Project Conversion

Practicing as a Jain ascetic this month, I took certain vows. The five most important being:

  • Ahimsa (Non-injury)
  • Always tell the truth
  • Do not steal
  • Celibacy
  • Non-possession

So far I’ve done pretty well. I even took on the practice of one small meal a day. With non-injury it means that I must avoid killing or harming even the smallest insect. One day I actually sat and watched a mosquito bite my arm before I tried to blow her off. I’ve sat in meditation outside in 40 degree weather with nothing but a thin bed sheet. I sleep on a hardwood floor at least three hours a night before moving to the couch. Now I’m even participating in a three-day (at least) fast…and I’m not even hungry. I can do all these things through sheer power of will, but there’s one thing I cannot resist:

My wife.

Heather practicing her harlot kiss of doom.

Back in May when I practiced Buddhism, I wrote this post. It talked about how practicing heavy meditation and introspection actually decreased my libido. I thought it was just me, but I’ve spoken with others who experience the same thing. What troubles me this month is that I took a vow of celibacy knowing that I would experience that very same phenomenon. Trouble is, sex happens to be a two person (ahem…at least) activity which means by declaring celibacy, I’m signing up my wife for something she doesn’t want to do.

I knew I’d be fine…as long as there was no temptation, so I made Heather promise to take the vow with me. She did…but I think she had her fingers crossed. I was doing fine. I was doing so well, and then Heather went back on her “promise.”

“Celibacy doesn’t apply to us,” she told me while chasing me around the house, pulling at my robes. “We’re married.”

“Yes, but I took a vow! You’re messing with my enlightenment!” By this point I was trying to fight her off with my fly whisk, but to no avail.

“Come here, I’ll show you enlightenment…”

It took her a few days, but the constant barrage of flirting and innuendo paid off and I succumbed to my wife.

Strange that I feel guilt and shame after sleeping with my wife, isn’t it? The funny part is that she is unapologetic about the whole thing. This isn’t a game of “let’s get the monk to screw around,” she legitimately wants a course correction here because from her point of view, our relationship as husband and wife should never change regardless of what religious practices I have that month. She’s already made it clear that she will be just as persistent for the rest of the month, because as her husband, our intimacy was “bought and paid for at the altar.”

Yes, she has a point. Project Conversion is supposed to affect me the most, not her or the kids, so indeed why should she have to change? I am sympathetic to that. The other issue is that despite all my other successes with practice this month, I’ve discovered my Achilles heel: my wife. I simply cannot say “no” because over the course of nearly seven years of marriage, we have never refused one another. Ever. And now I must suddenly resist?

In many ways, I have it a little tougher than the average Sadhu (monk). Because they own nothing and move from temple to temple, they do not face daily temptations to the same extent that I do. I must walk by a nicely stocked refrigerator every day. There is always a comfortable couch to enjoy rather than the floor. I also have a perfectly ready and willing wife just waiting to find a crack in my resolve. Choice is, in my opinion, much more dangerous to our will than no choice.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, like fasting, celibacy isn’t about punishing yourself by avoiding life’s pleasures. It’s about learning self-control, learning how to channel one’s passions, and becoming the master of your actions. By failing in my commitment of celibacy this month, I’ve uncovered my only weakness of discipline. Now, I just have to stand even more vigilant and resist my greatest temptation.

What is your weakness? Perhaps you’ve made the same New Year’s resolution year after year only to fail. What tools do you use to remain vigilant?

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