Category Archives: sexuality

It’s Still Mainly Medical, Not Moral

“If we are going to debate abortion in every state, given how fractured and angry America is today, we need caution and epistemic humility to guide our approach.” — Peter Wehner in The Atlantic

I showed up for one of the many Bans Off Our Bodies rallies across the country on May 14. It was the least I could do. It wasn’t enough. I’m not sure what will be.

Some Black folks on Twitter were shaking their heads at the stupidity of people who officially signed up to go to these things, wore recognizable T-shirts, shared photos, and in general made themselves obvious. They knew from bitter experience that being identifiable at a protest can lead to unpleasant consequences. In Albuquerque, going to an event like this is a pretty mainstream thing to do, and my old white lady self had little to worry about, but that was a wake-up call. I know it’s not so easy everywhere or for everyone.

Why is it always framed only as a women’s issue?

The closest thing to a threat I noticed was a tall, heavyset guy, a rather imposing figure, wearing a shirt that bore a childishly offensive message intended to incense Democrats, yelling anti-abortion insults nonstop through a megaphone. He was the only visible representative of his side, and he certainly did nothing to help their cause.  He was also failing to get the attention he apparently wanted.  Everyone was ignoring him.

“It’s not what people want.”

The other day one of my patients, a lady in her late 60s, told me that her husband is extremely angry about Justice Samuel Alito’s draft that shows the court plans to overturn Roe v Wade and throw the country further into red/blue chaos. She is not angry herself, she said, because, as she stated with total confidence, “It’s not going to happen.” I asked her why she would say that. “It’s not what people want,” she replied.
 Her pronouncement was like an incantation. It felt incontrovertibly true and immediately real. Perhaps, since about ¾ of Americans do think Roe should remain, she will be proven correct. After a lot of pain, death, and waste, I fear.

It must be stated firmly that no one is “pro-abortion.” That is not at all what people mean when they express the importance of keeping abortion available. This morning I read a local news story that referred to a pro-abortion student group. What terrible reporting, and worse messaging. It feeds into the false narrative that Democrats want to allow abortion up till the moment of birth. It intensifies polarization and makes rational communication all the harder.

Most Americans express middle-of-the-road, nuanced, pragmatic, compassionate views on abortion. They know it’s complicated and that every situation is unique. They want it to remain legal, but they are comfortable with a certain degree of restriction. That’s what poll after poll tells us. The ‘90s mantra of “safe, legal, and rare” seems to describe the mainstream attitude well.

No one wants to find themselves in the position of needing an abortion. No one hopes or plans that someday they will terminate a pregnancy. The very fact that someone is looking to do that means that something, somehow has gone wrong. Maybe horrifyingly wrong.

Even in a perfect world in which every pregnancy was wanted and celebrated, in which rape and incest did not exist, in which every family was confident that they could support every child who came along, there would still be cases in which abortion was needed for medical reasons. More of them than you might expect. That could happen, has happened, to people who desperately wanted that child to grow and be born. It could happen, has happened, to people who believed abortion was wrong and never in a million years expected to need one. Nature doesn’t care about our religious beliefs or political attitudes, or our desires or our convenience. Nature follows her own laws.

This is the point I want to drive home today, that abortion is medical care and that it must remain available to save lives and prevent great harm. It was over 10 years ago that I wrote the post I’ve copied below, “It’s Mainly Medical, Not Moral.” At the time, the big war was over coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act. Note this well: despite Justice Alito’s assurances that the Supremes are only talking about abortion, not contraception, LGBTQ rights, or anything else, the right wing has been fighting against access to contraception all this time. It absolutely is a target and they will come after it.

As an LGBTQ person, I’m very nervous about where this is going. As a woman, I’m anxious, even though I’ve been out of the reproductive game for decades. As a health care professional, I’m afraid for all the doctors and other providers who have to care for their patients while trying not to run afoul of laws that make no sense. And as a person who wants democracy to be a reality in the United States, I’m terrified.

A couple of days ago I was spinning down into a maelstrom of fear and depression. Then I realized what should have been obvious: They want me to be afraid. They want us all to be paralyzed by fear and unable to get ourselves together to oppose them. Let’s not give them that.

Catch-22s all over

One would think that since effective contraception leads to far fewer abortions, anti-abortion folk would be much in favor of it. And one would be wrong, at least in the case of the more extreme elements of their movement. This is what I find most incomprehensible of all. There is a clear path to reducing the number of abortions: reduce unwanted pregnancies. Yet the same states that want to outlaw abortion also refuse to expand Medicaid, and work in every other way they can to limit access to birth control. Under this regimen, people can’t prevent pregnancy, can’t terminate it, can’t afford to get prenatal care or give birth, can’t afford care for the baby while they go to work, and can’t afford to stay home to do child care themselves. Especially for the poor, it’s hard to see what the option is supposed to be. (Breed babies for the rich to adopt, perhaps? That’s what Justice Coney Barrett’s flippant and heartless rhetoric suggests.)

It’s been pointed out that if we as a country really cared about babies, we’d do more to provide health care, child care, decent wages, and so forth, and obviously we don’t do that. There are some fervently anti-choice organizations that do try to support pregnant women in distress and those with newborns. I personally know two families that have taken young, financially stressed pregnant women into their homes and literally supported them. However, these efforts are far from state policy and are not remotely adequate to handle the thousands of individuals and families in difficult situations as a result of pregnancies.

A world in which abortion is criminalized means that some women will be arrested and jailed after having miscarriages or stillbirths. That’s been going on in El Salvador for many years, and despite a push to free women who have been imprisoned under such circumstances, it has just happened again. A woman who had an obstetric emergency and sought care at a hospital, as any of us would have done, was convicted of homicide after losing the baby. She has already been in pretrial detention for two years.
https://www.vice.com/en/article/k7wd9n/a-woman-just-got-30-years-for-homicide-after-losing-her-baby
https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/el-salvador-woman-accused-abortion-30-years-prison-84630286

But this is not just something that happens in faraway lands— it has already been happening here, for quite a while, even with Roe still in place. And not only do women risk arrest if their pregnancy goes awry, they may be unable to get medications that are commonly used to treat miscarriages, because those can be associated with abortion. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/05/10/1097734167/in-texas-abortion-laws-inhibit-care-for-miscarriages

A miscarriage is medically indistinguishable from a medication abortion, so anyone who has had one is potentially vulnerable to prosecution under such draconian laws. This means that the totally normal, sensible act of going to a hospital can put a person in grave danger. And of course when one is bleeding heavily, avoiding going to a hospital is not a very safe choice either.

This is not what most people want our country to be like. We know that a strong majority of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, want Roe v Wade to stand. We know that most Americans want to see, at the very least, exceptions for rape and incest, exceptions that the farthest-right state legislatures no longer wish to allow. It’s astonishing that a policy so widely opposed by people all across the political and social spectrum can even be considered as law.

Welcome to the age of minority rule.

Should we rage?

The forces arrayed against reproductive rights have had passion and long-term commitment on their side. Those wanting to keep abortion and contraception available have been more complacent— for so long, there seemed to be little reason to scream about rights that everyone, even certain Supreme Court nominees, recognized as “settled law.” (What patsies we were.)

So now we are beginning a “Summer of Rage,” in which protests will be loud and persistent. I don’t know whether this is the best course. We can’t be complacent anymore, and this is a genuine emergency that deserves every effort to hammer it into the public consciousness. Would we be better off with a more rational, conversational approach? That would be my way of doing things, but I can’t say that it’s worked particularly well so far, so maybe hot pink rage really is the ticket right now.

Medical hazards and crises

At any rate, in this post I would like to speak to the typical person and bypass extreme rhetoric. I want to again point out some of the dire medical reasons a pregnancy may need to be terminated, no matter what the ideology of the mother, the health care personnel, the state, or anyone else. There are many more that I won’t get around to here.

First, the likelihood, or should I say certainty, of young girls being impregnated by relatives or others. Incest is far more common than we like to think. All too often this happens to a child who is too young and small to safely carry a baby to term and give birth. Beyond the sheer cruelty of putting a child through this— how can anyone justify sacrificing one child to save another, especially another who was unlikely to survive to begin with? There have been famous cases like this in countries where abortion was totally banned. There are guaranteed to be more.

Even before the current era of extreme state laws, some states commanded that minors would have to have permission from their parents to get abortions. Right-wing forces tend to hold a rosy picture of caring parents in nurturing families in which a confused teenager might be lovingly guided to make good choices, but obviously that is not always the reality. What if, in fact, the parent is the perpetrator? Are we really going to require girls to give birth to their siblings? Does that make either medical or legal sense?

Pregnancy and birth are not only dangerous for the youngest girls, though; they’re hazardous for everyone with a uterus. You probably already know that the US has an embarrassing level of postpartum deaths, and that the rate is worst for Black women. (Poorer women get worse care in general, but even wealthy Black women face increased risks.) The people most impacted by draconian laws against abortion are also the ones who are less likely to get through pregnancy and birth safely.

In addition to the fundamental, “normal” risks of pregnancy and childbirth, there are the many unforeseen tragedies that can befall a fetus during gestation and that can threaten the mother’s health and/or life. Laws that purport to make exception for saving the life of the mother but are written without medical understanding, and without details about what is actually allowed, tie the hands of doctors in emergencies and lead to unnecessary deaths. When this happened to Savita Halappanavar in Ireland, the country responded to the outrageous situation by changing its laws. The same kind of deaths will no doubt occur here. It’s just a matter of time.
https://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/niallodowd/savita-halappanavar-abortion

In fact, last week I read about a woman who had a similar problem to Ms. Halappanavar’s— her water broke, it was too early for the fetus to survive outside the womb, sepsis was likely. And she lived in Texas. Because the mother’s life wasn’t in danger at that very moment, even though it probably would have been in the very near future, the doctors felt unable to terminate the doomed pregnancy— as they would have before the new law kicked in. The mother ended up being driven about 8 hours by ambulance to a neighboring state, a stressful, dangerous, expensive, and totally unnecessary trip. This is craziness.

Don’t understand why doctors would be prevented by law from saving a woman in such circumstances? Let a real OB-GYN explain how incredibly fraught and confusing an emergency can become:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjB5Jakytyc

We have to remember that suicide is also a major risk to the life of a distressed pregnant person. Here is an anecdote from another OB-GYN:
“During medical school in Florida, my first experience with abortion was with a 19-year-old woman who had been gang raped and was now pregnant; she was suicidal and placed in the behavioral unit. Our team saw she was devastated; she did not want to continue the pregnancy. It was simple; this traumatic, unforgivable experience would ruin her life. I was disappointed to see the reluctance to offer the care she needed. Only one physician, a newly graduated physician who trained in LA, immediately offered her care. His care could change her future and offer her some peace of mind for her mental and physical turmoil. I wanted to become the physician that would not back down, would show up and would be present for a patient in her time of need. When I applied to residency, I knew I wanted a program that offers training in abortion care.”
https://abq.news/2021/09/op-ed-we-stand-with-texas-patients-against-the-sb8-abortion-ban/

It’s not my purpose here to try to list every kind of medical crisis that could occur during a pregnancy and make termination the best or only choice. There are so many heartbreaking things that can happen to either the mother or the fetus, and each one requires its own unique response. Things that go horribly wrong often do so late in pregnancy, well after the 6 weeks Texas allows and even after the or 15 or 20 some other states have wrangled over. (Savita Halappanavar developed sepsis at 17 weeks.) Pregnant people, their families, and their doctors need the flexibility to make the right decisions in the moment, often with very little time available. Legislators making rigid, blanket pronouncements cannot possibly cover all the contingencies that have to be dealt with in the complex reality of reproductive health care.

Ten Years Ago— Plus Ça Change

When I wrote “It’s Mainly Medical, Not Moral” on 2/20/12, the big battle was over the Affordable Care Act’s provision to cover birth control. We have only gone backwards since. Here is the text of that post.
https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/its-mainly-medical-not-moral/

It’s Mainly Medical, Not Moral

You’re probably sick of hearing about the war over insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act, but I think I have a few useful points to make that haven’t been brought up elsewhere.

For those of you who live elsewhere, let me catch you up on this only-in-America craziness.  The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as the health care reform law, mandates that contraception must be covered by insurers without co-pays (direct costs at the time of service) to the patient, and that employee health plans must provide this coverage.  While there is an exception for employees of churches and other places of worship, hospitals, universities, and other institutions owned by religious sects are included in this mandate.  A number of right-wing forces have complained that this tramples upon religious freedom.  After being thoroughly raked over the coals, the President and his advisors worked out a compromise: the religious groups would not have to pay for the coverage, and it would be provided directly by the insurance companies, so that those who object could keep their sense of purity.  Insurers have agreed to this because providing contraception saves them money (and is expected to save money for the entire health-care system as well as for individual families).  The war is still raging as I write this, with the self-styled guardians of freedom insisting that the government is still overstepping its bounds.

On the front lines of this trumped-up battle, we find none other than the Conference of Catholic Bishops, the same fine folks who protected us from the evil, dangerous practice of Reiki by banning it in all Catholic hospitals and other institutions.  (See my post “Attack of the Bishops.”)  Need I state the obvious?  These ideas are being promulgated largely by partnerless elderly men.  These are not people who have any need to prevent pregnancy or any understanding of what that issue is like for those who do, including the 98% of Catholic women who use birth control at some point in their lives.  This outrage is compounded by the fact that Viagra is covered and the bishops have no problem with that.

A letter I wrote about this recently was published in the Albuquerque Journal on Sunday 2/12/12, before the President backpedaled, and before Rep. Darrell Issa convened a panel of ALL MALE religious leaders, Catholic and otherwise, to testify before Congress.  Issa and his Religious Right cohorts have managed to make it crystal clear that their agenda has little or nothing to do with religious freedom, and is really about a) attacking the president and killing the Affordable Care Act any way they can, and b) controlling women.  They’ve abundantly shown that they want to get rid of not only abortion but all forms of contraception.  And while wailing about the government infringing upon their freedom, they’ve shown that they have no problem with curtailing the freedom of others– especially if those others happen to have pairs of X chromosomes.

Here’s my letter:

“In all the indignation-filled rants I’ve heard about the Obama administration requiring religious institutions to include contraception in employees’ health insurance coverage, there has been one glaring omission:  No one has mentioned the fact that quite often, hormonal contraceptives (the Pill, patches, or implants) are used for medical reasons that have nothing to do with birth control.    Many women take the Pill, etc. for conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome or severely painful periods.  Many of those women are not even sexually active, or not sexually active with men.  I’ve seen this quite a bit with my own patients.  Whatever one thinks about contraception, it’s hard to imagine even the staunchest Catholic objecting to legitimate medical treatment for such conditions.

“I’d just as soon see women use natural alternatives, but in many cases hormonal birth control really changes their lives for the better.  The costs of these medications can be quite substantial, however, and that can put them out of reach for students and low-paid workers.  The costs of the conditions they treat can be substantial, too, as when a woman must miss work because of debilitating pain.  We would not ask an employee to forgo painkillers for arthritis or inhalers for asthma.  How is this different?

“The President may have lost some votes with this decision, but there are quite a few of us who are relieved to see him standing up for women and for what makes medical sense.  Try as I might, I can’t see this as primarily an issue of religious freedom or of morality.  Women who object to contraceptives are still free not to use them.  Morality means doing the best we can for everyone in our society, and that includes medical care, which includes birth control.”

I didn’t want to get all confessional in the newspaper, and I wanted to focus on a single point for impact, without bringing in other aspects of the situation, but I have a personal story that I think sheds particular light on the complexity of this issue and the reasons a total ban by religious “authorities” is not only ludicrous but cruel.

When I was about 25, I developed severe cervical dysplasia, well on the way toward cancer.  This was treated with cryosurgery to remove the diseased cells, which was a standard treatment back then; no one realized at the time that cryosurgery would only mask the problem, which would resurface later on.  My primary care doctor told me I should have a hysterectomy, which showed a remarkable ignorance on his part, it seemed to me, as the precancerous cells were not invasive and might never be.  I had not yet had a child, and was determined to be able to do so.  After I healed from the cryosurgery, I did get pregnant, and my daughter was born when I was 27.  Over the next couple of years I became allergic to or unable to tolerate most forms of birth control, and so, with my husband and my very small daughter in agreement (Lenore’s opinion was “We have enough babies around”), I had a tubal ligation.  Which was covered by insurance, by the way, because my husband is one of those awful, greedy public employees, a teacher that is, and he gets all those totally undeserved benefits.

That was not the end of the medical story.  I had a number of years of clear Pap smears, then skipped a year, because it didn’t seem critical to have one at that point.  The next Pap showed carcinoma in situ.  The tissue underneath the layer affected by the cryosurgery had been stealthily developing toward cancer the whole time, and it had simply taken that long to show up on the surface.  By that time, most of my cervix consisted of abnormal cells, and I was noticeably ill.  To deal with this, my OB-GYN did a cone biopsy to remove all that– they use the word “biopsy,” since it does have a diagnostic aspect, but it’s a far larger matter than the word suggests.

The hospital personnel wanted to do a pregnancy test.  I explained that I’d had my tubes tied.  They impressed on me repeatedly that after this procedure my cervix could not support a pregnancy, and that I needed to be OK with that.  I reassured them again, and the surgery was done.  The pathologist found that there were still diseased cells around the edges of the cone, so a few months later I went through the whole thing again, nearly bleeding to death afterward, and ending up with even less of a cervix.  I emerged from the process weakened but cancer-free.

I often thought about what would happen if a woman in this condition did get pregnant.  Surely it has happened many times.  An embryo would start to grow, everything going fine, and at some point it would lose its moorings in its mother’s womb and essentially fall to its death.  I wondered how far developed the poor creature would be when that happened.  It seems horribly sad, doesn’t it?  The child would be doomed from the start.  The mother would suffer both mentally and physically for nothing.  And all of that could be prevented with the use of reliable contraception, or with my chosen option, sterilization.  If it could not be prevented for some reason, it seems very clear to me that abortion would be a far kinder choice than allowing the baby to keep growing until its inevitable demise, possibly till it could begin to feel something, and certainly exposing the mother to greater risks and discomforts.

I have always wondered how very observant Catholics would find their way through this dilemma, since there would be no way to avoid pain and tragedy, only to minimize it.*  The Church’s official stance, I suppose, would be simply “Don’t have sex.”  Ever again, or at least not until menopause, so that such a tragic pregnancy could never get started.

And of course there are also medical situations where pregnancy would be life-threatening or seriously health-threatening for the mother.  These women need their contraception to be as effective as possible, and depriving them of it verges on criminality, I would say.  Birth control advocates tend to mean hormonal drugs when they speak of “effective” contraception, and that has been the focus of much of the fighting.  I certainly think women should have access to these medications, but I don’t want to come across as a wholehearted fan of the Pill and its cousins.  The Pill, patch, and implant can be problematic for many women, and they can have dangerous side effects, especially as women age.

A friend of mine who cannot use these drugs was put in a ludicrous position by our local Presbyterian Health Plan, on purely ideological rather than medical grounds.  Having been unable to tolerate the type of IUD that releases hormones into the body, she and her doctor decided that she should try the old-fashioned, non-hormonal IUD.  Presbyterian refused to cover that, saying that it’s an abortifacient rather than a contraceptive, and therefore not morally acceptable.**  They were happy to cover the hormonal IUD, which they insisted my friend should use despite the fact that it was already proven to be unsuitable and harmful for her.  The patient’s medical needs meant absolutely nothing.  Let me repeat that, because this is how our system works, and we need to be clear about it:  The patient’s medical needs meant absolutely nothing.  Her own beliefs and moral convictions also meant absolutely nothing.  Fortunately, although she was a college student doing low-paid restaurant work, this young woman was able to get the money together to pay for the IUD herself.

And that is what we face when religion, and only some people’s religion at that, is allowed to determine our medical care.  If the bills currently being proposed by certain members of Congress were to become law, any employer could refuse to cover any type of treatment for any reason.  I don’t think that will come to pass, but stranger things have happened, and we need to stay on top of this situation.  I can only hope that American women will continue to get more and more engaged and will work to hold the ground we’ve gained– and that men have gained along with us– over the past few decades.

I promise to get back to more spiritual matters in my next post.

*Despite 12 years of Catholic school and being good friends with a nun, I still can’t answer this.  Odd situations like this never came up in the typical anti-abortion rhetoric.  And by the way, I don’t remember Catholics railing against birth control back in the ’70s the way it’s happening now.  Maybe I just didn’t notice.
**The common scientific view is that pregnancy begins with implantation, not with conception.  The IUD prevents implantation.

For some other current perspectives:
http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2012/02/13/hervotes-americas-supposed-war-on-religion-and-the-actual-war-on-birth-control/

http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2012/02/14/conservative-war-on-contraception-is-nothing-new/

A Few More Things to Consider

“I am not pro-abortion.

“Like nearly all pro-choice human beings, I never rejoice over or celebrate these decisions, because I know that they are ones reached after arduous deliberation and great pain; that they are often born out of emotional trauma, physical assault, or dire medical news.
“I know that abortions are not chosen impulsively or without careful or prayer wrestling.
I believe in education and in birth control and in doing everything possible not to create an unwanted pregnancy. All pro-choice people I know believe these things.

“…There is a sad irony at play when I realize that a pro-life woman arguing with a pro-choice man like myself,  is essentially relinquishing control over her destiny to other men and I am saying she deserves better.” — Pastor John Pavlovitz
https://johnpavlovitz.com/2022/05/11/a-pro-choice-man-grieving-pro-life-women/

“[George H.W.] Bush would remain a staunch advocate of reproductive freedom for women until political considerations during the 1980 presidential elections, when he was on the ticket with Ronald Reagan, accounted for one of the most dramatic and cynical public policy reversals in modern American politics.”

“Reagan had supported California’s liberal policies on contraception and abortion as governor, and Bush as Richard Nixon’s Ambassador to the United Nations had helped shape the UN’s population programs. But Republican operatives in 1980 saw a potential fissure in the traditional New Deal coalition among Catholics uncomfortable with the new legitimacy given to abortion after Roe v. Wade and white southern Christians being lured away from the Democrats around the issue of affirmative action and other racial preferences. Opposition to abortion instantly became a GOP litmus test, and both presidential hopefuls officially changed stripes.”
https://msmagazine.com/2012/02/14/conservative-war-on-contraception-is-nothing-new/

Faced with the lowest and slimiest of Twitter trolls, one woman retorted, “I’ll ask my rapist nicely to wear a condom.”

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Filed under health and healing, history, human rights, politics, sexuality

The Scariest Thing of All

entwined trees

Connection/individuality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love and fear are strange partners
They have been together a long time
They know each other well
Where one is found, so is the other
Seeming opposites, they occupy
the same coin’s two aspects
and flip back and forth
as our hearts open and close.

 

I wrote that poem while embroiled in the most complicated relationship of my life. I often thought that it was like an Olympics of relationshipping, requiring huge stretches and leaps, unprecedentedly tricky psychological and emotional gymnastics, greater skills than I had ever had to develop before.

I did not stick the landing.

Last weekend I performed in one of our monthly dance salons sponsored by the Farfesha troupe. It was the Halloween edition, but I didn’t have anything specific to the holiday planned. Then it occurred to me that the gentle, lyrical song I was dancing to, “Lamma bada yatathanna,” was about one of the things that scares people the most: helplessness in the face of love and desire.

It ends by repeating Aman, aman… “Mercy! Mercy!”

Lots of things in this world are scary. Maybe it sounds a bit histrionic to say that love and desire are among the ones that give people the most serious cases of the heebie-jeebies. But as an empath, that’s what I’ve experienced. I’ve also been told about it in so many words, as in, “Sometimes I want to be close to you, too, but it’s just too frightening.”

With the anniversary of the sprained soul I sustained at the end of that overcomplicated relationship coming up, I am thinking again about love and fear. Can they be separated? Is it ever possible to have only love? I would say that this is the case with my husband and me, but then, there is always the fear of loss. Even though the loss of a person to death is not truly real— they only appear to be gone— the pain can be beyond what we can cope with, and that can go on and on. Of course we fear it.

I think that the fear associated with love is always a fear of loss— loss of control above all, perhaps loss of one’s definition of oneself. Fears about losing freedom, autonomy and safety are common, though in a viable relationship those things will not really be lost. All of these are in some way fear of change.

My husband thought I was a little nuts writing about love being frightening. “Well,” I said, “what about when a guy goes out with a girl and really likes her a lot, and then he never calls her? That’s fear, right?”

“Yeah, if she likes him, then he’s stuck.” (His life will change for sure.) “And if she doesn’t like him, she’ll step on him and smash him like a spider!” (Yeeks!)

In the case of my gymnastics partner, as far as I can tell, a fundamental fear was about having to change his view of himself and what was possible for him. He didn’t have the flexibility to manage that. I acknowledge that this is a pretty terrifying thing, and I don’t blame him for being nervous about it.

The fear that permeated that association, though, was beyond anything reasonable. It was pervasive and infected every moment. Every time I thought we had gotten past it, it reared its head again. It lurked behind every affectionate gesture and every sincere word of kindness.

All along I kept trying to identify and root out my own phobias and anxieties. I thought I was going through some intense and useful spiritual development. Being an empath, I was constantly attending to the messages beneath the surface as well as the overt ones. I came up with new skills and new methods to make sense of the odd things that went on. It seemed like all that would keep me out of trouble, but ultimately I was no better off.

It was an epic fail, and I can’t advise you on how to avoid the same. All I know is that when there is a choice between love and fear, the path of fear will never get you where you want to go. Loving more thoroughly, more clear-headedly, with less ego, is the better strategy, and that means applying love and compassion to yourself as well. It may be that continuing the relationship is not compatible with this kind of love, that the truly loving course is to let it end.

I remind myself that if something is impossible, failing to accomplish it is not a real failure. We know that no one ever passed the Kobayashi Maru test without cheating.

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As I told you about last time, I had the great privilege to hear and meet Nadia Bolz-Weber at an event on October 20. I literally looked up to her— my goodness, she’s tall, and she was wearing 3” heels. Someone who makes no attempt to hide. She wasn’t always that way, though. Her book Shameless: A Sexual Reformation, which I’m rereading, describes her early life within a very repressive Protestant denomination.

 I was on the verge of tears all through her presentation that day, and wasn’t quite sure why. I felt that I had long since worked through the issues of shame and guilt and not-good-enough that she was talking about. While waiting for the event to start, I opened Shameless in e-book form on my phone, and my eye fell on the phrase “the inherent goodness of the human body.”

That is still an area of blockage for me. It struck me that for those of us struggling with or coming to terms with chronic illness, chronic pain, disability, or even just plain aging, finding ourselves in contention with recalcitrant bodies, it is hard to remember their inherent goodness. Even if we have cleared away millennia of religious asceticism and dualism that tell us our bodies are sinful and must be suppressed and disciplined, it can still be a real challenge to be friends with our physical forms. Rev. Nadia is talking about the goodness of the body in terms of its sexual and sensual nature, but there is far more to be found in that concept.

All this brings up questions of why we live in physical bodies to begin with, and what we are to make of our relationship with this physical world. But clearly our bodies are meant to touch other bodies, as Rev. Nadia points out. The desire to connect, it seems to me, can be seen in spiritual terms as a need to connect with our Source.

The dance of love and fear is based in the conflict between the desire for connection and merging and the desire for individuation. All beings want to connect and belong, and all beings have an innate drive to keep existing. The mistake we make is in believing that love and connection threaten our continued existence as individuals.

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A hypnotic choreography to the version of “Lamma bada” I used, by Lena Chamamyan:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxIj4ni07Q0&list=WL&index=6&t=0s

The song is a venerable one from the Andalusian tradition, in sama’i rhythm with 10 beats per measure. Here is one of many versions of the lyrics:

Lamma bada yatathanna… Hubbi jamalu fatanna
Amru mâ bi-laHza asarna
Ghusnun thanâ Hina mal
Wa’adi wa ya Hirati
Man li raHimu shakwati… Fil-Hubbi min law’ati
Illa maliku l-jamal
Aman’ Aman’ Aman’ Aman

https://lyricstranslate.com

And a couple of the many translations:

When he was bending, when he was bending (this means he is dancing or doing something graceful)
My love, his beauty struck us
Something about it captivated us
beauty, as soon as he began to bend

My promise, oh my confusion, my promise, oh my confusion
Who could be the one to alleviate my sufferings in love, from my torment, except the one of beauty
Oh mercy, oh mercy, oh mercy

http://www.arabicmusictranslation.com/2008/10/lena-chamamyan-when-he-looked-bent-lama.html

She walked with a swaying gait
her beauty amazed me

Her eyes have taken me prisoner
Her stem folded as she bent over

Oh, my promise, oh, my perplexity
Who can answer my lament of love and distress
but the graceful one, the queen of beauty?

http://www.qiyanskrets.se/lyrics.htm

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Filed under music, psychology, sexuality, spirituality

Dead Sexy

 

I finished this back in 2009, but it never seemed like the right time to publish it.  A couple of days ago, at the Academy for Spiritual and Consciousness Studies “Aspects of Consciousness” conference, I heard Miles Edward Allen give a presentation on sex in the afterlife (to the extent that we know anything about that).  His attitude is that we need to stop stopping ourselves from talking about sex.  I can’t argue with that.  I guess now it’s time.  Everyone quoted or mentioned here gave consent for me to write about them publicly, so I’ll give myself permission too:

“It happened in the late 1970s. At the time I had the flu and was running a fever. I was in bed for about three days. And one night I just woke up realizing that I was orgasming. My boyfriend was asleep next to me and wasn’t touching me, but I felt like a person was on top of me, like I could feel the weight of a person, even though there was no one there. I thought I had been having a dream about making love, but when I woke up it was continuing and it wasn’t a dream.”

Catherine’s story reminds us that contacts with the unseen worlds can take on a vividly, even disconcertingly, physical quality. It’s not particularly unusual for frankly sexual events to occur, and often they are indefinable and unclear in nature. For example, one woman told me about being slowly kissed all the way down her spine, one vertebra at a time, by someone unknown and invisible. We may not know who we are with, or why.

Catherine’s account also illustrates the slippery way that spirit experiences can intertwine with apparent past-life memories, raising questions, or maybe providing answers, about our own identities:
“I had the sense that it was a man, and that I wasn’t exactly myself. I felt that my name was Frieda. I don’t know if the other person or being had a name, I don’t remember. It seemed like we were Nordic somehow; it’s pretty vague. It happened more than once. I thought it was mildly interesting, but I didn’t have any interest in encouraging it. I told my boyfriend about it, and other people that I was living with, but we didn’t really dwell on it.

“We had just moved into a very, very old log cabin out in the country, that had been hand-built a very long time ago. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it.

“I was in a mask-making phase from about 1995 through 1997, and one of the masks I made I named Frieda. I’m only now making the connection—I didn’t think about this at the time. I would make a plaster of Paris mask by having a friend lay the strips of gauze on my face, and then I would go into a meditative space and ‘let the mask paint itself,’ so that I never knew what the finished project would be. Sometimes I would glue things on the mask. Each mask was a healing experience, would heal some part of my life or some episode; sometimes I wasn’t sure just what it was, but it felt healing. One of my favorites, if not my very favorite, was the one I called Frieda. It was a very strong, protective female spirit. I told my husband, ‘This is Frieda. She’s the guardian of children and small animals.’ It just came out of my mouth. Whether I just made that up because it seemed to fit the mask or not, I have no idea.

“I was so moved by the Frieda mask that I made a cast of my torso to go with it, sort of like a shield. I wanted to make it more of a person, sort of fill it in.”

 

A Reiki student of mine, now someone I respect as a colleague in healing, reported a clear encounter with her deceased boyfriend. She described this to me after a Reiki class with another teacher, who had told her that she had a ghost on her left shoulder. The student, Patrice, took exception to this. She told me that not only did she not believe there was anything around her left shoulder, she was perfectly capable of perceiving such things for herself, and had done so many times before.

“In fact,” she said, in a conspiratorial tone, “I knew when my ex-boyfriend was dead because he showed up in my room and was trying to have sex with me.”

“Well, that’s not necessarily such a bad thing….” I replied, hesitantly.

“But he was DEAD!” she cried, sounding truly horrified. She explained that she had reacted by immediately and firmly telling him to hit the road. She didn’t have any trouble getting rid of him.

Oh, well, he was her ex. She wouldn’t have wanted him around if he had shown up in the flesh, either. But I was amused to hear that the fact that he was dead made such a difference. I guess I’m used to thinking of “dead” as not necessarily one of a person’s more socially important characteristics.

 

And I have a much more positive feeling about my own deceased ex.

One night in February 1993, as I was lying in bed, ready to go to sleep, I had an impression of a hand stretching toward me out of the darkness, and I reached out to take it. I didn’t know what I was inviting. The experience began with an intense, electric tingling at the base of my spine, and, well, it went on from there. It was as completely pleasurable as anything I’ve done with a physical person, and I welcomed the pleasure at first without reservation. But when I came back to my senses a bit—to find my invisible companion still at work—fear took over. (It didn’t help that my husband was sleeping no more than two inches away.) “Please,” I thought, “I’m not ready for this, please stop!” But it didn’t stop, not for quite a while. Eventually I slept.

I woke up with a case of the willies, thinking about demonic possession, incubi, and so forth. I felt vaguely violated, even though I had, at least at first, invited the experience. I knew that I had been perfectly lucid and had not been dreaming or hallucinating, that in fact I hadn’t even been sleepy when it began. It had been so real. I felt that I had been unfaithful to my husband!

Or had I? I wondered if Bob might have been dreaming about me or something, but he said he didn’t think so. “Well,” I whispered darkly, “something touched me last night.” I decided not to go into any more detail than that! Bob reacted with a total lack of surprise, as if he had known all about it. “You weren’t hurt in any way, so why worry?” was all he said. I felt a little better after mentioning it to him, though it seemed odd that he was so nonchalant.

Still, I was distinctly uneasy. I called my Reiki teacher; I thought she might either have had such an experience or known someone who did. I gave her a short summary of what had been going on with my spirit contacts. I had a lot of trouble getting around to telling Elizabeth about the racier aspects of my experience, but she understood where I was heading and was able to get it out of me. “Well, you know,” she said, “it is creative energy.”

I’ve already told you that soon after Fryderyk first came to me, he began to approach me in a clearly erotic manner. It’s so hard to decide what, how much, I should say about this. I want to tell the truth. I think it’s important to tell this in some detail, because I am trying to get at the clearest possible picture of what spirits (we, I mean) are capable of. However, while prudishness is not a habit of mine, I don’t want to be any more indelicate than absolutely necessary. In saying this, I have in mind my lover’s very private and reticent nature during his Earth life; surely, I think, he would prefer not to have his most intimate secrets and activities broadcast—although, during that life, come to think of it, they were.

I also want to avoid unnecessary disrespect toward my husband, who has already put up with more than I think should be expected of him. No matter how I present it, this puts Bob in an unavoidably awkward position. He knows everything, and he accepts it all. But if I had a “real,” completely physical, male human lover, I expect that he would not show the same degree of tolerance. (And is there really a difference?) Above all, I would never want my husband, that noble being, to be seen as laughable or ridiculous.

On top of all that, I find that I’m rather nervous to write about this because out of all the crazy-sounding things I am describing to you, this may be the craziest. But it’s time to take the bull by the horns, or some other part of its anatomy.

I keep asking why a ghost, or whatever we want to call him, has any interest in sex whatsoever. His interest seems most enthusiastic, and it doesn’t necessarily correspond with the timing of my own. Sometimes he comes to me at the most inconvenient moments imaginable, when I can’t go along with what he suggests. Some other times I long for him but can’t find him no matter how hard I try, or if he is with me, nothing erotic occurs despite my suggestions or even pleadings. I get the impression that it is only at special times that the worlds are aligned in such a way that he can get this kind of connection with me. At some of those times, he seems almost to materialize.

Naturally, a lot is missing from this experience, but the part you are probably thinking of does not seem to be missing. I can’t easily kiss him, hold him in my arms, do anything to any specific area of his (non)body, because I usually can’t see him and don’t quite know where his body is, except in a very general way. But when I feel distinct thrusting, as often happens, I at least know where that one part of him seems to be.

Sometimes I only feel tingling and buzzing around my root chakra; sometimes, very rarely, there is clearly and incontrovertibly a man in my bed, impossible to ignore. There can be any degree of physicality or solidity from a feathery breath to a weight that presses decidedly on my bed and on my flesh, though it is a light weight indeed. On occasion I feel him sit down next to me, seeming to depress the mattress ever so slightly, then stretch out and lie close beside me or just above me. At such a time I’m likely to feel that slight weight settle onto my hips, and I know that he is about to enter my body.

I have proven to myself that I cannot produce these effects on my own, through imagination or any other means. If I could, I surely would, because I enjoy the experience so very much.

But again, why would he want this? Why should someone without a body desire this most physical of acts? It’s clear that libido is extremely variable, that it can change dramatically with shifts in hormone levels and other vagaries of the body. I remember, for example, that for a while during my pregnancy I had no interest at all, and then, when I started lactating, that interest came roaring back despite the fact that I had a huge incision in my belly and a newborn to keep me occupied. None of those changes had anything to do with my relationship with my husband or any other “real” factors in my life; they were no more than shifts in my internal weather, of no ultimate importance. And now, in my journey through perimenopause, I notice wild ups and downs as well. All these things are purely, totally of the body.

I wonder sometimes if he does it only for my sake, because he wants to please me. Or perhaps it’s because this is one of the few ways he can communicate with me. Maybe it’s even just to show that he can. It’s probably quite a technical feat. Some biographers have made snide comments about his ability as a lover—something they could have no real knowledge of—and it may amuse him to prove them wrong. But I think the most likely explanation is that he feels this need because during his Earth life he was largely deprived of sexual expression. At times I have come into contact with aspects of him that feel profoundly painful to me, connected to his sexuality and the frustration and difficulty he experienced.

I don’t know what, if anything, Mme Potocka may have contributed to that frustration. I find it hard to imagine her refusing him, given her own overheated nature. I do know that the first time he came to me in that way, the night I described above, there was an edge of anger, as if he was looking for some sort of revenge. It was a feeling of, “Aha! Now I’ve got you!” I’ve never been sure what to make of it. I was uncomfortable about it for a long time, for years in fact. It’s not that there was any violence or anything remotely like it. He was perfectly, wondrously gentle—but utterly relentless. I didn’t understand what was going on, and I didn’t even know for sure who was with me or why. I was thoroughly enjoying the experience anyway, but after a while I started to get nervous. I asked him to stop, and he wouldn’t stop. In fact, he kept going for so long that I eventually drifted off to sleep for a little while. It’s very odd to remember that now. It seems like I should have been more frightened than I was, if anything. I guess I was pretty sure who he was, and somehow it seemed natural to relate to him that way, though I had no clue why that should be the case. But I still thought that he should stop when I insisted on it. It’s possible that he didn’t understand, but based on the rest of our communications, that seems unlikely.

There have only been two instances when this kind of experience went on for any substantial length of time, and I’ve just described the first. The second time, years later, I lay there on my stomach, utterly blissed out, for so long that I pushed my jaw out of place and needed to see the chiropractor the next day. That is the only harm I have ever suffered, to the best of my knowledge.

Most of the time, in the first few years, the feeling was somewhere between making love and being struck by lightning. There was great intensity, but it was over within a few seconds. (Some of you ladies are no doubt thinking that this sounds like your normal, everyday experience….) It could be tremendously satisfying on every level, or it could leave me high and dry, having just started to get interested. I had no control over any of that.

As I said, the timing was often quite inconvenient, as well. Most often he would come to me when I was settling down to sleep, and that was fine, but he also showed up at random times when I was not at all available. It took me years to realize that I could say no. This is truly strange, because I’m an assertive person, and I don’t take well to being coerced in any way. I suppose I didn’t want to refuse him because these episodes were rare and I didn’t know when there might be another opportunity. And he wasn’t causing me any serious problem, usually quite the contrary. I was a little bugged, though, and I thought that it would be nicer if he could approach me a bit more gradually and slowly and give me some warning. Eventually I got smart enough to simply tell him that. Ever since, he has asked first. There is a sort of little tap on my aura, and I either tell him to go ahead or let him know that I’m in the middle of something and can’t be with him right then.

Months can go by between these escapades, even as much as a year. Then there are stretches of a few days at a time where he approaches me over and over. During March 1998, the month in which he was almost constantly with me, so much as almost to make a pain of himself, I started to get used to the idea of having a second, steady lover. I started to think, why not? He was around so often that I began to rely on him and expect him to please me, which turned out to be a mistake. (I suppose that would also be a mistake with a “real” lover.) I think I gave the poor creature a case of performance anxiety, and I myself started to feel disappointed sometimes instead of elated and full of love. It was not fair or realistic to expect him to fulfill that role for me.

And again, there was the guilt. It has waxed and waned over the years. At the times when he and I have achieved a more nearly physical connection, I have tended to feel worse about it, more like I was truly cheating on my husband. I have often felt more comfortable with receiving only a little tingle or two, just enough that I know he’s there and still interested. I’ve tried to discuss this with him, but I’m not clear about his point of view. More recently I’ve decided that I just don’t care, it’s not worth feeling guilty about this, and I want everything that I can get, or everything he wants to give me.

Although I do worry, my extracurricular activities have had mostly positive effects on my marriage. My body has become more responsive, and my heart infinitely more open. I have become more appreciative of men as a species, and I have come to see my husband, with his solidly molecular but transient, fragile human body, as more and more precious. I take nothing for granted. I understand that we can never be truly lost to each other, but I also see more clearly the vastness in which we travel and can appear to be separated.

Technically, it’s been good for us too. When I observe Fryderyk doing something interesting, I figure I can learn to do it too (well, except for that pianist-composer business). I’ve experimented and tried to understand how he gets the effects that he does, and sometimes I’ve come up with surprising new tricks. When this all started, Bob and I were not new to the idea of relating to each other on a purely energetic basis, but seeing that more was possible, we expanded our perceptions and our skills. Our interactions gained a depth and profundity that we would perhaps not have developed otherwise.

Knowing how I can create a particular effect myself doesn’t mean that I am sure how Fryderyk is doing it, though. When I feel that slight weight against my body, I’m reasonably sure that he is “lying” there with me, but at other times, from his point of view, he might be standing somewhere across the room or not even in the same world with me. I don’t know. Although there have been a few times when I had a vague visual impression of him, and once, just once so far, I saw his face, most of the time I perceive him only as a mass of Qi, an area of warmth, where the air is “thicker.”

Once I asked him how he sees me, that is, does he perceive me as a solid human being, seeing my body more or less as I do, or does he perceive only a mass of energy, more or less as I usually perceive him? He was able to give one of the clearest and cleverest answers I have ever received from him. First he lit up the entire surface of my body—yes, he does see me as a human form. Then he lit up my aura all over, out to a few inches from the surface—yes, he sees me as a glowing energy field too.

There was one time, only once, that he really seemed to pay attention to my body in and of itself, not just my energetic structure. It was late at night. I had just gotten out of the bathtub, and I did something I don’t normally do. I felt too tired even to look for my nightgown, and I flopped down on my back, quite uncovered, on my bed, to rest a little before making that supreme effort. Immediately he was there with me. Most often it happens that when he comes to me in the mood for this sort of thing, it’s bedtime, and I am settled down cozily wrapped in nightgown and blankets, feeling warm and safe. I felt weirdly vulnerable being naked with him—how odd! But perhaps that made things a little easier for him. That one and only time, some pleasant attention was paid to specific spots on my skin.

And once, something incredible happened to my lips. It was like being kissed by an aurora; beautiful lights in blues, purples, and greens, with an electric glow, played about my mouth. The pleasure was exquisite, delicate, and yet so powerful, as is true of so much that he does. This was many years ago, and nothing like it has ever happened again. But kissing has never been the same for me since. My lips seemed to wake up and perceive everything differently, to blossom into intense sensitivity. Another wonderful gift—and one I can share with my husband, too.

I have done my best to find out what Fryderyk gets out of all this, but there is little I can report. During one of the rare moments that I’ve been able to have a verbal exchange with him, I told him that I wanted very much to give him pleasure, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it because, among other things, I couldn’t perceive the structure of his “body.” “It doesn’t matter,” was the reply. “I feel pleasure with my whole being.”

Some of my psychic friends have expressed doubts about whether it is all right for an erotic relationship to go on between the worlds. Early on, they were concerned that Fryderyk was some sort of lower spirit that was taking advantage of me. Like an incubus—whatever that really is. Having gotten to know him well, Mendy Lou has concluded that everything is fine. However, despite her own experiences, the woman I referred to as Catherine still believes that something is terribly wrong, that Fryderyk must be evil or twisted. I think, or at least would like to think, that her discomfort is mainly an expression of our society’s overall attitude toward sexuality. Sex is seen as low and distasteful, whereas spirits are supposed to be more advanced and high-minded, so in that view the two cannot possibly go together. I see lovemaking as one of the highest functions of human beings, so to me there is no such conflict.

Or I am making excuses for my lover and for myself.

This issue comes up in Rosemary Brown’s writings. Liszt expresses the opinion that once the body has fallen away, its physical needs do as well, and that includes sexuality. I can only say that he appears to be incorrect. He must be telling it as it is in his experience, though. Oh, well, Liszt got plenty of lovin’ while he was on the planet, and perhaps it’s just that he himself no longer feels the need for more, not that this is true of everyone. And after all, he did become a priest in the latter part of his life.

Despite my comments about hormones, I myself no longer see sexuality as primarily physical, and haven’t for years. Perhaps as I get older this will be even more the case. And as I get older, if my erotic connection with Fryderyk should persist, I suppose we will look sillier and sillier together—that is, if anyone who can actually see both of us happens to look. He appears to be perennially somewhere in his late twenties, and here I am, already old enough to have a son that age. Despite the fact that we must both be well into our hundreds, or even thousands, this thought gives me a little distress!

And then there is the inescapable thought that perhaps he doesn’t want to be with me at all, he wants to be with Delfina, and I’m no more than the closest available substitute. I’ve tried to remind him that I’m not her, can’t be her, can’t substitute for the one he knew and loved then. This issue comes into the brightest focus when he puts himself in the role of lover. But perhaps the totality of our relationship is far beyond the temporary forms of either Delfina or me—or him—and it’s not even meaningful to worry about this.

 

In the case of my interactions with Fryderyk, I’m completely certain that there is an independent, actual living being visiting me. However, it’s entirely possible that sometimes we are projecting the apparent entities ourselves, even in frankly sexual situations. Here, Patrick tells of an encounter that is not quite like anything else I’ve heard of. He also offers some potential insights into the reasons why such experiences may occur:
“The first experience happened while I was in college for my second degree, about 11 years ago. At the time I was exploring various forms of inner work. I practiced Daoist yoga techniques of sexual energy transmutation, in effect learning how to take the energy that would go into ejaculation and reverse it, direct it up your spine and disperse it through the energy field. I was also exploring techniques for out-of-body experiences, including how to form a double of yourself out of your own essence. At the same time, I was doing Toltec recapitulation and emotional clearing techniques. So I was doing various things to shake up the status quo of my interior language.

“I had resolved as much as possible not to have intimate relationships during school, because it was such an intense program and there just wasn’t time for that. So I was cultivating this sexual energy practice while not having any intimate relationships, and I thought I should have some kind of context, some way to relate to a female presence. And in one of the books on astral projection it said how you could have an astral relationship with someone else who is also astrally projecting.

“This was the most intense experience. I wasn’t trying to bring it about; it just occurred as a result of doing all these things. I was sitting on my bed one night, I think I was meditating or maybe just sitting quietly, and one by one I was visited by four different female presences. It was interesting, first, because there were four of them—I mean, one’s enough! They were from different cultures, which also was an interesting effect, because if I fantasize it’s generally about white women. [Patrick is white.] So that was something of a confirmation that this at least wasn’t being formulated by my conscious mind. One by one they sat in my lap, and we basically had energetic sex, and I felt like I do when I hold my ejaculation and have an energetic orgasm. I didn’t know them from anywhere. They were just beautiful women. I could see them in a ‘mind’s eye’ kind of way.

“I never had another experience quite like that one, that had that quality of spontaneity and that sort of unfamiliarity with what appeared. I didn’t intentionally try to make anything like that happen again; for one thing, it didn’t have anything to do with intention in the first place.

“It was a very positive experience, a very whole-making experience, rather than, ‘Oh no, I’d better watch out.’ I didn’t have to be on my guard or anything. One way among many of thinking of it is that I was doing so much work—I mean when you’re doing all that sexual energy work without a partner it can get real intense. I wasn’t real good at dispersing the energy so that it didn’t become a source of rage or a headache or something like that. It wasn’t till I started doing Cheyenne’s work [Cheyenne Maloney’s work with the Assemblage Point] that I was able to really disperse sexual energy in a way that was seamless for me. So here’s all this intense sexual energy rising with no female energy to interact with. Perhaps that whole experience was magnetized by the fact that that there was all this polarized male sexual energy without a feminine, balancing aspect.

“I would say that my relationship to my sexuality, shame, and guilt has changed enormously in the last five years. It’s the kind of thing where you think that something is behind you and you’ve had some kind of resolution, but you’ve just taken the lid off of something that has an even deeper layer under it. It’s an ongoing process. About five years ago, I finally realized the energetic experience of what guilt and shame is—I could finally feel the vibration of it and not just the emotional ramifications. Once I was able to feel that vibration, I was able to consciously modify my responses to guilt and shame in sexuality. For example, I would sit down with a pornographic movie and watch that energetic start to occur, the shame of watching pornography, and I would catch it and bring it into my heart, so it wasn’t something separate for me anymore. Which is my perception of what guilt and shame does, that it slices the experience in half, so that I’m over here and the experience is over there and we’re not one. So that I can’t have the experience without having the accompanying ‘I’m a bad person’ thing.

“My perception is that the shadow side of our culture’s sexuality is vast. The way our culture makes a pretense of being open-minded and at the same time clamps down with oppressive beliefs and institutions—that perceived open-mindedness is just a sham. I had to start to see how my own relationship to sexuality was a reflection of my culture as well.

“Recently, there was one thing that was recurrent and very powerful. As I started allowing more fluidity between what I previously thought was spiritual work and what I thought was profane or purely for physical gratification, as I started to allow those to overlap in my meditation, I started having this recurring fantasy of having sex with a Catholic nun. I went to Catholic school from kindergarten through high school, and there was one particular nun who was my music teacher. She was the only nun I can ever remember thinking was an attractive woman. So I would sit down to meditate and without consciously trying to, I would find myself in this fantasy. It literally had a life of its own. It would just surface in the meditation. And once more it became a source of channeling sexual energy during the meditation. So my meditations became, and still pretty much are, about cultivating and dispersing sexual energy through the energy field. But the fact that this fantasy kept recurring was kind of like someone knocking on the door and saying, ‘Will you open the fucking door?’ I knew I had to act this out in my life, and I did (not with a real nun!), and I haven’t had this enter my meditation again.

“At the risk of trying to interpret the experience, I’ll say this: I believe that there are aspects of oneself that are repressed, and when allowed to rise into consciousness, some need to be experienced viscerally, others can be experienced in fantasy or just as a mental concept, intellectualized. This one was not going to leave me alone until I experienced it physically, that was clear.

“It had a fantasy type of context, and yet it felt like it had its own agenda. Again, it felt like an aspect of me doing its darndest to make me recognize it. Once this started to surface in the meditation, I would just go with it, because I felt that not doing that would be just another way of keeping separate. What would be the point of that, especially in meditation? It seemed like another way for the self to become whole, and so I just feel that it was a natural surfacing of material that came out of letting go of shame and guilt. I mean, I probably would have tried mightily to suppress it if I had still been in that state of ‘oh my God this is bad.’ I would have used a great deal of energy to keep it out of the meditation.

“I haven’t had an experience yet that I thought was something other than an aspect of me or the ‘greater me.’ So whether these beings had their own objective existence, I don’t know. That is a total mystery to me, because the more I am, I hope, waking up a little bit, the more I see that we are these incredibly vast presences. And what we can hold and create— I mean, even just the tip of the iceberg is vast.”

But shame and guilt certainly do tend to show up in this context. Here is an anecdote from Rob, a married man who is crazy about his wife: “I was—I believe—astroplaning (which I am not good at and maybe have experienced what I think is less than a handful of times)—and met what I would consider a more feminine spirit. Sex WAS the issue.  I then recall saying to the entity, ‘But I am married.’  The session abruptly ended and I awakened very EXCITED and yet quite upset with myself—since I could have had a ‘good time’ without all the baggage of an affair.  Never had that experience again. Told my wife about the experience— she was smiling.  I told her that I am even faithful in an area where I don’t need to be!”

It’s not necessary to give up your physical body, or your partner’s, to experience an ecstatic energetic blending. We are quite capable of this in our present forms. In fact, I think this is one of the most accessible ways to experience ourselves as the unlimited spiritual beings we truly are. Two people who love each other can merge energetically to any degree they wish, either erotically or not, and I highly recommend it! You are sure to deepen your relationship and appreciate each other all the more.

So many changes, including menopause, have gone through since I wrote that, and my perspective is somewhat different.  But the eternal is still the eternal– and that includes us, no matter how much transformation we experience.

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Filed under channeling, past lives, psychology, sexuality, spirit communication, spirituality

Another Human Being’s Identity Is Not Yours to Dictate

(Rant Advisory! I am as upset about this as if it pertained to my own child, or to me.)

So very often I am reminded of the old song that goes “None of us are free if one of us is chained.” It adds, “And if we don’t say it’s wrong then that says it’s right.”

Sometimes the chains are kept locked by those who think of themselves as far beyond bigotry or intolerance.

In the past week I have encountered two attacks against transgender people that appeared on the surface to have some higher intention. Both were warmed-over versions of old arguments.  One came in the form of a supposedly spiritual look at gender identity through the lens of reincarnation, and the other purported to be a principled defense of the rights of women by a feminist group.

GIVE. ME. A. BREAK.

I could call out the “spiritual” thinker by name, but I’m not going to, because his presentation is not just his own but represents a turn of thought that is all too common. It’s been used against gay people, too. The idea is that if you are not comfortable twisting yourself to fit into a gender-binary, heteronormative life, it’s because you were a different gender in a previous life, and either through confusion or through willful stubbornness, you are still clinging to identification with that gender. If you persist, you are stupid and bad. You should just get over it and move on, and then you’ll be fine.

This is the exact same paternalistic crap promulgated by religious groups who insist that God made you either male or female and that’s that. God doesn’t make mistakes, and so if you don’t feel right in your body, you are going against God, and therefore you are sinful and bad.

I’ll get to the so-called feminists later. First, I want to take a look at exactly what God/nature/biology did make. Because we do have some actual facts to work with.

While it would be nice to have human reproductive biology all wrapped up in a neat, understandable package, the more we learn, the more we see that things are complex and fuzzy. “Male” and “female” are not definite categories with hard edges. I’m sorry if someone dislikes this, but it’s reality. Some easily accessible sources of information follow.

http://www.isna.org/faq/ten_myths/rare
According to this, about 1 in 2000 humans are intersex. Another source estimated 1.7% of births. That’s a lot of people. Some may never realize they are anything but typical male or female, or may only find out late in life. One person I’ve read about was a seemingly ordinary middle-aged man with a bunch of kids, who had an abdominal surgery and was found to have a uterus in addition to his full set of male reproductive parts.

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001669.htm
There are a variety of possible intersex conditions, with varying appearances and health considerations, briefly summarized in this article.

If that’s not enough, take a look at the fascinating case of the guevedoces. A few weeks ago I learned about them in an excellent PBS program, Nine Months that Made You. In the Dominican Republic, about one in 90 boys have this condition, which has also been found in Papua New Guinea. They have XY genotypes like “regular” boys, but they lack an enzyme that is needed to develop male genitalia in the womb, so their parents think they are girls and raise them that way. At puberty, they have the usual surge in testosterone and become obviously male all of a sudden. Of course, they were biologically male all along.
http://www.pbs.org/show/9-months-made-you/
http://www.newsweek.com/rare-condition-causes-girls-become-boys-puberty-374934

So are we clear now that external genital configuration does not equal gender? Likely we’re not clear at all and I’m still going to get a big argument from those who insist on a binary world, but in that case, they’re going to have to register their objections with God, because this is the way nature is put together. A religious and/or spiritual viewpoint, it seems to me, would have to say that there must be a good reason for things to be this way. A purely materialist viewpoint would say the same— that nature has shaped human bodies and brains in a dazzlingly diverse variety because it’s been helpful to our survival.

Some might then point out that transgender people are not the same as intersex people, and that most probably have clear male or female genotypes or phenotypes. But there appear to be differences from cisgender folk in those cases too, albeit subtler ones. As far as we can tell, transgender people have brains that function more like the gender they say they are rather than the one indicated by their genital apparatus— though this too is complex and a bit fuzzy.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-something-unique-about-the-transgender-brain/

Here is a link to another useful PBS program.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/growing-up-trans/
What struck me most about it was that the kids decidedly look like the gender they say they are. That’s not a hard scientific fact, but to me, it reinforces the concept that there is a physical basis for being transgender.

I don’t pretend to understand much about these aspects of our biology, nor how they fit with how we become who we become when we enter a new life on this planet, or what choices we have or don’t have about our embodiment. My conjecture is that gender exists as a spectrum so that we can experience every permutation of it, but that’s not fact. What I know for sure is that it makes no sense to tell others how they feel inside themselves— either how they do feel or how they should feel. It’s illogical and it’s just plain mean. And when it’s coupled with a holier-than-thou or more-enlightened-than-thou message, it’s positively sickening.

Now, to the lawsuit filed by the Women’s Liberation Front, or WoLF. It’s the bathroom thing again, same as the extreme right’s fearmongering, strangely enough. They are insisting that “men” in women’s restrooms are a threat to women’s safety. I’m not going to rehash the reasons why trans women are no threat to cis women in this context (or anywhere else, really). You can find those all over. I’m only going to point out that trans women are not men. In their brains, the part of the human body that matters most, they are women. So denying ordinary human rights to those women cannot be feminism. Not in any way I can recognize it.

The latest post on WoLF’s Facebook page, in reference to the rule allowing kids to use school facilities consistent with their gender, states: “Girls’ rights to personal privacy and freedom from male sexual harassment, forced exposure to male nudity, and voyeurism have been eliminated with the stroke of a pen.” This makes my stomach churn. I am of course not a trans girl trying to navigate high school (which is hard enough for the rest of us), but reading this, I can viscerally relate to what they experience. It is terrifying. To be just a kid and know that others assume you are a sexual predator, when all you want to do is attend PE class and not get beaten up… to be hated and censured by “righteous” people one has never met… it boggles the mind and even more the heart. Imagine being, say, a second grader, too young even to have a concept of voyeurism or anything like it, having no idea why people are saying these terrible things about you.

(Please note that I don’t mean to ignore trans boys.  It’s just that WoLF seems to be targeting trans girls and women specifically.)

WoLF’s lawsuit clearly contradicts two of their main stated goals, and they seem to have no clue that this is the case. The home page of their website says: “WoLF is a radical feminist organization dedicated to the total liberation of women. We fight to end male violence, regain reproductive sovereignty, and ultimately dismantle the gender-caste system.” The total liberation of women has to include ALL women, not just the ones who look a certain way. Dismantling the gender-caste system (a laudable goal) has to mean completely dismantling, so that no gender is discriminated against.

Why should we settle for anything less?

 

It’s a great song:
http://www.altheaknight.com/None-of-us-is-free-if-one-of-us-is-chained
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JC2mmeA9CA8

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Wibbly-Wobbly Sexy-Wexy

don't existA few months ago I wrote a post entitled “Identity and the True Self,” in which I alluded to the concept that none of us truly exists.  The “not existing” referred to in this meme is something else– it’s a deliberate attempt to erase or marginalize someone, in this case someone who identifies as bisexual and thereby makes someone else uncomfortable.

I was halfway through another planned post about being treated as if I don’t exist because my entire profession is considered by some to be nonexistent, to deal in the unreal.  Then it came to my attention that this is Bisexual Awareness Week, and that today, September 23, is “Celebrate Bisexuality Day (often abbreviated CBD), an international awareness day that is also referred to as Bi Visibility Day and Bisexual Pride Day. Three bisexual advocates– Wendy Curry, Michael Page and Gigi Raven Wilbur– conceived of the event as a way to combat bisexual invisibility. CBD, which began in 1999, is celebrated with events around the world celebrating bisexual culture, community and history. In 2013, the White House held its first bisexual community issues roundtable on Celebrate Bisexuality Day.”  http://www.bisexualweek.com/about/

We have a day?  We have a whole week?  We have White House roundtables?  How did I not know this?  Until last year, I didn’t know we had a flag, either.  (It’s what you see behind the words in the meme above.)  I’m honestly not sure why none of this came to my attention, especially since I’m very much interested in gender politics and I follow gay and transgender rights issues assiduously.  Is my ignorance simply my own, or could it be in part a measure of that erasure and invisibility?

What also had not come to my attention until the past year or so was the fact that people who identify as bisexual are often seen as untrustworthy, disease-ridden, greedy, sexually voracious, shallow, unable to commit, confused, actually gay but afraid to say so, actually straight but looking for attention, and/or basically lying cheating creeps.  In addition to not really existing, that is.  We sure have a lot of awful qualities considering that we’re not supposed to exist.

I must admit that I’ve lead a rather sheltered life in some ways.  I’ve been with my husband for 36 years, since I was 19.  I never really was part of the dating market and I am blissfully ignorant of its workings.  I have not been much pursued by members of any gender, and those I would have liked to pursue have tended to run the other way.  So I can’t claim to have a complete picture of what’s going on out there.

I’ve also been extremely lucky in not being given much guff about my 360-degree sexual orientation.  Some guff, but relatively little.  As a teenager, I knew other people who had attractions to both males and females, so I felt, if not normal, not too terribly outré.  My husband has always been fine with me being me.  I haven’t remotely experienced the oppression that a great many people have.  (There was that one woman I had a youthful crush on for years, who, when I told her how I felt, looked at me as if I’d crawled out from under a rock and refused to ever speak to me again.  That was the worst of it.)  The straight world has been pretty gentle to me for the most part.  The gay world has been too, in terms of my interactions with individuals.  I didn’t know that there was a deep prejudice about people like me.  Here’s someone’s take on it, which may or may not reflect what any specific person thinks:

oppressed

Well.  Perhaps people would have had more of a problem with me if I were trying to date them?  Then I’d be rejected by all sides?  I decided to ask some trusted gay friends for their point of view and what they were hearing out in the world.  I’m not going to quote them directly, because I want to preserve their privacy, but what I was told was eye-opening, to say the least.  In one case it was positively vicious.  Even the more compassionate statements concerned why the person would never want to get into a relationship with a bisexual.  I was taken aback.  No wonder a lot of people like me want to use some other label.

If it’s necessary to use a label at all, that is.  I hear that the young whippersnappers increasingly are saying what I’ve always said, that they are interested in the person, not the plumbing, that sexuality is fluid, and that labels are too limiting and they don’t want them.  Maybe at some point all of this distinction-making will seem quaint and outdated, and people will just be who they are and feel how they feel.  That day isn’t quite here yet, but there’s hope.

I do “pass” and that has probably been a benefit to me– a degree of “bisexual privilege” for real.  I’m not trying to pass, though, and don’t particularly want to.  I’m still using the old-school label bisexual, understanding its limits*, because it is what I’ve always called myself, what I’ve known myself to be ever since I was aware of having any sexuality at all.  But now I’m beginning to think of myself as:

wibbly-wobbly

*“Pansexual” might be better but doesn’t feel quite right.  And I haven’t come up with a word for someone who is in love with a person who has been dead since 1849, or who is almost exclusively attracted to musicians, or who thinks pianos are a turn-on.  “Sapiosexual” is a great word and fits me well– someone who is attracted to intelligence.  Mary Oishi expanded this to “sapiocardiosexual”– attracted to a fine brain and a good heart.  Far more important than the organs lower down.


Whovians may very well have a word for those of us who think the Tenth Doctor was seriously hot.  He’s the one who explained that time is not linear, but instead is more like “wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey.” 

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