Seth Mullins is on a journey to reconcile his feelings of lust with his feelings of desire.
I dream that I’m riding in the back of a flatbed truck. Across from me is a young woman who doesn’t mind at all that my bare foot is resting between her legs, grazing her intimate place. I’m naked, and I marvel that she takes no affront on account of that, either.
We talk. But I just can’t stay in the ease and permissiveness of the moment. It’s like I’m living the Garden of Eden myth, just after the forbidden fruit has been eaten. “And how did I wake up naked in the back of a flatbed truck?” I finally burst out. And just like that, paradise evaporates. I feel shame, and the woman withdraws.
I feel grateful that at least there had been that moment of self-acceptance with her—without doubt—and I can go back to it when I need to. In years past, I never would’ve had such a dream. Shame would’ve taken over right away, made me jump away before she and I could ever connect. This dream reveals that some part of the rift—the gulf that I’ve carried around for so long, which separates my sexual desires from my heart, setting them oftentimes at odds when I want them to be as one—is being healed. The sense of relief that this healing brings is hard to describe. The inability to experience both lust and love for the same woman—and the confusion, hurt feelings, and estrangement that this dysfunction can breed—has been a profound source of suffering in my life.
A new sensation and awareness has been growing inside me over the last few years. It is the capacity for desire without shame. In the summer of 2008, I attended an experiential dream-work retreat. The core work for me during that 5-day intensive (as well as much of the time since then) revolved around the split—the veritable war—that has persisted between my feelings and my sexual longings. Before we left the mountain, a close lady friend of mine gifted me with a picture that she’d created with crayons during the retreat. I still have it: It reveals a phallic pair of bulbs and stalk growing up through the center of a pink and red heart. Heart and phallus in organic union.
Because I was feeling both of those things—desire and love—for the woman who was with me in the back of that truck in the dream. And I had been filled (if fleetingly) with a sense of peace. The struggle is not over. For a long time now, I have chosen celibacy as a preferred alternative to acting out my desires with women who I don’t love or trying to consummate a more spiritual connection with women when affection is present but desire is not. The longing to unite both “halves” of intimate experience is still a dream for me, albeit one that I can feel growing more tangible by the day.