The temptations of physical intimacy


How can we balance the open culture of physical intimacy, especially in Western culture, with a spiritual path? This has been difficult for me particularly when dating Westerners who have a very open view on what is permissible. And how do we keep ourselves from falling into that temptation?

—AC, Finland


Dear AC.

Everyone is in a different place on the spiritual path, so there are no universal answers to your questions. What would be right for one person might feel stifling to another person, and lead a third person into unhealthy levels of indulgence. You simply need to ask: “Will this prospective action lead me toward calm inner freedom, or not?”—then use discrimination and common sense when you answer.

Here are a few points to keep in mind as you seek your answers:

· Sexual intimacy is not, in itself, an unhealthy thing. The questions are, what is its effect on you, and are you attached to it?

· Try not to get swept up in the seeming urgency of the moment, but realize also that sexual activity is a strong natural urge. So don’t feel bad if you sometimes follow that urge even though part of you felt that it would have been better not to do so.

· Stay awake to sexual activity’s effects on your body and your inner life. Too much of it will drain your energy and impede your inner life.

· Think in terms of common-sense moderation rather than absolutes.

· In a committed relationship, don’t decrease the sexual activity unilaterally. Instead, discuss your feelings and try to arrive at a mutually agreeable place.

· Intimacy is not necessarily the same as sex. Heartfelt nonsexual affection can be much more intimate than sex without an open heart.

· Seek to spend time with people who share your values and aspirations. That will make the question of intimacy a lot easier to answer.