Being invited to submit an article on the theme of ‘Loving Now’ my first thought was to write about the heart, as it is in traditional Chinese medicine; the emperor of the organs, the seat of the soul and the transmitter of love. I was going to write about the chi-cycle time of the heart, the magical two hours between 11am and 1pm each day when you have an audience with the emperor, when you are closest to your soul and to your purpose. This is the time of the Fire element, when you can fan the flames of your love and spread this to your partner. But traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is nothing if not practical and successful relationships are about much more than the heart. A healthy sex life is considered essential as well and this means a compatible sex drive is important. If you are in a relationship with someone that you love but you have a mismatched sex drive it doesn’t matter what your heart is up to, you are heading for an emotional challenge. Our sex drive is connected to our kidneys not our heart. So really on the topic of Loving Now I should be writing a long, poetic essay about kidneys, but it just doesn’t sound romantic. If you mention ‘kidneys’ people tend to think of a dish you can order in a restaurant, and one that no one really likes. But in a good relationship our kidneys play just as an important role as our heart does. They store our life force, known as jing and this is directly connected to our sex life. But our kidneys are also ‘the mother of yin and yang’ and in TCM everything is about yin and yang including sex and relationships, so this is the angle I’m going to explore the idea of Loving Now from.
Yin and yang are the big forces that shape the universe. But, like a set of Russian dolls, there are layers within layers. There is the yang part of each day and the yin part of the day, there are the yang humans – generally considered to be men – and the yin humans, generally considered to be women. But then each individual, regardless of their gender, is either yin or yang. We even have a yin or corporeal soul, the Po, and a yang or ethereal soul, the Hun. Life is a shifting dance between yin and yang from the macrocosmic to the microcosmic. If you want a loving and lasting relationship you need to understand the forces of yin and yang and whether your own nature is more yin or yang. Sex drive is a great indicator of this. If you want lots of sex lots of the time chances are you are a more yang type. If you don’t think about sex for months, chances are you are a more yin type. Sex drive is not gender related. There is a stereotypical version of the yang man who wants sex five times a week (or day) and the yin woman who wants have sex once a month. But I see just as many yang women who want sex daily (or more) in relationships with yin men who are happy with once a month. This mismatch also happens in same-sex relationships, and it is not about men or women but about yin and yang or life forces. All sex drives are normal. It is only an issue when one partner wants more or less sex than the other and it has a negative effect on a relationship. By the time two people sit in front of me for relationship counselling a mismatched sex drive has become the source of emotional pain and blame, guilt and judgement. The partner who doesn’t want sex decides the other person’s sex drive is abnormal and then tells them so, and vice versa.
I always start these sessions by telling the yang person there is nothing wrong with them for wanting sex all day (unless it’s a pathological high sex drive coming from an organ malfunction rather than their constitution). Likewise for the yin person there is nothing ‘wrong’ with not wanting sex for months. I believe we choose a body before we incarnate and that might be either a yin or yang type and each naturally has a differing sex drive.
Regardless of this though, there is a recommended healthy level of sexual activity. Just because you feel like having sex daily doesn’t mean you should and just because you don’t feel like having sex doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. In some cases I treat, the simple step of devising a ‘sex schedule’ resolves the issue. Once you are over 30 and under 70 and in fairly good health, I recommend scheduling sex for twice a week, at a certain time on a certain day and then sticking to the plan. No excuses. People initially really, really resist this. We think that love is spontaneous and driven by the heart and assume sex, as a physical expression of love, should be too. Sure, when you are young, but as you get older or spend longer in a relationship things change and sometimes a more practical approach is needed. People plan their career, their weekends, their grocery shopping so why not sex too? Once you try the sex schedule things really start to change.
As well as implementing a sex schedule you need to work on understanding your nature, whether it is yin or yang. The great thing is you can control and change this. We can be masters of our own inner universe. Yang people can moderate their sex drive by doing chi-gung and having regular acupuncture to control excessive energies. Yin types can build their yang through martial arts and kidney building herbs. So within ourselves yin and yang are not finite states. I was originally more of a yang type but after a couple of years of hard drugs I became a yin type. I’d get a fright if a rabbit looked sideways at me. But you can change this. We all already know how. Right now you can put this magazine down and charge into the kitchen, have three cups of really strong coffee, turn on the tv and radio, get hyped-up and make lots of phone calls. This is a yang state. Or you can go and do relaxation therapy and experience yin.
One of the related things that comes up in relationship counselling when addressing yin and yang and sex, is the misconception that women and men have a different ‘nature’ and accordingly different roles; for example the man initiates and the woman receives. It is a popular idea and there are plenty of books on how we come from different planets and some can read maps and others can’t. But I don’t agree with this view. If you go into a relationship thinking that because you are the woman your job is to support or nourish someone else and be receptive, you are imposing external conditions on yourself that may not be in accord with your nature. If you enter a relationship thinking that because you are the man, you are the driver, the provider and you have to give someone else what they need to make them happy, it can become a big a problem. I think we are past all that divisive men and women stuff now. For me the topic ‘Loving Now’ also means loving in the 21st century, in the year approaching 2012. It is no longer about men and women, it is about people. We are humans on earth and we have a common goal, we need to be working with yin and yang, the forces that shape us so we can shape a new world. I believe that we should enter a relationship not as a man or woman, but as what I call a ‘self-contained unit’. Our partners are not there to make us happy, we are here to make ourselves happy. Part of this is working on not needing anything from anyone else and understanding your own nature, rather than behaving according to a gender-specific concept of what your nature should be.
I’m not saying we don’t need each other, of course we do spiritually and physically. We have our two souls, Hun and Po. The need for physical union is Po and the need for spiritual union, for our soul mate, is Hun. Our Po or corporeal soul is form, it is connected to our body. It is how we experience vigour, power and energy. Our Hun or ethereal soul is about feeling and ‘discovery’ and is connected to our mind and spirit. In a relationship the idea is to have both Hun and Po engaged. If this is the case, when you have sex the sense of discovery never ends, even after 50 years, and this nourishes the relationship deeply. Sex without the Hun engaged, is Po. It is physical sex and is what is experienced in sex addiction, prostitution and pornography. It leads to separation because Po is all about separation. In a relationship sex without Hun becomes physical and it can lead to both parties losing interest in sex and then seeking extramarital affairs to recapture the sense of discovery.
Loss of interest in sex is a big issue in relationship work, and it has given rise to plenty of books on spicing up your sex life, by getting into PVC outfits and using porn for stimulation and so on. It has also given rise to a new range of high-tech sex toys, but these things are temporary. Spice it up metaphysically I say, with Hun. This is permanent. So, how to engage our Hun is the question. Luckily this was sorted out centuries ago with the development of practices such as yoga and tai-chi. These get you in touch with your Po and your Hun. So on Valentines day it is nice to buy your partner flowers and chocolates and tell them you love them, but its even nicer to get into yoga or tai-chi and learn to manage your own yin and yang. Get in touch with your souls and bring your inner union to the relationship, this is what I think Loving Now should be all about!