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Sacred Sexuality for Healing and Intimacy
An Interview with Deborah Anapol, Ph.D.

Jim Jamion: What are some of the key principles and practices from indigenous cultures which relate to our sexual healing?

Both the tantric and the shamanic paths emphasize honoring both feminine and masculine, both shakti and shiva, and cultivating their union. This discovery and balancing of active/male/yang energies and receptive/female/yin energies both internally and externally is just what is needed to end the "war between the sexes" which eats at the roots of our patriarchal culture.

Both paths also emphasize opening the heart or cultivating a state of unconditional love, so that our attitude toward self and toward others is one of acceptance and compassion rather than judgment, hate, and blame. So that our stance toward life is a "Yes!" rather than a "No!" Sexualove or eros is seen as Holy, as the force which draws us together, which stimulates our urge to merge with the Beloved. Both the human beloved and the Divine Beloved.

Tantrikas and shamans understand that while the body is beautiful and sacred, we are more than just our bodies. We are beings of light, we have an energy body as well as a physical body. So there are practices which heighten our awareness of the energy body and which open the energetic pathways within the body.

Jim Jamion: How does this healing relate to our developing healthy intimate relationships?

Well, there is a circular relationship. You must heal yourself, feel complete in yourself, and love yourself in order to share love with another. You must know yourself, become intimate with yourself, before you can be intimate with another. Most of all, you must integrate your masculine and feminine inner selves and discover that the Source of love is within you or you will always be chasing after a romantic partner and feeling needy and dependent once you find one.

Jim Jamion: What blocks us from developing healthy intimate relationships?

In a word, fear! Fear and misunderstanding. The wound between men and women runs deep in our collective consciousness and often seems rooted in the very cells of our bodies. Men and women often find themselves polarized into opposing positions especially when it comes to sex, emotional expression, communication, and matters of the heart. The core of these differences is sometimes expressed as "men want hot sex and women want romantic love," when the truth is that both men and women long for satisfying sex and sustainable love. In the past, there has been a tendency for men and women to regard each other as the enemy, and so, if they are heterosexual, to discover that "sleeping with the enemy" leads to conflicts and power struggles. Sexual healing in this context means finding ways to redirect the energy which is wasted in struggles over who is right and who is wrong, who is dominator and who is victim, who is to blame and who is wrongly accused, and instead support each other in solving the critical problems which face us all as we enter the 21st Century. For many generations, men and women have been socialized differently and shamed or punished for exhibiting traits deemed inappropriate for their gender. I believe that by socializing women to repress their sexual desires and socializing men to repress their emotions, we have created a situation in which people often find it difficult to meet their needs for nurturing and erotic satisfaction. When men and women are freed from culturally imposed stereotypes and reconnect the heart and the genitals, harmony is restored and abundance is available to all.

Jim Jamion: Deborah, you suggest that "Jealousy Is Our Teacher." Please tell us what you mean.

In my book, Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits (IntiNet, 1997) I discuss two basic approaches to dealing with jealousy. One seeks to avoid jealousy, to control your partner or to manage your life in such a way that as much as possible you avoid situations which trigger your jealousy. The other welcomes jealousy as a teacher, as an indicator that you're being shown an area where you need to do some inner work. The first approach may be appropriate at times but is basically fear-driven. The assumption is that you are incapable of tolerating and rising above this primitive emotion. The second approach recognizes that whenever you run from the shadow - and jealousy can be seen as the shadow side of love - you lose an opportunity to grow and evolve into a more spiritual being. Enlightenment means to shine light into the darkness. So for example, if you find yourself getting jealous, you can take a closer look at what's going on internally instead of blaming your partner or trying to change an external circumstance. You might discover that you have a fear of abandonment that needs to be healed, or that there is a lack of trust between you and your partner. These core issues are what really need to be addressed.

Jim Jamion: What one thing can a person do to create more personal sexual healing?

Begin to really tune in to your own sexual energy, your own sexual rhythms, and the ways in which you may be blocking your awareness of the natural flow within you. Give yourself permission to be the beautiful sexual being that you are and know that you deserve sexualove. Allow nurturing sexuality into your life in whatever form it presents itself. Let go of the past, let go of the victim identity and be willing to hang out in the unknown. In our workshops we offer people tools for shedding old conditioned patterns and focusing on the present moment. We offer an experience of another way of life, an experience of the paradigm shift. Once you know it's possible you can then find the courage to transform yourself and your way of relating.

Jim Jamion: How do we build our sexual energy, and use this energy to promote healing and intimacy?

Sexual energy builds naturally when we learn to contain it - not repressing it, but learning to circulate it throughout the body and then directing it internally or exchanging energy with a partner. The ancient taoists understood that health results from raising and balancing the energy or life force within the body. Energy loss or blockage results in disease, aging, and ultimately death. Generating higher levels of sexual energy provides a means of clearing blocked pathways and directing more energy where ever it is needed for healing. In other words, sexual energy, life force, and healing energy all come from the same source and can be transmuted into one another. The taoists determined that while sexual arousal can increase energy, excessive ejaculation depletes energy in men as does excessive menstrual flow in women. Sexual healing thus encompasses teaching men how to orgasm without ejaculating, thus allowing them to prolong intercourse, be less goal-oriented and self absorbed, and fully satisfy a woman. Leisurely, unhurried lovemaking not only energizes the body, but also contributes to happier, loving interactions between partners.

Jim Jamion: I've experienced the feelings of well-being from the endorphins released during sexual pleasure. I've have also experienced the emotional bonding which develops between a couple in a sexual relationship. I've read that this bonding is triggered by a substance called oxytocin, which is released during sexual play. What can you tell us about the healing power of sexual pleasure?

The endorphin release and the oxytocin release are different mechanisms. Both can be triggered by sex as well as other activities. Endorphins are said to be responsible for the ecstatic feelings of romantic love, or limerance as it's sometimes called, which occur in the early stages of "falling in love." They are also implicated in the "runner's high" that joggers experience. Endorphins are stress reducers, they contribute to the activation of the whole endocrine system, they create a sense of well-being. The problem here, at least for long term monogamous couples is that the effect wears off after a few years with the same partner, so those who are addicted to the endorphin rush may find themselves seeking a new lover.

Oxytocin is best known as the hormone released in nursing mothers through stimulation of the nipple during the baby's suckling. It's long been thought to be responsible for mother/infant bonding and also causes contractions of the uterus. More recently it's been said that oxytocin mediated bonding can replace the initial endorphin high in long term relationships. Personally I think the neuroendocrinology of sex and love is far more complex than we realize, and it can be misleading to attribute all our behaviors to biochemistry.

In more general terms I think it's safe to say that leading edge health care practitioners and researchers are just beginning to discover what taoist masters, tantric adepts, and shamanic healers have known for centuries: Sex is not only pleasurable, it is good for you! Sexual arousal activates the endocrine system which in turn contributes to cardiovascular health, enhances the immune system, elevates mood, and slows the aging process. Good sex can also improve your appearance, reduce stress, relieve pain, burn calories, and regulate the menstrual cycle. The basic concept involved in this aspect of sexual healing is that sickness and health are not the responsibility of medical experts, but rather come from within. By tapping into the innate wisdom and healing ability of the body via the breath and our sexual response, we create our own well being.

Deborah Anapol, Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology is author of Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits and Compersion: Using Jealousy as a Path to Unconditional Love. She offers workshops on relationships and sacred sexuality nationally, as well as working with individuals and families who are making the shift to a new paradigm for relating.
For info on her upcoming Portland Workshop September 10-12, 1999, contact her at POB 4322-CX, San Rafael, CA 94913, 888/770-0046 (tollfree), pad@well.com, or check her website at http://www.lovewithoutlimits.com

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