Be Here Now

The past is gone. The future doesn’t exist. This moment is all. Be here now.

How Dare We Question the Porn Gods?

According to an article published by Candice Holdorf on elephant journal a while back
, people who question pornography are sexual naysayers. Hmm... funny I think people who advocate pornography are sexual naysayers. I was with her up until the defense of porn, sexual naysayer statement. In fact, the title of the article actual made me momentarily hopeful that I wasn't yet again going to read an article laced with patriarchal sewage. Ironically, she plans to donate a percentage of upcoming book sales to an anti-trafficking charity. 

Anyway, I love sex. It is perhaps the most sacred experience humanity was gifted with. Our sexuality is our humanity, our life force, our beautiful radiant soul, our connection to consciousness. And, as a slightly more awake than average human (toot, toot), I resent the idea that degrading, separatist pornography should represent my beautiful, precious, awesome, and innocent humanity.

Porn continues to fuel repression, not relieve it. It doesn't give an accurate depiction of innate (not learned) human sexuality - only continues to replay the same old tired patriarchal, repressed script of disordered desire and blatant misogyny. It gives us one version of what sex can be, not what it was really meant to be or even the way it's most soulful and healing. But thanks to our cultural standards regarding sexuality, many of us have a hard time imagining sex any other way.

Pornography not only enslaves the viewer but also perpetuates heinous victimization of real human beings by preying on the sexually abused and the economically less fortunate. It's a transient, empty experience that only helps us stay separate from each other. Which, ya know, is fine if you're not a big fan of the whole "oneness" thing. However, it's pretty hard to escape.

And lets not derail these arguments with twisted comments about moralization or judging people for how they deal with the bull shit of their lives. Life sucks, we reach out, sometimes we grab hold of the quickest feel-good thing around, we learn lessons, or we don't. We're still human and deserving of compassion. Judgment is irrelevant.

What's clear is that porn doesn't save anyone. It doesn't fix marriages or give people a ticket to leave sexual repression behind. Big Porn is a multi-billion dollar industry that eats people whole and drags human souls through offal infested pits of vapid gratification. It does cause addiction, it does ruin marriages, it does cause people to see women as less than human, it does scar the impressionable minds of children. These are indisputable facts that can not be ignored simply because someone wants to get their wank on. Whether or not we can truly blame pornography or a culture that continues to provide a demand for it is not the point. I don't care about blame. I care about humanity. It's clear that porn does more harm than anything else and should be viewed critically instead of eagerly consumed.

Question for the Dalai Lama: “What’s the most important meditation we can do now?”

Answer: “Critical thinking, followed by action. Discern what your world is. Know the plot, the scenario of this human drama. And then figure out where your talents might fit in to make a better world.”

Reclaiming Sacredness and Innocence

We are raised in a world that distorts our naturally healthy and sacred sexuality and ties it to eroticized dominance, power struggles, and lack of self worth. This elaborate and complicated lie continually fuels our separation from one another by shaping our beliefs. In turn, our beliefs shape our sense of self through our thoughts and actions.

There can be no love where there is no truth. There can be no intimacy if we don't even know what intimacy looks like. There can be no happiness if we have no respect for our sacred selves. We must open our eyes and reveal the truth of our amazing and pure human nature. The time has come to stand upon the Earth and feel her truth pulsing into the souls of your feet. Somewhere, deep down, you can feel the truth. You know that something is gravely wrong.

We must take back our life force, our innocent and powerful human essence, our connection to Nature, our capacity for love and intimacy, and our creative potential. This is what our sexuality is. This is what we truly are. Within innocence and understanding we find the only true path to freedom.

We must recondition our erotic love responses toward mutuality, respect, unconditional love, and deep intimacy. It can be done. It's doable because I've done it. And I've never been happier, more whole, or more in love with my beautiful human self.

The process isn't easy, but it is by far the thing that is most worth doing in your life and perhaps the greatest way to truly love yourself. Take a chance, let yourself be a little uncomfortable, ask the deep questions, be honest with yourself. Be brave for love. Be strong for you. And reclaim your sacred humanity.

You Can Blame the Patriarchy for Your Man's Wandering Eye Right Before You Ask Him to Reclaim His Lost Humanity

Psychologist and neuroscientist, Dr. Athena Staik says that every human being’s greatest fear is loss of love and disconnection. Further, she says that everything we think, say, and do is rooted in one of two emotions (or functions of the brain); love or fear.

This is the basis for my analysis on the topic of why men look, leer, or ogle and why it seems to women that their men are constantly on the lookout for something better or just plain different. While many men would say they should be judged on actions (remaining faithful, for example) I doubt there could be argument that looking is not an action. We should also be clear that looking is usually accompanied by fantasy and overt objectification and sexualization. So the action is to take in the image of a woman, objectify her, and use her image in fantasy for sexual gratification. When seen this way, what does this action really say about the character of most men in relationships? What is the intention these men put into the world when enacting such behavior?

More on that latter. First, readers should know that I don’t believe in biological arguments for why human beings behave (especially when it comes to gender and sexuality) because there really is no substantial evidence to prove those myths have any basis in reality. Many of the studies that have led to conclusions about men and women and the subsequent reasons for their sexual behaviors have been conducted with small rodents or non-human species such as fruit flies. More recently, some of those findings have been disputed.

I also believe that gender is a social construct and that each individual male and female are unique in and of themselves and should not be lumped into either male or female categories as predictors for their behaviors. Having said that, it is undoubtedly a common characteristic of Western males to objectify and ogle women. This behavior has been called the Male Gaze by some and simple lasciviousness by others. I believe the presence of this behavior says much more about our culture and our innate human fears and desires than it does about the natural male human. It certainly is not the product of a hardwired “male” brain, as more and more research is being done that shows there just really is no such thing.

Dr. Staik’s analysis of the human brain, it’s purpose, and functions point out some major points that are worth noting.

“Your brain is all about relationships. Thus your deepest strivings are for love and meaningful connection to life within and around you. This explains why love (for your self as well as others) enhances your sense of security – and why some of your greatest fears have to do with loss of love and disconnect.”

Think about the idea of fearing love for a moment. We’ve all probably felt that way at one time or another. Love can be scary and often leave us vulnerable to intense emotional pain. While it’s something we deeply fear it’s also something we deeply desire and in fact require for emotional and physical well being. Now, if we’re heterosexual people, the source of those deep fears and desires are the opposite sex. (Note: Other factors contribute to fear between the sexes, namely the Patriarchy and misogyny. If you’re not familiar with those terms, you should definitely look them up.)

Men also develop fears of abandonment, rejection, and inadequacy which are even stronger when they are socialized within a Patriarchy. They are most often not taught to understand (or even ponder) their own feelings and usually consider emotion a sign of weakness. Well, all emotions except anger and lust, which we’ll see in a moment that fear seems to play an important role in. 

In order to combat our fears of loss of love and disconnection we learn to self soothe and develop coping mechanisms that are most often completely unconscious. These unconscious thoughts (that can lead to toxic thinking patterns and actions) are often triggered by an outside stimulus. In the case of men ogling, the stimulus is the woman being looked at.

Because males are socialized to suppress all other avenues of emotional connection, women and sex represent the one place where they can feel alive and reaffirm their selfhood as men. Male culture is all about relating to other men and reaffirming manhood through various activities. One of the most popular is the objectification of women.

Many men feel (on a level that they are most often not altogether aware of) that the main way to prove their masculinity is to show obvious interest in women. Their insecurities may also be compounded by female rejection and emasculation from other males (especially if they don’t participate in stereotypically male activities like sports, are slight of build, or otherwise don’t fit a traditionally “masculine” mold). So ogling and objectifying women is not only about alleviating anxiety and fears, but also about remaining in control of one’s manhood – that idea that sits at the core of the way an individual man identifies and relates to himself. When this selfhood is threatened, anxiety, fear, anger, and even rage can result. In a futile attempt to remain in control, these destructive emotions can turn into predatory lust.

So let’s take a look at what happens when a man who has developed the coping skill of “looking” comes across a woman that he may even only find moderately attractive. He has already conditioned his brain to see the woman as a threat. She poses a threat to his sense of self and safety because her mere presence challenges him to prove his manhood. If he were to pursue her, she may reject him, further damaging his entire identity as a man. She is something he fears and in order to alleviate that fear, he takes control (and enacts dominance) by exercising what he feels is his natural male right to stare at and evaluate her physical appearance for his entertainment. I won’t even go into what this teaches women and girls, but suffice it to say there are few positives that come from what some would deem otherwise “harmless” male behaviors.

“The desire which a man has for a woman is not directed towards her because she is a human being, but because she is a woman; that she is a human being is of no concern to the man; only her sex is the object of his desires.” – Immanuel Kant

While looking at a woman, a man may feel a sudden rush of positive feelings, reinforcing this habit in a powerful way that allows it to quickly become subconscious. But he knows this is only a taste of what that particular woman’s image can give him. Fantasy and later masturbation may result where the image of the woman is coveted and used for purely sexual purposes. Often the man with an ogling habit seems to be indiscriminate, using the image of any woman to fulfill his purpose regardless of how morally objectionable actual sexual contact with those individual women may be. In this way the image of a woman (any woman) serves as a fetish object or what some experts refer to as a paraphilia. Because women are the most common fetish objects or paraphilias, does not negate the reality that their bodies are seen and used in this way. Just because something is normal, doesn’t mean it has any real benefit or that it is at all a natural human behavior. It is normal for all adults in our society to drive, own a cell phone, send emails, etc. No one could argue those things were “natural” in and of themselves.

What we’re left with at the end of the day is an individual man, who based on his social conditioning and his own life experiences, has learned to fear women and the power he imagines they hold over him. He perceives them as temptresses or at the very least, something to be possessed through fantasy in order to alleviate his longing for meaningful connection. Because the experience of many men in our Patriarchal, misogynistic culture is so similar, what’s created is a male hobby – something men and boys do together to not only push down their fears of the feminine, but also to validate their connection to each other and maleness in general – which is at the very core of their identities.

Female insecurity is a direct result of being viewed through the Male Gaze and being socialized within the same Patriarchal system that teaches men to fear women and then attempt to control that fear by controlling women, even if only in the imagination. This construct causes great harm to both sexes. In essence, fear of loss of love and fear of not having meaningful connection actually causes us to lack love and become disconnected.

Before there are comments about attraction, let me make a distinction or two. Finding someone attractive and admiring their face or form is far different from objectification and immediate sexualization. Patriarchal male culture has commodified the female body and taught men that women are for sex; that the purpose of women is to sexualize them and to have sex with them. This takes the simple and innocent idea of attraction to another level.

We can appreciate the beauty of a flower or a piece of art and not consider them sexual objects to be utilized for our pleasure. We can see the sweet and lovely features of a young child and feel a rush of love and joy that leads no healthy human being to thoughts of exploitation. The difference between a man experiencing attraction and objectification is that one is an appreciation of subjective beauty while the other contains intentions to use and exploit based on the objective standard of being female. In short, attraction (appreciation) gives the object being seen value and objectification takes that value away so the object can be used for selfish reasons.

If men wish to be judged by their actions then it is important for them to realize that remaining faithful to the “man code” instead of to their spouse is a recipe for a lonely life. Ogling, leering, watching pornography, attending strip clubs, and other behaviors that many have been led to believe are harmless “boys will be boys” behavior serves no man in his pursuit for love and connection. What he receives is a poor substitute at best while simultaneously perpetuating self-isolating feelings. He also risks losing empathy for other people, especially women. After all, it's hard to watch degrading pornography or participate at a bachelor party where a woman dances around like an abused circus bear and still have a good time if your empathy is intact. 

Our thoughts put intention into the physical world. They are responsible for our emotions and for shaping our actions. Earlier I asked what intention is being created when men choose to ogle women. I believe the answer is as follows:

Every time a man makes the choice to objectify, sexualize, fantasize, and create desire for a woman other than his partner he is announcing to himself – to the part of him that shapes his emotions and actions – that the woman he loves and who loves him is not good enough. He is in fact saying that he is afraid to love, that he lacks love, and that he is not willing to be honest enough to himself to truly give and receive love. He is broadcasting his low self esteem, proclaiming himself not good enough to love, and honoring suffering instead of joy. He is pushing love away because it’s what he most fears and needs the most. Like a claustrophobic who believes they cannot breathe in tight spaces; they know how dependent they are on oxygen and so they are terribly afraid to be caught without it. They then begin to hyperventilate, robbing themselves of the precious oxygen already present around them. So it goes for those who fear love, something I would venture we need more than even oxygen.

The good news in all of this is that it can be changed. Ogling behaviors are learned coping skills that reside in the subconscious mind. In order to change any unwanted behaviors, we first need to become conscious of them and why exactly we learned to do them. We must be honest with ourselves, tell the truth of our pain, and communicate in intimate connection with a key person in our lives (often a partner, but not always). Only then can we begin to rewire our brains and create new, more positive, self and life affirming behaviors. This in turn can create the healthiest possible relationships and subsequent feelings of love and connection that human beings need to thrive.

Thought Forms and Stinkbugs
 My alarm went off at 6:30 this morning, scarring the bejesus out of me and making me jump nearly a foot off of my pillow. I then realized my head was pounding, a substantial headache making its annoyingly stabby way around the front of my head. My eyes felt heavy and hard to open. My body was achey, my nerves frayed. It had not been a peaceful night’s rest. And it all started with a thought.

Well okay, it started with a stinkbug that led to a thought, which subsequently led to the crappy sleep, headache, and general ick feeling. You see, there was a stinkbug crawling around my bed and into my covers at around 1:30am. It freaked me out, smelled bad, and I’m pretty sure it bit me on the underside of my arm as there is now a little orange mark where I was feeling pain and itchiness last night. As the icing on my creepy cake, I also felt the little booger’s crunchy exoskeleton in my blankets next to my bare skin. Needless to say, I got a huge case of the heebies, jumped up, and flipped on the light much to my sweet husband’s dismay. I then spent a few minutes searching for the thing before finding it just inside my side of the blankets and flicking it across the room. With a shudder, I turned out the light and tried to close my eyes.

I was feeling settled again when our little black cat, Poppy, decided there was something in the room to hunt. She started poking around my nightstand, trying to pick something up with her little whiskered mouth. I was hoping it was a piece of paper or a randomly placed hair tie but no such luck. I flipped the light switch again to see her batting around another little Asian stinkbug. Now, ordinarily I don’t really mind bugs. And these little imports are unusual and don’t belong here, but I still don’t mind their occasional, small-numbered presence. Unless they’re in my room or anywhere near my bed. To me there is an obvious vulnerability attached to the place where you sleep. You’ll be mostly unconscious for 6-8 hours at a time and the last thing anyone wants is to be crawled on, nibbled at, or excreted on by some little insect visitor. So I felt justified in killing stinkbug number 2 (because Poppy is useless when it comes to these things) and tried to settle back in.

As I feel back asleep my head was worrying about the bugs. These pests are becoming a bit of a problem in our area. Plus we live in a house that is over 100 years old with some of our windows having been installed in the age of disco. So I was edgy and felt the need for diligent awareness even as dreams began to fade in. As a result of my worry I got a terrible night’s sleep and probably had a bunch of bug-covered nightmares that I (thankfully) can’t remember in the light of day. But some part of me did remember, or at least was still strongly affected by my worried state of mind. When the alarm went off on my phone it was accompanied by a vibration that sounded very much like buzzing bugs as it rattled against my night table. And that’s why I jumped so high. Not because of the alarm, but because I thought the alarm was a killer stinkbug coming to get me.

What’s been demonstrated here is that our thoughts have a very real impact on our physical world, our health, and our lives in general. It was silly to worry about the stinkbugs and cause a mild state of panic within my mind. Granted, I had an experience that validated that worry, it was still pointless to worry in the first place. I took care of the problem, I wasn’t going to go sleep somewhere else, and I wasn’t going to sit up all night looking out for kamikaze bugs falling from the ceiling. I wanted to sleep. I needed to sleep. But instead of calming my mind and resolving to do just that, I made myself stressed out and restless. And my body is now angry with me for my wayward thoughts. Just imagine if I worried every night as I was falling asleep. What sort of toll would my body and mind take over time? How would this consistent worry begin to shape the very fabric of my reality?

When we talk about “thought forms” within a spiritual context, we usually see them as things of our own purposeful creation that we manifest to exercise our will. There is also the common idea that everything everyone has ever thought of exists on some ethereal plane and has the ability (if given enough energy in the form of belief) to impact the material world. This would include mythical creatures, bogeymen, and the Loch Ness Monster.

What I propose from this little story is that thought forms are a very real and very controllable construct of the human mind that we can use for good or ill in our everyday lives. While most of us are completely unaware of the concept, thoughts are vestiges of our imaginations. Often we believe our imaginations are innate – that we’ve been born thinking one way or another. In reality, our thoughts are conditioned by our environments and experiences and we get to choose whether our imagination is used in positive or negative ways. But first we have to own that power and accept that we alone are the ones in control of our own minds. We need to be willing to practice restraint in order to tame a mind possessed of its own volition, a mind that feels out of our control. And then we need to nourish our minds, imaginations, and thoughts with the very things we can use to manifest positivity instead of negativity. Instead of filling our minds with useless, negative information like gossip, violent media, worry, resentments, etc. we can consciously choose to feed our minds positive, compassionate, non-exploitative, unselfish things that will fuel a more positive outlook on everything.

From my poorly constructed and admittedly quite simplified flow chart above, we can see that we’re given choices as to how to deal with our experiences. While they may serve as catalysts that either truly are or just seem to be out of our control, we still get to decide how we handle them and how we let them affect our behavior. Often times just naming the catalyst that shaped our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors is a way to remove its negative influence and turn it into a positive learning experience.

I believe this flowchart idea can work with just about any situation in life. We either learn and better ourselves or remain in a state of unawareness that perpetuates suffering in our lives. That suffering then has the potential to affect other lives, like the lives of our children and other loved ones. So by recognizing the patterns of our thoughts, unpacking our emotional baggage in the form of naming catalysts in our lives, and taking ownership of our feelings and reactions, we can shape our world consciously and more positively. At least that’s the theory.

We can make the choice to be happy and live positively. And that all begins with a thought. Perhaps we should make it a point to be as conscious of what we put into our minds as we are about what we put into our bodies.

Watch These Videos (NSFW)

Let's start understanding the Patriarchy (and the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that it infects our culture daily) how it affects males and females in extremely negative ways, how it's an issue of public health, and how we can all individually take away its power if we can simply be aware of its influences. Just because this is the way things are doesn't make it right nor does it make it the way things *have* to be. We get a choice. We get to make our own rules, our own social dynamics, our own paradigms of what masculine and feminine mean, and what level of importance these things have on our humanity. All it takes is for each of us to open our eyes one at a time and foresee a future that includes real equality and social justice.

"There are lots of men who will rape without ever seeing pornography and there are lots of men who will see pornography and never rape. So it's too simplistic to ask the question 'does pornography cause rape?'. The answer is clearly no, but that's not the right question. The question is... in a context of a Patriarchal, male dominant society how does men's habitual use of sexually explicit material that fuses sexual pleasure with the routine humiliation and degredation of women affect the formation of attitudes in men. And what connection do those attitudes have to subequent behavior?"

- Robert Jensen

"To appreciate just how bizarre it is to collapse a critique of pornography into a critique of sex, think for a minute if we were critiquing McDonald’s for its exploitive labor practices, its destruction of the environment, and its impact on our diet and health. Would anyone accuse us of being anti-eating or anti-food? I suspect that most readers would separate the industry (McDonald’s) and the industrial product (hamburgers) from the act of eating and would understand that the critique was focused on the large-scale impact of the fast food industry and not the human need, experience, and joy of eating. So, why, when we talk about pornography, is it difficult to understand that one can be a feminist who is unabashedly pro-sex but against the commodification and industrialization of a human desire? The answer of course is that pornographers have done an incredible job of selling their product as being all about sex, and not about a particular constructed version of sex that is developed within an industrial setting."

- Gail Dines

Truly Sacred Sexuality

"Then Atum,
the master of generation,
bestowed on humankind
the sacrament of reproduction -
full of affection and joy,
gladness and yearning,
and all the heavenly love that is his Being.

I would have to explain the nature
of this compelling sacred bond
that binds man and woman together,
were it not that each one of us,
if we explore our innermost feelings
can experience it for ourselves.
Contemplate that supreme moment,
when each sex infuses itself with the other.
One giving forth
and the other eagerly embracing.
At that moment,
through the intermingling of the two natures,
the female acquires male vigor,
and the male is relaxed in female languor. 
The sweet sacramental act we celebrate
is shared in secret,
because if performed openly
before impure eyes,
the ignorant may mock
and the divine power
manifesting in both sexes
will shy away."

- The Hermetica (prophecies of Hermes) as translated by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy in The Hermetica: The Lost Wisdom of the Pharaohs

Those of you who believe in the old gods, in Pagan ideologies, understand that you are still subject to the Patriarchal fabric that shapes the world we live in. Your opinions on (supposed) liberated sexuality, pornography, sexual power games such as BDSM, and other cultural phenomena are not of your soul. They are an expression of the exact anti-Goddess system that you've been rallying against in your pursuit of spiritual wisdom. Perhaps Christians are some of the few who speak out against these things and you think you should hold ideas that are opposite to them. While their convictions come from another place - a place oftentimes more rooted in ideas such as shame and original sin - they are not wrong. Unfortunately, the repression that results from shame is one of the biggest causes of our lack of love.

Shame is irrelevant and useless. It keeps us immature and unable to face our fears and failures. These things masquerading as love, which fill the gaping void of actual love in humanity, fool most of us at some point in our lives. At first, we don't know any better. But by seeking "free love" and a place without repression in the wrong places we continue to be enslaved to ideas that separate humanity instead of joining us together in sacredness. Besides, all love is free. But in order to be able to receive it, we must be willing to truly give it as well.

The prophetic words above which state "The sweet sacramental act we celebrate is shared in secret, because if performed openly before impure eyes, the ignorant may mock and the divine power manifesting in both sexes will shy away" have already come to pass and continue to torture the human race at a startlingly increasing rate. How many women have been hurt by and are resentful of men? How often do we ridicule them and seek power over them by using our affections as a weapon? Why is it that we want to love them but allow our children to take their place in our hearts? How many men are emotionally stunted and full of rage because they've lost that part of their humanity that knows how to love? How many frequent strip clubs, drinking and gazing until the lonely, stabbing pain subsides?

Too often we shrug at these things. We think they're normal. But deep down we know the truth. We know all of it is a subterfuge of misery. Have we sunk so low to believe that misery is our natural state? Perhaps it is as the Buddha said, that life is suffering. But that is only certain for the ignorant. When you know better, you can be better. Know better now because now is the time for each of us to take back the power that is our birthright - the power of love which is the power of God/dess. It is already yours if you can look within yourself and see it shining there. It has always been within you.

Do not mistake this for a lesson in morality. I am not pointing fingers or calling for repentance. Real love is what makes us happy. Not made up ideas of romance, not cheap orgasmic fixes, not financial security,  manicures, or an expensive home. So don't worry about being defensive. Simply ask yourself if you want to be happy.

Love is selfless not greedy. Love is compassionate not demanding. Love is eternal not fickle. Love is the honest truth not what we think others want to hear. Love is acceptance not expectations. Love is unconditional not subject to meeting conditions. Love is brave not fearful of pain or rejection. Love is willingly giving not endlessly taking. Love is the forgetting of desire and the gratitude for what is. Love is wanting to not feeling obliged.

Of love is what we were made and of love we remain. Everything else is a wall of illusion. It is the purpose of our existence to tear down that wall brick by brick.

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