We're all familiar with organic food. This is food grown without pesticide sprays or toxic fertilizers, from natural seeds that have escaped genetic engineering. In theory, organic food has no synthetic preservatives or artificial dyes, nothing extra that it does not need (like plastic filler) and it's handled in a way that preserves some of the integrity of what nature created. Due to crop loss, it's expensive (though cheaper than restaurant food, which most of us eat a lot of).
But it's better. Organic food is often sold closer to the natural growing times, and there are some philosophies of organic diet (Macrobiotics, for example) which suggest that we eat only food grown locally and when it's in season. Most important, we think of organic food as whole food, rather than food which is fractioned off like white flower, or recombined to make weird things like fortified breakfast cereal or vitamin D skim milk.
The organic food philosophy (usually known in Europe as Biodynamics) honors the reality that both the land and people need to be healthier and the relationship between the two is food. There is an acknowledged connection between ecology (which means the "study of home") and the health of the people who live in that home.
A concept at the core of organic eating is sustainability. We know that our current agricultural system is killing the planet and making us sick; we know that most of the foods available in the supermarket lack basic nutrition. Organic farming, Biodynamics and other philosophies show how we can sustain both human life and planetary life through one process.
We also know that the society's teachings about relationships, which glorify possession of other people, which rely on artificial structures, and which are usually based on oppressive, negative ideas, are harming us, and damaging health of the planet, just as aggressively as agribusiness. Unfulfilled, emotionally undernourished people an be risky to the happiness of others, especially when they grow angry and spread emotional toxins. And this is most of what we get in the world when we enter the human environment.
So, what about organic love?
Toxic ideas about love, like toxic food, are sold in the supermarket, at the check-out counter. Flip through those magazines, or just look at the covers (who doesn't?). They teach us to think in terms of ideas like "married" and "monogamous"; we can learn to please or be more pleasing to our partner; we can have affairs, which means lying and "cheating," and there are instruction manuals for catching our partners in these activities. We read a lot about rape and violence, which are portrayed like sexy advertising. People are "gay" or "straight" and if they're really wild, they're "bisexual." We tend to consume these ideas as unconsciously as we consume food containing polysorbate-80, hormone-tainted meat and sugar-packed soft drinks with laced with propylene glycol.
Over the past 40 or so years, several different relationship outlooks have added some diversity and allowed people to be more natural.
The polyamory movement is one of these. Polyamory (meaning more than one love) suggests that it's natural for people to have more than one sexual relationship at a time. When you consider how many people do have more than one sexual relationship at a time (but deny it), then the real claim-to-fame of polyamory is that people are getting together and making a choice to face reality, and to be happier as who they are.
Polyamory has its own problems; for one thing it's a kind of "movement" and not everybody wants to join a movement. Part of its movement quality, though, is based on the idea that this lifestyle requires support. Another problem with poly is that it's based on the idea of "poly," meaning more than one lover. What about people who want to have more natural relationships tending toward monogamy? Here, the notion of "polyamory" can alienate people who may otherwise have a lot else in common with poly folk.
Many people have observed that polyamorous relationships often have many of the same confusion and toxic issues as monogamous relationships, just spread out among more people. Some would say that this makes the weirdness worse, and others would say that expanded relationship models give us a chance to see the dynamics in action, and work them out openly (remembering how many people cheat).
It may be that so-called monogamy has problems, but that polyamory does not really address them because these problems reside closer to the core of who we are, and what we are trained to be in our society.
Without going into a long discourse on religion, most of our ideas about relationships are based on Christian metaphysics (God was born to a virgin and never had sex; and the love of God is more important than human love experienced in the body), which are then heavily overlaid with romantic ideals (such as the idea of finding a one-and-only erotic love, to the dismissal of all other loves) that send us spinning wildly in the other direction.
Combine this debate with natural hormone biology, and you can see all our conflict in and about relationships, from guilt to jealousy to cheating, as products of a war between two belief systems (religion versus romance) plus our naturally horny, delightfully curious human nature.
In witness to life, I offer a few ideas about how we might go about creating organic love.
<> All love starts with selflove. In order to love another person we need to be at peace with who we are, which means loving and appreciating ourselves-including sexually. Selfloving means being a whole person. If we bring this whole person into our relationships, we are likely to find greater peace and fulfillment [see sidebar below].
<> Love requires trust in order to grow naturally. Trust is both intuitive and cultivated. In an atmosphere of trust, it is easier to feel safe enough to be oneself, which will allow greater expression in loving relationships-of love, fear and other emotions that we face.
<> People are naturally curious about one another. Can we deny this? Why bother? We need to allow for human nature in our human relationships. If we are with a beautiful person, we can presume that others will be curious and want to get close to that beauty; we can presume the same thing about ourselves.
<> People seem more beautiful when we are in love. And we seem more beautiful to them. When we are in love, we are love magnets. If we allow for this fact rather than trying to deny it, I believe we'll be happier and live more naturally.
<> People really cannot be controlled; we are our own people. We can lie and act like we are controlled; we can kid ourselves and think we control another. Both are false rather than wrong. Once control has entered a relationship, it has filled in spaces where many other nutrients are lacking, such as trust, allowing, or selflove.
<> Relationships take their own form and each is different. Relationships grow, like plants; they are change as they become. We may go through different seasons of love, and might want one partner some years or some days, and more than one partner some years or some days.
<> Communication is a learned skill and is essential to relationships. Communication is based on honesty; honesty is a learned skill as well. We learned to lie in order to defend ourselves against deception, control and attack. In order to communicate honestly, we need to teach one another to do so patiently-within contexts that are free from deception, control and attack.
<> Our homes need to support our relationships. As our own people, we need our own spaces. It is much healthier for people to have safe retreats, a safe space to call their own. I suggest that in live-in, long-term relationships, people have their own rooms and their own beds, and invite one another as guests.
<> Sexual beings often make babies. Though the science of this was not understood until the late 19th century, we now know for sure that sex can lead to birth. We know that most pregnancies are unplanned, but there is no excuse for this. Men and women each need to take 100% responsibility for birth control, and for birth, as a matter of love for one another and for the unborn. We cannot always stop undesired pregnancy, but we can all accept responsibility for working to do so.
<> We are each responsible for our own healing of childhood wounding and past relationships. If we don't, we will dump our toxic emotions, most of which began with our family of origin (blame, guilt, shame, resentment) onto our partners rather than dealing with them. Taking this responsibility would include each person in a relationship being on a conscious path of growth, whether spiritual or with a therapist of some kind: having a space outside the relationship to deal with one's own life, including relationship experiences.
<> Jealousy is not what it seems to be, and to love organically we need to get to the heart of the matter. Jealousy is an expression of deep attachment, and to transcend it we must approach it as a natural erotic force, in a sense, as erotic pain. We are all of mortal flesh and will not be with our partners "forever." But we can be with them in any one moment, which is all that there is anyway.>>
My philosophy of organic love begins with the idea that all love is an expression of selflove. We say this casually, we read it in spiritual textbooks, but the concept is rather elusive. The reason it's elusive is, I believe, that despite the fact that we are very often taught to hate ourselves by advertising, teachers and parents, we don't see all the forms that self-hatred takes -- such as self- doubt, or shame. And to compound things, we call hatred love.
If, for example, we buy into the idea that an exercise program or a new pair of sunglasses makes us more lovable, this is buying into the deeper idea that we are unlovable. We thus try to turn unlove into love, but it does not work; we just go on being unloving toward ourselves, expecting different results.
This fundamental confusion about how we feel about ourselves corresponds to a fundamental confusion about how we feel about each other. If we feel unlovable and seek another for the feeling of being loved, we're really multiplying the sense of being unloved. This may sound harsh, but as evidence I offer the condition that relationships so often wind up in, which is a festival of guilt, mistrust and resentment. And then we wonder why.
Selfloving is an important factor in sex. What we bring into relationships we multiply in relationships. What we bring into sex, we multiply in sex. Just because you're not making babies does not mean you're not using sex to procreate. What we procreate are feelings, and the deepest feelings we have are feelings we hold about ourselves.
Masturbation is the most fundamental sex. It is the first sex we ever have, and it has nothing to do with romance, reproduction, or commitment. It is purely about pleasure and surrender.
If our ideas about masturbation are tainted by guilt, shame, unworthiness, fear or uneasiness, then these are core sexual values. We contain them, and when we open up to another person sexually these feelings that come out. We can act out sex on another person and seem, for a time, to get around our doubts, but what we're really doing is distracting ourselves from our own damaged or incomplete sense of self. The presence of another person can ease the grief of incomplete selflove, but it does not make it go away -- which is why so many times we are loved, but do not feel loved.
Sex is a central metaphor for love, and a powerful means of expressing love. This is why I suggest that sexual relationships start with exploring masturbation together. It's a kind of litmus test and clarifying process that helps us bring out our real feelings about sex, and about ourselves, before we actually engage our sexual energy directly.
There are many people who believe that sexual intercourse creates a direct energetic connection, through the lower chakras, which can last for many years. Information, feelings and other energy move through this connection. Yet we don't always know what is going on inside another person. Indeed, Tantric teachers tell us that working sexual energy stirs up the issues of the lower chakras (power and survival issues, for example) and exposes them.
Masturbating together recognizes this. It opens up sexual energy without forming a direct physical sexual bond. Yet it brings to the surface who we are, for the other person to see. It's a way of saying, "This is who I am in all my fearless glory." If we truly feel good about sex, and about ourselves, then we are likely to have a lot of fun masturbating with a potential lover. If not, there are reasons, and those reasons need to be explored, if there is going to be an honest and clear relationship. They are explored in a process of shared introspection -- of self-disclosure and listening.
When we share the emotions and ideas that arise in deep introspection, this is intimacy. Too often, sex is a way of getting around intimacy rather than entering intimacy. It is possible to have sex with another person without talking much about it at all. You just undress and do it. This feels like intimacy, but when the material that we are carrying inside comes to the surface, then we face the first test.
When you think of all the possible toxic complications of sex in our world, such as ethical concerns, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, it's amazing that sharing masturbation is not more popular. But you can't just share masturbation like you can jump into sex. It needs to be proposed gently, and carefully negotiated, and it can't be done "aggressively" since it's self-exploration. And this is a real test of a person's values -- which it's good to know before becoming sexually involved.
But it's natural: sharing natural primal sex in a ritual that can truly be called a return to an organic state of being.++
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