“Love is a knowing and of being known, a seeing and of being seen, not of flesh, but through the flesh.”

Lust is one of the most common, and trickiest, of things that many people struggle with in life. While pleasure and physical connection are human needs and natural, in our modern world unfortunately they might often be mistaken for love or genuine connection; and when lust is expressed in unhealthy ways or disrespectfully, many issues can arise. So today, dear ones, let us talk about how we can overcome unhealthy expressions of lust, in any of its shapes and forms, and connect to love, which is the real unmet need within us.

For those of you who haven’t read the previous discussions, I’ve written on

Deeper Understanding of the Seven Virtues, and

Six Beautiful Insights from a Monk.

The Inner Fire of Transformation

When we hear words such as pride, lust and greed, we usually associate them with the seven sins, thereby potentially attaching shame, guilt, dogmatic beliefs and judgment onto them; so let’s first start with understanding what the word sin really means. And the reason we’ll begin with this is because one of my intentions for my articles is to offer various perspectives for the purpose of expanding our perceptions – so that we understand the essence of things, rather than immediately dismiss or run away from “words” that we think are outdated thereby missing an opportunity for a deepening.

The true meaning of sin comes from the ancient Greek word ἁμαρτία meaning literally “to miss the mark” as in aiming for a vision or target and falling short. Our mark is usually one that marries clarity of mind, purity of heart and aligned with sincerity of action, so that we are aligned to our true intention, responding to the real internal need. But somehow, somewhere along the way, visions get foggy or waver and paths get shifted.

Sometimes it is because we didn’t have the tools needed, whether tools internal or external; sometimes it is because we didn’t have the awareness, understanding or maturity, or we simply didn’t pay attention to what we needed to. For whatever reason, we missed the mark. Perhaps the mark was fairness, but we fell into greed. Perhaps the mark was courage, but we fell into anger or pride. And perhaps the mark was love and emotional connection, but we fell into lust.

In the monasteries, monks spend part of their day in what is called obedience, which is essentially doing service to take care of the tasks of the monastery and the land etc. And these tasks are purposeful and unique to each monk depending on their own spiritual path. If a monk is struggling with pride in their life, they are usually encouraged to clean the toilets. If a monk struggles with gluttony, they may work most days in the kitchen yet not be allowed to eat or taste while cooking. These tasks are meant to align them in deeper inner harmony and inspire self autonomy.

In our every day modern life, we too can all almost awaken our inner monk and learn things about ourselves from the opportunities that life presents us. For example, if you are stuck in traffic, perhaps you can learn about being more patient and less judgmental, and just be more self aware.

Sins aren’t things we should view as imprisonment or feel ashamed of them, because we are human and it is life, and we all miss some mark sometimes. But it is important to know ourselves and be aware of our reactions and temptations, and thereby develop self-autonomy, otherwise fears and doubts and low self-esteem will take a hold on us and drive us.

We can view sin, i.e. moments of anger, greed, pride etc., as a fire to be lit from within us – it is a fire that brings the beauty of the matter. Fire is an alchemist and is powerful. It can be used to burn – burn the whole house and ourselves – or it can be used to warm us and transform us in meaningful and very beautiful ways.

The lower we perceives ourselves, the more things we’ll want to do to wash away that inner shame or perceived sinfulness. So in a way, while we may think these sins are keeping us imprisoned or punished, they are actually an opportunity for that inner fire to inspire us to grow if we choose to. If we can allow the humility that arises within us from that “sin”, we can essentially allow these flames of insight and new found wisdom turn us into something beautiful.

And for each sin there is a corresponding virtue, to show us a light and a healing pathway towards inner balance and harmony; and to also show us that there is nothing to feel badly about, all in life has another side yet balance is most important, and for all in life there is always a way forward.

How to Overcome Lust, and Meet our Real Need Within

When most people talk about our topic today, they’ll usually say “how can we fight lust”. And the first thing I’d like you to do is consider not using this word “fight” – because we can’t fight our own selves, but we should rather understand ourselves and soothe our inner world into more harmony, compassion and truth. So let us first understand how and why lust arises within us.

The real unmet need of lust, that we can find if we dig deeper and long enough, is that we are in deep need for connection. While most people when referring to lust speak of sexual lust, we can experience lust in many other ways such as lust for food, lust for thoughts, etc. So whenever we are struggling with anything in life, the first thing we need to do is dig deeper within and find out what it is we are actually really needing and seeking. What is missing in our life that we need more of? Often times people who are lustful are just really lonely and disconnected emotionally, whether internally or externally, but changing partners and having a lot of casual sexual relationships would eventually make them feel even emptier – because they are not fulfilling their real need.

In one way or another, lust usually stems from loneliness whether physical or emotional. In these moments, we are more likely to open ourselves to a lot of temptations or instant remedies or gratifications, so that we feel better – but what happens is essentially self-betrayal. Remember that the lower we perceive ourselves, the more things we’ll want to do to wash away that inner emptiness or shame or insecurity.

Lust is a self-betrayal because instead of responding to our true inner need in a meaningful and intentional way, we are only looking for instant gratification and immediate pleasure or soothing – to gain the feeling of “I am not alone now, I am happy now, I am good enough now.”

Lust says, “I want to have it now, no time for devotion nor dedication nor trust nor faith.”

In these moments you need to take a step back and be watchful – witness yourself, and why you felt that temptation, and what do you really need? Also reflect on whether it is lust for thoughts, or a person or a behaviour, because lust isn’t just about physical and sexual pleasures with a person, we can be lustful for food, things and thoughts also.

When we feel down and lonely or devastated or sad or even depressed, lust is usually the thing that almost immediately takes us out of that emotion and mental state – and who doesn’t want to feel good? Of course we all want to feel good and seek that which will make us feel good. But it is important to remember that this is only temporary and unfortunately, it will then bring us much further down than we were before.

When we feel empty in mind, empty in heart, and need to rekindle a fire, we usually look to the fire we can rekindle with our body, and we fall into lust because we think there’s no other way. We can’t impose thoughts, we can’t impose emotions, but we can use and give our bodies to be lit. But you cannot light a dead candle.

So in these moments we need to resist the temptation for an easy out, and we need to just let ourselves fall in frustration, in fear, in loneliness, in emptiness, and in whatever else we feel, and slowly, but surely, a light, a fire, will begin to be lit from the inside. Once the temptation passes, you’ll get the clarity of mind and experience yourself in a new light, a new insight will emerge, a new strength. Do not fear emptiness and loneliness.

You need to respond to the real internal need that you have which isn’t sex or lust – it is love, it is connection, it is emotional true connection that you crave. Just sex will never be enough, and will only leave you feeling emptier and emptier as time passes, and you’ll fall into deeper despair and sadness. You need to have the trust, faith and self-respect that you are worth much more than just to be had, or consumed, for a passing moment.

Love is not limited to sexual experiences, and of course we don’t have to be in love with every person we are physically intimate with, but it is important to understand where we might be misleading ourselves, or another, when we are in lust versus in love, so that we are also more clear of our underlying intention, and more honest in our interpersonal connections.

Lust desires you intensely for itself; love accepts you as you are, as it be. Lust idealizes; love just feels. Lust is about distance, to sustain physical attraction; love is about closeness, to build real intimacy. Lust is temporary and selfish; love is continuous and has your best interest, because it takes you as part of itself desiring your well being.

One of the best ways to navigate through lust is to connect to devotion – and to focus on what really matters in your life, and on something that makes you feel happy and purposeful, whether it is your work or your soul’s calling or a beloved interest and passion such as your musical talents etc. It is also helpful to reflect on why you might be avoiding real intimacy, and needing to only have sexual pleasures; and to reflect on your self-esteem and sense of self value.

In our society, many people parade their sexuality in overt ways all over social media, and engaging in casual relationships with multiple partners, thinking it is empowering or sexually confident or free – but it is actually the opposite. If one truly is sexually confident and free, they would not be parading this externally whether through clothing or behaviour or speech. Often times it comes from a space of low self-respect, and fear of abandonment, which are what contribute to fear of intimacy and engaging only in lustful feelings. Sensuality is beautiful, and devotion towards deepening with one partner is what will balance your inner world, rather than running to extremes mentality and emotionally, and physically.

Self-reflection questions:

What do I seek? What do I really need?

Can I feel past the lust?

Am I co-dependent on lust?

Do I use lust to avoid emotional intimacy and true bonding?

What are some of my beliefs, attitudes and experiences around sex, physical intimacy and erotic pleasure? Which ones do I need to remove from my mind?

What does sex mean to me? It is a space, a doorway – is it a space of shame, pleasure, control, dominance, connection?

What does love mean to me? How do I express love towards others, and towards myself?

What does intimacy mean to me? Where am I afraid of being truly intimate with someone, emotionally, so that I can unveil my true deep inner self?

Where am I avoiding intimacy and bonding, so that I can sustain lust and distance?

Is there healing that I need in order to release some of my unhealthy habits, or impulses, or sexual addictions? If so, what does this healing look like?

Each sin corresponds to a virtue, and the virtue for lust is chastity. What most people think about when they hear the word chastity is celibacy. It is true that sex-fasting, just like food-fasting, can lead to spiritual cleansing and growth; and once you learn how to harness the sexual energy, it will be channeled into creativity and lead to greater vitality feeding your life force energy. But celibacy is a choice, and it is not meant to be for everyone’s path. Of course some people can be celibate for years, and then get married or rekindle their sexual lives when meet the right one, so celibacy choices aren’t necessarily permanent, they change along our path.

But the essence of chastity goes much more beyond that – and it is actually purity. And the essence of purity is truth – and truth is based on your true heart’s intention, and it is based on love. So we come back to our three: clarity of mind, purity of heart and sincerity in action.

What you choose to do in your intimate life and how many partners you choose to share yourself with, that’s up to you – but – you need to approach this from a space of self-honesty. Only then you’ll be able to respond to the real internal need within you and live a more fulfilled life.

Lust’s real need is emotional connection yet it is missing the mark. Lust says “I want you now, and for myself, and to fill within myself a specific need”. Love says “I love you as you are, as we be, and am grateful for our moment, for the simple perfection of just knowing you.” Love doesn’t go away after we’ve had someone. Love doesn’t seek substitutes for our new demands to fulfill pleasures within us that we cannot fill ourselves.

What chastity thus inspires us to do is live a life of authenticity, self discipline and self autonomy, so that when we do choose to be with the one of our heart, it comes from truth and love, rather than need and expectation.

For more of my writings, browse through my Art of Love.

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