The recent release of my latest poetry collection, Lust, has lead me to numerous revelations and illuminations. Just watching the expression on people's faces when I mention the book's title is already a pathway into who they are and their attitude towards sexuality. One quickly learns who is comfortable and who uncomfortable with their sexuality.
Many liberal baby boomers like myself suddenly feel even more liberated at being able to broach the subject of sex without shame or embarrassment. Being raised by European parents, I was taught at an early age the power of love and lust. Intimacy was not forbidden territory. For example, my friends parents were always amazed how, in my early teens, my parents allowed boys to hang out in my room. When it came to learning about the birds and the bees at school, we were given pamphlets and told to go home and read them.
At this stage in our lives we know what brings us joy, what turns us on, and what turns us off. Most of us have had enough sexual encounters to be in touch with ourselves and our sexuality. This new world of open communication, including the advent of social media, has perhaps given us permission to be more open-minded and free. But all this makes me reflect on my early years and the controversy surrounding sexual education in the public school system. It was unwanted by both parents and teachers.
For me, there were a number of inspirations for my views on sexuality. In addition to my parents liberal attitude, Anais Nin has been a huge inspiration for me and my thoughts on sensuality and lust. She taught me about the importance of ecstasy and how it is one of the most powerful side effects of the sexual experience. The renowned humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow calls these "peak experiences," or moments where you have a deep insight bringing you to higher levels of understanding. Reading Nin's journals and erotica are my examples of peak experiences because her words emulated my own feelings as a developing young woman and she satiated my hunger for understanding my sensuality. She instilled in me the power of a woman to exert her sexuality. The female protagonists in her books were sexy, sensuous, and enjoyed sex and men. They had fun lives and inspired others to follow suit. Nin gave me permission to experiment at spiritual and imaginative levels, and thus become sexually awakened. More importantly, she reminded us to be ourselves and be lustful if we so chose.
Nin so aptly and beautifully summarizes her essence which is akin to my own:
I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger than reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I cannot transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.
Another inspiration for my views on sexuality came from years of practicing Kundalini yoga. In recent years, I have noticed more literature about the connection between sexuality, lust and spirituality or a way to achieve a higher state of consciousness. For years, gurus and mystics have discussed the connection between sexuality and spirituality, and the healing powers of sexual energy. Tantric and meditative techniques transform sexual energy into Kundalini or spiritual energy that is one way to achieve a state of enlightenment or a way to spiritual growth.
Lust is one of those words that is easily misunderstood and misrepresented. What is important to remember is that the emotion has conscious and unconscious dimensions. More recently, lust has been portrayed as a normal emotion and an important part of a vibrant and productive life. The flip side, however, shows that lust can take over the psyche, and by the use of alchemy, lust and desire can transform. When something is transformative it becomes spiritual. In terms of intimacy, having lust for someone sometimes leads to a loving relationship. It is also normal to lust after one or more persons. It does not mean that you become intimate with them, but it might mean that you fantasize or use your imagination to bring you together. This is perfectly normal and in certain types of relationships, like those in the French culture, it is considered normal to have a spouse and a lover. Everyone does what is right and what feels right for them. In my opinion, there is no right or wrong. It's what works for you and your own joy.