Tantra Blog

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I dance to the death of my father

Last Wednesday afternoon, my father died.

A few hours later, I was in the Kalk Bay Community Hall, surrounded by loved ones who had come to welcome me back after 3 1/2 months of international teaching, and to dance with me again. This dance I call BlissDance. It is a free movement space that I use to take people deeper into embodied awareness - of intimacy, of edges, of the veils and boundaries that keep us separate, and of what lies beyond. It is a dancing community of loving awareness.

We sat down in the circle. I welcomed everyone and shared with them that my father had just died. A hushed silence fell in the room. How exquisitely beautiful, this shared humanity, this knowing that death cuts through everything, and brings us right into each other's skins and hearts.

The theme for my night's class was Falling into Grace. Chosen for me for the night, by Existence herself - this turned out to also be the theme of the sermon at my father's funeral. And I got to dance, while holding the space for this collective awakening dance. I found myself instantly drawn into a huge expression of energy - intense, black and fiery, magnificently destructive and passionate. Dancing with my father into the Bardo's - the in-between realms before the soul reaches the state of oneness, a layered place that can feel very confusing for the soul, the place where demons arise and seem to be real.

But my father and I were dancing through. I was feeling his immense passion passing through me, the largesse of his being, the fiery expression of his his spirit. My father was a fearless warrior for justice and equality. He quested relentlessly for beauty, and the expression of beauty in all realms. He was no small spirit. My father was not afraid of demons. He understood that they were fabrications of the mind, and loved exploring the realm of the occult with his vast intellect. And so we danced fearlessly into and through the place of the demons, embracing the passion, dropping the fear, ruthlessly cutting away what is no longer real.

My father was a boy who had lost both his parents when he was six years old. He felt intensely, and struggled to communicate this to people around him, and so growing up with him felt at times like being in the middle of an unpredictable emotional storm. My mother is a woman of great wisdom and perspective, and somehow managed to maintain a gracefulness that still awes me today. And it was Marietjie, his last wife, and the angel who made him smile, even when his consciousness was fading - it was Marietjie who finally raised this child and brought peace to his soul. I feel so much for her, the woman who held this man, in her own words, like a mother who carries the child for nine months. And just as he was ready to be born, he was taken away, to be born into the mystery.

My father believed until his death that his daughter hasdnever had an angry moment in her life. I find this so beautiful, as his impact on my life has been the centre of all my emotional processing - years of venting rage and helplessness, desperate romance (yes, my father was the first man in my life, and the first love of my childhood self). I am infinitely grateful to my father for having provoked these emotions in me - unknowingly, he called me out into great emotional clarity and power, and fearlessness. I never felt the need to get angry AT him, because I knew he was the messenger only, the finger pointing at the moon. And it was for me to do the inner work.

And so here we are, my father and I, dancing the demons, the phoenix jumping in the fire and through, the lover whose passion knows no bounds. And he is in me, he is me. No more separation. It is complete. This love, this gratitude, this acceptance, knows no bounds.

And through the great challenge that my father has brought me, I am no longer afraid to keep my heart open as immense feelings pass through - grief, sadness, joy, gratitude - like massive winds that leave no time for distinction or narrative. I surrender into the winds, and feel my heart being blown wide open.

Later on in the dance, the heavens open up into the light. I open my arms to surrender to the love I feel for my father, to honor him, and to direct him to the realm of the angels. And yes, he is ready. The room lights up. My father has no resistance to the intensity of light and love, and he expands into this limitlessness beauty.

In our final circle I play the mantra "Gate Gate Para Gate Para Sam Gate Bodhi Svaha" (referring to the state where we have gone, gone beyond). A piercing joy fills my being. The tears don't fall out - they shower over everyone, like a fountain that pushes up with force. The dancers surround me, touch my heart, cry their own tears - how beautifully this opening to pure feeling can evoke that in others - and enfold me with their bodies, like a cocoon.

Always, when my father wrote me, he ended letters with the phrase "Jou papie" (which sounds like "your father" but means "your cocoon"). And so, my father, my first cocoon, you have passed away. Today, I felt the weight of your body in my hands as we carried your coffin to the grave. Today, I threw gravel on your grave. I saw how your body returned to earth, dust to dust.

And today I held a white dove in my hand, released it into the sky, together with the doves held by each close family member. I felt with ecstasy how the doves took flight, coming together in a joyful dance of the sky - the sky dance of the white doves. And I felt my spirit being set free, free into that which is beyond, beyond form, and yet so magnificently expressed in form. This butterfly now takes wings. She surrenders to existence as such.

My father's death, and my experience of it, mirrors for me so beautifully some of the main tasks that I feel we are facing at this potent moment in history. My father was a feminist, and he died at the time when I see the end of patriarchy very close, giving its last resisting convulsions. The release of the old patterns requires us to do the work of clearing what no longer serves in our ancestral lineage, and to honor and embrace what does. Also, it is time to face the love we have for our parents, and to feel it without any withholding, with totality. Whatever we are feeling about our parents is just a masking of our deepest feeling: Passionate, unbounded love. There is such support for us to do this work at the moment.

When my father spoke of death, he always said that he wanted us to celebrate his passing with a feast. Just before his death, my father prepared such a feast for those who were close to him - his own Babette's Feast. And in honor or his death, this past Saturday, I danced for him again, witnessed by friends. I danced on Celine Dion's song "Because you loved me" - the song I danced for him when he turned sixty (six years ago). By the end of the dance, my body collapsed with overflow of energy, and I called, loudly: "My father! I love you! I want to devour you!" First man of my life, you have left. And perhaps in some way you were my communion bread, as I step into this surrender to Existence. As I step into the arms of the Beloved, the new possibility that awaits me of how we can be with each other, man and woman beloved and lover, becoming one.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Russia, are you ready?

Moscow receives a Shakti

How did I find myself in Moscow? Last year October, I met an extraordinary breathwork teacher called Dan Brule. I found a deep resonance with who he is and how he works, and the feeling was mutual. And so we began to teach together - first in South Africa earlier this year, and then in the area where he spends a lot of his breathing life: the USSR. While I spent time with him in October, I had a vision of Dan and I together on a train, and so I asked him where that could be. He said Russia for sure, and likely Moscow. Following this vision, Dan invited me to come teach with him in Moscow, the great capital of the former Soviet Union.

And a magnificent city it is. Its population bursts at the seams - locals tell me there are 20 million people living here. It is almost impossible to drive anywhere - even from the countryside back into town on a Sunday afternoon - without standing in long traffic lines that hardly move. This matter is exacerbated by the large scale reconstruction of roads and buildings (which, I am told, may be influenced by the Minister's wife who owns a construction materials company). Since the end of communism, sky scrapers have risen everywhere - they are flashy and impressive in glass and chrome, and they have fascinating shapes and angles. Shops stay open into the night, and many through the night.

Driving into Moscow on the night of my arrival, I was astounded by the quality of boutiques and other luxury shops everywhere. In taking a walk through a few malls myself later, I found that the number of cosmetic and handbag stores far outweighs the number of supermarkets and pharmacies (which made it somewhat difficult for me to get basic supplies). This city is clearly where Russia's wealth is concentrated. And there is a lot of it.

So it was with some surprise (having grown up to believe that Russia still had an anti-capitalist feel) that I found one of the main themes in my sessions with women to be how to break out of the capitalist go-getter framework and to get in touch with their feminine again. The business women of Moscow are impressive, and they know the male game better than any man. Then on the other hand, they live in a society which is still strongly influenced by patriarchal values when it comes to the woman's role in relationship. The contradiction is confusing and sometimes excruciating for these women.

Dan has been teaching in the Russian States for 20 years and lived here some of that time. He is a great guide, together with Luba, Dan's central organizer and our translator. Luba, a former lawyer, has the fine features and ways of a ballet dancer. She lives on raw food - only one food at a time (so this afternoon that may be tomatoes, and this evening marrows). She tells me that there was a raw food convention in Moscow some months back and that the interest in this way of living is growing in Russia.

Site seeing in Moscow

On Saturday, our little party trundles off to Red Square of a day of site seeing. Apart from Luba, Dan and myself, we have in our company Caroline (Dan's organizer in Paris) and Leera (his beautiful 19 year old companion). The Kremlin, which is the larger complex that includes Red Square, is an impressive and fantastical complex of bright golden towered and domed churches. Looking at these roofs in the sunlight, one could certainly believe that they are made of pure gold. Inside the churches are subdued with painted murals everywhere on the walls. I love the colors - deep cores, greens and blues, and also the simplicity of the iconic style.I wonder at the pathways of consciousness that these images depict for worshippers. At the top of an ascending tryptic, I see an image of Adam and Eve in paradise, and to my delight, find the snake (image of the goddess) given her glorious place in the center. The way these ascending images are designed is that they start at the bottom with hell and rise up to the highest realm. I am fascinating that this patronymic religious culture could have included the snake in heaven.

Apart from the churches, there are several towers which each have at their top, a bright red star.

And then Red Square, the place where lovers meet to take endless photographs. This is also where Stalin's Maloseum is. Dan tells us that he once watched a man throw a bottle of red ink towards the maloseum, and within seconds, police vehicles drove up to take him away. Don't underestimate the ever watchful eye in this country. The highlight of Red Square for me is St Basels - that faerielike round domed multicolored cathedral, brightly magical like now cathedral I have seen anywhere else.

The Moscow underground

In this city with more than 10 million citizens, it is rather a nightmare to get anywhere by car. The city's roadworks are artistically arranged as concentric circles (I love all the circles in this city) but the overpopulation and continuous roadworks together result in constant traffic congestion, even in the middle of the night. But then Moscow has an underground metro that is arguably as effective as the London underground. And the Moscow underground is not only functional, it is a work of art in its own somber way. Many stations are fitted out with different colors of marble and there are works of art everywhere - glass encaged porcelain treasures from the orient, fine mosaics of communist leaders and other revered figures, and massive bronze sculptures depicting the people of Russia from soldier to peasant. Some of these bronze sculptures are within reach, so that pieces that can be touched - a loyal dog's head, the barrel of a gun - have become golden from all the hands that have reverently or curiously touched them.

The trains themselves are remarkably spacious, with much room between the isles. Initially it seemed an impossibility for me to get anywhere on my own in the Russian underground - not understanding the cerilic alphabet or the Russian language, and finding it difficult to translate the pronunciation of words into something that I could relate even to the names written in Latin alphabet. But eventually, and with much clear guidance from Luba, Dan and Olga, our organizer for the Moscow events, I made my way around "like a true Moscowvite", said Dan.

One late night on the way back from teaching in town I heard a very sharp and aggressive announcement on the Red Line train I was on. Not understanding a word of what was being said, I just observed. I saw people get off at the next station - when everybody left, I pondered whether I should too, and my doubts ceased the moment a very aggressive looking woman in police gear glared at me and pointed to the door. Police descended on the train and sent it off empty. Within a few minutes the next train arrived and I was taken safely home. The incident did make me wonder how it must have felt to live in Communist Russia and to be constantly afraid of what officers and soldiers may do.

A Tea Ceremony

Russia has inherited the love for tea from China. I am told that the tea houses of Russia are unique in the world; you won't find quite the same thing in China. After what seemed like a wake though a maze, we get to the humble building that houses the tea house. We get taken to a cloak room where we take off shoes and cloaks, and then we are seated in a private corner of the tea room, on pillows around a low table. The young tea master, dressed in traditional Chinese tea master outfit, introduces us to the tea ceremony with a peaceful, hushed voice. Every movement of his arms and body is graceful, like a tea-tai chi. In a special leaf shaped cup, he pours leaves from various teas. Each cup is passed separately through the whole group. We breathe out into the tea bowl, and then breathe in the fragrance of the leaves. After we have all smelt all the teas in this way, we choose a tea. The tea master comes back some time later.

First, he pours hot water out over the tea pot and the cups. The water collects in a special underground shelf of the tea table. This is to make sure that the tea stays really hot in the implements being used. The tea master has a set of tools that he uses to touch and move various pieces. Now he pours hot water over tiny tea pot which is almost full with tea leaves, and then he pours the water out immediately. The next round of hot water produces the first cups of tea that are poured in the tiny oblong cups - these are said to present the masculine principle. The oblong cups are cupped by rounder, fuller cups that represent the female principle. Now the cups are tipped over and the oblong cup removed. We smell the fragrance of the tea in this cup and then slowly sip the tea from the other.

This process of sipping tea continues for hours, while in the background a beautiful Tabla ensemble is playing peaceful music for us. What a delightful meditation.

Teaching in a White Cloud

One thing that I find fascinating in my travels is that, no matter which city I am in, it is always possible to find a little corner of India and Tibet somewhere. In Moscow, this place is called the White Cloud - a fascinating shop with many rooms and two levels, filled with spiritual books and artifacts from all religious, spiritual and new age traditions imaginable. It is fascinating to look at these books, that have all been translated into Russian, and many in Coptic script as well. The shop is clearly a haven for many seekers. In the middle of the ground floor area there is a little ground pagoda with chairs where Dan and I present our first talk together in Russia. Luba recorded this talk (and all our future events) and put this one up on the www: ( ). I enjoy the play of conversation between Dan and Im, and the fascinating experience of being translated. Everything I say is being pronounced twice. We talk about awakening. There are many questions, and I start to get to know the beautiful people that Dan has been teaching for years in Moscow. Many come to greet him - and through him, me, before and after the talk.

The next night Dan and I run a workshop at the White Cloud. We are taken into a beautiful wood-paneled space with bamboo paper blinds on all sides. I love the lightness of this space. Guzelle, our Russian translator for the night, reminds me of a gazelle - as nimble, as sensitive and as alive with her golden head of hair. She takes the experience in with a quiveringly delighted body. I love playing with the breath and Tantra combination. One exercise that went beautifully here was asking people to stand up, and go deeper into the breath until the breath started to move them, to dance them. Then to find a partner, with one partner continuing to be danced by their breath, and the other being the support person, starting behind them with hands lightly supporting the dancer's movements (this is a variation of the classic Latihan meditation).

The following night, after our delightful day of siteseeing and then the tea ceremony, Luba and I go off to White Clouds one more time, and this time to go dance. The wood paneled space has been enlarged and the room is filled with beautiful dancing bodies. I enjoy playing with the different rhythms in the room. Though difficult to identify, I notice a distinctly different way of interpreting the music here than in the UK or the US. I love the freedom of expression and the way people give themselves to the music. There are certainly sexual dynamics to the dance, and I watch these with fascination - the subtle mating games happening, mostly with the men being out on the prey and the women either responding or not. At the end of the dance I fall into deep silence on the dance floor. A man slowly embraces me from behind, with great sensitivity, and then his body starts shaking. This continues until I politely thank him and exit to find Luba and the underground. Walking back, my body feels alive under the starry night.

Moscow is hot

Definitely a key feature of how I experienced Moscow in summer is that it can get insufferably hot. For a few days during my trip here, I stayed indoors, partly because my body needed a rest, and partly because I found the heat (one day it was 42 degrees C) unbearable, especially with little breeze and of course no ocean nearby.

And everyone in Moscow smokes. Everywhere. It is the national pastime. Coffee shops and restaurants are definitely a place to smoke. Like a few people told me, nobody in the USSR has had time to worry about health for the last few decades - there have been more important things to think about

Into an Open World

I have never been to Russia before, but I understand from what I have heard of Communist Russia that the changes from then to now are dramatic (not dissimilar, I imagine, from the Old and the New South Africa). On a spiritual level this is reflected for me through the presence of Open World, a large center for spiritual practices and teachings in Moscow. The center is beautifully done and the finishings are just the finest. Olga, our events organizer, works here and spends much of her time on projects in this building. It is holiday time, and she has her delightful son with her. Initially he doesn't know what to do with me as I don't speak Russian, but soon he works out that I understand the language of touch, and so he approaches me at every opportunity for a hug. I have never seen such a kinesthetically happy young man before. Olga's partner Alan gives me a powerful healing session one day. He lives most of his time in the Arizona desert and comes to Russia to teach the Gurdjieff practices to a group of students.

One evening at Open World I present a Skydancing workshop for women. This even was probably the surprise and delight of my visit to Moscow, and a reminder to me of how deep my passion goes for women's work. We are expecting a small group of 15 people - but the numbers keep growing, and the circle keeps expanding to at least twice that number. Beautiful spirits, this new generation of Russian women who have grown up with a quality I find quite unique in the world. As I describe the bowl of the pelvis and how our bodies want to move in this liquid freedom, the women tune into the state of my body and drop right down into their bodies. By the time I am doing a skydancing demo for them, they are totally open and ready to receive the transmission. To be in the middle of a room full of women dropping so deeply into the feminine mysteries within three hours - what ecstasy for me. And then our blissdance. All I have to say is: One of the qualities of the deep feminine is that She Is Wild and off the women go, into wild, uninhibited dance. My soul sings, and many - if not all - the women come to thank me afterward. Several of them decide to join in the weekend that Dan and I present.

Tantra and Breathwork Retreat

Our time in Moscow ends with Dan and I presenting a 4 day retreat at a center outside Moscow. Before we depart, we finally get our visa at the Kazakh embassy - I feel like shouting out loud for joy! Several hours later we drive into the forest next to the road where this event is being held, and it is raining! Haleluya. The staff conveniently have umbrellas for us all, and I have a luxurious suite to myself.

What can I say about this retreat? It leaves me with feelings rather than thoughts. I feel close to me all those lovely bodies with whom I breathed and moved over those days… I remember the soulful, passionate, painful, beautiful processes that individuals went through.. I remember feeling the energy of the group shift and open up as the days go by.. they have done much breathing but the level of interpersonal intimacy I am introducing is new. So it was with some delight and amusement that Dan and I watched people in the last breathing session getting entangled with each other… the pendulum has swung to the other side,and I am sure it will come to rest in the middle somewhere again.

I am moved by the passion and intuition of the women, and when the men finally start to break through the shell of 'how a man should be', their vulnerability is beautiful to touch. There are difficult moments during the retreat, moments that touch on collective unconscious here. During one morning, Dan takes the men off to the river for a process in which the men are guided to enter a cold river very slowly, with full awareness, while doing circular breathing. The men come back with a beautiful new tenderness and presence in their energy. I had bee working with the women. This time, the skydancing intro takes the women into fear and contraction - past life memories of being killed for being sexual, current memories of sexual abuse and many fears about their sexual dynamics with Russian men. As it always is, this touching of the old wounds gives opportunity, over the next days, for a slow and beautiful unraveling of what no longer serves.

Dan and I work together effortlessly and smoothly. Breath energy, sexual energy, seamlessly flowing together to support people's awakening. It feels like this was a short and intense event, enough to definitely open interest in more. I know of at least one woman who is thinking of coming to South Africa to come do more work with Dan and I and also with the Advait Tantraschool. And Luba is talking about translating some of my writings into Russian! Let's see what the future brings. Russia is a fascinating place - in some ways a bridge between East and West potentially, and certainly an area where the awakening of consciousness could have powerful global effect. I see and honor the work that Dan has consistently and patiently been doing here over the last two decades.

A Shakti escapes from Kazakhstan

It's Monday night and I'm looking out over the golden domes of a mosque while smelling red sausages being boilt in a flat below. Underneath is a shantytown much like what I know at home. On the other side of the apartment I am in for the night, is a display of high rises and hotels, lit up in purples, greens and blues (the colours keep changing). I have forked out the horse meat that the Kazakhs have cleverly hidden in the salad I bought for dinner. I feel immensely grateful and relieved - for the processing and realization that this country has brought me - and that I finally seem to be able to leave.

Entering into Kazakhstan was a prohibitively time- and money consuming activity. The ministry seems to change their rules all the time, and for some reason being South African makes things extra hard. After having bought a letter of invitation from the ministry of Kazakhstan at great cost, I finally was ready to start the days of visa processing. But in retrospect, getting in was nothing compared to getting out. This morning 3am I arrive at the airport, dutifully go through all the procedures, arrive at passport control and get told after grave silences by several intimidating police officers, that I lack a stamp on my immigration card. All visitors apparently are to report to the immigration police within five days of arriving, and this I had not done.

The consequences were rather dire. I got taken off the plane and told to go sort myself out. In the middle some potentially high anxiety (not being able to speak Russian, not having a soul to contact in this country, not knowing where to stay or how to get this stamp) I feel the perspective of the witness descending on me, and I observe this spectacle with curiosity and interest. From that perspective I find the intuition to go downstairs and look for an English speaking taxi driver.

And so I encounter one of the angels that got sent along my way to help me survive this country. He comes in the shape of a slightly built Korean looking taxi driver helper who speaks good English and is working at night to pay for his dentistry studies. He ends up spending the next 24 hours of is life sorting out this legal predicament and taking exceptionally good care of me. It is clear from what he says (and the taxi driver confirms) that going to the immigration police to get a stamp now would be a bad idea - the chances are good that I will be imprisoned, it will cost me about $800 of fines and I would have to wait another 4 days before I get approval. All this feels like the last thing on earth I want now.

But fortunately there is the expert system of corruption and bribery that we can draw on. It takes us the whole day - driving around for at least 5 hours to find the right chain of people to bribe - and me paying $500 for the services, and having to leave my passport with strangers hoping that it will be back with me before I have to leave for the airport at 2.30 am. The stamp looks like the real deal, so I am hopeful that I will soon be on a beach in Turkey rather than a jail in Istanbul.

This visit has certainly been the most challenging of my international journey - and I suspect that, in looking back at this time, it may stand out as one of the most moving. But a place of paradoxes and contrasts this is, for sure.

The people of Kazakshan are exceptionally friendly and hospitable. Ella, our host here and the organizer of the event, got up to collect us at 6am last Monday, and at 2am this morning to take me to the airport. The sweet lady at the hotel where we stayed would absolutely not let me do anything myself, not even boil a cup of tea. Half an hour after I asked for hot water, she would knock on my door with a very hot silver teapot. Our translator Sergei, who comes from the tourist industry in neighboring Kyrgikstan, is ready at every turn to inform me about local culture and nature. When we have a toilet stop, members of the group pay for my entrance - they won't have it any other way, as I am their guest in this country.

Nothing is too much trouble. This becomes quite a thing when it comes to my diet (no meat and gluten). Endless amounts of discussions and arrangements go on amongst the organizers (sometimes a whole table full of them) to make sure I get something to eat. And everywhere I get apples, grapefruit and almonds as gifts. I suspect I'm going to be really complete with those three categories of food soon.

On the other hand, the immersion in local culture did not support rest or sleep for me. The dogs wake up at 5 - 6am in downtown Almaty where our hotel is. They wake up in resounding symphony. At that time of the morning, I still have fresh in my memory the guests who loudly burst into their rooms after midnight or the wedding ceremony that happened just underneath me. Interesting cultural experiences, all of this. From my one experience of a wedding of Kazakhstan (that I practically attended while trying to sleep) speeches are the main deal. Everyone - every uncle to every grandchild - gets to give a speech. The DJ doesn't stand much of a chance: He is just halfway into a song when he gets stopped for the next speech.

It is hot and there is no air-conditioning. The landlocked dryness of this city is symbolized for me by the empty swimming pools outside in the yard. The space that we have our workshop in has very little air supply. The environment outside looks like it's either being built or broken down. This is an urban forest with very little oxygen.

Having formed an impression of Almaty as a rather dire place, I was really surprised when we got taken to a restaurant near the end of our stay. The rest of Almaty, it seems, is - well - opulent - filled with beautiful fountains, parks, and grand hotels of a scale that I have seldom seen. There is money here, I am told by Roger, the American husband of one of the workshop organizers. He is in the freight industry and has been living in Russian states for more than 15 years. He prefers Almaty to Florida, his hometown. Why? Because of the cosmopolitan community, the clearly defined seasons (in winter it really snows here - the Oriental Winter Olympics took place in Almaty recently - and now it is boiling hot), and good income. Roger says Almaty has the highest density of 4X4's he has seen in any city in the world. Kazakhstan has oil and a lush variety of minerals. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the people of Kazakhstan now have direct access to their wealth, and they are making good use of it.

Then another contrast: The people with whom I spend time in Almaty are hospitable, yes, but I can't remember ever having taught a group that was so distracted and apparently resistant to the work. It took most of the week to train them to keep their cellphones off during sessions - and not to answer them when they ring. We spoke much about habits of distraction. It was a fascinating play actually, watching just all the ways we have as human beings of convincing ourselves that there is something more important than being right here right now.

Dan, who has infinite patience, explains to me that people are probably stretched to capacity in doing this work with us. Social conditioning here is intense and layered. Apart from Kazakh tribal and cultural ways, there is also the collective unconscious of Russia - years of quite intense patriarchy (Kazakhstan has a strong Muslim influence which amplifies this) and the after-effects of communist rule. Certainly spirituality and sexuality have been touchy subjects for a long time.

The part of the training that was most profound for me was the water work. One early morning we drove off into the semi-desert landscape of rural Kazakhstan to an area that has hot springs. There is nothing aesthetic about the environment - flat lands, and functional brick structures, but the pools themselves are very hot and rich with life.

Dan did two days of water rebirthing with this group. Their desire to distract themselves went even higher than in the room when we got to the water, and it was clear that many of them were had high levels of fear going into this process. The process itself is beautiful, and something that I would love for Dan to come do in South Africa: going through the four trimesters of birth - floating free in the womb, pressing up against the cervix, then being constricted in the birth canal, and finally breaking free. The level of regression that took place as people were being quietly floated while doing circular breathing was remarkable. It broke through the hard protection of this group, and people were transformed. Only afterward did we realize that most of them can't swim. I ended the two days with a delightful waterbliss that went down extremely well.

At the end of the week we were teaching in Kazakhstan it is very clear that some people benefited remarkably from this work. One woman who had clearly during the week not only discovered her kundalini flow but had moved into large scale skydancing entertained us all by talking about the contrasts in her life; she is firmly planted in this new reality of awakening and feeling tongue in cheek about the general who is her boss - she is an army officer. Many of the women thanked me profusely for opening for them the real of what sexuality could be, its connection to spirituality, and the expression thereof in the feminine. I know it was definitely worth it to come this time for these beautiful jewels. And I know that existence will continue to support their awakening. As for myself, I am saying good-bye to Kazakhstan with a smile.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Monogamy and Polyamory: Gifts and Shadows

Monogamy's gifts for women

Having one partner focus all his/her attention, love and devotion on a woman beckons her to accept that she is the full embodiment of the goddess for her partner. She becomes all faces of the beloved. By surrendering totally to her partner's devotion and love, she steps fully into her own power. This power is more than personal power. It is opening to the power of the universe that moves through us, that we are channels for. It is opening to the wisdom of existence, that we become muses for.

The masculine principle in the partner becomes one pointed focus. He directs all his energy/attention to her, the feminine principle, and she guides his arrow. She does this the way the yoni (vagina) guides the penis (lingam) through opening to fully receive him.

Saraha was a great sage and learned Brahmin who knew and understood all the holy scriptures. One day he went to the market and met there a simple woman who had no education. She was an arrowsmith woman. The arrowsmith woman looked him directly in the eye, pointed an arrow at him and said: "Your knowledge means nothing. To find the truth, you have to leave all your books behind, and follow me."

Saraha left everything behind and followed the arrowsmith woman. She taught him the ways of wisdom outside Varanasi, the city in India where bodies get cremated. Saraha and the arrowsmith women set up a tent here and became the greatest Tantric masters of India. People came from far and wide to be with them. The king got concerned about the ways of this learned Brahmin, and sent a servant to persuade Saraha to return to his path of learning. The servant entered the tent, and never returned. The king sent his son, the prince, on the same mission. The son never returned. Then the king sent his wife, the queen. She also did not come back. Eventually the king could not resist; he went himself. There in the tent he found his whole kingdom, dancing in the ecstasy of true union. The king himself became a disciple of Saraha and the arrowsmith woman.

The question for you, woman, is: Are you willing to be the arrowsmith woman? Are you willing to lead your partner to the truth beyond knowledge? Are you willing to embrace the power that moves through you, and be the full embodiment of that for him/her?

The shadow of monogamy for women

For all the gifts that monogamy has for women, it also has a huge shadow. Monogamy is a patriarchal institution. Marriage - the ritual that symbolizes monogamy - is an institution of religion/culture/state. Patriarchal society has turned monogamy into the norm because it makes people easier to manage and control. There is a fundamental suppression of feminine power inherent in the old patriarchal institution of marriage. Marriage vows until recently said that woman was created out of man's rib cage and should therefore cling to man and obey him in all things. Think also of the concept of husbandry. In feudal times, the patriarch would 'husband' the village; he would benevolently take care of them, and in return they would surrender all their power (including their possessions) to him. Most women in monogamous relationships find themselves having the same expectations of their husbands/partners: He should provide and take care of them, and they surrender their power, and their desire, to him.

This is a misunderstanding of the concept of surrender. Yes, the feminine principle surrenders, but she surrenders to the divine/essence/the tao - the power of the universe that moves through her. She does not surrender to the ego control of man. If she were to do so, she traps both herself and the man in the endless play of maya/illusion/ ego power play.

The gifts of polyamory for women

If you and/or your partner have more than one lover, this gives you an opportunity to do a lot of emotional processing quickly. This is why Osho encouraged his sanyassins to have many lovers - so they could get through the lessons of relationship quickly. Having more than one lover, or, more likely, seeing your partner with more than one lover, can evoke all your jealousy and envy. Underneath these states there are others - feeling unworthy, rejected, abandoned, betrayed, not chosen, not special.

The way of the Tantrika is to feel all feelings that arise, fully, while maintaining a witness. Maintaining a witness means remembering at all times that you are not your emotions, and you are not your story. The feelings that you are feeling, are old. They may be evoked by your current love affair, but their origin is much further in the past. Simply being born can feel like an abandonment. Before we leave the womb, we are floating in perfect unity, without any sense of separation. Imagine what it must be like to move from the womb into this world, being dragged out, turned upside down under bright neon lights. Imagine how painful that first breath of air can feel. When we were little, we could not cope with these intense feelings, and so we suppressed them, put them away for later. Now is later. Whatever feelings your relationship is evoking, they are yours to feel, all the way through. Most likely, your relationship/s is just a messenger for feelings that are much older than this moment.

In receiving more than one lover and/or in your partner having more than one lover, you can learn that your love is infinite - that the more you love, the more love you have to give. Love does not come from being loved by your partner. Love already is. You are swimming in an ocean of love. All you have to do is open to it. When your partner is free to love others, chances are you will feel his/her love coming back to you more freely, and more abundantly. Love multiplies as we set it free.

When you see your partner with other women, you have the chance to see that all women embody the goddess. As your partner worships the goddess in another woman, he is worshipping the goddess that also is in you. Honor the sisterhood of woman, and move beyond competition and comparison.

The shadow of polyamory for women

The temptation of polyamory for women is that we start searching for validation, approval and recognition from many men if we can't find it with one. This feeds into what the Buddhists call the Hungry Ghost syndrome - there is never enough, and it never feels quite real. Avoiding the challenges of one relationship by having many is never going to feel fulfilling.

Another dynamic that women get into with multiple partners is sexual aggressiveness and a disconnect between heart and sex. Successful women in the patriarchal world have become as good as men, if not better, at much of male behavior, including being sexual predators. Like the pray mantis, we can find a male to mate with and then demolish him after the sex. While this lifestyle can provide a lot of sexual kicks, it creates a disconnect between sex and heart, and a consequent dulling or hardening of the heart.

Careful also of compromise. If you agree to polyamorist relating because your partner insists on it and not because that is what you want, you are treading on thin ice. Look at your motivation. If your agreement was based on a fear - such as the fear that you may lose the man if you don't submit to his demands - then you are still operating in the patriarchal model of male control and female submission. In stead of being in the archetype of the monogamous wife, you place yourself in the role of one of the wives in the harem.

Monogamy's gifts for men

The arrowsmith woman teaches Saraha how to be an arrow with impeccable, one-pointed focus. This is the gift of having only one lover. By focusing all your attention on one partner, you learn to concentrate your energies and drop into deep stillness and presence.

The great Tantra teacher Barry Long said that the challenge for man is to learn how to love woman, deeply, fully and completely. The practice that he taught was for man to put all his attention and love into his linage (penis) so that when he penetrates woman, this is a deep and intense act of love.

The element of the masculine is the rock. The rock is unmoving. It stays present, no matter what. If a man decides to be with one partner only, keeping to this decision can build his capacity to focus his attention, no matter what temptations or distractions come along. This quality of centered attention is what Shiva, the great male God of hindu tantra, embodies, as he sits in deep meditation on Mount Khailash. A man wants to be able to bring that same focused attention into lovemaking.

As seekers, we have to develop our commitment to the truth. If we have not developed a capacity to commit to one focus, then we will never have what it takes to wake up. Being with just one partner is an excellent opportunity to strengthen our commitment muscles.

The shadow of monogamy for men

For men, monogamy also comes with the burden of patriarchal belief structures. Loving one woman becomes an obligation rather than a choice. Monogamy can invite a false perception of what it means to be masculine. That is why so many men believe they should show muscle and not display any feeling. Men are raised to believe that they are the stronger sex and that women are somehow weak and to be taken care of. The concept "husbandry" reflects that. The owner of the sheep or the lord of the village in feudal times took control of the lives of his sheep or his villagers. He did this in a benevolent way, keeping their best interests at heart, but in the process also taking their power and choice away. In today's world, this model looks like the husband/male partner financially taking care of the woman, having the ultimate say over decisions and generally being seen as the one who knows best. He becomes God's representative on earth. This is a heavy burden for man to carry, especially since the patriarchal model of man discourages intuitive wisdom.

This model can also result in sexual entitlement and frustration for men. Men are led to believe that they can and should expect sex from their partners or wives and that is it women's obligation to meet man's sexual needs. Many women just 'service' their men for this reason, and this can leave men feeling empty and unsatisfied. Eventually, women may withdraw from sex completely, which can result in even greater sexual frustration for men.

Monogamy can also be very habit forming. Partners work out how to do things in the easiest, most comfortable way, and they fall into a pattern of doing it this way. Comfortable habits can take away our aliveness, responsiveness and awareness, and it can be challenging to change these habits. Men and women are prone to habit forming, but it is particularly the masculine in us that likes to get into a pattern of doing things the same way over and over again.

In monogamous relating, having more than one partner is not an option, and so any such relating that occurs, happens in secret. We all know just how common affairs are in monogamous relationship. By affair I mean intimate, and most often sexual, relating with another or others than one's official partner. In fact, in many cultures it is almost expected that men in monogamous relationship have undisclosed affairs. The dishonesty of secret affairs weakens our spiritual power.

Polyamory's gifts for men

Having more than one lover can force a man to feel. Women tend to be more expressive of their emotions, and thus having more than one women in his life is likely to as such confront man more with his emotional life. On top of this, as we have seen, open relationship is likely to raise all our most vulnerable emotions. If we don't have a safely closed container for relating, then the sharing of love, sex and intimacy can expose us to feeling abandonment, rejection, betrayal and many other states that we have tried our whole life long not to feel. The opportunity to finally be so overwhelmed by these states that man can no longer avoid feeling them can be one of the greatest gifts for him.

Polyamory can bring change and unpredictability. Having multiple partners makes it so much more difficult to fall into comfortable habits of relating. The feminine principle in her essence is like wind and water - constantly bringing change and surprise. So having more than one woman in his life will bring more of this quality into a man's life. This is excellent for shaking up his awareness.

Polyamory can encourage a man to become impeccable. One of the reasons why men fear having more than one lover is because they are scared of the reactions they will get from one lover if they have been with another lover. Men are terrified of women's rage. On the one hand, this rage can be based on women's own unresolved emotional life. But on the other hand, when a woman has developed deep integrity in her own emotional life, she becomes very good at calling a man out when he is not being impeccable. Some years back, I let the wrath of the goddess descend on a lover of mine for this reason. I made it very clear to him that I celebrated the lovemaking that he had shared with another woman. What I didn't appreciate, was the sense of entitlement that I picked up in him. I saw him approach this woman with the air that all women are his for the picking, and this outraged me. He heard me and thanked me deeply for my seeing and for calling him to impeccability.

Polyamory's shadow for men

When men don't have the constraints of monogamy, they can become like kids in a candy store, wanting everyone. Here is another variation of the hungry ghost syndrome. The more women a man has, the more he wants. Note the language of possession and objectification that creeps in. It is possible for men to transfer the same possessive, objectifying attitude they felt towards one woman on to many women. In this way, polyamory can contribute to the continuing dishonoring of women by men by giving men a new justifying framework for avoiding deeply loving women.

This in turn results in relating with women becoming very shallow and only focused on pleasure and sexual gratification. As soon as the relating gets challenging, the man can be off somewhere else.

Having more than one woman in his life can result in men becoming unfocused and not practicing their capacity for commitment and seeing things through. This results in an essential weakening of the masculine.

Is polyamory the answer to monogamy's malcontents (or vice versa)?

It is tempting to think that we can resolve the shadow of one system (be it monogamy or polyamory) by switching to the opposite system. But doing this is just shifting focus from one side of a polarity to the other side of it, or focusing on one side of a coin to the other side of the coin. A coin is still a coin. The answer does not lie in your choice of relationship paradigm. The answer is in the awareness you bring to your relating.

Relationship versus relating. Osho distinguished between relationships - which implies that there is a 'you' and a 'me', that we are separate and can only be together through the ties of relationship - and relating, which is a movement of energy in space, with no fixed patterns forming. I like this distinction. The trouble with relationship forms - all relationship forms - is that they support the concept of separation, of the 'I' and the 'other' being separate and that our path to wholeness or oneness is through the temporary experience of uniting.

In monogamy, we try to make this uniting with one other a continuous, eternal experience. Some people succeed in having one partner for life. While this is a beautiful thing it can also keep people from the deeper truth, that they could be one with everything, not just the one beloved. Yes, (s)he represents that unity with existence as the beloved, but we can easily confuse the representation for the real thing, especially if it works. In polyamory, the temptation is to create this sense of unity by making sure that there is always someone to unite with without being restricted in our choice.

Follow your desire. It is essential in our relating, especially for women (because we are so used to not doing this) to follow our deepest desire. As you enter into this desire, you may find that there is a deeper desire hidden inside this one. And you may also encounter your greatest fears. Your desire will direct the shape of your relating, and that shape may change as you go deeper. So for instance, a man presented to me his desire to love me with total devotion. As I said yes to him, he found his devotion wanting to extend to other women. I felt into this and my desire was strongly supportive of him doing so.

And here comes the next lesson. Entering fully into our desires confronts us with our greatest fears. As this man opened his devotion to other women, strong fears came up that he would be demolished by women for letting his love flow to more than one of us. In facing me, he found this fear to be unfounded, and so he dropped deeper into the quality of the fear. This took him all the way to the ego's greatest fear - the fear that it will lose its separate identity. The more he feels what comes up when this fear arises, the more he moves through, and the more awake he becomes - in his being, and in his loving.

Back to yourself. The first principle to understand in relating is that our first and primary relationship is with ourselves. Everything that happens to us - every person we meet, every circumstance - is an opportunity to meet ourselves, feel everything we have denied, suppressed or judged in ourselves, and to return back home.

The gift of celibacy. I think it is healthy to adopt, to at least some degree, the attitude of celibacy. By dropping any attempt at fulfilling our desire for relationship outside, we are brought back to ourselves. If celibacy is a free choice and not a rule or a hard discipline we put onto ourselves, then it can help us come home. In my own life as a Tantrika, I have had significant periods without a lover, and these have served me well. Even as lovers enter my life, I find that the attitude of celibacy still pervades in me - not at all as a rejection of desire or of the other, but as a contentment and a gratitude for the fulfillment which I am already feeling in myself.

Masculine-feminine merging. The relationship practice that is central to my work and that of the Advait Tantraschool is deepening the relationship between your inner masculine and feminine. This principle applies no matter what your relationship or sexual orientation. In our essence, we are both masculine and feminine. Because we come into the world in male or female bodies, we tend to identify ourselves as male or female. Our opposite other we experience through the men in our lives (for women) or the women in our lives (for men). They hold for us the mirror of the other, and our task is to pull back the projection of the other that we have on them and clearly see the other as an aspect of ourselves. By developing the dialogue between our inner masculine and feminine, we can deepen the inner relationship. The ultimate goal is the merging of masculine and feminine in us, but that cannot happen until both our masculine and feminine, and the relationship between them, is strongly developed.

Back to the Self. When the masculine and feminine merge in us, we return to the one Self. We no longer identify ourselves as separate beings. And existence as such becomes the Beloved. We find the beloved everywhere. This is the state that Rumi talks about. It is one thing talking about this state, and it is another to fully embody the reality of it, the way Rumi did. Our relationships are reminder or the big love affair that there is to be had with Existence as such. When we give ourselves fully to this love, then the separate I disappear, and love is all that remains - without needing any definitions, structures or frameworks.