Cultivating Depth & Meaning For True Intimacy

Sex is easy, and can provide a form of instant intimacy. But it’s not enough for deeper connection.

While good sex alone can’t sustain a soulful relationship, a lack of a sexual connection usually spells ruin. Sexual intimacy pales in comparison to being deeply seen, respected, and held in a relationship—when a like-minded person participates in our deeper growth and development. This is soul sex.

As a relationship progresses, its depth increases, however slowly or imperceptibly. This process tests both partners: their tolerance, emotional triggers, trust, needs, and true desires. This progression happens in the context of giving and receiving love, both conditional and unconditional.

Love

Conditional love based in agreements is a given for us in intimate relationships, and to varying degrees among different couples. Unconditional love happens as well, though less commonly, as we hold sacred space for our old wounds and disgruntlements, as well as for the ways our partner differs from us and for which we nonetheless offer support.

When we allow disavowed or hidden aspects of us to find safe landing, to be seen, to be welcomed and held, they can be transformed by the mere act of their surfacing and our acceptance of them. Relationships with rich emotional connection, healthy boundaries, and mutual respect gift us this capacity.

Shadow Dance

While making space to welcome our shadow can be a messy process, the more experience we get, the more we get to know what we can handle holding space for, as well as what our partner can handle. Some issues are better vetted with close friends or in therapy, particularly those that trigger our partner. We might develop the capacity to sit with difficult feelings without sharing them in the moment, or choose to do so skillfully in the moment. Anger, for example, is usually best to sit with for a time before expressing, so that we don’t burn the bridges of intimacy.

Sitting with difficult feelings, especially our core emotional triggers, allows us to be there for ourselves before we ask others to be there for us. While holding space for emotional process in relationship is a blessing, we also have to understand that it’s not our partner’s obligation to do this, and it can unduly burden them. Soul sex happens when consent and similar desires for fulfillment are mutual; we can usually feel when this happens or not. Soul sex is a profound turn-on and can also help deepen physical love-making.

Common Ground

While the old wisdom that opposites attract can make for interesting dynamics, I find that having enough similar interests is not only more enjoyable but provides the needed distraction, enjoyment, and lightheartedness that is essential for a deeply meaningful relationship. Age differences as well might not be as significant as having similar core values, life trajectory, and spiritual perspectives. Qualities I appreciate in a partner include a passion for truth and wisdom, equality, fierceness, outspokenness, compassion and empathy, stewardship of the land, mind-body integration, and healthy lifestyle.

Ultimately, two individuals can have great soul sex if their “soul trajectories” are similar: how much each has worked on themselves, the depth each aspires to and embodies, and how much each can welcome and navigate shadows that present when the soul is deeply stirred. Partners might have different interests, but non-negotiable core values turn the soul on!

Without similar trajectories that reflect similar core values of potency, fun, compassion, and everyday interests, partners are more likely to leave the relationship. Of course, sometimes parting happens anyway for logistical and other reasons. Ironically, such parting, while excruciating, also helps us cultivate soul in the ways we grow from being broken-hearted.

Attraction

If both partners don’t share a similar trajectory, the “soul-chemistry” usually isn’t sufficient to sustain the connection. Sexual attraction is also a key component for soul sex, such that each finds the other physically desirable. With soul chemistry and physical attraction, orgasm can happen on every level of our being.

When soul sex happens—when deep emotional support and sustainable connection occur—we can become more physically attracted to our partners, because we love who they are. We might even find ourselves sexually attracted to someone who is not our “type” or whom we would not ordinarily be drawn to.

The central practice for becoming soul-sexy is emotional healing. When we join with a partner who also cultivates emotional integration, hot soul sex and lovemaking can flourish!

In Climax

Soul sex is synonymous with the healing and evolving container of sacred relationship. It’s a lot more challenging than superficial relating. But the possibilities it allows are invaluable: the healing of our deepest wounds and the ability to share and receive love in all its grounded, embodied glory.

A supportive network of loving friends, vital community, and a nourishing relationship with the natural world help to support us in the often-challenging container of soul-stirring intimate relationships. We need others to help us hold them, process our challenges, and find strength to endure and nurture their poignancy. In this sense, we share the soul of our primary relationship with others, leading to the building of soul in the community.

If we want depth, meaning, and a richer intimacy than sex alone, consider soul sex. For these very reasons I like to spend time in relationships that both nourish and keep me at my growth edge. These are the relationships of a lifetime.

Navigating Difficult Emotions

“Each of our feelings or attitudes, no matter how negative, can evoke compassion and lead to transformation. We then joyfully realize how every negative experience has positive, growth-fostering potential, how every liability is a resource, how every shadow trait has a kernel of value, how every disturbance or mistake can deepen our spiritual consciousness . . . there is an energy of light frozen in our confusion, a luminosity we can release, if only we do not give up our mining.”

—Dave Richo, Ph.D.

Positive emotions satisfy the immediate gratification style of modern culture. They pay dividends right away. We try to keep up with pleasure, joy, and bliss in their ever-more-enticing forms. Difficult emotions, however, take patience, and require delayed gratification. The result of this gratification is a deeper sense of fulfillment that can’t be gained by direct experience with positive emotion.

Through the lens of Chinese medicine, our positive emotions are considered Yang (positive and quick) and confer Yang power. Our negative, dark, or difficult emotions are Yin. They take longer to release their nectar, as we slow down to meet them. We might have to look like outcasts for a time to reap their hidden, subtler power. These Yin experiences deliver a quieter, inner power, gradually.

A balance of Yin and Yang power is crucial. If we over-feast on Yang emotions, we can burn out and fall into an exhausted or depressive state once we can’t keep up with all the excitement. This corresponds with the modern epidemic of adrenal exhaustion. If we over-feast on negative emotions and ignore the lighter side of life, we can also end up in the pits. Sojourns into grief don’t count because they often deliver great rewards.

When Yin and Yang are in balance and healthy they mutually support one another. When we find balance between Yin and Yang emotions, we can reap the benefits of both positive and negative states. It’s not difficult to see the benefit of happiness, joy, positivity, exuberance, and inspiration—all Yang experiences. More difficult is to glean the good reasons to embrace our dark and difficult states.

When we understand, even if just intellectually at first, why and how difficult states are absolutely crucial to our well-being, this gives us incentive to stay present and open to them and override our knee-jerk tendency to shut down and go away when they surface. What’s more, when we attune to and are patient with what’s difficult, that darkness transforms us little by little into more light, a light we cannot attain from Yang states alone. Only by staying with what’s dark can we create more love and light from what seems rotten and miserable.

So, this writing is dedicated to understanding the unique benefits that come from our difficult feelings and why it’s a good idea to stay close to them, when they visit.

Looking Deeper

Just like beauty and the beast, beneath the ugly exterior of our difficult emotions is a tender core of inspiration, soulfulness, and renewal. They return us to what really matters by revealing and empowering what we care about. If we sit with these feelings long enough, which is to welcome and let them have their way with us (at least in good part), we can reap their hidden riches (note: this is often not the case for mental illness, such as anxiety and depression).

Paradoxically, this process of staying close to difficulty eventually fills us up, quenching us with fulfillment. I’m convinced that if we don’t milk and allow ourselves to be transformed by these emotions, we live fractured lives. And as a result, we fracture the lives of others, including the Earth.

In being with painful feelings and letting them change us, they recede. The more we allow ourselves to be changed by them, the more they dissolve. In fact, they recede in proportion to how much we allow them to change us, as if their purpose were to get us to pay attention, to surrender, and to transform. From being with and working through our anger, sadness, fear, remorse, and envy, we develop genuine compassion, courage, creativity, inspiration, meaning, purpose, empathy, and greater love—qualities I call our finer jewels of being human.

We dont transform difficult emotions as much as they transform us. For this we must surrender and become vulnerable; we must have the faith and courage, humility and strength, to be changed in ways not in our control, shaped by the wild ways of nature expressed through our emotions. This way we get to become more than what we can control, or even imagine. So, if you want to live a passionate life close to nature, give way to your heart and its storms of wild wisdom come to revolutionize you.

To be changed by difficulty, we have to be vulnerable, pliant, brave, and strong enough to weather the shape-shifting of our sense of self. This requires having a strong enough core sense of self, our functional ego, one that can handle the adjustments, or in some cases, the dismantling of our sense of self. For this reason, the support of loved ones, and a therapist, is virtually essential, or at least makes the journey more productive and smoother.

Our dark, uncomfortable, or downright terrifying emotions are the other side of love. They are love’s underbelly, the deeper regions of our heart. In fact, we can often sense when someone has not entered this sacred chamber inside themselves and met their life-renewing shadow because they are generally uncomfortable around the emotional struggles of others.

The Way Out is Through

While offering nuanced suggestions for precisely how to navigate our difficult emotions is beyond the scope of this article (I offer more of that here), I want to briefly speak to the popular adage, “Don’t wallow in negative emotions.” Ironically, this might be an outsider’s perspective, coined and perpetuated by folks who haven’t entered their shadow in a significant way. For, when we do, we learn that we don’t really have much say for how long we are beset by life’s downturns.

We in fact must endure periods of what seems like wallowing and obsessing because we don’t have control over these states, nor do we have to. Nor do we have to fit in to the horse and pony show of modern living, rife with sickness, dysfunction, and obsessed with productivity and positivity. Other times, however, we will be able to snap out of a funk. In these cases we have at least some say in mitigating difficult states, apart from how they might ultimately benefit us.

We experience emotion in two primary ways. The first is in response to troubling environmental factors, events, or circumstances. In these cases, it’s usually safe to heed emotional signals at face value. Another way is to experience difficult emotions due to an imbalanced physiology such as illness (including mental illness) or another stressor. In these instances, it’s better not to listen to the voice or message of emotion and its distorted reasoning, or at least not take their perceived impact and significance to heart. For example, if you’re in a spat with your partner and irritated because you need to eat, get to sleep, be alone, or just chill out, it’s often wiser to just focus on taking care of yourself and not get into it with someone else. We might also need to grab the reins of our mind and control our negative thinking, which is absolutely appropriate during rough times—especially, for example, when we are looping negative thoughts.

All these self-help actions help “skim the surface” of feeling bad, which is to clear the superficial and temporary stress that contributes to circumstantial emotional flareups. After we self-care this way, our troubles usually seem smaller and less painful. Whatever emotional charge or realization left after skimming this top layer of stress, we can embrace and more confidently take to heart. To not self-care to relieve everyday stress is to suffer unnecessarily.

 Exercise, appropriate diet, and how supported we feel. all significantly influence our physiological state and therefore the duration and intensity of difficult emotional states.

The idea is to try to stay close to, and be with, our core emotional responses to real life events and to manage and discharge the extra energy these emotions generate due to mental obsession and physiological imbalance. For example, I might feel sad that I lost my girlfriend. I might feel extra sad if I lie on the couch all day and don’t force myself to get up and take a walk, eat something, or talk to friend. We have control over the latter, and not the former. In fact, we might not want to control our grief too much (so it can work on and change us), unless it’s unnecessarily physiologically generated and/or exacerbated by too much inactivity and stagnation.

To get in touch with our core emotions, we can activate and express them (Yang), or slow down and gently embrace them (Yin). This is where the jewels are—if we dig, or better, let ourselves be unearthed! Taking a break from digging and feeling tough feelings, however, is also crucial. This is healthy denial, when we focus on other things to give ourselves a break and so we can return to the inner work refreshed and with clearer perspective.

Lying around feeling sad all day might be helped by taking a walk, venting and being heard by a friend, or getting out to get out of our own head. Feeling angry for hours might be appropriately curbed by going for a run, pounding on some pillows, or finding genuine cause for laughter. But longer stints of grief, for example, might stay with us for months or years. Often, we don’t have much say in this. We can therefore surrender and be changed into what we can’t imagine by this wild wisdom of our deeper hearts.

An unfortunate alternative to embracing our difficult feeling states is turning to drugs, addiction, and excess avoidance, which usually create more suffering. What’s more, we miss out on the nourishing qualities hidden in challenging emotions—our finer jewels of being human—which we harvest by embracing them. Handled skillfully and with support, difficult times can be immense opportunities for growth, finding meaning and purpose in life, and reckoning with our demons. How we approach and handle difficulty is just as important, if not more so, than how we deal with easy times.

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Jack Adam Weber, L.Ac., MA, is Chinese medicine physician, having graduated valedictorian of his class in 2000. He has authored hundreds of articles, thousands of poems, and several books. Weber is an activist for embodied spirituality and writes extensively on the subjects of holistic medicine, emotional depth work, and mind-body integration, all the while challenging his readers to think and act outside the box. Weber’s latest creation is the Nourish Practice, a deeply restorative, embodied meditation practice as well as an educational guide for healing the wounds of childhood. His work can be found at jackadamweber.com, on Facebook, or Twitter, where he can also be contacted for life-coaching and medical consultations.

Verbal Assault: Another Form of Abuse That Can Be Similar To Physical Abuse

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

More harmful words were never spoken. Trauma research dispels the innocence of this myth. When someone says no, it means NO. Feeling entitled to continue to share information when someone says no is a violation. Especially when the sharing is an attack.

Verbal abuse and physical abuse share commonalities. While violating words and emotion aren’t overt physical assaults, they still affect us physically through the trauma they cause to our nervous system, to our brains, and our psyche generally. We feel verbal abuse physically even if we haven’t been physically touched, whether the attack comes hot and heavy or underhandedly.

Honoring 

There are times when it’s appropriate to find the psychic bandwidth to be humble and receive someone’s anger, such as when we’ve wronged them. This is to honor the hurt we’ve caused and the healing process of another to share their upset. Sometimes, however, we’re not able or ready to receive another’s emotion. We may be tired, stressed, hungry, overwhelmed with other stuff, or simply not have time.

Holding the boundary to share at a better time—and to have this pre-arranged, say, with your partner—is to honor and protect the relationship. It’s a form of wisdom, because perhaps we know that process work doesn’t go so well when we’re feeling compromised. For this, we can communicate our desire to hear the other at a better time. That said, sometimes sharing can’t wait and has to be done in the moment, such as during emergencies or urgencies. In these cases, do your best to regulate, listen, and respect.

When someone says no, it doesn’t matter what their reason is. You don’t get to decide if their no is “valid” or not, any more than you get to decide if touching someone who doesn’t want to be touched is valid. You have to stop. This can be tough while in the heat of being upset or feeling entitled to share what you want. And sometimes that entitlement (such as when we feel wronged) is warranted. But it still has to be accepted and welcomed by another. When we mess up, amends—if and when welcome—are in order.

If we are on the receiving end of someone saying no to our sharing, it’s easy to feel rejected. And we might feel our rejection and abandonment buttons pushed. This is our work to reconcile, not the person’s who told us no. Relationship 101 tells us our needs won’t be met all the time. The child in us doesn’t like this arrangement; the adult in us accepts it as a given. It’s a grace when our emotional needs are met in a relationship—when someone welcomes our true emotions, as skillfully as we can share them.

Nobody Home

Being heard is important in any relationship. If someone close to you is never willing to hear you out, this is a different problem. For some, there is never a good time and place for your sharing to land. This is usually a sign of emotional unavailability. Ironically, such people often feel entitled and fine with sharing or dumping their emotional impact on us but not hearing or acknowledging anything in return. This is a form of narcissism, hypocrisy, and usually unreckoned, underlying wounding.

If someone can’t hear us, it’s not a prompt to force our way into their fortress. It’s time to a) find a different way or reframe how we communicate to get through, b) seek the advice of a friend or therapist, or c) consider ending the relationship when they don’t change and you’ve done all you can to get through and get closer.

Emotional Intelligence

Anger has its place for expression. So does blame, for the accountability it asks for. So does crying and breaking down in front of someone we love. All emotions have their place in relating, but must be skillfully shared, which means being emotionally intelligent about how, when, why, and where we do.

Being able to be vulnerable with another is key for intimacy and building a strong alliance. Without it, issues don’t get worked out and can lead to smoldering resentments that cause constant bickering, frustration, and passive-aggressive attacks. This is why good communication, which requires emotional wisdom, in relationships is so important. Such wisdom includes respecting another’s boundaries, even when we feel entitled to say something that’s unwelcome on the other end.

None of this is easy, especially in the heat of the moment, and it’s an imperfect science. But we can usually do better. Respecting a “no” is ultimately respecting yourself and the inviolable sovereignty of another.

Jack Adam Weber, L.Ac., M.A., is a Chinese medicine physician, having graduated valedictorian of his class in 2000. He has authored hundreds of articles, thousands of poems, and several books. Weber is an activist for embodied spirituality and writes extensively on the subjects of holistic medicine, emotional depth work, mind-body integration, and climate change, all the while challenging his readers to think and act outside the box. His latest creation is the Nourish Practice, a deeply restorative, embodied meditation practice as well as an educational guide for healing the wounds of childhood. His work can be found at jackadamweber.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter, where he can also be contacted for medical consultations and life-coaching. His new book on how to cope with climate change will be released in summer, 2020.