Title Image

desire Tag

The Look of Love

body paintingLove is an act of the imagination. We daub our lover with our oldest longing. We paint his lips with our most noble and generous magnificence. Love photoshops her imperfections. Love ennobles his good qualities, assigns them with mythical powers.  In our lover’s vow we talk, we touch, we seal our dreams with a kiss. We know that we are beautiful. In the warm nascence of Love we touch our holy longing. In the Mystery of barely knowing him we travel the world, design our new home, merge in our anticipation of something new, something more. As the sun rises we bask in possibility.

Yet according to research on neurobiology, the potent alchemy of attraction is spiked with dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Our intense emotional and physical fusion is only possible with someone we do not yet really know.

We are as changeable as chameleons, as contrary as Mary.  In order to feel fully alive we need a sprinkling of mystery. We require a dash of  novelty. We need a splash of  change, blended with just enough safety and  continuity to ground us. Risk and Fear. Safety and Adventure. We fluctuate like clouds that shape shift across a summer sky.

When we commit to each other, marry or cohabit, our brains produce the bonding chemicals, oxytocin and vasopressin.  We want togetherness – and difference to keep things interesting.  Yet in the otherness of our partner we so often respond with judgement. Or we set the bar high for an athletic leap of great expectations which breaks the legs of spiritual growth and sprains our soul’s warm desire.

Our heightened dependence on just one person makes us vulnerable. So we stack up the sandbags against the rising waters of uncertainty. We construct a prison of predictability in our relationships, and choose to stay behind narrow bars of bland neutrality.

Our script of staid of assumptions goes something like this: “I always know what you’re thinking” or “he doesn’t talk about emotions.”  It may sound like “he’s my rock” or “she would never have an affair”.  It might be the stolidly dependable “she always takes care of all our finances.”

So we dis-own our passion and vitality, clutch at things we feel we can control. We blinker our eyes and stop being curious.

Risk and Fear are the Guardians at the gate of Love. We cannot be truly intimate or sexually playful when we are vigilant or fearful. We cannot be truly intimate or sexually adventurous when we do not take a risk.

images45AR3A8POur relationships work, for a while, within a bounded space, enclosed by children and pets, in-laws, work, social responsibility. Until they don’t.  Until something happens to shatter the thin veneer of compromise. Until a raging torrent rushes through the aridity of our sexuality. Until the brittle sacrifices implode in a shower of dust. It may be a death, a health-scare, an affair, the loss of a business, our child leaving home. The comfort of fireside companionship, the tangible solidity of the things we own, and the cadence of routine now does not feed our hunger. We go online and gorge, like starving anorexics feasting on chocolate sundae. Or in the seductive gaze of our work colleague or the children’s tennis coach, we swallow the sweetness we have denied ourselves for decades. And in the rapturous delusion we  transcend the mundane and we soar above the clouds sprinkled golden with sunbeams. We become alive again.

images6YU9IO9DLove is a creative act of the Imagination. Its realm is rarefied, intangible, briefly captured like an exquisite butterfly where it flutters to the sound of music, poetry, the wind whispering through the trees.

Intimacy waits patiently for Love’s transient rapture to disperse. Intimacy requires time, repetition and the ability to choose each other, again and again. Intimacy is a practiced dance where two dancers move across the floor, present and focused, moving as one, yet firm in our own foot work.  The dance of Intimacy requires tenderness and some acceptance. It requires routine and a sense of safety. It requires trust and an ability to create an emotional connection. Yet so often as we spin our soft cocoon of companionable safety, Eros feels swaddled. He becomes a pudgy Cupid, not a virile Lover.

Sex therapist David Schnarch writes, “We’ve reduced adults to infants and infants to a frail ghost of their resilience, reduced marriage to providing safety, security, and compensation for childhood disappointments. We remove our essential drives for autonomy and freedom.”

Psychologist Esther Perel suggests that too much closeness restricts the sense of freedom and autonomy we need for sexual pleasure. “When intimacy collapses into fusion it is not lack of closeness but too much closeness that impedes desire.” She maintains that intimacy only sometimes begets sexuality and that our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness. With too much distance there can be no connection and with too much fusion (the soul mate theory) there is no one to connect with.  “Increased emotional stability ironically what makes for  good intimacy, does not make for good sex.

Anais Nin wrote so poignantly, “Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we do not know how to replenish its source.” So how do we replenish Love’s source? In The Passionate Marriage – David Schnarch writes pragmatically,  love and desire are “not a matter of peeling away the layers but of developing them—growing ourselves up to be mature and resourceful adults who can solve our current problems.”

images6RA72WW7It requires an artist’s eye, a poet’s sensibility, a gourmet’s palate. The willingness to be curious, to engage in the mystery, to re-ignite the flame of Eros with the spark of our human imagination. Perhaps in the break-down of all we know is safe and sure, we discover that it is our partner who has been taking care of our marriage after all. In stretching out of our familiar roles, seeing each other with new eyes we can rebuild a relationship that has collapsed under the heavy weight of our control.

Proust wrote “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” In the shift of perception, the releasing of our illusions, we see our partner with new eyes. Remember the Na’vi greeting in the movie Avatar? Remember those eyes that said “I see you.”

When we dare to see our partner, extend rather than contract, engage and offer rather than stay stuck in a one-dimensional sitcom, we can risk sharing ourselves more deeply, more honestly, and revel in our aliveness once more.  When we balance with skill and reverence the two basic life forces: individuality and togetherness we can look at our own reflection and ask Who do I want to be?imagesLRZ6JLZG

The Look of Love  Dusty Springfield





Show Me Heaven

How do we become exiled from the inner sanctuary of our own essence?  How do we stay too long in situations, in relationships that bruise and scar.  For so many of us, life becomes a bleak winter of lacklustre, habitual behaviour, where we respond like laboratory rats to cues that trigger the reward centres in our brains, numb to the call of our bodies, the weeping of our souls. Pinned on strips of green felt, like jewel-winged butterflies, frozen in long-forgotten flight.

In her exquisite poem, Wild Geese, Mary Oliver extols:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

In our guilt-steeped Judaic Christian culture, we dishonour our instincts, cage the soft animal of our body. Inhabit only our heads, blindfold our eyes, oblivious to our own specialness.  From early childhood, we anesthetize our feelings; grow up, crippled by unworthiness, stunted by shame.  As adults we live captive lives. Senses dulled by the drone of the hive mentality, the tainted taboos ancient repressions. Too often we deny the jalapeño desire that heats our bellies, sets our hearts aflame.

Here is a poignant story, told by Antoinette Liechti Maccarone,  of an old Mexican woman whose husband lay dying.  Her granddaughter had come to assist her beloved grandmother with the rituals of bathing and preparation for the finality of his death. The old woman was terribly distressed at seeing her husband’s frail naked body. And her granddaughter asked, “What troubles you so, Grandmother?” Her grandmother replied, “My beautiful child, from our wedding night we kept our bodies covered from one another, always wearing our long cotton night clothes. I feel very sad now. He is such a handsome man even in his dying. I wish I had seen him fresh.”

And so we wait, we harness, we restrain our lusty natures until it is too late.  Freud believed that the Id lived in dark, inaccessible realm of our subconscious. It was Id that drove our archaic impulses, our unchained desires.  Rumi knew this voluptuous, dewiness of appetite, as he wrote, breathless, “There is some kiss we want with our whole lives, the touch of spirit on the body. Seawater begs the pearl to break its shell. And the lily, how passionately it needs some wild darling!”

Many cultures have “inversion rituals” that overthrow the social norm. These manifest in the form of bawdy carnivals, gay pride parades. And so to unleash our desire, to touch the warm wetness of our own animal softness, we may need our own inversion ritual. A little transgression to encourage the seed of fecund desire to grow in the garden of our delicious delight. This may be as risqué as wearing no underwear beneath a silky dress, dancing naked bathed in moonlight, making love under the stars on the beach, licking melted chocolate from the soft hollows of the one you love…or staying in bed all day, decadently dining on strawberries and cream … Perhaps today might be  the right time, the  perfect moment,  to break free from  the trusses that tie us all to beliefs and customs that cover our smiles, hush our laughter.

What little transgressions can you conjure up to bring novelty and magic to your erotic nature…. what sublimely sensual pleasure, what wanton playfulness to nurture the red rose of your uniqueness and joy this new day?  Allow the lantern of  the imaginal realm to light the landscape of your unchartered desire.  Gorge greedily from the banquet of life, with shining eyes and hungry heart. Climb out of the window, and feel the moonlight caress your skin. Says Rumi,At night, I open the window and ask the moon to come and press its face against mine. Breathe into me. Close the language door and open the love window. The moon won’t use the door, only the window.”

This is dedicated to Sophie: May you step onto the path of your own incredible beauty. May you press your brave heart upon the loveliness that is you. Maria McKee sings Show Me Heaven