Monday, July 28, 2008

Heaven On Earth

Living Enlightenment--a call for evolution beyond ego by Andrew Cohen.

I just finished reading this book late last night, well early this morning actually. It's a really quick read and very interesting too. I think Andrew has a lot of valuable teachings to offer along with a good dose of direct enlightenment experiences.

This book is an interview of questions and answers. Chapter 16 is called--the promise of perfection.

Do you think it is possible to be free within a romantic relationship?

Andrew answers, "Almost impossible" and talks about "the sexual/romantic experience as one of the most confusing areas of human life and seems to be the hardest to get clear about." The biggest issue here is the deep emotional and psychological attachment that sex and romance creates.

So isn't it possible to pursue freedom together? Can't we walk the path to
enlightenment in the context of a sexual/romantic relationship?

Andrews response is "One would hope so..." but again, the problem is the powerful attachment that sex and romance creates. It comes down to the matter of priorities because if we are seeking freedom/liberation/enlightenment it is "almost inevitable that attachment will quickly become more important to us than our potential liberation.
But I don't understand why there has to be conflict between freedom and being together.
It depends on what we mean when we speak of freedom. Andrew explains that being enlightened means being free of attachment. "...when you hold on to absolutely nothing, you are free--automatically. And the truth that liberates is the profound recognition of just that fact--that your own natural state is already free. The only ting that keeps us in bondage is the unquestioned belief that there is something fundamental that is missing from our own self. So out of ignorance of our own natural state, we bind ourselves to people and things, convinced that through creating attachment we will find happiness and contentment."

Well, so many of us have discovered that this just isn't the case. People put so much into the myth of finding true love and romance and the perfect sexual partner. I know I did. And then I found him. I was always looking for my one and only. That perfect someone outside of myself. Then he came around 15 years ago. Jerry was a dream come true. And the attachment has been huge. But what also happened once I found him, this perfect partner, was that I found that I still had to deal with myself. I had found the one and he wasn't the one after all. And I wasn't free because I was attached to things outside of myself.

Andrew says that where there is fear there is attachment and where there is attachment there is always fear of loss. We can never be truly happy in this state. I get this on a very deep and profound level. "It is the revelation of enlightenment itself that shows all of this directly to us--the perennial truth that real happiness and the only lasting contentment lie within us as our own True Self..."
I do feel strongly drawn toward the profound freedom you're describing but I also feel like it's a natural thing to want to be in a relationship. From the way you're speaking, it almost sounds like you're advocating celibacy.

It's interesting how people interpret things because this isn't what I was hearing. Andrew says, "Is that what I said? So many people tend to misinterpret what I am saying whenever I speak about this particular's very difficult to see clearly into this area of the human experience, especially when it relates to ourselves. All I'm trying to do is present the facts. You asked about sex, romance and enlightenment, and all I'm saying is that the definition of spiritual freedom is freedom from attachment. Sex creates attachment--that's all there is to it. And that is why there is almost always an inherent conflict between the longing for inner freedom and the karmic consequences of the sexual/romantic experience. Therefore, the big question is: If enlightened freedom is freedom from attachment, then what are we all going to do about the relentless nature of sexual attraction?"
I was hoping you were going to give me an answer to that one!
"...On one extreme, we have been encouraged to use the sexual experience itself as a vehicle for self-transcendence and, on the other, we have been told that if we want to be liberated...we have to renounce the sexual experience altogether. I believe that if we want to be free, we must think very deeply about these matters for ourselves..." He goes on to say that even enlightened masters have come to contradictory conclusions and so we must turn to our own honest inquiry on this matter. When probed further he still refuses to answer for us. He says if we want to be free then all we need to know is that free means free from attachment.

Andrew also says that the promise of perfect happiness and blissful fulfillment inherent in sexual desire is overwhelmingly deceptive and that we must come to recognize "the difference between the personal bliss of the romantic interlude and the impersonal ecstasy of spiritual freedom." He also says, " But realistically, in a world like ours that is incessantly propagating this powerful promise, if we want to be free, we all, to some degree at least, have to be willing to be renunciates!" But before you get yourself in a tither, he goes on to explain what it is that we have to be willing to renounce. "...renunciation means resisting the temptation to be seduced by the most powerful illusion that there is. It is was he calls "the promise of perfection" which is the belief that the perfect romance will make us happy and content and that we will finally feel whole and complete. "And also, it is only when we let go of the promise of perfection that it will become clear to us how, more often than not, the experience of romantic intoxication if fueled by the ego's need for personal affirmation."
Okay, okay...where's the nearest monastery?! But seriously, Andrew, if what you're saying is true, would there be any reason left to be in a relationship? Even though it's obviously not what you mean, it still keeps sounding like you're saying that if we want to be free, we have to give up the whole thing.
"Well yes, and no. Yes, if it means creating more suffocating attachment that only serves to perpetuate the illusory personal world of the separate ego. But no, if the context for personal intimacy and sexual communion is authentic spiritual freedom."
What does that mean?
"It means that we want to be free more than anything else and therefore are more interested in impersonal ecstasy than personal bliss. It means that the context for personal intimacy and sexual communion would be the impersonal--a dimension that is unknown in this wold, that is beyond ego and fee from attachment."
And where is this impersonal dimension found?
"Inside your own self...That is where you will discover an absolute love, a bliss that is empty of attachment and free from the conviction that anything fundamental is missing. And it is that context alone, which is one of inherent fullness or completion, that can make it possible for human beings to come together in personal intimacy and sexual communion in a way that is free from the pain, complexity, and unending confusion that are usually such an inherent part of this area of life."

I find this writing very profound and wonderful as it so perfectly coincides with polyamory as a part of a powerful path in my spiritual journey. Polyamory is teaching me to love without attachment, to look within myself for this absolute love and from this core of freedom to reach out to others to share personal intimacy and sexual communion. I also find it of significant importance that in my primary relationship (and I suspect if I ever find myself in another committed primary or secondary relationship as well) Jerry and I are sharing the spiritual journey of enlightenment together. I'm not interested in engaging in a lot of ego feeding in relationship. Some of course is nice because, well because I'm still attached (read some of my ego rantings in previous posts.) But I understand my intention and that of my partner to be to directly experience enlightenment. That, with personal intimacy and sexual communion thrown in is my idea of heaven on earth.


Greenwoman said...

Hmmm...I didn't get far into the description of the book. Not sure why this one turned me away. I guess that I don't like the idea that there's no freedom in relationship.

I hope you are well. Its been a busy month of travel and self inquiry for me, but I'm venturing out of the cave for visit with my friends now. *smiles* I hope you are well and all recovered from your injuries early this month and last.

Adrienne Parker said...

Hi Greenwoman,

Good to hear from you. Well, I understand your reaction because I have a difficult time with lots of the Buddhist thought on sexuality and relationships. But this really works for me. He doesn't say there is no freedom in relationship, he just says it's very difficult. And in my experience, this is true. People struggle with relationship/sex/romance in a big big way. Talk about pain bodies! I've struggled with this myself so much in my life and I still do. My ego identification is huge in this arena and I think that's what Andrew Cohen is saying. Just the facts. The facts that most of us tend to struggle with this a lot and that's because relationsh creates so much attachment. I am a relationship person and I'm using my relationships as part of my path to freedom so I know it can work. For me it's the best way. But at the same time I find that I need to be careful as I also tend to get lost in relationships and caught up in the pain they can create do to the attachment. I am seeking enlightenment and also the personal intimacy and sexual pleasure and what Andrew has to say about attachment is what I've learned. Doing relationship without attachment is a challenge. Loving without attachment, having sex without attachment. Wow, there's the rub. Polyamory teaches me a lot.