I try to meditate every morning after my daughter goes to school and before I start my workday. I’ve been practicing transcendental meditation for four years, but sometimes I switch it up a bit so currently I’m practicing a series of 21 meditations that Deepak Chopra provides on the topic of Love.
Deepak makes the distinction that romance has several specific phases for us to explore: Attraction, Infatuation, Courtship, and Intimacy. Each phase having it’s own unique spiritual significance, but falling in love is the entrance point to a deeper journey. We all know what it’s like when you fall in love. We’re intensely attracted to the person, we feel a rush when we think about them, and our hearts swell with joy when we touch. This is the first step in a love relationship and although the feelings are unsurpassed, they are surface level emotions, routed in the physical plane, and as such are temporary and destined to change.
Authentic love happens when we’re willing to go deeper. It’s in the depths of our souls that the ultimate rewards of intimacy reside. The second stage of love according to Deepak is surrender. Falling in love is over and being in love begins. Being in love is not a physical state, but a state of the soul. This state involves surrendering the needs of the ego in order to evolve and grow.
Excitement, lust and enchantment transform into compassion, trust and devotion.
To move to the final stage, which is ecstasy according to Mr. Chopra, is to move toward more harmony, more generosity, more compassion and more trust. Ecstasy and peace evolve from making the commitment to delve into the depths of spiritual love. Ecstasy is the final stage of intimacy with your partner, but also with yourself. The spiritual implications of passionate love at this level are unmistakable. There’s a tremendous emotional opening. A liberation. A connection on the heart and soul level to your partner. Love changes and evolves with the passage of time, but it’s always present in its fullness at this stage.
Laid out like that, the stages of love appear somewhat seamless but I think it’s hard for many of us to completely surrender and become that vulnerable. I think Society’s need for instant gratification lures people to the falling-in-love, hanging from chandeliers, everything is right with the world phase. As soon as there is actual work involved, perish the thought of having to put aside your social media stroked ego, so instead it’s a signal to throw in the towel and find the next person toting a chandelier.
My husband, Scott and I have been together for 10 ½ years, married for 8 of those years next week. We’ve had our fair share of ups and downs as any couple, but we’ve always had a very active sex life and solid relationship. A few years ago I had somewhat of an emotional breakdown and I was in a pretty dark place mentally and emotionally. I was depressed, exhausted, and felt trapped – not in my relationship but trapped in the horrible way I was feeling. As a result of how I felt I had completely lost my sex drive. I had no libido to speak of. One weekend during all of this, Scott and I were away together without our daughter and I completely broke down. I felt terrifyingly overwhelmed, I didn’t know how or why I was feeling so lost, and I didn’t know how to fix it.
Scott tried to be supportive but he didn’t fully understand how bad it was for me based on the fact that I wasn’t communicating the full extent of what was going on. I truly believed I could take care of it like I do most things in my life (that’s my type A taking over), and I’m sure I was in some denial myself about the extent of the depression. Scott opened up to me about the rejection he had been feeling, and told me he figured I was no longer attracted to him. He felt that explained the loss of my libido for one, but also would help to explain why I was so unhappy. He knew I was stressed and exhausted, but deep down he felt I no longer desired him. That of course wasn’t the case, but what else was he to think? In his defence he really had no idea how bad it was for me and his honesty turned out to be a great gift. It lead me on my path to figure out what the hell was going on. You see, I was still totally and completely attracted to him, but I made the connection that even though I still found him sexy I never thought about sex, I was indifferent to it and so I was never initiating. Anytime we did have sex it was because Scott initiated.
That started me on a three year journey of research – specifically about women’s health. That journey continues today and I now know more about thyroid function, adrenal fatigue, sleep deprivation, autoimmune disorders, food sensitivities, sex drive, (and more) than I ever thought I would. To take what I was learning to the next level I decided to embark on a six month Mind, Body & No Spirit Challenge of practicing yoga every day, taking the initiative to be more intimate with my husband, and abstaining from alcohol.
I started the challenge on September 1, 2015 and by the end of month four I was doing a great job at consciously creating more intimacy with my husband (he’ll back me up on that), but I still wasn’t specifically initiating in sex as much as I set out to (he’ll agree with that as well). However!!! At the beginning of January, with two months of my challenge to go, Scott and I agreed to have sex at least twice a week barring sickness or other undeniable circumstances, and we kept that promise….but nevertheless an issue continued to lurk. Scott continued to do all of the initiating. Sure we were having sex twice a week, but I was still not initiating and that was an issue for him.
I had gotten comfortable with the fact that we were sticking to our promise. Yay! In my mind it was all good, but Scotty told me that a big part of our intimacy is my desire for him, and if he initiates all the time then his feelings of being desired start to diminish. Of course I didn’t want that, I want my husband to know and feel he’s desired but part of me is thinking “OMG, why does this have to be so damn complicated!!”. Relationships are hard. Adulting is hard. In any given day Scott and I have hundreds of to-dos, a daughter to raise, careers and responsibilities, a move to NY to plan, family drama to navigate, and we both feel we’re running around at a 1000 miles per hour most days. AND we’re having sex twice a week, so suck-it-up!!!
Then I put my ego aside, and realized my husband needed something from me that I wasn’t providing.
We talked and we made a decision that he’ll initiate at least once a week, and I’ll initiate at least once a week. I have to say that it was that promise that made all the difference. It may sound like something that also needs to be checked off our to-do list, but it’s actually allowed us to list our sexual relationship as a priority every week. I recently found out from a friend of mine Melissa Jane Shaw who Directed the play How to Make Love in a Canoe (a production that explores sexuality), that married couples have sex on average about 3-4 times per month. For some relationships I’m sure that works out perfectly, for others it might be considered sexual deprivation, and maybe for others it’s a lot of sex!
What I now recognize is that the sexual health of a relationship is really about the needs of the individuals in said relationship and how they navigate those needs together.
This challenge has encouraged me to be more aware of how much sexual energy both my husband and I are sending each other. I’ve also learned that what creates real romance is to see yourself as loveable. You need to love yourself before you can truly love someone else. I know that sounds like such a cliche, but when I felt trapped in that dark, depressed place I despised myself. Once I was able to come up for air and gain some clarity, my self awareness and self respect improved, and in turn my relationship improved. My Career Coach, Amy K told me “Relationship Before Task”. I think about that daily now when I’m trying to get my work done and I’m interrupted by my husband or my daughter needing something from me. I think “Relationship Before Task”, and I put down what I’m doing and eagerly give them my attention.
Part of letting go of the ego in relationships is allowing your partner to help you, and help you to help them. I needed help when I was in the depths of my depression but my type A took over (aka ego) and I tried to fix it all myself. I needed help figuring out a way to infuse my marriage with intimacy again in a way where we both felt loved and desired. I created this challenge and took it upon myself to make these changes, and I don’t regret that because it was extremely valuable, but it was only a step towards letting go and trusting, so we could work together as a team. An act of compassion creates more compassion, any act of love creates more love, even the simple act of smiling lights up the universe, one loving thought, one kind gesture, or a loving touch can powerfully shifts things.
Practicing yoga and abstaining from alcohol also provided some fantastic benefits for improving my libido. Some distinct gains have been increased energy and vitality levels, improved body image, mental clarity, optimism, and so much more. The yoga and sobriety helped to clear away the cobwebs, in turn having a huge impact on rehabilitating my sex drive. I can physically feel the difference. My libido and I are once again united.
The ego thrives on insecurity and power…a deeply intimate relationship thrives when that’s abandoned.
To read about the Yoga portion of my challenge see: Six Months of Practicing Yoga #EveryDamnDay (ish)
The post about the abstaining from Alcohol portion of my challenge to be posted soon.