Gender and Sexuality: Week 1 Summary — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Gender and Sexuality: Week 1 Summary

Gender and Sexuality: Week 1

Summary: Sunday, April 15-Friday, April 20, 2018

We are clearly not very at home in our bodies, yet Jesus came to show us that we can and must trust our human, and thus body-based, experience. The material world is the privileged place for the divine encounter. (Sunday)

The word sex has a Latin root, the verb secare [which] means “to cut off,” “to sever,” “to amputate,” “to disconnect from the whole.” We wake up in the world and in every cell of our being we ache, consciously and unconsciously, sensing that we are incomplete. —Ronald Rolheiser (Monday)

If we don’t recognize the sacred at the deep level of gender identity and sexual desire, I don’t know if we will be able to see it anywhere else. (Tuesday)

Plato and Aristotle are primarily responsible for our binary view of gender and the idea that gender and sexuality are “biologically ingrained, and determined by God, the creator of the natural order.” (Wednesday)

[Sexual abuse] is the legacy of [sexual] repression. . . . Responsible incarnational redress will not be forthcoming till that deep psychic woundedness is acknowledged, named, and subjected to a more discerning and compassionate analysis. —Diarmuid O’Murchu (Thursday)

At its most intense and most exhilarating heights, the experience of sex combines embodied love and desire, conversation and communication, openness to the other in the intimacy of embodied selves, transcendence into fuller selves, and even encounter with God. —Margaret Farley (Friday)


Practice: Sensuality

Nature writer and conservationist Terry Tempest Williams writes evocatively of her intimacy with the Utah desert. I invite you to imagine that you are the “I” in this passage. Feel what she feels. Breathe as she breathes. Notice what sensations arise in your body. Lose track of where you end and the red rock begins.

Earth. Rock. Desert. I am walking barefoot on sandstone, flesh responding to flesh. It is hot, so hot the rock threatens to burn through the calloused soles of my feet. I must quicken my pace, paying attention to where I step.

For as far as I can see, the canyon country of southern Utah extends in all directions. No compass can orient me here, only a pledge to love and walk the terrifying distances before me. What I fear and desire most in this world is passion. I fear it because it promises to be spontaneous, out of my control, unnamed, beyond my reasonable self. I desire it because passion has color, like the landscape before me. It is not pale. It is not neutral. It reveals the backside of the heart.

I climb the slickrock on all fours, my hands and feet throbbing with the heat. It feels good to sweat, to be engaged, to inhabit my animal body. . . . Once I enter the Joint Trail . . . it is dark, cool, and narrow with sheer sandstone walls on either side of me. . . . The palms of my hands search for a pulse in the rocks. I continue walking. In some places my hips can barely fit through. I turn sideways, my chest and back in a vise of geologic time.

I stop. The silence that lives in these sacred hallways presses against me. I relax. I surrender. I close my eyes. The arousal of my breath rises in me like music, like love, as the possessive muscles between my legs tighten and release. I come to the rock in a moment of stillness, giving and receiving, where there is no partition between my body and the Earth. . . .

I touch the skin of my face. It seems so callow. Moving my fingers over the soft flesh that covers my cheekbones, I wonder what it means to be human and why, at this particular moment, rock seems more accessible and yielding than my own species. . . .

I . . . focus on breath. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. The attention of breath in love, two breaths creating a third, mingling and shaping each other like clouds, cumulus clouds over the desert. . . . My body softens as I make my wish to follow my breath. It settles on the backs of swallowtails. We are carried effortlessly through the labyrinth of these labial canyons. . . .

Inhale. Exhale. . . . I am dizzy. I am drunk with pleasure. There is no need to speak.

Below us.
Above us.
Inside us.
This is all there is.

Terry Tempest Williams, “Desert Quartet,” Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert (Vintage Books: 2001), 195-197, 199, 210-211.

For Further Study:
Diarmuid O’Murchu, Incarnation: The New Evolutionary Threshold (Orbis Books: 2017)

Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2003)

Richard Rohr, Gate of the Temple: Spirituality & Sexuality (Center for Action and Contemplation: 1991, 2006, 2009), CD, MP3 download

Image credit: Study for the Libyan Sibyl (detail), Michelangelo Buonarotti, ca. 1510-11. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The body is a sacrament . . . a visible sign of invisible grace. . . . All our inner life and intimacy of soul longs to find an outer mirror. It longs for a form in which it can be seen, felt, and touched. The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression. . . . The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. —John O’Donohue
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