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Meditating on the Sexual Body: A Summary

The room was full of people who had come to hear some good news about their sexual bodies and spirituality. As the program unfolded folks learned; there is a difference between purity (which is not a biblical expectation for humanity) and holiness (And that is an expectation that translates to how we treat ourselves and others.), that it is ok to ‘seduce ourselves’ as we enjoy our bodies, that reverence and joy can be associated with our own sexual bodies, that while we are more than our bodies and how truly glorious they are, scientific wonders and spiritual vessels.

The main points of the evening were that when we maintain poor body images and low sexual self esteem as we waste money we delight stockholders in the diet, cosmetics and cosmetic surgical industries even though we jeopardize our own health and the well being of our sexual relationships. After all, how fully present can we be to the intimacy in our relationships if we are busy being critical of our appearance?  

What is the guidance for spiritual view of the body? It is to be found in I Corinthians that our bodies are temples of the sacred. (6:19) But we need to recognize that when we can’t celebrate our bodies with reverence and humility it is probably because we keep thinking we are “better or less than” one another. And, if we make those judgments about ourselves, according to the Sufi mystic, Hafiz, we are “breaking the wine glass!”  But as Desmond Tutu notes God/Love says to us “There is nothing you can do to make me love you more, because I already love you perfectly. And there is nothing you can do to make me love you less. …I love you. I love you. I love you.” Such positive affirmations are the keys that unlock the doors of the cages we are in and that release us “rowdy prisoners.” 

The musicians and yoga stretches added enormously to setting the tone of being fully present in our bodies and with one another in a spirit of openness, acceptance, compassion and, of course, humor. And listening to the evening’s panel comprised of a clergy, a sex educator, Brianna Booth and a sex therapist, Kenneth Maguire was a novel experience and opportunity to learn. Audience members anonymously asked  about the ghosts of the Pope in the bedroom, sexual dysfunction, aging and sexuality, self-love for those with non-normative orientations, medication and arousal, and masturbation.

Surprises? To my knowledge there were church members present from Calvary united Methodist, Arch Street United Methodist, and Tabernacle Church, a few Jewish folks, Unitarian Universalists and ex-Catholics but many people had no religious affiliation.    Not sure but I think I am surprised that religious people came at all! But there were at least two surprises: In the discussion of joy as it relates to our sexuality most folks did not know that for the Navajos life only begins when a baby first laughs. This puts a whole new twist on how we view the current frame of the anti-abortion movement, but also on how joy is so intrinsic to what makes us human. And, secondly, when at least this clergy discusses the anti-sex religious teachings that are so destructive for us and our relationships it can elicit an unexpected but most emphatic, “That is bull---t!” Audience members found such an outburst liberating! After all it is not as if we don’t know we are being sold a bill of goods from the anti-sex movement/religions about our body's needs and desires and our spiritual yearnings because it is so clearly contrary to our human experience. But it is also that to be in a safe and public venue for such frank discussions we gain courage to live more confidently into our own spiritual acceptance of our sexuality as having spiritual dimensions and spirituality with sexual dimensions. And we need no apology!

Next public forum: Saturday, November 19 4:00-6:00 at the Friends Center 1501 Cherry St, Philadelphia, PA.

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