Celibacy has a lot of debate around it. And by debated I mean, a lot of stigma. You must be a prude if you’re celibate. Sheltered. Yadda-yadda.
I did it at first as kind of a joke response to the disaster that my sexual life was. And dating life. Anything romantic really. This isn’t a fault of anyone – I’m just a busy woman who prioritizes work, and then makes hasty decisions in the light of horniness. I was using sex as a distraction from that. Who doesn’t love an all-encompassing distraction?
But as I started wasting time and sacrificing fulfilment, sex was becoming at a detriment (for me anyway) to my energy and focus for other things in my life. I felt it was time to start fresh and realign myself with my priorities and standards.
I learned a couple of months after this vow about Brahmacharya. It was introduced in my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT). I’ll give you a brief overview of what this means without getting to technical or convoluted.
There are things called Yama’s and Niyamas; personal and interpersonal practices on the path of yoga that more or less define our conduct/choices behind conduct. Brahmacharya is part of the Niyamas category which is interpersonal aka our interactions with the world and those around us.
Brahmacharya is at it’s simplest translated into highest and best use of vital energy; celibacy (as an act of this); “walking with god”.
There are other definitions and spin offs that talk about how to not use or abuse your sexual power as a teacher (or in life really).
In class we had a closing ceremony where we each chose one of the yamas or niyamas, explaining a little bit why we chose it.
There are many, many different meanings and translations for all of these and each unique person has an equally unique view of how to implement them and practice them for themselves. I chose brahmacharya.
It was hard to say it out loud, even though I knew how many meanings there were and how different it was for everyone. It felt like a stigma for me to acknowledge that I had work to do on how I utilized my sexuality. I had been so caught up in living a life that focused on my work that I hadn’t realized sacred and spiritual parts of me had also begun to feel like work too. There was no balance.
Celibacy is one of the most common practices of brahmacharya which I had been practicing since before YTT started – to have a name and reason for why I felt the need to do this was reassuring for me. In the past, I had acted emotionally celibate but was still giving away a part of myself and my energy with each meaningless interaction – even more than if emotion had been involved. Why? How was this hurting me? What was the remedy?
I decided space from these interactions was the first step. To step away completely from my entrenchment in these habits and the little things that went along with it.
I deleted all dating accounts and apps. I started going out less. I actively told people I was celibate. I created boundaries for myself not only in my head but in my physical world as well to help hold me accountable for what I had decided to do.
A couple of months into this 7 month period of celibacy, I had sex once. We spent a couple of weeks talking and getting to know each other. We fucked. Afterwards he told me “lady fluids flare up [his] eczema” and I realized what a great decision celibacy had been.
I was sleeping with a person who’s chemical composition literally was allergic to my vagina. I was sleeping with a person who said lady fluids. That was all I needed to know about what a wonderful choice celibacy had been in a whole new way.
After this it became more of a quiet feat. I have a way of doing things that are bad for me over and over to keep proving to myself that they are, indeed, bad. I had reached the several-year-long end point where I had proved my thesis correct. I didn’t feel the need to test it anymore. I not only saw the facts but also understood them.
I don’t want to indicate that I’ve only had bad sex, that sex is bad in general, that it was all unfulfilling etc. That’s not true. I’ve experienced boredom, playfulness, passion, and love; soft, rough, inexperienced, and pure artistry. But underlaying it all was how I personally felt about and utilized sex.
I’d also like to make it clear that for me, sexuality is larger than just sex. While I personally took the route of limiting even acts such as dating, there were still instances of sexuality because I believe that overall it is a fundamental point of balance within ourselves – however that manifests. These instances were now coming from a place of personal expression rather than a desire to distract myself from life, feelings, situations, and even boredom.
I still kissed, I still masturbated, I still flirted. But instead of these actions being a means to an end, they rendered a pure quality about them that way. They felt more alive and fraught with individual meaning – joy for the action in my body and my mind. No ulterior motives. They created and defined boundaries of what celibacy was, but also what sex was; where the line was that made me feel too close to old habits, emotions, and crutches. I was realizing I had used sex as a way to distract myself and excuse myself for not having what I could have been giving to myself: Love.
There were past traumas that I had glazed over. There were excuses, irresponsible behaviours, and a defiance to listen to my libido more than my logic countless times; my libido and logic over intuition and emotion. For me, this is normal. This was my experience, I’m not ashamed of it and frankly I don’t think sex is something that isn’t messy at some point for everyone (literally and figuratively).
The truth was I didn’t understand for a long time that sex was more than physical, and even sometimes more than emotional as well. It is spiritual. While I had spent so many years unknowingly repressing my spirituality in ways other than sexual, I can’t help but feel that this repression weighed heavily on my sexuality in tandem. That is to say, the lack of knowledge in both subjects was detrimental to both subjects in kind.
I spent this time on focusing my “highest and best use of vital energy” on vital tasks. If I had been so focused on work, yet distracted by sex then it was time to truly focus on this work. On school, on personal development, on herHABITAT, on moving across the country, on my non-sexual relationships (there’s still romance without sexuality, I believe too).
After 7 months I had effectively decided and planned to move across the country (twice if you count that I am spending the summer on the west coast beforehand), finished school getting 100% on my last exam, travelled to Halifax 3 times, quit my job, registered herHABITAT as a NFP, taught my first (and many other) workshops, started a regular roster of events for herHABITAT, performed spoken word and singing in public, recorded a song, and on and on.
Sure, 7 months is a long time. A lot happens. I could probably also tell you approximately how many times I shit. The point is, I was doing a lot for the things that I wanted to do a lot for. I was genuinely focused on the growth that was important to me, and therefor was seeing more results. More energy input, more results output. It is a basic idea that we’ve heard in so many different ways. But like most things it doesn’t mean anything until you truly experience it.
Sex was my biggest distraction because it encompassed everything leading up until that point too – from dates to texting to even the time it takes to get ready or sift through profiles until you find a match. Taking it completely out of my range of tasks at hand, I had a significant chunk of energy to work with. More than that, I was less spread out. This focus enabled me to see things more clearly and do quality work instead of quantities of work (this same idea of quality vs. quantity is also in-part why I chose to move across the country).
I broke my celibacy after graduation with someone who I truly wanted to have sex with, liked as a person, and felt a strong relationship with without sex. My goal wasn’t to be celibate for the rest of my life; my main objective was to break the patterns that were almost unconscious, to understand them, and then work towards building better ones.
I realized there were few times I had felt empowered, comfortable, sensual, trusting, or even heard during sex. To embrace all of those things, and to understand how innate they felt compared to who I was in most of my other sexual experiences was powerful. This was not about setting a bar for others, but more for myself. Who I wanted and needed to be, wanted to give, was willing to share.
These may seem like obvious factors that go into regarding a sexual relationship to some, but this wasn’t my experience. Sex was something I felt I owned. I could use it as a tool. I now feel like it is something I do, that I am with. It is focused attention, it is spiritual connection, it is not something I am willing to use as a distraction because I’m scared of what will happen when I really focus on what I really want.
All in all, it was a rewarding experience that made me realize who and how I want to be in sex and what it’s purpose was for me – not distraction or gratification. It is an act of bonding. Of trust. A deeply spiritual experience that should be about exploring and sharing (for me anyway! Sex is different for everyone in a plethora of ways!). That is what this “new” sexual experience was – or more, this is who I was.
There are still patterns in myself that need assessment and work. I don’t feel that my journey of celibacy is necessarily over. The pause in action was, for me, just as necessary as the action itself. Like I said earlier, I need to always see if things are still bad for me.
I don’t think sex was innately ever bad for me. I believe I was under-educated and misunderstood by myself and my needs. This was a practice in understanding the boundaries of logic, emotion, and spirituality as much as a practice in sex.
Written by Forest Greenwell
Have any questions about celibacy, brahmacharya, or my experience? Feel free to leave them below!