One of my neighbors used to say to her boyfriend, “Honey it’s late, let’s go home and practice,” explaining “Just when we think we have it all down perfectly something new happens.” They were’t the first ones to approach it that way.
The Taoists developed energetic (Qigong) and meditation practices in the context of simple activities such as standing, sitting and walking. They also saw fit to explore the more intense human activities as vehicles for discovery and transformation including fighting and love making. Using fighting as a meditation tool is unique to Taoism but sexuality traditions have existed somewhat openly as part of Tantra in India and more secretively in western monotheism. The Taoists societies were often secretive depending on the political climate and it is only in recent years that their practices are coming to light.
Qigong generally is meant to give you more energy and what you do with that extra energy has five traditional applications: your own health, healing others, martial arts, sexual arts and meditation. These categories have considerable overlap, for example the fighting arts can be done in ways that make you very healthy. It is also possible to use sexual energy therapeutically both for yourself and your partner, as well as for meditation.
Humans have the understandable drive to seek out pleasure and yet the conflicting tendency to avoid it, not appreciate it, and keep moving restlessly on to whatever next thing. What would it be like if you just pursued the pleasure and allowed it to soak in and make you content? What if you approached this as a meditation?
Perhaps the most obvious reason to do sexual practices is to enhance the experience, to make it more profound or just more fun, to generate more of that wonderful energy. Most people would be quite happy with that. It’s also true that many of our issues, our baggage, our stuff shows up around and in our most intimate of expressions in ways that are not particularly enhancing. For those few who want to do the courageous work of meditation/transformation this means sex presents a unique opportunity. I will talk about both of these motivations.
Traditionally Taoist couples engaging in “double practice” also had their separate individual practices in Qigong, which laid the groundwork for coming together. While this is preferable it is not really necessary. If only one person is doing the practice the other will still feel the effects just as happens with the other two-person practices of fighting and healing. Unless one of you is a born natural, the more work you’re willing to put in individually, the less work, the easier, the deeper it will be when you come together.
So just what do you do?
1. The possibilities are myriad, but grade one step one is getting the unique quality of sexual energy to be felt anywhere in your body at will. Some folks have this naturally but most have to put a little effort into it, just as some can naturally sing and dance but most need practice. Some parts of your body are more responsive and some less. Mouths and hands? Yes. Feet and spine? Maybe. Liver and kidneys? Uh, that’s a bit more research. Start with what’s easy. Spread the energy nearby at first, e.g. if you’re kissing wake up the back of your neck. Or wake up the top your head where all the vertical meridians converge. Or just go where you’re drawn.
2. Once you wake up some part of yourself that you like particularly well, try keeping your mind there without wavering. Or you could choose to focus on one point of contact with your partner, like wherever you kiss. Keeping your mind focused is a standard meditation practice, but students often let their minds wander to something more interesting like sex, so there’s a certain ingenious motivation here. One thing this will do is expand the minutiae into something much larger, amplifying and intensifying the experience. This can make you more appreciative, more grateful, more fulfilled by it all. Allow the appreciation to penetrate into your cells and beyond.
3. One of the things you learn in Qigong work is to project and absorb energy from any part of your body voluntarily. Yin and Yang is one way to understand this. Yang expands outward like light from a bulb or a laser. Yin absorbs inward like the ocean enveloping a diver.
You could try this just holding hands or while in embrace. A natural pathway is from your heart out your arms and hands to your partner’s heart and back again. Or skip the arms and connect directly heart to heart. Or try it with your whole body.
We know intuitively that each place and each way we physically connect brings out a different quality of energies. You could take a lot of time and discover what these are and explore what they do for you, for your partner and for your relationship.
Learning to exchange energy is a skill and you’ll get it sooner if you stay relaxed and don’t force it. It’s one thing to absorb easily and quite another to swallow your partner whole. It’s one thing to enter gently and another to lumber in all huffin’ an’ a puffin’. True, some couples like this intensity but if it’s subtlety you’re after too much noise will drown it out.
4. This brings us to the main practice of the original, Water Tradition Taoists: Dissolving, relaxing, unraveling, letting go, melting, and perhaps the best term here, Opening. How can you enter into and stay open throughout the experience especially in your physical body and your nervous system which reverberate into your mental and emotional spheres and beyond?
Besides your physical body a natural place to approach dissolving energetically is your heart center. We generally associate the heart with emotions so it may seem counter intuitive to dissolve them for the occasion. You do want to dissolve negative emotions, your pains, fears, expectations, and conditionings which often assert themselves and just get in the way. But you are not trying to create or amplify any particular positive emotions. Rather it’s about becoming neutral without preconceptions, opening to what is present and allowing it to unfold naturally. It’s creating the empty space out of which springs spontaneity and surprise. Nothing has to happen but many things will.
Here one could digress a little and wax cosmic: Creation “ex nihilo”, Something out of Nothing, Emptiness as the Undifferentiated Source of All Potentiality. Perhaps you can get some real down home experiential sense of this grand theoretical construct.
Dissolving is Yin and women have a more natural tendency, even a prerequisite to open, to be more Yin. Men have to work a bit more to find a balance here because Yang is their prerequisite. It usually takes men longer to find a sweet spot, so to speak. (Maybe I shouldn’t go there.) But due to the nature of arousal, everyone must find how to balance it with relaxation.
Dissolving is not the same as denial, stuffing it away somewhere, and you only learn the difference by lots of practice. When your issues do come up, at the first hint if you can, keep dissolving. Keep opening. Just let all that stuff go. Out of your body. It’s very simple yet deeply profound. You won’t learn it all in one lifetime.
Letting go is also a safety mechanism for unloading any disagreeable energy you really don’t want to take in, which could be a risk when you’re mixing yourselves together. That’s a much larger discussion. One guiding light for dissolving generally is the words of Lao-tzu, “When the false leaves, only the true remains”.
The Taoist actually did many years of extensive research on where sexuality as a meditation path could go. Dissolving is always present at every stage from the moment you step in the water until you become the ocean.
These are a very few of the many exercises and many more variations you could do to enhance what is already one of our greatest pleasures. We might summarize them as Wake up your Body, Focus, Magnify, Saturate, Exchange and Merge, Stay Relaxed, Become Content. The concepts are simple whereas the practice is, well, practice. Whatever you do, don’t let work prevent you from enjoying one of God’s good gifts.
I have left much unsaid in between the lines in this brief introduction to an ancient tradition. For a very thorough treatment you can read. Taoist Sexual Meditation by Bruce Frantzis.