We live in a microwave culture, which means we expect everything to happen and arrive quickly. We expect our food to arrive within minutes of ordering it. We expect our communication to arrive within seconds of sending it. We expect our things to arrive within days of purchasing them. Gone are the days when we would wait for days or weeks for a letter to arrive, or walk to the local library and covet the treasured time we could spend with dearly beloved books. Gone are the days when we witnessed firsthand the process by which the bread that sits on our table began as grains of wheat, then grew into feathery fields, then was harvested, pounded into flour, and baked into a fresh, golden loaf. With all of the gains in speed and efficiency that technology offers, something in the realm of slow soul-time is lost. We are forgetting how to wait. Life has, in some ways, become too easy.
This lack of patience extends into every area of lives, including our sexuality. And why shouldn’t it? If we expect instant food, texts, and books, why shouldn’t we expect instant pleasure? And with the proliferation of pornography, access to unlimited and anonymous insta-arousal has become easier than ever. Our culture is literally wiring us to expect sex to be effortless, fast, and meaningless.
The messages our culture propagates about sex have nothing to do with sacred sexuality. Sacred sexuality is a slow, complicated, enriching, courageous, exploratory experience that carries at its core the principles of mindfulness: non-doing, non-striving, patience, and presence. It’s a practice where two people in a committed relationship learn to place connection and curiosity above outcome, which means that lying down naked together is just as “valid” sexually as making love. It means recognizing that sexuality, because it touches on every aspect of our beings, will unleash worlds inside of us, both conscious and unconscious. It’s not simple. It’s not easy. And there’s nothing fast about the processes that emerge when we engage in conscious, sacred sexuality.
I know from working with thousands of clients and course members over the years that there’s a deep, cross-cultural longing to return to a place of true power and celebration around sexuality. Women know that mainstream sexuality isn’t the way, but they’re uncertain about how to traverse to a new place. How do we shift from what we’ve always seen and known and return to a place of ancient memory, a time when we knew that we were born to be wild, free, confident, and powerful in our bodies and sexuality?
The first step in crossing over from mainstream sex to sacred sexuality is to recognize that we’ve all been mis-wired in a multitude of ways.
We’ve been wired to equate desire with longing, which means that we feel most sexually alive when we’re pursuing an even slightly unavailable love object. This often comes up in my work when people say, “I don’t feel desire for my partner like I did for my ex,” to which I respond, “Was your ex slightly unavailable?” The answer is invariably yes. Or another version of this arises when someone says, “I wanted my partner so badly in the beginning but as soon as s/he proposed all of my desire vanished.” In these cases, the person is unknowingly programmed according to the circuits of the longing = desire equation. It’s a mis-firing that needs attention in order to realize that we can be turned on by presence and availability.
We’ve been led to believe that sex only means orgasms and intercourse. It’s like we only want dessert and have forgotten how delicious a salad can be (especially with tender leaves grown in our own gardens). We are an achievement and outcome oriented culture, and this mindset, which has been ingrained in us since kindergarten, naturally extends into the bedroom.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that if we’re not having frequent sex – which means 2-3 times a week – there’s something wrong with the relationship. And when sex is only narrowly defined as intercourse, we invalidate that the interludes of gentle kisses and sweet snuggles are also forms of sexual contact.
We’ve been programmed to believe that a stagnant sex life can be spiced up by purchasing new lingerie and trying out new sex toys or positions. While these may add some fun and flair to your bedroom explorations, without a solid connection and clear channels in place first inside yourself and then with your partner, there isn’t a sex toy in the world that’s going to ignite your desire.
In order to correct these faulty equations and mis-firings, we have to go back to the beginning and excavate our history as women. We have to address where the wiring went awry personally, in our family download, historically, and societally and then gently replace it with something new and healthy. We have to shed the layers and layers of body shame and sexual shame we accumulate simply by being a woman in this culture, let alone personal experiences that amplify and entrench this shame. And we have to receive a map for what true aliveness and healthy sexuality looks like, for we can’t chart new waters if we have no idea where we’re going.
This excavation and map is what I’ll be sharing in my new course, Sacred Sexuality: A 40-day course for women to heal body shame and ignite desire. This course has been simmering and gestating inside of me for many years, and I’m so excited to be sharing it with you for the first time. Registration is now open and I’ll be capping the number of participants for this first round, so if you’re ready to embark on this journey together, you can sign up here. The course begins on Saturday, June 24th, 2017, and I look forward to seeing you there.
Thank you so much Sheryl for this post. It is exactly what I needed to hear right now. I have been in a long term relationship for significantly longer than my friends. I can catch myself wondering why I do not have the same sexual spark that my friends do in their newer relationships. My own sensitivities around my body has caused me to be a bit more closed sexually. I celebrate when I am able to be intimate such as showering with my partner with no expectation of orgasm. I’m trying to get out of my head more and enjoy this natural process. I am sure your course will be helpful and I intend on signing up.
The course will address exactly what you’re struggling with, Whitney, and I’ll look forward to seeing you there.
Wow!! Sheryl, I love love this blog, All true. When I have sacred sex with my husband I feel so much love, connection. Where as when There are those days I feel i need to hurry and orgasm because my husband cant wait too long. He understands that i cant orgasm all the time. When i was in the high throes of anxiety i use to fake it. Now i dont im honest about it with him, i stil enjoy sex without orgasm and he knows that. Honesty is the best policy. When we have too much going on in our heads, we lack the desire. I have lacked the desire many many days/ nights, but I have always had the real and rawconnection. With and without my anxiety.
One of my daily problems is I rush into the things I do and society has made me this way. When I rush i make mistakes and I feel guilty about it. I “shouldnt be making mistakes. Im perfect. My thinking is like being in a race. I want to slow down but because we live in a fast pace society, and I have been wired to do things fast, i feel its impossible for me to slow down. I feel i will be judged if i go my own pace. Its not helping me at all because thats my anxiety alters. How do i break this cycle? When im doing something like as simple as getting the honey from the cupboard i get distracted with a random thought and i forget to take the honey out. It bothers me. Im like that at work as well.
I am nearing menopause and feel somewhat stuck in my relationship with myself and also with my husband of 25 years. Like energy is blocked and my enjoyment of sex (so much in the past) has disappeared. But I do feel that it is my relationship with myself, some body image issues, and lack of self acceptance have more to do with it than anything my husband is or is not doing. Thinking this workshop might help me a lot…..thank you.
Our bodies change so much as we near menopause, Sara, and it’s ever more important that we address our body shame and invite a new internal relationship to take root and grow. The seeds we plant at the onset of this portal into midlife have a potency that can determine how we relate to ourselves and others in the second half of life, so it’s a powerful time to turn inward and address the blocks. Looking forward to seeing you there.
Your message is comforting to me, but what if my partner is focused on intercourse as the only thing that he considers true imtimacy? I feel like no matter what I do, we can’t get on the same page sexually.
That’s very common with men, Wendy, and can be a challenge. But what I’ve found is that when one partner makes a shift inside, even if it’s never explicitly discussed, the other partner slowly starts to shift as well. Is he open to other forms of sexual exploration even while he considers intercourse the only form of true intimacy?
Sometimes I make love to my partner just to feel close to him, not because I feel sexual desire or feel turned on. In fact, this happens more often than not. Is this OK for a long-term relationship or does it mean that there is something missing?
It’s very common for women to start with zero desire. In fact, all of the research on sexuality now shows that it’s the norm for women to start with neutral or even negative desire! Do you end up feeling desire at some point during the lovemaking?
Sometimes, but mostly not. Is this a bad sign? I know I still have a lot of work to do with the relationship anxiety I have.
See my response to Kami below ;). And yes, anxiety is the fastest way to shut down desire.
I’m so excited to be joining you and all the other women taking part in this journey. Thank you for bringing it into the world! Much love, Zoe xxx
Thank you, Zoe. So happy you’ll be joining us ;). xo
I am overjoyed about this course. Though I won’t be taking it this time round, I so look forward to it in the future. It’s so exciting to see your work grow.
Thank you, agnes. x
Yes! Sheryl! Thank you for this. More than anything, us, me, culture needs to hear this now. There’s something very sacred, and SCARY, about sexual intimacy. I want to experience it wholly. And as a human, I deserve that. However because of my akashic records (downloaded past as you say), our culture, my response to it all, etc… sexual intimacy feels more abstract and confusing than ever. Thank you for shedding your light and love on this subject matter.
I’m so looking forward to this course!
I was a bit spiked about one of your previous responses to Custard353 above about asking if she feels desire at some point during love making. I too will make an effort to “just do it” when I don’t feel in the mood (which is most of the time). Sometimes I do end up feeling aroused but sometimes I feel nothing and I equate that to mean that I don’t really love or find my partner attractive sexually. It really stresses me out and makes me worry and this feel anxiety around sex. I feel like it’s the one spike/concern with my relationship.
Do you think there’s something wrong?
Nope ;). I don’t think there’s something wrong. I think you’re in exactly the right place with loads of women who are in your exact same boat. We will be addressing all of this in the course.
What a relief! I can’t wait. Thank you so much for the vital work you do, Sheryl.
Really looking forward to this course, as sexuality has been a murky area for me and a place where my anxiety tends to hang its hat. Would also like to recommend a book to anyone who is interested, Come as You Are, by Emily Nagoski. It’s all about the science of female sexuality and while I at first read it with a bit of trepidation (fearing it would spike me or “prove” I was doing something wrong) I gradually relaxed and absorbed the information that is really quite aligned with your work, Sheryl. The biggest takeaway for me was that some women have extremely sensitive sexual “brakes”, and nothing hits the brakes faster and more reliably than the anxious mind.
You’re the second person who has recommended it to me. It’s in my cart and I look forward to reading it!
Thank you, Alina. It is the same for me, I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to sex. I will definitely check out the book! Best,
Hi Sheryl, I’m in the UK and just signed up for this course. I’ve already done the break free one but am still struggling with so many areas, sex being one of them.
Although I know it’s normal to not always be attracted or in the mood, my anxiety is still latching onto if from time to time so hopefully this course will help me further.
The bully in my head is piping up right now saying “you shouldn’t be spending so much money and time on this. You are only taking all these courses because you are too scared to finally call it off”.
Trying not to believe these lines but I’m not in a good place right now.
Take this as me holding your hand. I totally get what you mean about the bully in your head, and that it keeps dragging me down too. As a strong woman, very able at making big decisions – all this relationship anxiety and thoughts swirlling around in my head focussing on my husband, and the choice I have made, has totally derailed me. I am well versed with trying to deal with such thoughts…and although am NO expert, have signed up and committed to learning what conscious transistions has to say! All this work IS an invitation to learn. An invitation to dig deep and get to the root behind these thoughts that as so persistent are not literal in their messages. If we just take them at face value (even when they feel real and ligitimate) is that running away from what will eventually create our wholeness. It is NOT the answer to your freedom, I think…see you on the course x
Thank you! It’s very hard at the moment, I’m coming close to leaving on a daily basis. I feel tired and exhausted. I feel very disconnected and like you, I feel like this whole experience is just turning me into someone else. I’m a different person and can’t focus on anything I used to enjoy. I have the life I wanted to have 1 year ago but now that I have it, I hate it because it’s making me feel this way.
I’m staying because of this website and because the experience feels familiar to my last relationship
You describe it so well. Its like turning into a whole new person. I remember myself as lighter and more connected to what was around me. Since my relationship started I am constantly worrying and analyzing, and above all, often disconnected from myself and the world around me when I am with my boyfriend. I just want to be myself again. I am starting to think that maybe we have to embrace ourselves as being these people as well. But it so hard, a part of me cannot accept this suffering either.
Maybe we do but it’s super hard
I’m so stuck
I’m back to the point where I’m telling myself that this work doesn’t apply to me because my main thought is ‘what if I’m too young/what if it’s not the right time’
Since it’s not about my partner or about his looks or my love towards him my ego says ‘it’s not a projection, this work isn’t for you.
I’m still holding on but this week has been one of the toughest ones yet, I hate this side of me
Thanks for replying. I personally see many benefits with meeting someone when you are young. I am older and there have definitely been disadvantages with meeting my boyfriend at this age. For example, I have had the time to be hurt many times which now plays out in my relationship.I can understand your worry but I really think you have so many advantages in your situation.
You are also mentioning that this week has been especially hard. I have no idea about your case, but for me the week before my period is A LOT more filled with anxiety than the others. I wonder if this explanation could be a part of your suffering right now. All the best,
Sheryl I have been reading your work over the past two years and I have always felt really supported by your blog, in terms of my relationship. I recently signed up for the ‘Break Free from Relationship Anxiety’ course and I can’t tell you how much better I feel. I remember what it feels like to relax. I remember why I love my partner. I remember why I wanted to marry him in the first place. I remember why he is good. It’s fabulous. Thank you so much for helping me – I feel like I’ve woken up and it feels GOOD!
That’s wonderful to hear, lc. Relationship anxiety, at its core, is an invitation to wake up and learn how to clear out the fear-webs so that we can see clearly again.
Beautiful Ic, well done! Your a warrior and be proud, Im a warrior and I am proud because I am only human.
So, I’ve been suffering from relationship anxiety for the past few months. I’m in a relationship with the most loyal, supportive, sweet and tender man since March 2016. We live together and I’m 22. He’s my first official boyfriend, and the first one who actually cares for me and that taught me what love really is.
However, in mid April I had a dream in which he leaves me and another guy I had a “thing” with (we only met 3 times and talked through texts until he dumped me via text after 3 months) reunites with me. Since then, my anxiety (I’ve always been an anxious person, I’ve had panic attacks since I was 11) is extremely high. After a lot of research through forums and websites, I started to have doubts like: what if I like this guy and not my boyfriend? Then, I realized I do not care for this another guy and the doubts only centered in my boyfriend. Despite having moments of clarity, it’s like after a question is answered in my mind, another one comes up. Currently, I’ve been having some really bad anxiety because during sex with my boyfriend an image of the guy’s face appeared in my mind. Of course I pannicked, and now I’m afraid that I everytime I look into my boyfriend’s eyes another image eventually shows up. I’m afraid that I “replace” his face… Is this normal? I’m so afraid this will ruin my relationship! I’m afraid this is not supposed to happen if I really loved my boyfriend…
But I want to be with him forever. I love my life with him. I want a future with a house, marriage and kids with him. But what if this never passes and I’m doomed to this? I’m so AFRAID. Is this normal?
I don’t want to lose this amazing person…