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Editorial: Spirituality and Sexuality

Spirituality doesn’t have to be esoteric, as in belonging or being accessible only to a few. It is very much a part of our lives, just as sexuality is. And because they are both aspects of our being, they may nurture each other, if we let them. In fact, sometimes people liken an orgasm to a spiritual experience because of the feelings of freedom, expansion and bliss it may evoke. Being connected to and expressing our sexuality can indeed be a spiritual experience as we get in touch with our pure, raw, and deep desires.

Unfortunately however, sometimes people think that it a profanity to even suggest that the two, sexuality and spirituality, may walk together, hand in hand, and insist that they be kept separate from each other. In Of Flying Spaghetti Monsters and Inner Goddesses, Radhika Chandiramani explores, both seriously and somewhat irreverently, whether sexuality and spirituality make for good bedfellows and concludes that they undeniably do, and that we have the right to celebrate and enjoy both, if we want to.

“A genuinely spiritual approach cannot exclude any aspect of life,” says Lata Mani during an interview with Shikha Aleya aptly titled All This & So Much More. Lata, a feminist historian, cultural critic, contemplative writer and filmmaker, underwent a physical, intellectual and spiritual transformation after a head injury in 1993. She brings a contemplative framework to this multi-layered interview on desire, sex, identity, fragility, what tantra really means, and the implications of a fear of the not-secular for social justice movements, indeed all this, and so much more!  This is an interview that calls to be read multiple times, and in multiple ways, as in addition to links to texts and talks, Lata has also generously offered password-free access through November 2019 to De Sidere 7, a film by Nicolás Grandi and herself, to In Plainspeak readers. Lata, we are very grateful!

In each article in this month’s issue, our contributors bring themselves into their writing, explaining how spirituality and sexuality are interwoven for them. Each writes from their own unique experience and location. In Safety and Adventure all Rolled into One, Jaya Sharma writes poetically about silent meditation retreats, BDSM, safety, adventure, too-much-ness and how all of them are related for her and the possibilities they offer. Sheena D’Lima writes in Faith, Pleasure and The Da Vinci Code about being a teenager who could not view pleasure as being congruent with her Christian faith, her journey away from institutionalised religion, and, today, her continuing faith while being “a sexual being with infinite ways of experiencing pleasure”. With Sexuality and Spirituality – Coming Full Circle, Asmi reflects on Hindu traditions she grew up with, the conflicts therein for her in her practice as a submissive, and what uplifts her spirit. Reshma Valliappan, in Sexuality Mortalises. Spirituality Immortalises, contemplates the nature of both and reveals her solution to a challenge she faced when students she was teaching, influenced by a tantric teacher, began to believe that having sex everyday would keep them young and fit!  In Sacred Sonic Constellations: Abida Parveeen and Falguni Pathak, Sara Shroff opens up a conversation on sound, desire and the divine feminine and reveals how Abida’s and Falgani’s visual and aural aesthetic representations offer her, and us, a way to undo the dualities of mind and body, spirit and desire.

For our Hindi readers, we have a new translation in the Navintam section.

In the Media Corner we have an article on how an inner awakening led to questioning stultifying traditions in Deepa Mehta’s Water (2005) and in the Book Corner, a review of Telegu writer Volga’s The Liberation of Sita which retells the story of Sita from a feminist lens.

Our selection for this month’s Brushstrokes of Everyday Feminism’s comic, The Hypocrisy of Pro-Life Rhetoric , exposes how the problem with most pro-life arguments doesn’t lie in religion or faith, but rather that they are made only to sustain a narrow world view and a rejection of difference and diversity. In the face of this sorry truth that we humans can be a mean lot, The School of Life’s video What is the Point of Spirituality? reminds us that through spirituality we can be free, if only for a while, of the burdens of being us. With its lovely graphics and voice-over by Alain de Botton, it offers a simple yet deep explanation of what spirituality may mean to different people and includes gems such as this “…we might find ourselves loving – that is appreciating and delighting, understanding and sympathising with ­– a family of dung beetles, a moss-covered tundra, someone else’s child, or the birth of a far-away star…”

In our mid-month issue we have Andy Stephen Silveira write about the need to claim our spirituality imaginatively and differently, and to evolve an understanding of a god who is more like us. Rohini Banerjee reviewing the delightful webcomic Puu with its luminous illustrations finds that religion and faith can be reconciled with queerness, and that spirituality can be located both beyond the self and within the self.

We have three thoughtful first-person accounts in the blogroll section. There’s one about being bisexual when one’s religion forbids it, and praying that, someday, religion and sexuality will find a happy convergence; another about how the author discovered that with real connection, sex can be sacred, and spirituality can be reunited with the mundane. The third is about how with the support of her two- and four-legged companions as well as ‘friends in high places’, the author not only overcame panic attacks but also built what she calls invisible muscle.

Invisible muscle – may we all build more of it!

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