Samskara (borrowing from the Yoga Sutras) is a habit, a repeated behavior. Some commenters say you can build "good samskaras" like long-term yoga asana practice.
One of the things I find compelling is that samskaras require me to plunge deep into all of the related terms, concepts and beliefs. For example, this sexual samskara I named last time, isn't (in my experience) from my current life. It's not from the Catholicism or the adolescence or the bad marriage (although any of those could, if we were speaking about me in a more Western system like psychoanalysis, be at the base of the compulsion which said samaskara demands).
In the Western view, this compulsion would be bound to repression probably (at least that's easy) and perhaps linked to early adolescent curiosity or to parental sexlessness (if there'd been such activity, I would have found evidence of it).
But that's somewhat boring, don't you think? And then psychological work or self-help-work would enable me to "overcome it" and "be a productive member of society." I'm already a productive member of society.
Now, in the Eastern view (and quoting one concept from the Yoga Sutras is, I admit, not at all the same thing as "Eastern view"), a samskara invites one to believe in or at least entertain the notion of reincarnation, and thence of samsara, the cycle of rebirths, and thence karma, actions, and thence, seeds of action sown, habits acquired in past lives, samskaras. One is, according to some commentators (and I'm often thinking of Gregor Maehle when I say "some"), INCARNATED based on samskaric energies, as if the samskaras are the LINES of your current figure drawing, and then you are, like all of Prakriti/creation/existence, incarnated from the gunas, our friends Tamoguna (inertia), Rajoguna (activity) and Sattwaguna (wisdom).
So what can be done with a Samskara? Let's say you know there is one, or can find one, or have come to believe that something is samskaric, has drawn your figure, has incarnated you energetically. What can you possibly do with that knowledge?
Most often when I am tempted to write about sex stuff here, it's about the exact difference in priorities between me and J currently, and I know those differences quite well. Now, such a narrative would probably be really informative to our imaginary therapist up above, but it does little to tell me or you anything about samskaric elements.
Other times, I am tempted to write about the nature of the compulsion, because it's quite different from what the West currently calls "sex addiction." Said addiction is, as far as I understand it, the idea that the patient can't achieve long-lasting satisfaction in any relationship or from any experience and must constantly move from partner to partner and experience to experience. Sounds like a made-up condition to me; any state college will provide hundreds of examples weekendly.
The compulsivity that I feel isn't about partners or experiences, it's about the qualitative nature of the experience, what the experience is (I feel) CAPABLE OF. And so this is not about some position or some numerical combination, it is about the potential of sexuality on pretty much a METAPHYSICAL LEVEL. Put short, it is as if my desire for enlightenment/heaven/plenitude is linked directly to my desire for interpersonal deep connection, and transgressive sexuality (remember, I was raised lay-Catholic, so all embodiment is transgressive by definition) is the link between the two.
Western language would look at that, see the Catholicism, see the transgression, see the riff on the mind-body problem, and then say that I'd internalized Catholic forbiddance, eroticized it, paradized it, and come out with a perpetually unachievable vision which leads to eternal frustration because it's unrealistic about sex, about humanity, AND about metaphysics. This is why the compulsion doesn't lead to a massive partner count; instead, it measures virtually all partners as failures and insufficient. And that's probably accurate. IN Western language.
But consider that a samskara in Eastern language, then it is a lifetime pattern created by the sprouting "seeds" of past karma, and currently incarnate in the three gunas as my present life. Gunas, however, can be managed; they make up the food we eat and the incarnation of everything with which we interact. Karma in the form of action exists in all actions we take: asana practice, interpersonal relations, and so on. In this worldview, I can AFFECT the samskara through action, through meditation, even perhaps through food choices, and certainly through choices in company. The primary flavor of this samskara for me is rajas, activity. The drive to GET TO THAT DEEP CONNECTION. Drive, desire, rage, rajas. But it also has tamas in it, stillness, inertia, refusal to engage. Every once in a blue moon, it has sattwa in it. Calm moments, reminders that there is something native about this, the absence of the desire to constantly be swallowing the next dose of action. Never satisfaction, but moments of contentment. But the nature of this samskara is to see fleeting satisfaction as incitement to desire, never as contentment. Rajas ever after, never santosha. That is what it urges, always.
In the Eastern version of this, santosha/contentment is a place that can be inhabited; the challenge is that this samskara demands constant motion. In the Western version of this, I have to surrender my imaginary paradise so that I can rejoin humanity (although it's damn tempting to imagine some mountain village where my cult lives, and we all have a ton of LSD and eternal carnality until, you know, the FBI burns down our complex or something).
The essence of this thing is that I'm refusing to enjoy what I've got, because I can imagine greater satisfactions, but those greater satisfactions aren't HUMAN anymore, they are superhuman. What is the point of trying to incarnate myself in the superhuman?
But see how bottomlessly trite it would have been to simply say, "I need to enjoy life as it is" or "I need to just be happy for what I have"? See how vomitously repugnant, how violently intolerable, that kind of trite life summary would be?
And even in the depth of my hate and disdain for language like that (and I summoned it on purpose, very much so), there is a demand that I be Dramatic, that my life be Important, that my Quest be Noble. Crystal clear.
"Attention! I am hereby suffering from Noble Frustration! Page, fetch me my sword and shield and let us write a novel!"
This, too, has to be accounted for.
That's why parenting is the Great Counterpractice.
Parenting introduces a positively terrifying level of everydayness into my existence. There's no nobility in it that can be established without camp: who should I be, the guy who was up two hours with a fussy but not sick kid? The guy who changes diapers? The guy who jumps off the plastic footstool with his kid because "we're jumping now"? The guy who reads train books to the compelled child? The guy who plays crossing signal while the child runs to and fro making train-chuffing noises? Yes yes, you'll say this is everyday hero-dom, and that's probably safe to say, but there is no TRANSGRESSION in being a parent.
I'm always tempted to own that word; it is my WEAPON. I become MYSELF when I transgress, and that Catholic background is endlessly productive for this. Because I internalized (Western view again) Catholic body-hatred, ANYTHING that I do that's embodiment (climbing, breathing, being ALIVE generally) can be seen as transgressive. Transgression powers up the ego, makes it feel strong, vengeance-dealing, against the old repressions, the long absences.
But how is rolling a ball to-and-fro across the living room, or giving a bath, or telling the kid about a vision of a black steam engine crossing a snowy road in Michigan, transgressive? It isn't. And most of parenting isn't, at least I can't think of a moment that is. And then parenting also comes with much less climbing, much less yoga, much less sex, much less embodiment (by which, here particularly, I always mean anti-Catholicism). The ego starves, grows pale, frays, grows fragile, breaks, cracks, begins to die, and freaks out. I've never been so concerned with the terror of mortality as I have been since I became a parent. And not "because I don't want to leave my child," but because I understand my own frailty now, I can't grab mortality and wield it like a rhetorical sword against Christian eternity and smash my fucking enemies in the face with it. Mortality has become HUMAN, FLESHED, VULNERABLE.
So this single samskara comes with ideals in me that contain all of my rhetorical overreaches, past my own humanity. It is the desire for everything that I can never have, not in San Francisco, not anywhere, nowhere human on earth. I sometimes say that I don't chase other partners because every relationship would be a failure, every relationship would wind up being disappointingly mortal, the energy always runs out, the depth is never sustained, someone always gets busy or sick or too tired or too preoccupied.
So parenting teaches me how to have a sex life (and not much of one at that, but a human one). It's frustrating, but more and more, life is not about this, but about changing what in the Eastern view would be called "destiny." I think it was Vasistha (this is probably in Maehle somewhere too) who said that for one of true determination, there is no destiny (no predestined karmic destiny). One can undo one's karma, like Milarepa apparently did (although he was still killed, apparently because of his own accumulated bad karma).
For all of its sexualization and neurosis, this samskara isn't about sexual behaviors or preferences or positions. It's about my great wish not to be human.
Not to be mortal, not to be frustrated, not to be daily, not to be mundane, not to be awake in the middle of the night comforting someone else. Not to feel, not to fear, not to be anxious, not to be in the moment, any moment.
Not to be human.
And the answer, in a sentence? Not join a threesome, not bring out the cuffs, not find a new orifice.
Be human. Be there. Be there now, be there then, be there.