“Every child is born in the garden of humanity as a flower. Each flower differs from every other flower. There are many messages in our society that tell us, even when we’re young people, that there’s something wrong with us and that if we just buy the right product, or look a certain way, or have the right partner, that will fix it. As grown-ups, we can remind young people that they’re already beautiful as they are; they don’t have to be someone else.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
“When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
“Follow the three R’s: – Respect for self. – Respect for others. – Responsibility for all your actions.” H.H. The Dalai Lama
I hope you are well and enjoying what your life is offering you. This week We are continuing to look at The Five Mindfulness Trainings, focusing on the third,
Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.
This training is especially important for young people. The messages and images we see in the media and in entertainment depict couples in sexual situations as the natural progression of relationship. While sexual relationships are a healthy and sacred part of a committed relationship, what we don’t see much in the media, or on screens, is the idea that sexual relationships are significant. They mean something. In the media and in real life, overtly sexual messages, clothing, and behavior means popularity and makes one worthy of desire. For young people, this includes “hooking up,” before dating. This is a euphemism for meeting to have sex before getting to know the other person. Sex is not tied to a relationship, or to any feelings other than desire. Modern media tells us that sex does not involve any emotion other than lust.
Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Our bodies have areas that we do not want anyone to touch or approach unless he or she is the one we respect, trust, and love the most. When we are approached casually or carelessly, with an attitude that is less than tender, we feel insulted in our body and soul. Someone who approaches us with respect, tenderness, and utmost care is offering us deep communication, deep communion. It is only in that case that we will not feel hurt, misused, or abused, even a little. This cannot be attained unless there is true love and commitment. Casual sex cannot be described as love. Love is deep, beautiful, and whole.” As sensitive and complex beings, we recognize that bodies and minds are not separate entities. What we do with our bodies affects our minds and what we do with our minds affects our bodies.
When we are involved with another person sexually, this is the most vulnerable and intimate act two people can share. Sex without love and care does damage to our hearts that only want to be loved and valued. We do not treat our bodies with tenderness when we expose ourselves to empty sex. We discount our worth and throw away our value to try to satisfy loneliness, desire, or novelty. But our body and our mind know when we are loved and considered and when we are not. They work together. Psychology has discovered that trauma, both mental and physical, resides in the body. What happens to our bodies has consequence for our entire lives. We learn that sex, no matter what we call it is not casual. It is significant. Learning to cultivate our authentic presence, to listen to ourselves is the first step in being able to offer our true presence to another. We need to know that we are capable of caring for our own joy and sadness before we have the capacity to care and love for anyone else. True love begins with ourselves.
This week I invite you to look non-judgmentally at the example of True Love you are living. What ways do you cultivate loving kindness, compassion, joy, and inclusiveness? How do you offer the gift of true presence and communication to your beloved, to yourself? Take twenty minutes with a cup of tea to sit and listen to what is in your heart and your mind. Give yourself the gift of your own love and your most precious gift, your time.
May we all trust our light,
Nhat Hanh, T., 1993, For a future to be possible: Commentaries on the five wonderful mindfulness trainings. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.