I taught a class called Intro to Tantra and Intentional Sexuality at Chicago’s Early To Bed this past Monday. It was my first time teaching Tantra to a large group, people from all walks of life, including two very experienced Tantra teachers, and it was a wonderful experience. I started teaching Tantra in the past six months, after five or so years of studying, solo and partner practice, and working with a teacher. Shortly after I parted ways with my own teacher (often a necessary part of spiritual growth) and began teaching myself, I experienced a Kundalini Awakening. Tantra has become an intrinsic piece of who I am, and my life’s work.
At this point you may be saying “What the fuck is Tantra?” or “Isn’t that the thing where Sting can fuck his wife for 16 hours straight?”
While on an imaginary continuum there is, on the far right, a philosophy called “tantra” that has nothing whatsoever to do with sexuality; and on the far, far left there is an association of the word “tantra” (aka neo-tantra) with concepts like polygamy, polyamory, group sex and getting naked with complete strangers, somewhere in the middle of that continuum is the “tantra” that I know and love: a nondual spiritual path inclusive of, and honoring, sexual energy, a brilliant blend of ancient and modern yogic techniques that awaken the Divine flow of life within, to promote heart-consciousness that may or may not include sexual intimacy. It is about learning to live ecstatically in everyday life. It is about experiencing your body as a divine temple.
I was raised by Buddhists, so the idea of Tantra as a tool for spiritual awakening was never particularly strange for me. Admittedly, my early studies were guided by a desire for adventurous sex. But while Tantra works with sexual energy and uses sex as a tool for mindfulness, it is not a sexual practice by definition, and is a marvelous set of practices that can help boost self-love, intimacy, personal growth, and general quality of life.
One of my main goals in teaching Tantra is to make it accessible to everyone, in the following ways:
1. Affordability. Tantra classes are often quite expensive- and I respect that people who teach for a living need to make a living. For me this is a passion project and I am grateful that I am able to offer $20 classes that both allow me to cover my costs, but also make Tantra education available for folks with limited means.
2. Accessibility. Tantra is to some extent a physical practice- which can make it intimidating for people with disabilities to attend workshops. For example, I attended a workshop with a partner who has limited mobility in his legs and while the organizers made a point to make the workshop as inclusive as possible- one of the exercises involved walking around the room, which was not something he could really do. But the exercise itself- eye gazing- was something he could do, and it was as simple as having people who could walk comfortably come to him. Breath is the key ingredient of Tantra, and most of us (with the exception of those who use breathing devices, an experience I cannot speak to), have the power to work with our breath in powerful ways, regardless of what our physical abilities may be.
3. Queer and Gender Inclusivity. There is a lot of discussion of the Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine in Tantra, and these are powerful concepts, but they do not necessarily mean man and woman- they are principles of receptivity and projectivity, yin and yang, form and formlessness, that exist inside of all of us. We can integrate and explore these principles regardless of our gender identity, integrating them into the Divine Androgyne. And while traditional depictions of of Tantra typically show a Male Daka and a Female Dakini, people of all genders and sexual orientations can practice Tantra with one another.
4. Consent and Personal Boundaries. Tantra can be very emotionally intense and intimate, and everyone is ready to practice Tantra with a partner, or has a partner they can practice Tantra with. Not everyone is ready to explore Tantra as a sexual practice, but can nevertheless can enjoy the benefits of “White” (non-sexual, for lack of a better term) Tantra. In my workshops I always try to offer both partnered exercises and a solo alternative so there is no pressure to practice with a partner if not desired.
5. Opening up to a wider demographic in general. Tantra education tends to attract a very specific audience- white, middle aged, cisgender, well-off, heterosexual, partnered, with an established spiritual practice. There is nothing wrong with being any of these things, but I also want to reach folks who fall outside of this category- people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, people who don’t necessarily hold spiritual beliefs (Tantra IS a spiritual practice but you don’t have to believe in anything but yourself to do it), people of color, single people, queer and asexual people, kinksters, sex workers, so forth and so on. Some people have suggested calling it “intentional sexuality” instead of Tantra to make it less intimidating to newcomers, but I feel that though these things are related, they are not one and the same.
In line with my vision of Tantra Education, I wanted to offer a few Tantric tools that you can experiment with, if you are curious.
- Shake, wiggle, flow, and/or jump if you can. Shake and move your body in any way that feels good. Put on fun music, jiggle your butt, let your arms flop, hang forward and sway, jump up and down if that is possible for you, for 1-5 minutes. Feel your body wake up with joyful energy as you shake loose.
- Pay attention to your breath. Take a deep breath into your belly, hold it, and breathe out your mouth with a sigh, releasing any stuckness or tension. Breath up the energy of the earth from the base of your spine, up to the crown of your head, then breathe the energy of the divine back down again. Practice mindful breath while meditating or masturbating. Experiment with syncing or alternating your breath with a partner during sex or cuddling.
- If you have sight, silently practice looking into your partner’s left eye (this is easier than looking into both at once), or look into your own eyes in a mirror. This is surprisingly powerful and intense. Don’t be afraid to laugh or cry. Watch the documentary “The Artist is Present” about Marina Abramovic’s amazing eye gazing performance piece to get deeper insight as to why this practice is so powerful.
- Learn more! Barbara Carrellas’ Urban Tantra was my first Tantra book, and I recommend it to everyone as a very inclusive and accessible guide to beginning a practice.
Want to attend one of my future workshops? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!