By Myra Lewin
Love is simple, yet it has become a bit of a riddle: We seek it, but we already are it. And as soon as we see how much we have, we easily attract more.
Of course I am talking about real love, which is an expression of the divine within. Every relationship you have with another person is a representation of your relationship with the God of your heart, so it’s important to cultivate that connection with tender commitment. We are love. Once you recognize that, you will be able to share your love unselfishly with another.
Start with a daily commitment to loving yourself
Through Yoga, we learn that the divine exists inside each of us. Therefore, a direct connection with the deep, unconditional love that comes from this source is available at any moment in your day. The more you go within, the more love you will find to shine outward. Connect with real love during your morning meditation, by reminding yourself to breathe deeply and consciously during your day or finding a few quiet moments in the evening before bed with warm, spiced milk.
When your life is built upon practices of self-love, it becomes easier to find and share love. And it becomes easier to avoid confusing love with infatuation or lust for a person or an object that can pull you off course. Life offers plenty of temptations to turn away from your spiritual path – food, alcohol and low-vibrational relationships are just a few. The more you recognize the divine within you, the easier it will be to turn away from anything that doesn’t express that. Before allowing yourself to be pulled toward something external, ask yourself if following the desire will move you in the direction of sattva, balance and harmony, or away. Then you can make your decision based on how you would like your life to be.
The power of sexual energy
When we talk about love and relationships, we must also address the powerful force of human sexuality. Sexual energy has many purposes, the underlying essence of all of them is the ability to create. Whether it is a child, a connection to a partner or personal spiritual growth by transforming it within, sexual energy is our greatest power. When treated wisely, it can fuel our journey toward self-realization. But when sexual energy is expressed by chasing quick hits of pleasure or a release of tension, it drains our lifeforce.
Proper use of sexual energy is one of the four pillars of health in Ayurveda and one of the eight limbs of Yoga. There are helpful teachings from these sciences that guide us to use this power wisely.
Ayurvedic anatomy teaches that we have seven types of bodily tissues, all nourished in a continuous loop based on what we eat and drink and how we digest food and life. Shukra dhatu, the tissue of the reproductive organs, are the last to be nourished in this cycle, so whatever nutrients and prana we are able to absorb from our food are processed through six other tissues before they get there. Yet shukra dhatu has the important role of producing ojas, or vitality and immunity that supports the entire body. Shukra dhatu is often already weak in people living a typical modern lifestyle (this understanding of the impact of food and lifestyle choices on tissue development is one reason Ayurveda is so helpful in reversing infertility). Matters are exacerbated when shukra dhatu is lost through reproductive fluids, thereby reducing overall wellness.
The teachings of Yoga talk about proper use of sexual energy from a mental standpoint (the true focus of Yoga is, after all, to gain mastery over the impulses of the mind). One of the yamas from the Yoga Sutras, brahmacharya, teaches us that managing sexual energy is the key to a calm mind.
Some people interpret brahmacharya as celibacy. While redirecting sexual energy upward for spiritual growth is one way to express it, more people can benefit from understanding brahmacharya as a form of respecting your body, mind and spirit by placing life-giving boundaries and discernment on how you use this powerful energy. In short, it is a way to honor the most important relationship you have: the one with the God of your heart.
The practice of brahmacharya recognizes that when we are drawn to something outside of ourselves we lose energy. This is especially true with the powerful force of sexual energy. Too much sex or sex with wrong intentions draws us away from the divine within. When we give sexual energy away in this manner, our minds become weaker, more driven by self-will and open to other forms of temptation.
Using sexual energy wisely
By recognizing the sex act as an exchange of divine creative energy between two people, you can begin to see it for the sacred power it holds. It’s important that both you and your partner treat it with respect.
Sex should not be about expressing power, chasing fleeting pleasure or releasing tension. It certainly doesn’t need to bring shame. It is a natural part of being human and exists to help us experience life. Learn to love it and respect it by practicing viveka, or discernment, around how you express your sexuality. Share it only with someone who is respectful of this gift. Displaying or sharing it indiscriminately, regardless of your level of health, will deplete your vitality. And whether you are in a partnership or choose to direct your sexual energy upward, learn to harness these creative powers through regular meditation and pranayama (try siddhasana with udgeet pranayama).
As you practice brahmacharya in terms of your sexual energy, you’ll also come to learn that there are many other areas in life where you give your energy away. Your purpose in life is not to bend to try to make another person happy, sexually or otherwise; it is about managing your energy and health so you can enjoy all life has to offer through the expression of your divine self. This is the teaching of brahmacharya -- by being conscious about how you want to focus your energy outward, you’ll spend more time looking inward where the God of your heart awaits. Here you’ll experience real love, and will have plenty to share.