Why I’m practicing celibacy for one year

I’m going through divorce. Again. The “again” part is the main reason why I’m taking a break from relationships—and sex—for a while. For a year.

Either I haven’t been making good decisions about my partners, or there is something inherently flawed in my character. Judging from how my intimate relationships have gone over the past decade (starting out with raging, fiery passion and gradually petering out to a dying ember), the latter is most likely the case: There’s something in me that’s gone awry, and I’m the only one who can fix it. I suppose it’s about time I try to fix myself, before it’s too late.

I’m not mentally handicapped, and no professional has declared me to be mentally ill. Even so, I admit that I have my issues, as I suppose we all do. For one, I admit that I’ve been somewhat confused in the arena of relationships: how to make relationships work; how to have healthy relationships; how to avoid the most common pitfalls; et cetera, et cetera…. It appears I keep falling face first into the deepest ditches, in spite of being reasonably intelligent and accomplished in other aspects of my life.

Over the years, when it comes to relationships, I’ve gotten some good advice from friends and some not-so-good advice from so-called friends. All the advice has been pretty much useless. Because humans do what they want to do, no matter what. We always seem to find a way to fulfill our appetites for whatever it is we think we need: food, sex, money, cars, … faster, bigger, better … more, more, more…. While this formula might provide some instant gratification or at least some short-term satisfaction, look where it’s gotten us, hmmm?

I once attended a sacred ceremony led by an indigenous Mayan elder I met in the mountains of southern Mexico. He held the bowl of copal incense in his hands and gazed thoughtfully at the smoke as it curled up toward the sky, carrying our prayers. “The best things in life are free,” he said, and then he told a story about how his ancestors lived—and thrived—before we started slapping price tags and bar codes on everything.

One thing I’ve learned is that people are stupid. That includes me. We only believe what we want to believe. We only see what we want to see. We only hear what we want to hear. Et cetera, et cetera. I suppose that’s why we benefit from attempting to refine our intellect by reading books, writing poetry and doing crossword puzzles. Humans without lofty pursuits default to behaving like monkeys. I repeat: That includes me.

For what it’s worth, I’ve made a commitment to myself to practice celibacy for one year. This means I’m currently in a “state of abstaining from marriage and sexual relations”… for one year. I think I need at least that much time just to get used to the idea.

For most of my adult life, I’ve had an impressively diverse range of experience in terms of partnership and everything that comes along with it, including sex. I live for experiences.

Every experience enriches me, builds my character, teaches me something and changes me. That’s why I travel and work in different places with different people. That’s why I change my environment frequently. I seek experiences, and these have included experimentation with sex and drugs. Wait… sex is a drug. For me, it has been somewhat of an addiction.

Recently, I’ve summoned the inner strength to be honest enough with myself to recognize my addiction and to make a more concerted effort to slay the dragon, lest it kill me first.

I’m multi-talented, multi-variegated and multi-layered, somewhat like Neapolitan ice cream. When you take a bite, you can never be sure what flavor you’ll get. I would like to blend my flavors into something more … consistent. When it comes to food, consistency matters. When it comes to partners, consistency matters. It makes for better relationships. Less complicated ones, anyway.

 

Why I’m Practicing Celibacy

I like challenges. Throughout my life, I’ve enjoyed taking on more than I thought I could. I graduated valedictorian of my class in both high school and college. I like to challenge myself to improve, to excel, and to grow in ways that matter.

I’m practicing celibacy for one year, because so far, I’ve never been able to remain celibate for more than a few months. I’ve tried it before, but as I mentioned in a previous blog post, I was too swayed by my thirty-something-year-old hormones and too dismayed by loneliness.

I think I’ve reached a point in my life when I’m ready for this challenge. It’s a realistic one for me to take on, so I’m willing to make the commitment to myself.

A skilled astrologer once analyzed my natal chart (a visual display of how the planets aligned on the day and hour of my birth). He placed the chart on the table, removed his spectacles and looked quizzically at me until I felt uncomfortable.

“What?” I asked him.

He cleared his throat. He was a gray-haired, somewhat gruff man. “I feel sorry for you,” he said.

“Why?” I asked him.

He proceeded to explain that I am a “quintuple Scorpio”, which apparently means that there are five planets in the sign of Scorpio on my chart.

“What’s that mean?” I asked him.

Again, he said, “I feel sorry for you.”

He continued with his explanation. I listened carefully and took scrupulous notes on the subject. At the time, I didn’t really believe in astrology, nor did I know much about it, but since that day, I’ve done some research to see if other sources corroborate with what the astrologer told me.

Indeed, I agree with the no-nonsense astrologer. I feel sorry for myself and anybody else who’s a quintuple Scorpio. Life is cursed with an incessant drive to dig oneself as deeply into as many caves and holes and ditches as possible, just to find what’s buried underneath the layers. And just for the thrill of it. My five planets in Scorpio compel me to seek thrills and to therefore experience the passion and cascade of emotions that come along with thrill-seeking.

A person with five planets in Scorpio is likely to be intensely passionate and inclined toward excessive sexual activity due to a raging libido, a high degree of creativity and intuition, and a desire and ability to connect deeply on many levels with self and others. Along with all of this comes a tremendous capacity for healing. Because we go deep.

Check.

Yep. That describes me.

I think it’s worthwhile to at least try to transcend astrology and, for that matter, any other “-ism” or “-ology” that would otherwise limit myself to behaving a certain way.

I’m practicing celibacy because it challenges me to go against what my biological tendency would have me do (namely, f*ck like a bonobo). I’m attempting to do the opposite (namely, sublimate my biological urges). To use a monkey-like analogy, it’s kind of like ignoring an itch instead of scratching.

I believe a geeky scientist friend of mine whose research has convinced me that the human species doesn’t have very long left to enjoy living on this planet, because we’ve screwed it up enough for Mother Earth to start shaking us off like parasitic fleas. Whether or not my scientist friend’s hypothesis is correct, I could realistically die any day, at any moment. I don’t want to die full of regrets. Now is the time to start making amends, forgiving myself and others, and generally trying to be the best person I can possibly be.

I regret some of the choices I’ve made in the arena of my sexual relationship with life. My choices haven’t all been the most empowering or wise. Taking a break from sex will give me time to reflect and forgive myself for being stupid. I’ve hurt some people in ways I regret.

I hereby dedicate my year of celibacy to making amends with the people I’ve hurt, with a solemn wish for healing and empowerment on all levels (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) for all of us.

 

Why I’m Not Practicing Celibacy

I’m not choosing celibacy because anyone is telling me to do it, or because I’m following some kind of religious dogma. I’m practicing celibacy because my spirit is calling me to do it, because I know it is good for me.

I’m not practicing a one-year vow of celibacy because it will please my Momma or because it will “please God”: I don’t even know what that means….

Although I consider myself a Christian, I don’t believe in the dogma. I believe in Jesus Christ as my guru, my teacher, someone whose life and teachings are worth aspiring to (what we know of Jesus’ life, anyway).

I believe that Jesus mastered the art of yoga and as a fully self-realized individual, he was imbued with miraculous healing powers and fully empowered by the universe (“God”) to do what the bible says he did, which probably should include a lot of stuff that has since been cast aside and/or adulterated by religious authorities whose vested interests were more sociopolitical than spiritual.

Suffice it to say that I don’t give a damn about religion. I’m interested in living an authentic life in alignment with my highest potential as a spiritual being temporarily stuck in a human body.

 

Why I Think Celibacy is a Worth My Effort

Since I’ve moved to Central America and traveled extensively in Mexico, Guatemala, and most recently, Belize, I’ve had the privilege of learning a thing or two from indigenous people who’ve studied traditional healing for their entire lives.

A friend of mine who carries the wisdom of healing with plants is a Mayan elder whose native tongue is Kek’chi. We often sit together in my riverside bungalow in the tropical jungle and talk about a lot of things, because we are both interested in spirituality (whatever that means).

Exactly one year ago, we had a conversation that has impacted me deeply but it wasn’t until now that I could take his advice seriously.

“If you want to learn how to use prayers for healing,” he said, “You will really have to concentrate. You will have to be celibate, at least for a while,” he told me.

At first, I resisted the idea. Something in me rebelled. “Why?” I asked him.

“You will need to gather all your inner power. Your strength. It will take a lot of concentration. You need all the strength you can get.”

I listened carefully.

“Once you start learning, if you engage in sexual relations with another person, you could hurt yourself. You could hurt that person. You don’t want to do that.”

Yet, that’s precisely what I went ahead and did, regrettably. More than once. I didn’t listen to my teacher. Like a monkey, I only heard what I wanted to hear.

I rebelled. I defaulted to my shadow self (my quintuple Scorpio nature?) and did what I thought was okay at the time. Inevitably, there were consequences. Unpleasant ones. I’ve since healed, but I can’t say the same for the other people involved. I can only hope and pray that they learned something too.

Some people say there are no mistakes, only learning opportunities. If that’s true, then over the past year, I’ve learned a lot. At least, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot.

I’m grateful.

At this time in my life, living alone as a single woman in a third world country, the benefits of celibacy appear to far outweigh the benefits of playing the field. Consider my list of pros and cons:

PRO celibacy

PRO sex CON celibacy CON sex
health feels good loneliness risk of STDs
increased energy fear of being alone risk of pregnancy
safety risk of rape
better relationships negative reputation

hurt feelings

From a purely logical perspective, it appears most wise for me to be celibate, at least for now. I figure one year will give me enough time to not only get used to the idea, but maybe to learn to like it. At first, medicine might taste bitter, but over time, it might start to taste sweet. Who knows? I might be dead by the end of my one-year vow of celibacy. In that case, hopefully I will have died with a clear conscience and a more integrated sense of self. All in all, I think it’s worth my effort.

If I live beyond my one-year vow, hopefully I will have learned something about myself. I think I’m ready to learn something new, but first, I have to be willing to try something new.

 

 

 

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A personal reflection: grieving losses, letting go and loving self

Over two years ago, I separated from my beloved husband of five years while we were living in a remote, mountainous region in southern Mexico. Devastated and suddenly left to travel alone in a notoriously dangerous country, I was faced with terrifying choices, all of which I knew would be painful, no matter which choice I made: stay put in Central America and continue what we’d started (building a tiny house on an acre of land), commit suicide, find a rebound relationship so I wouldn’t have to be alone, or return to the U.S. (the country of my birth)…. Although I thought at the time that I had a choice, I really didn’t.

The universe had its own way of making my path clear, and I had the sense enough to follow the path laid out before me, kind of like Dorothy following the yellow brick road.

A few months before my husband left me, I had arranged to facilitate an intensive, month-long workshop at a local healing center for a group of 15 people who were from Mexico; therefore, I would lead the workshop in Spanish. The workshop, “21-Day Personal Yoga Challenge” gave everyone the opportunity to attend 21 days of daily morning meditation followed by a rigorous yoga practice while maintaining a personal journal with reflections and insights and to keep track of personal goals.

At the end of the 21 days, we would climb up to the top of the nearest mountain, where we would participate in an intensive, day-long workshop with live music that concluded with a special ceremony in which we would “let go” of whatever we were ready to let go of.

I was apparently ready to let go of my marriage of five years.

When I turned to friends and asked for advice about what I should do: Should I stay or should I go? … The most commonly suggested solution to my situation was to pack my bags, forget about my unconventional life south of the border and go live with my family back up in the states. I spent many days hiking by myself, crying out to the birds and the trees, asking the universe, “What do you want me to do?”

Thankfully, the right path was clearly revealed by reality, and I “chose” to stay put, to continue what I’d started and to follow through on my offer to facilitate the workshop. Despite being devastated. Despite being all alone for the first time in seven years. Despite having limited resources.

One thing I learned about myself through this experience is that I have tremendous inner strength, willpower and capacity to overcome challenges. I suppose that’s why it was appropriate for me to lead a workshop entitled “21-Day Personal Challenge” … The timing, at least in my own life, couldn’t have been more perfect.

Instead of spending my days crying, moping around, pining for my long-lost partner and generally feeling sorry for myself, I was called to meaningful service and invited to step up to the plate, to access my own strength and assist others in discovering their own inner strength.

I am proud of everyone who participated: All 15 of us, plus myself, courageously completed our 21-day challenge. I fulfilled my role as a facilitator, showing up on time every morning to guide, to share, and to lead … despite all the odds against my success. I think I learned more from everyone else than they learned from me. I can confidently say that all of us let go of something significant that had been holding us back from moving forward meaningfully in our lives. I know I certainly did.

The timing of this blog entry couldn’t be more perfect. As I am faced with a similar set of challenges at this time in my life, now living in a remote area of southern Belize, I must make some difficult decisions. I have access to more resources now than I did when I lived in Mexico, but the loneliness and isolation are still palpable and sometimes debilitating. I long for the companionship of a loving partner.

Even so, I question whether or not a partner is what is best for me at this time. I am building my house. I am writing my novel. I am working and earning my own money. I am taking care of a wonderful dog who relies on me for food, water and companionship. For the most part, I enjoy myself and my alone time immensely. I ask myself and reflect, Why do I think I need a partner?

Aristotle said, “Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.” I would put myself in the category of wild beast. After all, I live in a tropical jungle and awaken every day to the resounding, guttural call of howler monkeys.

When I was feeling most devastated while living alone in Chiapas, Mexico, I consulted with a psychotherapist who became a dear friend and confidant during my year-long residency there. She is a talented painter, humanitarian and overall a delightful, generous woman who is well-loved and respected in the community. Beside the door to her psychotherapy office hangs a picture she painted with the caption, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”

At the time, suddenly abandoned by my partner and feeling the pain of our separation, reading this message on a weekly basis filled me with renewed strength to forge ahead. To know that I am whole. I am complete. I am strong. Maybe I don’t need a man to be okay.

Maybe it’s okay for me to be alone for a while. For a long while. While I finish my novel. While I earn money and support myself. While I build my house. While I have a wonderful dog to take on long walks.

There was a time in the past when I attempted to practice celibacy, but I was too swayed by my raging 30-something-year-old hormones and dismayed by loneliness to persevere in doing so.

Now might be a good time to reconsider the option of being celibate for a while. After all, engaging in sexual relations with people who are not committed partners only seems to complicate my life, lead to hurt feelings, and put myself at risk for diseases that I otherwise wouldn’t be exposing myself to. The benefits of self-imposed celibacy appear to far outweigh the fleeting pleasure of an occasional orgasm culled from a one-night stand or a weekend fling.

Perhaps now might be an appropriate time in my life to experiment with being celibate— and following through on it—instead of experimenting with sex and all its thrills and consequences.

At forty years of age, I may be single, available, attractive and in robust health, but what I want even more than sex is a companion who loves me for who I am and wants to share a life with me. I’m not interested in compromising what I really want. Despite being lonely. Despite all the odds against finding a suitable mate (besides a howler monkey) while living in a remote tropical jungle.

I’m not living in a third world country to enjoy some kind of vacation or to have an easy life. Every day is downright challenging and at times frightening. Every day I’ve got to pull myself up by my bootstraps, grab a machete and go foraging in the jungle for whatever I would like to eat. Yes, I have friends and neighbors who help me, but at the end of the day, I’m alone out here, braving a world that’s foreign to me, unfamiliar and always dangerous. It’s a path I’m consciously choosing because I see no better alternative, at least not right now.

I don’t like to socialize because it usually involves spending money, listening to bad music and tolerating conversations I’d rather not participate in. I prefer the company of like-minded weirdos who are a rare breed in this world. I prefer to fly my freak flag high and deal with the reality of having a few quality friends who can join me in what I most love to do.

I’m not interested in a dull, conventional life. There are plenty of other people living mediocre lives and wishing they could do something more interesting. I think I have the strength and tenacity to try something unprecedented. I think I’ve proven that to myself time and time again. I’ve no doubt that I have the willpower and determination.

I hereby declare to myself that I am practicing one year of celibacy as of the date of this publication. Who knows? We might all be dead by then, anyway…. What better way to go out of this world than blazing my own trail of impassioned determination and conviction?

Besides, disciplining myself to want less from others and to expect more from myself seems like a good idea, to me.

I’m making the declaration of my one-year vow of celibacy publicly in this blog for the same reason that couples get married in a public ceremony: I want witnesses. I know at times it won’t be easy. I can look back at this publication and remind myself. I hereby hold myself accountable, knowing that I’ve failed before.

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” ―Albert Einstein

Before I was married, during my marriage and during the two years since our separation, I’ve experienced enough sexual pleasure to last a lifetime. Many lifetimes. Like Eve in her garden of bliss, I continue to gather the succulent fruits from what my partners and I have sown together.

And, like Eve with her garden, I’ve been a playful nymph. I’ve tried everything. Believe me. All the positions. They’re overrated. Regardless of where some of my talents lie, I know that much deeper, longer-lasting satisfaction and fulfillment can be derived from other pursuits.

I will do what my spirit calls me to do. I will go where my heart calls me to go. I will live fully, in alignment with my highest potential. Regardless of the naysayers who think I may be incapable of reaching my lofty or otherwise worldly goals. I’ve learned it’s not worth worrying what other people think about me. Worrying about pleasing anyone other than myself has never gotten me anywhere I want to go. Besides, I consider everyone my teacher: this includes the people I am most challenged by.

I’m interested in living unconventionally. These days, it’s more unconventional to not have sex than to have sex, at least in the Americas. I’ve made a deliberate, conscious choice not to be a breeder in this lifetime, thereby placing me in the vast minority as a single woman at age forty. I’ve chosen this path for many reasons, one of which is to have time and freedom to travel, among other things.

When all is said and done, what I want most is to live a life of service—first and foremost, to myself—and what naturally follows is that I can truly be of service to others.

At this time, serving myself means asserting that my private parts are not open for business. They’re private. I don’t really need anyone else’s anatomy rubbing against mine to be okay with who I am. What I really want is loving companionship. My mind and my heart are open to share. Open to explore. Open to love.

I hereby declare to the universe my intention to love myself. To be happy. To smile every day. To dance. To sing. To live my life fully every day. And so it is. Thank you.

Why would anyone take a vow of silence for one year?

I have taken a one-year vow of silence, meaning that I will not speak with anyone … for an entire year. I know, you’re asking, Why would anyone want to do something like that? Good question.

I have been preparing for this since 2008 by practicing with month-long vows of silence every few months.

Inspired by Baba Hari Dass and other masterful teachers, I have made this commitment because I believe that if I want to see peace in the outer world, I must cultivate peace within myself first.

Many of my friends and family members find it difficult to understand why I choose this practice. One can imagine the many benefits. But only by committing myself to the practice can I learn, grow, and realize these benefits for myself and the people around me. I have to try….