It is so perfect that this year as we are facing the drama and moral complexity of sexual harassment and abuse, Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday are on the same day for the first time since 1945. Hearts and ashes come together challenging us to think, not just react, and to communicate about the questions of Love and Temptation in our own lives and in our times.
Valentine’s Day asks us about our ideals of love, our expressions of love and our love stories. Ash Wednesday in direct relationship to Valentine’s Day asks us to recognize and regulate the selfishness of our sexual addictions, sexual fantasies and sexual arrogance.
I have spent years researching and designing courses on love, sex and temptation. Just a year ago I was preparing a talk on “Parenting Your Child’s Sexual Development” to give at the local Waldorf School. I have given a five-day workshop on Sexuality and Spirituality. I have an online course on Imagining Intimacy and another one on Inner Lent.
Yet, it is only this year and the coincidence of these two symbolic holy days and the cultural focus on power, gender and sex that I have thought of love, desire, arousal and sex in the lens of Lent and the vanquishing of temptation.
Personally, I have a biography loaded with drama and destiny around sex and love. I’ve been a victim of sexual abuse and harassment starting with incest when I still slept in a crib. I have been sexually harassed by highly respected spiritual leaders. As I write this I am wondering how I used sex and seduction to get what I wanted and disregarded the vulnerability of the men and my own integrity as a woman. I know well the temptations of evil when it comes to love, desire, arousal and sex. But I also know that love, desire, arousal and sex have offered my soul endless spiritual and moral opportunities for inner development.
Unlike animals, human beings have sexual freedom which is both a spiritual gift and a moral challenge. How do we become self-aware, self-regulating, and learn how to manage the selfish and the social balance of our sexual freedom? How do we integrate the light of love and the tempting, demanding vulnerabilities of sexual arousal combined with power and privilege? If not this year when hearts and ashes come together on the day of communication, then when?
As a sexual victim, I have also learned to forgive and as a sexual perpetrator to be accountable for the hurt, harm and hindrance I have caused others. Are forgiveness and accountability spiritual steps or moral steps?
This is not about determining loving saints and sexual sinners, it is about contemplating being human…such a messy thing to contemplate and to be. Rudolf Steiner sternly wrote, “For every step in spiritual development you must take three in moral development.” Spiritual development, prayer, meditation, church, reading scripture and other great spiritual texts have to do with our own souls. Moral development has to do with our humanity and our relationships. For most of us (me and my readers), this spiritual path is an easy-to-navigate path and find our way to answers. It is so tempting to seek spiritual answers when we are asking moral questions.
The moral path, the one that is three times longer is far more difficult to navigate and traverse. The moral path takes us through the smelly, ugly, dark, hidden and unspeakable territories of human behavior, biography and biology. We must face the harsh dilemmas of knowing what is right in one situation is utterly wrong in another.The moral path is about our own sensitive choices as social beings facing the temptations of egotism and domination or submission and self-negation.
On Wednesday, when we celebrate love and begin the inner work of Lent, let’s go deep. These two spiritually significant holy days have come together to ask us, plead with us, to go deep into the moral questions of relationship and regulation, consent and sovereignty, arousal and refusal, seduction and force, conflict and abuse, shame and silence, privilege and power. (I know! this is alot…but we have 40 days!) If we can face these questions in our sexual lives, we can face them in all aspects of our moral lives. Just spending fifteen minutes contemplating one of these dynamic questions will lead surprising inner development.
Wednesday is the day of Mercury, the god of communication and thinking. So have a conversation about love and temptation. Find new ways to think about these mysteries. Have it with your partner if you are in a sexual relationship, even one of 4 days or 40 years, or have it with a good friend or group of friends. What do you want to talk about? What truth do you want to speak? What questions do you want to ask? What feelings need expression? What apologies need to be given? How does sexual compassion live when partners have different sexual needs? Remember the Tempter wants us to keep secrets or put false words in our mouths and judgment in our hearts.
Here is a Valentine’s Day gift. It’s a version of the miracle mantra:
My heart is safe. My heart is calm. My heart is awake. My heart is nourished.
And for facing sexual temptation on Ash Wednesday:
I am sexually safe. I am sexually calm. I am sexually awake. I am sexually nourished.
I feel my boundaries. I revere the boundaries of others.
When you feel safe, calm, awake and nourished your love and your sexuality are peaceful, strong and whole and boundaries are enlivening.
Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
Would you like a course on Sexuality and Spirituality?
If I were to form an Imagine Self Academy course/community on Sexuality and Spirituality, would you participate? Send me an email. If there is enough committed interest, I will offer it. The course would be 4-6 60-minute live(recorded) webinars and cost $67 – $97 for the entire course.
Would you like compassionate mentoring?
As a spiritual mentor, I have worked with individuals who have been sexual victims and sexual predators to help them find their way to self-forgiveness. (As a victim of incest, it took me years to forgive my story…much harder than forgiving my perpetrator.) The Tempter wins when we stay caught in shame and guilt whether as victim or perpetrator …when we are unforgiving.
If you want to work with me on your dilemmas around love, sex, relationship and inner development, let’s have a sacred and compassionate conversation about your needs. Book your complimentary conversation here.