Tantra Blog

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Travel blog California June-July 2011



California, my California


This skydancing dakini is writing to you from a gloriously spacious Air France boeing, with three seats free next to me holding the promise of a much needed mid-air nap a while later. I'm taking off from San Francisco International - so far the friendliest, most no-fuss airport I have passed through on this never-ending journey. Tomorrow night, having crossed twelve time zones, I will land in Moscow for the next venture in to the unknown. Moscow - I am landing in a country where people are locked up for not having the correct passport details, and all I know is that a lady in black wearing a purple flower will pick me up at the airport. I have tried my best to copy my address in Moscow in Russian script and hope I won't be thrown in jail because I didn't get it right! I'm teaching in Moscow the next couple of weeks with Dan Brule and then the two of us, with our fabulous organizer and translator Luba, will be off to Almaty Kazakhstan, for an 8 day Tantra and Breathwork training there. That is, of course, if I manage to get a visa in. First preparations done, having bought, at great expense, a letter of invitation to Kazakhstan from the Ministry. I am so excited to meet the people of the USSR. Looking at the texture of my life, it feels like of God/dess was embodied, (s)he must have a huge sense of mirth and fun.

So you can hear that I am joyful and excited. My time in California has been exquisite - and I can do with about a month's catching up on sleep. But before I got there, a most delicious interlude: 10 days in my own kingsize bed on Hawaii Big Island, spending my days communing with sea turtles, spinner dolphins and manta rays in the most magnificently clear blue water. It's a fascinating experience, climbing over the molten lava rock, which is what most of the island consists of, and then diving into this tranquil expanse of wild aquatic delight, right off my hotel room. I drank in the sun and the ocean, and slowly started unwinding from a terrific and immensely hard working time in the UK. I'm glad I planned the break, I absolutely needed this time of emptiness and enjoyment, surrounded by frangipanis and filled with gentleness, before heading off to California.

California, where a slightly strange feathered creature like me can feel right at home. California, where I get invited to do a talk on Conscious BDSM in a beautiful dungeon parlor, and the room is so packed that most people have to stand while listening to me. California, where being queer is the norm and gay men are keen to get taught tantra by a woman. California where you can eat gourmet raw food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, almost from the corner shop. California, where the redwood trees become adolescents when they are 500 years old. California, where hot tubs on ocean cliffs and nudist natural springs are just part of the rhythm of constant creation. But I get ahead of myself. Back to the beginning.

Last year June/July on my visit to the West Coast of the USA I met three beautiful people: Claire Rumore, Laurel and Soullove/Stephen Feig. Claire and Laurel took on the adventure of coming to Africa for the December Sexuality and Consciousness Conference as well as the trainings that followed. We shared deeply in the rocky hills of the Cederberg, and the two of them took it upon themselves to organize an extensive event schedule for my visit to California this year July. Soullove, an experienced organizer, added his advise and expertise. Finally, after months of planning, the days arrived. So much delight happened for me in this time. I'll pick up some themes to share with you here.

(Ah, the waitress has just come around with a glass of French champagne for me. How can I resist?)

Exploring Eros

My first talk in Oakland (which would be my home for most of the stay here) was on the Subtle Energetic of Eros. The talk is focused on a theme that my South African students will by now be quite familiar with, namely that a conscious exploration of our eroticism (sexual fantasies) can be a potent way of integrating suppressed material from our unconscious. After a month of exploring this theme in various forums with many participants, it is clear to me that this aspect of working with sexuality is not much understood or addressed in the wide-ranging Tantra teachings that can be found in California. The more I facilitate such explorations, the more I realize that it requires great skill and awareness of the facilitator to guide participants through this murky but immensely potent terrain. I am met with enthusiasm by a group of beautiful people, and my being smiles in anticipation.

The next day - Sunday afternoon - I present a talk on Conscious BDSM. This turns out to be one of the most delightful events of my stay. I had suggested this theme to Claire after receiving an intuitive message to do talk on this theme. So here I am, all dressed in tight black with the red leather boots my graceful mom gave me, walking into the most elegant dungeon I have seen so far. The potential of this place (the attachments to the steel bed hidden behind drapes, the tools that can come out of the dentist chair, the ropes and whips) to be a temple of pain is subtly disguised under tasteful elegance. We eat delightful snacks while waiting for the masses to flood in. The gorgeous female owners of the dungeon (thelookinglass.com) tell me afterward that my talk far exceeded in numbers the interest that any previous speakers (even some of the biggest names in the California BDSM scene) has drawn. I watch in fascination. I am deeply aware that I know nothing of the life of a dominatrix the way it is practiced by most professionals, and yet I know that I have found a way to use this modality as a gateway to consciousness, and that I have something to share.

And as I open my mouth, what I am to say starts revealing itself. I describe how I use petitions to solicit the true desire behind the client's fantasy. I show how I identify the polarities acting out in their psyches, and how I utilize psychological interrogation to get the client right into the dark and hidden corners of their psyches that their fantasy is calling them to feel deeply. I share case studies of how working in this way, with minimal tools and maximum emotional effect, my BDSM sessions have resulted in a radical unwinding of clients' polarized ego structures (including complete curing of deep survival fears and premature ejaculation problems). The audience participates with wisdom, dexterity and interest while challenging me on the edges my talk presents: What about people who just enjoy the lifestyle of BDSM? In my talk I had made it clear that I guide people into their fantasies to get them through it. I am very aware of my audacity in walking into a dungeon and suggesting that this genre of fantasy may be a temporary delight, a gateway rather than a destination. As I share my concern in the debrief with my team afterward, Soullove looks at me and says: Shakti, the Audacity of you! This starts off a months of me beginning to delight in the freedom of being Audacious and challenging in California, in the friendliest way possible. My answer to the question: Once the obsession has been resolved in the unconscious, any genre of eroticism become just simply pat of our range.

Despite my Audacity, the crowds line up after the talk to thank me and to book sessions. I get interesting emails from some who want to know just how enlightened I am, and from others who want to talk about their journey into enlightenment through kink. A short while later, the Dark Eros conference happened on the East Coast. I didn't go, but heard from a dom who had been at my talk and then at the conference, where the extreme explorations of that conference had taken her in her consciousness.

I am remembering now a gondola ride that Claire initiated for us on Lake Merrit in Oakland. The delightful gondolier tells us that his question to customers often is: What has been the most fascinating experience of your career? Once he asked this question, he said, to a woman who turned out to be a sex worker. She insisted on giving him graphic details about some of the strangest experiences she has had with clients. The rest of us in the gondolier, who are all working with sexuality in some unusual way, are silently giggling as we wait for him to ask what we do. As if by agreement, we ask him in stead to tell us what his strangest experience was, and he recounts a gondola ride in which his passengers were two 13 year olds. As he was ready to start sharing with them the history of the lake, on3 13 year old told him in no uncertain terms to shut up, and then they ducked out and started 'making out' in front of him on the gondolier. By the end of the ride, the gondolier, had received four simple steps from me on the journey towards Tantric lovemaking (yes, he did manage to ascertain our professions): 1. Relax your bum (and everything else). 2.) Make a buddha belly (yes this is sexy!) and breathe into it. 3) Feel and 4) try your best to Enjoy! The gondolier was furiously memorizing the steps as we said goodbye.


The Rippling Blue Flame

Having explored the deep dark delicious of eros, I invite participants at various events to explore with me the subtle energetics of our sexuality. My basic teaching here is that our sexuality naturally wants to be a force for awakening, lighting and opening up our chakras (energy centers) as it moves up from the genitals all the way to the crown of the head. Why is this not most people's experience? Because our sexual response is governed by the unintegrated unconscious, and because we tighten into our sexual energy in stead of relaxing into its awakening potency. in Fairfax, Marin county, amidst the redwoods of Northern California, a take a group of people (mostly young and very willing men) onto a journey of experiencing this Tantric orgasmic energy as it wakes up in us. Over dinner later (in a delightful rawfood restaurant) one of the participants shares his awed experience of feeling this deep, awakening flow of sexual energy taking on a life of its own in his relationship with his best beloved partner.

The orgasmic energy that Tantra works with is what I call the Rippling Blue Flame. It is different from the hot fire of eroticism, in that it is not fueled by excitement. It is deep and permeating, like a smoldering fire that can burn for a long, long time. It savors every moment, it hisses deeper into pleasure, and it ripples over the skin, permeating every fiber of our beings. It is deeply silent and yet potently awakening. I talk about his topic in Santa Cruz with a group of beautiful yogis watching me in perfect lotus position. I notice a slight stirring in the composure when I demonstrate, fully clothed but in yub yum (a Tantric position where the woman sits in the man's lap), how this rippling blue flame can be awakened simply through conscious breathing. There is nothing like a public display of orgasmic energy to bring the message home.

Beloved

Very close to my heart is the work of meeting and developing a relationship with this inner beloved - that is, the dance of masculine feminine integration in us. We have a whole day, 10 am to 8pm, in San Rafael Marin County to dive deeply into this topic. Open Bookstore, the fabulous venue, gives us a room packed with buddhas, Marias, winged dragons, mandalas, stone lingams and other sacred objects to do our work for the day. As the day continues, we immerse more and more deeply into each person's journey of seeing how their outer relationship mirror their inner relationships, and deepening the latter. This is intense work, but the realizations can be profound and life changing. For me, all work on relationship begins here.

Awakening Female Sexual Energy

Many years ago when I received the clear message that my task to is to be dakini, I also was told that the question my work will explore is "what it means to be a woman". This topic has become a great passion of mine, and I am in the final stages of editing my book "Sexual Awakening for Women: A Tantric Workbook". I love exploring the essence of female sexuality with women, so it is with great delight that I take on this journey with a beautiful group of women one Monday in Oakland. I would say the essence of what reveals here is how just letting to of outcome and performance is required, and just how much is to be dropped for us to become aware again of the subtle, exquisite flower of our female sexuality. Some weeks later I am invited to present a talk for the women of the Oneness university in San Francisco. What a beautiful gathering of bright eyed beauties of all ages and walks of life. I walk in half dazed from a massive process that was still waking its way through my body: Without any warning a few days earlier, a process from the collective made its way through my body. I developed high fever and then felt as if hundreds of men were kicking me in the guts for being a woman, being sexual and having desire. It was as if I was feeling all the degradation and humiliation of patriarchy bestowed on female sexuality, all at once. Medically, my body was showing the symptoms of heavy food poisoning, but I had only eaten vegetables the previous day, and the process took a week to clear from my body. So I walked in to the gathering, and felt the spirit of the moment fill me with energy, to talk clearly about the journey of patriarchy through which we have come, and to encourage the women strongly to take seriously the message, that it is time for our female sexuality to wake up again, and for us to find the courage to embrace and trust our desire once more. Nobody wants to leave after the talk, and it is clear that the women are awaiting my return next year, to go deeper with the women's work. I am planning to come with copies of my book, and to run a longer workshop that will introduce women to ways of starting women's circles supporting this work. I am also already sponsored to do a women's workshop in Santa Barbara next year.

The sweet mystery of private sessions

I feel so graced and blessed by the vulnerable and intimate sharings that people brought to me in the many sessions I have done in California. When people enter into sessions, they share with me things about themselves that they have never shared with others. It is like diving in under the skin, to where the heart beats like the tender strings of a violin. The themes are many and varied: angelic young women desperately trapped in sexual remoteness that is caused by unresolved relationships with their dads, men who were emotionally abandoned by their parents and left to fend for themselves, couples working through the tricky terrains of illusions that develop in our habits of relating, older women finally waking up to the wonder of their bodies. I work with Californians who grew up with rules against anything that is not hip and alternative, Midwesterners coming from rather severely fundamentalist social paradigms (where God will come down and punish those who transgress the subtlest of social rules), Orientals who are finding their way in a new country while traversing the rigid social mores that they were raised with.

I am enjoying the unraveling of my own work. The more I surrender to this work, the more I become aware of the power of subtlety, of slowing down, of doing less, of listening more, of giving space for what is there, rather than imposing or even presenting methods or tools that impress the mind but do not respond deeply to the being who is presenting him/herself to me.

I work with many women who are occupied in the many genres of sex work that the Bay area offers. One session moves me particularly strongly. The client has been a sex worker most of her life, and her motivation is that she loves sex, and feels that she can deeply serve the men who visit her through her loving of them. She tells me tales about some of her clients, and I feel as I listen to her how Mother Theresa sometimes comes dressed up in gaiters rather than nun's robes. She loves with her body men who have been shattered through the killing they have done in service of the US marines. She takes into her home women who have been drugged, serially raped for weeks and almost left for dead as they got conned into the wrong side of the sexwork world. She councils sex workers who have seen and experienced horrible things. And all she needs from me, really, is to be able to talk to someone who can listen to the stories of her life without being traumatized or sink into deep judgment. I hold her in my arms and cover her with sistery love. Listening to what she has experienced, I am grateful that I have developed a strong witness and that I have explored so many of the edges of my own emotional life. There is grace and ease in being able to take it all in and let it move through.

I wonder about the term sex worker. In the sex positive communities of the Bay area, people claim the term sex worker as a way of celebrating that they work directly with people's sexual selves. I like this, and I can see how in this sense I am also a sex worker. In the unraveling of patriarchy, which seems to be a theme that moves through my tracking the feminine today, I feel into where we are holding onto the shadow archetype of the sex worker: The belief that as women, our worth in the world is dependent on what we can offer to men, mainly sexually. And I see that one of the ways through this age old belief is to shift the tables, and realize, like the sacred sexual priestesses of patriarchy, that our sexuality is a gateway to the divine, and to the mysterious essence of love.

Going Total with Totality Therapy

This past weekend I did the virgin cruise of teaching Totality Therapy to others. Totality Therapy (totalitytherapy.com) is the modern-idiom name that I have given to the way we have interpreted Tantra in our school (tantraschool.co.za). Totality for me means being 100% committed to living your life to the full, feeling everything, avoiding nothing, and ultimately, waking up to the truth of who we really are. Throughout our lives, we learn to suppress and avoid emotions and sensations that are shocking, overwhelming or disagreeable. The unfortunate consequence is that we shut our hearts down to half of life's experiences (and thus our love becomes very conditioned and our hearts divided) and that we keep a lot of energy trapped in the unconscious. The purpose of Totality Therapy is to a) catalyze and activate the experience of what we have avoided and suppressed, b) facilitate the integration and processing of the emotions and processes that reveal as we open pandora's box and c) deepen our capacity for bliss, or pure presence in the body. Read the website for a full description.

So here we are in Claire's beautifully feng sue'd house in Oakland, a circle of 18 men and women (neatly gender balanced in our numbers), ready to dive in. Having been put on a 3 day sexual fast, the participants now get given champagne and encouraged to come out with their deepest darkest most delicious erotic fantasies. It takes us a full, and riveting, day to hear everyone's fantasies. Even just in the sharing of them, the articulating of what is there, powerful processes get catalyzed. As one person shares a fantasy that involves violence, a woman in the group spontaneously starts going into a trauma response in her body. I guide her into the experience and find her resistance: She wants to present herself as composed, and is mortified to be seen shaking like this. As I guide her through this, it becomes clear to me that she needs to be held down by the men in the room. So I call all those who had some desire to dominate women in their fantasies, and ask them first to just hold her down firmly, and then (once she starts to move into the resistance, and clearly starts accessing the eros in this) to let themselves also enjoy the contact with her. Almost miraculously, we watch as a scene that started off as an enactment of victimhood turn into a scene of pleasure. Two themes emerge here: One is the process of identifying and moving through our identification with the victim triangle, and another is that, underneath the men's fantasies to overwhelm women with force, is actually a deep desire to penetrate woman with deep devotion and total dedication, with all of their masculinity.

In the course of the three days, many exquisite processes unfold in the room. While I was in California a friend sent me a link to his most precious erotica find so far: Alice in Wonderland - the ex-rated version. Watch it, it is delightful. And so in summary I can say, all of us on the course took what was in the bottle that said "drink this", entered through the door into the Wonderland of our sexuality, and discovered magical, strange and wonderful things about the real and the unreal. By facing our resistance to being total with experience in the area of the sexual, we freed up so much energy in our lives. Though the doorway may have appeared sexual, it was clear that the liberation that followed went deep into all areas of consciousness.
I found myself deeply inspired and at times channeling discourses that the participants asked me to write down (I will attempt to do this, and also plan to get myself a dictaphone). It feels like this work wants to grow in the world. And thus I announce: Totality Therapy is going www, and worldwide. This September, I will be presenting the 3 day Totality Therapy Intro training in London, and then, aiming to go live 2 February 2012, a dedicated group of students will launch into a 14 month Totality Therapy Training program with me. This training will be internet based (weekly lessons with homework explorations, chat forums to share experiences, teleconferences, video course material and Skype sessions with me) and include a 10 day residential in California next year June/July. I am so excited, and delighted to have Claire behind me encouraging and directing me to make this training happen. If I could wave a magic wand, I would turn her into my PA and have her travel to world to me to organize everything from my email lists to being able to have phone conversations through my car speakers. I never cease to be awed by her practical suss. She also took me to meet Moses of OneTantra.com - a wonderman on the internet and patron of all things Tantric. Between him and other friends who know this field, I am confident that my non- techie self will have the advice and support I need to make this project happen. I do realize that there is one key ingredient to this project that needs attention: Finding the time to write up the course. Some plans for such time to manifest is being pondered as I write.

Personal and professional delights

One of the professional delights of my time in California is that much of what I did here got professionally filmed and/or audio recorded. Some of this material will make its way on to youtube as clips on topics such as masculine-feminine integration and working with eros, and some of it will become part of course material for the internet based training program that I am developing. Then also delightful was being filmed and interviewed by Priscilla whose multi-continent internet-based film project Ssexbox is an exploration of sexuality in all its varied forms. Priscilla got me, deeply, she felt the way sexual energy runs through me, encouraged and applauded my tracking of how social and cultural collectives have manipulated our perceptions of sex, and got me to to share quite intimate personal views on sexuality, relationships and being dakini. I am looking forward to this program going live next year, and will also find ways to get the footage she gave me go selectively and appropriately onto my own www channels.

In my time in California I presented two BlissDances, and found the experience funkily fabulously delightful. Walking into a room with serene dreadlocked muscled African American men striding amidst long-haired, feather decked women stretching into their bodies in all their creative possibilities, my body gives a sigh of delight, and I feel the dance begin of its own accord. I watch the surprise in the dancers as the dance gradually alters from high-energy movement to contact that challenges our body armoring and associations about connecting with the body of the other. And I delight, of course, in feeling the sweet melting during the water dance. It works, every time. In Oakland, the bodies descend into a pile of delight, floating in the soft silence of the moment for a long, meditative breath of bliss. A long, long timeless silently delightful breath.

And I get to have my own dance kicks exploring what is out there. Next time I want more time for me to go out and play, as most of my time was occupied so I didn't get to go to the 10 day dance camp, the 5 day Contact Improvisation Conference and the ongoing Tango Milongas that were all happening right on my doorstep. But I did get to go to two Ecstatic Dance classes, and ah! What a delight. The setup is simple in some ways. The organizers hold a ritual sacred space with a big altar, spaces on the side for massage, stretching and meditation, and close the dance with an honoring chant. The DJ in front spins the disks into a deeper and deeper journey of ecstatic dance. The rules of ecstatic dance are, move however you will, and be mindful of those you dance with. In the first dance, I find myself in a multidimensional entanglement with a small chinese man who clearly knows the ways of slow delicious martial arts, and so can roll under and through my body with graceful ease, picking me up and placing me down in another wonderland journey of delight. This is like going to a large church on Sunday morning - the church of ecstasy and love shared in unconditional dance.

Ah, the rawfood. One of the best treats of California, is Cafe Gratitude. Imagine a restaurant where you can walk in and pick up ready-made gourmet raw-food gluten-free sandwiches made with coconut, veggies, sprouted seeds, hut cheeses, raw hummus and guacamole. I more or less lived off this food until my graceful hostess Claire would suggest I perhaps explore a bit wider what San Francisco has to offer. The delight of Cafe Gratitude is also in the Attitude. I remember a dinner with friends in San Rafael's Cafe Gratitude, where we end up having a long soulful conversation with the beautiful waitress who brought us the question of the day: What do you want to be acknowledged for today? Another night at this restaurant, while eating raw pizza, I initiated a detailed conversation about people's experiences of threesomes. To be able to have such conversations in a small intimate restaurant, and all is perfectly accepted and welcome - what delight.

The men in California are beautiful. I have felt so deeply met by them, and acknowledged. It feels good to be seen, felt, enjoyed and honored. I miss and love the beautiful men who dance in my world in South Africa, and it feels somehow deeply nourishing to be met more and more by the masculine in all his fullness. I feel that the world is changing, and that soon, maybe very soon, our world will be ready to do the dance of male female relating in a whole new way: Women standing proud in the full glow of their sexuality, ready to lead through their blissful surrender, and men in one pointed focus devoted to the feminine, skillfully acting from the greater wisdom that arises thus. I recall a mystically beautiful moment on a beach in Northern California where a man met me with the love and devotion that I imagine Christ felt for Mary Magdalene. To live in a world where such gestures are known and encouraged, that makes my cells zing with wonder.

And then, beloveds, as I started my story about the USA in the ocean, I think I will end it with my visits to natural waters in California. Esalen, ah Esalen. Those rocks of California jutting into the wild ocean rise the passion in me. I want to open up that spirit of the wild in people, and I feel how this environment can catalyze that. And then in blissful contrast, there are the hot tubs on the cliffs where you can float for hours (in hot natural sulphur water) gazing over the ocean and, if you wish, floating with other naked bodies. And there is Esalen massage on the deck, overlooking the ocean, naked in the sun if you want, and an umbrella ready to bring the shade whenever you are ready for coolness. Esalen is a proud establishment where many of the world's best teachers have taught and developed their practices. My dream is to teach here one day, and I look forward to presenting a proposal to the management there, perhaps next year on my visit to California. More water: Floating in a hot tub with friends in Santa Cruz, drinking tea out of tiny cups while looking out over the bamboo fields beyond. Dipping in the wild oceans of Esalen, Santa Cruz and Marin. Soaking all night long in the Hot Springs of Harbin, the home of my beloved Quantum Light Breath meditation.

And so over the oceans I fly, ready to meet another continent on this continuing magical journey. My gratitude to all of you who are supporting me through your thoughts and your love. I feel deeply called to do this work and to take this journey, wherever it may lead, and I feel the powerful rightness of it. I am, as you can hear, excited about what is unfolding in the world, and I am much looking forward to my return to California, which feels like it will become a beautiful second home for me.

1 Comments:

  • At July 26, 2011 at 3:27 AM , Blogger Shima said...

    Shakti, this is exquisite in its expression and in the revelation of beauty lived in the spaces between words .. love Shima

     

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