The Promise of the Erotic

Plato spoke of poikilos nomos, the Erotic tug of war that exists within each. Nomos denotes the letter of the law or convention. Poikilos speaks to the dynamism, complexity, impermanent nature of phenomena. The stalwart nature of Nomos, always and ever standing a solid ground of social agreement, asserts convention. Poikilos dances around the edges, teases, and taunts with the numinous, the possible shrouded in the impossible odds of the known world. They would look to be immortal enemies when, in fact, they are lovers who, not in spite of, but from friction birth the bittersweet, the crazy-wise, the love bite that is our Erotic birthright.

It is deliverance from the truly profane—the mundane, the lackluster, the mediocre. It is the Israel, the god-wrestling, of the body. It leaves the garments of our everyday lives torn away until there is simply this. This naked self-realization. In Eros, though, we are not the alone that we would be in the desert. We are with other. And in this there are three. The self, the other, and the interplay. We are the kiss, the one being kissed, and the one initiating the kiss.

Normally explored only under the purview of religion or the arts, the Erotic has its own doorway that does not diminish or exalt any of the three. It is the rare location where the raw assertion of the undisguised self is welcomed onto the stage of consciousness. It casts the nakedness, the incivility, the poorly socialized, seen as intransigent in rational circles as a question begging to be answered.

In every other arena ruthless self-assertion in an experiential effort to know oneself is shunned. It makes you “un”; unseemly, uncouth, unspiritual, unconscious. But only in the Erotic is the unconscious mind that typically must sneak around, operate in the dark, forcing passive aggressive tones because we know neither true surrender nor the purity of aggression, welcomed with open arms. It’s in the Erotic that these aspects get full citizenship in consciousness with the liberties of full expression.

Tears and snot, sniveling and crawling, needing and craving, power plays and fear play on the Erotic stage as beauty and release, vulnerability, desire, strength, and adventure. It is the shadow’s catalyst and the perfect casting of the light.

To know, as a man knows a woman, this life in such a rare and specific way is divinity itself.

Monks may have caves and this is beautiful. The Erotic artist has the world. Perceptual rooms emerge like flashing light hotel rooms where we are able to tryst with reality whether it’s on the wall tagged with graffiti you blur past, the lonely woman with too many grocery bags, the dog happy to be let off the leash. Distance dissolves and senses intoxicated with Eros’s elixir can behold the ugly, the joyous, the invisible with equal delight.

We can return to where discarded selves can emerge. This is why the work of the Erotic, so often diminished and minimized as mere indulgence or even ecstatic enjoyment, is fundamental to our humanness. Transcendence may happen from the shoulders up, but life happens from the heart down. Where blood pumps, where groins stir, where legs keep us in a state of motion. It is where the deeper questions go to reveal their answers, the rooms that exists outside of the security camera of the ego. And, perhaps because it is so cast aside it has the luxury of functioning as religions direct us—to include all, the unlovable and the downtrodden, the outcast and the rejected in ourselves and others. 

It doesn’t have the rank or position to exclude. We can bring the seed questions that lie deep within us, the questions that shrivel in the light of judgement, the directives’ helpful suggestions. We can bring these questions into our Erotic activity and, in the low light, move alongside them and know the ineffable in its own language. That is, if we heed the lesson that only the Erotic can teach us; our power lies in our capacity to surrender and respond. With this, we get the all-access code to consciousness.

While the true Erotic is exacting, it makes not one promise to keep you safe or give you refuge. Or even a drop of pleasure. To enter with such expectations will likely bring about, at best, a deadened experience, at worst, a good case of psychic trauma. 

There are those who must go beyond curiosity and into creative possession. Who are no longer looking for “better”—better sex, better relations, better self-esteem—but will only accept deeper—deeper understanding, deeper insight, deeper facility, deeper intimacy. Those who must know, who get restless with anything less than genius, who need to mainline the pure sensation and cannot settle for best guesses, forecasts, and projections cast from a mind stuck in the clouds of idea. 

Sex itself is the asana that trains and disciplines the mind in the Erotic. It is the intimacy between the mind and the body and the body’s devotion to a mind that leads well with kindness, excellence, craft, and attention. The interaction between two bodies is the physical representation of this relationship in each of the bodies.

Make no mistake, it is the result of much training, little takes as much classical training as being natural, spontaneous, improvisational. You must first and foremost have dominion over your attention. And you must come to know in your bones’ natural laws, rhythms, and movements so that again you can move with the music. For many, there is a bait and switch – those who would enter for mere recreation or pleasure, those looking to get, get shuttled off into the very limited place in the center of the ego, jam packed with preferences. They sense a moment of pleasure that is quickly imprinted and spend the rest of the experience chasing that. Or they sense something aversive and spend the rest of the experience combatting that. Or they lift off entirely into fantasy far away from the experience itself. 

What would liberate, binds.

For those folks, there are books and techniques and tools and implements. They are always seeking for more, not necessarily for the excellence that the Erotic demands. To them, more is the metric of success. It is an acquisitive approach that is masculine in nature; more information equates to better. And more information can be had at a distance. Experience, however, can only be had in the flesh.

This has been the single most damaging mindset in terms of accessing the deeper realms we yearn for, the states that confer meaning to life. The Erotic can bestow or endow us with a knowing so deep, so fundamentally reorienting, that the carrot-chasing of the acquisition mind is stopped dead in its tracks, not because that mind is repurposing acquisition because one experiences oneself as so full, so deeply gratified, that acquisition and all of its siblings—from proving oneself to giving another pleasure to looking skillfull—fall away, now instantly and entirely obsolete. When you are brimming with meaning, excess is unnecessary.

To approach the Erotic world is to take on a discipline, a core vocation. There’s a shift, where you move from taking from the Erotic—taking pleasure, taking comfort—to offering. You offer your senses, your known world, your best laid plans over to the mystery.

Our greatness stems from here, the best works of art and literature, the genius that innovates, the sixth sense that makes our intuition sentient and allows us to see around corners and access a sphere beyond what the average mind knows. And yet, most of us have not taken the elevator all the way down. We have not made it to the basement where we learn how to operate the control panels, the knobs and levers of our psyches.

Our concept of the Erotic has gone so far as to perhaps learn how to tie someone up but not how to break a psyche out of bondage. Or to tease another with a feather but not how to unleash the mind and let it fly into the realm of the imaginary form where our future minds are constructed. Or to explore the taboo areas of the body but not isolate the power that draws us to the verboten.

We have affixed the Erotic to the sexual and not understood that our entire life can and should be an Erotic experience. We’ve placed value on being mindful, forgetting that a mindful life alone is dry, without the sentience and sensuousness that brings aliveness to life, the bringing to bear only the Erotic can imbue, the felt experience of living as a mutually influencing, permeable being in a perpetual state of moving and being moved by life because you are one with it.

The Erotic frightens us. This is the same fear we have of women and oceans. The lack of control, the sense that it is unpredictable and often filled with tumult, too wide a range, nonlinear. As you come to practice and study and learn and work your craft, the craft making contact and gleaning information from the moment and adjusting and doing it again and again. Of, as I said, making it your vocation and all this entails but to make, first and foremost, that this is priority, that all of life must stem not from the landfill of ideas but from the solid ground of truth felt.

Then it opens, and you realize the only source of fear is your own mind you have not permitted to come out, to explain itself, to be known in the only room where it can be.

An Erotic quotient then would have little to do with mechanics. It would require a complete redefinition of safety. Safety would be a matter of the experiential developing of resilience. It would not be about “playing safe” or external soothing; it would be about pushing limits and knowing what one is capable of—both the good and the bad. You would know that you are capable of even those things and in this awareness develop a compassion, integration, and an insight into how to develop an organic response that lies outside of the programmed patterns.

The Erotic is about precisely not avoiding but turning towards, developing a relationship with what makes you flare up, developing a rapport with the snarling dogs until they are willing to give up their bones. Safety comes from enough interaction with, enough building of trust, enough fluency to absorb the power from what would control us, not to employ enough controls that we never have to face them.

An Erotic quotient would carry with it the use of the faculty of the three-fold mind that can sense how to interact with the naked self, the witnessing self, and the witnessed. Three aspects each with their own ways and means of understanding the world and bringing them into relationship so that each feels both unique and part of.

It would be measured by our ability to function as a mutually influencing force, recognizing the give and take that is life. In other words, it would translate to a high life quotient and could be applied to the whole of life without exception, from creativity to our relationship with the divine, from cooking to making love, from serving the world to serving yourself, the awareness of your impact and the impact on you would be made available for you to adjust accordingly. This state of sensing, acting, and adjusting, this state that goes directly against the default stasis of the ego, would be our resting pulse.

From here, there would be a few requirements. This sensing organ would need to be turned on. It is the feeling that exists inside of a true and deep desire. It’s both strong and tremulous and, for all its power, it needs a guardian. It needs for us to use our executive functioning to protect it from ourselves, from the ways we dismiss and diminish it. We would learn to meet the vitality and enthusiasm of this energy with joy rather than defeatist pragmatism. When desire arrived, we would not be the killjoy that enumerated the reasons it simply wasn’t practical and then stuck it in a cubicle.

We would recognize the shyness of this intelligence and develop the discernment to recognize it amongst the din of the everyday mind. We would evoke it with warm open attention. To truly learn to listen to what at first sounds like gibberish. To stop as if a dawning has occurred (because it has) and to welcome it as the most important gift to show up in your interior world. And when you lose it, to return again. And again. To stop, rest, and listen. To meet and welcome. To accept the invitation.

It is deceptively simple. Because we have spent a lifetime being trained out of ourselves by a rational mind that will only accept evidence from the rational mind as a reason to grow or change. It lies to us in our own voice.

It is precisely about entering the place where you cannot pretend, where posturing and positioning prove too cumbersome to continue. It is about sensing your audience, both real and imagined, and still remaining loyal to this voice despite whatever outcome you project. It’s about all internal efforts going to the liberation and expression of this sentience, allowing it to show itself fully and unguardedly.

It is like watching the deer on the land I live on. I must be unbearably still, but a stillness with warmth that when they arrive in the early dusk, lets them know that I am available as a benevolent force, one of appreciation that wants to know them on their terms. Only then am I graced with those moments of being touched by their delicate nature that fills me with power.

You can sense that there must be limitations imposed. We organize our minds according to a new value: to allow and invite, make safe and welcome for contact.

If we are to enjoy the life of the Erotic, we must learn to meet it on its terms, something that does not sit well with the Western mind with its quest for independence. But independence is coarse and of itself empty. We need to dive into what it is we would want to be independent to pursue. Again, I would suggest that it would be the true having of self to offer over to and therefore become part of.

Monks and yogis spend lifetimes cultivating the room of gathering attention. But to learn to function with it in the everyday world at the various speeds, densities, intensities, and to move with them in such perfect form that there is no room for the notions about ourselves and the world to settle into the crack just enough that the static sense of  “I” can take root. We learn in the line of fire, pressed against the deepest risk of being humiliated or rejected in the most sensitive part of ourselves, to do it anyway. Because an attention that cannot go everywhere is an attention that is always subject to the elements. This is not a house we want to live in. We want it flexible enough to withstand an earthquake, strong enough that it is protected from the conditions, and open enough that we feel access to the outdoors.

In the Erotic, we come into contact with both the limited and the infinite, having and wanting. We are asked to bridge these gaps with ourselves, our hearts and souls, dragged out from our hiding places. The poignancy of the Erotic lies in the eternal truth of life—that having kills and that the most potent life is accessed in the in-betweens, in the almost, and the so closes. The most sensation is not when I touch your cheek, it’s the millisecond prior where our molecules are busy bumping into each other.

It then asks us to develop the functions we will most need in this life, to take full ownership of an experience we can never fully own and the emotional regulation this realization takes—to fully show up for what, at best, is ephemeral. Again and again, when it “works” and when it doesn’t, when it is clumsy and when it takes silent flight. Knowing that each moment of contact is shaping you for more contact. The only intention of this intelligence being to know you, and for you to know it, at ever-increasing depths.

We have several adulthoods, from spiritual to worldly. Most women don’t achieve Erotic pubescence, they live in an eternal state of frailty. Most men don’t ever access sensitivity. This is the way the Erotic interacts with conditioning. It undoes the program to offer the contraposition.

So, when people talk about Erotic intelligence, more often than not in a way that is anything but Erotic, like an NBC news reporter reporting on the ways the Erotic functions, I am not just slightly put off.

There is an Erotic world that is as real, powerful, lawful, and elegant as the worlds of science and meditation, of production and religion. The laws cannot be learned from a book. You need direct experience. There is a commonality of experience, a shared reality to those who practice. And yes, it is practice and it requires precision and acuity the same way that you would develop a literary skill. Dominion over attention makes it that there is no circumstance that has power over your internal state including a condition that would “make” you shut down or close off.

Everything is determined by how much attention you have and what you can afford to pay attention to. The highest states of consciousness, those we all hope to achieve and inhabit, are the most expensive. It is not because of any circumstance, not because of sexual harassment or your gender or your abusive parents. There are people who have those experiences and remain relatively happy. The reason is that they have a quality of attention that can afford to stay connected to the higher states, to not get dragged down into the others or when they go into others they visit, learn, and head out. This can be called freedom.

And this, this is the promise of the Erotic.

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