Over millennia, spiritual guides have been saying the same thing, that love comes from within and we’re not lacking – for anything. Yet, how often do we look to others for love or our sense of self worth?
In my sexual prime, I took up the challenge to try a year of celibacy. I was terrified that I was giving up the best years of my life. In taking myself out of the game I thought I’d shrivel up and be forgotten in a corner, confirming my biggest fears – that I wasn’t enough and didn’t have enough.
It turned out instead that I was deepening my relationship with intimacy.
Not necessarily suggesting you try this at home
In this short article, I’m not trying to convince you to do the same, I’m simply sharing what I learned. The thing is, many of us talk about sex and yet few of us talk about intimacy. That’s so bizarre, because good sex requires intimacy. Yet many of us fear that asking for intimacy may rock our boats or, if we get rejected, even destroy what little intimacy we already have access to.
The irony is that now I was not actively seeking love and intimacy, the more I actually found.
The key to this was that this challenge taught me to feel and share of myself, and to give without expectation.
During this year, I watched again and again how I sought nourishment and love outside of myself. It taught me that I’d been blind to when I was using my sex life to allay feelings of fear, shame, and unlove, and what’s worse, avoiding experiences of deeper love and joy.
I began to let go of the need for love to show up in the package I expected. I also saw where I was lacking – lacking in the courage to stand in and experience my relationship with myself, and lacking the imagination and will to deeply share and be with others.
Here are some suggestions to help you get in touch with these insights yourself:
1. Give up “getting something”
It doesn’t have to be a year of no sex! Take a risk and give up “getting something” that you really enjoy. Not forever, just for a predetermined period. Remember, you’re not giving up something because it’s wrong or bad, but because you want to experience it with greater awareness and appreciation. As the saying goes, if you love something, set it free.
2. Be generous and show up for yourself
Don’t run away or try to slam the door on what attracts you because it’s too intense. Also, stand in and honour other aspects of the relationship, not just the peaks and feel-good stuff. In other words, observe and appreciate the whole experience, not just the pleasant or fun things. Take the time to give space: step back, allow, and be present for your experiences.
3. Be real and show up for others, too
Instead of shutting down or only focussing on what you can get from a particular situation or person (in this example, sex), bring your whole self and share what’s really going on with you with people who you care about. Stop worrying about whether people will like you. Relax and be yourself.
Generosity vs gratitude
Basically, through renouncing something we love, we remove any secret agreements we might have that block deeper love and intimacy. This is shadow work, and it allows us to be authentic and honest with ourselves and others.
Living and sharing our truth is a kind of generosity. I often hear people say they practice daily gratitude. Although a practice of gratitude is critical, too, it’s only the first step. It’s essential to move from gratitude into an active practice of generosity. This only happens when we let go of those things (albeit temporarily) that we truly cherish. Then we can show up for ourselves and develop responsibility without placing quiet demands on other people to give us what we need.
I encourage you to experiment with focusing on the giving and not just the getting. Giving generates the ability to be present and receive. So, give more than you get and trust that you’ll get just what you need. As my friend Karen McAllister shared with me, a quote from Lynne Twist, “That which appreciates, appreciates.” Try it, risk it, and tell me what you find.