The text I received the other day from a man I'd recently fallen in love with read like a cross between an aphorism by the medieval mystic Meister Eckhart and a darkly erotic Angela Carter novel. I mean, the passage was truly harrowing: it melded transcendent sexual ecstasy with rending, St. Sebastian-style torture.
(This is St. Sebastian, being pierced with arrows by naughty, naughty Romans)
All of this would have been just unequivocally, mouth-wateringly grand, except that the text was about an experience he had had with another woman. An experience which happened the very same night I left his vicinity following a long and cuddly weekend in California where both of us are training to be Orgasmic Meditation leaders and coaches.
("Hey guys, that was pretty hot - can we do it again?" This is St. Sebastian, after being pierced with arrows by naughty, naughty Romans.)
It really fucked me up to read that text, but the English professor in me couldn't help appreciate the writing. "Wow, that's such solid use of dynamic sentence fragments for emotional emphasis," I marveled while my heart convulsively froze and grief stabbed my stomach.
I had agreed to an open relationship. I knew for certain something like this was coming. I just hadn't thought it would come so soon, or with such stellar active verb use and riveting adjectives.
I burst into tears. "Fuck this, fuck Orgasmic Meditation and fuck this stupid orgasmically-charged polyamory, fuck fuck fuck my life. God, this is so stupid. Fuck fuck fuck fuck why do I do this to myself?"
I called my mother. She verified for me that polyamory was fucking stupid, that the man I had just fallen in love with was just another confused asshole (NOTE: my mother swears more than me, which is a pretty impressive feat), and I should just find a regular guy in Pittsburgh who was just MY boyfriend and not the boyfriend of 90% of the female population of California (and by the way FUCK CALIFORNIA) and then I should just get married and not have to do all this idiotic running around.
All of which sounds pretty cool, except I had tried getting married last year and it blew up in my face in a manner not unlike the flesh-melting fire-bombing of Dresden.
So then, upon having conclusively seen that all life and love were both meaningless, futile and impossible, I fell into one of my depressions.
While in my depressive state (which feels a lot like being smothered by musty moth-eaten burlap while being repeatedly kicked in the gut) I remembered that the one thing that really helped me cheer up after the excoriating pain of my failed marriage was my decision to dedicate my life to the well-fare and liberation of all beings instead of to the glorification of the Carolyn Ego Monster.
It just so happens that there really is nothing more on this planet that the Carolyn Ego Monster feeds on than her ideal of monogamous couplehood. I know it's a perversion of something that should be beautiful and that lots of people do monogamy without it being a bizarro Ego Kink. And the honest truth is that somewhere deep within the shadowy circuiting of my brain is something that gets a much-too-immense high off of fulfilling the conventional heteronormative couple archetype and being special.
The problem with my specialness is that it's a pleasure that by definition is not available to all other sentient beings. My specialness means other people have to be lame or boring or not-worth-loving by contrast.
So what my new lover had done with his very well-written gothic text was jam a spike straight into the somehow still-beating vampire heart of my Ego Monster.
Because if he can have such a blood-curdling fine time with another lady - well, what does that mean about me?
It means three Very Horrible Things I don't like to confront:
1) My pussy is not the sole extant Fount of the Nectar of the Eternal Feminine in this world.
2) People other than me are also very wonderful.
3) I'm not in absolute control of the universe and all creatures and happenings within it.
Damn it fuck.
(The Trevi Fountain in Rome: having the gall to seriously rival me as an Eternal Fount)
The option of course remains available to me to say "Screw you guys, I'm goin' home."
And I also notice that it's kind of boring to play that way. In other words, Eric Cartman's wisdom is probably not the best guiding light for my life.
So I sat for a time in meditation on my bodhisattva vow and saw that what came up for me in relation to wanting to be special to this man I love was ironically a sense of wanting to avoid connection.
- Wanting to avoid connection with the other women in his life and all their hearts and histories and joys and traumas and beauties and losses.
- Wanting to avoid connection with the parts of him that are fully capable in taking delight in those women or being tortured by them.
- Wanting to avoid connection with the parts of myself that feel insecure and non-utterly-captivatingly-fabulous.
- Wanting to avoid sharing my own orgasmic and emotional energy with many people.
And it just so happens - avoidance of connection is the main thing a bodhisattva renounces.
The Tibetan word for the bodhisattva's compassionate commitment to free herself so she can be of maximum benefits to others is bodhicitta. Bodhicitta literally means "the heart of awakening," and in Mahayana Buddhism it's considered the most precious and beneficial attitude a person can possibly have.
In Tantric Buddhist texts that give instructions for how the bodhisattva can liberate herself in one lifetime rather than in countless aeons (the amount of time that non-tantric paths to liberation are said to take), the term bodhicitta still means the heart of awakening - and it also comes to be synonymous with what's usually known as kundalini or tummo, the fiery, electrical sexual-spiritual energy of the body.
So the tantric bodhisattva's bodhicitta is boundless love and it's also boundless orgasm. Orgasmic Meditation helps me cultivate that boundless orgasm, and there's an adage in the practice that to me seems supremely relevant to the bodhisattva way of life - "stay connected, no matter what."
The compassionate desire of the heart is actually identical with the fully unleashed desire of eros - they both want unfettered connection, limitless love. They're both without preferences, sluttishly indiscriminate in their gifts.
You're not really dedicated to the liberation of all beings unless you're willing to give everything for their happiness - your glories and your loved ones and you heart and you blood and your guts and your sex and your respectable reputation.
The heart without orgasm fueling it has a fine reputation but it's a rather dry and saccharine thing. It smells kind of like the inside of a Hallmark Store. It's dusty potpourri and porcelain knick-knacks no one wants.
There's a reason Jesus hung out with prostitutes, kicked over tables in temples like a raging bad-ass and was always summoning up wine and food to fuel wild parties. The reason was that he had a seriously orgasmic, super-charged bodhisattva heart.
(Orgasmic hearts look like this. Probably science will soon agree.)
The job of realizing the identity of passion and compassion and unleashing them within oneself to move in aligned action in the world is basically the work of awakening in one lifetime. It's the creation of the philosopher's stone, the fulfillment of the Great Work of alchemy.
The great tantric bodhisattvas of Tibet, in other words, did not sit around bitching to their mothers that this guy they really, really like slept with someone else.
So I sat there doing tonglen, becoming willing to take in all that horrible connection with all those messy people and their love and their desire and problems and take it all the way, breathing it all in.
And as I did that, I felt much lighter and happier - and it occurred to me that probably the reason all my past monogamous, conventional relationships went so awry is that I was actually unconsciously using them to avoid connection.
Hmmmmm. Probably people who have sane and happy monogamous relationships don't do that.
In other words, I'm personally not capable of happy monogamy or happy polyamory or really much of happy anything unless I am fully and utterly willing to be always in the orgasmic bodhisattva heart of connection, with all its messes and tears and pain and pleasure and - ugh - other people.
In other words, I'm an infinite player - and I crush a lot.
So I love these words of the philosopher James P. Carse in his book Finite and Infinite Games:
"Sexuality is not a bounded phenomenon but a horizontal phenomenon for infinite players. One can never say, therefore, that an infinite player is homosexual, or heterosexual, or celibate, or adulterous, or faithful - because each of these definitions has to do with boundaries, with circumscribed areas and styles of play. Infinite players do not play within sexual boundaries, but with sexual boundaries. They are concerned not with power but with vision.
In their sexual play they suffer others, allow them to be as they are. Suffering others, they open themselves. Open, they learn both about others and about themselves. Learning, they grow. What they learn is not about sexuality, but how to be more completely and originally themselves, to be the genius of their own actions, to be whole."
To suffer and to be suffered in the touch of our glory and our ache - I can't really think of anything more kind. So I'm still in the game.
A bit about me, Carolyn Elliott
I coach magical, creative people to live turned-on, ecstatic lives full of genius and challenge. I’m the author of Awaken Your Genius: A Seven-Step Path to Feeing Your Creativity and Manifesting You Dreams (North Atlantic / Random House). I also lead the Outlaw Court, a secret Facebook group where magical people are hugely supported in bringing their Things into the world – if you’re magic and you know it, you’re welcome to apply to join the Outlaw Court.