Now, I am able to separate my delusions from my parents better, but I still have traces of severe lack of self worth. I realize now that I cannot understand refuge in Sangha and be of true benefit to others until I untangle “my worth” from the worth I bring to others. I opened up to the group at dinner and started talking about this topic because the man I am attached to saw me being silent and encouraged me to speak. I initially refused because I didn’t see anything I could say to be of value. My first instinct was to sort this out myself and then deliver the fruit of the resultant understanding. Then I remembered in the book “Cutting through Spiritual Materialism” it described refuge in Sangha as openness to others. I didn’t understand the meaning, but since this was a safe environment I decided to interpret it literally.
I find what attachment is most entangled with my sense of self worth is the desire for sex. With this young man I am attached to, I am watching all of my good and bad qualities arise and fall every time he helps me on the path. I am being really careful with this topic because I do not want to create the idea in my mind that my sexuality is bad. I simply want to untangle my wholesome desires, animal drives, and the belief that sex is my worth.
I believe that sex and my self worth became entangled in high school by several causes. I believe that feeling like an undesired member of my family, the hunger I experienced at this time, receiving food from the boys I had sex with, and receiving the affection my family didn’t give from the boys I had sex with all led to the idea that sex was my worth. There was more that added to the confusion. Society standards for being thin as beautiful made the situation worse and receiving praise for my body at that time made the situation more confusing. Since the only affection I was receiving was from men I was having sex with, I began to entangle the two—that they couldn’t be separate from each other. I became very concerned about my beauty to an extent that I was never concerned with before, because I depended on it to receive warmth and affection. The teenage boys I was having sex with I was attracted to, so the desire to have sex with someone attractive and the need to be validated as lovable became entangled as well. I was also told my multiple boyfriends at this time that my vagina was really tight and it felt really good. They really praised me for this body part. They really, really praised me for this body part. They praised this body part more than any other and it really reinforced the view that my worth lied in my vagina.
I’m not clear when, but somewhere down the line I started to give sex instantly in exchange for receiving kindness from men. They often were surprised as it wasn’t there intention and unwittingly reinforced my perception by giving into my advances. I instinctively offered my body in hopes to keep them around—to keep their kindness around. Often though, this backfired as when some men have sex with you their demeanor changes and they begin to objectify you in their mind. We cannot be truly compassionate to someone we have objectified, because we cannot be compassionate to someone we cannot truly see, and we cannot truly see someone’s suffering if we cannot truly see them. This is one reasoning people use to be chaste because then it is easier to see all people with equanimity or without discrimination.
I find myself as a reflex wanting to throw myself on the young man I am attached to because I seek his warm and kindness. This is pretty irrational because he freely gives this to everyone—if I want his affection I just need to say I could use a hug. His hugs are so warm and I walk away feeling like everything is good at that moment. Just with his attention, my delusions and self-grasping settle down, my Buddha nature arises, and I gain insights into loving kindness and compassion. He has been a true friend on this path. He is eager to listen when I need to sort out my mind and skillfully helps me be more gentle with myself. He praises my qualities instead of materialistic values, so my mind isn’t disturbed by his praise—it is benefited.
I think it makes sense that I desire to have sex with him because he is so affectionate without sex and during sex affection can be really enhanced. By the nature of attachment, we are unsatisfied and constantly seeking more. My attachment to receiving this warmth from him causes me to cling for more and during sex he may be even more affectionate. Sometimes sex brings out our feelings of compassion and loving kindness if we do not get attached to the other person as an object. I am not sure if he can have sex without attachment to a woman’s body or desire for his own pleasure, but I feel like I can’t do this for him. I feel like I am completely motivated by my own desire to receive from him.
I guess there is an element of loving kindness in my desire to offer myself to him. We talk in Buddhism about appreciating the kindness of others and that generates a desire to help others as a way of paying them back. Maybe, part of the reason why I want to offer myself to kind men is due to gratitude. I am grateful for the kindness they have given me so I desire to offer them pleasure in return. I guess I don’t just have desire for his affection, but loving kindness towards him as well. What is strange though is the impulse to offer myself in this way and not others. I think this part is resting on the belief that this is all I have to offer. I have had men refuse my offers for sex before and it lead to great anxiety and inner turmoil. I walk around with this belief that affection and kindness is rare to receive, so when I receive it my attachment is intense. The men that offered kindness without something in return I couldn’t wrap my mind around. I felt so much fear and anxiety about losing their affection that I would sabotage the relationship by running away from them; as if, hurting myself before they can is somehow better. Even these Bodhisattvas, I run from by generating the idea that I am so low and they are so high. I refuse to see us as walking on the path together which is one of the definitions I have learned of Sangha.
I guess I have to start to point out to myself how my Buddha nature benefits people around me, and how clearing the obscurations will benefit others. It makes sense but I have never looked for this in my day to day life. In this way, another definition for taking refuge in Sangha makes sense. The definition is opening yourself up to others- the good and the rough sides of self. I think rough refers to the qualities that are entangled in delusions. Like my desire to have sex with men out of gratitude to their kindness. The good is the desire to make them happy and the delusion is the belief that sex is all I have to offer or my greatest offering. It just occurred to me that my greatest offering is probably my desire to rid myself of delusions and realize truth to be of natural benefit to all sentient beings. I wonder if I will feel OK accepting help if I think that in doing so we both benefit in this way.
I also am beating myself up for desiring the young man I am attached to. He has a girlfriend and I have taken the vow not to commit sexual misconduct, so I will absolutely do nothing intimate with this young man, but the desire is there. Before, I could not see the difference between my desire for his affection and my desire to have sex with him, but I think now I do. As a part of accepting help, I also have been experimenting with asking for help. It seems there is nothing wrong with desiring help so that you can help others, so I have been exploring asking for help. One day, I felt very heavy with delusions and I thought that a hug would help take a layer off of them. I decided to try asking for help. He was standing next to me, so I cautiously leaded towards him and was about to ask him for permission. He saw my desire before I could say anything and grabbed me. He pulled me in close and started rubbing my freshly shaved head—which I found really comical. The way he grabbed me and pulled me in I had a moment when I noticed his masculinity. I feel like so many men that have taken on softer, more feminine features like compassion and loving kindness often reject their masculinity as a source of evil, but he didn’t reject his. Although his nature is so tender and kind, he had no problem taking control of the hug and holding me in a masculine embrace. At that moment, I felt sexual attraction to him. Perhaps if I examine our interactions more closely, I will get better at telling the difference between when I desire his affection, when I am sexually attracted, and when I feel gratitude and loving kindness.
I am beating myself for having strong desires for affection and sex, but I don’t want to. As you have probably figured out by now, this young man likes to give hugs. His hugs are so warm and I desire them more and more. I kick myself for not having satisfaction from a hug. When I walk away, I desire to have sex with him. I think in the vacuum of his presence I feel insecure. When he is there, he makes me feel at ease, but when he leaves I feel the same way I did before he showed up. I latch onto him in desire to feel good again. I guess this is the worldly desire for comfort.
I fear that if I renounce attachment for this kind of comfort that I will not feel good by myself. Maybe like the other delusions I have had by desiring to experience this comfort from him, I am feeding myself the belief that I don’t already have this comfort and worth within.
I have been trying to reflect on refuge in Sangha. The definitions I have learned have been taking refuge in Arya beings, your ability to become an Arya being, walking alongside each other on the path, and openness to others. Refuge was described not as being lower to or desiring to obtain an elevated position, but as a type of surrender. His Holiness the Dalai Lama said to understand refuge in Sangha you need to study the 2nd and 3rd noble truths. To me all of these definitions seem separate. I might be running away from this topic, but I am tired. It is late and I feel like I do not have the knowledge to dissect this. I am currently drawing a blank.