Tag Archives: buddhism

Craving


Centre_of_wheel_of_lifeI’ve been back home from my trip for six days now, and it was hard at first to get settled back into my life here. I don’t live in the worst place in the world (far from it actually) but I do wish that this place was more cosmopolitan, and “worldly”. There’s nothing wrong with Americans (well, nothing much wrong, heh) but it gets tiresome when you hardly ever meet anybody else from a foreign country. I also miss having decent conversations with people about real, meaningful things. I have found that Americans (well, at least the ones here in this state) prefer to keep things on a nice and civil superficial level all the time. Perhaps the fault is mine (am I just too intense?) but why do people never talk about their thoughts and feelings? Why is it so hard to get to know an American? Sometimes I wonder if there is even anything to get to know. I am aware, by the way, that this is a huge generalization, so there’s no need to berate me in the comments section. Yes, I know there are cool Americans out there! But I do think that my general impression is correct.

But, whatever, I digress. The main point I wanted to make in this post is that my trip out of town led to one of my all-too-familiar bouts of feeling dissatisfied with my life and myself. Ever since I arrived in this city in 2004, I’ve been plotting my escape. I’ve always wanted to move to New York City, but, well, for various reasons (some grounded in reality, some fear-based), I never did. But instead of throwing myself heart-and-soul into life in this city, I’ve sort of stayed on the sidelines, thinking to myself “This place is not for me”. You know what? I’m right, it’s not. I will never feel at home here; I can spend nine days in NYC and feel more connected and at home there than I ever have to this place in the nine years I’ve spent here. I should leave this city, no doubt about it. But, nonetheless, I could have definitely enjoyed my time here more than I did. It has always felt like a limbo, somewhere I just happened to be until something better came along.

I feel that this could be a metaphor for my life. I have an complete inability to live in the moment. Even when I’m doing something enjoyable (like this – blogging), I’m worrying about what I need to get done afterwards. Happiness is, for me, something that will only happen in the future when circumstances have aligned so that everything in my life is perfect: perfect creativity; perfect spirituality; perfect relationship; perfect body; perfect house; perfect city…and on..and on. This craving for perfection is ruining my life.

I haven’t meditated since before going on my trip, but I plan to meditate for thirty minutes right after this blog post. I’m kinda hoping that meditation/buddhism will help me learn how to enjoy the moment. But  having this thought just leads to a whole different kind of worry. You’re not supposed to get into meditation/Buddhism with the idea that you’ll get something out of it, are you?! (Lazy Buddhist, thoughts?) Isn’t this just a form of Spiritual Materialism?! According to the Wikipedia entry on Spiritual Materialism, it is:

Spiritual materialism is the belief that a certain temporary state of mind is a refuge from suffering. An example would be using meditation practices to create a peaceful state of mind, or using drugs or alcohol to remain in a numbed out or a blissful state. According to Trungpa, these states are temporary and merely heighten the suffering when they cease. So attempting to maintain a particular emotional state of mind as a refuge from suffering, or constantly pursuing particular emotional states of mind like being in love, will actually lead to more long term suffering.

Now, as a Sex and Love Addict, I totally agree that craving the high of being in love just leads to more suffering, but is it really so bad for me to come to meditation/Buddhism with the  desire that I will eventually manage to calm down my crazy thoughts? True, this desire is egotistical in that I want to make my life better, but I would also like to be a better person so that everybody around me benefits, too. I fail to see how anybody could end up following a Buddhist path without having had some desire to change themselves for the better. Maybe I’m wrong-headed but why would I plonk myself down on my arse for thirty-minutes to an hour each day for no fucking reason? Hell yeah I want to get something out of it!

Sheesh. Apparently I have a craving to stop the craving. :-/

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Can A Sex Worker Be A Buddhist?


sacred prostituteSince the age of nineteen, I have been in and out of the sex industry in one capacity or another in four different countries – escort; prostitute (for lack of a better word) in two German brothels; erotic masseuse and “hostess” in a French “bar américain”. This last one translates as “American bar” but I’m not sure why the French called it that, as there were never any Americans to be seen. It’s basically a place where men have to buy ridiculously overpriced bottles of champagne to have the honour of your company. In other words, it’s just a front for prostitution, except nobody ever mentions that word.

I could no doubt write countless blog posts analyzing why I decided to take such a path in life at such a tender age, but this is not the time and the place. And, quite frankly, I’m not all that interested in delving into my past. It is what it is. And I honestly don’t regret any of it. I have experienced human nature in a way that only very few other people have. True, I might not always have experienced human nature at its best, but experience is experience, and I relish it all.

I have been attending mediation classes at the local Zen center, and, although I would not be presumptuous enough to call myself a Buddhist at this early stage, I cannot help but wonder whether there is a place for a sex worker – currently I’m a part-time erotic masseuse – in Buddhism. After all, the Noble Eightfold Path clearly stipulates that Buddhists should have “Right Livelihood” i.e. that they should not engage in trades or occupations that harm other people.

I tried googling “Buddhist Sex Worker” and “Buddhist Prostitute” but didn’t find anything particularly interesting. Brad Warner apparently knows one Buddhist sex worker, but he didn’t mention whether she has an online presence.

Does sex work harm other people? Does it harm sex workers themselves? There is no simple to answer way to this. I’m no Andrea Dworkin but I’m also very far from being a gushy sex-positive feminist who believes that every consensual sexual experience a woman has is empowering. All I know is that, at this point in my life, I have very little interest in sleeping with men for money. There was a time as a really young woman when that turned me on, but it no longer does. I would be miserable if I tried that again.

On the other hand, I don’t have any issues whatsoever with being an erotic masseuse. True, there is usually a handjob involved, but, meh, so what? The dude is lying flat on his back at that point, and I’m 100% in control. Sometimes they try to sit back up, but I won’t stand for it. I gently push them back down. The massage and the handjob always go the way I want it to. I can assert with 100% confidence that I do not feel exploited or belittled in any way. I have been doing this for so long that I know exactly what I’m doing. I also screen potential clients very carefully, and this helps weed out any undesirables.

So, I’m not being emotionally or physically hurt by my involvement in the sex industry, but is it hurting me in other ways? I don’t have an extravagant lifestyle by any stretch of the imagination, but being a sex worker has encouraged me to be more materialistic perhaps. I don’t make that much money as an erotic masseuse since it’s a part-time gig for me these days, but nonetheless, it’s the kind of industry where you always can make more money, or at least fantasize that you can.  I find it very hard to make a budget and stick to it because, well, why do I have to? For example, if I have $100 left in my bank account that really needs to be spent on food, but I see a dress I want, I can tell myself “Oh, I’ll just get that dress now, and do two handjobs later to afford food”. A “normal” woman could not do this. She would just have to go without the dress. This is not a very sensible way of living, and I don’t like having such a materialistic mentality.

What about the men who are my clients? Am I harming them in some way? The men who come to see me are not sleazebags – not at all, in fact. They are just normal, hard-working, middle-class, middle-aged, (usually) white men. The vast majority of them are married, and – if I can believe what they tell me – they are just not getting very much sex at home. One could argue that I am providing a valuable service for these men; that I am helping couples stay married. I wouldn’t go that far, but, well, yes, I clearly have something to offer these men. But wouldn’t it be better for my clients to find out why their wives don’t want to fuck them, and to work on their marriage instead of coming to see me? Aren’t I stopping them from working on their relationships, and growing in them? Aren’t I helping men lie to their wives and partners?

Sometimes I wonder, too, if I am stopping men from finding love altogether. Last week I had a visit from a surprisingly charming guy who works in the game industry. He wasn’t my type physically although he had a great body (nerdy white guys don’t do it for me usually) but I was bowled over by his intelligence and wit, and so I found him very attractive. But I couldn’t work out why somebody like him was single. He’s forty-seven, and had been married in his late twenties/early thirties, but has been single ever since. He blamed his crazy work schedule (fifteen-hour days apparently) but I can smell someone with a severe case of commitment phobia a mile away. Couldn’t it be argued that women like me allow men like him to continue living an emotionally, physically and spiritually impoverished existence? If I didn’t provide an easy sexual release, and the illusion of intimacy, they would have to get over their fear of commitment sooner rather than later.

It works both ways, too. Aren’t I stopping myself from having any kind of meaningful, loving relationship by being a sex worker? I’m not ready to date anybody right now, but what happens when I am? What man is going to want to get involved with a woman who has her hands on hundreds of other men’s penises every year?

It doesn’t really matter what the answer to any of the above questions is because, for the time being, I have no intention of giving up sex work. That might mean that I’ve “failed” at Buddhism before I even started, but, well, there you go. That’s just the way it has to be for now. Sex work allows me a degree of financial stability I could only dream of otherwise. I can save for the future; afford college courses; travel somewhere occasionally and, hell, sometimes buy myself things that make me feel beautiful and special. I will give it up at some point, but just not yet.

Habit


I don’t have much to report today. But I’ve decided to write anyway since my two “top lines” in SLAA are  to mediate and write every day. I’m sure that it’s common to have far more than two top lines, but my life has always consisted of a big list of “shoulds”, so I decided to keep it simple, as there’s less chance of my freaking out that way, and self-sabotaging. My pattern is to impose a lot of rigid rules on myself, and then panic, break them all on purpose, and hate myself for doing so. I’m not quite sure where that comes from, but I’m sure it’s got something to do with my overbearing, over-controlling mother. I feel like I have two people inside me – my mother who’s telling me to do something and me, as a child, who wants to yell – and sometimes does – “Fuck you, mother!”

The biggest challenge for me is not getting to my meditation cushion or to my desk; the challenge for me is believing that there’s a point in writing or meditation if I can’t do it “properly”. Meditating “properly” means sitting down for at least thirty minutes and, ideally, I’d do that twice a day – once in the morning, and once in the evening – but that has yet to happen. I do usually manage to sit for thirty minutes once a day.

When I was twenty-one, I went on a ten-day, silent Vipassana retreat in France, where I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. every morning, and practically meditated the whole way through until 9:00 p.m. I’m not sure I ever want to go on a silent retreat again (actually I didn’t mind the not talking part – although my friends would be astounded given that I’m known for not being able to shut up for more than two seconds – but the no-reading/no-writing rule really got to me!) but I will forever be grateful for my first introduction to mediation and Buddhism. However, the one bad thing about the retreat was that we were told that we needed to continue our practice at home by meditating for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. Two hours of mediation a day!? Well, I’m sure this is indeed optimal, but how many people have that kind of time to spare? I managed to keep up the two-hour meditation rule for the first couple of weeks at home, but it became too much after that. A healthier person wouldn’t have beaten themselves up for this slip, and would have simply tried to do what they could, but ever the black-and-white thinker, I couldn’t tolerate such compromise. I either meditated for two hours a day, or I thought “Fuck it!” and did nothing at all. Soon I just stopped meditating altogether.

To be honest, I still don’t really see how meditating for just five minutes a day (if that’s all I can manage) is going to help me at all. But I guess the idea is to just develop a meditation habit, and take it from there. Research shows apparently that if you stick to a new activity for twenty-one days, then you form a habit.

As for writing, my dilemma is very similar to the one I have with meditation. “What is the fucking point of just writing in a blog about the pitiful, little, self-obsessed dramas of your life?” my bitchy mother’s voice asks me. “That’s not going to help you start a career as a freelance writer!”. My bitchy mother is right in a way, of course, as I really would like to do some “real” writing, but I do think it’s important to write here every day. I’m incredibly lonely, and it’s nice to write something and say “Hello, world! I’m here! I have a voice!”. And again, it’s back to the matter of creating a habit. I shouldn’t feel that I can only write something when the muse strikes.

It doesn’t matter how unimportant, uninspired, uninteresting or short a blog post might be, I just need to do it!

Just fucking do it!

SLAA versus Buddhism


I just finished thirty minutes of zazen, and what better way to treat myself than to drink a nice “Lucky Buddha” beer (according to the bottle, it’s an “enlightened beer”)? Of course, drinking beer means that I’ve violated the fifth of the “Ten Grave Precepts“….but, oh well.

photo

Next Thursday will be the last day of my “Introduction to Zen Buddhism” class. I’m so glad that I’ve taken this class, as it gives me a lot of comfort to know that I’m attempting to have a more spiritual life. I love the teacher. She’s a young, probably thirty-something, American woman who has such a kind and gentle energy. It’s pretty clear that she was like this before she ever got into Buddhism, so I often find myself thinking that somebody like her doesn’t really need Buddhism to teach her to be a better person. I’m glad that the class is being taught by a young American laywoman instead of a Japanese monk. I’m not racist, but I think it would have been hard for a newbie like me to relate to somebody who is so culturally and spiritually different. Before I took the class, zen seemed so esoteric and mysterious, and this woman has made it appear so warm and inviting. I love her honesty and humility, and her willingness to share her weaknesses with her students.

This wasn’t my first experience with meditation. When I was twenty-one, I went on a ten-day silent Vipassana retreat when I was living in France. I got a lot out of this experience but the meditation teachers seemed so aloof and somewhat hierarchical. To continue our meditation practice at home, they also said that it was very important to meditate for an hour every morning, and an hour every night. In an ideal world, yes, this would be the best thing to do, but how many people can really afford to mediate for two whole hours each day?! I certainly couldn’t keep this up for long, and when I failed, their rigid “two-hours per day” rule made me give up completely in despair. It would have been far more encouraging if they’d just told us to mediate each day for as long as we could manage, even if only five minutes. For someone like me, who is already so hard on herself and rigid, I needed a more gentle approach.

Besides the teacher, I also like the people in my meditation class. I haven’t gotten to know any of them really well, but a quick, intuitive scan of the room always reveals that everybody meditating with me is thoughtful, smart and questioning. I feel safe around these people.

I’m now so interested in Buddhism that I’m thinking about starting the “Secular Buddhist Studies Program” with the Interdependence Project up in New York City. I want to learn as much about Buddhism as I can now, and the good schoolgirl in me very much likes the idea of being involved in a Buddhist “program”. I’m sure it’s very un-Buddhist of me to like the idea of getting some kind of certificate for having completed the program, but, well, that’s just the way I am, I’m afraid.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that I am quite so enthusiastic about the people who attend my Saturday SLAA meeting. I wouldn’t say that I feel “unsafe” or that I actively dislike anybody, but, well, I just don’t particularly like sitting in a room filled with fellow addicts. Maybe this is just because I don’t like seeing my own worst qualities reflected in other people.

I probably shouldn’t feel this way because, according to Josh Korda, there isn’t much of a difference between people who end up at a twelve-step meeting and people who start going to a Buddhist centre:

With the exception of a few students who are just interested in it philosophically, the vast majority of people who come to Buddhist centers, it’s similar to why people wash up on the shores of AA: It is because they have really hit bottom. The difference is, people in AA have hit bottom with drinking or drugs, and with Buddhism it’s because they’ve hit bottom with excessive thinking of some sort, or fear, or some form of behavior. The problem may include drinking or drugs, but often they just feel their mind is a really uncomfortable place to be. They suffer from what the Buddha calls papanca—thinking too much, proliferation of thought, worry, fear, anxiety. So the arc of recovery is, “How do I get to a place where I can be in my own mind, my own body—which carries so much stress—comfortably?” (http://www.thefix.com/content/josh-korda-buddhism-alcoholics-anonymous00330?page=all)

The main difference between twelve-steppers and people who attend Buddhist centres is that addicts are probably a lot more self-absorbed and self-obsessed. I would also say that this applies to me since nearly every single one of my waking thoughts is concerned with my own unhappiness and what I can do to make myself feel better. Nonetheless, I do like to think that I think about other people at least some of the time.

I hung out with my sponsor and two other women recently, and that experience clearly revealed some of the issues I have with addicts. These women all knew each other, and they spent most of the time talking amongst themselves and ignoring me. Of course, they didn’t mean to ignore me, or hurt my feelings, but, well, they did. It was that addict self-absorption again. I wasn’t expecting to be the centre of attention or anything; it would just have been nice to have been included in their conversations. I know that I would have made sure to include somebody who was an “outsider” in a group.

I do feel bad complaining about these women, however, as they are all perfectly nice, and my sponsor has helped me a lot, and supported me whenever I needed her to. I guess it would just nice to be around people who were a little bit more “healthy”, and I feel that the people at the Zen centre are that for me.

On the other hand, my issues with the women from SLAA could very well be denial on my part – my desire to tell myself “Oh, I’m not like them. I’m not a real addict”. My sponsor is always trying to get me more involved in SLAA activities (e.g. going out for lunch after the meeting; attending the group consciousness meetings; going to SLAA conferences and fellowships)  and I’m somewhat reluctant. I do admit that I’m an addict, but I don’t want all my weekly social interactions and engagements to revolve around SLAA. Addiction is just a part of me; it doesn’t define me.

It would be interesting to hear the perspective of other people who have attended twelve-step meetings. Do my complaints above just sound like somebody who is still a bit a in denial about her addiction, or do I have a point?

All I know is that, right now, I’m getting more out of going to the Zen centre and meditation than I am from going to SLAA meetings. But perhaps that will change when I start working the steps?

Powerless


Well, hello, little blog. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I didn’t mean to stay away for so long, but it’s so hard for me to untangle the twisted knots of perfectionism and procrastination in my life to get anything done. And when I don’t do what I set out to do, I beat myself up, which, naturally, just makes my perfectionism and procrastination worse…and this leads to more self-hatred and self-judgement. It’s a vicious cycle I can’t seem to break.

The only reason I’m here this morning is sheer guilt. Yesterday I complained again to my therapist about how I desperately want to write and be more creative, but that I’m paralyzed with fear. She made me agree to go home and write, and then text her that I’d done so. I had every intention of doing so, but, instead, I went home, lay down for a “few moments” and fell asleep for hours. The writing never got done. I felt so guilty that I sent my therapist a text in which I lied that I’d written for an hour. This morning she sent me a text which asked perkily, “Yay! How did it go?”.  Blogging this morning makes me feel less guilty for lying.

Part of the reason I blog so infrequently is because I feel that so very little ever changes in my life, and writing makes that painfully clear. All I’ve ever done is write and complain about being depressed, anxious and paralyzed by perfectionism and procrastination. I’ve started to bore myself. This time, however, you might be pleased to learn that I have made some changes to my life. First of all, I’ve started to attend a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting every Saturday morning. In fact, I will have to log off here in the next fifteen minutes to get ready. I haven’t started to work the steps yet, but I do have a sponsor, and it is helpful to be able to reach out to somebody who has very similar issues to my own.

I’ve also started to attend beginner Zen meditation classes because I know that I need to meditate to silence all the negative, anxious, obsessive thoughts that run through my head 24/7. Sadly, it’s been hard for me to actually sit down and meditate because my perfectionism comes into play. If I can’t meditate for at least thirty minutes, I say “Ach, fuck it!” and I don’t do anything at all. Story of my life right there. Let me make myself accountable to you all right now, then. When I get home from the meeting, I will mediate immediately for as long or as short a period as I want to.

The above steps I’ve taken to get better aren’t really anything new for me really. Hell, I’ve been trying to heal myself since my late teens,  but I’ve never gotten anywhere. I always fall back into the same old patterns. But this time, I feel something is different. I feel like I’ve reached my rock bottom. I am so incredibly fucking miserable that I just can’t take it anymore. I can’t continue to live a life which has had every last ounce of joy sucked out of it because I am constantly trying to attain perfection and hating myself when I naturally fail. I can’t continue to feel so desperately lonely and to crave connection and yet to attach myself to unavailable men because I am terrified of intimacy.

I am so fucking tired of it all.

I have realized that I cannot fix myself. I can’t believe how fucking “twelve-steppy” I am about to sound, but I have finally realized that I am completely powerless to change on my own. I have been praying to a Higher Power* to help me and, hell, sometimes I actually feel hopeful. In the past, the fact that I only “sometimes” felt connected to a Higher Power was my excuse to just give up. I think I expected the hand of God to come down and touch me on the shoulder or something and to hear a loud, booming voice say “Child, you are healed. Go forth!” Of course, that never happened, so I would just tell myself “See, this doesn’t work!”. It never occurred to me that if you want to be on a spiritual path, you, um, have to work at it. You can’t just sit back on your laurels and expect faith to come to you.

Like my sponsor said yesterday, your relationship with your Higher Power is just like any other relationship. You need to work at it!

* I’m not sure how I define my Higher Power. I certainly don’t believe in an old dude with a long, white beard sitting up on a cloud somewhere. I suppose I think of being in touch with a Higher Power as being “at one” with the universe and everything and everybody in it.