or lovely, or inspiring, in any woman, anywhere, at any time. The very essence of every woman’s heart is the peak of wisdom, the peak of inspiration, the peak of sexual desirability, the peak of soothing, healing love. The peak of everything. But it’s protected, for good reason, by a series of concentric walls. To move inwardly from one wall to the next requires that you intensify your capacity to devotion, and as you do so, you are rewarded with Grace. This is not something you can negotiate verbally with a woman. She doesn’t even know consciously how to open those gates herself. They are opened magically and invisibly by the keys of worship.
If you stand on the outside of the outermost wall, all you have available to you, like many other unfortunate men, is pornography. For $1.99 a minute, you can see her breasts, maybe her vagina, and you can stimulate yourself in a sad longing for deeper love.
Step though another gate, and she will show you her outer gift-wrapping. She’ll look at you with a certain twinkle of her eye. She’ll answer your questions coyly. She’ll give you just the faintest hint that there is more available.
Step through another gate with your commitment, with your attention, with the small seedlings of devotion, and she’ll open her heart to you more. She’ll share with you her insecurities, the way that she’s been hurt, her deepest longings. Some men will back away at this point. They realize that the price they must pay to go deeper is more than they are willing to give. They start to feel a responsibility. But for those few who step though another gate, they come to discover her loyalty, her willingness to stick with you no matter what, her willingness to raise your children, stick up for you in conversation, and, if you are lucky, even pick up your dirty socks now and then. And so it goes on. You’ve got the gist by now.
Somewhere around the second wall from the center, she casts the veils of her personality aside, and shows you that she is both a human being and also a portal into something much greater than that. She shows you a wrath that is not hers, but all womens’. She shows you a patience that is also universal. She shows you her wisdom. At this point you start to experience the archetypes of women, who have been portrayed as goddesses and mythological figures in every tradition.
Then, at the very center, in the innermost temple itself, all the layers of your devotion are flooded with reward all at once. You discover the very essence of the feminine, and in a strange way that is not exactly romantic, but profoundly sacred all the same, you realize that you could have got here with any woman if you had just been willing to pass through all the layers of initiation. Any woman is every woman, and every woman is any woman at the same time. When you love a woman completely, at the very essence of her being, this is the one divine feminine flame. It is what has made every woman in history beautiful. It’s the flame behind the Mona Lisa, and Dante’s Beatrice, and yes, also Penelope Cruz and Heidi Klum. You discover the magic ingredient which has lead every man to fall in love with a woman.
When you learn how to pay attention to the essence of the feminine in this way, you fall to the floor in full body prostration, tears soaking your cheeks and clothes, and you wonder how you could have ever taken Her, in all of Her forms, for granted even for a second.
Can there be devotion AND desire? Can sexuality and spirituality coexist? Could perhaps fully embracing both devotion to the spiritual and desire in a sexual sense, each draw you deeper into the other?
“Drop this antagonism toward sex. If you ever want love to shower in your life, renounce this conflict with sex. Accept sex blissfully. Acknowledge its sacredness. Acknowledge its benediction. Go on searching deeper and deeper into it, and you will be amazed that the more you accept sex with a quality of sacredness, the more sacred it will become. And the more you are in conflict with it, as if it were something sinful and dirty, the more sinful and ugly it will become. ”
Osho, in case you are not familiar with him, was also known as Rajneesh, an Indian guru, whose ashram still exists in Pune, India, a place I’ve been several times. Although there are plenty of quirks about Osho, the Ashram and his teachings, I do love his perspective, so similar to Vedic Tantrism.
Tantra, for most of us, conjures up Sting having sex for eight hours at a time. Not a bad image for some of us . but Tantra isn’t only about sex. It’s actually a larger philosophy, and views on sex is one part of that larger philosophy.
Vedic Tantrics were the odd-balls of India, sort of like the mystic Sufis were to Islam. (Think poets like Rumi, Hafiz and Lalla). Vedic Tantric philosophy espouses that there is nowhere to get to, in your spiritual seekings. There is nothing to transcend, no place to work hard to be let into, if you are good enough, right enough, pure enough, etc.
They assert that there is nowhere you could go that isn’t the divine. You are the Divine. The Divine is having a human experience through you.
Sure does take a lot of pressure off to constantly struggle and strive to get somewhere else besides here, in order to be finally OK. Whew.
They also say that anything you repress or resist has power over you, and so they dive into the things they are resisting or repressing, like sex. One of the only spiritual teachings to INCLUDE rather than exclude sex, i take off my hat to the Vedic Tantrics. Spiritual doesn’t have to exclude Sexual.
The best thing I could wish on any of you, and certainly myself, is to have “love shower in my life” as Osho says. Here’s to your showers of love!
If you have five minutes for some unabashed, creative romance today, watch it:
Why did it make me cry like a baby?
Let’s see, I used to live in New York City for 12 years, 6 of those as a professional dancer. I used to work one block away from the park where this was filmed and I’m getting married in 6 weeks myself!
Now, all the romantic proposals in the world, don’t make for the stuff of “making each other happy every day.” Marriage doesn’t have a great track record, I don’t need to tell you. That’s why I do the work I do. To give people the keys to lasting love. They’re not rocket science. But it’s an education almost none of us got.
But a sincere wish to make each other happy every day, is a great place to start.
Have some thoughts on romance, lasting love and outrageous proposals? Leave a comment, my friend!
I go to these really hard, sweaty yoga classes where the teacher will get us into some insane pretzeled-out pose and then keep us there for what seems like an inhumanely long-ass time. I even get up really early, out of my uber yummy warm bed and go willingly to this madness.
If an alien were to visit, it might think it a touch odd to see all these folks like me brushing sleep out of their eyes and contorting themselves on purpose. And perhaps ever more odd to see them staying in the contorted spots rather than heading back to bed.
Why, you might ask, just like the alien might ask, do I keep going back?
The theory is that when we consciously place ourselves in challenging situations where we have to practice opening, breathing and loving through and into the difficulty, we are then better equipped to do it for real when life throws us the big doozies.
The theory can backfire, however, if we, in the midst of the hard time (the long pretzel-hold, the anxiety attack, the insomnia, the broken heart), clench down, zone out, resist or grit our teeth to get through it any way we can.
The reason I keep going back to these early morning challenge-fests is that there is something powerful and palpable about, as the 13th Century Persian mystic poet Rumi puts it, “not moving the way fear makes you move.”
In the midst of challenge, to love. Rather than contract, to open. Rather than hold the breath, to breathe deeply and allow oxygen to carry some lovin’ to our red blood cells, on the conduit of our breath.
“As if you were soaking in an ocean of love, relax open your throat, heart, belly, and genitals to receive love’s saturation. Lovingly melt your heart and body open as the fullness of this moment. ”
~ David Deida
When we decide to notice it, we are indeed in an ocean of love, even during the contorted pose, the anxiety attack, the insomnia, the broken heart.
So, if you’d care to join me this week:
Don’t endure something that’s bad or damaging to you; but do practice opening into the ocean of love, even when you want to throw something at your yoga teacher.
And feel free to comment below — now or after you Open!
Let me speak to you of Devotion and Desire – a self-imposed challenge for 21 days.
This day four of 21 in a row. Each day of these 21, I get up at 7:00am and meditate. Vipassana-Buddhist-mindfulness-watching-the-breath style, with some of my own Pleasure Expansion breath circulation thrown in from time to time. Then a sensual practice, which I’ve coined the Pleasure Expansion Technique. Then exercise – dance, yoga, the gym, or a walk up the crazy hill I live at the base of here in the beautiful, hill-rich city of San Francisco. Also, no refined sugar and no white flour products, and generally a vibrant diet made mostly by the hands of me or my fiancee. And the most important yet least tangible element of it is doing each moment with pleasure and love; being pleasure and love. How I’m being in each moment is just as important as what I’m working on or creating. In fact, the two can’t be separated.
That’s the challenge. Mindfulness. Pleasure. Desire. All senses alive. Love.
First of all, why cultivate Desire? And second of all, why capitalize Desire, like you would a deity, a proper noun or an esteemed elder? Just so we know what we are talking about here, Desire is defined as a strong feeling of wanting to have something or for something to happen; it’s also a strong sexual feeling or appetite. It’s what we want that we don’t have yet, it’s connected to our sexual, creative energies.
Much of Buddhism says the key to liberation lies in our cessation of Desire, and here I am cultivating it. Rebel meditator! I take a bit of issue with how this important point of Buddhism is interpreted. To be alive is to Desire, it is to want what we don’t yet have: our next breath, food to sustain us, to give and receive love, our next creative gift to the world. To live and to grow is to Desire. And we are all created from sexual energy; just like our very bodies are made up of the food we’ve eaten over our lifetime, each of us were created from sex, created with sexual energy. Sex is the most potent, creative life force there is. Without it, we wouldn’t have been made, and without it, we have no urge to make and remake – not only babies, but the rest of our work, gifts, creative endeavors, offerings, etc.
You know that Law of Attraction stuff? Well, Desire is the first step. What do you want? What calls to your heart? What do you long for? Without cultivating our heart’s longing, we are cut off from step one of this pretty potent force of creation. (yep, there are 3 other steps to the Law of Attraction, but I’ll have to get to them later, since that’s not what this blog post is about… a little teasing never hurt anyone.) But the point is, if we are alive, we need to Desire to keep on living and growing.
The key here, is that you are cultivating your Desire from a place of already being full, rather than from a place of lack or emptiness. The mantra is like this: things are good, and we want more and better and higher; rather than: things suck and I want something to make it better. The latter never works so well.
Desire goes hand in hand with Pleasure, two magical forces, greatly misunderstood by the cultures most of us swim in. OK, some of us have created micro-cultures and sub-cultures that are Pro-Pleasure and that go against the grain of our larger cultures. But we still feel it in the air, watch it in movies, see it on billboards and in magazines, hear it around us and on the radio, etc – Pleasure is for later, after you’ve worked enough. Pleasure is amoral and will lead you to ruin. Pleasure, you don’t deserve it.
But Pleasure my friends, is a directive and corrective force. I’m not talking about getting carried away in hedonistic bliss to the detriment of other people or things. It is possible to be in our Pleasure and still be caring, considerate and responsible. Cultivating mindfulness and awareness (read: meditation) helps a lot. Pleasure is spoken as a YES through the body, and boy, to we need to know when we mean YES and when we mean NO. Pleasure is meeting the moment as it comes, not wishing it to be other than it is. Pleasure is following the urge of our animal body, whose instincts are intact, like a plant leans toward the sunshine.
And what I also know is that we can’t separate the process from the product. Who I am BEING while I am writing this blog post can’t be separated from the blog post you are reading. When I’m full of love, enjoyment and pleasure while I’m writing this, you’ll feel it. My mojo gets in there, like it or not.
I’m working to step out of my own madness around working hard and suffering to get through, to be able to produce something (like a course or a blog post or a meal) in record time. I suffer while doing it, I am tight, uptight, hard, brittle and worried while doing it. My mojo gets in there, like it or not.
So, today, as with each of these 21, my work shall be imbued with a slightly quieter mind, all my sensual senses on line, an energized body, a pleasured body and a heart alive with Desire and Love.
Devotion? Well, doing what I said I would do, whether or not I feel like it, day after 21 days, is a form of cultivating Devotion. You bet your booty. Devotion to my word, Devotion to loving even in the HARD spots, Devotion to my body, to what makes it most alive and most able to live and love well.
And when the 21 days are up? I’ll let you know then – and a lot more about how it’s going along the way – but I’ll probably follow the advice of my great friend, Todd, from Orgeon: “Everything in moderation; moderation in moderation.”
Want to join me? What’s your version of this challenge? Just want to expound on Desire, Pleasure or Devotion? I look forward to your comments below!