Saturday, July 19, 2014

An Evolution Into Post-Conventional Relationship

What relationship type do you adhere to?  Conventional relationship... polyamory... relationship anarchy... non-monogamy... and what I am going to call... post-conventional relationship?  With all the talk out there about how human beings aren't meant for monogamous relationships, there are many other labeled options.  Each one of these options is beautiful and each has their own rules and path, but you have to know what some of the rules are before you choose to enter into them. However, should you decide you want to engage the post-conventional, you are saying you want to live on the edge. You don’t want to take yesterdays discoveries for granted because you want to include your important learnings of the past and transcend into tomorrow's learning and re-engage the fullness of every moment. That is not for the timid or weak of heart.

Reflections From Le Anne
A question that continually arose in my head ...what is the difference between the conventional (monogamous) relationship and a genuine post-conventional relationship and what are some of the key distinctions?  The nature of classical polyamory today can be described as an escape from commitment.  Why do I have to be with you when I can be with another person?  Or, I don't have to be with you because I have another. To be involved with more than one person in an intimate relationship means to be more committed, and not less.  The key distinction and an essential piece here is commitment.  The big difference between polyamory and genuine post conventionality is that there is a deep commitment to the other and that commitment is demonstrated as an essential responsibility to each other's growth and unfolding. If you’re willing to actually step up to this way of operating in a post conventional relationship, then, from each person you are involved with, you are committed to be working on a different dimension of your life and be committed to working on a different dimension in their life. There is a commitment to be involved in each other's lives and I am holding a piece of your story and that you are holding a piece of my story. The commitment means that I have something to learn from this person and I have to be willing to be impacted by them in the most profound of ways. The commitment means that you are committed to the emergence of the other's story, supporting and encouraging their evolution into the highest and best version of themselves.

If you are committed to being involved as a sexual lover; remember that being a lover means to be a giver. To be a giver is to be committed to the growth of the other.  Sexuality and our contact with each together is part of that commitment.  We agree to not just do casual sex, because when you do casual sex, in the end, there is a greater exposure and vulnerability that in someways goes bad because sex is never just sex, sex is holy and a sacred contract.  Sex is ethics and ethics is not casual.

I've been curious to explore and dive even deeper to this area of commitment, to discover and possibly even figure out (or even create) some of the answers to what commitment means and what levels of commitment are involved inside of a post-conventional relationship.  If you are involved (or deciding to become involved) in a genuine post-conventional relationship that says you are even more committed...not running away from the hard stuff, with a commitment to the self and a commitment to the other.

The first key aspect of commitment is time. If I’m involved with you then I’m committed to giving you a certain amount of time and we have to negotiate to decide what that amount of time is. This time commitment could mean that we write once a week, visit each other once a month or even twice a year, it might mean that we are together for a certain amount of time as long as we have that certain amount of time available.  When the agreed upon or the right amount of time is not available anymore then we close down that dimension of the commitment.  Lets say I want to be intimately involved with five people, I have to be willing to be committed to five people and each of them at a different level.  This is why it’s hard to be committed to 20 people, we just don’t have the time.  Post conventionality is a higher level of obligation, a higher time commitment then classical conventional monogamy.

The second aspect of commitment is saying you are willing to open yourself up to the new revelations that every day presents to us and not basing yourself in the precedent of yesterday.  Sexual permissions of yesterday are not sexual permissions of today.  Just because we had a sexual relationship yesterday doesn’t mean we will have one today. Another revelation, which isn't so profound, is that there are different stages of life.  You can have a stage of life where you are profoundly post conventional and then you can move to a stage of life where you say that you are not going to do the post conventional anymore and want to move into a classical monogamous relationship.  This isn't because you aren’t interested in the post conventional or that you shifted your position, but because at different times of life, different expressions work differently, both for better and worse.

The third aspect of commitment is creating ease, grace and drama free transitions.  We negotiate our time commitment to each other, deciding what we are going to be doing together and then an issue comes up and someone gets busy… and there isn’t time anymore.  Then what?  You need to keep checking in, you need to create a spaciousness, you need to be relaxed, at ease, with a lightness around these transitions…no trauma no drama.  You don’t create false drama; you are in the presence of the moment, holding it seriously and lightly.  You have to look very carefully at what exactly the gift you are giving and what the gift you are receiving in every single relationship that you have to help make the transitions happen.

The fourth aspect of commitment is to be willing to liberate the other when you are not able to give to that person what they need.  You are continually re-engaging the relationship, that is why it always requires commitment. You also have to be responsible enough to end the sexual aspect of the relationship when its time…we negotiated a container for the sexual part of our relationship for period of time, now we don’t have a container for it anymore and we don’t let the sexual engagements become a perpetual habit.  In addition, when the negotiated amount of time is not available then we close down that dimension of the commitment to possibly renegotiate another agreement.

At a certain point in any type of relationship, you can see that the relationship begins to have a life of its own and we become committed to working through the issues that come up.  If both people are committed to working things out then that changes the game.  You have to work out what the sacred tradeoffs are.  These tradeoffs or concessions happen in every relationship in order to create or get to the higher and unique “we” of the relationship.  The relationship needs to be allowed to develop into the unique “we” and at the same time, the relationship needs to support the individuals. For example, if someone in the relationship isn’t willing to play, say in the realm of post-conventional or BDSM or anything else, are you able to liberate the other to play? Consider what desires and gifts you are bringing to the table. What desires and gifts is your partner is bringing to the table. How you are giving to each other. And asking, are we growing?  We need to answer those questions in every single situation, whether monogamous or not.

I believe we all try to figure out how to do all of our relationships well, in a compassionate and loving way.  Our individual desires are continually evolving and growing and changing.   Let's do the best we can to put our ego's aside to support each other to become the people we want to become within the sacred container of a 'we' space, no matter what type of relationship we choose to operate from!

Bizzare Love Triangle by New Order on Grooveshark

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The BDSM Mysticism - Domination and Submission

We live in a culture of sexuality where people can be confused around their desire to engage in the acts of dominating/submission (d/s).  Some people swear by the d/s lifestyle and others are disgusted by it.  Others love the energy when they are playing with d/s and at the same time are ashamed to admit that they love it.  It's my belief that everyone has this attraction, in one way or another, either to domination or to submission or to both and maybe you're not sure what to do with your own attraction.  We need to be able to engage in the conversation and to liberate the spiritual aspect of domination and submission, in order to give it a loving context and place it in a sacred framework.  My intention with this writing is to create a depth of love and compassion, an identification and a deeper understanding in this form of sexuality.  What value is in the dominant/submissive? Why is it important or not important?  How do we engage domination and submission in the realm of the holy and the sacred? Do you know where you find your relationship to domination and submission?

Before I get started, I need to so briefly introduce a framework of the psyche in transpersonal psychology, as presented by Ken Wilbur (Wilbur 1986), called the full framework consciousness model.   Within this framework, consciousness/development is considered to contain three principal stages: the pre-personal (subconscious motivations), the personal (conscious mental processes), and the transpersonal (integrative and mystical structures) levels of consciousness.  The pre-personal level of consciousness is characterized by an undeveloped level where the person has no firm sense of identity with no real ego structure established.  The personal level is characterized by a beginning sense of rational-individuated-personal selfhood where the individual experiences a sense of identity and autonomy with a healthy ego structure.  The transpersonal level of consciousness include those stages of human development that go beyond ego and self actualization toward self transcendence.  There is much more to say about this, and I needed to establish this basic understanding as I will be using these terms moving forward.

First let me talk about submission...the act of relinquishing, giving up control, a dimension of surrender. There is a deep and profound longing for humans to surrender and in this yearning there is an aspect which lives in the light and also a dark or shadow element.  In the shadows of surrender, there are specific times, certain people and in certain places where it would be inappropriate to surrender.  There are people who you shouldn't surrender to.  When you have to cross over your own personal boundaries or when its a violation of your own personal integrity then surrender isn't a good idea.  There is apart of us that wants to deeply surrender because we want to give up responsibility, which is a movement from the personal to the pre-personal, where the desire to surrender comes from the abdication of selfhood, an abandonment or sort-of betrayal of the self.  The dark or shadow side of surrender is when you are unable to stand in your personhood, in your ability to respond from your free liberated being to life's choices.

There is a second dimension to surrender which actually has a positive connotation…your not moving from the personal to the pre-personal but your moving from the personal to the trans-personal.  This happens when giving yourself up to a higher law, to a higher will or to a higher vision.  "I surrender before God".  (The God you don't believe in, doesn't exist) And you to make sure that God is not some home made created idolatry or lower vision in the skies.  You have to make sure it’s generally a higher vision. You have to be careful that God isn’t hijacked with some form of un-evolved consciousness.  Having said that, there is a form of surrender that is highly positive.  That’s beautiful surrender!

Tripping Over Joy by Hafiz
What is the difference between your experience of Existence and that of a saint?
The saint knows that the spiritual path is a sublime chess game with God
And that the Beloved has just made such a Fantastic Move, that the saint is now continually tripping over joy and bursting out in laughter and saying, “I Surrender!”
Whereas, my dear, I am afraid you still think you have a thousand serious moves.

There is this moment where the beloved/life/divine incarnate says, I just made a great move…SURRENDER! And you still think you have 1000 serious moves and you refuse to surrender.  That’s being locked in the shadow of personhood, a contraction of ego…the inability to surrender is our illusion, isn't it?  Let's release that illusion for a higher level of love and consciousness.

There is this fierce desire that we have to surrender and is sometimes very hard to access.  So one of the places we can access surrender is in sexuality.  In sexuality, we use sexual surrender...remember…you can only surrender to a person you trust, you surrender in love, you don't surrender in fear.  Right?  You play out the game of surrender in order to access that energy in which you give up the contraction of the small self in order to let your wider deeper self emerge.  This is what I'm calling, the descent for the sake of ascent...

Let me get a little more precise of how this happens.  This happens through a profound and mystical process called …Yeridah - ירידה ‎(Descent) for Aliyah - עליה (Ascent). This precept tells us that sometimes we must descend into lower spiritual realms in order to ultimately ascend to greater spiritual heights.  This means you descend into the energy of domination and fear in order to ascend and experience a wider sense of self.  People do all kinds of role play, acting out some sort of coercive scene or another, which can be part of the play in sexuality.  What's the attraction to doing this? Through the energy of decent, the primal energy through the darkness, you bypass the personality, and are attracted to the experience of the self beyond the narrow and sometimes contracted boundaries of the personality, the ego and the separate self and then wind up ascending and experiencing the wider, transcendent self through these acts of submission. That’s what the deep attraction is. People are ashamed of engaging in these acts, because we are taught that we have to be in control.  Everyone doesn’t want to be giving up their personality or their persona or their separate self…because that’s considered shameful in our society.  But actually whats happening is we are looking for a way to access this wider space of self so we are descending for the sake of ascending.

There's a shadow side to this…you get stuck in the decent.  In the end, you don’t feel loved, seen or recognized.  You have to be very careful not to get stuck. In order to not get stuck, you should do domination mutually and you need to change rolls, called "the switch", so you don’t get into a relationship where one person is always the dominator and the other person is always submitting. By willing to trade rolls, you loosen the strictness of it and you are each able to taste both sides. It is then, you realize, they are actually rolls as opposed to solidifying into fixed negativity.

Now for the domination side of the equation, which might even be a little more complex.  The attraction to domination is power.  If people don't have a clean and clear relationship to the goodness and positive aspects of power they might be ashamed of claiming their power. The liberal community, in many ways, has made the human relationship to power negative.  In part, because the liberal community has been motivated by "good" perceptions toward life and ways of being. Power has often been abused and has not regularly been put into the light with a positive regard.  Here is an example, students have abused their power over their teachers by making a false complaint, which is abusive.  Teachers can also abuse their power over students.  In short, power is often negatively used.  There are abuses of power and we need to be aware of them.

However, power by itself is not a negative, power is attractive, a divine quality and needs to be used well. Power is an attribute of "the divine" such as a "higher power" and it's beautiful.  There aren’t many places where we can access that sacred divine quality of power and when we can, it's exciting! Touching that divine quality of power is thrilling because we have often become disconnected from power and we need to reconnect to that energy and offer it up in all its positive expressions.

Domination is a way to access that power without hurting anyone (nonconsensual) because of the sacred agreement and the container is one of love.  Both the dominant and the submissive are accessing power.  The person who is dominating is accessing their own power and the person who is submitting is accessing the direct contact with the others' power.  Contact with power is exciting, like the concept of high voltage electricity, an aliveness.  It's important to reformulate our relationship to power in more positive terms and not only negatively chastise power.  Domination is the ability to access power, and to access it in a way that we realize its essential and sacred quality.  It's exciting to access divinity and divinity is about power.  Can you feel the power of the big bang?  Can you feel the power of molecular biology in all of its amazement?  The power of millions of miles of neural pathways in the human body?

What the person who is dominating is pushing for, is to see the other person in their true, raw, unadulterated vulnerability.  But since the dominator doesn't often know how to look for that person in the rawness of their authenticity, its easier for the dominator to meet the other person when they are wearing their ego mask, because sometimes it's too difficult, too powerful to meet the submissive in their rawness of their own authenticity.  So the dominator is seeking a way to see the submissive's true essential self by removing their own ego mask, and we remove the ego mask, not by upgrading or up-leveling the person, but by down-leveling or downgrading the person.

There are only two ways to move out of the personal realm of consciousness, either up to the transpersonal or down to the pre-personal. If you don’t know how to tenter into the transpersonal realm of consciousness, transcending the separate-self - ego-self, then you go down, regressing back into a pre-personal state of consciousness.  What we have to do is make a deliberate conscious choice and access the energy of domination and submission and the pre-personal and say ok...I'm going to go down to the pre-personal, to regress, in order to descend for the sake of ascent … only to go up to the trans-personal, only in order to meet that person in their naked authenticity and their fierce vulnerability through love and not through fear.

There are a couple core ideas I would like you to take away from this.  First, engaging in acts of domination and submission should be created in a loving context, in a sacred and holy environment where the submissive has complete control to act and operate from their own personal boundaries, values and integrity. The second idea I'd like you to take away from this is that you need to move between the dominant and submissive so you don't get stuck in either role.  Always move between them so you can feel each dimension at play.  We will have a tendency to be more comfortable in one of the roles and changing roles will provide good learning about ourselves in the face of resistance to move into that role.  Move between them because you want to access both sides of yourself as a dominant and as a submissive.  All you will do is grow, and it'll be a beautiful thing!!

Cathedral by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on Grooveshark