Sex, money and spirituality

I undertake the training precept to refrain from sensual misconduct.

As I reflect on sexual energy and how it flows in our English-speaking culture, it is more or less inseparable from the marketplace. Sexy images and words are explicitly used to sell the public everything from cars to power tools to undergarments to vacations. Our desire to appear attractive to others seems to be so primal that there’s nothing it can’t be used to promote. Rationality has nothing to do with it; the ads ask, “Don’t you want to be sexier?”. And yet, in the history of the world, a new car, watch, lugwrench, whatever, has never actually increased anyone’s sex appeal. And if such a purchase did make us feel better in some way, the feeling faded pretty quickly.

There’s no point in ranting against the commercialization of sexuality; from all indications, it’s not likely to change. Still, we can understand it for what it is, and perhaps be less in its thrall than we might once have been.

A question that intrigues me is this: Does sexual energy draw from the same well as spiritual energy? In my own case, I surely confused spiritual hunger with sexual hunger in my youth. The same feeling of emptiness that some people try to fill with buying and owning things, others try to fill with unrestrained sexual activity. Accumulating things or sexual partners are likely both attempts to fix something that feels “wrong”. There’s nothing necessarily terrible about either of these, they are simply based on a misunderstanding of our real situation.

And yet, both (unsuccessful) attempts at fulfilment can lead to an awakening of awareness. How many times do we need to make the mistake of thinking we’ll be satisfied if only…[fill in the blank], only to find out that the problem of our dissatifaction is still there? “RATS!” we think, and then go ahead and try the same solution again, and again, and again.

Eventually we might realize that trying the same response to our “need” will give the same result next time as it did last time. Perhaps we’ve mis-identified the need? A desire for intimacy? For feeling connected? The excitement of an actively engaged heart? To feel “more alive”?

One way to feel all of these good things is to feel in charge of our own decisions, and to have confidence in the internal guidance we use for our words and actions. To know that what we do affects others, and to start studying that – real satisfaction may start here.

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
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