The Yoga of Love and Sex

Evolving Female-Male Politics to the Intrinsic Peace and Power of the Natural State — The Practical Way Forward

 Image: Brian Crawford Photography

Image: Brian Crawford Photography

NO ONE NEED GIVE YOU THIS, AND NO ONE CAN TAKE IT AWAY FROM YOU.

Yoga is participation in the union of opposites, where one empowers the other in endless mutual exchange. A Yogic life is participation in this perfect union of the feminine and the masculine principles, and therefore requires right relationship and rightful sexuality. Sexuality is too often treated as an antithetical, embarrassing, or too-painful side event to the main business of spirituality and Yoga. But profound consideration of these matters is the heart of Yoga and spirituality, the absolutely essential concern for us to investigate and resolve. Why? Because sex is the substance of reality itself, the male-female collaboration that creates life and synchronistically abides as the nurturing and regenerative force of life. Therefore, it must be honoured and made completely positive, real, and honest. The dreadful weight of religious and spiritual teachings has been an attempt to overcome this natural force, the attraction of equal opposites, as if it is an obstacle to realization of ‘higher’ matters. This engrained cultural assumption that sex is ‘lower’ is a burden on humanity that we will all have encountered the painful results of. From here, the patriarchal method has been to propose methods towards ‘higher’ future realities. The resulting hierarchical systems are the denial of life itself as it is given. Yoga and sexuality must be restored as pure participation in the already present nurturing flow of life, free of any power structures or hierarchical impositions. It may be almost unimaginable that teachings can be given without power structures of any kind, but it is so.

The Orthodox Movement Away from Ordinary Conditions

It has been taught for millennia that the ultimate life involves going to the monastery or ‘going within’ through meditation for some ‘higher’ purpose, rather than the embrace of all ordinary conditions, including sex. The religious power structures that underpin civilisation moved us away from experience and sought to ‘abide as witness only.’ If you had not made the heroic gesture of going to the monastery—if you were still in the village having sex and a family—you were less. Sex was less. Women were less. Both have for centuries been seen as worldly distractions, obstructions to God-realization or enlightenment.

The womanless men of orthodoxy have been the leaders of our world for millennia. Man continues to be obsessed with attempting to conquer natural desires (or conversely, casually exaggerate and exploit them, still based on the belief they are lesser). Man is still in conflict with his own reality, especially with sex, and especially with woman and vice versa. From these beliefs, we inherit the assumption that sex is lesser or debased, and with this assumption the burden of pornography and abuse. It is only now that misogyny is being revealed as the common behaviour of humanity everywhere.

Much of the pain and confusion we feel around love, sex, and relationships stems from this cultural legacy that has scorned the feminine—the body, the world, other people, and reality as it is experienced—in search of other, ‘higher’ realities. An important contribution to our understanding came from the modern-day Yogi and ‘teacher of the teachers,’ Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888–1989), who emphasised Yoga as heart abiding, participation in the union of the heart’s opposites, and the Yoga of intimate family life and all that flowers from it. It is here that the saints and sages of humanity dwell. Krishnamacharya brought this understanding forth from his own great teacher, Ramanujacharya of the tenth century, the second of the three great Vedantic Acharyas, who affirmed that Yoga was to be practiced for non-dual realization and realized only in family life—perhaps a polite way of saying sexual polarity. Not through the denial of ordinary conditions. Rather than endorsing dissociative transcendence or renunciation, these great scholars affirmed that sex is indeed the heart’s activity, caused and realized through the utter union of male and female (whether in same-sex or opposite sex intimacy).

Attempting to escape our dysfunctional social inheritance through the usual spiritual assumptions does not help—in fact, it makes matters worse, as it was the division of ‘spiritual’ and ‘worldly’ that caused the dysfunction in the first place. The only spiritual process worth anything is the reunification of the masculine and feminine qualities of our own bodies and hearts. We immediately become capable of intimacy with another. The forces of male with female created the heart originally and abide now as the heart. This is our source, the absolute nurturing condition of reality. This is God. Nowhere else. God is not hiding somewhere. God-realization or enlightenment is a hoax perpetrated on a gullible public. There is no such thing! Only the heart of every life is God. From here, the body and mind and all relatedness grow and expand. This reunification is Yoga, the primordial religion of man before patriarchy imposed its will on humanity. Only now do we begin to repair the cultural insanity that has dissociated us from our lived reality.

 THE HRIDAYA IS WHERE ALL OPPOSITES MEET. FROM ‘YOGA OF HEART: THE HEALING POWER OF INTIMATE CONNECTION,’ BY MARK WHITWELL

THE HRIDAYA IS WHERE ALL OPPOSITES MEET. FROM ‘YOGA OF HEART: THE HEALING POWER OF INTIMATE CONNECTION,’ BY MARK WHITWELL

Hridayashakti and the Embrace of Ordinary Conditions

The heart is the first cell of life that appeared when you appeared from the mystic perfect harmony of male-female, the nurturing power of life. It is known in the Traditions as Hridaya, or the ‘heart on the right,’ as distinct from the physical muscle or the energy centre known as anahata chakra. From this depth, the nurturing force of life known as Kundalinishakti, or Pranashakti was initiated and flows now in all directions to form the whole body, like a flower in full bloom. The Hridaya is the origin of all opposites and the body’s portal to all of the powers and mysteries of the cosmos that are arising as the whole body and all its relatedness. In death, the body drops and Hridayashakti (the source heart and its flow) remains in its infinite condition.

You are Hridayashakti, and the mind arises synchronistically in service to this root. It is written in the Upanishads that the heart is the seat of mind, an unspeakable refinement of the nervous system arising from its very quick, the heart. Mind is the movement of the heart and has no life or purpose dissociated from its source—although that may be imagined. By natural participation in the perfect and intrinsic harmonies of life, the union of all opposites, the source of opposites (the Heart) is revealed to the mind. In fact, the mind is then known to be arising from the heart as a function of the Heart, no longer imagining its own separation. We revere and revel in this revelation, astonished that anything and everything exists. Sex is then purified as the heart’s activity, the enactment of the real, God, the absolute condition of reality.

For most of modern history, the Hridayashakti has been overlooked as the high locus of religious and Yogic realization due to the predominant patriarchal view of Yoga as a process of ascent through the chakras to the crown and beyond. The base chakras are sought to be sublimated, as if lower is negative, a life-denying assumption. Either that, or patriarchal contemplative cultures (such as those stemming from Ramana Maharishi) have sought to gain realization through efforts of mind. Their view was and is that by stepping back from experience and merely witnessing all arising conditions, the source or heart could be realized. Krishnamacharya insisted a Yoga response is required to make use of Grace appearing as the likes of Ramana, Christ, or Mahomed (i.e., ones who are unobstructed in body or mind from the power of creation). This allows for direct participation in the relationship and all conditions, not seeking-based contemplation, social disempowerment, and life-denial. Spiritual life is about participation in God, not the search for God. Immersion in the union of opposites reveals the Hridaya that Ramana pointed to.

Attempts at realization via yogic ascent or contemplative projects are both futile and have contributed to patriarchal misogyny: the denial of the feminine, sex, the body, emotions, other people, and all of given reality. In fact, the source heart and its flow (Prana Shakti) are realized in complete integration or embrace of all ordinary conditions, all opposites—including, of course, female-male union, the principle human experience and function (in all forms of sexual orientation, because male and female are energies within all). But I want to make it clear that the Hridayashakti—the perfect harmony of opposites in the natural state—is available to all, with or without sexual practice. ‘Sex’ is simply the convergence of opposites and so can be felt by all. I assure everyone that you can learn and enjoy this practice and realization in an ordinary life.

The two syllables of Hrid, Hri and Da, mean giving and receiving, expressing how the heart is the place of both. Yoga asana is simply the perfect participation in this giving and receiving (masculine and feminine, Ha-Tha), within and without, allowing the heart to be realized and the nurturing force of life to move in an unobstructed flow. This flow is life. It is nature. And it is sex. Inhalation sacrificed to exhalation and vice versa—eternal strength of life that is utterly receptive—is the principle means of restoring male-female mutual sacrifice. Then Hridayashakti / God / Source can be enjoyed and transmitted. It is easy and it is for everyone; it is relevant both to the entire religious tradition of humanity and to all of us here in the post-religious age.

Genuine spiritual practice is participation in the union of opposites, including male-female polarity. It is making love with life, and this extends naturally to another person. Participation in the given must be there, otherwise spirituality is a hit-and-miss affair in the psychology of extreme spiritual attainment. Even the ‘hit’ creates misery, because for every high there is a low, which becomes the predominant context of the highs. There must be a steady Yoga adapted to each individual—the steady practice of intimate connection and response to grace.

Sex is no more and no less than participation in this intrinsic union, which is the nurturing force and generative means of all forms of life and everybody’s birth right. However, patriarchal dissociation has toxified human sexual intimacy, creating dreadful pain we are only just beginning to investigate. With immense sympathy to all of us who have inherited the burden of patriarchy, genuine Yoga offers a way forward, a practical means to participate again in the inherent union of the masculine and the feminine, so one empowers the other in endless mutual exchange, just as it is in the natural state. Let us practice our hearts out as participation in the union of opposites within and without. Let us reclaim our natural state by getting through the valid stages of emotion: fear, anger, pain, and grief. Let us not get stuck at any stage, and come instead to profound grief for the dreadful social circumstance passed on to us. From grief, the powers of compassion spontaneously arise for all, and with them the ability to receive each other and experience the peace and power of the heart’s flow in the natural state.

 ANCIENT SRI YANTRA, UNION OF ALL OPPOSITES, THE HEART’S NURTURING FLOW. ARTIST UNKNOWN.

ANCIENT SRI YANTRA, UNION OF ALL OPPOSITES, THE HEART’S NURTURING FLOW. ARTIST UNKNOWN.

The Heart of Yoga: Participation in Life Dissolves Power Structures

Yoga comes from the Vedic darshanam culture where body, spouse, deity, guru, God, and all intrinsic relatedness is obviously ‘seen’ as the One reality. There is no hierarchy, and because it does not exist, there is no linear process by which authority is transcended. The mistaken belief in teacher as ‘other’ is simply no longer relevant as a person participates in their own authority as life. You walk out of the tent of the ‘knower’ with the courage to stand on your own ground and bloom in your own garden. This is a Yogi/Yogini.

The teaching of the heart of Yoga is: the thought structure that assumes a teacher is a knower or an authority must dissolve. The patriarchy creates and thrives on the thought structure that someone “knows” and therefore others do not. It is false. The success of powerful men, be it in spiritual or secular worlds, does not lift all people. It enslaves all people. Clearly everyone is already the power, pure intelligence, and utter beauty of the cosmos and is in perfect and intrinsic harmony with the rest of the cosmos. Yoga is merely participation in this fact, which is true whether or not it is acknowledged by the mind. To make our Yoga and sexuality pure and honest we must dissolve the power structures that sell us patterned behaviour towards a future ideal and instead participate in our own life-current. We throw out all patterns put in us by orthodoxy and claim our own life.

Suppression of the feminine has been religiously sanctioned to the point where it is part of all of our thought structures. The suppression of individuals by teachers imagining themselves to be authorities and the suppression of women by men is the same deal. We must return to the primordial religion of man, where both male and female participate directly in Life as equals and opposites, one empowering the other! I call this, ‘The new feminism and the new masculinity’. The way forward is to simply remove all power structures, within and without, the delusions of patriarchy in all its forms.

Therefore, the heart of Yoga is not a ‘something.’ It is not another system, institution or style. It refers to the Hridayashakti and all its natural perfect harmonies with air, light, water, green, intrinsic male-female, and any as-yet-unseen causes of the cosmos. And it refers to a loose affinity group of friends around the world who practice Yoga according to individual needs as free participation in life. This dissolves the belief in the teacher as authority (although ‘dissolve’ does not imply that at any point it is real). It never crosses my mind that I am any different from anyone else. There is no membership to the heart of Yoga, no ‘in’ or ‘out’; everyOne in the world can associate with it, should they choose. And if not, all are still welcome to take advantage of the offering made via every form of media. All are encouraged to make their whole life their Yoga, and this is accessible to all.

The heart of Yoga brings forth the wisdom tradition of humanity that existed prior to the invention of hierarchical doctrine. It is the primordial religious practice of humanity: participation in the perfect union of opposites, thereby revealing the source of all opposites. It is a re-expression of ancient wisdom for modern times. If you went to any of my individual teachers of the past you would not get this perspective, because this point of view is formed through the spontaneous collaborations of teachers that my life enabled: Ramana Maharishi and Krishnamacharya and Desikachar, Bhagavan Nityananda and Krishnamacharya, Krishnamacharya and U.G. Krishnamurti, Anandamayi Ma and my birth mother and father Joan Gibson and Pat Whitwell, and the collaborations between all of them. This is a reunion of dharmas from ancient times reappearing together in our own time. All of these teachers’ teachings would have been cooperative parts of the same primordial practice of embrace of reality, before patriarchy perverted the Vedas into power structures and disparate dissociated parts.

Because we are so used to everything occurring within a power structure, it has occasionally happened that people around me have been seduced by the orthodox position that Yoga is a linear process to get somewhere, and therefore a hierarchical affair with special status knowledge holders. They have either taken the patriarchal position of the ‘knower’ themselves or assumed it of me. But the idea of hierarchy and of Yoga as effort towards a future result is the denial of life itself as it is given, including the denial of sex. Without receptivity to what is already present, sexuality becomes misogyny — the pain of the usual experience. When we force the body’s natural energy flows to fulfil social patterns, that is the domination of the feminine in the search to perform an ideal. Yoga as participation in life is not an abstract teaching concept or spiritual bypassing; it is the only way to ensure sexuality is real, honest and mutual. Without understanding Yoga (and particularly sex) as nothing more than the participation in the already present reality and natural flow of life, sexual expression will be denied, forced, or otherwise become aberrant duplication of society’s patterns. A daily asana practice is the first gesture towards health and understanding in this matter.

Authority may be an ordinary social form required in the transmission of secular knowledge, but not in Yoga. An algebra teacher, for example, is legitimately more of an authority on algebra. But there is no place for the social pattern of secular authority in the sacred life, and all secular power is only there to serve the sacred, the freedom of every person. Yoga is not about information gathering, it is about Life—recognition of and feeling-participation in our own life. And everybody is already doing their own life. The secrets of the universe are in you as you. The teacher can merely provide a supportive context as someone who knows about life in the form of themselves. This is why the teacher is ‘No more than a friend, and no less than a friend’—real intimacy in utter equality. The teacher is not a social identity, nor even a personal identity. They are the flow of nurturing, a phenomenon of Mother Nature in local community. It may be almost impossible for many to understand that teachings can be given free of power structures of any kind. Yet it is so.

The teacher-student relationship is one of mutual affection between two actual, equal people: no more than friends, no less than friends. It is the means of spiritual transmission throughout the entire wisdom tradition of humanity. The heart of Yoga is relationship. Body, spouse, guru, and deity, all arising in one reality. This was the backbone of the Great Tradition before it was distorted by patriarchy. We see and acknowledge a person whose heart is flowing, who in turn sees and acknowledges us. Once this is felt, the pranas (heart’s flow) move easily from their source, the Hridaya, and keep flowing in all directions, pushing through karmic obstruction until their flowering is complete. It is a process that cannot be stopped and one that requires Yogic participation by all. This is what we teach in the heart of Yoga. Holding this relationship in our heart, we freely do sadhana (that which can be done), until all obstructions are released and we stand in our own ground and bloom in our own garden. We are like Michelangelo, who, having already seen the beauty in the sculpture that he is liberating, is then happy to do the work of removing what’s not needed to reveal what is there.

 VISHNU AND LAKSHMI FLYING UPON GARUDA. ARTIST/MAKER UNKNOWN. POSSIBLY MADE IN KANGRA, HIMACHAL PRADESH, OR UTTARAKHAND, GARWAHL REGION, INDIA, C1820.

VISHNU AND LAKSHMI FLYING UPON GARUDA. ARTIST/MAKER UNKNOWN. POSSIBLY MADE IN KANGRA, HIMACHAL PRADESH, OR UTTARAKHAND, GARWAHL REGION, INDIA, C1820.

VISHNU AND LAKSHMI FLYING UPON GARUDA. ARTIST/MAKER UNKNOWN. POSSIBLY MADE IN KANGRA, HIMACHAL PRADESH, OR UTTARAKHAND, GARWAHL REGION, INDIA, C1820.

The Importance of Teaching Around Sexuality

There must be overt teaching on sex now, or there will be covert dysfunction, as we see afflicting all societies and institutions. Practicing sex as a communication of love within partnership-polarity heals the wounds of life and indeed, is the principle practice of spiritual realization—a view not held by orthodox mind. But anyone speaking of these matters can be targeted by those suffering from the sex-negative attitudes of our society and the pain that is raging between men and women. Many still assume that sex is a lesser and lower matter or inevitably toxic. In particular, deep-rooted and deviant American puritanism makes it hard for some people to understand what is being said here. Some cannot see that any serious spiritual / Yogic / religious or life teaching must include sex education and practice. This is because sex is pure in life, and made pure in the human life through Yogic participation, strength that is utterly receptive. Here is the ancient way beyond anger, pain, and grief to the radiance that actually is our life. God and sex: now you get both. The two most powerful words in the English language stand side by side and purify one another.

The 20 percent of Western yoga styles stemming from early Hindu experiments in the West failed and presently fail to offer useful teaching around sexuality. They are patriarchal systems full of misogyny and too often ended in the sexual aberration of their leaders or participants. Most continue to hide and deny such aberration to this day. The other approximately 80 percent of styles of modern Yoga derive from B.K.S. Iyengar and K. Pattabhi Jois, both of whom taught masculine muscularity only, strength without receptivity. They missed half the equation of Yoga—the feminine—and ignored their own teacher Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, even in the matter of asana technology. As a result of failing to teach receptivity, these ways of teaching make no contribution to healing sexual dysfunction, leaving individuals in these communities in confusion. (Please note that I mean no personal criticism of these gentlemen, who did their best within the culture they were born into. Rather, it is a criticism of culture.)

In my early life, I was exposed to actual hathayoga from Krishnamacharya and his son T.K.V. Desikachar, who understood it to be the mother’s milk of spiritual India. They were both cynical of the Indian business of spirituality without its actual means, Yoga. Krishnamacharya, for example, said that the great Ramana Maharishi of the south had made people lazy by dangling spiritual promises without the practical means of Yoga to actualize their ideals. All over India I found no actual sadhana in spiritual communities, ashrams, and the like. They were dysfunctional environments concealing aberrant sexuality. When you take sex away from people in the search for transcendence, it inevitably comes out as an illness. Many of these famous guru personalities achieved worldwide fame. But in the ancient convergence of Yoga with darshanam (‘seeing’) culture, we find practical instruction in how to make use of hathayoga and the Yoga of sexuality in a person’s own spiritual practice and make it functional, practical, pure, and completely useful to the heart’s intent. The revelation of female-male union reveals the heart in which we continue to revel.

In the Hridayayogasutra I wrote that we must deal with our sex. It is where we are stuck. It is the knot we must all undo one way or another. We still carry the weight of history’s spiritual/religious attempts to bypass sex, whether we are religious or not. Hidden medieval thought structures prevail in us that assume sex, the body, and life itself are sinful, and that God is apart and above in a higher realm of purity. These belief systems are the source of male-female dysfunction through causing us to deny sex, which is actually our first spiritual and human responsibility. Whether we deny sex through casual promiscuity, fearful guilt and shame, or the attempt at spiritually sanctioned celibacy, we must turn this around and become completely sex positive. It is in the perfect and intrinsic harmony of male and female that we know God, the Hridaya heart blooming as all. But as it also says in the Hridayayogasutra, ‘In the pain that is felt around sexual relationships, this is a hard pill to swallow.’

In ancient Vedic times, all of reality (including the body and sex) was embraced, not transcended or manipulated. (Deity, guru, God, spouse, body and its cosmos all arising in and as the One reality.) All is God. There were no power structures of special access, no contemplative efforts, no ‘future realization of God or enlightenment,’ only relationship, besotted intimacy with all. In this culture, intimate partnership was the powerful context of recognising one another as the force of life, rather than avoiding relationship or dramatizing each other’s imagined limitations. Yogic culture is about such relationship only. It is not a search.

 

 Rama and Sita. INDIAN MINIATURE PAINTING, BASOLI SCHOOL, C.1800.

Rama and Sita. INDIAN MINIATURE PAINTING, BASOLI SCHOOL, C.1800.

The Yoga of Right Relationship

Right relationship is the association of autonomous individuals who freely choose to be with each other and practice intimacy even in the pain that is inherited and felt around sexual relationship. In Yoga, we commit to the primary practice of bodily intimacy within and without to heal the trauma of previous generations and our own.

I teach that to enter into appropriate partnership is our first Yogic or spiritual responsibility. After about seven years of life and relationship study, experience, and experimentation—ideally at ages 21 to 28—we recommend people choose a monogamous partner, perhaps with the guidance of their teachers. Not polyamory, which is a new form of patriarchy in that it is usually used as a way to avoid the fire of polarity, and control others through the ideal of cool, detached nonchalance. In monogamy, we can go deeply into all that polarity offers to both in the unfolding of Hridayashakti. However, we acknowledge that inherited obstructive patterns and pain can run deep. Sometimes we must acknowledge that amidst each other’s different patterns and circumstances, all the loving that can be done, has been done. After a long time of testing, it can be most appropriate to separate, with the same sacred gratitude in which you came together. (In fact, serial monogamy is our present social norm in the West, and it is best to acknowledge this and end the blame game that occurs in most separations or the sense of personal failure that may grip you.)

I teach and encourage everyone to practice sexuality in their own lives in deeply held personal, private, and sacred circumstance. In fact, Yoga is a catalyst that brings out a person’s latent talents and skills, including the skill of relating to another. Sometimes people are even able to find appropriate partnering for themselves in the Yoga circumstance. In retreat, people are away from the sex casualness of the world and the usual life and have a good circumstance to consider all aspects of their life. They understand and can relax. However, some few have unresolved past pain to the extent that they cannot relax. If this seems to be the case I ask people to study the books and other resources, begin The Promise practice, and come if and when they feel ready.

A friend once asked me how a person should tell who to have sex with. In our convoluted dissociation from our natural instincts, it may not be immediately obvious to us. The answer is that three things must be present: like, love, and lust. The latter gets a bad rap due to our negative experiences of sexuality devoid of receptivity. Yet genuine desire—polarity and its chemistries—is the nurturing force of life, and the entire natural world, including us, is participating in it constantly. Life is only interested in the continuity of life. Mother Nature came up with an excellent means to ensure that all species flourish and evolve: the absolute attraction of opposites. Reality moves through us as these forms for this purpose. Life is sex. The pollen in the air is the sex of plants. The flowers and the sounds of animals are the sex of nature. No matter how convoluted the human mind becomes, we are still this condition. We do not need to ‘become’ anything in order to have a free and healthy life. There is nothing to be liberated from.

However, once the initial hormones of desire (nature’s way of ensuring we get together) wear off after approximately three months, we need to transform our intimacy into adult loving to continue in the polarity. Otherwise the weight of social patterning threatens to take over. In this commitment to relationship, the practice of hathayoga returns us to actual and natural participation in the Real, and disintegrates the patriarchal impositions that make stable relationship impossible.

It is through partnership, the most valuable thing on Mother Earth, that we progressively heal the vulgarity and pain of past sexual behaviours and attitudes. Because receptivity has been brainwashed out of men, most behave in aberrant ways to try and feel what they have been trained out of feeling. Women likewise learn to be defensive only. Healing these patterns can be a slow turning, but I promise you, an appropriate Yoga practice for you speeds it up incredibly. The visceral changes for both men and women quickly arise as the nervous system becomes receptive through the frontal line. Even male penetration becomes a profoundly receptive and sensitive function in the total context of feminine receptivity. In the meantime, we must protect victims and educate predators, and that includes everyOne. It is urgent. Of course, there are many exceptions, but the common life still acts out these sad patterns.

But to step outside of the toxicity around sex we cannot forever discuss the toxicity we may have experienced, as endless attention to the problem will not resolve the problem. Behavioural patterns fall away naturally when they are no longer felt to be necessary. Each person must claim their own life and practice their loving to build something positive amongst the ruins. But to do so requires an accurate and effective teaching and practice, and this has too often not been made available.

In the course of our daily lives there are clearly difficulties and pain. Acknowledgement of the pain is a healing process. We are in a great nurturing force, and we can move into our natural state and relinquish the patterns of the past that have been imposed on us. Top of FormAs we embrace our lives through Yoga (including and especially sexual relationship), much buried emotion may surface. It is like opening dusty old filing cabinets. Deep pain is felt around sex due to the lack of receptivity we have all experienced, and intimate practice will uncover these feelings. Love brings up everything that is unlove to be seen and understood, and we release what is not needed to receive what is needed. The natural flow of feelings is enacted and practiced: from fear and anger, to its cause in pain, to grief, to compassion and finally forgiveness, in that order. The next, more basic emotion is predicted and permitted. So, the process of relationship can be disturbing, as all of society’s dysfunction and the pain from one’s family lineage and own life is felt and released. Trauma is a popular modern word for what can also be called karma, and we release it for ourselves, for our ancestors, and for future generations simultaneously. I offer this practical way forward with inconsolable sadness and overwhelming empathy for all of us who still suffer the pain of the denial of life and the male dominance that does not completely receive the feminine.

Relationship Free of Power Structures

Many are rightly suspicious of sexual relationships between teachers and students, because so many so-called teachers have not only maintained positions of superiority, thereby disempowering and controlling their students, but then had sex with students despite “ethical” rules being in place—even despite glamorising celibacy as an ideal. It gets crazy. Because they do not have a healthy expression of sex in their own private life they use secular power to get it (and by secular, I mean any institutional order, as much in Yoga or religion as it is in politics or business). There should never be any sex within a secular power structure, because it disempowers both participants, as the natural intelligence and impulses of life are overridden by social structures. But this means that within the painful history of male dominance in societies, consent in usual male-female relationships is scarcely possible. “Consent,” even, is the language of the power structures that must be deconstructed so that autonomous and equal people are free to choose to relate. Pioneering feminists were aware of this and attempted to address power structures. Standing gratefully in their power, we can now finish the job. Just as she died, my mother said, “Mark. Don’t let anything hold you back. Finish the work.” The only way to detoxify sex is for each and every person to claim their autonomy, practice their own direct relationship with reality, and step free of secular power structures within and without. Because of the cultural habit of patriarchy, my teacher Desikachar would always say it is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure the relationship with the student is equitable and negotiable, as students can find it initially difficult to recognize their teachers as equals and ordinary people. The teacher must attain ordinariness, empowered only on the basis of embrace of life itself, not on the basis of a claim of special knowledge, state, attainment, or other point of difference. The claim of special attainment is inevitably at the expense of everybody else, who are made to believe they are not yet attained. It is the denial of life.

The argument continues between those who wish to establish formal codes of ethics and those who support intuitive ethical understanding of life. In a Yoga context, suggesting that ethics means abstaining from all teacher-student sexual relationships implies sex is an unavoidably negative phenomenon and puts the teacher on a higher ground than students. It reinforces the patriarchal assumptions we must dissolve. It is a cultural fault, and is itself the environment within which deviance happens. We have seen what happens when we define ethical behaviour and sexuality as two different things. Provided that the teacher has taken responsibility for their own non-hierarchical ordinariness, and provided that there is an active Yoga of each person’s empowerment through their own direct relationship with Life—two rare and significant evolutions in human experience—sexual relationship may begin naturally and freely, just as it does between any two autonomous free humans. We must break the thought structures that insist the teacher is someone special who inevitably disempowers students by their mere existence.

When a person is fully and directly involved in their own experience of life, they are able to intuitively feel their own ethics or modes of right behaviour relative to all others (yama and niyama). But when external codes are proposed from the fear of misbehaviour, the person’s own intrinsic wisdom and connection to all life is put in doubt. Anyone who practices and teaches direct relationship with the nurturing force of reality is inevitably a non-conformist and will follow life’s instinctive and naturally respectful ethics, rather than the laws of secular power structures. The suggestion that all can have a direct relationship with Life’s natural ethics is alarming to those who have not yet come to trust their own goodness and the intrinsic goodness of life and sex, those who have not been taught an actual Yoga of direct intimacy with the purity of reality. Codes of sexual ethics, however benevolently couched, assume that sex is an uncontrollable and bad force, rather than the nurturing and regenerative force of life, freely chosen. Such codes are a despairing alternative to the great instinctive ‘strength receiving’ that all can come to feel through the healing practices of intimacy: body, breath, and sexual relationship.

 SIVA, THE LORD WHOSE HALF IS WOMAN (ARDHANARISVARA), MANKOT SCHOOL, WESTERN PUNJAB HILLS, C.1710–20. THE ANCIENT FIGURE OF THE ARDHANARISVARA, WHO IS HALF MALE, HALF FEMALE, EXPRESSES THE MASCULINE AND FEMININE THAT ARE ALREADY IN PERFECT HARMONY WITHIN US ALL.

SIVA, THE LORD WHOSE HALF IS WOMAN (ARDHANARISVARA), MANKOT SCHOOL, WESTERN PUNJAB HILLS, C.1710–20.THE ANCIENT FIGURE OF THE ARDHANARISVARA, WHO IS HALF MALE, HALF FEMALE, EXPRESSES THE MASCULINE AND FEMININE THAT ARE ALREADY IN PERFECT HARMONY WITHIN US ALL.

Sex is the Natural State

There is a radiance in anyone whose life is entirely sex positive, and this radiance is everyone’s birth right. Such company has been of great benefit in my life. I found that there is sublime advantage in upasana, sitting closely with friends in this consideration. Yet being around anyone whose male-female polarity is resolved in the heart can bring up all kinds of feelings in a person, including a sense of lack or despair, or a feeling of being attracted, repelled, or confused. In a Yoga context this is positive, as these feelings arise to be seen, understood, and released. Relaxing into our own perfection allows us to resolve the habits of sexual politics into the profundity of the heart, which is the perfect union of male and female.

Within the body, male and female have no delineation from one another; there are no sexual politics. It is written in the Samdhinirmocana Sutra that the body is already in the awakened state. As life, as reality itself, the body is senior to the mind, with mind arising only as a function of the whole body. Everyone is completely loved and completely nurtured in the natural state. We are in the natural state, where everything is sex, fully functioning and harmonised. Life (us) is extreme attractiveness between opposites, arising in radiance as the multiplicity of individuation, like a tree with thousands of leaves moving in all directions. In the natural state we have natural affection for everybody as an expression of this. We cease to obsess over each other’s imagined limitations. Life becomes real. All sexual ambiguity and conflict resolves in the heart. This is everyone’s actuality and it can be enjoyed but not attained, because it is already the case.

Our Responsibility: The Yoga of Love and Sex

It is our individual and collective responsibility now, in the truest sense of the word: we have theability to respond to the dreadful situation we find ourselves in. I passionately urge everybody to investigate this matter and understand the gifts that are there in the good company of my friends, and the practices from the Great Tradition that we teach, whatever your own cultural background. Please take this writing’s academic logic and merge it with the authority of your own intellect and experience until it is yours or modified by you. Please translate it into your own language, logic, or cultural framework and communicate it to your own demographic. Our world depends on it, and so does the ecology of Mother Earth. Sustainability begins with the natural wildness of your own body, breath, and sex.

In summary, Yoga is the marriage of God and Sex, two loaded words which are already in union, because sex is the regenerative power of this universe that creates all things and presently exists as all things. Sex is God’s method on Earth. We cannot bypass our responsibility to participate lawfully in our own reality. The weight of religious history still presses on us with the hidden assumption that sex is lesser, so it is up to us to reclaim it as the pure and holy matter that it is; the heart’s activity. It is our responsibility to heal the apparent dysfunction of male and female and return to the intrinsic male-female harmony that is the nurturing power of life itself. It is my intention that the present writing and all my books offer ‘guide books’ or manuals for all to embark on this necessary human adventure.

I invite anyone and everyone in any chosen gathering of sincere people who have any questions about all this, or additions to it, to participate in a deep dialogue with me and my friends. Any time, any place. Please be in touch. This is what we do, and it must be ongoing until we all come home to the peace and power of our own condition.

 Image: Robert Sturman

Image: Robert Sturman

“You are the power of this cosmos arising as pure intelligence and utter beauty. You are in perfect and intrinsic harmony with the whole cosmos, with air, light, water, green realm of plant and with male-female collaboration, the heart form and substance of all arising, the power and nurturing force of the cosmos. This is not a spiritual statement. It is not a poem or a song. It is a humble fact. Yoga is your participation in this fact.”

— Mark Whitwell