Celebrating Our Desires
Sexual desire comes with a lot of baggage. For most of us, it’s a feeling that is often scary, is hard to talk about, and is really hard to express gracefully. We either wish we had more of it, or we trying to deal with having too much of it. And in our culture today, there are tons of examples of unhealthy desire but very few examples of healthy expressions of sexual desire. So let’s explore desire today. I’ll give a framework for what healthy desire looks like, along with common pit-falls around desires, and then let’s find a way to celebrate these bodies and all of our desires that come with them!
2 Types of Desires
First off, I want to make a distinction between two types of desires: desires of the ego and desires of the soma.
Desires of the ego
These desires serve to solidify or aggrandize or sense of self. These are concepts or images about who we are or who we want to be. For example, if I desire a bright red sports car, it’s probably mostly about my image of myself as someone who is powerful, wealthy, successful and/or attractive. This is the ego’s project of making the ego bigger and better.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with desires of the ego, but they’re not really helpful to our growth or to evolution of the world around us. Once I get one sports car, then I immediately want a second, better sports car, etc… There’s no end to the cycle and nothing really changes in our psychology or growth.
Desires of the ego often translate into the sexual arena: the trophy spouse or going for the sexual conquest are two examples.
Desires of the soma
These on the other hand, arise out of the body through the natural attraction of life-force moving through us. For example, when you walk into a kitchen where chocolate-chip cookeis are baking and your mouth salivates with the aroma. Or when you see an attractive person at a coffee shop and your whole body lights up. These desires arise through sense perception (sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste) and manifest through sensations in the body.
Desires of the soma are the ones we want to pay attention to, cultivate, and celebrate. Here’s why: the desires that arise out of our bodies draw us into present moment experience and drop our awareness more fully into our bodies. These desires bring a surge of energy with them - our vitality and life-force flows stronger because of them. By cultivating this aliveness in our bodies we have more access to creativity, useful energy, and pleasure in our lives. All good stuff! Desires are a really positive and useful part of being human!
I really believe that the vast majority of the abuses we see in our society today stem from desires of the ego running rampant. Desires of the soma are a natural part of life and as such are inherently healing and dignified.
Getting in Touch with our Desires
Now that we’ve identified which desires to focus on, let’s take a look at how to intentionally cultivate them.
I grew up with a Catholic upbringing where I learned that sexual desire was shameful and bad. I accumulated a lot of guilt around having my desires and developed a fear that prevented me from even allowing myself to feel my desires for many years.
If your experience was like mine, or if you were somehow wounded around sexual desire, then you may need to spend some time really opening to your desires. Here’s what I recommend:
First, come into your body — exercise, dance, meditation, whatever works for you to center your presence in the sensation of your body.
Then, tune into the different sensations of your perceptions and see how much you can enjoy them. Take deep, full breaths. And tune into the pleasure of the senses. Practice turning up the volume on the pleasure you’re feeling.
It can be a helpful practice to speak your desires out loud, or journal about them along the way.
A Healthy Approach to Desires
Owning your Desires
Here’s one of my favorite re-frames around desires: instead of saying “This person or this situation turns me on…” try saying “I turn myself on when…” Your desire arises in your body to be felt and enjoyed by you. So own it! Don’t give your power away around desire.
And let’s take it one step farther and try this one out, “I turn myself on when…(fill in the blank)…because of who I get to be.” When we get turned on, it’s because there’s a place inside of us that wakes up and gets excited. There is nothing inherently sexy about a person or a scene, it’s how we respond to it that makes it sexy. For example, some people get turned on by leather and pain and other people want nothing to do with it.
It really is who you get to be and what energy you get to play with that make something sexy. So I invite you to play with this: think about a time you were really turned on and ask yourself: who did I get to be in that scene?
When we own our desires, they no longer hold power over us. We gain agency to play with our desires and we can step more into a place of articulation and mastery with our desires.
Let go of your attachment to the outcome of your desire
So often, when we have a desire, we rush straight into satisfying it or figuring out how to manage it. Instead, slow down and enjoy it! Have you ever noticed how fun and pleasurable it is to savor a desire? Like when your lover caresses you really slowly and the sensation and energy go way up?
This is a challenging practice, but one that’s really powerful. It’s all about awareness and catching yourself when you’re reacting to rush to fulfill a desire. Instead we want to be conscious of the draw that our desire is presenting and then be able to make a choice about how to respond.
If you can trust yourself to have a desire without needing to fulfill it, then you can open to feel all of the desires of you body. (Say hello to some serious bliss!)
And as a bonus, if you’re able to express your desires without attachment to outcome, then your desires become a fun and exciting part of social interaction for everyone involved. Letting go of outcome takes all the pressure off of having a desire — and that’s huge!
Desire as Spiritual Path
The spiritual path of Tantra says that instead of disowning our desires and withdrawing from the world, the path to realization lies in accepting and embracing everything that the world has to offer — including our bodies, including our desires, and including our sexuality.
From the Tantric perspective, there are two primal aspects of the universe: conscious awareness and material form. The entire universe consists of one big dance between awareness and form. We call these two primal forces Shiva and Shakti. For Tantrikas, Shiva and Shakti are constantly making love with each other on each level of the universe including subatomic particles, humans, and galaxies.
Now, desires of the soma connect us with our present moment experience and drop us more into our bodies. What’s happening with our desires is that our awareness is becoming attracted to form (ie: Shiva is attracted to Shakti). When naked awareness meets form, the primordial bliss of the universe arises!
To put it another way, desires are how the universe is making love to itself through you. Pretty rad, huh? Chew on that one the next time you’re feeling intensely attracted to someone :)
I hope that all of this has given you some new perspective to open to your desires. Life gets a whole lot easier and more fun when we can open to the desires that are authentically already here and let them flow through us. And this is my wish for you!