Tantra Blog

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.


  • At August 8, 2011 at 10:23 AM , Anonymous Linda said...

    Shakti: I loved your sharing. So vivid, so loving, so filled with the details, that invited me, to join you, in the city, in the workshops, in the dancing, in the water rebirthing. I felt as if I was there

  • At December 30, 2011 at 2:44 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Do you travel to US and where. This sounds like the kind of healing, dancing, movement I need. Contact the me via email. Tayha7gs@msn.com


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