At the beginning of 2018, I was seriously considering entering a monastic phase of life. After three divorces and five years of messy relationships, I’ve become weary of the energetic exhaustion I associate with romantic relationship. Having ended my last romance in September, just before my mother died, I felt so heartbroken that I had a strong protector part making a very valid, rational case about why I should just accept the invitation of celibacy as the next phase of my spiritual journey. I was aware that it was likely that this impulse was coming not so much from my devotion to monastic life but from the trauma of repetitive heartbreak, a distrust of my own discernment, and a feeling of hopelessness. I also had a part that was making an equally good case for how the greatest growth edge of my spiritual journey lies in exploring my sexuality and radical emotional intimacy with a deep, spiritually mature partner who has experience with sexuality as a spiritual practice. I do not consider myself sexually experienced. Although I’ve had plenty of sex in my life, I’ve never really had a partner who was simultaneously safe enough and curious enough and spiritually mature enough and powerful enough to hold the kind of sexual and spiritual energy that can arise in the right partnership. I’ve tasted that intensity with two different men, but neither of them was available to explore that kind of heart/soul/genital connection in any sustained, reliable, deeply intimate way.
For some reason, I am someone who attracts people who need to tell their most painful, gut-wrenching stories, who need to have their story lovingly heard and witnessed and honored without shaming or judging or fixing. People tell me stories that break my heart, stories that move me to tears, stories that evoke compassion and fill me with outrage, the ones that elicit an impassioned upwelling in my heart to make the world a safer place for tender, sensitive, deeply-feeling souls. I hear stories that wreck me about doctors who unwittingly abuse their power and harm the very people they’re here to serve. I hear people’s #MeToo stories about bosses who harassed or raped them and then threatened to fire them if they didn’t stay silent. I hear stories about police and lawyers who not only failed to protect an innocent person who had been violated; they abused or even wrongfully killed someone in that vulnerable state. I hear stories of priests who abuse their power and molest young children in the name of God. I hear countless stories of people whose parents and siblings molested them, violating the ultimate trust any child should be able to have for safety in one’s own family. I hear stories of people who have been traumatized by gurus and spiritual teachers and self-help authors who abuse their power and commit the most atrocious crimes against Love in the name of “I’m just helping you get rid of your ego.” I hear stories of people who are getting the crap beat out of them from spouses who say, “I love you.” [Lest you ever question this, THIS is not love. Don’t ever believe an abuser who gaslights you with “I love you” right after abusing you. This kind of psychological manipulation is as abusive and confusing as the emotional or physical violence. Love does not abuse power like this.]
A teenage Icelandic woman is raped by her Australian boyfriend after she’s had too much to drink. In his own immature, conditioned teenage mind, he doesn’t call it rape. Because the media and pornography and the way fathers raise sons and bro’s egg on bro’s, he convinces himself that he was justified in taking what was rightfully his—her body, her vulnerability, her sexuality, maybe even her physical and mental health. She is traumatized by the experience, and in his own way, he is too. Her life unravels, and so does his.
Right now, I am at Esalen, in recovery in the wake of the death of my mother. Although grief can be consuming and the deathbed vigil with my mother was intense, I couldn’t ignore the #MeToo stories that were erupting in the news during this journey with my mother. So let me take a moment to add my two cents to the swell of outcries rising from women who are finding their voice. I know my mother would be proud of me for saying, “#MeToo.”