Welcome to a space for the spirituality of gay and bisexual men. We have within ourselves the resources for our healing, liberation, and growth. Connecting with each other, we encounter the grace to lay hold of a richer, juicier life. Losing ourselves in deep play, we rediscover the bigger, freer, more joyous selves we're capable of becoming. Here I share my interest in personal and communal ritual, making art that expresses my inner life, and an intentional practice of erotic spirituality.
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Hermitage V: Tonglen
share a lot of explicit detail here about my sexual practices. Our erotic lives are dense with
personal history, with private meanings that we don’t even ourselves
consciously understand. I'd rather make room for people to
explore their own inner landscapes than clutter the space between us with
my own psychodynamic tchachkes.
(Then too, maybe sometimes a still-internalized fear of shaming also holds me back.)
walks in the woods have a way of clarifying things, like when to put your money
where your mouth is. So after two hours out on the trail this afternoon, here
we are: sex in the hermitage. Masturbation, prayer, and how one can flow
into the other.
by sharing something about me that will speak to some and not
to others. As tortured as my relationship to wanking was all through my
adolescence (and maybe because my
relationship to it was so tortured in those formative years) it remains a
staple of my erotic life. In recent years , men like me have increasingly
claimed the emerging label of the “solosexual.” Thank God for a website like Bateworld. Thank
God for groups like the New York Jacks and the San Francisco Jacks and the Rain
City Jacks, for every small local group some generous man is willing to host, and
for periodic events like Healthy Friction.
simply that I masturbate, like virtually all human males over the age of thirteen or so. It’s not simply that my own
cock and balls offer me pleasure and satisfaction beyond what
most of us are willing to admit, given generations of repression and censure,
contempt and derision for the most universal and readily available sexual
experience men can have. It’s that I find my own body intensely erotic. Stroking
myself to orgasm means as much to me as sex with partners.
want to face a choice between sex with myself and sex with others. If I had to, I’d probably pick myself, behind Door Number
One. I can and do relate lovingly to all sorts of people I don’t and would
never have sex with. On the other hand, when it comes to sex, whenever I’m in
the mood, by happy coincidence so am I.
Solosexuality involves a lot more, though, than just an easy date: the difference between a quick wank to get off
and the deliberate, extended cultivation of pleasure, the practice of “edging,”
whether for an hour or two or over whole days or weeks; the conscious, intentional spreading of energy and focus to the erotic capacities of one's whole body. Paradoxically, some
solosexual men are as reluctant to reach ejaculatory orgasm as any devout
Catholic schoolboy of the 1950’s. Not in fear of mortal sin, but in commitment
to the heightened energy and juiciness of staying open to desire for as long as
men for whom masturbation isn’t second best, or last resort, I do indeed want
to share my solosexuality with others. I’d much rather have the opportunity to
masturbate with another man, or with a group of men, than always experience
the joy of my own body alone. I won’t try to explain this right now for those
who don’t already “get it.” The depth of the fraternal bond between comrades
that I’m talking about is either comprehensible to you, or it isn’t. You’re
fine, either way: if you don’t get it, we’re just different. If you do get it,
let me know if you’re free Sunday afternoons.
mentioning the potential depth of that bond, though, witnesses to how intensely
I want to understand my solosexual side in spiritual terms. It’s as important
for me to do so as it is to understand my sexual relationships with others in
solosexual men find spaces to share about our experience, it emerges pretty
quickly how profoundly centered we feel, sinking into the pleasure we give
ourselves. When we go deeper, without distraction, everything else can drop away,
just as it does in the most intense interpersonal lovemaking. We can find
ourselves as blissfully absorbed in the present moment as we might be in deep
meditation. Arguably, such an experience is deep
meditation, as masturbation gurus like Bruce Grether, and more recently Jason Armstrong, have argued.
to my week of hermitage, in the woods of southern Indiana...
before I made this pilgrimage, I formed an intentionto spend my time here cultivating and raising
my erotic energy without release until the final night of my retreat. I don’t
know why. Tantric practitioners talk a lot about the benefits of semen retention.
I’ve never been drawn to the prescriptions of Indian ayurveda, at least not as
passed on in the West. But I understand from direct experience how emotionally open I’ve become on retreats where
I’ve been encouraged to refrain from ejaculation, how intensely aware I’ve become
of a Divine Presence enlivening me and deepening my connections with others.
Something (where did this come from?) led me to choose this path for myself
during this present week of prayer and simplified living. I asked a far-away
friend (yes, another solosexual, and a tantrika into the bargain) to support my resolve, checking in daily by
phone to anchor my intention.
And then, it
just started getting weirder, if you’re already wondering what planet I’m
writing from. The night I arrived, I set
up my altar, burned incense, hung fabric and prayer flags around the room. The
next day, six men were due to arrive for the weekend in response to my
invitation to share two days of intentional community. As I prepared and
consecrated the cabin, a conviction
enveloped me that I was laying my erotic energy at their feet. I’d use the
emotional openness I hoped would result in order to hold space for them more
lovingly throughout their two days as my guests. Upon their departure, I’d lay
my erotic energy at the foot of my altar, in service to myself, and in communion with the Holy One who is, in the end, the best lover of all--as John of the Cross
and Teresa of Avila knew so well.
As the week
has gone on, in these later days of solitude, breath and genital stimulation have
complemented and balanced each other in my erotic practice: genital touch
energizing breath, and breath enabling a heightened control of the urge to
ejaculate. Seated before my altar, I imagine myself engaged in a
version of the Tibetan Buddhist practice of tonglen:
taking in the difficulties experienced by others, transforming them,
and then breathing out healing and peace for their benefit and the benefit of
all sentient beings. I’ve found myself praying through masturbation, found myself transmuting
masturbation into prayer. Most vividly of all this morning when my friend checking
in on the phone was as caught up in his erotic trance as I was in mine.
I won’t describe more specifically how I’ve pursued all this,visualized it, verbalized it, nor about how I intend to ritualize the release of energy that will close my weeklong practice. Partly because the details are as likely to shut
some readers out as to invite them in. But partly because (and maybe this is
just a different way of saying the same thing), like many initiations into esoteric
ritual practice, the transmission has to occur face to face and in living
speech, when the time is right.
you’ve drawn a blank on a lot of what I’ve described, you’ve still persevered
to these last lines. If so, I hope that you feel invited into a calling
we do indeed share as queer spiritual seekers living our lives in male bodies:
to unite flesh with spirit; to forge links between earth and heaven; to become
ourselves the ladder on which angels ascend and descend. If, on the other hand,
you’re a brother solosexual--may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
heart bless you on your way.