Articles & Reviews
Opening the Heart Through Sex
By Niyaso Carter
Deep and ecstatic sex touches us like few other things do. It takes us out of our normal, controlled way of being. It opens our breath, senses, feelings, and our heart too. This can be so lovely and beautiful, but also disturbing or exposing. When we truly make love, when we surrender deeply to our instinctual selves, to our body’s senses, to our aliveness and to our hearts feelings come up. They must come up, because it is our heart opening in trust that makes for truly great sex. If you want sex that is sacred, if you want to make love in a way that’s divine, you need to understand what impact emotions and feelings have on your lovemaking.
As you probably have experienced first hand at one time or another, emotions can make or break great sex. No amount of sexual know-how or Tantric technique or special energy exercise will have true meaning without allowing our feelings to play their role in sacred lovemaking. Fully opening into divine sex is all about trust. Without it any knowledge or technique is in danger of remaining rote and mechanical. A lot of times, the reason people don’t have deep and fulfilling sex is because they don’t trust this emotional movement. Yet the more we open sexually, the more the shadow side of ourselves will come up also – that is, the unlived, unresolved and unhealed parts of us.
This is particularly dramatic in the case of trauma survivors, but it’s true to some degree for almost everybody. When we open sexually, vulnerable parts of us may also come out, triggering various emotions. If we don’t resist this movement of feelings then grace can open up for us. The analogy of this truth, that we must embrace our shadow side in order to transcend it, is the beautiful lotus blossom that rises out of the murky mud.
The sex act, when done with awareness, has incredible healing potential. Through loving sex we can heal our bodies, our hearts and our entire beings. Robert had always prided himself as a very capable lover. And he had always enjoyed lots of sex throughout his life. Robert’s childhood had been very difficult, his mother was schizophrenic and so she was alternately neglectful and loving toward him when he was a child. He learned how to survive the hurt of such unreliable love by protecting his heart and not really letting anyone too close. He had been in several relationships, which he thought were reasonably satisfying, but then one day Robert fell in love, truly deeply in love, like he had never felt before and a disturbing thing started happening. When Robert was making love with his new partner he could feel some very sad old feelings of hurt rise up. As he began to trust his new lover, he became aware of how his heart was hurt by those earlier events in his life. Being a strongly masculine male, he felt that to be a good lover he had to be strong at all times; he could not show weakness especially to his new love whom he was so anxious to show his best side.
During lovemaking when those vulnerable parts of him arose to distract himself from these feelings, quite unconsciously, he got more vigorous in his lovemaking. This did not please his partner, Evelyn, because she could feel something was wrong. She started complaining that his sex was mechanical and too rough. Evelyn had a natural and deep understanding of sacred sex and she truly loved him so she kept inviting him to be softer and to show her his vulnerable sides. With time the trust between them grew so much that he could begin to feel and talk about his hurt, and he could allow those moments of emotional pain to ripple through him as they made love. He realized that it was not only ok, but that it made it possible to enjoy a depth of sensual feeling, pleasure and intimacy in lovemaking that he never knew existed.
To have truly great sex you need to open your entire self, and that includes your feelings, whatever they may be. It’s impossible to open your heart selectively. You can’t open just one part of you, just your “sexy, happy self” and keep the part other aspects under wraps. If you try to do that, sex will be mediocre at best. If you want to go really high, you need to be willing to go deep as well. Our great mystics knew this. And our most famous poets down the ages often speak of this too: how joy and rapture are entwined with longing, rage, grief and despair.
Making friends with your feelings is going to improve your sex life, whether these feelings are joy, fear, bliss, rage, sadness or love. I mean this very literally. Allowing feelings to well up while we’re sexual is important for beautiful lovemaking. Of course this contradicts the perfect picture of romance and hot sex that we have in our heads. It’s especially hard when we consider that the feelings that might come up for us could be anger, fear, grief, or other less acceptable ones. Yet there’s so much erotic juice bound up in emotions, so much intimacy to be gained from allowing them, often from the ones that we try to hold back because we consider them unfit for the bedroom. It’s not only the darker emotions that we fear. Many of us are also afraid of being somehow “too much”, and so what we often suppress is abandoned joy, the giggles, rapture, bliss.
Most of us carefully monitor the noises we make, we have acceptable sex noises and unacceptable ones, right? Of course it’s good to be considerate of your neighbours, but whenever the circumstances allow, it’s great if you can just let go. The body follows the heart; when the heart is open the body opens too. Often it is repression of our feelings that makes the sex less than special, because it takes energy to hold those back, energy that would otherwise be available for lovemaking. In trying to protect ourselves, or our partner, from our feelings, we tone down the intensity and steer away from surrendered opening. We choose instead to control what’s happening rather than feel potentially unexpected feelings. We do this even when it keeps us from bliss. It is this controlling that makes sex be less then fulfilling. When we don’t allow feelings to well up in us, we go numb instead.
All of a sudden, from one to moment to the next we don’t feel anything where before we were quite alive. Men and women tend to react quite differently in this situation. The mistake men then often make is that they know something is missing, they can feel that sense of numbness, but they don’t know why it came over them, so they go for purely physical gratification. They go for the orgasm. In the long term they may reach out for sex toys or resolve to learn some fancy new sex technique, or they ask their partner to go to an S’n’M club and so on. These can all be great fun things to do but they may not give you what’s missing.
Women for the most part react in a totally different way. When women can’t feel and go numb they are done, they just loose interest in sex. They have the proverbial headache. And so they don’t get the intimacy and passion that was possible either. Allowing feelings will help you increase your sexual enjoyment. So make a little more room for your own emotions and those of your partner in your sex life.
You won’t need to stop the lovemaking when something comes up. You can cry and make love. You can sob, and laugh, and enjoy pleasure all at the same time; letting your tears flow is such a healing force. You can also feel rage and make love simultaneously. This can be quite wild and you may need to negotiate with your partner beforehand what is acceptable and what is not. More often than not, our partners have more room for our emotions than we do.
For example, if you find yourself getting angry in the middle of lovemaking, tell your partner and ask if it’s OK to go with it. Don’t hurt each other. You can experience the energy of anger without hurting someone. You can growl, you can grunt, you can hiss, it can be a tremendous turn on and a lot of fun! Enjoy it as energy and let this energy arise until it changes again.
Great intimacy can be invoked if you both allow your feelings to flow freely as they come up during lovemaking. I was working with a young couple that came to see me because sex hadn’t been good for some time. After asking a few questions it became clear that when the lovemaking got deeper, she felt anger arising in her. She felt the urge to hit her partner, push him away, and still make love with him. So we negotiated that she’d have permission to do exactly that, with two stipulations: she wasn’t to hurt him in any way, and if she had the impulse to push him away he would hold her even more strongly instead, so she could feel his love.
After experimenting with this just once they both reported that their sex life had never been hotter. Ultimately it’s the ability to surrender and to let go of control that makes for great sex. It’s ok cry or laugh at the same time as you are in a passionate embrace getting close to orgasm. It’s ok to growl and hiss or to tremble and shiver in fear. When you are willing to let your feelings flow, like clouds passing across the sky, and you feel safe with that, you come to trust that they make for hot, beautiful sex. These feelings are like a thunderstorm or a rain shower that washes everything clean. Feelings can be negotiated in a way that they are not hurtful or traumatizing but rather enriching and enlivening. Let your feelings be like the weather, don’t avoid them, don’t seek them out, just let them come and go.
Here’s another example. Tom and Melanie’s sex life had been slowly declining over a period of two years after they’d been together happily for several years before that. Melanie complained that Tom didn’t desire her any more and that he’d been avoiding sexual contact with her. When I looked for possible reasons, I learned that Tom had lost his mother to cancer two years earlier and that he felt a lot of sadness over the loss. He didn’t want to bother his wife with his grief, so he kept it inside. Only when he was making love he couldn’t control it, he couldn’t stop his tears from welling up, and this he found unacceptable so to protect Melanie and himself from his sadness he started avoiding sex. This happened quite unconsciously, he just didn’t ever seem to be in the mood any more, or he couldn’t make the time. Their sex life resumed happily once he realized that she had room for his tears while making love, that in fact she loved him more for it. Next time feelings come up for you while you’re making love, don’t push them down, but – and this is very important – don’t stop making love.
You can do both: Hold the love and the pleasure of the connection, and accept and welcome all feelings. If you can hold that much spaciousness you may find that your tears, anger, fear, guilt, or shame will soon transform into beautiful pure innocent sexual love energy, even turning into laughter. If your partner is experiencing feelings welling up as you are making love, you can be supportive by letting him or her know that it’s ok. Giving and receiving permission is sometimes all that’s needed to relax and let love flow through.
A particularly touching example was the story of Cindy and Thomas. Cindy had been raped when she was 17 and even though she enjoyed sex, sometimes her enjoyment switched rapidly and she got fearful when sex got a little wild and intense and she got close to orgasm. Because she was ashamed of her fear, instead of allowing her fright to show, she unconsciously shut down at that point, stopping her pleasure. This of course frustrated not only her but also Thomas who felt that he could never satisfy her, which he took as personal failure. When we explored a little what Cindy’s natural impulses would be in those situations, if she didn’t totally shut down, we discovered that she felt herself wanting to call for help, but of course she felt that she couldn’t do that. So we negotiated that when this came up next time while they where making love, that she had permission to let herself call for help and that he would just hold her and love her with all his heart and body. They also agreed that he only would stop the lovemaking if she expressly asked him to. When they did this, she ended up crying in her lover’s arms many times, while he soothingly murmured loving words of reassurance to her.
Their sexual enjoyment improved immediately and dramatically. She was able to have very beautiful, intense orgasms and she started truly loving sex. The reason I call this kind of lovemaking a spiritual practice is because, like any practice, it involves developing certain muscles, certain abilities and skills over time. Just like when you’re not in shape and you start working out you don’t become strong overnight, just like in meditation practice it takes a little while to get the hang of it, so it is with sacred lovemaking. It takes regular practice. In this case you are developing the muscles of being able to present in your senses, the skills of being very sensitive and intuitive, the ability to be emotionally transparent, the skill of intimate communication, and the ability to trust and surrender. Your sense of sacred lovemaking will grow with regular practice, and with time you’ll enjoy not only more pleasure, passion, love, and delight, but also you’ll experience the transcendental energies of devotional rapture and ecstasy. Lovemaking in this way opens to you to the sacred in all of life.