When it comes to love, I’ve often heard I’m “too much.” That I should step back and let the man take the lead. But whenever I try that, I feel like I’m a doormat. Lately I keep hearing a lot about using your feminine energy, but I’m not really sure what that means. Is that a way to step back without getting taken advantage of?
Not a Doormat
Dear Not a Doormat,
I love that you put your question in these terms. I once took a week-long tantra workshop at Osho, the infamous Indian ashram of the guru formerly known as Sri Baghwan Rajneesh, whom you may know something of thanks to the recent Netflix documentary, Wild Wild West. I didn't know this when I signed up for it, but the practice of tantra is all about balancing masculine and feminine energy. I'll never forget, sitting in class, eagerly awaiting instruction from Sambhavo, our hot Italian instructor.
"My beloveds," he began. Everyone at Osho (the place) was beloved, because Osho (the man) preached a gospel of love — love everyone, as often as possible. But that wasn't what Sambhavo was telling us was gonna happen. "We ask that while you are with us in this tantra workshop, you refrain from making any dates." A "date," in Osho parlance, meant sex. That's right. I went to a sex ashram, hoping for a sexy time workshop, and the class required celibacy? At that time in my life, it was a perfect reflection of how my love and sex life was going. Lucky for you, I learned a lot.
Tantra is the path of love.
First I gotta say that Osho himself was a goddamn lunatic, who claimed that women could only become enlightened through men. He also insisted visitors be tested for HIV status before entering his ashram, despite that the testing would've failed to predict early-onset cases (this requirement has been dropped). By the time I visited the "meditation resort" bearing his name, he'd been dead for 20 years. Even so, the people there who offered workshops on New Age-y healing modalities were on point. At the tantra workshop, I was taught that we humans reach our highest potential as humans by balancing our innate masculine and feminine energies. I'll get back to this, but first, I must state that this is not gender-based, nor does it exclude people who don't gender identify. In fact, they may be masters of doing this already. The premise is more simple: No matter what your gender, your behaviors, thought-patterns and tendencies are comprised of these energies.
Even understanding this concept more neutrally, the words "masculine" and "feminine" are loaded. It doesn't help that, in this line of thinking, what's associated with each conforms to stereotypical norms. But I've found the concept useful, so I'll proceed, with caveats.
Traits identified as masculine include rational thinking, strength and action-orientation. Call it apples if it helps you stomach it. Apple energy. Not surprisingly, following this analogy, what is often described as feminine energy covers traits such as patience, nurturing, and healing. To avoid getting bogged down in why that's annoying, we'll call this orange energy.
Too many oranges, your fruit cocktail will be too tangy. Too many apples, too sweet. You want to balance and find the ideal mix. for you. It might not be the right mix for your friend, in the same way that you like brown sugar and she's an artificial sweetener lover. I'm putting it this way because it's so logical to agree that we all have individual tastes when it comes to food, it becomes more palatable (if you can deal with another pun) to apply the logic apart from gender expectation. In other words, the best way to attract your mate is to let your freak flag fly. Damn the torpedoes.
That said, even based on what little you said, tweaks are possible. I used to think that the best way to get to know someone was to spend time together to watch how they reacted in different situations. In order to facilitate this, I would do things I had no interest in doing, for the sake of hanging out. I did things, like, go camping. I would rather die with festering boils than sleep in a bag, but the weekend would come and there I'd be, packing up a tent and a cooler, and agreeing that I loved nature. This is how I spent seven years of my 20s, rubber-banding in and out of relationships with cheap assholes who did things like talk about their ex-girlfriends, even as I sweated away, pumping the bike pedals that lugged me and my home for the night to the next camp site. But it wasn't altogether a waste. I learned something very valuable–there is no "good" time to expose the real me. Far better to get it over with up front like a short, sharp shock rather than drag it out. My ideal partner loved me anyway, even when what I showed was (is) arguably disagreeable. I can see how this is true in reverse–when my husband feels hurt by something I've done, and then reacts like a grouch, I can rush to my own defense, and then it can devolve into an argument. But I also know that he's as susceptible as I am to feeling under appreciated, and that it has taken every experience he's had to make him who he is, and I have nothing but appreciation for that man. He feels the same way about me, which compels me to try and be less defended. I can't imagine we'd have gotten here if I'd omitted telling him that there is no such thing as glamping, or that I'm not interested in being a vegan right off the bat.
Your orange energy is about attraction, drawing your mate to you. But if you're doing this in a calculated rather than an authentic way, you will not get your preferred apples. To use the tantric approach, focus not on what you want, but what you have. The easiest way to do this when you want a lover and don't have one, is to remember what it feels like to be in a great relationship. Spend some time thinking fondly about what has come before. Revel in the feelings you seek–if you want a playmate, concentrate on feeling playful. As soon as your mind jumps in with details like, "cheap asshole who talked about his ex," you're done with this exercise. Whatever you do, don't mull over stories about how you've been done wrong, because you are always and already naturally magnetic. You'll see plenty more of what's wrong if it's on your mind. As Svagito, another of Osho's workshop leaders, told me, "There is no such thing as a broken picker." Even if you keep taking home Granny Smiths when what you want is the Honeycrisp. To tap into your energy body, you must appreciate the benefit you've gotten out of the tart ones. Then you'll meet the exact right person. For you.