Have you ever wanted More? Not more stuff . . . or success . . . or fame . . . but more intimacy, more connection, more mystery, more awe.
Years ago a crisis in my relationship with my husband spurred us to seek for something more, hoping to regain the connection we had lost. Instead of separating, we committed to grow together. A doorway to ‘more’ opened when we studied sacred sexuality for a year, yearning to bring intimacy back to the bedroom. During our Love and Ecstasy training, we learned to soul gaze with each other, and we also were introduced to sitting in meditation on our own. Both we discovered were instrumental parts of growing closer together.
Now, over twenty-five years later, we fully appreciate that carving out time to dive into one’s own self—sitting in silence and refraining from contact, including eye contact—is a critical component not only of awareness practice, but also as a foundation for “holy intimacy” with one’s partner—an intimacy that can later catch fire in the bedroom, where the temple is then created not by averting one’s eyes but by holding the gaze of another while focusing equally on giving and receiving—an intimacy that becomes something more than physical intimacy, even something more than emotional or conversational intimacy. Holy intimacy spills over and expands into a powerful, shared experience of stillness. I think of it as holy because there is an attitude of reverence present.
It takes some practice to trust this process. Both scenarios—that of averting the eyes and that of holding the gaze are uncomfortable at first. As socialized beings, we fear that if we avert our eyes, or experience someone else averting their eyes, we will feel dejected and alone, and if we hold the gaze of another we will feel vulnerable and exposed. While both might be true, what each offers us is an opportunity to be present: on the one hand with only ourselves and on the other completely with another. It is in being present to the moment with another that holy intimacy unfolds—that the moment can be fresh and innocent—that we can proceed without knowing or expectation.
Once you’ve been making love to someone for going on 35 years (probably something like 4,000 times!) it is a testament to the power of holy intimacy that it can seem fresh and engaging each time. For what happens in holy intimacy is that pure timelessness is experienced and shared.
Practicing undistracted soul gazing while physically engaging with another in the bedroom is a meditation of its own, equally powerful to any other type of meditation I’ve practiced. Soul gazing is a commitment to be completely present to the object of meditation: in this case one’s Beloved. No canning apricots in your mind while engaging with the other. Again and again, just as in breath meditation, the attention is returned to the other. To now.
It can be challenging to be completely present with another, especially if you have never practiced being present with yourself. Not that you cannot do one form of meditation without the other, but the two are fundamentally complementary. One aids the other.
Sitting alone in meditation we bring our attention back again and again to our breath or a mantra. This practice enables us to witness and thus dis-identify with the conditioned voices of blame and shame that tend to captivate our attention and take us off on a train (or train wreck) of thought. Sitting in meditation helps cultivate the experience of an undistracted mind. By committing to meditation practice, we can realize that we are not those voices, those thoughts, but something else altogether—a pureness, a freshness. The conditioned grooves of suffering created during our life begin to dissolve. This effect is well-documented and scientists today declare meditation re-wires the brain.
The same principles apply when we practice soul gazing and sacred sexuality with a partner. We learn to simply be with each other, exposed and vulnerable perhaps, but fostering love, trust and compassion. As in breath meditation, we return our attention again and again to the present, to this moment with the other, to this pleasure, to these feelings. Past hurts, resentments, regrets, and future worries may arise, but we choose not to focus on them. We notice when these distracting or destructive thoughts arise and bring our attention back to our Beloved. The fact that there is pleasure involved assists us in being even more willing to return our attention to the moment. Habitually distracting thoughts that can take over during sitting meditation, such as “this is boring,” are less likely to grab our attention. We want to be here. We want to experience this moment.
Experiencing this willingness to return our focus again and again during sacred sexuality also enriches our solo sitting practice. The joy of the shared meditation helps us remember that it is worth it to bring our attention back to the present, to the object of our meditation. Similarly, sitting alone in meditation, noticing that we are not our thoughts, in turn encourages us during sacred sexuality to let go of past hurts, past resentments, and future worries. Those are just thoughts too.
Today, freshly back from the retreat, we bring our undistracted minds to the bedroom, ready to engage with one another, ready to be vulnerable, ready to let go of anything keeping us from being present with each other, ready to enter the temple of holy intimacy together.
Holy intimacy, I’ve discovered, is fostered with the marriage of two commitments: one to sitting in quiet solitude with the inner Self; the other to sitting in rapt attention with one’s mortal Beloved.
Mariah McKenzie is the author of More . . . Journey to mystical union through the sacred and the profane—a spiritual memoir about the deep yearning within us all and within our relationships for more intimacy, more connection, more awe, despite the challenges keeping us from that. Mariah has dedicated a significant portion of her life to exploring consciousness and ecstatic living. She leads writing and meditation groups, classes and workshops in the greater San Diego area and in Seattle.