At last I have put it together!
There are two things that I’ve been thinking about that have created a giant insight, just this morning, which will inform the book that I swear to god I am writing this summer.
(1) There was some social injustice stuff that went down on my campus this past semester. You may have read about some of it on the Huffington Post. As I struggled to understand my role on campus through that process, I read biographies and autobiographies of social justice leaders. And here’s what I noticed:
The books and stories told me WHAT THESE LEADERS DID, which is helpful in terms of understanding how social change happens at the system level.
What the books and stories didn’t tell me is HOW THESE LEADERS FELT while they were doing all these things, and what was the relationship between what they did and how they felt, which is what I needed in order to understand how INDIVIDUALS participate in the process of social change.
Think about these leaders: Gandhi, King, Mandela, the Dalai Lama. These are people with profound mindfulness practices deeply rooted in their spiritual traditions. They also experienced righteous anger, yeah, they lost their patience sometimes, but what their examples teach me is that what makes them LEADERS rather than FOLLOWERS in a social justice movement is, I believe, their inner foundation of emotional centeredness. In other words, HOW THEY FELT mattered more to their leadership than WHAT THEY DID.
(2) Despite my worship of science and its methodology, I benefited more from Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer, than from Ian Dunbar, the dog scientist.
Ian Dunbar and the science of behavioral psychology tells me What To Do to Train My Dog. Cesar tells me How to Feel While Training My Dog. He tells me that I have a responsibility to meet my dog’s needs before I insist that the dog meet mine, and what my dog needs is a stable psychological structure, created by me, so that he can feel safe. The dog needs me to FEEL a particular way more than he needs me to DO any particular things.
It’s how you feel that makes the difference, not so much what you do.
And that’s why so many sex books fall short.
They tell you what to do – how to have an orgasm, how to give oral sex… but not knowing WHAT TO DO often isn’t what prevents people from having satisfying, joyful sex lives; it’s not knowing HOW TO FEEL. How do I feel about orgasms? How do I feel about oral sex? How do I feel about my own body and my partner’s body and my partner’s feelings about my body and their body?
It’s the feelings that make the real difference, not the actions.
It’s true in relationships too: what you DO about being broken hearted matters much less than HOW YOU FEEL about being broken hearted. Do you retain hope of reconciliation? Do you retain bitterness, blame, and an unresolved sense of injustice? How can you let go of the pain, move through it, if you can’t change the circumstances that gave rise to the pain? By feeling okay with the pain. Awareness and acceptance. It’s not what you do with the pain, it’s how you feel about it.
And that’s the dirty normal. Feeling okay with all the stuff your culture has taught you to feel Not Okay with.
So that’s what I’m gonna do in the book. Talk about how to feel about sex, how sex needs you to feel about it, so that it can flourish in your life.