Part 1 – Tantra and tantric massage
My time in Arambol has taught me a lot about Tantra. And I haven’t been partaking in the arranged free love orgies, nor in an open relationship. I haven’t let a man, a Master, heal me with his penis, but nor have I closed down to opportunities to be intimate on a sensual level with men and women.
Tantra is one of the oldest forms of yoga – it is the path in which you use the body for spiritual connection. I would have said you use the body to achieve spiritual enlightenment but there’s a bit of friction for me now about this- like you’ve just not used enough coconut oil ; )
I am one woman trying to make sense of my spiritual path. And after two years of grounding with Hatha Yoga (a spin off from Tantra), I began to open my heart up to love by singing and surrending to Kirtan at the tail end of 2017. This path of love through Bhakti yoga (devotional love) soon opened up my blockages and my yoni to spiritual and sexual exploration. Some of which I have talked about or around, most of which I haven’t.
Because of what I have witnessed in Arambol, and around on my spiritual sexual path, because of the healing connections I have had with women, because I have repeatedly met women bypassing their own needs to be in a ‘Tantra’ relationship with their man, because I have met one too many men who attempt to justify their perversions with their (self-appointed) titles of Master, Reiki Healer, of Shaman, of Tantra healer – and because I have met one too many women who have been abused by these men, it is time for me to share my experiences, my understanding of Tantra, and the need to embrace and embody our humanness in order to help women navigate this path more safely themselves. And I hope that by women reaffirming or even just finding their own boundaries we can then save men along this path who are misled, deluded and damaged in their own egoic power to heal, to save, to be of purpose. When actually they are damaging women and themselves.
I have had a disconnection to my body my entire life. It started at a young age with body dysmorphia – and progressed to fighting against it with diets and gruelling exercise regimes. Sexually, I was not ready to have sex when I did. I was not educated on how to listen to my body, to explore my own pleasure, to share myself but how to also protect my boundaries when I felt I should. Instead, I gave away my understanding of pleasure, my control of my body and its urges in an attempt to keep a man satisfied. And this disconnection meant that I never truly felt pleasure, and I never truly understood my capacity to orgasm, and it also meant that I didn’t fully trust men.
A relative of mine was raped. I remember feeling lucky to reach the age of 16 and to have not been sexually assaulted. But then I was assaulted regularly in nightclubs by men squeezing my arse, grabbing me, from time to time. I am not a victim of rape but I am connected to one and that trauma and anxiety has lived inside my body. One powerful part of yoga is ancestral healing, because in yoga science, it is understood that we each carry the emotional and energetic wounds of our ancestors in our DNA, and that each time we practice yoga, we heal not only ourselves but the generations that came before us. I wasn’t sure that this was more than a nice idea, until in June 2018, I felt the pain and repressed anger of the rape of women, the rape of children, and of men, the rape of the Earth, until I felt it boiling in my body. It was through an embodied feminine practice of tapping into my boundaries (or lack of them) through the Goddess Kāli that I felt this trauma for the first time. It was the first time I honoured that I was also a victim because this violent act had raped my innocence, my ability to be playful and trust men. It took from me my ability to connect to my own body, whether I could even orgasm and receive pleasure, because such was the strength of the fear within me as a result.
A reiki healer has since told me that I am here to help heal and release ancestral trauma and I do believe that because of my distance from the rape, the disgusting violating act, I am able to forgive and release myself from this cycle. It is something I screamed, vomited and sobbed over in sheer frustration and distress on many occasions, and it is a deep part of my path which I honour. And I hope that by sharing this it continues to create connection for me and other women. In my last Teacher Training, I shared this experience with my sisters and as a result I opened up the space for over half of the 17 women to express their own personal sexual abuse, assault, repression and shame. So whilst I do not claim to be a victim of rape, I am a sister of rape and sexual assault, and I talk about this because perhaps it is easier for me to do so as a result.
In part, because I had connected to the deep pain and repression of my feelings, anxiety, hurt and fear around sex, men and receiving pleasure, I began to explore the path of Tantra. The other reason was because in May 2018, before all of this, I had my first Kundalini awakeni. Kundalini is the sexual spiritual energy that lies dormant (in most of us mere humans), at the base of the spine. If we work with this energy, we can awaken it to rise up through our energy body (the chakras) to open us up to connection with source energy, love, the divine. But for that to happen, we have to clear and open the energy channels within us (through asana, pranayama, reiki, meditation and other shanti shizzle..) and we have to surrender. My Kundalini experience was the first time it dawned on me that sexual energy is spiritual energy – something repressed on many spiritual paths including yoga, but embraced in the feminine spiritual path. Whilst chanting to the Goddess Lalitā (the goddess of union, sexual energy and chemistry) my pelvis began to rock like I was straddling a man, and there were intense spasms of energy rising up from the base of my spine, coursing through me into my arms and hands which felt almost frozen with energy. I gasped and moaned with the thrills of this energy, as I would if I was receiving sexual pleasure. I continued to shake like a shitting dog with convulsions of energy bursting up and through me and this yearning, this feeling of desire, of pleasure/pain, of being teased, and tickled kept increasing until it was so intense that I stopped it. Because I had and never have again felt that amount of energy or pleasure in my body before – not through meditation or sexual activity. And I didn’t know what would happen on the other side of surrendering to it.
Anyway, that happened and I realised that my inability to orgasm, or understand my body and its variety of orgasms, was directly related to my spiritual path. And I was devoted to furthering and understanding my divine connection – it was why I was so lost with life in the UK and it was why I began a deeper spiritual search in October 2017. I knew it was time to confront both of these issues. It only took 35 years, and 17 years of those of being sexually active, for me to finally decide I was worth more. That I was worth the experience of more pleasure and more love.
So yes, Tantra. As part of the Tantra path, there is talk and well, opportunity to explore sex and ‘free love’. And this sexual focus, this kinkiness, continues to draw men and women to this path. But Tantra is not about sex. It is about kundalini and sensual and spiritual connection. It isn’t about orgasms and orgies. It’s about connection between a man and a woman to divine love, and one way is to do that through penetrative consensual sex. But it can also be reached through eye gazing, through hand holding, through any sensual experience like swimming in crystal clear waters, or watching and feeling like the birds as they soar through the skies. But you know, that stuff isn’t as exciting, that stuff doesn’t involve men and women getting it on, and getting naked. And even in the spiritual world, sex sells.
In order for me to begin to heal my connection to myself I began to explore more masterbation – the ultimate act of self love. I began to use coconut oil to massage my body, my breasts, my belly, my thighs, all before I began to touch my yoni. I fell in love with the softness of my skin, the suppleness and roundness of my belly, my breasts and even my inner thighs (no thigh gap will ever be found between these luscious legs). I read up about which areas of the clitoris are more sensitive and how other women achieve orgasm. I talked about it with some friends of mine and concluded that most other women were also feeling like there was more to tap into, more to access orgasmically, sensually, more embodied bliss.
And then the opportunity presented itself for me to have a yoni massage, with a woman. And I knew it was time for me to heal myself & my vulnerablilty about my vulva. It was an absolutely terrifying walk to meet the masseuse. I was stressed about whether to shave my bikini line, about whether this meant I was a lesbian, about whether she’d actually help me orgasm and I cried as I walked there thinking about rape and how it was time, time for me to re-set the pattern that men cannot be trusted, that sex is a power struggle and a vicious act of violence. It was time for me to be seen as a woman, to be vulnerable and to trust another woman to hold me in a space of love.
My yoni massage was one of the most emotional and beautiful experiences of my life. I am going to share the details here because I am enraged and disgusted by the stories I have heard from women who have received yoni massages from men. And I want you all to know that there is a safe and loving way to explore these practices if you too need to help yourself heal from sexual trauma or repression, or simply wish to explore tantric massage which is given in love, for love, to heal, with in fact nothing sexual about it.
In yoga language – a yoni is a vagina (to be clear) and a penis is a lingam. Tantric massage is not about orgasm. It is not about sex. It is about awakening the whole body up to sensual touch and bliss through massage. It involves massaging the yoni or the lingam in order to deepen its sensitivity and awaken overall feelings of pleasure, which are, in fact, lost by an orgasm. The point of this practice is to contain the sexual energy ordinarily leading to orgasm in order to channel it to open you up spiritually to connect with the Divine. To that feeling of bliss, not the feeling of explosive release.
That said, because of my repressed emotions and disconnection from my body in many ways, including my ability to orgasm, the healing of my yoni massage did involve bringing me to a very enjoyable but short climax – I still know there is more to experience.. But it took 40 mins of massaging my body, of relaxing my whole body and tickling it to awaken my sensitivity, to give me goosebumps all over my thighs. It took a pair of rubber gloves and a whole heap of coconut oil, massaged into my lower back and kidneys to release blocked sexual energy, before my masseuse even touched my yoni. My masseuse was dressed the entire time. She had clean sheets and candles, and she respected my boundaries throughout. She didn’t hold me, or caress me like a lover, she didn’t tell me how to feel. She didn’t order me to let her heal me, or tell me I needed to ‘let go’. She just regularly reminded me to breathe deeply into my belly and she asked permission before she touched my yoni and then again before she entered inside me with her rubber gloved fingers. We cried together when I ultimately had an orgasm, as I laid there naked in front of her so totally raw and exposed, but safe, trusting and held.
I would not have had the same healing experience with a man. I wouldn’t because of my own trust issues with men, but also because I do not believe this is an area that men should be offering healing work. Not only because they do not know how it feels to have a woman’s body, and to operate in this patriarchal World in one, because we women, do not yet have full understanding and ownership of our bodies, our reactions, and our boundaries, and also because there are too many men using this healing tool for their own sexual aims and ego agendas. One of my sisters had a yoni massage with a man who was naked at the time. Why? He had an erection. If a male gynaecologist had and revealed his erection, he’d be fired and sued. He didn’t use gloves. Afterwards, with one woman he then told her he wanted to check the energy of her throat chakra so she needed to give him a blow job. Thankfully she said no, but many women haven’t and many women will also find themselves in these situations.
I am angry and disgusted that the pure act of love and healing that I experienced has been sullied, and used as a sexual act of violence by many men in India, against many women I have met, and that it is widespread all over the World in every spiritual community. I, and many women are drawn to yoni massage in order to heal from sexual assault and it is already an exercise in facing your own sexual shame and shadow to admit you want to know more about it, never mind to then decide you want explore one. How vulgar am I?! But these predators are instead caught up in their own power and ego ‘to heal’, and they are interfering in a sacred spiritual practice. So women, it is up to us now, to protect ourselves and each other. To share our stories, and to release ourselves from the shame of sexual exploration. It is up to us to decide not to go to men for these healing practices because in our current world it is not safe, and it is not sacred and it is also not necessary for men to be offering these practices. Women heal other women.
Whilst I have personally not been violated on my sexual and spiritual journey, I have still felt shame and embarrassment about talking about any of this. About how I will be judged by my friends and family in the West, by how people will suggest I am a man hater, or sullying all men just because of a rotten few. But I do not help my sisters if I do not speak out and share my experiences, and enable women to begin to make more empowered decisions about whether or not to explore Tantra.
Part 2 – Tantra and free love.
And here’s the other thing I have been guided to share. There is a lot of nonsense that being on a spiritual tantric path means that you must be open to being in an open relationship. I have met women here in Arambol who have met men they feel a deep soul connection to but who are told by these men that they need to get past their attachments, and embrace an open relationship in order to be with them, in order to be in a truly spiritual and tantric relationship.
I call bullshit. I am sick and tired of the narrative that we women have to catch a man, play dating games, follow their rules, allow them to retreat to the man cave, welcome them back and nourish them and their egos. I am sick and tired of women (including myself last year) falling for men and completely giving up ALL of their power, because they don’t want to lose this ‘soul mate’ relationship. And I am royally fed up with Tantra being rolled out as a justification for open relationships, shagging around or whatever you want to call it. That these people are somehow believing they are on higher spiritual ground in pursuit of enlightenment through Tantra, that this is what makes them conscious in a relationship even if it’s making their partner miserable. That the women (because I haven’t yet met a man bemoaning that his Mrs won’t commit to a monogamous relationship in the name of Tantra but I believe it’s possible) are somehow meant to transcend their needs, their emotions, and accept an open relationship all in the name of divine transcendence. BULL SHIT.
Being conscious means you are firstly aware of your own feelings and needs as a human. Failing to accept you are human, that you have emotions, feelings and needs and therefore attachments is spiritual bypassing. Failing to accept, or judging your partner (open or otherwise) to be less spiritual because he/she has emotions, needs and therefore attachments is gas lighting. Even Amma (an enlightened HUMAN) poops like the rest of us and honours that human need).
Being in a conscious relationship means you are aware and own your shadow sides, and then have the courage to offer that to your partner. Next, you get the opportunity to hold space and acknowledge their shadow too and they relate consciously in doing the same for you. This may mean, that your partner, like me, is not, and will not, be ready to be in an open relationship. That compromise in a conscious relationship doesn’t mean it’s Tantra your way or the highway.
Very few of us are here without something to heal. There is darkness in all of us and being conscious is acknowledging and embracing these parts of you too – however unpleasant, and however much easier it is to avoid it, to feel restricted by respecting your partners feelings instead of forging forwards on a so called tantric path. Each of us are born into this human body to explore our own individual healing journey for our soul’s evolution. Along this path, some people may achieve enlightenment, but like an orgasm in Tantra, it’s never the goal, just a surprise along the path.
Some people, like me, have experienced rejection in relationship- parents getting divorced, partners cheating, not committing, etc and for those of us, I do not believe being in an open relationship is healthy or healing, unless you have first healed all the wounds that have come from that human experience. Sisters, and brothers, if you share my similar and unfortunately common family relationship history, please honour and embrace your truth and your vulnerablilty. It doesn’t mean you can’t partake in Tantra and it doesn’t mean you aren’t spiritual. It means you are human and to be human means to honour yourself and your boundaries. And if your partner is conscious and wants an open relationship but also wants a relationship with you, that may well mean he/she has to compromise, in order to respect your feelings and needs. And for Goddess’s sake women, (or men) please do not compromise yourself by accepting an open relationship if it doesn’t serve you, if it doesn’t feel good in your gut and your heart. You are the only person who can understand, protect and assert your boundaries. And there is enough love out there for all of us, regardless of how deep, how wild, how much of a soul mate you believe this man or woman is. Honour yourself first. That is your duty in this lifetime and if your partner is unwilling to compromise because he’s following a conscious tantric path then I just ask you to pause, and ascertain what means more, their ‘tantric path’ or your integrity.
Tantra is the spiritual path of love and connection through our human experience but we can only explore this safely and more freely once we honour and understand our own human needs and boundaries. Tantra is not one size for all. Some people may learn a lot from open relationships and free sex. Good for them. But just because something is available at the buffet table doesn’t mean it is necessarily going to be satisfying for you. Discernment is a spiritual tool often forgotten in our quest to achieve spiritual growth. But you can only decide with integrity whether to eat the prawn vol au vent if you know whether or not you have a fish allergy…
Know thy self. Fully. Completely. Unconditionally and without apology. Then perhaps get naked with others.
At your spiritual service, as a Sister, to men and women alike.
P.S As I read this draft blog out to a sister in a cafe earlier today, a woman overheard and came over. She has just received a yoni massage from a Western man here in Arambol that left her feeling more traumatised than before and she went because she has previously suffered sexual assault. It is with deep sadness, and the greatest love and respect to everyone, man or woman, offering tantric healing services, that I repeat, women must heal women first. Please share this with your sisters.