Listening to the Call of Our Sexual Soul: The Solo Path to Sacred Sex

Common Ground Magazine, February 2017

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It is a heartbreaking truth that sometimes the most powerful and transformative sexual experiences occur in relationships that are also unsustainable in intimacy and commitment. These lovers open a profound door in us and then suddenly—we are alone. We find ourselves in the midst of the huge mystery and power of our sexuality, having glimpsed our deepest truth. The shock of abandonment can feel like some dark joke from the universe.

I have come to believe this isn’t a dark trick of the fates, but rather is our soul being drawn forth into the sacrality and singularity of our sexual calling. There are truths of our sexual soul that can only be discovered alone. We must be thrown back on ourselves, our erotic door having been blown open, and face a choice: to try to stuff everything back in and wait for the perfect lover to appear so we can live again, or to take ourselves by the hand, bow to our deepest self and to the Divine, and become the lover we long for—for ourselves. We can step onto the solo path of sacred sex.

It’s not easy to find guidance for this path. The only notion our culture has about it is masturbation, a word whose Latin roots mean “to defile or debase with the hand.” There seems to be an unspoken agreement that self-pleasure is second-best, a subtly humiliating practice of the lonely. Even in modern sacred sexuality we may find no better. A recent book about Daoist sexuality reports that masturbation is a “waste”; the “old wives tales of excessive masturbation leading to blindness, memory loss, and other mental problems are upheld in Chinese medicine”; and “another problem . . . is that no exchange occurs—there is no sharing, no communion with another.” This last one sounds a little convincing, with that emphasis on the spiritual, even religious, idea of communion. And we all agree that sharing is much better than its opposite, selfishness.

In other words, this form of attention to ourselves is still laced with shame, even within sacred sexuality. In the absence of a partner, our body is with us always, available and beautiful, and yet we can slowly begin to abandon our sexuality while we long for a lover. What if we accepted our sexuality—our sensitivity to touch, our arousal, our erotic imaginations, our physical and emotional responses—as a sacred gift designed to keep us healthy, open our hearts, give us pleasure, align us with our truth, and unite us with our understanding of the Divine?

The Divine: a word I use to refer to the Intelligent, ecstatic, creative life force energy that imbues all of existence and that wants to be expressed uniquely through each one of us. The Divine can be personified archetypally as gods or goddesses; it can be simply referred to as the Dao.

In Chinese medicine, one of the three “treasures,” or forms of chi (energy) that we are gifted with is the Jing. Jing is our individual essence, our procreative energy: it is synonymous with our sex—from a sexy thought, to a bubbly sensation in our belly, to the full response of our genitals. Revering, protecting, and cultivating our Jing is considered a sacred responsibility for both optimal health and fulfilling our destiny. Practices like diet, qigong, and conscious lovemaking cultivate our Jing—as does lovemaking with ourselves. So it is through this lens that “masturbation” is transformed into a devotional practice of self-cultivation.

Self-cultivation. Whisper that a few times and imagine what it might feel like to touch yourself by that name. Self-cultivation denotes a spiritual commitment to refining ourselves on all levels. Just as with sacred lovemaking, it requires time, physical discipline, practice, and incredible tenderness—toward the self. We gain self-knowledge, exploring self-intimacy, subtlety, and sensitivity. We support our health by stimulating essential meridians and pressure points (the genitals of both sexes contain pressure points for all the major yin organs in the body as well as the glands). We learn to consciously integrate the power and intensity of sexual energy. And it nourishes our Heart chi, resulting in that opposite of selfishness: a generous heart. Self-cultivation is a prayer of gratitude for embodiment, and it brings us into deep communion: with ourselves and with the creative, spiritual essence that infuses all beings.

How do we transform masturbation into self-cultivation? We consecrate a space, calling in our chosen Divine archetypes, ancestors, and energies. We bow in, to ourselves and them. We begin to touch ourselves as we would the most cherished lover. We follow our deepest sensations and longings, blessing each as they arise. When we engage our sexuality with the Divine, we move beyond the limits of human relationship and open ourselves to vast potential. We have an opportunity to take the lid off of our experience and our exploration in a way that may be unavailable with a partner. We can completely set aside self-consciousness and the bounds of convention and culture, and invite our sex to lead us to places that are truly our individual (and universal) birthright as spiritual beings. We can shed our stories and our history, becoming more naked than we thought possible. This relationship with ourselves and the Divine is not more than, less than, or instead of having a lover. It becomes fulfilling and worthy in and of itself.

This merging with our sexual soul profoundly aligns us with our deepest truths. As our practice of self-cultivation deepens, our sexuality comes out of the shadows and emanates into all aspects of our life. We experience our sex as a unique and holy expression of the universal creative life force. Then when we join with a lover again, we meet them with our wholeness, sharing with them the sanctified beauty of our sexual soul and inviting them to do the same.