The dictionary and thesaurus define sensual as self-indulgent, sexual, animal, and carnal. All of these qualities are taboo, frowned upon, and preached against in families, schools, and religious institutions. So why are we invoking the sensual wild?
Sensual has to do with the five senses, with the body-mind rather than the intellectual mind. Therefore, the sensation and feeling nature of the body is considered unspiritual. The gift of physicality is often said to be a punishment for wrongdoing in a past life, Adam and Eve’s sin, or something necessary to being alive but a hindrance for anyone seeking a relationship with the Creator. So, if having a body is somehow gross and worldly why would Creator, the Divine Spirit of All Life, have given humans such a disadvantage? After all, we could have remained disembodied spirits like angels. But Divine Spirit gave humans an animal body, for our special friend, in order to enjoy the beauty and wonder of the natural world. And because we have an animal body-friend we have a desire to procreate and experience the pleasures of sexual union. But we also love to eat, move, sleep, and in other words, to do what the animals do.
Ancient people gave thanks to Creator for life in a body and celebrated the seasons of that life from birth to childhood, to youth, to maturity, to old age and death. They understood that if a thing was made by the Creator it must be good and sacred.
Humans, despite our much-vaunted technology, cannot create life. We cannot create trees, grass, stones, animals, ourselves, or any other totally natural phenomena. We have learned to use what already exists in new and interesting ways and are still inventing and experimenting. But many, if not most, of humankind, attempts to play god resulted in a mess. Genetic modification without thought to the consequences comes to mind, species destruction, environmental damage, poison water, and climate change are all the result of human arrogance.
Somewhere, back in time, about three thousand years ago, humans began to develop religious theories and ideals that negated tens of thousands of years of belief that all life was valuable and sacred. Sensuality became licentious, lewd, and lustful. Ceremonies celebrating procreation and fertility were deemed unspiritual and swinish. Monogamy became God’s law so that men could be sure who had fathered their children. Animals, land, the fruit of trees, and the grasses of the fields became property and were no longer sacred gifts of the Creator. Sexual sharing became a commodity, and women, it was decided, needed to be controlled. And after a while, women thought so too.
As we try to remember that all life is sacred and develop a desire to invoke the sensual wild we can begin by meditating with the five senses. Our dharma recommends that we attempt to block out four of our senses as we practice with one of them. Focusing on each of these gifts one at a time allows us to develop appreciation for our body and the experience each sense provides us.
Tasting our food brings gratitude for the many textures and flavors of those foods. Truly listening to the sounds of the natural world, not just the noises we make, helps us hear the song of the Earth. Taking the time to observe objects, movement, and color develops awareness and awakeness. Paying attention to the textures of things and the sensations of cool, smooth, rough, hot, hard, and soft allows a sense of stillness and discernment normally missing in our busy lives.
As we allow ourselves to explore our soft or hard animal body we begin to remember what the ancestors long ago understood. The Earth changes and we change not only in our body but our emotions and thoughts, it is this ability to observe and totally experience those changes that allows us to open to the wild within.
An Earth Mother Story
In the beginning, there was spirit, and out of the womb of that spirit, came the goddess Earth. Formed by an ancient image, she was rounded with beautiful curves and luscious peaks. She knew only of herself in that time and her beauty was a song to the stars that kept her company. As she matured into maidenhood, she began to dream a dream. She dreamed of being a loving and nurturing world full of different and vastly interesting beings capable of relationship with her. To love and be loved in return was her ideal. There was no thought to the danger involved in this dream, only the burning desire to fulfil her gift to the universe. As she continued to dream this dream, she wove an intricate web of her desires and beauty which she cast out into the stars. The web was indeed provocative, as the moonlight glimmered upon the silken strands, sending light vibrations into every corner of the universe.
After many moons of casting the web and waiting, one night as she was almost asleep and about to give up her dream as hopeless, a slight movement on the outer rim of the web brought Earth to a wide-awake alertness. She began to feel the energy of a being hovering close to her, and oh, she found that quite exciting.
Each night, for many moons, this being came to the edge of the web to court the beautiful Earth. She knew him as Sky and his freedom and life-giving air was exactly what she needed to make her dream happen. They became one and together created a perfect place for children to inhabit.
Earth transformed into a Mother and gathered around her other spirits to help with her children. Water spirit to quench their thirst, fire spirit to transform and heal, stone spirit to inspire and support them, wind spirit to bring change and breath.
Then, the birth began. Energy exploded everywhere – the finned ones were born in the water, the winged ones were born in the air, the creepy crawlies reveled in the grasses, in dark caves, and holes in the ground. The animals roamed the mountains, valleys, deserts, and swamps. Finally, Earth and Sky created humans to assist all their little brothers and sisters to flourish.
Constantly changing to meet the needs of all her children she freely gave of her resources. The human children rejoiced in being alive and held ceremonies to thank and help their Mother Earth and Father Sky.
But, as the ages passed, the humans became more and more sophisticated, or so they thought. They scorned the old ceremonies of thanksgiving and fertility. They forgot their place in the balance of all life. In their zest for discovering civilization, they forgot their Mother and Father.
But they were not forgotten nor were they judged for their errors. Instead, the blessed union between Earth and Sky gathered with the spirits of water and fire. They began to cleanse and transform creation. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, and fire brought balance to creation and maybe such signs would help to awaken the humans that something was wrong.
Earth and Sky sent prayers out to the universe on behalf of all their children to draw assistance into the spinning maelstrom of violence, war, and destruction the human beings were foistering on all life on Earth. Masters from far and wide began to answer the call and to start the dreaming backwards. Stories of the beginning of the relationship of Earth and Sky began to be told. Stories of the human people’s responsibility to hold the gift of life sacred began to sprout everywhere. Some humans began to listen and their hearts awakened to the old ceremonies of thanksgiving and fertility. They began to remember the planet as Mother Earth and the atmosphere as Father Sky. But will enough humans awaken? Will it be too late?