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Blog Post

Preface to Tumescence

Published July, 2024

Wild Nature

There is a wild side to our nature. Since birth, I’ve heard countless injunctions to tame this wild side. Through our upbringing, the educational system, religious training, and all sorts of social interactions, we are encouraged to increasingly betray our wildness. The consequence is that little by little, we lose much of the fire that empowers us. One day it dawned on me that the wild aspect of our nature not only shouldn’t be curtailed but should be cherished and nurtured. I realized I had no reason to put this side of myself down. Our wild self, the fully alive individual, resides in the body. As the thinking aspect of who we are takes control, we become detached from this aspect of ourselves. If we are ever to live fully again, we must recover a sense of self that encompasses the whole person.


Long ago, people identified a power the ancients named Eros. This power originates from the inner recesses of our feeling self. Its roots stretch into the chaos from which all creative expression and embodied wisdom issues. When we heed its guidance, it animates and unifies the physical and tactile aspects of our being, grounding us in our spiritual and intuitive faculties. Eros is a magnetic force of attraction, able to saturate each of our experiences with meaning, drawing us into engagement with the natural mystery and innate playfulness of life. The primary task of Eros is to perpetually ask us how deeply and fully we can feel. To feel is the essence of life. Feeling is how we experience a fulfilling life. Guided by Eros, life is directed toward those experiences that most draw out the powers and complexities of our fundamental felt sense of self.


What holds all of us back is a force that culturally suppresses our wild self. Gripped by a condition we don’t understand, this force has a habit of ruining so many chances for happiness. I have come to understand that this force is known as tumescence. If you look in the dictionary, it will give you a wholly inadequate understanding of tumescence and the role it plays in our lives. It’s often limited to the sexual drive, as if that is the only wild aspect of ourselves. I find this definition far too restrictive; it needs broadening. The joy that ought to be flooding our lives turns toxic. Our raw energy is restricted. We become critical, bitter, overly sensitive, angry, controlling, and agitated. Tumescence is what’s behind picking a fight with our beloved. The vitality of Eros that ought to be used to power creative energy, and to build connection and intimacy, is stultified. We feel stuck, as if holding our breath. In every dimension of our lives, tumescence is a barrier that blocks our ability to enjoy pleasure. Not only is tumescence at the root of much of the drama in our lives, it plays in the background like some sort of Muzak from hell that puts out a low-level hum of anxiety, neurosis, despair, and hopelessness. Tumescence blocks passion. With the raw energy of life constricted, we experience dissatisfaction, emptiness, and a vague hunger. This feeling of being stuck never really disappears unless we find a way to specifically free ourselves from it. No matter what we are doing, day or night, there it is, subtly or more-overtly disrupting our peace of mind and sense of well-being. Tumescence is a veritable epidemic, although most can’t identify it. We operate around it, much of the time ignoring any discomfort as we pretend it doesn’t exist. The effect is that much of our world isn’t built around our creativity but around our congestion. This is because tumescence builds up in the space between what is and what’s possible. Tumescence can be described as the inability to let go of something, whether it’s a grudge, addiction, loss, or past trauma. This inability to release the past leads to a buildup of tension and emotion that can result in mental, physical, and spiritual illness. The congestion and knots that arise from tumescence make it difficult for consciousness to move through, leading to challenges in focusing, listening, feeling, and taking in life. This creates a pervasive hunger for psychic oxygen, resulting in confusion, irritability, and a sense of disconnection from reality.

Seeking Oneness

At the end of the day, what are we really seeking? Aren’t we searching for a sense of oneness with others, while holding onto ourselves? Surely, we want to really know each other—the other as well as ourselves. This is the crux of relating. The problem is always tumescence, no matter the mask it wears. The pain is real, but the cause we ascribe to it rarely is. It is not “out there.” Tumescence is unexpressed Eros-genius and creativity. The solution is always eudaimonia—entering and expressing from the Erotic mind. It is democratic. Anyone can do it regardless of class, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality. In other words, it is unconditional, we can access flourishing right from where we are. In fact, this is the only place we can access flourishing from. Here, we gain the vision that can see problems as obstacles that, through resourcefulness, are repurposed into creativity in service to the world. The solutions we discover are original, nonlinear, and most importantly—effective. They are radical, meaning “at the root.” The tumescence Sutras cover the knots that create tumescence, how it presents, and how to dissolve the knot through dis-identification of even our most cherished misapprehensions. Often our best intentions are the most damaging when not matched with skillful execution. Tumescence concerns itself with intentions. Eros concerns itself with effectiveness of outcomes. It leads one to ask the connected question of Did this produce the outcome I was looking for? Eros takes us out of ideologies and into action. That is where the solutions lie, in the living, breathing, back-and-forth activity of human connection. If our actions are not producing the results we are aiming for, tumescence is usually implicated. We can learn to not only convert the tumescence within ourselves but of people and the systems around us. Just as misery, upset, complaint, and outrage are contagious, so are joy, flourishing, and our birthright of an open spacious mind. To look at tumescence, consider this: I am the eye, and the illusion of the problem, without blame of self or other. In this way, the looking functions like a laser on an asteroid. It breaks it up upon contact. The aim is to increase the stability and intensity of the seeing. This can dismantle the most concretized patterns. “Don’t look away” would be the instruction. When you don’t, what was hard and stuck dissolves back into pure potential.

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