5 nonfiction books on the spiritual side of sex


The Poetry of Rumi

It’s often difficult to tell when Rumi, the ancient Sufi poet and mystic, is writing about God, a lover, or both. But, coming from such a unique mind, it doesn’t come across as weird — not like contemporary Christian odes to Jesus that could just as easily be about a fling. Rumi is deep and profound, and he’ll leave you contemplating the beauty and mystery of life. Start with The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing. Here’s just a taste:

There is some kiss we want

with our whole lives, the touch

of spirit on the body. Seawater

begs the pearl to break its shell.

And the lily, how passionately

it needs some wild darling!


At night, I open the window and ask

the moon to come and press its

face against mine.


Breathe into me. Close

he language-door and open the love-window.

The moon won’t use the door,

only the window.

Urban Tantra: sacred sex for the twenty-first century

Urban Tantra is a Western take on an ancient Eastern practice. Tantra is a diverse spiritual practice that I don’t know enough about to attempt to summarize. But Urban Tantra, and much of the tantric workshops you’ll see at places like feminist adult stores, specifically focuses on the aspects of that spiritual practice that are sexual in nature. Parts of it are related to yoga, with shared terminology and mindsets. Sexual tantra has a lot to do with mindfulness of one’s body, breathing, and moving energy. Urban Tantra is an easy read with lots of exercises you can do on your own or with a partner. 

Radical Ecstasy

Co-written by the authors of the Ethical Slut, Radical Ecstasy is all about finding ecstasy through BDSM and tantric practices. Their definition of ecstasy has to do with moments of transcendence experienced through the body, and then beyond it:

It seems to me that the experience I’m trying so hard to describe in this book, whether you want to call it ecstasy or bliss or spirituality or transcendence or whatever, is always at some level about loss of self – about having the precious opportunity to forget, for just a little while, where I end and everything else begins.

Radical Ecstasy is self-help at it’s best: a useful blend of candid stories, bits of how-tos, and intellectual theorizing on abstract ideas. They’ll eloquently describe moments of ecstasy and the detailed play that got them there, like the scene involving rope and tantric breathing, then a strap-on, and a hair brush used as a paddle. It’s sexy and oh so helpful to read how sexual moments that become transcendent spiritual moments actually work.

Work, Sex, Money: Real Life on the Path of Mindfulness

Work, Sex, Money, written by the founder of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, takes parts of Trungpa’s manifesto and makes them practical. By the way, Chogyam Trungpa was trending for being pals with David Bowie right after his death.

How do we see the relationship between the spiritual pursuit and day-to-day life? How do we approach relationships, money, our careers, even our chores as spiritual beings? The “sex” part of this book was way too short in my opinion, but easily fits into Trungpa’s overall ideology. The section is chaste and intellectual and speaks about desire and sex in abstract but useful ways, namely how does ego get in the way? He also brushes on sex in the monastic tradition, combatting the idea that sex interferes with one’s spiritual journey. For a thoughtful and interesting Buddhist take on sex (as well as work and money), I highly recommend this book.

Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity

Dianna Anderson’s Damaged Goods aims to help undo the sexual shame that many felt who grew up in conservative Christian communities. Anderson says, “As God’s creatures, we are created to be expressive, to love and live without shame. God does not function in a currency of shame and stigma. God does not cast us out of community; God loves us through community. God’s children are never ‘damaged goods.’”  Damaged Goods is Anderson’s story combined with a progressive take on how to be both a Christian and a fulfilled sexual being.

Have any to add to the list?

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