Guru, Swami, Daka, Huh?
Without a doubt, there is a surge or resurgence of interest in Tantra. There is also, however, a sense of confusion about what Tantra actually is and who is a suitable practitioner. This may be as a direct result of the focus on the sexual aspects of Tantra, and perhaps reflects our obsession with sex. To some extent our interactive talk “demystifying Tantra” goes some way to remove misconceptions around Tantra, but there is still assumptions made and workshop participants have frequently been given a nudge and wink: “going to an orgy are we?” from friends and relatives. So to clarify: Tantra as we facilitate here is a path of connection, a path of healing, a path of Spiritual liberation and transformation, a path of presence and awareness and a path of intimacy with both oneself and ones lover.
Part of that is connecting to and accepting your sexual energy, opening to it and integrating it as a natural and healthy part of being human. Tibetan Buddhist Lama Thubten Yeshe, sums it up as follows “...each one of us is a union of all universal energy. Everything that we need in order to be complete is within us right at this very moment. It is simply a matter of being able to recognize it. This is the tantric approach”
That recognition connection, that acceptance is part of the healing which allows you to overcome conditioning, guilt and shame that lie around sex. It brings things to the surface and allows them to be released opening you to life’s natural flow. It brings into balance all of who we are: mind, body, spirit and changes our view on how we relate to ourselves and others in any context.
Where Tantra is used as an aid to enhance sexuality and intimacy between couples, without undue emphasis on spirituality or self-transformation but with a very responsible and grounded attitude, (Lifestyle Tantra) sex alters to be a totally natural process of human existence, we lose our obsession with it: Goal orientation, performance anxiety, poor communication, fear, shame are transcended. When we open to the flow then our life-force, or universal energy can be generated and circulated. That sexual energy IS orgasmic and many people believe that this is the pinnacle, to move orgasmic energy around the body, to have a prolonged whole body orgasm. But that is a start because are much more than a killer orgasm aren’t we? . In the realms of spirituality and transformation, Alain Danielou (Shiva and the Primordial tradition) puts it succinctly: “The divine state is made up of three elements, which are existence, consciousness and sensual delight (Sat, Chit, Ananda). Only sensual delight belongs to the domain of experience. Through it therefore we have a foretaste; we can touch the divine state”.
So Tantra is a subject with expansive and vast possibilities, it is also experiential and as we facilitate and explain. The basic techniques of breath and awareness are the same whichever context the practitioner wishes to use it for and the concept of touch is for connection, growth and healing.
But all of this is just setting a background to the main thrust of this month’s blog entry. As I said earlier there has been an upsurge of interest in Tantra. Almost daily it seems, services for Tantra Breath-work, Body-work, Lifestyle Tantra and workshops are appearing, more and more schools of Tantra advertise for students and more and more graduate and begin practice.
This can all be terribly confusing to people looking to explore Tantra and can be somewhat worrying: Tantra is no different from many holistic paths in that there are good and bad practitioners and schools. While I am not going to discuss the merits or deficiencies of any single practitioner or group I am going to outline some things to do and ask that may help you in making an informed choice on the practitioner that is right for you.
Ask yourself what do you want?
What is it you are looking for from Tantra? Is it the experience of Touch, Breathwork, Connection, Lifestyle Tantra, Healing, personal growth or something else? Being clear in your mind of why and what you wish to experience is perhaps the first and most important step. Simply write it down for reference and it helps immeasurably to crystalise and clarify your motivations and projected outcomes.
Searching for practitioners:
The web, social media, magazines and Publications, Classified Ads: Are practitioners advertising in one or more of the following: Online (website), Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter, in magazines such as Positive Life in Ireland or in the small ads of papers or the free adds online.
Website: What are they offering as services? Is it what you want? Is the pricing structure clear? Is it gender identity specific or irrespective of gender identity? Obviously if someone is gender identified and you are not identified with that gender then you can move on. Read the information on the website: is it minimal or comprehensive? The more comprehensive a website the clearer a picture you get at this early stage of who they are and particularly their ethos, outlook and practices. Do they seem professional and do they appeal to you? A simple way for practitioners to have summarised this is by the use of a “mission statement”. This is a simple, small paragraph which outlines the core of what they do and offer. But essentially are they making time and effort to be clear in who they are and what they do.
Social Media: Facebook pages and LinkedIn (business) are extremely useful for looking at what a potential practitioner is saying and doing, the events they list, the feedback (more on that later though), do they have a presence i.e. are they regularly updating? Is it one you find appealing?
Other online sites: There are sites such as Holisto.com which specifically cater for holistic practitioners, indicate events and services. These can be a very useful starting point as well for you to look at practitioners in your area; often they lead to websites and facebook pages.
Magazines and other publications: Glossy ads can be inviting and give at least some impression of what the practitioners are about, especially if there are links to website and social media sites. Is this regular advertising or once off though? Regular advertising indicates a willingness to be present and to be consistent. Where are they advertising? Is it a known and respected publication, what does that publication deal with?
Classified ads: These are not entirely devoid of information; they may contain a website address and phone number. Their use is limited though for making a decision except perhaps in the negative. The “Me Love You Longtime, Tantra Therapist” may not quite be Kosher.
So now you have a list of practitioners, you have excluded some and shortlisted others, how do you make further decisions?
What are others saying?
This can take many forms:
Testimonials: Do they have any and are they real? Many websites have Testimonials, I always asked myself were these real? Or were they faked? Do they have the originals to hand... if in doubt ask!
What others are saying on sites like Facebook? These are useful pointers. If you are lucky enough you may know people who have used them before, so asking people who have used the practitioner can be extremely valuable: is the feedback positive, negative or a mix. Negative feedback does not necessarily mean of course that the practitioner is poor, but that it didn’t work for that particular participant. So listen to what is being said, were they professional and courteous etc. Sometimes other practitioners will refer clients to alternative practitioners for various reasons: There is nothing stopping you asking for a referral, nothing at all. All information is good information.
Bodies of work: Sometimes practitioners write or blog. Do they have editorials or articles? That can be a very useful way of gathering a feel for the practitioner. Look at what they are doing and where they are doing it. Sometimes Consistency is Key: for example if they facilitate workshop in a particular area, are they returning to the same venue or hopping from one to another?
You have decided on a practitioner, they offer what you are asking for and you want to make contact (either by phone or by email). Asking for information is very important and is something that can bring peace of mind to you. Again this is a far from comprehensive piece but here are some things you may wish to consider:
What are they saying and the way they are saying it? Does it feel right for you? Is it pushy? Are they pushing you to book? Is it clear? How does it make you feel? (Comfortable or Wary). Always remember if you do not feel comfortable, do not proceed.
What Tantric path do they follow/ Training did they do? (If this is not mentioned on the website or information about them write it down for later). This can be a very useful question to ask: There are different schools of Tantra each with a different outlook and ethos. Take time to check on the background of the Tantric path the practitioner is on and the founder of the school: What is said about the school and founder gives a strong indication of the ethos and outlook of the practitioner.
What happens in a session? Are you informed about the structure of the session, the boundaries, the role of the practitioner, the benefits for you? Again if you do not feel comfortable, do not proceed.
It’s all about me? The me in question is the client, not the practitioner. Do you feel that the practitioner has you as the primary focus or themselves? Base your decision on what you feel about what they say.
What if I say no or feel uncomfortable during a session? For whatever reason, in whatever sessions you want to do, things can arise. Ask what happens if that arises? The response will give you an idea of the boundaries and emotional intelligence of the practitioner. For example: where genital touch is involved, the practitioner should give clear indication that they are doing this and asked your permission to do so. They should be able to state to you that it will not proceed unless and until you are comfortable. The same goes for any session: Coaching, Breath-work and Body-work. Knowledge of boundariesand emotional intelligence is not an option, in my opinion, it is a pre-requisite. So ask.
And now for the controversial question, unless it has been made clear to you or has been clearly stated ask:
Do you have sex with Clients? We do not, we do not feel that is necessary or and we are very clear on that boundary. However, some do. Don’t shy away from this question ask it and ask why and when do they do it if the answer is yes. Make your decision based on the response you receive (In my opinion, the move to sexual intercourse should be outlined BEFORE the session, not IN-Session. In other wards you have not agreed to or pre-negotiated a boundary). If you are cool with sex occurring that’s fine. The next question is the obvious one: Do you use Condoms. Don’t be afraid to ask and if the answer is no, don’t be afraid to put the phone down. Safe sex should ALWAYS be a priority
This is by no means comprehensive, but is there to help you to build up a picture of the practitioner, their motivations, practices and ethos. All information is useful in the run up to meeting for the first time, for your own peace of mind as well as in helping to choose the correct practitioner for you.
Finally you arrange a session
The appointment has been set, you are nervous and excited. How does your practitioner make you feel? Do they relax you? Explain what is going to happen and what their role is? Do they ask about your health, general well-being? At any time you have the right to leave, because you are there does not mean you need to proceed and that includes in-session.
Tantra is a beautiful, amazing and life-changing path. Choosing the right practitioner for you is an important part of that. Use this as a framework for you to find that practitioner who will enable you to bloom.
Until next time
Mark Sutton September 2013.