Thursday, February 12, 2009

Awakening the Inner Tantrika

*Celebration of Love - Emoto water crystal

Part One – As Good As It Gets

So how did I come to this journey at all?

Well, I guess it came about as the result of the gentle ordinary-ness that lovemaking becomes as relationships mature and other things take precedence over sex. It's not that you cease to desire each other, it's more that the desire becomes something that can be safely tucked away when tired, or distracted or stressed. It is a reflection of our perpetually busy existence that our energies, including our sensual energies, become scattered - coping with the multitudinous necessities of life.

These following pages are drawn from articles I have written for an Australian spiritual publication. They will be slightly longer and a bit more involved than the articles can be because of their space constraints, so I am able to be my usual verbose self here. However, I have reproduced the articles in their entirety just so that I have a record for myself.

And so it came to be that one night as I lay in my H’s arms, I found myself silently wondering, “Is that all there is?” As in many long-term relationships, our lovemaking had lost its lustre. Sex had become something I felt I should do rather than really wanted to do. Childbearing, exhaustion and everyday stress had sapped me of my passion and much of my previously abundant sensuality. It’s not that sex between us wasn’t good – it could be wonderful, but more often than not I felt we were out of synch, as if only our physical bodies were truly connected. In that quiet, post-coital moment some intuitive knowing knocked at the door of my consciousness and bossily demanded to be let in. In my heart (and quite possibly in my loins), I felt there must be a way to recapture a little of the passion we once had for one another, a way to deepen the intimacy and truly connect body, mind and soul.

As I’m sure my experiences of sex must be similar to many other women’s, I decided to set myself a little bedroom challenge. I would investigate Tantra; I would find out what it is, what it does, try out all of the exercises and honestly record the results. My reasoning was that if I wanted to know more about recapturing passion and deepening intimacy and connection in my relationship, then other women may well want to do the same.

So were do we start? If you are anything like me you have probably heard the word ‘tantra’ bandied around a fair bit. You know it’s got something to do with amazing sex, extended orgasms and, strangely, Sting.

My particular tantric journey started with a visit to the website of the SkyDancing Tantra Institute founded by Margot Anand ( Whilst her widely acclaimed workshops are unfortunately only available in either America or France, her books are readily available and easy to follow. Anand is the author of several books on tantra including ‘The Art of Everyday Ecstasy: The Seven Tantric Keys for bringing Passion, Spirit and Joy into every part of Your Life’ and ‘The Art of Sexual Magic.’ But, as I attempt to awaken my inner Tantrika (or at least wrestle her in to some state of semi-consciousness) and bring new levels of intimacy into my sexual and sensual relationship with my husband I will be working with ‘The Art of Sexual Ecstasy - The Path of Sacred Sexuality for Western Lovers.’ Out of all of them I found this beautiful book’s approach to tantra or (sacred sexuality as Anand calls it) the easiest to work with. I discovered that beginning the dance of intimacy can be as easy as purchasing a good book and committing to spending one night each weekend focused on your love relationships. As a working mother with a very vigorous two-year old and a somewhat reluctant husband, I found this a reassuring place to start.

A (very) Brief History
The word Tantra is Sanskrit, the sacred language of Hinduism. It derives from the root word tan, which translates as "to extend, expand, spin out, weave; to put forth or manifest." Tantra as a subject is really very complex covering religious, esoteric and philosophical movements. Even scholars have a hard time agreeing on what is and is not tantra, but what is surprisingly clear is that it is not all about sex. However, for the purposes of this specific journey, when I discuss ‘tantra’ I will be referring to the practices derived from Anand’s ‘The Art of Sexual Ecstasy’ which focuses on sacred sex, rather than tantra as a religious or philosophical movement. For more information about the origins of Tantra and its full range of meanings, I recommend taking a look at

An Open Invitation
Over the coming months I will be delving into the areas of sacred sexuality listed below and recording my feelings, difficulties and any results I find. I will be attempting to find out exactly what happens to both a relationship and the individuals within it, when tantra is introduced.

If you want to come along for the ride (no pun intended), then get yourself a beautiful blank diary to paste these articles into and to record your own experiences. You might also want to buy yourself a copy of Anand’s book. It is important to note that these exercises will work just as well for single people as they do for couples with a few minor adjustments along the way. So please don’t think that this journey doesn’t apply to you just because you aren’t currently in a relationship. The same goes for same-sex relationships. As we will be focusing on deepening intimacy and expanding our capacity for bliss, it applies to all love relationships.

Topics Covered
Awakening Your Inner Lover – Loving Yourself
Opening to Trust – Developing a Heart-to-Heart Connection with Your Partner
Skills for Enhancing Intimacy – The Art of Seduction & Awakening the Five Senses
Honouring the Body Ecstatic – Rediscovering and Honouring the Body Opening the Inner Flute – Awakening & Amplifying Your Sexual Energy
Self-Pleasuring Rituals – Loving & Pleasuring Self & Partner
Harmonizing Your Inner Man and Inner Woman – Balancing Male & Female Within & The Art of Giving & Receiving
Awakening the Ecstatic Response – How to Generate, Contain and Relax into High States of Arousal
Expanding Orgasm – Sexual Healing
From Orgasm to Ecstasy – Awakening Ecstatic Lovemaking & Channeling Orgasmic Energy
Riding the Wave of Bliss – Basic Postures of Love & Experiencing Sexual Ecstasy

A Note about Resistance
I want to make a quick observation here. At times you may find yourselves confronting resistance to some aspect of the work. You may decide that you are not feeling anything or fear that ‘it won’t work’ for you. Alternatively, you may experience unusual physical sensations as your energy begins to move more noticeably. When this happens, stay with the practice and be aware of how you are feeling. Where does the resistance come from? Is it a deep-seated fear within you? Identify the fear – write about it in your diary. Express it, feel it, allow it. This is the only way to move through it. As Anand points out, “You will be going through major changes, confronting old patterns, challenging beliefs you grew up with. We have not been trained for sexual ecstasy.” So this will be an awakening.

As an average woman with a normal, busy life, I am really approaching this subject with an open mind. I want to share truthfully the highs and lows of the journey, the places of bliss and the places of block. I have challenged myself to deepen my spiritual connection to the Divine as well as to create a renewed sense of love and connection in my relationship with my husband. In all honesty, I’m not expecting fireworks or full body orgasms (at least not right now). I will be happy to have my issues with intimacy fade into the background as a more passionate connection to my life and my beloved develops.

Margot Anand describes Tantra as "The Yoga of Love." Like yoga, “the practice of Tantra offers peace of mind while it both relaxes and energizes the body. Tantra enables one to overcome feelings of separation and create a sense of union. Tantra relaxes the body, opens the heart and brings the mind into clear focus. When this integration has taken place, you are ready for a new sexual experience in which physical pleasure becomes a delight of the heart and an ecstasy of the spirit.” This is where I hope to be when my journey ends. If it is more than this, I will be profoundly grateful.

Next Time: We find out how to Awaken our Inner Lovers. Mine may well have to be shocked out of its coma with a mallet and a very strong cup of coffee.

Awakening the Inner Tantrika - Part Deux


Part Two - Awakening Your Inner Lover

Last month, I began my journey into Tantra equipped with only Margot Anand’s book ‘The Art of Sexual Ecstasy’ (and a somewhat reluctant husband). This month the work begins in earnest as we tackle the first set of exercises she sets out.

Awakening Your Inner Lover
Anand begins with three relatively simple practices: Conscious Breathing, Awakening Your Inner Lover and The Heart Salutation.

Exercise One - Conscious Breathing
Conscious breathing is all about following the breath. This will be a familiar practice for people who meditate regularly. Take a shower and then allow 10 minutes to relax before you do this exercise, which should take about 10 minutes.

Sit comfortably and close your eyes. For one minute do nothing at all. Simply try and watch what’s going on behind your closed eyes. You will no doubt find your mind flooded with images and thoughts. Now focus on your breathing, on the steady flow of air in and out of your nostrils. Every time you lose focus and find yourself thinking again, simply label it ‘thinking’ and refocus on simply breathing in and out. Don’t fall into the trap of concentrating too hard on trying to stop thinking. Be patient and easy on yourself. Moving out of the head and into the body takes practice and it will become easier as you do this exercise.

K’s Diary: This exercise was basically a meditation and I therefore had a tendency to ‘nod off’ occasionally. This is what happens when you have had a busy day with an active toddler and you get the opportunity to ‘relax’ with your eyes closed. My body whispers ‘sleep’ to me and I happily oblige. I forcibly remind myself that I am trying to achieve deeper levels of intimacy – my body reminds me that I am two years into extreme sleep deprivation. When I peep at my husband, I am slightly gratified to hear his gentle snoring.

H’s Diary: When I was told that the aim of the exercise was conscious breathing and relaxation, I thought ‘Well, this will be easy.’ And then I fell promptly asleep.

Exercise Two - Awakening Your Inner Lover
Building on the last exercise of watching the breathing we extend and expand the exercise to meet our own Inner Lover. This practice develops self-appreciation, which is the quickest way to connect with your inner lover.

Again, get yourself comfortable and relaxed. Play some relaxing music. Begin with the focused breathing from the first exercise – let your hands rest over your heart. Let your breathing be easy and gentle. Let a memory, an image or feeling come from a time in your life when you felt totally loved, supported and protected. When you find one particularly vivid and rewarding image, stick with that and breathe deeply as you study it. Remember it in as much detail as you can. Allow your senses to come alive as you let the colours, sounds, smells, textures and tastes come back to you. Really live in that moment again. Find a word or a phrase that expresses that sense of wonder you are now experiencing and repeat it to yourself until you can comfortably say them aloud. Accept and enjoy your uniqueness. Then gradually return to normal waking state.

K’s Diary: I hated this exercise. It sounded too ‘sit in lotus position and knit your own yoghurt’ for my tastes. I found my memories of feeling loved and supported to be very thin on the ground. I know, poor me. I had to come right into early adulthood before I could find anything tangible to focus on and then I felt guilty because it was a memory involving an ex. I wondered if my husband was having the same difficulties. I could evoke only some of the expected sensory feelings and I really didn’t feel them ‘igniting’ or ‘coming alive’ inside of me as Anand suggests might happen. I really just wanted it to be over.

H's Diary: Though my memories of being loved and supported are easier to access than K's, I still had trouble connecting with this exercise. It felt too airy fairy for my liking and seemed to have little to do with awakening any type of inner lover I’d care to meet.

Exercise Three – The Heart Salutation
The Heart Salutation will become a regular practice used as a way to begin and end each exercise.

Create a beautiful and private space in your home. Allow 5 to 10 minutes for this practice.
Note: If you are doing this alone, do the salutation in front of a mirror and substitute your own name.

Correct posture is very important in this exercise. Sit facing your partner for a few minutes gazing gently into their eyes. As you inhale, bring your hands into prayer position in front of you, resting your thumbs against your chest. Together with your partner, close your eyes. On the exhale gently bend forward from the waist, keeping your back straight. Bend forward at a 45-degree angle, until your foreheads touch lightly. Hold this contact for a few moments, feeling the connection between you. Focus on your breathing and allow yourself to soften and open towards your partner. Inhaling, gently straighten your back keeping your hands in prayer position at your heart.

You can either look into your partner’s eyes and say, “[Name] I salute the God/Goddess within you” or “I honour you [Name] as an aspect of the Divine.” Or, if you prefer, you can simply continue to hold your partner’s gaze and sound out the word ‘Om’ as you each bend forward towards each other on the exhale. Om is regarded as the root of all sounds – the very sound of the Universe itself manifesting. It is an opening and expansive sound and one that connects us to the Divine in ourselves and one another.

K's Diary:
This exercise was much easier for me. For a start it actually involved me connecting with my husband as opposed to simply being in the same room as him while we each did our own thing. We lit some candles and incense in our bedroom and we sat opposite each other breathing slowly and steadily. We began what I call ‘Soul Gazing’ which is holding each other’s gaze gently but without looking away and breathing in time with one another. Straight away this brings me into the present moment and allows me to let go of the busyness of the day. It also reminds me of how much I love this man amid moments of, “He really needs a shave,” or “My bum has gone numb.” Thankfully the running commentary passes quickly if I focus on my breath and keep staring into his big blue eyes. I have done this exercise before with lovely results and am not surprised when a feeling of tenderness for my lovely man washes through me. It’s not always easy to be vulnerable with him and I do have to squash my urge to giggle and make a joke when things get uncomfortable for me.

H's Diary: I liked this exercise, although I did find it hard to focus. For example, do I look at her left eye, or her right, and what am I supposed to be thinking exactly? I didn’t really connect deeply with Kat but it was a good start.

NB: We also fell about laughing the first time we tried to do this exercise. We were both so earnest, sitting opposite each other with our hands in prayer position over our hearts. We chose to 'Om' as we brought our heads together to connect and H's sounded so ridiculous, because he'd never ommed before, that I cracked up. He soon followed. I actually gave myself asthma, I laughed so much. It took a while for us to get ourselves together to actually move on to some proper soul gazing because one or the other of us would dissolve as soon as we tried to do it again. Very funny but also bloody typical of trying to do intimate stuff together whilst also simultaneously worrying that our wee girl will come trotting in to cuddle up in bed with us for the night. Is she trying to sabotage our attempts at baby number two I wonder?

* Sacred Space

Next time: We will be attempting to create a Sacred Space for our tantric practices without having to move home or hire a trailer. Apparently we will also be communicating honestly about our fears, resistances and even our sexual fantasies. I’m sure that will be much more of a challenge for me as I don’t really have any fantasies (unless you count the desperate one I have about uninterrupted sleep).