By Jessica Graham
She was a sexy soft butch. She opened doors for me and made out like she was a contender for Best Kisser of the Year. From the moment I saw her, surrounded by admirers, in a badly-lit, smoky bar I was hooked. After a few weeks of her award winning kisses and cunniligus and I was obsessed and crazy. All I could think about was her and our possible future together.
The high I felt when she called or when I was with her was exquisite. The lows when our dates ended or when she didn’t answer a call were bone-crackingly painful. After spending a weekend together, mostly in bed, I was spun out like I’d been doing blow for days. I needed more more more. My heart was pounding out of my chest and my mind was going a million miles a minute. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t concentrate on anything. I was high on Love Drugs.
The excruciating pleasure and pain of the first flush of love is like nothing else (well, some studies have shown that it’s remarkably similar to cocaine addiction, so there’s that). Until I was a meditation practitioner I was all too willing to completely lose my mind during that time. I loved to completely check out of my life by getting lost in the insanity. The madness of a wild love affair is such a great distraction from everything else.
You know how it goes. You are on the freeway madly texting the object of your desire, actually risking your life and lives of others to send just one more witty response. You are missing work because you haven’t been able to practice basic self-care and you’ve come down with a Love Flu. You are checking your phone fifteen times an hour, looking back over the old texts if a new one hasn’t come in yet. You think you see him everywhere, and each time your heart starts speeding and your skin gets hot. She doesn’t text back and it feels like someone has pulled your plug and emptied you out. Your lover is all you can think about, your thoughts looping endlessly. You even dream about them.
It’s one thing to enjoy this experience. It’s another thing to use it as a way to check out. As you wake up more and more through your spiritual life, you don’t want to go back to sleep in your daily life. Your spiritual life and your daily life become one and the same. Staying awake means being willing to change your relationship to everything, including extreme highs and lows of romantic infatuation.
Too often people fall into this cultural agreement that it’s okay to completely get lost in our minds when we are really into someone. What if instead you stayed awake during this process? What if you opened yourself up to a whole new way of experiencing pining after someone? Love Drugs create a great opportunity to work with craving, addiction, and attachment in a very hands-on way.
The first time I worked with the agony and ecstasy of falling in lust/love in a mindful way, it took all my skills. I didn’t do it perfectly. I found it incredibly challenging to simply observe the thoughts and emotions that were arising. Building a new set of tools takes time and practice. I had been getting high off off Love Drugs since I was a gangly, wild haired, eleven-year-old and those grooves in my brain were deep. At that age I had things going on in my life that were too painful to be present for. The massive crush on the boy with freckles at school or the excitement of skinny dipping with my pretty best friend gave me a reprieve from the chaos at home. Infatuation with a love interest was a useful way to avoid uncomfortable emotions for many years.
Now, my meditation practice was asking me to give that up. I started to get the sense that letting go of my attachment to Love Drugs was a big letting go. Perhaps a life-changing letting go.
My writing, teaching, and personal practice is all about letting go and waking up. I deeply believe that this is what I am here to do. This letting go and waking up allows me to truly connect with others and live authentically. And sometimes it sucks. Sometimes spiritually evolving means losing things you really don’t want to lose.
In my case, seeing through the crazy, hot, exciting dose of Love Drugs meant letting go of the part of me that could still get high off of them. It meant coming out of hiding a little bit more and giving up the escape that an intense crush can bring.
Eventually I asked myself: Why would I stay unconscious around this? It may feel like losing something, but it’s losing a virtual reality to gain actual reality. So I’m not actually losing anything at all. Part of having a spiritual awakening in our sex lives is about being willing to let go of who we think we are and what we think we know. It’s about giving up the option of checking out or escaping through sex and romance. If love looks a lot like addiction, then it’s no surprise when a person uses it a lot like an addiction to escape unpleasant realities. And it was time for me to end that.
Then something remarkable happened. Once I stopped being able to consistently get high off the love/sex experience, it began to seem crude, disruptive, and even silly. It’s important to be open to all of our experience, so I tried not to resist it either. I laughed out loud when I got a text and felt that chemical rush through my body. It was so predictable. The less I was pulled into the intensity, the more I could just witness the rise and fall of sensations and thoughts. They stopped being “me,” and I stopped needing to do anything about them.
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t continue to have fun texting, flirting with, and fucking my new love interest. Rather I was able to let go even more into the experience because I was not grasping so much. This brings a deeper connection with the other person. This allows for me to interact from a place that is beyond the stories my mind generates. I see the other person as a unique and spectacular human, not just as a way to get high and check out.
This shift changes things. If you are someone who gets a big “fix” from romantic and sexual intrigue, be ready to lose that. It’s not going to be the same once you see through the chemical, emotional, and psychological response. You won’t be able to get high in that way anymore. Prepare yourself to connect on a whole new level and realize that you will have to learn to navigate a whole new paradigm. I’m still discovering what my sexuality looks like without the attachment to the highs and lows of Love Drugs.
If you still want to walk through this door (which I highly recommend you do), here are some quick and dirty tips for taking the first few steps:
- Pause before you send that text to your super hot crush. Notice what it feels like in your chest, stomach, and lower regions. Just be with those sensations for a moment.
- After you send the text, again pause. Notice what it feels like in your chest, stomach, and lower regions. Just be with those sensations for a moment.
- While you wait for a response, especially if it doesn’t come as quickly as you would like, pause. Again, pay attention to your body. Feel your body with your body.
- Really pay attention to what happens in your body and your mind when you get a text or phone call from your honey, potential honey, or “if only” honey. Get curious about the rush of sensation, both the pleasurable and uncomfortable.
- When your mind is looping with thoughts of this person observe the thinking. Recognize that you are not the thoughts, you are observing the thoughts. Stop taking the thoughts so personally and just listen to the sound of the words arise and pass.
- Be honest with yourself when you stir up strong emotions on purpose. Yes, it feels so amazing to listen to the songs that remind you of your love interest. You can experience waves of pleasure or of exciting melancholy. You don’t have to stop doing this, but recognize what you are doing. Especially if this is causing you to suffer needlessly.
- Another way to approach this is to notice all the space around the experience. This pulsing of sexual excitement, adoration, or craving is only one tiny part of what is happening. Your attention can become very narrow and the thoughts and emotions around this person will be all that you see. But awareness is much, much bigger. Perhaps infinite. If you rest in awareness you will cease to become your grasping. Instead it will just be one of the many waves in an endless sea.
These practices are very powerful, but are only a beginning. The process is a continuous one. Be gentle with yourself and others.
While we can always grow more, it’s important to play too. Don’t take yourself and your spiritual growth too seriously. Trying to be a perfect specimen of mindful sexuality can start to become a little, well, dry. The suggestions above are about connecting more deeply with your partners and yourself, not how to perfect. Being attached to the Love Drugs moving through our bodies or the stories in our minds creates a separation. When we no longer grasp to what we want or brace ourselves for disappointment, we get to be right here right now. There’s not much that’s hotter than that.
Photo courtesy of Jazzwall Arts