Preface to Sex, Love and the Search for Meaning. A Pilgrimage (with Detours)
“You really enjoy writing, don’t you?” Harold, a client and multimillionaire, asked me one day, after I had given him my first short story to read. We had met years ago, when he began studying Pilates with me.
“If that’s the case, why don’t you make a proposal for a project? If I like it, I will sponsor you to write it.”
I was used to big surprises from Harold. Once he invited me to Aspen, Colorado, paying for some first-class ski-training to boot, just so we could work together a couple of times while there. He had also asked me to teach him about meditation, a skill he had struggled with for years. Since I had been on the spiritual path for over two decades, he considered me an expert.
But this new offer stopped me in my tracks. What an incredible opportunity! I needed a plan! What should I write about? Pretty soon, I had an idea. I wrote to Harold.
Thank you so much for your offer to sponsor a writing project! I came up with an idea – I’d like to write an autobiographical account on the topic of romantic love and sexuality on the spiritual path. You know that I just started a new committed relationship after being on my own for thirteen years. These also included three years in a formal practice of celibacy. All in all I look back at thirty years of a fascinating, inspiring, sometimes extreme, painful and funny journey not just through this area of life but also through one of the most rapidly changing landscapes in Western spirituality. Here is a quick introduction: It all began with the great moral upheavals of the nineteen-sixties, I was born into. My father was a highly intelligent and passionate man, and emotionally very unstable. He began cheating on my mother well before they even got married and left our family when I was nine years old. He moved into a shared house with other psychologists and therapists, which was a radical thing at the time and discussed philosophers like Gebser, Wilber and Heidegger with his house mates. From him I inherited the passion that made me throw myself into feminism as a teenager, and the disdain for everything that smacked of tradition, the ‘system’ and fixed structures. I joined the street protests against the restriction of abortion, environmental degradation and nuclear power and was fascinated by physical and psychological self-discovery. I always felt very independent and free to do exactly as I pleased. In the spirit of the time, I also tried free sex as a path to real happiness and fulfillment. But in spite of all that freedom and independence, or maybe because of it, I soon found myself on the edge of a deep emptiness and wondering what life was really about.
This question launched me on a search for meaning and for the next thirty years I was a student of three unusual and very different spiritual teachers: Sri Rajneesh, a pioneer of the East meets West spirituality in India, the Australian Tantric Master Barry Long and finally the American founder of Evolutionary Enlightenment Andrew Cohen. Their teachings differed vastly, not only, but also, in the area of love and sexuality but helped me to ultimately discover some freedom and clarity in an area of life that is very often shrouded in desire, self-doubt, emotional drama and confusion. Especially the past fifteen years have helped me to understand the value of my past experiences. Even though it is my own unique story, these experiences also represent a specific time in our culture and history. I think my journey through these years could make a worthwhile book. What do you think?
Harold agreed and so this book came to be.
April 1961, Marburg, Germany
It was late in the afternoon. Gisa, my mother, sat at the kitchen table. Her hands pink and crinkled from washing the dishes lay folded on the milky-green laminate.
Five months pregnant with her second child Gisa looked just like my father liked her best. That’s what he had told her. Her classic features, framed by cropped coal-black locks, seemed less stern, softer than usual and her narrow hips had rounded out a bit. The last rays of the afternoon sun angled into the room.
Across from her sat Monika, my father’s latest lover, quiet tears running down her cheeks. None of the women had touched the apple juice in front of them.
Monika had come to discuss whether she should leave her lover, Karl, my father, Gisa’s husband. It was exactly what my mother was wondering about herself, every night my father came home late, and increasingly in the days between as well. But just as often she reminded herself: No, she was going to stick it out. The children should have their father – or at least it should look like they did.
Gisa’s own father, a tall, imposing Lutheran pastor, was of the same opinion and she was not going to disregard his advice ever again. Countless times he had warned her that Karl would cause her nothing but distress. Now she felt she had to bear the consequences of her foolish stubbornness, and one of those was Monika, sitting across from her now, whose soft blond hair and generous hips seemed to outshine her own beauty. Monika had fallen for my father’s eccentric charm and charisma just as Gisa had only three years ago. Three years that seemed liek a very long time to her now.
“I can’t tell you what to do”, Gisa finally whispered, fighting back her own tears. “Just think of my situation.”
Like an autumn leaf in a mountain stream Monica soon drifted out of our lives, followed by a long line of beautiful, intelligent and successful women. Gisa though decided to hold the fort, clench her teeth and do what had to be done.
By and large, I took more after my father.