The Path of Fulfilling and Sustainable Sex
CURING THE SPEED DISEASE
In keeping with the emerging Slow Food movement, I was delighted when my publisher suggested that I write a book entitled Slow Sex.
This is a subject that is dear to my heart. My partner, Michael, and I have been facilitating weeklong "Making Love" retreats for couples since 1993. During these retreats we teach couples to take a fresh approach toward sex-to slow down and be fully present to each moment while having sex together, rather than practice more active sex that strives so intensely toward orgasm that it misses the subtler nuances of union along the way.
In short, we teach couples how to cultivate a slow sex practice. It is crystal clear to both of us that when couples engage in sex at a more leisurely pace, in which each moment is slowly savored and relished with awareness, they experience more sensitivity, sensuality, and satisfaction.
Afterward they feel deeply nourished by love, empowered as a couple, and significantly, equally empowered as individuals too.
Recently a friend suggested I read The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy, and Weight Loss by Marc David. This book turned out to be an exceptional source of information, insight, and inspiration- not just in relation to food, but also in relation to sex. Marc David is a professional nutritionist with a master's degree in the psychology of eating.
Through his own personal experiences in the practice of yoga, he became acquainted with the existence of eight universal metabolic enhancers that are transubstantial, meaning "above and beyond the realm of matter." Two examples of these universal metabolic forces are relaxation and awareness. When applied directly to eating, they are the greatest enhancers of digestion, nutrition, and maintenance of appro- priate body weight. That is, when we slow down enough to be fully aware of the food we are eating-taste it, savor it, and make time for relaxation at the dining table-the food nourishes us in ways that no food can when it is wolfed down or gobbled on the run.
Every cell in my body resonated deeply with David's words. I real- ized that the transubstantial metabolic enhancers he recommends for health, nutrition, and maintenance of optimum weight are undeniably similar to the suggestions I offer couples seeking more satisfying sexual experiences and more loving relationships. These universal metabolic forces and their powerful effects on human sexuality hold absolutely true in my own personal experience. Just as we allow our food to nour- ish our bodies by eating more slowly, by practicing slow sex we allow our sexual relationships to nourish our hearts and souls.
The first step is to change our minds about sex. A shift in perspec- tive opens new doors of experience for the body, giving it space to express itself. Usually our ideas about sex are forced onto the body, forcing it to cooperate and fulfill the many expectations and desires we associate with sex. Such pressures have made sex a hurried and single-minded act, whereas the body is inwardly thrilled with a slow, languid, expansive sexual exchange. Rather than do so much in sex, the body prefers to be in sex. This requires an acute awareness of the present moment. In slow sex, instead of getting involved in building to a climax, you take a step back and witness yourself. You are not so hot; instead you become more cool. Slowness takes the heat out of sex, which is a good thing, because bliss and ecstasy plant their delicate roots in a cool environment, not a hot one.
For the same reason, sexual arousal is not a prerequisite. You don't need to heat up with excitement. Instead, you discover how to fall back into your body, to be more aware and relaxed, with a sense of not really going anywhere special. It doesn't require lots of energy to engage in, or sustain, slow sex. And herein lies one of the main blessings of a slow sex practice-it is a sustainable practice particularly well suited to long- term committed couples. Over a period of many years it is natural for a couple to experience a certain amount of cooling down in sex, because it's simply not possible to stay hot and excited about each other forever.
There has to be some maturing, some settling, some turning inward toward resources that lie within yourself, rather than outside of your- self. The nature of heat is that it has to cool down eventually. Coolness is sustainable and it has an eternal quality. This makes slow sex a prac- tice that can grow, deepen, and develop over time. It is a practice that generates love and harmony, creating balance within each person and between two lovers.
This book presents slow sex as a practice for contemporary couples, but it has ancient roots in Eastern spiritual traditions-such as Tantra from India and Taoism from China-that have found expression in a number of current Western sexual movements. Certain Tantric lineages embraced sexual practice to bring about an expansion of consciousness, and as a doorway to the Divine. Taoist inner alchemy practices cultivate sexual energy in order to empower the body and boost health.
"There are very long and rich traditions of sexual mysticism that can be traced back before the origins of Christianity in the West," writes Arthur Versluis in his book The Secret History of Western Sexual Mysticism, "and for all the efforts of the 'orthodox' to extirpate it, erotic mysticism still recurs time and again, perpetually renewed, like the phoe nix." Versluis believes that sexual mysticism is particularly attrac- tive in the present day and age because it resonates with a deep human need for connection-with another individual, but also to nature and to the Divine. Fulfillment of these needs has eroded in modern Western culture, where disconnection and isolation tend to prevail. I can say with certainty that slow sex is a practice of sexual mysticism that gently heals and restores our isolating severed connections. Sex has a higher potential-sex is able to carry us beyond duality into a spiritual unity that brings us closer to ourselves, the other, nature, and God.
Among the early proponents of contemporary spiritual sexuality was Alice Bunker Stockham, one of the first women to graduate from medi- cal school in the United States, who published a book called Karezza:
Ethics of Marriage in 1903. Stockham's text states that there is deeper purpose and meaning to the reproductive faculties and functions than is generally understood and taught. She writes about a physical union that can include a joyful soul communion that promotes soul growth and development. So although spirituality in sex may be new to many of us, we can see that sex has been used for higher purposes over and over again in different ways and in very different cultures from ancient times to the present.
Slow sex as a practice leads to a form of spiritual marriage that meets deep human needs for connection and generates a positive rejuvenating energy in a couple, which then spills over into the community. Slow sex represents the only viable way forward for us-as man and woman together-to create a loving and sustainable humanity. It is a powerful way to create peace for ourselves and for the world.