The Sexy Spirit

Gina Ogden peeked into America's bedrooms and found lots of...spirituality going on.

BY: Interview by Holly Lebowitz Rossi

 

Continued from page 1

How do you interpret studies that show that sexual dysfunction is high in society in different forms?
Open Your Heart & Mind to Pleasure
There have indeed been studies done, all of them have been done on a very limited notion of what sex is. These studies that say, for instance, that almost half of women are dysfunctional, in other words that we don't want sex, we're not interested in sex, and we don't do it well, we're not satisfied even when we do—these are based on just a few questions about successful intercourse, how many times you come to orgasm, how many times you have intercourse a week—in other words, what the researchers can count and measure. But if you think about your sexuality in terms of feelings, thoughts, and what it means to you, sex is a whole lot more than we can count or measure.

What is the "ISIS wheel," and how does it help couples?
The ISIS wheel is an acronym for my survey, which was "Integrating Sexuality and Spirituality." When I looked at all of the responses, including the 1,500 letters that people wrote, I had to find a way that I could put them all together. They fell together in a kind of medicine wheel pattern. [A medicine wheel, which originated in Native American communities, is a round stone marked with spiritually-symbolic symbols.] One of the practical ways that couples can walk the ISIS wheel, or work the ISIS wheel, is literally through that awareness of placing themselves in its four quadrants—body, mind, heart or emotions, and spirit. But another way that they can look at it is that most of us spend most of our time somewhere on the perimeter of that wheel. "Sex is meaningful, but it's not that meaningful. It's emotional and fun, but it doesn't open our hearts totally, or it's physically pleasant, but after a few hours we can do it again." I talk about how couples can move into the wheel towards the center, where maybe all of those emotions and physical yearnings and spiritual yearnings and ideas meet in the center. Where sometimes sex is transformative, it feels magical, it is a place of divinity.

It's no surprise that at those moments, we say, "Oh, God, oh, God!" In bedrooms all over the country, people are crying out, "Oh, God!" They're not crying out, "Oh, Devil!" So I remind people that our sexuality is sacred. It's part of our birthright, part of our commitment. It's part of our breathing, and that we need to broaden our definitions of sex beyond those few things scientists know how to count and measure and understand that there's a mystical element to it that we need to honor. That is what draws us to one another and helps us stay together in the long term, even though we may think, "it would be nice to have a younger lover," or "that rock star is so cute." There is that emotional, spiritual element that draws us as partners to be together through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse—and that's the marriage commitment. That is the sacred marriage.

How would you use your ISIS wheel in a couples therapy session?

Open Your Heart & Mind to Pleasure
I ask couples to imagine that they're standing in a big circle, which is divided into more or less equal quarters. One of the quarters is body, one is mind, one is heart or emotions, and one is spirit. I tell couples to speak from each of those quadrants. So when you get a picture of, say, a man who's saying, "I want to have sex 12 times a week," and the woman is saying, "Well, that doesn't feel good to me," the man will usually be standing in the quadrant of physical, and the woman may be standing in the emotional place. What she may really be saying is, "Honey, I want you to look at me when we have intercourse. I want you to talk to me about your feelings. I don't want you just to hump me and then roll over and go to sleep. We need to have some more connection here."

Then, I would ask them to become exquisitely aware that sex is more than just physical and just performance. So I would ask them to speak from the emotional place, from the mind place, from the place where maybe the guy is saying, "I was told that the only way to be virile and to be a man was to score–50 times a week wouldn't be too much for me." And the woman may be in the place of saying, "I've been told that I'm a 'loose woman' if I have that much sex." So you begin to get that discrepancy between the couple. But if they can discuss where they're coming from, and what messages they grew up with and are saluting to in the present, then they can come to a more reasoned outcome.

Continued on page 3: But can we still have a quickie? »


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