With the end goal of ending suffering (and saving all beings into the bargain), we bodhisattva wannabes get a toolkit of ten Clear Mind Precepts in a genuine leatherette box: don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t shit-talk others, etc. It’s pretty high-minded stuff and I can talk the talk as well as any of us who’ve done the readings. It seems pretty straightforward. Until you blow it.
This summer I blew a biggie, Precept #3: Though Shalt Not Misuse Sexuality.
There’s a reason why Sex gets a precept all to itself. Sex is freaking powerful stuff. It’s biological, physical, social, emotional, natural and conditioned. It is is intricately woven into our self-image and self-esteem. I arrogantly believed that I had a handle on the whole sex thing, but in that moment of sweat and desire, I lost my grip.
It’s not such a juicy story as you might be hoping for. A longtime friend. Years of light flirting. Shared glances. Casual touches. A shady forest clearing on a hot summer day. One kiss. Another, deeper kiss. Think once, think twice, think again, stop thinking. Wham! Precept #3, tossed into the salal with my scattered clothing.
It’s not that the act of loving was bad, or that anyone was betrayed or damaged. It was really quite sweet, and for the record, there was no ‘cheat’ involved. The badness is that I knew that this could destabilize my friend, at a time when he was grasping for stability. I knew that he might not be in an emotional state to hold the complexity of a sexual relationship with me. I knew that I was gambling with our friendship, and that we could never regain our innocent flirtation once we’d eaten the apple. But I was lonely, and in my weakness Mara the tempter appeared. She offered me solace. In that moment all my book-learning and cushion-sitting were for nothing. All I wanted then was the fleeting oblivion of need, fulfilled.
I am not placing blame here vs. there; we are two adults, responsible for our consenting actions. But I have to own this. I fully knew better, and yet, I failed. Sexual energy is powerful medicine and I indulged it without due care.
The upside is, as I wipe my brow: We were lucky. I don’t think anyone was fatally harmed. We can still laugh together, and I am pretty sure our friendship will survive.
So it goes: I slip up, I fall, I get back up again. I am human, only human, nothing less and nothing more – just another bodhisattva wannabe stumbling down the path. Next time I vow to do better. Next time I’ll remember not to light a cigarette beside the propane tank. Next time, maybe, I’ll know it before I blow it.
This is the teaching.
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