Picture yourself having an orgasm for five whole minutes. Better yet, picture Sting having an orgasm for five minutes -- without even having to play one of his own CDs. Then picture that same adult-contemporary deity having a thirty-minute orgasm. As the most well-known celebrity practitioner of tantra, the ancient yoga practice that combines sexual energy with spirit, he must find this easy.
Now let your mind wander like the Ganges and picture another tantric devotee, Woody Harrelson, having a thirty-minute orgasm, his body undulating with divine bliss. Then picture Sting and Woody having a thirty-minute orgasm with one another. Mmm ... are you getting hot? That energy you feel tingling in your nethers, my friend, is your kundalini, your life force. It's the godhead of good head, that chakra-shakin' horniness we all feel when the energy from our yonis (the tantric word for vagina, meaning "sacred space") or lingams (the word for penis, meaning "wand of light") is delighted into ecstasy.
Tantra is a form of yoga believed to have originated in India around 3000 BC. The practice combines breathwork, meditation, touch, ritual, and movement, all designed to move energy through the body via the kundalini. The energy moves through our chakras, energy centers that span the crown of our heads, to our foreheads, to our throats, stomachs, genitals, and the base of the spine.
In tantra, when a body feels arousal, the chakras can be opened up, the energy pumped and funneled through the center, and an ecstatic feeling can bathe every cell. But it's not just a physical sensation. For tantric practitioners, it is a spiritual experience where your body literally becomes one with your partner, the earth, and the universe. Nirvana.
"Tantra is the path of the ecstatic," said Evalena Rose, a prominent tantric educator and practitioner based in San Rafael. "It's that path that includes desire and uses desire as a means to create enlightenment."
How do you know when you are enlightened? "If you've had an orgasm, and you find that you are going way beyond your normal consciousness into an experience with a lot of light and an expanse of consciousness, then you have," Rose said. "It's a feeling of blending with the whole universe."
But tantra, say its adherents, ain't just for the bedroom. You carry your life force into your daily life and live as a more balanced soul. It's a spiritual path like any other. It's also not that easy. It takes a long time and lots of study and practice to reach the states described above. But more and more people are willing to learn. MTV recently asked 14-to-25-year-olds what they would most like to know more about, and "tantra" came out in front; bolstered, perhaps, by the Louisville, Kentucky, band Tantric, and Los Angeles band Artificial Intelligence's song "Bottoms Up" about tantric sex.
Most true tantra adherents didn't learn the practice from reading a book, though most usually start there. To truly follow the tantric path, one must have a teacher. It is the difference between teaching yourself Bikram yoga at home by putting in a videotape and pumping up the thermostat and taking a class where an experienced teacher can guide you and correct your posture in a sacred space.
In the Bay Area, there are dozens of tantric educators, most of whom lead workshops, write books, or hold retreats. Some go even further and hold private, one-on-one, or couple's sessions. They are mostly women, and depending on their preference, typically refer to themselves as a "high priestess," "tantric coach," "tantric educator," "Tantrika," or "goddess." Just don't call them sex workers.
"Bast," a 28-year-old tantrika named for the Egyptian goddess of playfulness, life-giving pleasure, and cats, may be everything you could ask for in a tantric educator. She is kind and patient. She is calm and joyful. She is open and nonjudgmental. She is smart and intuitive. She is highly educated in the art, with more than ten years of experience. And she is drop-dead gorgeous.
"Hello," she said invitingly, extending me her hand as she opened the door to the live-work studio where she counsels her clients. Her hand is attached to an arm and well-set shoulders with the same yoga-induced musculature as Madonna's, but her shape is a bit rounder in all the right places. She has slightly curly auburn hair that wisps into her face and stops at her shoulders. At first you think she has freckles, because when you look at her there seems to be something offsetting her beauty; but no, Jesus, she actually just sparkles. Her eyes are big, her lips are full, her cheeks are flushed, and goddamn it if she couldn't turn a straight girl queer.
Bast has chosen to use her dynamic power of attraction for good, not evil. She knows she is beautiful, and uses her beauty to get the kundalini moving in people. "Some men, they stand near me, and they shake," she admitted, somewhat embarrassedly, about some clients who are intimidated. "But we then need to move through that. Tantra is about energy and attraction beyond looks." If any man can stand next to her in an aroused state and not need to satisfy his urge, maybe there's something to all this tantra after all.
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