So, tonight's topic is true love, and I would like to ask Bobbie to read the Third Mindfulness Training. Let us listen quietly and lovingly and diligently. (Bell sounds)
Bobbie: The Third Mindfulness Training, True Love. Aware of the suffering caused by sexual irresponsibility, I undertake to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not the same as love and that sexual activity motivated by craving can harm myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without mutual understanding, true care, deep respect, and a loving commitment to the long-term wellbeing of myself and others, in harmony with 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 irresponsibility. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating lovingkindness, 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. (Bell sounds)
ChiSing: I only have a few minutes to share with you on this topic, so I may have to give you a shortened version of the teaching tonight. But basically, all five mindfulness trainings are simply to help us to be aware of our motivations, our intentions, our actions, and the consequences. That's all. And sexual energy is a very, very powerful force in our lives. Unfortunately, it is also a very dysfunctional power in many of our lives because of the way our society and upbringing and the history of humankind has treated sexuality.
This precept doesn't necessarily mention gender relations, but I think this is a very key part of sexual responsibility, which is to heal the discrimination between men and women that has been historic and is continually changing and hopefully evolving. But as long as there is any kind of inequity between men and women in our society, in our government, in our religious communities, in our families, there is going to be a dysfunction that manifests in our sexuality as well. So that is something to be mindful of, how we perceive ourselves as men and women in our relationships.
So as I have meditated on the power of sexuality, I realized that sexuality isn't an entity in and of itself. It is not a solid substance. It is simply energy, which manifests as sexuality. But before it was called sexuality, it was something else, and it is simply a life force energy. You might call it prana or chi or ki. Life force energy. And this life force energy is not just manifest as sexual energy. It is also manifest in the energy of our body, in the energy of the universe, the energy of the sun, the rain, and the earth, and the minerals, and the plants, and the animals, and all humans co-creating this energy together.
So, it is important not to separate out sexual energy from life force energy because you cannot do that without creating dysfunction. You need to remember that sexual energy is simply one manifestation of a greater energy called life force energy, and you can even transmute sexual energy into other expressions because it is made of simply life force energy.
I think that in our society, we do ourselves a disservice in our relationships because we keep hearing from advertisements and people's ideas and society's ideas, and it is sort of ingrained in us, even if we do not necessarily believe it consciously. We have subconscious misbeliefs about relationships and sexual energy. So the point is that most of us have some subconscious misbelief that we cannot be truly, fully happy without a romantic relationship or a fulfilled sexual life.
This is actually just not true. In fact, we create more suffering for ourselves if we keep attaching to that misbelief subconsciously, because then we try to force our happiness into this particular shape or mold, that it has to look a certain way. We have to have our Cinderella or our Prince Charming or whatever, and it has to look like this with a white picket fence and a dog or whatever. And if we don't have that, then we feel like we are lacking something. But that is just not true. In fact, it creates a lot of suffering because then it puts a lot of pressure on the other person to fulfill these crazy ideas that you have consciously or subconsciously, and it is not fair to the other person, who is just simply being themselves.
And there are many different ways of feeling fulfilled with life force energy, not just in a romantic or a sexual relationship. In fact, even if you do have a partner that you are happy with and you are creating a wonderful life together, we need to remember that true love is made of lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity, which means freedom and spaciousness and inclusivity, which means that in a relationship you don't put so much demand and pressure on one partner to fulfill all of your happiness needs. Equanimity means that you give your partner a break from time to time. Now you can go off and do some gardening or be with your friends or take some hikes or go to the monastery for a few days or do something that doesn't require you to be having your partner always with you. Give them space. True love means equanimity. Space.
And if you can practice with this, you can lessen the possibility of jealousy. You can allow your partner to have their own interests, their own activities, their own friends, their own alone time, and you can allow yourself the same. And if you're single, instead of worrying about trying to find the perfect partner, just surrender to the reality that you may have a partner or you might not have a partner at different times in your life, and that is okay. You can focus instead on having many, many different kinds of friendships, because it is not just about sexual energy. That sexual energy is simply one manifestation of life force energy. So you can actually fulfill yourself to a certain degree by having a dog and a cat or having good friends, a good community, a good sangha, a good volunteer group project, helping out with children, being out in nature and allowing the universe to make love to you with the feeling of the sunshine and the wind and the waves of the ocean and the sand in your toes.
And if you practice deep prayer and meditation and spiritual practice chanting, you can get so much fulfillment and life force energy from that so that you do not need so much. You don't have this grasping, craving neediness for that supermodel relationship, which may or may not manifest for you in this particular time in your life.
Another part of sexual energy to be mindful of is that it is not a simple energy. It has many complex layers, and I would like to just kind of put on the board here that we have sexual bodies, and we have sexual attractions, and we have sexual energies. And so it is not so cut and dry, black and white, and you may have a male sexual body or a female sexual body—most of us anyway. But as, for example, a male, you may be heterosexually attracted to females or bisexually attracted to both in various degrees or homosexually attracted to other males.
But even as, let's say, a heterosexual male, you may have a more feminine energy. You might be a heterosexual male who tends to prefer relationships with women who have a more masculine energy that you create bipolarity or balance. You've seen some of these kind of couples, right? The woman is really the boss, and the man just kind of does whatever she says, right? And that is okay. There are many different combinations you can create. You can create a female bisexual feminine energy or masculine energy. I mean, there are all kinds of different ways. And these are just six different categories. There are probably more.
In fact, I heard from someone once that even though they were a man heterosexually attracted to women, sometimes they felt emotionally attracted to men. So they were not necessarily sexually attracted to men, but they had emotional, romantic kind of feelings. Not sexually, but romantically, or they were just drawn to certain personality aspects of someone. So it was transcending the body altogether. It was about attraction based on body, that attraction based on soul. And you can have that, too. But because of our society being so rigid and crazy, it causes many people to feel confused because normally they may be heterosexual, and yet they feel this attraction to someone of the same gender, and they do not understand it. It is not really sexual. It is more of a soul attraction. They just feel drawn to that soul because of the beauty of their soul. And if we were in a society that allowed all this diversity and variety, it would be totally okay and understood. I think we would call it something like bro love or something.
Audience Member: Bromance.
ChiSing: Bromance. And that is okay. It is nothing to be afraid of or ashamed of. You know, sex by itself is really neutral. It is not the sex itself that is good or bad. It is the way we approach it, the way we interpret it, the way we repress it, suppress it, or judge it, or create all kinds of dysfunctions around it. That is actually what causes the suffering.
So we are encouraged by the Buddha to practice with life force energy as well as sexual energy and mindfulness, utilizing the four qualities as tools: lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and spaciousness or equanimity. And we have taught this many times here before, so I won't go into it in detail, but I will just briefly outline for those who are new to this teaching. Basically, lovingkindness is the heart of enlightenment. When that lovingkindness meets suffering, we call it compassion. And when that lovingkindness meets blessings, like maybe you won the lottery or something good happened to you, the response of the loving heart of enlightenment is sympathetic joy, a joy that is not jealous, that celebrates with you.
But to make lovingkindness, compassion, and joy work well, we need to have a strong foundation of equanimity, the kind of energy that can be unattached, that can give space, that can not discriminate between people and just be inclusive of everyone, because everyone is equally deserving of our love. Of course we may have special relationships where we have more intimacy than others, but ultimately, all beings deserve your love equally. We are all in this together. So when we practice mindfulness deeply, we start generating this powerful heart energy of lovingkindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity, and spaciousness, and freedom.
And last but not least, take yourself on a date once a week. Don't wait for someone else to ask you out on a date. Take yourself out on a date. You equally to any other being deserve your love and care. The Jews practice this once a week. They call it Sabbath. We can also. In Buddhism we call it a Day of Mindfulness. Do something. Plan it the day before, what you're going to do from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep. Put meditation or chanting into that day, mindful walks in nature, healthy organic meals. Light a candle. Buy yourself flowers. Do something you really enjoy that truly nourishes your spirit. Take time for yourself. For if you can truly, deeply love yourself, it ups the chances that you can better love another person. And if you can really, truly love another person mindfully, it makes the percentages of success in loving the world even better.
So, if at this time you don't have a fulfilling sexual life, that is okay. There are other ways to love and nurture yourself physically. Get a massage. That is such a wonderful gift. Go outside and feel the sunshine. Take your shoes off. Walk on the grass. It is the perfect season now for that. Take a bubble bath with candles. Put some Epsom salts in there or something. Calgon, take me away! (Laughter) All right. Well, I think that is enough for this teaching. There's more, but, you know, you don't need a lot each week, just enough to practice.
So I hope you will practice this true love this week, and I really hope you all come back again next week for our official ceremony of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, officially authorized by Thich Nhat Hanh and officiated officially by Dharma teacher Terry Cortes-Vega from the Austin sangha. I hope that you will take the Five Mindfulness Trainings, or at least some or one of them, next week, if you never have done so before in an official ceremony. Or if you have taken them before, I want you to come and renew your vows. Or if you don't really feel like this is the right time for you to take them, still come and see what it is all about and support those who are taking this opportunity. It's a very powerful ceremony.