Thursday, October 16, 2008

The power of celibacy

More than once during my practice of celibacy I’ve thought, “Thank God for celibacy.” Reading Steve Pavlina’s new book, Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth, helped me clarify why not having sex can be so transformative.


First, let me say that Pavlina’s book is one of the most thoughtful, meditative self-help books I’ve ever read. That’s saying a lot given that I’ve read a ton of self-help books over the years. I’m usually disappointed by the lack of creativity and innovation that goes into most of these books. Mostly they just repeat what others have said before.


I want to read thoughts I’ve never thought before. I want my socks to be knocked off. I love reading books that open up totally new areas of interest in me. Have you ever had a thought that was so daring and new that you just knew it came from the mind of God? That’s what I’m looking for. Unfortunately, those types of books are rare.


However, Personal Development for Smart People comes close. As you read you find yourself having aha! moments along the way. Pavlina’s writing style is easy, but the book is dense with ideas. You can’t skim through this book because every sentence has something different to say. There’s no fluff.


So back to the power of celibacy. Pavlina frames the self development process with three main principles: truth, love, and power. There are more principles (oneness, intelligence, authority, and courage), but my bursts of insight came about when reading about the three principles, specifically power.


Not having sex is powerful because it enables us to reclaim our personal power. When I started having sex as a young woman, I got caught up in the man’s dreams, the man’s demands, the man’s time. I totally lost myself.


Sex is a powerful force, and at the time I couldn’t imagine my life without it. As a result, I made bad decisions around relationships. Because I couldn’t imagine life as a single woman, I settled for less on many occasions.


I remember as clear as day the moment I made the decision to stop the madness. I was in a relationship with a man who was actually decent, but there was too much distance emotionally (partly my fault) and we didn’t click sexually. Well, let’s say he clicked and I didn’t.


After one too many unsatisfying sexual encounters, I snapped. Why was I putting myself through this? I assessed the pros and cons of the relationship. I could only conclude that I was in it just to be with a man. Was that a good enough reason? Shouldn’t there be more?


I mean, I cared about him, but I wasn’t in love with him. We didn’t have children together. We weren’t married. He was chronically broke. He was a decent man, but was that enough?


In a flash I realized it wasn’t. Not only did I not want to be with him, I didn’t want to be with anyone if they couldn’t treat me the way I deserved to be treated. I decided then and there that I was going to practice celibacy until such time that I met a man who cherished me and complimented me.


This was a new and powerful thought for me, because up until then, I’d always allowed my emotions to dictate my relationships. Even just making the decision to practice celibacy opened the door to a long dormant part of me: Donna Marie, meet your personal power.


Since then, celibacy has been a tremendous force for good in my life. As Pavlina says, power is


“…your ability to consciously and deliberately create the world around you. When your power is weak, you can’t effectively satisfy your needs and desires, and you become a victim of your environment. When your power is strong, you successfully cultivate a life of your own choosing, and your environment reflects it.”


Whenever I practice celibacy, my power grows. When you’re in a sexual relationship, it's the power of 2 that dominates. That intimate communication with the other can take you over if you don’t have a clear sense of your own identity (power of 1). When you practice celibacy, you become really clear because you’re on your own.


Ultimately, personal power leads to a strong sense of identity. A strong sense of identity will empower you to have better relationships, more loving, more authentic, and definitely sexier -- and that's what we want, right?


Pavlina says that some of the blocks to personal power are timidity, cowardice, and negative conditioning. So true. This is why so many people end up having accidental sex and saying, “I don’t know what happened. It just happened! See, what had happened was…”


How to build power during celibacy? Pavlina suggests, among other things, mastering the first hour. I remember when I first started Weight Watchers, I created a habit of praying, eating a good breakfast, taking my vitamins, and exercising during the first part of the morning. It laid a good foundation for the rest of the day.


For people practicing celibacy, mastering the last hour might make more sense. For it’s bed time that’s the most challenging. When you’re in a sexual relationship, the bed is where all the action takes place. I’ll never forget in one of my workshops a woman asked, “But how do I deal with going to bed at night?” We all knew what she was talking about.


If you're not working with your inner power, it will be too tempting to make booty calls, calls of desperation. You'll be snacking on ice cream all night, or worse, drinking too much and/or doing drugs.


Dealing with loneliness and physical desire is challenging, but this is when your courage and self-discipline must kick in. There are no shortcuts to the process. To help you through it, read my book Sensual Celibacy and definitely Pavlina's Personal Development for Smart People. Put them on your nightstand.

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