Sex has been getting a raw deal for a long time. It is in our nature to desire and enjoy it – to love sex the way we love chocolate or champagne. But few of us have been educated to give sex our love.

This is hardly surprising. It’s still not so long since sex was synonymous with shame and sinfulness, and while – at least in western Europe – that holy oppression has pretty well collapsed and sex is more accepted and available than at any time since the Roman Empire, the real revolution – the one that brings sex in from the cold – still hasn’t happened. Something is missing, and you only have to pay attention to the way sex is addressed to see it. Look at how sex is used as a sales commodity, how frequently it is exploited for profit; listen to the way it is discussed in the media or talked about among friends. Normally missing is a sense of shared respect for something regarded as precious. It’s not that we should be speaking of sex in hushed and holy terms. But even disregarding blasé, coarse jokes and sexual cynicism, there isn’t any such thing as a normal sense of loving regard and caring for sex. It just doesn’t occur to us because we haven’t grown up in a culture that treats sex with love. As a result, whether we are still contending with issues of shame and repression, or are liberated enough to be having fun with sex, we are probably still unconsciously stuck in an attitude that one way or another keeps us unable to celebrate the deepest magic and mysteries of sexual intimacy.

To find this is like bringing an unknown sense into being, like someone who has been blind since birth being suddenly able to see. This is why I created the Body, Heart and Soul series of workshops, and honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t need the experience that Body, Heart & Soul One provides. It is such an eye-opener! It transforms people’s lives. By the time they have come through the celebration of a new sexual awakening – the Initiation ceremonies of the final days – after 4 days of preparation that undoes all their very normal conditioning, sex has an entirely new place in the woman or man they are – a very loved and honoured place in their body, heart and soul. So my friend, however young or old you are, whatever your sexual preference, for the sake of love and beauty in your intimate life, you are most welcome!

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Our feelings are how we find each other

SHE: But I’m so afraid that what I say is going to hurt him!

ALAN: You’re allowed. Okay? And the reason you’re allowed is because you don’t MEAN to hurt him, you’re not trying to hurt him. This is really, really important for all of you to hear. When you hold things back or you’re untrue to yourself because you’re afraid of hurting someone, there’s an incredible step you can take. In your heart, without saying anything – not making yourself a guru, just quietly in your own heart and consciousness – you give this person permission to feel whatever they feel when you are true to yourself. You TRUST that it is good for them to feel whatever they’re feeling!

I’m like this with you all the time. I give you my truth, and there are times when my truth may make you cry, or make you angry. I accept because I am not out to hurt you; on the contrary, when I give my truth, the harder it may be to hear, the more important that I give it lovingly. If I give you my truth it is because my soul tells me that I need to say this. I give myself permission to say it, and you have my permission to feel whatever you feel. I’m inviting you to open and be friendly with whatever I am touching in you. If you get angry, by the way, it is usually because you are NOT in friendship with what is being touched in you. So you want to fight and argue – your anger is a defence against what you don’t like in yourself. This is why, whenever you get angry, it is good to breathe into and tune in with where the anger is coming from, instead of just acting out your anger. There is lots more to say about being angry, but I’ll keep it for later.

So if I say something to you and you feel like you want to cry, my sincere hope is that you will allow yourself your tears. Or laughter, or anger! But not walk away! I want you to learn how to keep being here anyway. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give each other here: be real and allow everybody else here to experience whatever they experience in encountering your realness. This is what makes The Art of Being different from what’s happening out there in the world. People are afraid to affect each other. It is as though everybody is wearing a ‘Do not disturb!’ sign. Then we are all isolated from each other, afraid to touch each other’s feelings. Our feelings are how we find each other!

T.S. Eliot in one of his poems has a very timid man ask: Do I dare disturb the universe? Yes, and each other. It’s all about your intention. If you have bad intentions, it just means that you need to make friends with the fears and wounds that drive them. If your intention is to open your heart, awaken into being and learn how to BE IN LOVE, that’s all the intention you really need. Then if your man is upset by your truth, let him be upset. And you can say to him, I’m sorry you’re upset, I love you anyway. You can even say goodbye with love if you have to.

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A few words to a friend about the dark night of the soul

I posted this on my old blog about 18 months ago. Something moves me to re-post it here today. Perhaps it has relevance for someone out there who reads my blogs?

“This is a really important time for you. The door that I talked about is open – that is why you feel that there is no protection in front of your heart. The protection was the wall that kept you safe, but it kept you safe from your heart. Now the wall is falling down, leaving your heart and all your feelings open. This of course makes you also afraid. It is so unfamiliar to you to be so open, and you cannot be open on one side – the sweet, light and beautiful – without also being open on the other side – the dark and scary wounds that you carry, mostly from your childhood, in your psyche. It sounds so simplistic to say it, but it is true nevertheless that all you need to do now is stay open – keep feeling everything, including the fear, WITH FRIENDLINESS. Loneliness, despair, emptiness – allow yourself to experience all of these, until they are no longer frightening to you. They are demons guarding the treasure! If you allow yourself to embrace them, you will find your way to a happiness that is no longer haunted by fear. But you have to be willing to go through the fear to find the light. It is what mystics call, “the dark night of the soul”. And everyone who really means to awaken to their whole being has to come to, and dare to pass through, this night. Embrace your inner experiences whatever they are. And know that here is a friend who has travelled this path and so can be in spirit with you as you walk yours.”

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Jealousy! What to do?

A lot of love relationships hit the wall because of jealousy. It helps to understand what this dark force really is. It is not an inevitable by-product of love. It is rooted in fear, not in love. It comes from being antagonistic towards feelings that you are unwilling to accept in yourself. The feelings – like loneliness, heartbreak, grief, anger, helplessness, despair and fear itself – nearly always originate in a childhood where you were not taught to accept your feelings. Usually the antagonism is directed outwards against others. Ironically, it is your intimate partner who usually bears the brunt. Sometimes people direct the antagonism against themselves, turning themselves into victims. Either way, your attitude is essentially hostile and unloving.

There is only one way to handle your jealousy with integrity, and it is not easy. But then, what people do with their jealousy is not easy either – so much nastiness, and about as merciless as war! It is one of the insanities of being human. Like infants, we refuse to take responsibility for the destructive feelings that come up in us. We would rather lash out than say hello to our pain, rage, tears and despair. It is understandable, but only the same way that a two year-old’s temper tantrum is understandable.

And there is very little in our culture that helps. The media all milk the jealousy soap-operas for the dramas they get out of them, and a lot of pop songs praise possessiveness as though it is the holy grail of love, when it is really only the fear of being lonely. So it is quite normal for people to create hell in their relationships when what they really need to do is make friends with the demons in their own inner hell.

Life is a very insistent teacher. Until you surrender to what you have to learn, you go on having unhappy relationships. You walk out of your marriage furious because your partner had an affair. You slam the door and get a divorce, and tell yourself never again.  Two years later you’re slamming the door and getting a divorce again, and so it goes on until you’re willing to turn around and say hello to the pain, fear, panic, terror, loneliness, abandonment, the feeling of love having gone forever and never coming back, and all the other horror stories you may go through in your jealousy.

The only healthy, and for that matter healing, way to deal with your jealousy is to do nothing and feel everything!  Do nothing against your partner, put nothing on your partner, and do nothing against yourself either – no victim trip, no turning yourself into an ambulance case. You have to sit alone in the transforming fire of your hell and make friends with all your darkness. And that, believe it or not, is as simple as breathing! Yes, you cry, you fry, you feel at times like you’re gonna die, but still, IT IS ALL ONLY YOU! You breathe into whatever you are experiencing, and as you breathe out, you surrender to it. You agree to experience it all, for one awesomely simple reason: BECAUSE IT IS SO. You agree to make friends with your inner weather, whatever the weather! Yes, I know it seems impossible! It isn’t.  Really! Once you have been through its fire and honestly embraced all your demons, you become happier than you have ever been in your life. Now you love yourself and you don’t need to find anyone to save you from all that you used to be so afraid of in yourself. And the most beautiful thing is that now you can really love somebody, not just want and need them!

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About Love and the Shadow

Alan talking to participants in Love and the Shadow workshop in Munich, March 30, 2012


You came here with your partner. Do you realize how rare this is?  Do you realize what you’re giving yourselves in your relationship, and how extraordinary this is? There are countless couples out there who spent this weekend doing all sorts of interesting things, and who maybe didn’t have a moment of being really present with each other. The world has become so used to people being more absent than present that it has become normal for people to live their relationships as a kind of shared absence – being comfortably absent together. TV is important, shopping is important, alcohol is important. All kinds of things cansave couples from facing the fact that they actually don’t meet each other. People can be quite lonely in their relationships!

Of course there are lots of people who are having a beautiful time with each other. Still, you only have to be here in this circle for a short while to realize what incredible treasures and untouched mysteries there are to be discovered in really being with your beloved.  It is a privilege to sit here with you all now and to sense the depth of your communion with your partners. It happened because you chose to look after the love – yes, and the shadows! – of your relationships.  They teach us to care in all kinds of ways. When you bring your partner to tears, for example – not that you meant to, but you were careless, a bit hurtful – their tears teach you to care. In all kinds of ways you are teaching each other. Sometimes they’re really tough ways. Your partner says, “I’ve had enough, I’m leaving”, and you realize how much you care, that you can’t go on living in your old I don’t care habit. Most of the ways that we learn to care for each other are sweeter, like coming to Love and the Shadow! I thank you all for being here.

And remember too: your relationship is not only a beautiful gift of giving and receiving love. It is also an invitation to each of you to wake up and feel the richness of your inner life. That has been such an important element of this experience. So please, just take a moment and meet your beloved’s eyes and feel the invitation to be present! The invitation is always here, now.

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