Beyond orgasm

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Modern sexual mythology poses that orgasm is the big kahuna of erotic bliss. Well, I say, isn’t that a ticket to disappointment?

OK, yes, orgasm is delicious, at times deeply delicious, sometimes even a fully-puffed-out peak experience delicious. No question, no issue, no complaints. But as long as we focus on that orgasm as the main event, the whole point of the show, the goal line, we could be missing out on some amazing, life-altering experiences.

I had a friend whom I joined once on a trip to Paris. She had two main goals to see at the Louvre: the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Goals accomplished, she was ready to leave, not terribly interested in everything else the world class museum had to offer.

Well, this is how I think many people view orgasms. Come, take your selfie coming, and think you’ve experienced the cream o’ the crop of everything sex has to offer. After all once you’ve had the mighty orgasm, it’s downhill from there … until the next ride.

Maybe it’s time to re-think that flawed premise. While we’re at it, it’s also time to think that maybe the mighty orgasm you have come to know and love and worship is almost like a decoy or distraction from the true depths of intimate pleasure.

THERE’S MORE

I’ve loved orgasms ever since I first discovered what they were, but fortunately I learned along the way that sex is a multi-dimensional experience—provided you choose to go there. If you think outside the jail of habit, porn conditioning, and other depictions of sexuality, and if you find change and creativity more fun than annoying, you could broaden your horizons.

If diversity of experience isn’t good enough of a reason, you might consider this: bodies age and change. This includes orgasms. While for me they still are quite pleasurable to experience, physically they are mere shadows of what they used to be forty years ago. If orgasm was my idea of the main event, the raison d’etre for sex, I would not be wildly happy about my inevitable physical decline.

But sex is a journey with a buffet of goodies to enjoy before and even after the destination most people seek. Here are a few suggestions in brief to consider.

Expanded Sensuality: In the hunt, race, and habit of bringing on orgasms for self and partners, people often miss out on the luxury of pure sensuality. It’s mostly just a mind set. We’re conditioned to take the most direct route to achieving orgasms. Stampede the clitoris or attack the penis straightaway. We often ignore other ways that the body delights us if we give it the opportunity. A slower build-up of sensual energy can 1) make eventual orgasms more intense, and 2) be a grand reward on its own.

When broken down analytically into named activities like cuddling, spooning, stroking, soaking in a hot tub, stretching, whatever, it may not sound too thrilling. But each of these activities offers the mind/soul an experience of sensual consciousness. It’s what you make of it. Cuddling can be anything from a major bore to the grand entrance to a peak experience depending on the mental and emotional chemistry happening.

Energy Orgasms: There is a type of full-bodied orgasm that is very pleasurable yet most people in Western culture have not heard of it. Under certain circumstances, full-bodied orgasms can create a more powerful and intense release than a traditional genital orgasm. As the name implies, full-bodied orgasms involve a shuddering sensation felt throughout the body, and are often accentuated through various relaxation, breathing, and visualizing techniques. While they often also involve genital stimulation, it’s nevertheless different, usually not involving male or female ejaculation or penetration.

Energy orgasms are entirely possible while fully dressed. In my personal experience, they have frequently happened during extended hugging, hugs in the ten-to-twenty minute range. All the emotional love and excitement of intimacy merge with sexual excitement until I/we start feeling waves of energy build and crash, build and crash, build and crash.  When this goes on for awhile, it leads to full-bodied shudders, and if you are prepared for them (i.e. not surprised or shutting down) the shudders increase in intensity. If you eroticize them, it can be some of the hottest sex ever (yes, still fully clothed and without ejaculation/penetration!) One nice feature about energy orgasms is that unlike physical orgasms which end things, at least temporarily, energy orgasms keep coming until you voluntarily just cannot have another wave. It’s a case of the middle being more intense than the end.

Meditation Adventures: Something I rarely if ever see described or depicted is the opposite of fifty shades of pain, bondage, intense physicality. That rare yet powerful quality is complete relaxation. One way to put it simply would be to meditate together while embracing each other either clothed or nude. The object here is not traditional intercourse but more of a mental and emotional intercourse, no-goal cuddling. The mind and heart do the merging while the bodies are as relaxed and quiet as any other kind of meditation. This kind meditation can be done without conversing or with one person guiding a visualization. For some this will sound dull as dust, but for others, the potential adventures in intimacy, energy, and sensuality will be overwhelmingly delicious. (This is different from therapeutic cuddling which is intended to be romantically or sexually abstinent.)

In a relaxed state, the body goes limp (although granted this does not always include erections.) The relaxed body absorbs pleasure in a more sensitive, profound fashion than a body engaged in pain responsiveness or wild thrusting. I think of relaxation as more pleasure, less work. It’s comparable to when listening through headphones to something and you turn the volume down very low; you end up listening more carefully to the whispers instead of the shouts. The meditation part opens the gate for streams of thoughts and feelings to flow, and this can lead to amazing adventures for the connoisseur of consciousness. You can end up seeing visions, hearing the inner voice, taking psychic journeys, basking in creativity. Bonus: Sessions like this can bring on unexpected energy orgasms as well.

Four Orgasms Theory: One time I played with writing a book (never published) in which I proposed that there are four types of orgasm: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. An orgasm could be described as a peak of excitement. Each type of the four is different enough from the others that focusing on any one kind will produce spicy variety. For example, a mental orgasm would be a peak of excitement for the mind. It could be a surprise, a thrilling sentence, a toy for the imagination, the right thing at the right time. Doling out mental treats leads to a mental orgasm. Kapow!

The four orgasms theory largely involves nonphysical stimulation, emphasizing that lovemaking is a blend of holistic arousal techniques, not just body part play. Make love with the mind, heart, and spirit to really experience the heights of arousal. Through practice and personal experience, one learns that orgasms as usually portrayed have their limitations and that there is a wealth of powerful experiences most people miss.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Western culture through its books, movies, and stories primarily and overwhelmingly tells us how important sexual orgasms are. We have dumbed down orgasms to the physical level. Ironically, if you decrease your focus on physical orgasm and increase your focus on nonphysical stimulation, you will have better orgasms of all kinds including those that can happen while fully dressed.

Woo-hoo!

 

 

Parental mysteries

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On the fifth anniversary of my mother’s passing, I found myself ruminating on a familiar theme: I wished I would have known her.

“What?” you ask.  “You didn’t know your mother?”

No, not really. Not at the depths of my desires or the farther reaches of my curiosity about who she was as a person.

Please don’t misunderstand. We had what casual observers would call a good relationship. I loved my mother and she loved me. In terms of the average American life with average expectations about average family relationships, I had little to complain about. Compared to some of my friends with horror story upbringings, I lived in a cake walk world.

Yet as my mother slipped away from a long and full life, I realized how much was left to know about her. As is true for many parents of her generation, she kept herself in a protective bubble of non-disclosure. It was not usual for her to reveal much of what she was truly thinking and feeling. I doubt if I could tell you why, because that, too, would be hidden within her psyche.

I presume she was just following the values instilled in her. She grew up in a culture where parents shielded their children from knowing their deep, private thoughts. This trend still exists in many of my friends today who are parents. They keep much of their real world secret from their children, many of whom are adults now.

The secrecy game is played with good intentions. It is often borne out of a deep love parents have for their children. Society teaches parents that they are expected to be role models for their children, and as such many do not feel comfortable showing weakness or even that they are struggling. Secrecy is often intended to shield children from the cruelties, insecurities, and challenges of life in this world. Parents want to see their children succeed, and that includes not being bogged down by … well, by reality.

Is it a good thing that parents die off without their kids knowing who they were as people? Is that how the system is supposed to work? Are parents somehow required not to share openly? While it is clearly a tradition many families cling to, is it in the best interests of both?

MYSTERY MAN

Starting right after my mother passed, I lived with my father for his final 30 months of life. He was a caring and generous father by any normal standard, and I was often told how lucky I was to have him as my dad. Still, we hardly knew each other. Dad steered clear of much deep verbal engagement. I got the distinct impression that like many men, he was not comfortable discussing his true feelings, often not even his true opinions.

As his 65 year-old child, I respected his boundaries with conversations, but I would have preferred my own personal Tuesdays with Morrie experience. “Dad, what’s it like to be looking at the end game of your life on Earth?”

“Well, Son, let me tell you. You have a week of hours?”

Dad well knew that I was interested in the mysteries of the afterlife, yet despite his health challenges, he was (surprisingly, I thought) not interested in the topic of what happens after death. His wife and several close friends had passed within the last few years, yet he didn’t ask my thoughts about it. Even while we dealt with the practicalities of health care and hospice, he never once said anything like, “I’m dying.” He would talk about “after I’m gone” in a practical way, like what to do with the furniture, but he rarely shared his thoughts or feelings about the journey he was taking.

I don’t mean to sound critical or whiny; I respect his choices. After all, dying is a highly personal and private experience. But as he left, I still wish I would have known more about his hidden joys and heartbreaks, his successes and regrets, his end-of-show thoughts and feelings. I wanted to know him as the person he was, not as the role he played as my father.

A WRITER’S WORLD

As a creative writer, I love wondering what makes people tick. It’s my passion to know how people see the world and what motivates them to do things. I normally want conversations to get beyond superficial banter like what someone ate last night or what cute sayings someone read on Facebook. I want to get into the juicy stuff that flows like magma underneath the surface of our daily lives.

What are your heartbreaks? What are your ecstasies? What are your aspirations?

Creative writers base stories on motivation. Often in literature and movies, characters will talk at a depth not commonly seen in real life, at least in my real life. We get to know what drives people to do things, often quite poetically.

It’s not so common today in everyday chitchat for people to drop in deep to discuss inner yearnings and deepest pains. In our wired, televised, social media networked world, deep conversations are often reduced to tweet and sound bite brevity. Today, kids are often babysat by big screen HDTVs, little screen tablets, and smart phones. It’s easier than ever to let someone else think for us. It’s easier than ever to lose intimate contact with others because we are being taught to keep it simple. Tweet it or delete it.

I like to talk and write about feelings, relationships, sex, death, afterlife, mystical experiences, unusual perceptions, coping with various situations, solving problems, emotional growth. In-depth conversations about topics—topics that ironically matter most in our daily lives—are simply out of bounds in many families. We’re often taught to put on a good show, and not a reality show.

ONE-WAY STREETS?

Communication between parent and adult child is not always two-way. For example, a mother might help an adult child through a romantic break-up without mentioning what she herself is going through or went through with the child’s father. A parent might give or lend money to an adult child without sharing what a true financial hardship that is. Parents may deal with their offspring’s drug issues or mate choices or job choices without revealing their own struggles.

We are taught to play roles and not tell our truths.

The older I got as a teen-ager, the less of my personal stuff I shared with my mother and father. I had learned the safe topics and the unsafe topics. While I know that it’s entirely normal for adult kids to edit their conversations as much as the parents do, I nevertheless find something sad about the practice.

AFTERLIFE STUDIES

As I have pursued my interest in afterlife studies, I am confronted with the possibility that there are no secrets in the next world. Why? Because in the spirit world, the nature of thought and telepathy does not allow for secrecy. Anybody can read us like a completely open book.

That may sound pretty creepy to earthling ears. No secrets? Everybody knows everything? Even that?

But it is also a love space. So, yeah, everybody knows your secrets, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a very forgiving place.

For me, the most interesting aspect of this is how I respond to the idea that my parents right at this minute know it all. No secret is beyond their spiritual eyes and ears. Even that.

But how strange this is for me now! I’ve noticed that even in imaginary conversations with my parents, where there is an astoundingly small chance of them answering back in a voice I can hear, I have a difficult time discussing my secrets with them. It feels as if it’s not safe. Ha! That programing goes deep.

Of course, any difficulty I experience sharing secrets with my parents-in-spirit only mirrors that I have trouble facing my own secrets.

In the afterlife, we’ll be more like movie actors attending a script conference discussing our character roles. We’ll share our motivations, conflicts, goals, and beliefs from the life just lived. We’ll have a complete backstory from our past lives and our between-life goals and objectives. We’ll probably learn why we eat our secrets. Yes, even about that.

 

The Purpose of Pain

LonelyI don’t know whether this is a new trend in spiritualism, or whether I am just discovering something I hadn’t noticed before. In various places the concept is arising that a major purposes of life on Earth for souls is to enjoy the experience of pain.

Sounds like another exciting episode of Fifty Shades of Grey.

The notion goes something like this: we come from a spirit world where love prevails. In that world we know that we are all one. One for all and all for one. There are none of the contrasts that so characterize life on earth. For example, no being there is regarded as evil. There is no pain, no deceit, no violence, no loneliness. The very atmosphere of life in the spirit world is love, love, love.

When we as souls live in that bubble, we wonder about the pain of being different.

Apparently during the course of events of eternity, some of us decided that all of this love, love, love wasn’t helping us grow, grow, grow spiritually fast enough. We didn’t like being sloths in paradise. We wanted to experience some contrast. Since what you get in paradise is constant ecstasy, contrast turns out to be conflict, resistance, pain.

We were thinking, well wouldn’t it be great to go to a place where we didn’t get what we wanted whenever we wanted it? Wouldn’t it be great to suffer? Think how much we would learn! Think how much fun that would be!

So we (or at least someone we knew) manifested Earth School. Some of us really wanted to be material girls and boys, so we eagerly signed up. Other souls thought we were crazy. I am not sure why, since they did not know what pain was. Maybe neither did we.

EMBRACE THE LOVE

Most of the time, what I used to hear was that we incarnate on Planet Earth to learn how to love. Our purpose is to love. That’s it. Love.

Then the message got a little more complicated. The notion then became that we were supposed to learn how to love in the face of trials and tribulations. We were supposed to love our enemies. And forgive them.

Many of those conflicts were the results of karma that we had created in our past. If we had cursed, bludgeoned, poisoned, decapitated our fellow human beings in previous lifetimes, we eventually need to pay the piper.

There are no free lunches.

So if in one life you thought it would be fulfilling to capture and torture slaves for a living, in another life, just to balance things out, your soul would say to you, “Hey, here’s a fun idea! It’s time you were born into poverty and raised by cruel, abusive parents. All right? Off you go!”

This theme has countless variations.

Spiritual teachers often insist that karma is about balancing, not punishment. You essentially experience the contrast in another life to what you do in this one. In the spectrum of our Earth lives, the whole kaboodle, we choose a bunch of different roles including playing the bad guys. We may actually choose to be a lowlife criminal during a particular life just to experience the pain of living that awful existence.

EMBRACE THE PAIN

In light of this trend in spiritual philosophy, pain is where it’s at. Embrace the pain. Enjoy the mental anguish.

What’s being taught is an extension of the spinach before ice cream mentality. OK, this doesn’t really work for me because I like spinach, but nevertheless, the idea holds. By completely experiencing the pain of life on Planet Earth, we will be overjoyed to return home to a sexless, immaterial world.

Wait! No sex? Well, everything is better than sex anyway, so don’t worry about it.

There is no pain in heaven. Just about anything that you find painful here in the material world is missing from the spirit world. That’s great, except that apparently some things you find delightful in the material world are also missing in action from the spirit world. A few of those enticements lure us back to this pain-laden wonderland.

Sex, for instance.

Spirits constantly tell us that there is a form of sex in the spirit world, but it is entirely ethereal. It is energy-based. It is merging with another being in complete awareness of who they are, what they think, what they feel. And very unlike life on Earth, people don’t form couples. You merge with anyone and everyone. But it is a fleshless existence, and apparently for us in spirit form, flesh is so compelling, so off-the-charts yummy that we can’t wait to come back here to enjoy it. Then we get here again and re-discover that sex dwells in a cesspool of insecurity, jealousy, deceit, greed, persecution, violence, etc. Just sayin’. We don’t even recognize what a gift we were given, and so we go about destroying it.

PLAN IT AGAIN, SAM

So before incarnating, we engage in planning sessions to design all the great pain we’re going to experience. Oh, yay!

I’m not sure yet how I feel about this idea that Earth School is Pain School. Part of me wonders if accepting that idea while we are here on this planet is a magnet for attracting more pain. It’s as if the universe says, OK you want more pain? Here, have a car crash. Want some catastrophic earthquaking? How about a swarm of locusts?

On the other hand, when I am in the midst of feeling pain, trying to responsibly deal with something yucky, it does help me to consider that perhaps my soul is growing more swiftly because I am enduring the life here. This thought helps me move from rage or angst to love and forgiveness.

Love the bastard. Forgive the bitch.

The Earth is for pain idea usually goes in hand with the life plan idea. Books like Your Soul’s Plan and Your Soul’s Gift by Robert Schwartz illustrate how different traumas, tragedies, and challenges helped people grow. People in his books often experienced enormous pain, but they also grew in leaps and bounds, both in Earth terms and in a spiritual perspective. They often end up thanking God for that blessing in disguise.

People often resist the idea that a tragedy was planned before incarnating. It seems weird and  unloving. Why would someone as a loving soul deliberately choose to step into harm’s way? Well, pain seems to be a great motivator and Earth School is about contrast, pain versus pleasure, bad versus good, light versus dark. No pain, no gain.

For those of us currently existing in physical bodies, it’s not a pleasant thought to wonder if there are more great wallops of pain to come. Are we sitting on ticking time bombs? What else do I get to deal with on my life’s journey?

Yet to quiet that rant comes the idea that we have a team of guides, angels, and loved ones on the other side who help us negotiate any lesson we have on our learning plate. As we grow spiritually, we make wiser choices that help us deal with and even avoid life’s obstacles. Further, good stuff is in store to help balance out what we might see as bad stuff.

Spirit might see our lessons just as many of us watch a TV show or read a good book about someone else’s pain. We enjoy learning about someone else’s troubles, partly as a way to deal with our own. Many of us are entertained by someone else’s troubles. Could it be that our own souls can disassociate with us and our pain as we disassociate from other people’s pain? Hmmm?

In summarizing the main lessons of his book Seeking Jordan, author Matthew McKay, PhD (who co-authored the book with his murdered son Jordan who is on the other side) says in a YouTube interview [edited], “The reason we show up on this beautiful but difficult planet is because there is pain here. In the life between lives, there isn’t any pain. We feel known there. We feel part of things. We feel supported by this vast community of souls. And there isn’t pain in the sense that we know it here. But pain affords us opportunities to grow. Struggling with things that hurt is how we evolve and develop as souls. And perhaps the greatest pain we experience is loss, things that we count on taken from us. Our life here is learning how to love in the face of pain.”

Garden of Eden days

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I woke up to the news a few days ago that Florence Henderson had died.

The first thought my neuronal connections delivered from my Florence Henderson Memory Bank was how excited I got watching her back in the Garden of Eden days of my youthful innocence. She inspired that brand new phenomenon: erections.

Now here’s the thing: this happened years before I saw my first porn. While these days it might be challenging to believe, there was a time when erections happened to me without any pornographic influence whatsoever.

You could also say that erections grew without any erotic influence. Erections happened without any help from wiggles and jiggles of armed and dangerous body parts. There was no peeking up skirts. There was no slow parting of thighs. There were no naughty words. There were no sultry faces or dark lipsticks. In the way that most people think about sex, there was nothing even about sex.

Erections were like applause meters. They measured and reflected an inner world of emotional response, a generic passion. There was truth to the old line about being “happy to see me.” Erections used to be like joy-o-meters. Robin Williams embodied this line of thought when he would squeeze his crotch and make a joke about Mr. Happy.

Erections for me back in those days of Garden of Eden innocence revealed inner emotional arousal, a zip-a-dee-doo-dah moment, everything is satisfactual. You could even call it spiritual because it was all about pure feelings of love.

In this day of highly publicized misogyny and misandry, it stretches both the memory and the imagination to think of erections in a wholesome way, wholesome like laughing in church over a quip made from the pulpit.

Back in the days of my puberty and adolescence, I had my share of favorite media (pre-Lady Gaga) gaga loves—Doris Day, Ann-Margret, Patty Duke, Donna Reed, and Florence Henderson. This was before Florence became “America’s Favorite Mom” on the Brady Bunch, a show I never particularly cared for and didn’t follow.

Florence gave me a boner before I heard the term boner. I remember nothing about the show she was on when she accomplished this feat of magic. I just remember falling into the vision her angelic face and presence and feeling the love flow.

HEART FAILURE

The first article I read about Florence Henderson’s death said that she died at the age of 82 from heart failure.

The term heart failure jumped out at me, not in terms of cardiologists, but in terms of general sadness. I thought I’m suffering from heart failure, too. I had  just spent Thanksgiving alone and lonely (long story, not appropriate to tell here), and my heart was especially frustrated absorbing so much meanness in the world at large. Like most people stuck at home alone on a miserable weather day as well as a holiday, I went onto the Internet or Netflix or whatever to find something uplifting. The tsunami of ugliness I found instead was thoroughly demoralizing.

Make America great again?

How about making erections great again?

THROBBING MODEMS

Back in the early 90s I wrote a book called Love Bytes which was about the brand new world of online relationships. Unfortunately, after finding a publisher, I learned that another Love Bytes book had just come out, so I needed to change the title.

I came up with Throbbing Modems. To me and my peer group of happy campers who loved to flirt and frolic online, this was a fun, light-hearted title. Yes, throbbing was a word commonly associated with erections (as well as headaches), and so it had a slightly naughty connotation. But in my mind, it was more amusing than sleazy. Throbbing modems represented to me that a hunk of machinery (the modem) could channel (the throbbing) energy of friendship and love. Technology could facilitate intimacy.

My publisher also liked it, and so we went with the name. Yet as the book went through the design process and then the publicity process, it became more clear to me that my lovely idea had been shanghaied. A creep factor was being added that I had no power or authority to stop.

One of the testimonials printed on the front cover read, “Will get the important body parts of both men and women throbbing like crazy, and I don’t just mean their hearts.”

Ugh. Sigh.

A CLEAN SOCIETY

I often wonder what it would be like to live in a massively remodeled world where both the religious right and the pornographic left got no brownie points for ruining sex for everyone. What if somehow the amassed will of the people proposed and popularized the idea that sex was beautiful and should be respected as a sacred gift? What if we simply paid no attention whatsoever to the forces that make sex ugly?

This could be so far out of your personal ballpark that it is even too hard to imagine (except for someone like me who is not into spectator sports and thus spends vast amounts of time outside the park on a regular basis.)

What if we treated erections (and so much many other natural phenomena having to do with sex) as miraculous? What if we did not educate and otherwise condition our people to junk our junk with so much ugliness? What if erections could exist in the light and be appreciated with the same respect as fresh air, pure spring water, rainbows, and warm sun rays?

This is something like the atmosphere I was in when as a teen-ager I got erections watching happy things happen on TV, that, oh, by the way, were broadcast to our house in black-and-white. I was in a state of blissful naivety, and the feelings and sensations coursing through my body were unbelievably wonderful.

Adult sex should be that stimulating, full of wonder and discovery.

GARDEN OF EDEN

I am not telling you what to do. There’s no particular action I am advocating. I am not asking you or the world to change for my sake. I suspect and accept that much of the world will continue to make sex ugly. Long live misogyny and misandry. Have a blast. Rock on. Knock yourself out. Junk the junk.

In the privacy of my thoughts, I will continue to hold the vision that the infinite intelligence that created sexuality was good and wholesome. No matter how much humankind has perverted this gift through all of its marketing, exploitation, slavery, violence, shame, ridicule, and kitsch, in the grand and glorious design, it is still amazing like so many other natural amazements.

How lovely to be back in the Garden of Eden innocence.

My conflict with conflict

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Among the great and mighty rules that fledgling novelists and screenwriters learn is to fill their work with conflict. It is so baked into the bread of a writer’s life that this rule is rarely questioned, nor is this devotion to conflict recognized as a major contributor to massive social misery.

Whenever I walk into my neighborhood Costco, I get a brief yet palpable feeling of sadness when I see the line-up of TVs for sale. I have come to view TV as dispensers of bad news, which is to say, constant conflict. If the content that we put into our brains is mind food, then the high-definition TVs that we work into our living spaces act like junk food that may lead to mind poisoning.

We pay for the beautiful TVs and their glorious high-def pictures. We pay for the cable or satellite or subscription services that feed us mind food. Ultimately, without our being consciously aware of it, we may pay for it with our mental health, too.

I don’t think that many people have stopped to wonder what this saturation of media exposure is doing to our consciousness, both individually and collectively. TV is so ubiquitous to our culture as are movies and books that feature conflict (as the majority do) that we think of it as normal. We gorge on this stuff.

I come from the first generation that grew up with TV, the Boomers. Yet while most families had TVs, life was still fairly balanced with other activities. Boomers can remember a life before the saturation of computers, smartphones, Google, etc. From that vantage point, we can see more of the arc of social change that technology has created.

We can see how much more in your face conflict is because of the gadgetry that delivers it.

 KNOW WHEN YOU’RE HOOKED

Sometimes when I go about my everyday business, I realize that I am being influenced by old stories of conflict. Let’s say that I go to a rustic park for a relaxing hike in the woods. Out of nowhere, I start wondering what could go wrong. Is someone waiting down the trail to mug me? Will I slip and fall and need help? Will some wild animal attack me? My mind seems to preview everything that could possibly go wrong, most of it based on stories of other people’s rotten experiences in the woods.

Last fall I drove myself from Oregon to Arizona via Idaho and Utah. I took many roads spontaneously, and especially when driving through Nevada, I found myself more out in the middle of nowhere than ever in memory. I chuckled when I saw that Highway 50 is known as the Loneliest Highway in the US. I believe it! But what struck me the most was how many times during my crossing of the wasteland did I wonder what would happen to me if my car broke down and there was no cell phone service. It was a thought I could not get out of my head no matter how many different songs I played.

Why do I automatically start thinking of all the things that could go wrong? Is it that in all of the stories I have ingested over my years of living, things go wrong all the time? Things going wrong is part of the formula. Was I born to be so fearful, or have I been conditioned after hearing so many stories about problems people encounter. I am not describing a phobia or a mental health condition. Rather, I am describing an awareness of tendencies of thinking and where those tendencies have come from.

The conflicts do not have to be life threatening or horror story fodder. Most of my life does not involve life-threatening situations. It could be something like being afraid to share an opinion for (a conditioned) fear of insulting, offending, or riling someone. That fear could come from having just seen a movie or read a book where someone got into deep doo-doo for expressing an unpopular opinion, such as authors a few generations ago who got imprisoned because they wrote things said to “excite lewd thoughts.”

It could be a fear of consulting a doctor, lawyer, therapist, contractor, or sales person because I had just been exposed to disaster story after disaster story about how some so-called professional abused a client. No, these fears don’t usually keep me from taking an action, and yet there is brain residue from dealing with all the distrust that has come to my consciousness from an external source.

Think about it. Think about how many stories you get exposed to hour after hour, day after day, that graphically illustrate conflict. Think of how many times you become outraged, hurt, or afraid as your first response to a story, even if you can intellectually steady the rocking boat. The story can be either fiction or peddled as non-fiction. The truth is that non-fiction stories, perhaps based on true events, are created using dramatic story-telling techniques aimed at hooking your emotions so you’ll keep watching or reading.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES

I have been thinking about the popularity of conspiracy theories, many of which suggest that Big Government, Big Business, and even Big Illuminati actually control life for the rest of us. They are always doing rotten things to enslave us peons to do their bidding while they bask in the wealth of anything money can buy.

An issue I see with conspiracy theories is that we seem to burn up a lot of energy attempting to solve the riddles rather than working to solve the issues. Did some part of the US Government plan 9/11? Is some tippy-top-secret agency hiding UFO news? Is Monsanto poisoning everybody? For that matter, what about Big Pharma?

Conspiracy theories, which at their core are conflict stories, goad us into fear. They are staples of any media entity in the business of attracting viewers, readers, clickers. The game now is to mislead people with dramatic techniques so they’ll pay attention. Day by day, hour after hour, people are being tempted to turn their attention to stories of conflict, many of which turn out to be manufactured gotchas!

I think that the importance of this is recognizing how we handle real conflicts that affect us personally. How many ordinary people are unconsciously taking the lead from the media and are themselves parroting these conflict strategies? How many people are making up their own conspiracy theories because this is what the media by example has taught them to do?

My Facebook feed has become a parade of nightmare scenarios about calamity. Between all the clickbait (misleading headlines that beckon clicking on the link), sob stories, and rants, Facebook has become the new National Enquirer.

BOOKBUB

I subscribe to Bookbub, an ebook service that offers cheap prices on selected ebooks. Every day in my email I get an announcement about books on sale. They come with a brief description. When I look at these blurbs day after day, I see so much written about conflict. It indicates to me how much we thrive on it.

For example, there is this: “This rich saga traces the rise and fall of the Malacouti family as they face betrayal, ambition, and a painful choice in the early 20th century. ‘A riveting portrait of family strife’ (People).”

And under that one, this one: “In this richly textured novel set against the Bangladesh War of Independence, a young Pakistani widow, Rehana, strives to keep her family safe from the chaos that surrounds her. ‘An immersive, wrenching narrative’ (Publishers Weekly starred review).”

And then: After a serial killer escapes from a mental hospital to hunt down psychic Laura Adderley, can reporter Harrison Frost get to the bottom of the real story?

We don’t seem to see immersive, wrenching narratives about yummy stuff.

“An epic saga of friendship where neighbors band together to assist one another in living the good life. ‘A riveting portrait of cooperation that raises the bar on fulfillment’ (Publishers Weekly)

“Just when Sandra thought she could take not another moment of ecstasy, she discovers that she can. ‘An eye-opening narrative on cosmic pleasure’ (People)

Even when books work their way to happily triumphant endings, the fact is that by design we’re still forced by the conventions of story-telling to go through the long and winding road of turmoil. We’ve apparently decided that conflict is more riveting than solution.

FINDING THE FLIP SIDE

Certainly fear and skepticism have their places in our lives, and being prepared is always good. Yet I wonder what would happen to society as a whole if we did not cultivate so much doubt and dread, shock and awe as a normal business practice. In the end, would it create a healthier climate, or would it create a society of happy munchkins vulnerable to attack from any wicked witch flying by the neighborhood?

I like to nurture my mind. I’ve noticed that finding media that do not pander so eagerly to the conflict formula is a challenge. Inspirational, positive, solution-based media fare that feeds hope, love, and optimism is in relatively short supply. You can always find it if you specifically search for it, but there is a tsunami of conflict to deal with by contrast.

In times of personal struggle, it is good to have access to positive media. When I feel lonely, depressed, discouraged, or frustrated, I like to responsibly heal myself, a task made more challenging if I can’t find healthy input.

I believe that overexposure to messages of conflict is creating unnecessary turmoil. Garbage in, garbage out. There is so much mental cruelty being perpetrated in our information and entertainment media that I personally am not too surprised by all the violence in the world. Cause and effect seems pretty plain to me.

Often I like to fantasize about societies either in our future or on some other planet entirely where people grow up not so bombarded with messages of conflict. Maybe they grow up in a totally love-positive world where a tribe mentality dictates that no one should feel abandoned, no violence necessary, and cooperation is more important than competition. What would life be like in that world? What kind of problems would be eliminated from today’s normalcy if a few generations grew up with brains not filled with such a heavy influence of fear, violence, and losing?

BECOME AWARE

Don’t take my word for it. Pay attention to what media mind food you ingest. Become aware of the messages of conflict streaming into your psyche. Once you begin to notice how people are selling you conflict, you might become more motivated to watch what your brain eats.

 

Do we plan our lives?

BeachMy approach to metaphysics in a nutshell is this: if an idea intrigues me, I like to play with it as if it were true. I like to try the idea on for size, see how it feels, and put it through its paces.

Many people don’t go there unless something of a woo-woo nature has been scientifically proven to be true. They immediately shut down and refuse to even consider the idea, focusing instead on lack of proof. “The afterlife does not exist because it cannot be proven.”

What I do is not much different from when you are buying a house or searching for a new apartment. You go visit the place, and then you visualize yourself living there. You think of how your furniture would fit in the space. You think of how it would feel to wake up in this place each morning. You think of what opportunities await you in this locale along with what hazards may be present.

Not much different for me when I think of concepts like afterlife, reincarnation, out-of-body experiences, extra-terrestrials, and my latest one, pre-birth or between-incarnation life planning.

ROBERT SCHWARTZ

I encountered a couple of books written by Robert Schwartz: Your Soul’s Plan and Your Soul’s Gift. I also watched several interviews with Robert on YouTube.

I’d heard variations on this concept for years, particularly through the work of hypnotherapist and past-life regressionist Michel Newton. It was not an entirely new concept that we as souls plan life relationships and events based on what we want to learn in our future incarnations.

I think of it as recreation or mental adventuring to look at my life and consider this: if certain events were planned like exercises in a lifelong workshop I am taking, what was I supposed to learn? The answers can be surprising.

AN EARLY COLLISION WITH PAIN

I was raging hormones in love with a girl  when I was a junior in high school. From the first time I laid eyes on her, I wanted her. She was smart, funny, and sexy. During our first few dates, she also taught me much about the art of sensual lovemaking, raising the bar on a world of experience that I, still a virgin, was just discovering.

One evening she invited me over for a chat. When I arrived, she said, “I don’t love you anymore.” We were done. That was it. The most helpless feeling I had encountered in my young love life swept through me. I had no clue what had happened to her love.

When my senior year of high school began, she was nowhere to be found. Several months later I learned that she had been at a home for unwed mothers. It turns out that she had apparently gotten pregnant while we were dating. It was biologically impossible for me to have been the father.

It is fascinating for me some half-century later to consider this event from a cosmic perspective. It means one thing if it was just a matter of happenstance. An oh, too bad, girl dumps boy. Just another episode of teen-age angst to chew on. She was the one that got away.

It means something else entirely if it was a planned gotcha. According to the premise that Robert Schwartz lays out in his books, the soul of which I am a part — which would commonly be referred to as “my soul” — got together with her soul before we were born. We planned this event for reasons that were very clear to us then and way under the radar to us once we incarnated.

HOW GOOD IS THAT?

I find it somewhat comforting to think of it as a planned event, hurtful as it had been. Why? It helps me channel energy in a more positive direction to think of it as a learning experience in Earth School than tough luck in young love. It gives some purpose to my pain, which is essentially to learn from it. I find it helpful to look for the gift in my perceived losses. Sometimes they turn into major wins, even if at first they had disaster written all over them.

So what did I learn from having my heart stomped on? Well, I did not see this at first. It was one of the early lessons of when one door slams on your nuts, another door will open. I had to be beaten up a few more times before I realized that life always had a funny way of delivering new situations (in this case lovers) after my personal disasters.

Getting whacked like that also made me much more sensitized to being hurt. In time I learned how to empathize with others in their personal disasters because I had known my own. Empathy for pain usually does not occur without first having suffered pain to know what it feels like.

As it turned out, the agony of this abandonment led me to expressing myself much more in writing. The creative muse frequently happens as one tries to dig out of a pit of suffering. At this point in my life, I was just beginning to connect with my writing ability, and having some great angst material to write about amped me up.

I had to do most of the healing from this episode by myself. I did not have much outside help. As a life experience, this one taught me how to take better care of myself emotionally, and I am thankful that I chose I positive route over something like revenge-consciousness.

Years later when the concept of karma came to my attention, I decided that maybe some of my current-life destiny was to learn about relationships. I don’t normally think of karma as a formula for punishment or even justice. Rather, I see it as creating opportunities for do-overs of past-life mistakes or lessons that our higher self wants to explore in a physical body. I think of my soul as the entity who makes pre-incarnation decisions about karma.

It is possible that in previous lives, “I” (actually an incarnation of my soul) was not the most wonderful of mates. Maybe “I” dumped and ran, breaking someone’s heart in the process. Over the years I would experience several other instances of what to me felt like being abandoned, and I wondered more than once why this seemed to be a trend. Chance or karmic design?

DO WE PLAN THIS SHIT?

Shit happens. Do we plan it?

Of course we need to grasp who “we” refers to. Our current brains did not have previous lifetimes. The “we” as I see it is the soul portion of us that designs from its cosmic perspective what it wants to experience for growth.

Many people resist the idea that our loving higher selves would plan tragedies, cruelties, and disasters for us to endure for the sake of our spiritual growth. I would probably be included among them had it not been for a friend of mine who had a near-death experience when she was in her twenties.

During that experience, she went back to her pre-life planning session where she witnessed how her father agreed to be an abusive parent to her. It was part of the plan. When she returned to physical life, she was able to forgive him for the pain he had caused her. Of course, forgiving him was less about him than it was about her finding peace in her own mind. Forgiveness meant that she could let it go and stay in the now.

So ultimately my friend accepted that yes, “we” plan this shit.

And this is what Your Soul’s Plan and Your Soul’s Gift by Robert Schwartz are about, too. With copious input from spirits via mediums, Robert guides us through a menu of challenging life situations (rape, incest, a loved one’s suicide, abusive relationships, miscarriages and abortions, and so on) to show how those tough situations led to positive outcomes.

Planning a life with the possibility/probability of a few painful episodes to encounter has an interesting relationship, I think, with such beliefs as the law of attraction. Woven through the narrative of Your Soul’s Gift is plenty of material on climbing out of painful circumstances through consciousness techniques. That’s really what the book is about—healing.

So if our souls plan lessons for us that we as physical beings would see as sadistic, they also know that lifelines and healing support are available. Physical incarnation is a boot camp for learning spiritual lessons, and according to Schwartz’s research, we always agree to these events beforehand.

MY BOTTOM LINE

I do not know whether it’s true or not that our souls plan yucky stuff for us. In some ways it seems very Twilight Zonian, and in other ways it makes sense.

Either way, I find it most useful to ask myself if I planned this experience before I was born, why would I have done that? What did I learn from going through it? Just asking the question will yield fascinating and often healing insights that help me on my journey.

FOR FUTURE CONSIDERATION

An impression I have is that if more people accepted the reality of the life plan — in other words, if it were somehow proven — we would have much more compassion for people’s woes. We would understand the cosmic dynamics of this system. We would be more willing to assist people if we got it that shit happens by design.

What is beauty?

Beauty as nature

I have run into several videos and articles lately involving women and aging, women and body image, and male-born transgenders transitioning into females. All of this leads to me answering a favorite question of mine: “What is beauty? What does beautiful mean?”

In one article, Rebecca Shaw writes about actress Maggie Gyllenhaal “being told that at the ripe old age of 37, she was too old (and I assume decrepit) to be cast as the love interest of a 55-year-old man. Let’s consider this: Gyllenhaal, who is already 18 years younger than the actor in question, cannot be cast as his love interest because she is too old. I really don’t believe that we stop often enough to consider how absolutely warped the world of Hollywood (and our world) must be for this to occur.”

As a man reading this story, and an old man at that, I frequently find Hollywood’s mind set hideous. It supports the cliché that female attractiveness is all about — and just about — physical youth and beauty. It entirely ignores a facet that I find at the core of human beauty: consciousness.

Beauty is not just how we look. It is how we think.

I saw another video on Facebook where signs placed over two doors in a city high-rise gave women a choice of which door to enter through. One said AVERAGE and one said BEAUTIFUL. Women were shown pondering which door to claim as theirs. The video also included some interviews with women sharing their thoughts about the choice they made. Several wanted a redo so they could enter through the door marked BEAUTIFUL.

While the video apparently intended to show people, especially women, that it was OK to claim that they are beautiful, it still left the definitions of average and beautiful up in the air. It  passively hinted that beauty was a mental state.

Then there’s the much yakked-about public transformation of Bruce into Caitlyn. Much of the focus has been about the high cost of surgeries. She could easily afford it. Some have complained that with all the resources ultimately poured into the Vanity Fair photo shoot, anybody could look smashing. The focus seems to have been on the outer Caitlyn, the packaging, not the inner being. It again poses the question, albeit slightly under the radar, what makes for beauty? What makes a person beautiful?

There are countless articles now related to ranking beautiful women with headlines like “The Most Beautiful Women of All Time.” It’s immediately obvious that this is all about looks, and it doesn’t supply the criteria for the judging someone a great beauty, as if it is too obvious for consideration.

SO WHAT IS BEAUTY?

I want to say that having been raised in the American culture as a white guy, I have certain conditioned responses to beauty. As a young kid my heart throbs included Doris Day, Ann-Margret, Patty Duke (especially when she played the British twin), and after discovering my dad’s magazine stash, countless Playboy Playmates.

Yet over the years, as I discovered that physical beauty is not enough, my personal conception of beauty embraced a more wholistic approach. I noticed that some qualities that made women beautiful to me were usually not traits I saw featured in the personalities of women heralded as great beauties.

For one, I prized humor. Humor is a bonding force for me. I have little orgasms of joy when someone gets my humor. I find bliss when someone in my personal universe makes me laugh. Unfortunately, woman glorified as beautiful (in media terms) often act like Stepford wives-in-waiting. They lack the cutting edge perspective of someone who can see the human comedy in action, who can drill through pretension with laser-like precision.

I also prized empathy and compassion. I have no particular fantasy desire to melt ice queens and give my soul in love to narcissists. I am much more attracted to one who cares about the feelings and welfare of others than I am to someone who looks gorgeous yet flaunts snarky insensitivity. Beauty is the capacity to feel what I feel. Empathy makes for much better conversations.

I  found curiosity and the urge to explore ideas as very attractive. Conformity addicts are not my cup of tease. People willing to step outside the box and let their imaginations run wild (especially with humor and empathy) are beautiful to me.

I find affectionate people beautiful. Smilers, cuddlers, huggers, toucher-feelers, and flirters give me joy. Often they inspire me, especially when it seems as if the world is filled with people hardened into hostility and competition. People who are generous with affection remind me of the world I would prefer to live in where people care for people.

BEAUTY IN THE MEDIA

For much of my life, I have noticed that while watching movies or TV shows (when I used to watch TV) that I was often attracted to the “character actors.” I found that they indeed had more character than the leads. They were just more fun.

In Hollywood formulas, character actors are usually not supposed to be perceived as “good looking” as the leads. They are quirkier in their appearance. In Hollywood, however, this is often less than obvious. The dialogue uttered in the show often has to inform us that we are supposed to see the person as second fiddle, not up to par.

The sidekick friend often launches more interesting lines into the story than the glamorpuss does. She often has a better sense of humor, more freedom of speech, and just plain more substance. Since she is often depicted as single, she often seems more appreciative of the love she does not have. If I were in the movie in some sort of Pleasantville fashion, I would seek her out over the star beauty.

This principle carried over into my physical life. I found myself more intrigued by women who had spicy personalities over good media looks. Yet here is the irony that lucky people discover: love literally shapes perception of how someone looks. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder because emotions shape our experience. When someone delivers an emotionally fulfilling time, it literally shapes how they appear to the perceiver.

SEX MYTH I CAN DO WITHOUT

There is an elitist cliche that when someone says that a friend has a great “personality,” It means that the person rates anywhere from homely to downright ugly.  The mockery implies that personality is less important than physical beauty; that physical beauty ranks people as to how sexually desirable they are.

Too often the assumption is made that the better you look physically, the better sex you’ll have, as if physical beauty is the magic ingredient for ultimate sexual satisfaction. People who do not feel that they rank high in the beauty standings often feel as if they lack some mystery power. Meanwhile, social media is filled with complaints that men in particular are so shallow they cannot appreciate anything but the right, tight beauty dressed in whore clothes.

God bless physical beauty, but in my world, lovemaking is a juicy journey filled with mental and emotional intercourse. The richness of that experience comes in the consciousness people share, which is yawning bland if the meeting of minds is just about looks.

THE COMPLIMENT

Over the years, the world has gotten much more complicated. Now it’s not safe to say
“You’re so beautiful” without fully defining your terms. Is it just a line used by a womanizer or a con for some nefarious end? Is it just physical, physical? Is it chauvinistic ballyhoo? Is it patronizing pabulum? Is it a nonspecific, catch-all compliment that the receiver installs the desired meaning to — you think I’m beautiful?

Some women have told me they become quite perturbed when some stranger called them beautiful. They heard the line more as a substitute for “I want something from you,” like when a stranger approaches you and calls you Friend. Uh-oh.

The beauty that I am struck by is a complex amalgam of personality traits and physical qualities. The feeling that motivates the desire to share it in words is not something easily packaged into a pithy sentence or two, especially in the passion of the moment. Unless I feel safe or confident in the person’s ability to empathize with my intent, I’ll likely keep my compliment to myself.

AMAZING GRACE

I doubt if I am the only man in America to think this way, but here goes: A woman who is my age does not need to look like anything but a woman who is my age. I am not riding on the youth and beauty bandwagon. I do not appreciate the cultural obsessions that cause  middle-aged and older woman to feel bad about the state of their bodies.

I doubt that society is going to turn this around. There are too many economic interests that depend on keeping people in a state of anxiety over their appearance. Those promoters of superficial beauty succeed because we don’t just say no.

But I would like to bring attention to the idea that beauty encompasses intelligence, humor, sensitivity, creativity — in short a lot of nonphysical qualities that do not wither with age. There are people who prefer savoring those qualities more than worshiping plastic surgery and cosmetic attempts to appear untouched by aging.

Want to read more on the topic? Here is an earlier post on this topic.