Sex is one of the most popular topics in the word today. It is glamorized, demonized, used to sell products, uplift personal image, and degrade people. It can be a source of some of the most immense joy and terrible pain possible in life. Many people find that healthy and fulfilling sex is a beneficial, even transcendentally joyful part of their lives. But many people are finding that celibacy, the conscious choice to not be sexually active, is a rewarding and joyful path for them. If you are questioning the role that sex plays in your life, wondering if it is actually serving you and contributing to your health and wellbeing, then celibacy may be a way for you to find a deeper connection to yourself.
Learning to Love Yourself
One of the most important cultivations in any healthy lifestyle is self-love. Learning to love yourself is the work of a lifetime. The presence or lack of self-love affects everything we do, from our work to our relationships to the ways we feed, dress, and care for ourselves. If we only look outside of ourselves to feel love, we are always seeking, always desperate, always looking to fill a hole with someone else’s affection.
Practicing celibacy can help us live life with a full cup. When we take sex out of the equation and stop seeking external validation, we can explore ways to love ourselves. If we can tend to ourselves the way that we would want a lover to, we can discover our own beauty, strengths, desires, needs, and ultimately what makes us truly healthy and happy. If we become our own caring primary partners and cultivate true self-love, we can meet other people and life with curiosity instead of disappointment and gratitude instead of neediness or shame.
Freedom from Sexual Motivations
How many of your interactions are motivated by conscious or subconscious sexual desire? Do you do things for someone because you think that person is cute? Do you use your appearance to influence and manipulate other people to fulfill your wishes? Do you hang out with people in the hopes that the connection will turn sexual, and miss out on developing real friendships?
Celibacy helps to curb all of that. Instead of being run by your sex drive, or letting sex dictate all of your interactions, you can engage with people with curiosity and presence. Practicing celibacy frees you from some of the more shadowy aspects of sexual activity that can dampen the spirit and distract us from being healthy such as competition, infidelity, and, manipulation, jealousy, and simply sexualizing everyone you encounter.
Redefine Your Self Worth
So many of us look to other people for validation, acceptance, and love. We value ourselves based on other people’s opinions of us. Sometimes that worth is measured by our degree of sexual attraction. When people that fit our sexual orientation find us desirable, then we feel that we are worthy of success, companionship, and love. But when that validation is not found because there are not people who find us sexy, our self-worth levels plummet.
At the same time, many people experience deep shame about their sexuality. Either they feel inadequate because of body image shame or physical limitations, or their sexual desire and history allows ever-judging society to label them as promiscuous. Celibacy provides a space to separate your self-worth from sexuality. Instead of sexiness defining how good, bad, or worthy you are, you can find your own inner compass. You can begin to discover the truth that everyone is worthy of success, friendship, happiness, connection, and love, regardless of appearance or sex appeal.
The Ties that Bind
Recent research is proving scientifically what energy-sensitive people have been saying for a long time, that sex bonds us to other people. The exchange of fluids, intimate eye contact, giving and receiving pleasure, orgasm, and being physically joined with another person is deeply binding. Every person we ever have sex with literally merges with us, becoming a part of our cells, and we merge with them.
On a more subtle level, the intense energy exchange of sex unites the luminous fibers, creating energetic cords between people. Not sure what I am talking about? Think about someone you had sex with, or someone who betrayed you, or someone that you love very much. In all of those cases, you will probably feel a strong emotional charge and maybe even a pulling or sinking sensation in your lower abdomen. That sensation denotes that there is a “hook,” an energetic cord that links you to another person. There are practices we can do to clear those cords on an energetic level, but the physical merging is permanent. Celibacy is one way to ensure that we keep our energy to ourselves, and are not unconsciously leaking energy by being attached to many other people.
Waiting for True Love
Some people use celibacy as a temporary practice to support them as they call partnership into their lives. They are celibate to cultivate self-love and appreciation, and keep their sexual energy to themselves until they connect with someone and fall in love. The only way to truly love another person is to love yourself first – we can only give to others what we are capable of giving ourselves. Celibacy in this regard is a gift to yourself, helping you enjoy the preciousness of your own company while you are single. It is also a gift to your future partner, ensuring that you are clear and clean and emotionally and physically available when that person arrives.
Many different spiritual traditions include some sort of celibacy as part of their practices. In some faiths it is considered mandatory until marriage, or mandatory for the clergy or leaders of the faith. Some people use celibacy as a kind of fast, a way of giving up something enjoyable but inessential as an act of faith, penance, healing, or other type of prayer.
One of the ethical precepts of yoga, the niyama brahmacharya invites careful use of life force energy as a way of experiencing greater spiritual purity. Not celibacy per se, though it does contain that possibility, brahmacharya is about connecting more with the creative energy of the divine (brahma) than other people’s life force, and not allowing sexual thoughts and motivations to interfere with spiritual practices. It is another way of being more present with life, free of placing sexualized projections on ourselves or other people.
Channeling Your Sexual Energy for Other Purposes
Sex uses a lot of energy. While it can be life affirming if enjoyed in a healthy way, it can also be very draining. Channeling the energy that you would otherwise put into sex into your creative endeavors and work life can be a profound act of self-care. The energy that goes into sex is the same energy that fuels our other passions. Celibates can direct their vital life energy into their creativity and create enlivened art.
Protection from STIs
Any sex in our modern world comes with the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Even with prophylactics, it is easy to spread STIs through any kind of genital contact. Abstinence is the only way to be 100 percent safe from STIs and unwanted pregnancy.
While sex can be a way of experiencing and deepening intimacy, many people find that it has the exact opposite effect. Some people use sex to get pleasure and touch without real connection. Instead of a unifying experience, sex can be a force of isolation. Celibate people often find that abstaining from sex allows them to form more emotionally intimate relationships, with themselves and with other people. They are able to share the depths of their hearts without any expectation or weirdness about sex.
Remember Who You Are
Many people in sexual relationships lose themselves in each other. The merging that happens with sharing energy and fluids causes a dissolution of boundaries and an unclear sense of self. They start to base their decisions and thoughts on the needs of the relationship and pleasing their partners, without caring for themselves. This is not the case in all relationships, of course, but it is a real danger when sex is involved in human connection.
Practicing celibacy creates a space where you can remember who you are in your essence, as an autonomous and sovereign being. You can discover and explore your needs, boundaries, and wishes, without the confusion of another person’s essence merged with yours. You can learn the truth of your own unique, precious heart.
Celibacy is not for everyone, of course. Even if you are not currently sexually active because of circumstance, consciously choosing to abstain from sex requires courage and conviction in today’s sexualized world. A lot of your behaviors and perceptions may change. Many people are fearful or judgmental of celibacy, and you may face some ignorant questions and criticism, or just unwarranted pity. People may belittle or patronize your choices, or even try to set you up on blind dates. They may feel uncomfortable or judged in comparison to your choice. It will be an incredible opportunity for you to practice compassion while remaining connected to your truth.
It is also important to understand that celibacy is not about deprivation, or making yourself do something because you think you should. Unless you are choosing forced celibacy for religious reasons, you should only embark on this path if the idea of not being sexual with other people is comforting and liberating for you. If so, celibacy can be one of the most powerful acts of self-care you will ever explore.