Fascia (or myofascia) spreads throughout our body. It is the thin layer of connective tissue that covers all of our internal parts: muscles, joints, bones, organs blood vessels. It binds some structures together while allowing others to slide over each other. It can be envisioned as a continuous layer throughout our body interconnecting everything.
My physiotherapist described a situation working with a cadaver which had had a camera inserted into the foot, ostensibly to show the working of the tendons and to the assembled surgeons she manipulated the fascia at the top of the thigh and delivered a response in the foot. To see fascia for yourself, next time you have a chicken or piece of meat, begin to gently peel it apart and you will see the fascia between the layers of tissue and it is composed of 40% collagen and a lubricating ground substance, primarily water.
It is known that fascia is responsible for pain that occurs in other areas of the body subsequent to an initial injury in one area that is apparently unconnected: so called referred pain. But if you the view that fascia is totally interconnected throughout out body, then this feature becomes more understandable. But Fascia is much more than a connective tissue, it holds our emotional memory and physical trauma and the attendant energy that accompanies. In response to trauma fascia can become hardened, stuck and dehydrated. The net effect is that as water is forced out fascia becomes hard and gel-like and the collagen fibres shorten and stick together. Pressure is placed on the surrounding structures and more collagen is produced in response, leading to denser areas of hard fascia. The short, hardened fascia puts pressure on the surrounding capillaries, tissues and nerves causing pain, exhaustion and immune system issues.
Releasing myofascia is essential in the recovery of a wide variety of physical injuries. Further the emotions and trapped energy can be released. Yoga, deep massage and specific myofascial release exercises all can release fascia, reducing pain and unbinding the emotions and energy. During the myofascial release process, the cells become rehydrated and natural anti-inflammatory agents are produced, next unwinding of the myofascia takes place which releases the habitual holding patterns within the body. Finally, the fascia “rebounds” and is experienced as gentle waves moving within the body and dissolving all the tensions and holding patterns. Fascia also exists in three layers from superficial to deep, and while an initial release session has a significant effect, other sessions are required to reach the deeper levels of fascia. This has occurred for me with a noticeable slow, sinuous, unwinding movement that encompassed the whole of my body and which was accompanied with the release of emotions such as rage, anger and fear. Following the release, there was such a sense of relaxation and my body began to move in waves which accompanied the pleasure, it also allowed me to reset my autonomic nervous system to a more natural setting and handle ongoing stress and potentially manage future stress.
By understanding the role of myofascia in our physical, emotional and intimate lives, we can understand why Myofascial release is another important technique in de-armouring the body, releasing tensions within the body, enabling energy and pleasure to flow and resetting the nervous system. Whatever method you use, bring myofascial release into your tantric practice and experience the liberation!
Attraction, sexuality and sexual orientation
Last month we looked at gender identity, this month we will be looking at sexuality and sexual orientation: attraction, who you are attracted to and what you find attractive.
Let’s look at attraction itself. Currently there are several types of attraction that are recognised: Sexual Attraction (wanting to have sex), Romantic Attraction (wanting a Romantic relationship), Sensual attraction (not wanting sex, but wanting to be sensual with another: e.g Hugging and touching), Platonic Attraction (wanting to be friends) and Aesthetic Attraction (attraction that is not sexual or romantic attraction, but from appreciation of their appearance). In addition there are crushes (a desire for some kind of romantic relationship, often temporary, which may not be acted on), squishes (a platonic or aromantic form of a crush) and alterous (which is somewhere between crushes and squishes).
Of course it is not an either/or situation aromantic people are those who have a lack of interest in romantic relationship and this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are Asexual (having a lack of interest in sex or sexual attraction), though they do form a large part of this grouping and it is possible to be aromantic and be sexually attracted to a whole spectrum of individuals. The other end of the spectrum to aromantics are demisexuals, who do not experience sexual attraction unless there is a strong romantic connection. Again it can be in any combination, so you may be both a demisexual and heterosexual or demisexual and bisexual for example
However, for now let’s look at what types of sexual attraction exist, some of these will be familiar and others not so much. Heterosexuals are those who are attracted to members of the opposite gender in a gender binary and Homosexual, Lesbian and Gay all refer to those who are attracted to the same gender either romantically, erotically and/or emotionally. Bisexuals are attracted to both men and women, but this does not necessarily mean an even split between the gender binaries. Bi-curious or questioning have a curiosity about having attraction to members of the same sex. MSM or WSW (men who have sex with men, women who have sex with women) is used to describe a behaviour rather than a sexual identity: they may identify as straight but have sex with the same sex. When we begin to move away from the idea of gender binary, as we explored last month, then bisexuality refers to your gender and one other. There are also heteroflexibles, who are primarily attracted heterosexually, but are open to other genders. Polysexuals are attracted to other but not all genders whereas pansexuals or omnisexuals regard gender as meaningless in determining who they are attracted to and encompass all genders. Skoliosexuals are attracted to those who don’t identify as cis gendered: genderqueer or transsexual for example. This term is being replaced with cetero, as the word “skolio” means broken or bent and has implications that non-binary people need fixing.
Androsexuals are attracted to those, including men, who have masculine characteristics, which are different from androgynosexuals who are attracted to those, of any gender, with androgynous appearances. Those who are attracted to women or those with feminine characteristic are gynosexual and Multisexuals are only attracted to members of multiple systems. Abrosexuals are hard to pin down as they have orientations and feelings that are constantly changing and sapiosexuals have an orientation that is primarily dictated by intelligence.
It is a wide variety of sexuality types and I have covered only a few of them. Since Kinsey produced his scale we have been looking to define our sexuality in absolute terms. Nothing could be further from the case as our sexuality can and does change with time in most, if not all instances. 2d models such as kinseys scale all have their flaws. Kinsey rated sexuality from 0- exclusively heterosexual to 6- exclusively homosexual. Fritz Klein using his Klein sexual orientation grid expanded on the original interpretation taking into account bisexuality and changes over time: The Past, Present and Ideal as well as seven variables and Michael Storms plotted an x/y chart that included asexual but was limited to gender binaries. There are too date though over 200 scales used to measure and define sexual orientation. One of the latest is the purple-red scale which seeks to include asexual and aromantic, but has limitations again in it’s gender binary approach.
Currently, as humans, we do find a need to try to label our sexuality and this perhaps should not be seen as something that necessarily determines us, but as a useful tool for social groupings or identification or dating compatible people. As the creator of the purple-red scale acknowledges, he created it so that sexual compatibility could be matched almost immediately. Whatever your views, it is interesting to reflect on how you label yourself, I tend to try to move away from labels, but until the rest of the world catches up we perhaps do need to have some basis on which to operate. It certainly threw up interesting questions for me to ask myself, how had my sexuality changed over the years?, where was it going?, was I satisfied or reaching my potential or was I actually working from shadow... parts of myself that I did not wish to acknowledge? Perhaps over the past couple of newsletters, this has given you pause for thought? Take the test and ask the questions I asked... the results may (or may not) surprise you.
Mark Sutton November 2016
Gender identities, a wonderful rainbow
Over the next couple of month’s we are going to be looking at gender identity and sexuality. This month we will be concentrating on gender identity. It is common in our society to see gender identity as falling into two categories, man and woman, this is the Gender Binary. However, humanity does not fit into such neat and limiting categories, it is infinitely more complex and at least to my mind radiantly alive. It is something that in the western society we can have difficulty in understanding because of our limiting view so we will be clarifying what some of the terminology means. While this is by no means a fully comprehensive list, it is hoped that it will expand your understanding and maybe reflect on where you lie on this spectrum and that your gender identity, far from being fixed at birth is something that may alter over the arc of your life or indeed shift dynamically backwards and forwards over short time periods.
A Gender Normative aligns with society’s gender-based expectations while a Gender Non-Conforming does not align in a predicted fashion with societal gender-based expectations, the term Gender Variant can also be used here and Third Gender is sometimes used by someone who does not identify with either man or woman, you may also hear it used in societies which recognise three or more genders as a means of moving beyond the idea of Gender Binary. A Cisgender individual is one whose gender identity and biological sex are in alignment, whereas a Transgender individual is one whose gender identity differs from the assigned sex (depending too on how you define it, it also can be an umbrella term for many of the other gender identities below). It is important to make the difference between Transgender and Transvestite or Cross-Dresser, the latter being someone who dresses as the binary opposite gender expression. Gender Fluid people have genders that are not fixed and an individual may always feel like a blend of two or more genders but one a given day they may move between them in a dynamic fashion or there is a shift over time. A Bigender individual identifies with both male and female identities and behaviours and can move between them while being Trigender allows a shift between male female and a third gender such as being Genderless or Agender (not having a gender) or any other single gender identity. Pangender people on the other hand identify as all genders, while Polygender people recognise that there are some genders that they are not. Androgynous individuals are those who have both masculine and feminine characteristics in their gender expression. While the latter occasionally used instead of Intersex, typically Intersex refers to someone whose internal sex organs and genitals along with chromosomes, hormones etc. are different from the expected male or female. Genderqueer is often used by people who do not identify with gender binary, it is also an umbrella term used by people who fall under the gender categories above.
Gender identity then is not a fixed Binary, it has been recognised in many cultures and in many times. Non-conforming gender identities have been with us as long as we have been around and will continue to be with us as they are a natural part of being human. It is worthwhile reflecting on this as we move forward in the west and how, apart from our technical brilliance, we may not be as evolved as many of the ancient cultures and traditions.
Stress and sex
Let us consider as Alexander lowen (Bioenergetics) says that stress “ results from an imposition of a force or a pressure on an organism which it counters by mobilising its energy” (Bioenergetics). We are equipped naturally to meet this force and in so doing avoid stress especially where the force is an entirely natural phenomenon such as gravity and we are designed to counter it when we stand. Such a countering force does use energy and when we have low energy or we run out of it then nature takes over and we fall or collapse as a protective mechanism.
However, there may be societal, interpersonal, psychological and self-imposed forces can weigh heavy on us and push us down can push us down as gravity is pulling us down and we mobilise more of our energy to push back against these forces. Our reaction to stress becomes patterned within the body itself: you may become bowed down as a result of stress or rigid and locked in an attempt to stand up to it for example. It is unfortunate though that the chronic muscular tensions not only take up energy to maintain, but also cause further stress and the energy used in maintaining the muscular patterning means that there is less available to deal with the everyday stresses of life and this may result in chronic fatigue and exhaustion. As well as the physical defences we have acquired it is important to look to the ego defences we have which resists this surrendering and softening of the body. Lowen termed this “falling (or failing) anxiety” and to him it represented the cultural and societal pressures that resulted in our egos being unable to accept this surrendering until a state of total collapse was inevitable.
Physically, the lumbosacral area is one particular area in the body though that is particularly vulnerable to the forces of stress. It is the point at which the stresses pushing and pulling down meet the counterforce we employ upward through the legs. I have already mentioned that the natural response leads to fall or collapse and we have a natural pair of shock absorbers in the form of the knees which are designed to respond to stress by bending, further flexibility in the legs also allow the upward force bearing down to be discharged downwards. However, when we fear this bending we lock our legs rigidly into position and the pressure is not discharged with the result that this pressure becomes localised at the lumbosacral area which becomes prone to injury and this is exacerbated where the pelvis itself is held rigid.
Given that rigid locked knees prevent discharge of energy, then the starting point is to keep your knees bent at all times (or as often as you can), so bring awareness as often as you can to your knees and legs. Allowing the legs to vibrate releases tension and brings back sensations to areas that are blocked. Lowen literally calls this “Vibrancy”. We will be looking at ways of vibrating the legs in the meditators guide, but OSHO Kundalini meditation is an excellent way of creating vibrations that start at the feet and work their way through the body. When we are working with the lower back, there are fears that may need to be overcome when the stiffness that we have been used to and has become locked in our body. We may fear the pain itself for example, or that if we begin to being flexibility we may injure the back, but this is more often than not reflecting resistance against surrendering and one of the unfortunate effects of this is that it reduces our ability to love.
This leads us to the pelvis and sexual release and it is best to consider that “orgasm” is not the limited genital response, but one which involves the pelvis and the body. The energetic excitation is discharged in sexual release and when the body moves spontaneously then the tensions are also released in the part of the body that moves, in such a relaxed state the body undergoes the orgasm reflex at a very low excitation level and is a gentle movement of the body. Frequently in our therapy sessions this occurs with our clients, but as sex has a higher level of charge and excitation which may introduce tensions then the presence of the orgasm reflex does not necessarily mean you will orgasm, though for sure when the tensions in the body are permanent then orgasm does not occur, whether that be due to fear of completely surrendering, whether the experience of sex is limited or the ego and performance blocks the feelings of pleasure.
To understand the effect of tension, it is helpful to understand how energy moves in the body during sex and Lowen described two essential states: longing associated with eros and being associated with sensuality and eroticism with the energetic charge moving up the front of the body and Aggression which is not the anger type but pursuing what you want rather than passively waiting for it to come to you and in this type, the excitation moves into the muscles of the body particularly back legs and arms. The movement of the energetic charge in the body is essentially determined by the way we thrust our pelvis and there are two ways we most often move our pelvis forward: Pulling or Pushing. Both of these ways create tensions and stop energy flow. In the former our abdominal muscles contract which causes the front of the body to tense and results in reduced flow of erotic feelings in the belly, what Lowen called ”reaching without feeling”. The second type of movement results in the contraction of the buttocks which tenses the pelvis and restricts flow there and limits energetic discharge to the genitals. Lowen describes a third way though, we move by pushing down on the ground with the feet and with knees bent to move the pelvis forward and it moves backwards as the pressure on the floor is released. When moving in this fashion then the pelvis swings as opposed to being pushed and pulled and the key to this are bent knees which transfers the stress to the legs. If they are locked straight, then the pelvis itself is rigid, further tensions in the pelvis restrict pelvic thrust and it is important to release those tensions to allow the free swinging movement of the pelvis.
So this article has looked at the cause and effect of stress and tensions in the legs, pelvis and lower back and the simple processes of bending the knees, allowing vibrations to occur in the legs and using your feet to swing the pelvis as ways of releasing tensions and in so doing bring more flow, aliveness, pleasure and charge within the body. Doing this may bring you into close contact with your fears and defences around letting go and it is in facing and moving beyond those fears that allows you to fully experience the breadth and depth of tantric lovemaking.
Mark Sutton Sept 2016
The importance of experiencing the physical body
This month we are going to look at why being present in the physical body. First though it’s useful to imagine how our defences are organised from a bio-energetic perspective. Alexander Lowen in Bioenergetics described how such defences develop and work to form a barrier to our accessing our heart, our core and our natural state of being.
Take a piece of paper and draw a circle, write in this heart. Draw three more concentric circles progressively growing larger. These represent the layers of our defences going from inner to outer so write in each: The emotional layer, The Muscular Layer and the Ego layer being outermost. This first or outermost layer contains all our psychic and mental defences: our distrust, blaming, our projections and rationalisations. The second layer, the muscular layer is where our chronic muscular tensions exist and these both support the first layer and defend us from reaching the third layer, the emotional layer, where all our unexpressed feelings such fear, anger, panic and pain reside.
Traditional taking therapies are very useful and important in looking at the ego layer, I use them myself extensively, but they do not address the underlying two layers. Similarly, working with the emotional layer: allowing feelings to be expressed vocally may break some of the chronic muscular tensions and ego defences and is a cathartic process in releasing rage and anger, it is harder to access the deeper emotions such as panic and fear and such catharsis may be short-lived as the first two layers are bypassed and not being dealt with. A major difficulty occurs when working with both the ego and emotional layers in that they both are not directly linked together. That link is provided by working with the Muscular layer and the muscular tensions that are created by our defences in this layer. You can then work between the ego and emotional layer as necessary, but it is important to note that just dealing with the chronic tensions (as in massage or yoga, though very important) alone will not allow this movement to occur, it is important to work with all three using the body as the bridge. A good example of this are the tensions we hold in the throat where we bite back our feelings, or do not allow ourselves to express them as a result of our ego defences (men cannot express feelings). Working with releasing tension in the throat muscles while making noise often leads to a fuller expression of the deeper emotions and that expression can be then discussed in relation to the ego layer and what was causing them to be suppressed in the first place. We are working then with all three layers, which do not disappear, but move from defensive to expressive and allow us to experience life and all its emotions from the heart rather than from the other three layers for extended periods of time.
As Lowen says in bioenergetics, these defences serve as a protection from anxiety and that anxiety manifests as disturbances in the heart function and difficulty in our breathing patterns. It is not uncommon for me to observe that when a sudden overwhelming emotion arises, then the client “chokes up” or complains of not being able to breath as they instinctively clamp down on expression and experience anxiety typically in the throat and Diaphragm. As too there is a link between the throat and the pelvis (a release in one sometimes creates a spontaneous release in the other), our sexual anxieties manifest in both these regions. What does this mean then for us as sexual beings? Quite simply our anxieties constrict our pelvis and the flow of sexual feelings is reduced, become limited to the genitals and is not linked to the heart and indeed we can divorce or dissociate from our sexual feelings altogether. Unfortunately, the defences we create also create the conditions for anxiety. As Lowen states, this seems to be a contradictory position: defending against anxiety while creating the space for it to occur. But this is a result of our defences originally developing to protect us from rejection, hurt or attack. The more we experience the hurts, rejections or attacks the more defences we raise against the future possibility of them occurring with the net result that we come trapped behind our own walls, relatively free from anxiety, but totally restricted in the experience of our lives. However, as humans we have a natural need to reach out and open and that requires us to be vulnerable, to open our heart and allow that flow outwards to occur. That brings us into contact with our defences, where we have this outward flow from our heart to the outer layers constricted within well prescribed limits so that anxiety does not happen. When we move into opening further, our feelings get stronger, the defences activate and we feel anxious, therapeutically speaking this is a good thing as then the defences can be explored which and as they are reduced this ultimately creates more pleasure in our lives. Energetically speaking, when we feel more we have more energy and we build up the level of charge, there is also a discharge which is in balance. Where we have inadequate charge then we feel depleted, where we have too much and are not able to release this via emotional expression for example, then we become overcharged and the product of this is anxiety. Eventually, for most, stasis is obtained and the anxiety decreases and indeed with support the level of charge we can hold in balance is increased leading to greater pleasure in our lives. But for some the level of energy they can manage is low and can result in prolonged periods of anxiety which cause a retreat behind walls to reduce the anxiety, but with the simultaneous loss of feeling, pleasure and joy or complete dissociation.
This understanding has profound implications when working with powerful systems which employ breathing and bodywork such as Tantra and BioDynamic Breath and Trauma Release, especially as a therapy, as they bring you directly into contact with your muscular layer and its defences and activate the defences of the ego and emotional layers. Understanding how anxiety arises when you experience the increased energy flow from the heart outwards and the triggering of your defences is a step in the direction of exploring and reducing your defences and so experiencing life in its fullest.
Also when looking for a therapist, it is most important to find one that is aware of both the need for emotional expression AND can work with dealing with the ego defences, in other words a therapist who has an understanding of and who can deal effectively with all aspects of what may arise: emotionally, physically and mentally. Otherwise, what happens may be at best pleasant but transitory or at worst re-traumatising.
For Karen and myself at Tantra Awakenings, our continued development in therapeutic settings is just as important as what training we do. We experience what we do fully and so understand what happens, the teachers we work with reflect our understanding of the need to move backwards and forwards between the three defensive layers and manage what is experienced with the skills we have developed. As a simple example of this, whether we are facilitating workshops, working with couples or engaging in one on one sessions, we are clear that our job does not finish when the workshop or session ends, we send out emails to check-in and encourage our clients to contact us to talk and explore what has come up. Most importantly though our full experiencing brings us into contact with our own defences: Remember, the three layers form our personality and it is there that my personal experience of the effectiveness of both Tantra and talking therapies manifests. When I reflect back on my “personality” and how it has changed over the years I can gauge the change in the defences over that time for example I would judge and project in my 30s and 40s, that caused me to stifle or constrict what I did, how I felt and who I related too. Now, I am more aware when I am projecting or judging and can move from the mind into the body, understanding the link between my unexpressed emotions and my thoughts. The net result is that, there is more feeling in my life, and a sense of freedom from at least some of the things that are limiting me.
Mark Sutton August 2016
Reichsean personality types
In last month’s blog we looked at armouring: character armouring and body armouring and specifically at Reich’s segment theory and the 7 belts of tension. Character armouring is the coping patterns we develop from a very early age and which continue to develop throughout our lives and it can either be adaptive or problematic. Reich worked extensively with the adult body and the way it mirrored character in an entirely predictabe way as a result of the problematic early relating mechanisms being locked into the mind and body. From this he developed his theory of Characterology and subsequently this was then expanded upon in bioenergetics and Core energetic as fixation of the movement of energy in the body.
According to Reich there are 5 basic character types. Importantly, we are not all one type, but a mix and there are subtypes for each of the five. Generally, though, one or two tend to be our predominant type. There is a lot of information about the types, but the remainder of this blog will provide some basic information on all five basic types:
The Unwanted Child (Schizoid)
As a foetus and infant this type developed as a result of a hostile environment where everything was unsafe and needs not met. This type has a fear of the physical world: relationships, activities and responsibilities and consequently tends to withdraw into a world of fantasy and/or intellectual pursuits. Fear and anxiety lurk just below the surface and there is a constant need to escape, to move on a Fear of commitment and anger at the world.
Tensions: Tensions with this type typically occur in the chest muscles, intercostals, shoulders, back and between shoulder blades, with a constricted and extended chest. There is often a restriction of the throat which yields a High pitched voice when excited or nervous. Blocks in jaw and facial muscles can be sensitive to touch. There also tensions at the pelvis and hip joints.
Physically: Typically there is an underdeveloped chest with possible spine twists. The body is deadened with stiff, mechanical movements. Some look malnourished and limbs are weak and underdeveloped with considerable body asymmetry and extremities are cold and skin pale. Breathing is shallow and the head is held stiffly perhaps tilted one side or backwards and they have a prominent Adams apple. The Eyes are characteristic in this type: frozen shock, lacking warmth and become unresponsive or go vacant.
Health issues: These reflect anxiety toward life often without any discernable external reason and include Depression, lack of energy, fatigue and Immune system deficiencies
Bioenergetically: Energy is withheld from parts of the body in contact with the world.
The Needy Child (Oral)
There is a move from dependence to autonomy from the infancy until the age of three (but especially from the period 6-18 months). The needy type encountered nutritional, physical or emotional arrest or interruption at this stage, primarily as a result of the relationship with the mother, with the father taking a secondary role and there was either a lack of or unreliability in the parents’ nurturing of the child. As an adult they still feel needy and dependent. On the one hand they may disapprove of the neediness and reject it to avoid the pain of not having their need met again and take “caretaker” or co-dependent roles until they collapse. On the other hand others do not disown their neediness are endlessly demanding of others and develop obsessive and addictive behaviours as a form of external self-soothing.
Tensions: This type have tightness and constriction of the chest muscles, intercostals muscles hunching forward of the shoulders, thereby creating a constricted and shrunken chest. There are also blocks in reaching out for attention and there are tight stomach and belly muscles, chronic tension in their backs and they tilt their pelvis forward to compensate for this. There is often constriction around the pelvis and waist.
Physically: Needy types typically have shallow breathing, hunching forwards at the shoulders and a constricted and shrunken chest. They may appear malnourished or have a layer of flab that covers the body and extremities. Lips may be full or thin or downturned. There may also be an under-bite or an over-bite and grinding of teeth. The eyes are characteristically pleading in nature, but may be watchful and distrustful. They also struggle with posture and balance.
Health issues: Many of this type have realised that attention can be gained by negative reactions and may present with self-neglect and minor illnesses or depression (related to repressed anger and grief), there is also the presentation of psychosomatic illnesses. They may also develop leg and feet issues. There are also sexual difficulties due to an over-charged but disconnected pelvis or an under-charged but rigidly held one.
Bioenergetically: Energy flows weakly from the core to the periphery as this type is in an undercharged state.
The Endurer (Masochist)
This type typically results from over-controlling and humiliating parental styles which resulted in the loss of individuation and free expression typically between 1 and a half and three years of age. Seemingly compliant and happy they rage inside and have lost all sense of trust. It results in a need to suffer and in doing so cause suffering in others until they are rejected which gives the endure the satisfaction of unleashing their own rage, which otherwise appears in passive aggressive ways.
Tensions: Blocks in the belly and heavily armoured shoulders also at the base of the ocular region and in the jaw and facial muscles.
Physically: Thick musculature, neck, trunk, arms and legs. The muscles are tight and serve to hold in tension, the bottom is tight and shortened. The eyes are small and beady or empty and pleasing. The body as a whole doesn’t move easily and there is a lack of feeling
Health issues: Chronic low grade depression, ailments of the throat and colon/anal region and digestive problems.
Bioenergetically: While having immense energy, because it is stuck they complain of a lack of energy and tiredness, with weakly charged peripheral organs.
The Controller/Leader (Psychopath)
This develops between birth and 4 years of age. This develops because of manipulation by one or both parents for their own purposes: to give an ideal image so they could feel good about themselves, as a buffer or weapon, or taking on the role of false spouse or parent. There may also be physical, emotional or sexual trauma present. This type became instilled with a sense of false self which remains as the only source of self-esteem and which needs to constantly be supported by perfectionism and achievement. Too feel safe they learn to manipulate the parent and later resort to the same tactics to exert control over others. Aggressive, seductive and savvy they have no feeling and are willing to manipulate and deceive to get their needs met.
Tensions: The lower part of the body is undercharged with constrictions of the diaphragm and waist. The pelvis may be overcharged but disconnected from the body or undercharged and rigid leading to sexual issues. The diaphragm area is constricted and there are blocks in the neck, at the base of the ocular region and shoulders.
Physically: Shallow breathing is characteristic and the eyes appear watchful and distrustful; the head is large and often jutting or forward on the neck. Men can show the heroic V shape and women the inverted V shape of female creativity and sexual power expression, though women whose false self is masculine show the male V shape. The jaw line may be thick and broad and there is a definite split between the head and the body.
Health issues: Not felt or manifested until late in life but they occur in the hips, prostate, or the heart.
Bioenergetically: The diaphragm and waist constrictions block energy flow downwards, the chest looks swollen as they hold their breath. The eyes are often highly overcharged and mesmerising and energy is used to control or manipulate.
The Perfectionist/Obsessional (Rigid)
Developing between three to seven years and due to the rejection at this oedipal stage, this type learns that it is unsafe to love sexually and compensates in other ways, controls their impulses so that rejection is not experienced, this may also occur in the teens. As a result this type strives to become perfect and in total self-control, overly dramatic (hysterical) or preoccupied with obsessional thoughts and/or compulsive rituals and behaviours. Infantile and teen triangulated relationships may still be in place through adulthood and may result in affairs while in relationships, a phenomenon known as a pelvic/heart split. Life is a series of competitive challenges to win. They “what if” continually, fear being wrong or criticised, live in black and white objectivity, and value thinking and being right. The obsessive type is constantly concerned with doing the right thing, being pedantic and correct
Tensions: while physical armouring is superficial there may be tensions in the long muscles of the body particularly in the extensor and flexor muscles.
Physically: They can be beautiful and graceful in appearance, athletic with good body symmetry. Good but shallow breathing. The back and neck may be rigidly held straight back and neck and the Pelvis is pulled back, while the chest is pushed out.
Health issues: Social and general anxiety, Depression, Generalised Anxiety Disorders(GAD), Addictions, or burnout. “hysterical” psychosomatic illnesses without a physical cause.
Bioenergetically: Strong charge held at the periphery of the body. It allows for controlled movement of energy.
Wilhelm Reich: Segmental Armouring theory
In a previous blog article I have briefly explored the work of Wilhelm Reich and armouring, in this article we will be looking in more detail at armouring and in particular muscular armouring. Armouring represents a protective mechanism which inhibits free expression of emotion and restricts the flow of energy and as a result is a major obstacle to growth: It limits our emotional response, intuition and creativity; it numbs the body and prevents or protects from feelings and restricts range of motion as well as altering our perception and there are two components to armouring:
Character armouring- which is a habitual defense pattern and which has formed from automatic and chronically active ego defenses.
Body Armouring- Physical patterns of chronic muscle tension that stem from the person’s character armouring.
As an example of this imagine a child crying: while it is natural for a child to cry if the child is punished it will attempt to avoid being punished by consciously attempting to stifle the crying by a variety of physical means such as tensing the eyes and holding the breath. Under normal circumstances this tension is released when the threat has passed. However, when the threat is continual, then the behaviour becomes ingrained into the child- habitual and unconscious with corresponding muscular armouring.
The overall pattern of armouring is the creation of the individual which can be placed into 5 basic character types (which are predictable outcomes of the armouring theories of Reich). As Alexander Lowen Says:
“The character of the individual as it is manifested in his typical pattern of behaviour is also portrayed on the somatic level by the form and movement of the body. The body expression is the somatic view of the typical emotional expression which is seen on the psychic level as character. Defences show up in both dimensions, in the body as muscular armoring. ” (Lowen:1976).
We will be looking at the character types next month, this month however we will be looking at muscular armouring. In a natural state energy moves in pulsations up and down parallel to the spine freely, Reich stated that
“Armouring is the condition that results when energy is bound by muscular contraction and does not flow through the body”(Reich:1936).
According to Reich’s segmental armouring theory there are 7 segments running at right angles to this energy flow, these segments are composed of bands of muscles and organs with related expressive functions and it is contractions in these segments that cause muscular armouring. These are the 7 segments that were delineated by Reich:
1. Ocular or Eye (scalp, forehead, eyes, cheeks, ears and the base of the skull): This segment can be an area of intense charge containing as it does the ears and eyes which not only vital information but also the threats we experience and as a result the muscles in and around the eye sockets and base of the skull may be in constant tension. Armouring in this area distorts our vision, results in deafness and feelings of fear and confusion. We may have trust issues, feel closed down or be suspicious and controlling.
2. Oral (Mouth and Jaw): When armoured, a lid is placed on the ability to express vocally, unfortunately the fear of expressing one emotion can result in a block which affects all emotional expression. An interrupted bonding experience as we pass through the oral stage of development causes us to either develop a stance of constantly seeking oral satisfaction using behaviours that attempt to release the resulting chronic tension or charge in the jaw to relieve anxiety or be clingy, demanding and constantly talking. The orally repressed type avoids communication or denies pleasure and lives an austere, controlled lifestyle. Oral armouring also manifests as a tight jaw, teeth grinding and tension headaches.
3. Cervical (Throat, Tongue and Neck): The narrowness of the throat easily acts as a block to the energy and sets up tremendous feelings of anxiety as we feel choked or strangled in our expression. We can have “lumps in our throat” or be described as “stiff-necked” and our voice may be weak and warbling all indicating tensions and blocks in this segment, particularly in the big muscles either side of the neck, the Sternocleidomastoid muscles which can be very tender to the touch.
4. Thoracic (Chest, shoulders and upper back, arms and hands): Containing the heart and lungs Reich considered this to be our most important segment and after the eyes this is the area that next holds armouring. Emotions such as anger, anxiety or depression are felt in our chest and muscle contractions result in chronic back tension and the shoulders hold our unexpressed rage. Our heart holds our passion but to different extents for most of us it is closed off as our experiences of heart-ache create a band of armouring akin to a breastplate. There are negative affects to armouring in this region with suppressed anger being linked with bronchitis and chronic coughs; fear and asthma; and physical heart failure and “Dying of a broken heart”.
5. Diaphragm (Lower sternum, lower ribs, and the organs underneath the diaphragm): Issues in this segment arise from early conditioning in the form of controlling ourselves, it is the store of primal terror and of rage against the early repression. The level of tension is directly proportional to the conflict between the conscious and unconscious, between our reasoning and our instincts. There is a link between lower back tension and the tension and out diaphragm and, due to disturbed breathing patterns which affect the autonomic nervous system we are open to stress-related illnesses.
6. Abdominal (The Belly): The “second brain” stores our “gut feelings”: those unacknowledged feelings, images, ideas, desires and intentions and it both mirrors and contributes to our emotional well-being and the stress we feel. Belly armouring reflects a sense of tiredness as old feelings, old patterns of defenses, experiences, cognitions, and past traumatic events are recycled continually through our life.
7. Pelvic (muscles of the pelvis and lower limbs): As a result of armouring here the pelvis is stiff in its movements. Legs, buttocks and anus are chronically contracted and there is resultant lower back pain and sciatica and it affects how we stand and walk, the psoas muscle becomes very tense. Sexual function is affected as there is our genitals have a lack of sensation and sensitivity. We often carry fear and rage in our pelvis, particularly around our sexuality and in our anus which can cause us to be “tight arsed” and may feel anxious around sex and sexuality. We may disassociate resulting in sex becoming mechanical, try to avoid it altogether or in an attempt to feel something indulge in hyper-stimulating activities. Tension here may result in problems of the reproductive and eliminatory systems. Opening the other six segments before opening the pelvic segment allows a flow of energy throughout the whole body creating a sense of well-being, health, ease of movement, and relaxation.
When working within Reich’s framework there is a top down approach to releasing the tension in each segment: this first creates a pathway for the energy within the pelvic region to move freely throughout the body. While only on segment is worked on at a time it is important to be aware of the adjoining segments as release in one segment has a tendency to cause contraction in another segment. This may be as a result of a childhood defence mechanism to hinder the expression of emotions where such expression would have been threatening to the child (see the example I gave of a child crying earlier). There are also other close links for example with the belly and the diaphragm above it and the pelvis below as the belly expands the muscles in both these areas will stretch.
It is also important to be aware that segments may also be “paired” for example the diaphragm and throat have a powerful reflex relationship such that armouring and de-armouring in one will enable the same in the other. Hands and arms have their main connection to the heart segment but also to the throat, the throat links strongly to the mouth and jaw. One of the strongest reflexes is that between the jaw and pelvis and an armoured jaw will stop a pelvis releasing.
There are three approaches used when dissolving body armouring in each of the seven segments:
1. Deep breathing to build up energy in the body.
2. Direct manipulation chronically tense muscles to loosen them
3. Dealing openly with whatever resistances or emotional restrictions arise.
The modality we are currently using incorporates all these approaches together with the trauma release work of Peter Levine and it is showing very powerful results in trauma release.
In next month’s blog we will be looking in more detail at Reich’s personality types.
Mark Sutton June 2016
Since the beginning of January it has been a year of high profile deaths, not a week goes by with the announcement of one celebrity or other passing, generally to announcements of shock or bemused amazement. One thing for sure though is that death is an important part of the human condition.
As I reflect on such passings, I am reminded of one of my favourite childhood books the Earthsea trilogy. In particular, two stories the “Wizard of Earthsea” and “The Farthest Shore”. In the first the main character in the book, Ged, as a young man opens the door to the realms of the dead and is attacked by a shadow creature. This creature follows him, sometimes close sometimes farther away, but always causing him fear. That is until he begins to pursue it in turn and ultimately faces it and names it, bringing it into him:
“Ged had neither lost nor won but, naming the shadow of his death with his own name, had made himself whole: a man: who, knowing his whole true self, cannot be used or possessed by any power other than himself, and whose life therefore is lived for life's sake”
In the “The Farthest Shore”, Ged confronts a wizard, Cob, who is so frightened of death that he attempts to cheat it by straddling both the world of the living and the world of the dead and in so doing sucks the life out of the world of the living in an attempt to live forever. He is defeated to bring back the balance to Earthsea.
“You will die. You will not live forever. Nor will any man, nor any thing. Nothing is immortal. But only to us is it given to know that we must die. And that is a great gift: the gift of selfhood.”
Perhaps both books are reflecting, to some extent, the eastern and western attitudes to death and dying. From the yin and yang perspective that both life and death are inseparable, that one would mean nothing without the other. So being reminded of our own mortality, from an eastern mentality, could serve to remind us of the life we have and what we can make of it, as opposed to the western mentality of death being an end to what we have held dear.
For Hindus, both life and death are part of the grand illusion and Samsara (the cycle of life and death) which only ends when our souls reach moksha or liberation and it is at the moment of death, the point at which consciousness departs the physical body is perhaps the greatest opportunity for this liberation to occur. At the point of death Tibetan Buddhism believes that you enter the divine presence “clear light” synonymous with Hindu “Unmanifest Braham” if you have released your attachments then you have the opportunity to merge with god, but beyond that there are two other stages which give us opportunity to attain before in the final stage we begin again the cycle of rebirth a process which takes overall 49 days. It is important though that we should have a practice and awareness of death, release our attachment and our needs to be and to have. In so doing we improve our lives now, so that even if we do not obtain liberation at the moment of death, our thoughts at that time will shape the continuation of our consciousness: what we still desire at the point of death is where we are born again so that we can achieve it. The Tibetan “Book of the Dead” (Bardo Thötröl) while bringing death awareness at the point of death is also useful during our lives as it enables us to recognise when bardo (the intermediate stage between life and death) are occurring and the potential they have for enhanced liberation and enlightenment. Apart from the point of death itself being the greatest bardo, these moments occur again and again naturally in our lives and offer opportunity for change.
If we look, for example, at the first sutra from the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra which invites us to explore the point of death through meditation:
Radiant one, this experience may dawn between two breaths. After breath comes in (down) and just before turning up (out) — the beneficence.
Each out-breath is death, each in-breath re-birth. Between the two is a gap, in that gap you are not breathing, you are dead though you still are. Awareness of that gap and feeling that gap totally results in the loss of the ego. That still space is void, pure consciousness and a place of total potential. It is the experience of the death of the ego that occurs at the point of orgasm, this is bardo too, as it becomes a state of death, it becomes a state of no-mind, the “little death” that opens the gateway to transcendence and indeed death can be seen as the ultimate orgasm. You die in life and this death is the death of the ego and the soul consciousness no longer identifies falsely with its limited body. In essence then, while the final transformation of death is involuntary, there are voluntary opportunities to transform, to prepare yourself for the final opportunity or to align yourself for the next cycle. But both Hindu and Tibetan Tantra takes the idea of using tantric practices on death further so that you can be awakened in your death. The Tibetan Vajrayana school, for example believes that practitioners can meditate on death and actually experience its various stages before they die. Not only does it prepare us for the death experience but enhances our ability to achieve buddhahood or moksha in one lifetime. It looks at the system of the nadis (Energy Pathways: there are 72,000 of them arising from three basic channels, the left ida, the right pingala and the central or shushumna channel )and pranas (vital winds, life-force, vital energy of in Chinese chii, which flows through the nadis). At the point of death all the blockages in the nadis are released and the pranas flow into the central channel and enlightenment is momentarily experienced. The mind then is in a very clear state that can, depending on the skill of the practitioner, enable enlightenment to occur.
Perhaps then we should reflect on and alter our views on death even perhaps on grieving over the deceased bring more contemplation of death into our lives, both to enrich our lives and to seek enlightenment: Do we, like Ged, integrate back into us and in so doing use what it has to teach to enrich our lives? Or do we, like Cob, because of our fear of it, allow it to suck the joy from our life so that our death is fearful, because we have never truly lived? Perhaps that question is best answered by OSHO:“A right kind of education will teach people to live here now, to create a paradise of this earth, not to wait for death to come, and not to wait for death to come, and not to be miserable till death stops your misery. Let death find you dancing and joyous and loving. It is a strange experience that if a man can live his life as if he is already in paradise, death cannot take away anything from that man’s experience.”
Mark Sutton May 2016
In this month’s blog, i am going to talk about the prostate, what it is, its role, issues and maintaining it’s health and the benefits of (and how to perform) a prostate massage.
The prostate is a gland in men, about the same size and shape as a walnut, it is located below the bladder and just in front of the rectum and the urethra runs through the centre of it. Its role is to secrete a fluid which nourishes and protects sperm and this is squeezed into the urethra on ejaculation where it is expelled with sperm on ejaculation.
In virtually all men over the age of 50, the prostate becomes enlarged, termed benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH, and can restrict the urethra resulting both in an increased frequency of urination and a delay in getting urination started. Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate and between 5-10% of cases are caused by bacterial infection, with the remaining being of non-bacterial origin. Prostate cancer is one of the most common form of cancer in men (about 1 in 7 will develop it) and its frequency increases with increasing age with most cases being in men 70 years and older and there is, for unknown reasons, a higher incidence in men of African-Caribbean or African descent, and it is less common in men of Asian descent. The survival rates are generally good (about 1 in 39 will die from it).
Prostate health can be maintained by choosing a low fat diet, eating more fat from plants from plants than from animals, increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables, eating fish, reducing dairy and maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly. However, there is another way of maintaining prostate health and that is by having a prostate massage. Regular massage releases stagnant semen and reduces the risk of prostatitis, prostate cancer, genital pain, symptoms of erectile dysfunction and frequent night-time urination and improves overall erectile function and increases seminal fluid and circulation.
However, health benefits aside, there are another reasons why massaging the prostate is becoming more popular:
It is intensely pleasurable: It has been termed the male G-spot (or P-spot if you prefer) and a man can orgasm through its stimulation alone. The orgasms produced have been compared to those of women following g-spot orgasm and give stronger and more powerful orgasms than penile stimulation alone. This is not only due to the sensations of the ejaculation reflex, but also due to the highly sensitive anal area and the fact that the one third of the penis is hidden inside the body and pressure on the prostate also stimulates this area.
Increased intimacy with a partner: Massaging what in tantric philosophy is known as the sacred spot can be a powerful experience for both giver AND receiver. It produces not only physical and ecstatic pleasure, but a powerful psychological experience. The man receiving is in his most vulnerable and submissive state and this surrendering of control can be life-changing for him as well as giving a sense of sexual empowerment for the giver.
Sexual and emotional healing: In Tantra, the prostate is the emotional sex centre of the male and it is the area where our emotional and physical stress and trauma is stored. Massaging the prostate releases this stress leading to a profound sense of release and healing from all the physical and emotional holding patterns and armouring we have developed over the years. Initially, there may be resistance or anger or a host of emotions that may be released, but with time and repeated massage this will ease as you strip away layers of guilt, shame and conditioning around sex and move into a more relaxed state. It can also be very challenging to receive a prostate massage from a member of the same sex, regardless of your sexual preference, as this can bring up insecurities and concerns on the receiver’s view on sexuality but opening to the experience can lead to greater understanding as it moves beyond the ideation of being a “sexual” massage.
If you are thinking of either giving or receiving a prostate massage there are a few basic to consider: You are not a doctor doing and exam, do it slowly and with love. Make sure the anal area is clean and that you have been to the toilet (or had an anal douche) before hand. Use gloves and keep towels handy. Use a good quality lubricant, and plenty of it. Create a sacred space, with music, for honouring what you are exploring and give yourself time, without distraction, and do not rush the process or pressure yourself and/or your partner. Take time to charge your body with energy, by breathing or movement, which enables yours to ground and become present and connected.
If you are single or doing this solo, there are prostate massagers available, so do your research and start small, you can work up to larger toys later. Be gentle with yourself and pause to feel what is arising for you. Surrender to the penetration and do not try to force it. Use the toy gently until you open the anus and can feel it stimulating your prostate. Make sure you clean the toys with warm soapy water.
If you are doing this with a partner, the giver should ensure that their fingers are neatly trimmed. I am not going to focus on what exactly you do too much as giver, but on how you do it. Lie the receiver down on their back, which allows for good eye contact and a greater sense of intimacy. Massage your partner all over gently and be totally present, going slowly. Be aware of his breathing, looking for it to be slow and relaxed, communicate fully and only proceed when he is comfortable. Be playful and use humour to keep the session light, but breathe together both to maintain the energy charge in the body and maintain presence and awareness.
It is important to check in with each other as you move to the anal region, put on your glove and lubricate the anal area without penetrating, be light in your touch. Communicate and maintain eye contact, always ask and obtain consent before entering your partner with a finger and only put a little inside to the first anal ring, give him time to assimilate the new sensations, and ask for feedback. No matter how long it takes, it should feel like he is receiving you inside in a relaxed state. These sensations may feel uncomfortable initially and there may be feelings of wanting to withdraw, simply pause in movement and let it assimilate for both of you. As the anus opens you can slowly move deeper, you can rotate and explore the anal canal gently, and pause when you feel tensions or he has burning sensations but if you pause and press lightly on the areas these feelings will disappear. Gently explore the whole area before moving to the prostate itself which is at the 12 O’Clock position. The prostate feels like a walnut and begin to stroke and massage SLOWLY, be guided by his verbal and non-verbal cues for speed an pressure. Stay totally present and connected using the eyes. When finishing, let your partner know and gently and slowly remove your finger. Finally, take as much time as you both need to nurture each other.
As receiver you may feel the need to urinate, generally this is not the case, but if it does become overwhelming then disengage gently so you can go and then start again. A lot of emotions may arise and you may feel very vulnerable. Allow emotions to be expressed and nurture each other and especially if this is your first time. Such work takes practice but by communicating, nurturing, developing presence and awareness and most of all by being loving and connected, this can be a truly transformative and ecstatic process.
Mark Sutton April 2016
Strange sex laws
I decided this month to change tack a little and look at some of the strange laws that have been introduced about sex: there are in fact so many it would take much longer to list them and I decided to look at some of the more amusing or weird ones. Even if they are ignored or not enforced it’s interesting to muse on exactly what was the thinking behind them. With thanks to all those who have compiled the laws for me to pick some interesting ones.
Premarital sex and Virginity
Annulment of marriage is common if it is found that the wife is not a virgin on her wedding night, but in Guam it is illegal to be married if you are a woman who is a virgin and there are men whose full-time job is to deflower women for money. In Washington State it's against the law to make love to a virgin, whatever the circumstances, even if you marry and then spend the night with a virgin bride in that state. Many other US states have laws around pre-marital sex: In Mississippi premarital sex results in a $500 fine or 6 months in prison. In Michigan if you seduce or corrupt an unmarried woman you may face a whopping five years in prison and in Arizona it’s a serious felony and you can be sent to the penitentiary for three full years and in Colorado its illegal to keep a house where unmarried people are having sex. Watch out for South Carolina: if you promise to marry a woman and sleep with her, the marriage must take place and in Colombia, the first time the newlywed couple consummate their marriage, the woman’s mother must be in the room and be a witness to the act.
In many states adultery is illegal and the punishments vary: in California, adultery is punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or one year in prison while a fine of $20 to $100 is imposed on offenders in Arkansas. In North Carolina it’s illegal to pretend to be married to share a hotel room. The laws in other countries around adultery are much more punitive though they seem to go one way. A husband in Honduras, for example, is guilty of adultery only when he keeps his mistress “ in a notorious manner." In Hong Kong however, it is legal for the wife to kill her husband as long as she does it with her bare hands. Historically speaking the punishment for Greek men committing adultery was to have their pubic hair removed and a large radish was inserted in their rectum.
It’s where you do it.
There are some specific laws that are quite intriguing: In Oregon it’s illegal to lie down in a restroom or share a stall meant for one and Newcastle, Wyoming, specifically bans couples from having sex while standing inside a store's walk-in meat freezer. In Birmingham, UK it is illegal to have sex on the steps of a church when the sun has gone down. As for vehicles there are quite a few of these: In London, you are not allowed to have sex on a parked motorcycle and no-one may have sex riding in the sidecar of a motorcycle in Norfolk, Virginia, while cruising down a city street. In Cottonwood, Arizona it is illegal if you are caught having sex in your car and the tires are flat, the fine is doubled if you are caught having sex in the back seat. Sex is safe in cars in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Police officers must drive up from behind, honk the horn three times and wait approximately two minutes before getting out of his car to investigate. In Skullbone, Tennessee, it is illegal for a woman "pleasure a man" while he is sitting behind the wheel of any moving vehicle. If he is stopped and found with the front of his pants undone can be fined and Jailed. Finally, in Indiana and South Dakota it is illegal for a man to be aroused in public and illegal in Oxford, Ohio for a woman to strip off in front of a picture of a man.
It’s what you wear.
Here are some alternative takes on what you can show when not aroused: until 1975 in Kentucky if you were a woman and wore a bathing suit on the street you needed a police escort (or you had a club on you). New Mexico was a little more open as long as genitals and female nipples are covered that’s fine, but in Flint, Michigan if you wore low-riding pants that exposed underwear you were guilty of a class B offence but if you showed butt cleavage then it’s a class A offence. Kidderville, New Hampshire makes it illegal to hang lingerie on your line (unless it is screened) near the airport and in California it’s illegal to sell stuffed items resembling breasts within 1000ft of a highway. But you have got to love the Scousers: In Liverpool it is actually legal for a woman to sell items and be topless in public... but only in tropical fish stores.
It’s what you do and when:
Many states ban oral and anal sex, but in Washinton D.C sex in any position other than missionary is illegal and you cannot kiss for more than 5 minutes in Idaho and in Haddon Township, New jersey even flirting is illegal. In Tallinn, Estonia it is illegal to have sex while playing chess and there is also a common sense one believe it or not from Minnesota: No man is allowed to make love to his wife with the smell of garlic, onions, or sardines on his breath and he must brush his teeth if his wife requests he do so. In Jordan by law a husband is to make love "with the wife at least once every four months."
In Montevideo, Uruguay, a man cannot make love to his wife, or touch her between waist and knees during her menstrual period, otherwise he is fined and administered 200 lashes. In Durango, Mexico, governs a husband must not touch his wife in any manner with his hands until 12 days after start of menstrual flow, the woman must bathe before they have sex: the punishment for violation of this old law is possibly the death penalty.
In Arizona you are not allowed to have more than two dildos in the house, while in Texas it’s a little more open you are allowed up to six. The sale of sex toys in Nevada is illegal and in Georgia they are banned altogether. In Nevada too it is specifically illegal for any member of the legislature to conduct in-session business wearing a penis costume.
Here is a great one from Bakersfield, to be exact and I think it’s one of my favourites: By Law if you are going to have sex with Satan (yes Satan you read it correctly) you must use a condom. If you really are looking for the big bang, however, in Wisconsin a man is not allowed to fire his gun at the point of his partner’s orgasm and finally in Minnesota it’s illegal to have sex with a bucket of live fish but apparently, only if you are a man.
Mark Sutton March 2016
In the more prosaic dictionary definitions Devotion is defined as a feeling of strong love or loyalty, profound dedication and earnest attachment. But for many the idea of devotion is linked primarily to religious observance. Devotionalism has been practiced by many religions: Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism as a way of worshipping the divine, but also a way of loving each other: For example in the New testament Romans 12:10 (NIV) exhorts us to “Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves” and Rumi and many other Sufi poets have copious and beautiful writing on the subject of Love and creative Devotion both of the Beloved and of God.
In Hinduism, the Sanskrit term Bhakti refers to the devotion and the love of a personal god or a representational god by a devotee. This Bhakti is different from, though analogous to Kama, the latter being more involved with emotional connection with or without erotic and sensual love. Bhakti though in vedic literature is generally associated with human relationships such as those between beloved and lover and Bhakti yoga or Bhakti Marga is one of the alternative paths to Moksha. In traditional Hinduism there are five bhavas, or attitudes that a devotee takes according to their temperament, and one of these, madhura, is that of a woman towards her lover. Bhakti yoga and Tantra, are entwined but also separate. Tantra with its focus on passionate love to create onenness, union and a connection to the divine and Bhakti yoga which sees our emotions as a vehicle to aid spiritual devotion and through that longing open our hearts to the same facets as Tantra .
So Devotion and Tantra go hand in hand: we can see the divine in ourselves and in our Lover and reach the divine through lovemaking. But in the more mundane world of our relationships, as opposed to seeking divinity, acts and rituals of devotion to your beloved are not necessarily something you simply do or a series of steps in a process, neither is being devoted to one another simply a different phrase for co-dependency or enmeshment. Devotion has a quality to it that is unmistakable, it is an expression of Love for your beloved that is unconditional and sits lightly within the heart, it is something that you feel deeply within yourself but is there at the surface of your being. That expression of devotional love arises when we set aside our ego and the superficial worries and concerns we have about ourselves and our partner that may be blocking its development. One of the greatest barriers to this is our mind and our own perception that we ourselves are not worthy either to give or receive such Love or that our partner is not. Yet when you feel it inside then there comes with it the realisation that it was, and is, within you all along: it is your own mind that has stopped you recognising it and giving voice to it. Realising too that self-devotion is neither narcissistic, nor selfish, is an important stepping stone to the devotion of your beloved. In that moment of realisation then a surrender takes place. It’s not a giving in, but a letting go of the superfluous. You could describe it as an opening to trust in what is happening and to the flow of this Love that has been constantly moving within you. From that space devotional love flows outwards and between you and your beloved and beyond. It is through the full experiencing of this that it is possible to experience Sat Chit Ananda or the pure, unadulterated state of non-duality in Existence, Consciousness and Bliss. This Month’s Meditators guide is a devotional meditation of your Beloved.
Mark Sutton February 2016
This month we are going to look at trauma, and there is an excellent and simple to read book by Dr. David Berceli “Trauma Releasing Exercises” on which I am basing this month’s newsletter. Trauma itself is any experience which overwhelms the normal coping mechanisms that we have and a traumatic reaction is the result of the natural emergency defences of the body kicking in for survival. The reactions are hardwired and therefore not under our conscious control. They are also determined by the makeup of the individual so that, while not being a source of weakness, one individual may be traumatised, while another may not be or to a lesser extent. Trauma affects individuals, groups or even populations and increasingly we are realising that we are having traumatic experiences which we are not recovering from and this lack of healing results in a series of symptoms collectively referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is worth remembering though that it is normal to experience at least some symptoms after any traumatic event, but if they persist then they may be indicating PTSD. Common re-occurring Symptoms include: fearful thoughts, flashbacks and bad dreams, difficulty remembering the traumatic event and avoiding reminders of the experience, hyperarousal (feeling tense, startling easily and difficulty sleeping), and lack of concentration. Emotionally people suffering from PTSD present with depression, worry, intense guilt, emotional numbness and a lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities. Finally, physically there are a wide range of neurological, respiratory, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular symptoms.
There are other forms of trauma to be considered: Vicarious Traumatisation and Compassion fatigue. The first is a psychosomatic experience arising as a result of repeated exposure to other peoples stories that have a cumulative effect in the individual (or group: with media continually playing and replaying an event for example). Compassion Fatigue occurs in response to the suppression of your own emotions in response to an event. Berceli cites the example of the Columbine High School shooting where families attended multiple funerals, numerous hospital visits and provided consolation to grieving families. After several weeks physical and emotional exhaustion occurred. This type of fatigue though can be alleviated by expressing the emotions surrounding the event and giving the body some time to recover.
Biochemically, there are significant changes of the levels of the hormones Adrenaline, Cortisol and Serotonin in individuals exposed to prolonged or repeated trauma. It is natural for us to produce extra Adrenaline and Cortisol in response to a traumatic or stressful event, but as the threat is removed we can calm down and the levels return to normal. In those exposed to continued or repeated stress or trauma, high levels of the stress hormones are produced and the body adapts to them and continues to produce them at high levels even when they are not needed. There is a corresponding decrease in the level of the hormone Serotonin. The practical outcome of this is that aggressive reactions, which we would not normally act on, are acted on. Opioids are another set of chemicals that are produced during trauma, these have the effect of altering perceptions, numbing us out and dissociating us from our body in it’s attempt to allow us to survive at all costs. In fact, a common feature of traumatised people is that both the Adreneline AND Opioid systems can work in rapid succession.
The brain itself processes traumatic experiences differently, primarily because of the overwhelming nature of the traumatic experience, the majority of the data is taken and stored in the somato-sensory area to be processed later. Until this data is processed, it remains unhealed to surface later and result in flashbacks, nightmares, bad memories. The developing brains of Children make them particularly vulnerable when exposed to traumatic experiences. It has been estimated that nearly 50% may develop psycho-emotional problems when entering adolescence and adulthood. The thought process we use as adults to manage trauma are temporary and are subsequently released, however in the developing brain of a child, this process becomes a permanent one. Repeated exposure to traumatic experiences then forces the child into traumatic thinking patterns and these become embedded into their natural way of thinking in such a way that all events which are unfamiliar or overwhelming are processed as if they are traumatising.
Trauma is multifaceted and complex, it can cause us to distrust everyone in a particular socio-economic/gender/racial group because there is no selective differentiation until we have processed the Trauma. It has been demonstrated that those who have never experienced the trauma directly, but just imagine what it was like are often more bitter, angry, less forgiving and more emotionally disturbed than those who did experience it directly and survived it. Berceli also believe that the numbing out experienced and not processed and which continues with usage of drugs for example, leads to a decrease in physical sensation and this is directly linked to suicidal ideation. Tthe mind, he believes, needs an appropriate amount of stimulation from the body, if it does not get this it creates its own, and the imagination becomes a reality. If the imagination is filled with terrors, then a cycle of numbing out and further dissociation occurs. When bodywork becomes involved as part of the healing process, then the more people become connected to their bodies and the more that they experience aliveness. It is perhaps one of the reasons why experiential bodywork and breathwork are so beneficial, as well as counselling, psychotherapy and other talking therapies. Not only do they release the tensions and trapped energy we talked about last month, but they bring those suffering from trauma out of the ego (which is resisting healing) and into their bodies and the genetic coding “To Live”.
Trauma is not decreasing, it is increasing throughout the world today and it is important to acknowledge the widespread nature of PTSD and not be in denial. It can happen to anyone regardless of how good or bad they are, it disturbs us because it interferes with our positive views of the world. Berceli believes that trauma victims are generally isolated by us because we are both afraid to hear what they are saying and because they shine the light that our positive views on the world are falsehoods. It’s also important to raise awareness and be organised at all levels of society, show interest in and not to reject or blame the individual.
Mark Sutton January 2016
The Psoas Muscle
Last month we looked at the Vagus nerve, this month we going to take a brief look at the Psoas Muscle.
The Psoas muscle is the deepest muscle in our body and runs from the mid-back to the inner thigh connecting our spine to our legs and it plays a role in the external rotation of the leg (it lifts the thigh as you walk) it is a muscle that extends and flexes the lower spine and allows the weight to be supported through the bones so that walking commences at the solar plexus rather than the hip joint and the knee. It is also connected to the diaphragm and other muscles of the upper torso via its connection to the lumbar and thoracic vertebrae and has a role in breathing, is actually toned by breathing and has a major influence on the structure and functioning of the upper torso.
When the Psoas is chronically contracted either through a repetitive activity such as driving, chairs that give us poor posture or through stress then there may be strain in the lumbar spine and knees, the trunk may be shortened, the organs work less effectively, stability is affected and where contraction is asymmetrical one side of the pelvis tilts creating a shortening of the leg. Frequently there is not only pain in the lower back, but also pain in the neck and shoulder as the muscles in the upper body attempt to compensate and bring the body back into alignment. Contraction of the upper part of the Psoas influences breathing patterns as it affects the ribs, chest and lumbar spine, so it can be easily seen that there is a connection between the Psoas Muscle, Your breathing and Your posture. Liz Koch is an authority on the Psoas Muscle and she describes it as “bio-intelligent” which, like the tongue, is an “organ of perception” as well as functional. For her it embodies our survival urge and our desire to flourish, is linked to the reptile Brain and to our vital energies, for she says “ As gravitational flows transfer weight through bones, tissue, and muscle, into the earth, the earth rebounds, flowing back up the legs and spine, energizing, coordinating and animating posture, movement and expression. It is an uninterrupted conversation between self, earth, and cosmos.” and not to be seen purely as a hip flexor.
The emotional component of the Psoas Muscle, which I alluded to a little earlier: The contraction of the Psoas which occurs as part of the stress response and it can cause you to curl into a foetal ball or prepare you for flight or fight. Unfortunately, when you have a permanently tightened Psoas, due to habitual stress, it continually sends danger signals to the body reducing your overall healthy immunity and a loss of contact with your core. In a similar fashion Trauma causes a contraction in the Psoas muscle and when it is chronically contracted, the Psoas muscle becomes a source of stored trauma, exacerbated by the overruling of our natural tendency to shake or tremble in response to trauma. There is an evolutionary reason while we shake in response to a traumatic event, the shaking releases excess energy created in the body by the event and in so doing tells the brain to return to normal. However we frequently use our minds and egos to override this shaking and in so doing suppress the release of the energy surging as a result of the trauma. This energy has nowhere to go and the suppressed the energy is stored in the body in the form of contracted Psoas muscles, the overall consequence being that unless the Psoas is relaxed it becomes a store for the trauma within the body. In addition, the brain does not receive the all clear signal and so stays in a high state of alert so adding to the development of chronic tension.
So this whole region has the potential to form major somatic blocks in our body armour and bodymind. If the deeply stored tensions of the Psoas and related systems are released then we become freed from trauma, denial and inner negativity. This relaxation not only marks a release of trauma but opens you to energy flow, stability and grounding. It creates liberation in our movement and pelvis, our breathing and an integration of the heart and pelvis which allows us to become emotionally authentic. There are several ways of relaxing and opening a contracted Psoas muscle, but it is worth noting that simple weightlifting or mechanical means may not be effective in bringing back an effective resting length as it is its relaxation, not further contraction that you are looking for. Further, the Psoas is a muscle Deep within the body and buried underneath the viscera mechanical manipulation or massage may be painful or of only limited effectiveness and there is some discussion over the benefits of direct manipulation so choose your therapist with care. Yoga forms which promote systematic relaxation, the primal release pose by Jane Dixon (Biology of Kundalini), exercises designed specifically to release trauma or biodynamics all relax the Psoas Muscle, but perhaps I should finish by quoting Koch once again in that in working with the Psoas we are “not to try to control the muscle, but to cultivate the awareness necessary for sensing its messages”.
Mark Sutton December 2015
The Vagus Nerve
In this month’s article we are going to look in some detail at the Vagus nerve which is the longest of the cranial nerves . Vagus is latin for “wandering” and it describes the path this nerve takes through the body. Actually while classed as just one, it is actually two nerves that extend from the cerebellum and brain stem and down into the viscera and on the way it connects to the heart and all major organs and so could be considered largely responsible for the mind-body connection. The Vagus nerve has many functions: regulating heart rate, speech, sweating, blood pressure, digestion, glucose production, and certain aspects of breathing. It is an important part of the parasympathetic nervous system, initiating the relaxation response (from “flight and fight” to “rest and digest”), nearly 90% of the nerve fibers associated with the vagus nerve are sensory or afferent nerves that relay information back to the brain. It has been shown that not only does the vagus nerve relay information to the brain from our “second brain”, the enteric nervous system, in controlling digestion, but it may also be responsible for the transmission of gut feelings and instincts and have some role in mood, fear and anxiety. Swiss researchers demonstrated that not only were “gut instincts” from the Vagus nerve a significant influence on the level innate fear response, but a healthy Vagal tone* appeared to be important in overcoming a learned or conditioned fear response. The Vagus nerve is linked to our hearing, eye contact and emotional expressions, and has an influence on the bonding hormone Oxytocin and there is evidence that a higher Vagal tone is associated with more closeness with others and social bonding as well as mother and infant bonding. The vagus nerve also appears to help control fertility and orgasms in women by connecting to the cervix, uterus and vagina and women can actually experience orgasms simply from the Vagus nerve
One reason for the importance and diverse functions of the vagus nerve has been put forward by Dr Stephen Porges in his “Polyvagal theory” which theorises that the two branches are functionally distinct from each other : The more primitive Vegetative Vagus and the Smart Vagus and serve two different evolutionary stress responses. The former branch being responsible for digestion and the initiation of the freeze response in reaction to a threat which is inhibited should the sympathetic nervous system and the “flight or flight” response occurs. The smart Vagus is more evolved and is linked to social communication (via facial expression and vocalisation) and self-soothing behaviours. Porges puts forward that this is a hierarchy when exposed to challenge: The smart Vagus promotes calm states, self soothing and engagement, if this doesn’t work then the sympathetic flight or fight system kicks in and if that does not work the oldest, the vegetative Vagus, takes over and results in freezing and shutdown.
The electrical stimulation of the Vagus nerve has been shown to reduce and even inhibit inflammation with implications in the treatment of arthritis. Vagus nerve stimulation therapy is used in the treatment of medication-resistant depression and for the treatment of epilepsy. But you don’t need electrical stimulation to activate the Vagus nerve: Meditation (particularly mindfulness and loving kindness meditations and “Om” Chanting), Slow breathing (deep abdominal breathing), Massage, Yoga, Laughter (and interestingly vagus nerve stimulation sometimes results in laughter), Singing loudly (working the throat muscles), cultivating gratitude, positive company and even sleeping on your right side all activate the Vagus nerve. Activation of the vagus nerve does have many benefits, but before you all go rushing out to bring it into full activation it is worth mentioning that if it becomes overactive, it can take blood away from the brain and it is possible that you will faint (Vagal Nerve Fainting or vasovagal syncope). This can also happen when someone becomes emotionally charged for example fainting in response to blood or needles and is due to the Vagus nerve becoming overactive in reaction to the fear response.
As previously mentioned, there is a connection between the cervix, uterus and vagina and Beverly Whipple and Barry Komisaruk in their book “The Science of Orgasm” investigated the vagus nerve and deep vaginal orgasms in women who have spinal cord injuries which, due to the lack of feeling, prevented orgasm. However, the Vagus nerve doesn't travel through the spinal cord and women could have orgasms if they had deep, penetrative sexual activities that affect the cervix and stimulate the uterus. So could methods which activate the Vagus nerve be of use for women to experience orgasm? Suzie Heumann (Tantra.com) thinks so, the combination of slow deep breathing, an open mouth while emitting low sounds from the abdomen activates the nerve fully and can lead to longer lasting, powerful orgasm and possibly female ejaculation. Suzie Heumann has opened a world of interesting speculation: the activation of the throat chakra by noise and the link between the throat and the cervix, the deep open mouthed breathing used in tantra and a whole host of practices, the intimate connection an active Vagus nerve generates via Oxytocin, memory and emotion via various neurotransmitters and even the spontaneous laughter that sometimes occurs how much of this is related to the activation of the Vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system to yield deeper orgasmic experiences. Vasant G Rele in his book “The Mysterious Kundalini” has interpreted Kundalini as serpent power as the Vagus nerve, others say that the vagus nerve ganglions connect to the seven energy centres and represent physical “proof” of their existence. Others say that though there is activation of the Vagus nerve it is not kundalini but a physical manifestation of a metaphysical event and yet others say be aware about all of the ideas but don’t get hung about the technicalities: just stay open to the experiences you are having and that is perhaps the thing to do, cultivate your tantric practice, increase your vagal tone and simply experience.
*Vagal tone: is the continuous, chronic, passive activity of the vagus nerve and the strength of the parasympathetic nervous system. It is not measured directly, but by measuring the natural changes in the heart rate and respiration which are due to inhalation and exhalation. This is done by measuring periodic changes in the HR due to breathing to give us the amount of heart rate variability and basically the greater the heart rate variability the greater the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system and Vagus nerve.
Mark Sutton November 2015
To top of the page
Wisdom Goddesses, Kink and Shadow: why exploring fully is critical for spiritual development
The Divine feminine aspect in Tantra, as in other traditions represents knowledge and wisdom. It is subtle, hidden and sensitive and is sought out using the inner worship of meditation. As a representation of all levels of creation, she is expressed through ten wisdom forms or Dasha Mahavidya. The Mahavidyas are fascinating: their great cosmic energies and forces can be difficult to bear and they are far from pleasant at times. While they may soothe and inspire us, they are also there to shock us into awakening and promote a deep internal search. The ten forms of the goddess are formed into two groups the terrible forms “kali” which consist of Kali, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta and Dhumavati and the beneficial “shri” which contain Sundari, Bhuvenashari, Matanagi and Kamala with the form Tara falling in between. However, both forms are required and do compliment each other, with the terrible forms first removing ignorance and the beneficial ones giving knowledge. Both forms exist throughout the universe and within us as who we truly are and they reveal themselves through intuition gained by meditation. I have been musing on the Mahavidyas and wondered about similar expression in a more contemporary context. My thoughts and musings come back to the concept that both forms of the Mahavidyas are essential and, of course, tantra is about fully experiencing and integrating all parts of oneself: So that expression would also include expressing the Jungian concept of the Shadow self. The shadow self archetype forms part of the subconscious mind, it is composed of repressed ideas, instincts and impulses that can be referred to the darker side of the psyche and represents chaos, the unknown and wildness and as such we can reject or remain ignorant of it. Practitioner Seani Love
(http://www.schooloferoticmysteries.com/consensual-non-consent/ )describes Erotic shadow as “all those parts of our erotic and sexual nature that we have hidden from ourselves and from those around us”. He runs workshops on Shadow Tantra: a fusion of Tantra, Conscious Kink and human shadow work and feels that this integration of our shadow selves is important as without it “the Shadow tends to leak out in unconscious ways which can often manifest as poor communication, passive aggressive behaviour or abusive relationships.” It is an interesting and little explored area and I have an inkling that the exploration of shadow self and worship of “kali” forms of the Mahavidyas can both be used to explore our darkest desires, remove the illusory veil around them and create the conditions within us for divinity to be fully realised through their fullest expression: It’s tantalising to think so and worth perhaps exploring further. But whether you believe that both can be explored together or are to be held completely separate, one thing that is important is to realise that it is the full exploration of the known and shadow and/or the worship of both forms of the Mahavidyas that provides the key to authentic transformation.
But what if we choose to only explore one side of the coin: we “like the light but not the heat”? Then we run the risk of meeting the analogous state of Spiritual Bypassing in our sexual expression. Spiritual bypassing is a phenomenon, first coined in 1984, which is extremely common in spirituality: It is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs as a defense mechanism to actually avoid connecting to what is seen as painful or the darker side of ourselves. Robert Augustus Masters (Spiritual Bypassing- When spirituality disconnects us from what really matters) describes some of the observable characteristics of spiritual bypassing as follows:
· Exaggerated detachment, emotional numbing and repression.
· Overemphasing the positive.
· Total avoidance of anger or anger-phobia and blind or overly tolerant compassion.
· Weak boundaries
· Cognitive intelligence Outstripping emotional and moral intelligence.
· Crippling judgment about one's negativity or shadow side.
· Devaluation of the personal relative to the spiritual
· Delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being
Masters believes that for any spiritual path to be effective and avoid significant spiritual bypassing there is a requirement us to “work in-depth and integrate with our physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and social dimensions to generate an ever deeper sense of wholeness, vitality, and basic sanity”. When we separate out and bury what we consider painful, distressing, unflattering or not in keeping with the “path of light” that we are on, then we are actually reinforcing further fragmentation. As Masters puts it by keeping such things below in the dark “they tend to behave badly when let out, much like animals that have spent too long in cages.” In other words, in ignoring, running away from or suppressing our darker emotions or desires leads us to become trapped by what we seek to liberate us. Without fully exploring all of our human condition, we do not heal, we do not transform, we do not fully experience, we merely avoid. I have seen the avoidance of the real manifesting as skipping from path to path as what is held up in front of us does not suit our narrative (usually just as it given us the potential for healing), losing a sense of reality in a pseudo-spiritually induced stupor, projecting the uncomfortable feelings onto another and using that blaming as an excuse to walk away or a myriad of other avoidance techniques. I would hazard a guess too that most if not all have done this, I have most certainly done so- sex should be spiritual being one that comes to mind and the raunchy, dark fantasies and fetishes I have, not fitting into that ethos are to be ignored: until of course I opened to the fact that they are to be embraced and explored fully and in so doing add creativity, a pushing of the boundaries and some self-realisations along the way.
Worshipping “kali” and “shri” forms of the Mahavidyas, or immersing in tantra and shadow tantra; Embracing both Classical and neo- practices, conscious kink and shadow, feeling both the heat and the light: All valid, all to be experienced in our move from ignorance to enlightenment while being embodied and immersed in the real.
Mark Sutton October 2015
To top of the page
Sex and ageing Redux
As I am reading and researching Tantra and human sexuality, I am often looking for ideas for my monthly blog. It frequently happens that articles, books or talks provide a simultaneous source around a topic which enables me to revisit and/or explore a certain theme. So this month I have been reading the work of Dr. David Schnarch “Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and intimacy alive in Committed Relationships”. Not only did it provide rich material for The Intimacy Handbook, but it was engaging me with regards to sex and ageing. As it happened I was also listening to a talk that our friend and teacher, Dawn Cartwright, delivered to the Centre for Healthy Sex. In her introduction, Dawn talked about our current view of sex and ageing, which I am summarising here:
“One of the things I feel is important for us to realise as a culture is that our sexuality changes over the arc of our life... The sexuality we experienced in our teens and the sexuality we experienced in our procreative years isn’t a stopping place, even though in our culture it’s really seen as that is what sexuality is, we don’t think about sexuality beyond child bearing years ...... in our culture we have a narrow band of what is considered to be the right age to be a sexual human being..... it’s not over we still have a lot more to experience in a way that nourishes us.” – Dawn Cartwright
So it seems reasonable for me to revisit sex and ageing again. If you are a regular reader of our newsletters you will remember I have talked about sex and ageing from a physiological viewpoint, in this month’s blog I am going to look at it from a different perspective and I am going to start by asking you a question: at when age do men and women reach their sexual peak?
The modern consensus on such thinking would have us believe that it is for men before their twenties and women in their forties. Of course, if we are told something often enough, by many people and experts, we begin to see that as true and it becomes a belief and at some level that leads to self-rejection and a limiting of our sexual potential. But as David Snarch says, this is a confusion of genital prime with sexual prime as our physical sexual response is only one aspect that makes up our ability to reach our sexual prime or sexual potential. There is, for example, the consideration of intimacy, both seeing and being seen in our lovemaking and to enable us to reach our sexual potential we need to bring as much of ourselves into our sexual experiences as possible, how much we self-disclose and do so “Unvarnished”. If you think back, as a hormonally driven seventeen year old, how much did you actually know about yourself to allow yourself and your partner to open fully to your sexual experience? In all probability there was not a significant amount present so the idea that our sexual potential is fully driven by our hormones is fundamentally flawed, it is our self-awareness, what we bring into sex and the meaning we attribute to it that allow us to fulfill our sexual potential.
Schnarch proposes an alternative model of sexual arousal to that proposed by Masters and Johnson, he puts forward his “Quantum model” which looks at how all aspects of human sexuality fit together: depth of involvement, profoundness, intimacy, desire and sexual style. Reaching your sexual potential is a combination of the physical sensations, your feelings and thoughts, indeed he says “your feelings have a bigger impact on genital function and orgasm than do the physical sensations”. For example, think of a situation that has worked for you and the impact that an emotion such as anger, or intrusive thoughts have had upon that and in all probability the physical sensations have no longer had the response you expected. Consider too what the potential has felt like from same sexual activity but with partners you have different depths of connection too, or where you or both are carrying unresolved emotional issues which limit your sexual potential and how that has affected your sexual experience. It is common, for example, for us to carry anxiety into sex and this has an impact either as an increase in tension of simply by killing the sensations as can your partner’s feelings have an effect on you and your anxiety.
If you believe the cultural thinking that your sex drive is the primary motivator of why you have sex, then is it in any way surprising that sex itself will be reduced as you age as you require more physical stimulation to become aroused and achieve orgasm. However, when we look explore the potential of sex for pleasure beyond the narrow range of childbearing years this leads us to deeper and more meaningful experiences and this takes a significant reassessment of what sex means for us. It is when we age that we become more aware of who we are, it is when we are prepared to bring more of ourselves into sex, to explore desire from different perspectives (not just the physical), to view each other as sexual equals and to show ourselves to our partner while remaining in touch with our selves that creates the deeper and more meaningful connections. When the complexity of human sexuality is woven together in such a way it brings an energy into sex that is not achieved by performance alone. It is for this reason that our sexual potential is not reached until later in life, in our 50s and 60s and beyond as it takes time to roll back our beliefs that we have nurtured or accepted as true and to develop ourselves and increase our ability to increase the level of fulfilment, connection and love that we can experience with our partner.
“If you’re interested in Sex with Intimacy, there isn’t a seventeen-year-old alive who can keep up with a healthy sixty-year-old”- David Schnarch
He outlines several processes by which we can begin to explore our sexual potential, and looking at them the exploration of Tantra with its focus on personal development, cultivation and exploration of pleasure and connection to yourself and your partner provides an excellent framework:
- In the moment deepening of the emotional involvement and increasing the depth and breadth of connection to your partner.
- Increasing your sexual “repertoire” in terms of the meaning as well as the style and increase the duration and variability of you sessions.
- Reduce the anxiety and reduce distractions.
- Expand the emotional energy you share with your partner
- Increasing your anxiety tolerance and ability to reduce your own anxiety (Self-soothing)
- Resolve underlying tensions and Issues, increase your capacity for desiring and loving your partner.
When we tap into our sexual potential by bringing all of who we are: our ability to be intimate, our desire and passion as well as our newly discovered sexual approaches, then sex can be electric and a profoundly spiritual process to be shared. But moreover it taps into the essence of us as human beings: the need for togetherness, understanding, nourishment, integrity and spirituality that allows us to fully realise our potential in all our life and in all aspects of our relationship. Schnarch describes reaching your sexual potential as an “Adults Only Event” in that it brings together your new found sexual responsiveness with your maturity, self-awareness and self-control and yet creates a chance to re-discover your adolescence and in so doing integrating your head, heart and spirit with your genitals. It is something that tantra is ideally placed for us to experience the fullness of this, the richness and juiciness of it and we need to stop apologising for getting older, for now we have more time to explore how sex feels different as we age, to explore eroticism, desire and love from an entirely new place, a place with heart.
Mark Sutton September 2015
To top of the page
Tantra, Intimacy and Fertility Treatment
I have been fortunate enough to join a team of Psychotherapists, Acupuncturists, Counsellors, Yoga Teachers, Reflexologists and Massage Therapists in a holistic programme designed to support couples going through fertility treatment (http://letsmakebabies.ie/). It is a comprehensive programme designed for a holistic approach for those who are commencing the exploratory phase of fertility and pregnancy, those undergoing assisted fertility treatment and those who have completed a cycle or cycles of assisted conception treatment unsuccessfully.
While processes such as pelvic release exercises would provide a useful means of releasing tension and blocks which occur during treatment and which can result in for example painful intercourse, my primary focus would be the maintenance, cultivation and expansion of Intimacy for the couple while undergoing treatment. It is important to recognise that, to a greater or lesser extent treatment, has an effect on a couple. Unfortunately the areas of sexuality and intimacy in your relationship are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of fertility treatment: Reduced sexual desire, the inability to achieve orgasm, loss of spontaneity and pleasure and loss of sexual self esteem are commonly reported by couples. It has been estimated, for example, that up to 30% of men suffer periodic episodes of sexual problems with loss of or inability to maintain an erection, loss of pleasure and lack of interest being most commonly experienced by them. In addition, a significant proportion of couples following cessation of treatment, found it difficult to rekindle or maintain their sexual desire.
Unfortunately, the primary focus for fertility clinics is on the fertility treatment itself and the issues of sexuality and intimacy are talked about but not explored in any great depth. The use of the eastern philosophy of Tantra is acknowledged as helpful for maintaining sexual and emotional intimacy, in general the recommendation is to get a book on the subject. The practices, processes and rituals in Tantra are ideally suited for any couple undergoing treatment. The essence of tantra: embracing passion, acceptance, connection, compassion and love, reframing how we view sex and sexuality, moving away from goals and re-experiencing the pleasure, playfulness and sheer joy that sex has to offer all make it an ideal path for those for whom the bedroom has become a place of heartache and disappointment.
Tantra is a path for bringing your spirituality into your sexuality , it is also a profound way of connecting into your body, connecting to your potent sexual energy and allowing that flow to be released from the pelvis it also sees everything as valid and nothing rejected and so encourages complete acceptance of all that is occurring at this present moment regardless of what it is and your relation to it. Tantra is also about connecting with your partner and bringing this total intimate connection out into your life in general. The connection to the body, acceptance and self-compassion are important for the maintenance of sexual self-esteem and body image without which intimacy is difficult to establish or hold for any length of time. This connection allows you to express your own (and listen to) your partner’s wants needs and desires and establish healthy physical and emotional boundaries while maintaining openness and connection; leading to greater potential in your lovemaking by navigating the waters of your moment-to-moment desires and feelings. The simple act of breathing consciously brings you into your body and brings you directly into the present moment, negating the effects of intrusive thoughts that inhibit full expression of love and intimacy. Breathing and awarness also brings you into contact with your sexual energy, and that of your partner, and allows it to be cultivated and flow through your body, clearing blocks and tensions, reducing stress and increasing your capacity to feel pleasure and to feel more energised, healthy and alive. Tantra moves away from goal orientation and consequently, while a certain amount of obligatory sex is required for conception, it looks at your lovemaking as an experience of pleasure and growth in the relationship and not as purely for procreation or an obligation. In so doing it challenges your belief on what sex is, it reframes it not in terms of equalling orgasm and ejaculation, but in terms of a wide range of pleasurable activities which employ creativity and a sense of play which is not limited to erection or penetration or the need to reach an end-point via intercourse or at all. The stress around issues such as erectile dysfunction, anorgasmia or painful penetration become less important as sex is reframed in terms of sensation and the in the moment feelings of Pleasure, Connection, Intimacy and a sense of adventurous exploration rather than sex as Obligation limited to one narrow aspect.
An integral component of Tantra is its use of ritual. Rituals can be as simple or as complex as you like and involve the ritual creation of a space for lovemaking, where intention, communication and exploration of your lovemaking is undertaken. Ritual too can be around connection, devotion, touch, and different and varied experiences can be explored. Ritual creates zones of openness and intimacy, it enables connection and a sense of curiosity. Ritual sends a clear message that not only are you and your partner are accepted, loved and valued, but your relationship is too and is greater than the sum of its parts.
Tantra itself works on many levels all at once: It simultaneously maintains and enhances both physical and emotional intimacy. It places your sex life in context of the health of the whole relationship and not just in the context of fertility treatment. It promotes the feelings of togetherness and oneness, of mutual devotion and support and a sense being in this together in a profoundly powerful way. Tantra has the potential to enrich not only your sexual health, but your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health. It also brings with it the rich potential to take this through your whole life and not just as you are undergoing treatment, for Tantra is and of itself a life Path, a path centred on the body in all its magnificence. Finally Tantra does this in an experiential way, believing as it does that the way to the divine is through experience. The practice and application of Tantra, its processes and it rituals, require only a sense of curiosity: Being curious about your partner, being curious about yourself. Openly meeting and accepting both yourself and your partner in the present moment, just as you are and recognising in each other that spark of desire and divinity that exists in us all but which is given expression in your relationship to each other.
Mark Sutton August 2015
To top of the page
We have generally in life a desire to be seen and to be met. Perhaps this is the most powerful experience during sex: It is the point where our partner sees us for ourselves, naked, vulnerable and open. There is a quality and depth to being seen at this time as who you are by a lover, of being fully experienced whether it is before lovemaking, during lovemaking or after lovemaking, a deep intimacy that propels us out of objectification and into the realms of deep emotional, physical and spiritual connection.
Being fully seen is not dependent on lovers being in relationships: It can quite as easily happen in a single encounter and there is no technique to be being seen, it is a quality of openness. Perhaps, though, it is first and foremost and internal state of being, staying connected to our own hearts and then reaching out to connect with our lover. It is not about suppressing parts of ourselves during sex, but about being aware of, accepting and staying contained with everything that arises. If we acknowledge any fear that may arise (particularly the fear of judgement: will I be rejected?, will I not be attractive enough?, if I show my power and unleash my sexuality, energy and desire or express myself will it be turned back on me? What would they think of me if they truly see me?) as being owned by ourselves, part of ourselves and our experiences and in consequence do not reject it or suppress it, but meet it within ourselves, embrace it just as we embrace our lover then the it becomes simply part of what we are and loses much of its power.
Being seen and met by lovers, I believe is manifested as a consequence of how we see and meet ourselves. It can take courage to face ourselves when we are exposed to being seen. Often, far too often, when we are seen and recognised we feel guilt and shame and that leads us to close down, retreat into old patterns of behaviour and erect the familiar fences or don the familiar armour which allows us to defend ourselves against the possible threat, hurt or judgement. We rush to re-establish the control within ourselves or with the dynamic of the relationship by anger or withdrawal or acquiescence or by projecting onto our partner. It is safe, after all, it’s what we have been taught and conditioned into doing and it works for us, at least temporarily until our needs and desire for intimacy and connection resurface. So we create for ourselves the conditions for potential conflict and pain, on the one hand the fear of being seen and on the other the desire to be seen and to experience deep desire and fulfilment and for some this can appear to be a gulf between both which cannot be bridged.
The practice of Tantra contains within it the means to explore the feelings as they arise: When we are triggered by actions, events or another person, it invites us to meet and embrace whatever is arising for us in the moment, let it flow around us and through us and to look at what lies behind the emotions and our behaviours without attachment or judgement. It asks us to dive deep into the emotions and feelings and provides the bridge to the form behind the emotions. It allows us to see this form, or shadow of ourselves in a deeply intimate and radical fashion: with self-love, self-forgiveness and self-acceptance as opposed to Self-loathing, Self-rejection and self-deception. It is this idea that everything is allowed and nothing is rejected: our “negative” emotions and feelings are equally as valid as as our “positive” emotions and feelings. In recognising what lies behind the fear of being seen or of aspects of the self are being recognised and exposed there is great potential for healing in that tantra provides the tools and awareness to transform such fear simply by accepting it. Of course one has to choose to experience what tantra has to show you and be open to it and yes that can be challenging in initially, though the practice may be simple, but in my experience and in the experience of people I work with when we see ourselves fully we can stay connected to ourselves and aware of the moment to moment shifts in our reality. That connection to our internal reality, our totality, then provides the means of meeting our lovers in a space where we can be truly seen, we can stay in that external space centred around compassion regardless of what arises precisely because we are rooted in ourselves internally.
I believe that Rumi puts it more succinctly:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”
So when you want to be seen in that field, I invite you to meet yourself there and embrace yourself as a lover.
Mark Sutton July 2015
To top of the page
It is a joy at times to be in Ireland, despite the relentless grind of austerity for 8 years for on May 22nd, 2015 Ireland enters the history books as the first time any country has voted in a referendum to place legalise Same Sex Marriage and place it in the constitution. I was here in the Friday when the voting took place and on Saturday when the counts started being tallied and within 40 minutes it was obvious that there was an overwhelming landslide for the Yes vote. This cut across all ages, genders, geography and demographics: It was not an old versus young, Urban versus Rural or Religious versus Non-religious. At is very core it was a vote for Acceptance and Love (though it has been pointed out that there should be no need to vote on a human right and in an ideal world this is true, but we deal with what is), it sent a clear message to other struggling under continued restrictions and repression that there is hope. It also sent the message that, coming from what has been stereotyped as a highly conservative country, regardless of your sexuality, you are us and we are you. In fact it blew a lot of stereotypes out of the water: for example that older rural vote would not vote yes. It showed the limitations of stereotyping and there is a lesson for us in that: if we stereotype we put people (and ourselves) into boxes within which we can discount the possibility of change, of growth and Love.
But being here, in the energy of those two days, to see people returning home from as far away of Australia was emotional, highly emotional and in part because these people returning had nothing personal to gain, they did it to support others. I admit to tears as, for those two days, this outpouring reached a culmination in a sea of rainbow Flags in Dublin Castle and Dublin city turned into one vast multi-coloured party. There was something about Ireland then, a sense of togetherness, a sense of simple humanity. My mind wondered over the tenent in Tantra that all suffering comes from separation: to witness and be part of what happened, the joy and ecstasy when the people said “we are not separate we are one and the same”. It was on a vast scale this experience and one that will stay with me for the rest of my days.
So as I sit here mulling over this month’s post, my mind’s eye reflected the look on the faces of those in the crowd and it really drove home the values of acceptance and love, the simple act of saying Yes, without gain for oneself. Hearing people say that for the first time they felt accepted, hearing people say that they felt they could come out now, be themselves, feel good about themselves and feel valued, well I guess Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole summarised it as, it wasn’t a vote for Tolerance, it was a vote for complete acceptance.
Yes, it was on a Macro Scale, with profound effects on the Micro scale for others. But what would this energy and feeling be like if we said yes to ourselves, yes to our lover’s: we moved into that space of full acceptance and love, opened to all that we are and all that we could be, all that our lover is and all that they could be. Would I look like they did? Would I feel all the time what I felt for those two days?
And it’s as simple as ticking a box, this saying Yes, it created the space for a sense of Oneness, a sense of shared energy, a collective dream, a peak experience.
Isn’t that an essence of the tantric experience: unconditional love and acceptance of our own being as well as another’s.
I think so.
So I will leave you to muse on that, but before I go I will leave you with this quote for each and every one of you.
“I hope that the world turns and that things get better. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you. I love you. With all my heart, I love you.” –Valerie, V for Vendetta
Mark Sutton June 2015
To top of the page
Anyone know who Dr. Joseph Granville is?
He is credited with the first electromechanical vibrator invented in 1880 and it was used for treating “Hysteria” in women, who had hitherto been treated by masturbation by the doctors but who found it time consuming, tedious and resulted in fatigue in the hands and wrists of the aforesaid medics. Truth to tell though in 1869 the first steam-powered powered vibrator called the “manipulator” was invented and in the mid 1700’s vibrators appeared in France. There is evidence too that vibrators of a sort were being used by Queen Cleopatra of Mark Anthony and Julius Ceasar Fame. But take pause for a moment, if you think that steam-powered Vibes were risky enough, consider Cleo’s: it was rumoured to be a hollowed out gourd filled with bees.
The history of sex toys is a long one, almost as long as human history itself: Paleolithic dildos made from siltstones have been uncovered. The ancient Greek city of Miletus was famed for its leather stone and wood dildos, or Olisbos, throughout the Peloponnese where they were used to deal with female hysteria (we just couldn’t let that idea go could we)while their men were away bashing each other a la 300. Ancient China with penis rings and geisha balls, Rome and it’s invention of the double dildo (to share with a friend), the ornately carved renaissance dildos and the first ever Doll, the 17th Century French sailors collection of rags known as the “Dame de Voyage”, the Victorian period and into the modern era; sex toys have been an important part of human sexuality. The 60s saw an upsurge in the use of sex toys for pleasure and my first contact with toys was in the 80’s in one of the mail catalogues which advertised everything from mops to clocks. This showed a picture a woman using what was described as a neck massager, a hard rigid tapered piece of plastic that was obviously NOT a neck massager. Now you can get all sorts of sex toys, for all erogenous zones. They can be made of all types of materials, battery operated, mains (the magic wand for example: though to me it seems more suitable for Karaoke...but then that may be the context I saw it in), ergonomic shapes and even wi-fi for long distance lovers. Sex toys are a popular addition to a couples repertoire and it has been estimated that the Anne Summers chain of adult stores sell 2 million “Rampant Rabbit” vibrators alone per year and the industry is worth $5.5 Billion globally and 68% of Irish women have admitted to using vibrators.
The use of Sex toys can have benefits for individuals and couples in terms of enhancing intimacy, mutual exploration and quicker orgasms, but are they useful when exploring Tantra? Certainly I have used, on occasion, a prostate stimulator very successfully in my practice and dildos can be used to challenge my taboos. You could argue that anything which enriches peoples’ sex lives and brings a sense of curiosity is to be encouraged and to a point that is perfectly valid as it can lead to experiencing orgasm, challenging taboos and self- and mutual- exploration. But there is another side to it: If the focus is tuned primarily to the use of toys and props then there is a distraction from connection and spiritual attunement that is part of Tantra. While the use of dildos appears to be fine, with Vibrators there is the potential for desensitisation, or a habituated response to the frequency of the vibrator, as our nervous system adapts to that particular frequency of vibration. Then too, some tantric practitioners believe that the peak orgasm produced from the clitoris, and enhanced by the vibrator, are similar to the male ejaculatory orgasm and result in an “Orgasm Hangover”. The vibrations cannot be produced naturally during sex, either with fingers or a lover and this may lead to a shutting down or, due to the immediate gratification a vibrator, an egocentric approach to sex, where you get off quickly as a goal. Extensive use potentially leads to conditioning and body memory in the patterns of stimulation and arousal that are not reproduced in lovemaking. This quick hit of an orgasm, misses the beauty of tantric self-pleasuring and tantric lovemaking in the attentiveness one places on feeling the subtle play of energy, feeling and connection. The flow of pleasure within and through the body is swamped by the Tsunami of vibration induced Orgasm: The journey is swamped by the arrival at the destination and the knowledge of our own patterns of arousal in lovemaking are hidden and altered to such an extent that we weaken our whole body experience and reduce the ability of sharing our flowering with our lovers.
On Balance though I do feel that toys, including vibrators, have a place within Tantric lovemaking (after all Tantra accepts everything and rejects nothing). For me, it is their conscious use that is the key to enjoying sex toys, knowing why they are being used and the context they are being used in that makes the difference. For example, Initial explorations of self- to experience orgasm, to challenge cultural taboos (anal sex), and to experience solo penetration in a self-pleasuring session or simply as play between lovers and increasing intimacy and communication are all perfectly acceptable. It is this awareness of the pros and cons of toys that make them a delightful addition to the repertoire in tantric lovemaking rather than a block to expression, feeling and connection.
Mark Sutton May 2015
So what is Love?
“Love is the one thing that we're capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can't understand it.”- Dr. Amelia Brand: Interstellar
Is Love as Krishnamurti puts it the “unknowable” that “can be realized only when the known is understood and transcended. Only when the mind is free of the known, then only there will be love”, is it as OSHO says “a hierarchy, from the lowest rung to the highest, from sex to super-consciousness” possessing many layers and all depending on ourselves or is it simply science: a combination of hormones, alterations in brain function (which in ways mimic mental illness) and genetics. Or is it something else entirely?
What is certain is that love plays an important and pivotal role in the lives of most people. There are few people who have not been at least “touched” by love whether that touch is joyful or painful. It has been a central component of philosophic discussions from love as a purely physical, to love as an intensely spiritual affair that in its highest permits us to touch divinity.
In the Western tradition, perhaps the first text, Plato’s Symposium, presents us with the notion that love is series of elevations: animalistic desire or base lust becomes a more intellectual conception of love and then a theological vision of love transcending sensual attraction and mutuality. Since then of course there have been many divergent theories, including Plato’s Student Aristotle and his more secular theory of true love reflecting what he described as ‘two bodies and one soul.’ The word “Love” in English derives from the Germanic form of the Sanskrit lubh (desire) and those Greeks, in an attempt to give definition and meaning divided it into three aspects: Eros (desire: sexual or desire for Ideal beauty), Philia (friendship, family) and Agape (Universal or brotherly love). Romantic love stems from Eros, in its form of ideal beauty and from the ideal of the Persian love poets, the courts of love and the fine amour of chivalry. To the Persians, everything is encompassed by and for love, from the love of friends to intimate partners and eventually the divine love that is the goal of life. In Hinduism Kama (love, pleasure) is the third of the four ends of life (though in Buddhism Kama is seen as an obstacle to the path of enlightenment) and with Islam, Ishq (divine Love) is the emphasis of Sufism.
For those who believe that love is purely behavioural, the scientific consensus is that there are three Stages of Falling in Love:
Lust: Driven by the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen.
Attraction: The love-struck phase. A group of neuro-transmitters called 'monoamines' play an important role: Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Serotonin. The latter is one of love's most important chemicals and one that may actually send us temporarily insane.
Attachment: A longer lasting commitment and is the bond that keeps couples together when they go on to have children. Important in this stage are two hormones Oxytocin and Vasopressin.
Is it down to genetics? The evolutionary advantage to mate with somebody with the best possible genes, this assessment being made on pheromones and appearance.
Does this take away the mystery, these attempts at knowing and categorising love, trying to determine whether you Love or are “in Love” or “out of Love”, love someone more or determine if they love you more. Is it as limiting to have a view of love that is pragmatic as it is to have a societal or “hallmark” view of Love? As Brand says: rather than understand Love, should we simply trust in Love when we perceive it and by experiencing it fully allow it to take us to different dimensions?
I guess that is determined by our perspective: do we see it as a product of patriarchy where language and etiquette of love is designed to empower men and dis-empower women. In such a fashion it is analogous to Karl Marx's view of religion (the opiate of the people) that love is the opiate of women. Osho viewed this type of love as the lowest rung, a political domination, a “Bitter pill sugar-coated”. By understanding it, by using it as a meditation, it can be used as a stepping stone to move up the hierarchy where the peak love is not an act but a state of being and a state of religious consciousness and beyond bargaining. In this state one simply loves and is love or as Osho states. “Rather than saying that you love somebody, it will be better to say you are love. So whosoever is capable of partaking, can partake.” Love, according to Krishnamurti, does not obey, there is no feeling of conflict (it is the jealousy, possessiveness, suspicion, doubt, the fear of losing that love, the constant demand for reassurance and security that follow which cause conflict), and there is no duty or responsibility. But “Love is the most dangerous and uncertain element in life; and because we do not want to be uncertain, because we do not want to be in danger, we live in the mind”.
Is this then what tantra offers in the realms of love: a re-evaluation of love from “nothing matters” to “everything matters” and the re-incorporation of love as a profound spiritual state beyond biology and hormones? By choosing love as a meditation am I exploring not only how I have loved, but why I have loved? Challenging why I fall “in love”, am “in love” and fall “out of love” not by my thoughts, but by experiencing all that love has to offer within me: regardless of what it is offering. Understanding the joy and the pain, the source of these feelings and the strength of them and doing so not in terms of the “other” but in terms of myself. Looking at where love has been a bargaining chip, to be given and withheld as my needs have been met or have failed to have been met. Simply trusting love through Tantra and, as experienced by me from this space, to open and explore love as a state of being.
Mark Sutton April 2015
To top of the page
There are many forms of polarity in existence in the universe, but in this month’s post we are going to be focussing on polarity and sexual polarity within Tantra. A good Illustration of polarity is the example of the anode and cathode which results in an Electric current as electrons flow between negative and positive poles. Just like an electric current, in Tantra’s view, sexual energy flows between two opposite poles and the higher the difference the stronger the energy so that during sexual union, the bio-energies of the bodies create an ecstatic sexual experience. These sexual poles are generally termed Masculine and Feminine in Tantra but are also known as Ying/Yang, Positive/Negative, active/receptive, consciousness/energy etc. It is important to note that the use of the terms Masculine and Feminine in Tantra should not be confused with biological gender. A biological male may be “feminine” and vice versa. Also the terms are relative, that is they are “Masculine” or “Feminine” in relationship to each other regardless of whether they are same sex relationships, inter-sexed, cis- or trans-gendered or any other combination in the kaleidoscope of human sexuality.
Generally though, we have a move to one or other of these poles and are attracted to the opposite, though there are those who have a balance of both and are able to switch between polarities depending on the partner. The major point though, as far as Tantra is concerned, is that it does not matter which of the two poles partners take as long as they play out opposites in lovemaking, as it is this difference in polarisation which generates sexual energy between lovers or as David Dieda puts it “For real passion to occur, there needs to be a ravisher and a ravishee”. Then too there are polarities within polarities: while an individual may be essentially Masculine (Positive/ Shiva) and their Partner feminine (Negative/ Shakti), internally they possess an inner negative (Feminine/shakti) pole and their partner possesses and inner Positive (Masculine/ Shakti). Tantra allows us to dance with these feminine and masculine energies both between lovers and also within ourselves by playing both Shakti (the DIVINE feminine) and Shiva (the DIVINE Masculine) and circulating energy independently of our partner, bringing us into a balance as well maintaining the polarities with our lovers. Further by the cosmic union and merging of these polarites (or union of opposites or Shiva/Shakti) we generate the charge which brings us into connection with the primordial energy from which everything arises in the universe making a new dimension of awareness available lifting human consciousness beyond the physical plane into a much greater field of power and energy.
But how does this “work”? I mentioned before that we have internal polarities and, according to Diana Richardson in her book “the heart of Tantric Sex”, in the case of the “Masculine” the negative pole resides in the heart and the positive pole in the genitals. In the case of the “Feminine” the negative pole resides in the genitals and the positive in the Heart. Between the poles themselves, Diana Richardson says, exists a magnetic field called the “rod of magnetism” which enables the energy to spiral and stream up through the body. When “Masculine” and “Feminine” come together, these “magnetic rods” generates a powerful magnetic field between the bodies and during sex when the opposite poles meet, a circuit is completed and the energy flows from the positive to the negative poles both between partners in a circuit known as “the Circle of Light” and it is important to note that it is the positive poles that need to be awakened to initiate the deeper movement of sexual energy. When making love using polarity we potentially establish a powerful energy field between and within the two bodies with energy moving in a spiral path.
What else are sexual Poles important for in our lives? David Dieda in “Intimate Communion” describes his perception of sexual polarity as the magnetic pull or jolt of electricity you feel when you look into another’s eyes and as an arc of energy that flows between the two of you and through your body, mind and emotions. To master such polarity, he says, one must become sensitive to the flow of energy and view sexuality as an exploration of healing as well as an expression of love: Noticing and understanding the moment when the polarity increases or decreases within your relationship. Like Diana Richardson, he considers it to be a magnetic forces and this magnetic force acts in two ways: just like two magnets. When the opposing poles are brought together they attract, but when the like poles come together, they repel. Understanding this attraction energy and repulsion energy in terms of sexual polarity, goes a long way in our understanding of our shifts from passion, to neutrality, to rejection and back again that occur in our relationships. He also believes that sexual polarity is not necessary for the flow of real love. In long term relationships for example, frequently sexual polarity is lost over time, yet partners love each other very much and too an extent as we grow older sexual polarity can become less important. We can inadvertently neutralise the polarity in our relationships through how we behave and the misunderstanding we create within the relationship. Unfortunately, in general, we have lost the ability to tune into the type of polarity energy we are putting out: For the majority of us our sexual conditioning has clouded our natural polarities and interrupting the flow of energy between them. Consequently, sex operates against our inherent polarities and we work against our ecstatic potential. However, when we make lovemaking a conscious act we begin to de-condition ourselves and return to our intrinsic and natural polarities. When we use conscious techniques to cultivate our own sexual polarity (both in and out of the bedroom) we begin to further understanding how opposite polarities can magnify each other, how our behaviours and attitudes can neutralise polarity or even reverse it and how our own internal divisions block the cultivation of sexual polarity. Taken together such conscious practice is essential in re-tuning ourselves and re-polarising our energies as well as those of our partner and our relationship.
Mark Sutton March 2015
To top of the page
The last great taboo
Anal stimulation and anal sex has often been described as the last great Taboo. Regardless of sexual orientation and gender though; anal stimulation (finger or tongue) and anal penetrative sex (Finger, Penis, toy or strap-on) is now a relatively common practice that has been tried by up to 40-45% men and women in certain age groups (US 2009 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behaviour). You can search the internet and see discussions on anal sex and the fascination it holds for all genders on both giving and receiving and why. The anal area is a huge erogenous zone with lots of nerve endings and stimulation of the outside can be very pleasurable, internally stimulation of the prostate can be very intensely orgasmic (and healthy). Given that then, lets put one thing to bed for guys who are intrigued by it, what you like doing sexually in no way reflects on your sexual orientation it is a source of pleasure simple as. Certainly my description of my experiences as a receiver, as opposed to a giver mirror those commonly reported by other men (I am avoiding the term active and passive and its patriarchal masculine and feminine connotations. It is important to note though that the masculine and feminine polarities that exist within each of us refer to the divine: god and goddess, and not the conditioned male/ female attitudes we are presented with). I find that I am letting go my ego and truly surrendering and that it could be described for me as the ultimate trust situation: I am surrendering to you completely. That can be empowering as it re-balances and re-harmonises the relationship. For the active, especially if identifying as female, this can be even more empowering as roles are reversed. Unfortunately, as is common with the way sex is portrayed in Porn, almost universally anal sex is show to be rough, painful looking and associated with power, domination and control. Even given that is anal sex consistent with Tantra?
Jennifer Lawless has looked at this from several points of view: Anal exploration can be viewed as taboo breaking, something which tantra challenges. As well as extending a couple’s boundaries, it also fits into the concept of total union between partners in that total access to each other’s bodies is being allowed. Tantric anal sex also facilitates kundalini arousal by activating the coccygeal gland (or Kundalini gland) via a reflex effect on the parasympathetic (Ida) and the sympathetic (Pingala) autonomic nervous system. Further, couples can experience intense and powerful orgasmic experiences and it opens up an entirely new dynamic to all interactions, allowing partners to feel equal and free to express any form of love with one another. Finally due to the high degree of trust, it is an intimate method for surrendering to Divinity within the Self, or a partner.
Massaging the anal region or root creates a powerful sensitivity to the polarities of the subtle nervous system and is one of the most powerful ways of directly stimulating the flow of Kundalini in the Sushumna Nadi which may possibly be due to the non-dual nature of the anal anatomy - as opposed to a polarised gate (vagina, penis etc.). Massaging the anal region also releases tensions that have been held there: trauma from toilet training for example can lead to a learned reflex which causes us to automatically keep our anal region under tension particularly under times of emotional stress. This leads to the association of fear and shame with a tightening of the anus and the nerves and muscle groups associated with the root chakra are often storehouses of tension. Releasing the tension and opening the root chakra exposes the sensitivities and insecurities which are stored there but when we open up to trust and shame issues in this area, we can establish the healthy balance in our polarities.
No exploration of the anal stimulation would be complete without talking about what has been described as the Male G-spot: The prostate gland. The Prostate gland is walnut shaped and is located just inside the rectum, between the bladder and penis. The prostate secretes a fluid which nourishes and protects sperm. The urethra runs through the prostate and during ejaculation, the prostate squeezes this fluid into the urethra, and it’s expelled with sperm as semen. The prostate can be extremely sensitive and the feelings and emotions associated with it intense as well as intensely pleasurable. It may be considered the emotional nerve center of a man's sex life and sexuality. It stores many of his emotions: his desires, hates, hostilities, stresses, and feelings of inadequacy. When such negative emotions remain unreleased they provide a source of prostate gland problems. Further, the tightness of surrounding muscles and tissues restricts the flexibility and normal pulsation of the healthy prostate gland leading to the prostate becoming a target for infection, enlargement or cancer. Massage of the area, performed sensitively and with awareness not only releases the pent up emotions, but increases blood flow, softens and shrinks the prostate gland, and relaxes the surrounding muscles leading to greater mental and physical health, as well as increasing pleasure, and has been a long established Tantric practice.
Importantly, women also may orgasm from anal stimulation, since sensitive root nerves have connections to the g-spot, clitoral legs, and the cervix; though it is more common to stimulate other nerve centers simultaneously and achieve many different combinations of pleasure and climax. Anal stimulation, unlike what you see presented in porn, should be practiced with love, patience, gentleness, appreciation, awareness and with a foundation of other non-physical practices to balance out sensation if you wish to awaken the root.
Finally, remember to use your safe sex kit and lubricant when exploring anally and to shower and clean beforehand. Remember too, to negotiate your boundaries with your partner and openly communicate them before commencing, especially when exploring for the first time. Be gentle and loving, allow your partner time to relax at all stages before you go further, checking-in regularly if you are the giver, ensuring that your partner is ready to receive before doing it. Be totally present for your receiving partner, be guided by their reaction and simply hold space if they have a deep experience: neither withdraw nor react. Remember that how they react is no reflection on you, but may be in response to releasing emotions that have been stored for years. You both may be feeling open and vulnerable afterwards: Take time to nurture each other but take time too to talk about the experience and make it a shared experience. It can be a way to go deeper with your partner, expand boundaries, increase intimacy and experience more intensity as well as awaken the root chakra and stimulate energy flow.
Mark Sutton February 2015
To top of the page
Wilhelm Reich: Bodyarmouring and Tantra
If you have been following our newsletters for any great length of time, or have attended one of our talks, then you will be aware that we use bio-energetic techniques and in one of the posts have written a brief description of bioenergetics.
This month’s blog is going to look at the work of Wilhelm Reich in a little more detail, but with particular reference to body armouring and somatic trauma release. Reich, who was trained as a scientist, was during the early 20th Century up until the 1940’s a major force in the field of body-mind sciences. Under his theories of Orgonomy (the science of Orgone energy), he postulated that Orgone energy was a demonstrable, universal and primordial energy particularly associated with sex and the feelings of pleasure. Reich was interested in how this energy interacted with the human condition and began to establish concepts of armouring within the body and in particular how we develop muscular armouring to block this flow of energy. This muscular armouring was connected to character armouring (attitudes developed to block emotions such as anxiety, rage and sexual excitation) and created the individual. As Alexander Lowen explained: The individual’s character, manifested as their behaviour, is also manifested somatically as form and movement of the body. That is the expression in the body is reflective of the emotional expression of the individual’s character and the defences that are present in both show up somatically as body armouring.
Reich subsequently developed his theory of segmental armouring, by which we reach our psychic equilibrium. Reich postulated that there were seven segments and this correlates with the seven chakras of eastern philosophy. These ideas were expanded under bioenergetics and core energetic into five primary character structures: The Unwanted Child (schizoid), The Needy Child (Oral), The Endurer (Masochistic), The Controller/Leader (Psychopath) and The perfectionist/Obsessional (Rigid). These character’s are fixations of the energy movement within the body and are, according to Reich, predictable outcomes and can tell us much about an individual’s personal history. Physical blocks in the body, within a segment being overcharged with energy and an adjoining segment being undercharged and tension manifesting at the boundary of them. There is interaction and regulation between all seven segments and also with the chakras of eastern philosophy. Dr. Anodea Judith, in her book “Eastern body, Western Mind” looks in more detail at the correlation between the chakra system and Reich’s theories.
As children, we automatically create tensions when faced with situations we cannot handle or are fearful of, this a healthy response. It becomes unhealthy, however, when the muscle becomes contracted and stuck and body armouring occurs. As explained above, not only is the flow of energy blocked, but lot of energy is expended simply to maintain the armouring itself and this can lead to illnesses, stress and relationship issues. Reich saw that Parental or social punishments against the youthful expression of emotion, or of sexual love, led to internalised repression by contracting muscles and binding the energy down within the body. This created a powerful conflict of internal tension, which if became chronic formed the neuro-muscular armouring which not only protected from painful experiences, but also from emotions and capacity for pleasure and happiness in life, including or especially their capacity for sexual excitation and pleasurable orgastic release. This blocked up energy then becomes the source of all kinds of irrational behaviour. It is unfortunate that nature and culture, instinct and morality, sexuality and achievement, are considered incompatible in the life that we live today. Unless we permit ourselves natural sexual gratification we deserve (and establishing healthy archetypes in children and adolescents), then we continue to perpetuate neuroses, compulsions and irresponsible behaviours. It is perhaps more unfortunate that Reich’s work was misinterpreted and his books burned in America while he himself died in prison there in 1957.
The mystic OSHO viewed Reich as a modern Tantric Visionary and as a scientist and humanist I shudder when I hear of book burnings and deaths in prison.
He belongs to us. I give him posthumous sannyas.
(Osho - Sermons in Stones #7)
There are similarities and dissimilarities between Tantra and Reichian theories: With Reich the body mind and spirit were seen as aspects of the same whole. In an open, unblocked and loving individual sexual pleasure and a full orgasm would result in the full experiencing of the release of sexual tension and charge. Reich was, however, concerned with relieving people of their neurotic and pathological symptoms and behaviour and felt that loving release of sexual energy through orgastic experience and temporary loss of ego consciousness contained within that, was the highest emotional achievement that and individual could experience and would lead to a freedom from neuroses and lead to a long, healthy and satisfying life. Similarly, Tantra sees the mind and body as a whole and takes the view that a blocked and unaware individual will be unable to experience sexuality in its fullness. Both therefore look at sexuality as an indication of the physical and emotional health of the individual, that changing sexuality requires preparation of the body and mind totality. Finally, they both argue that the focus is on building and enjoying the sexual energy generated, rather than it continued loss and unfulfilled release. One major difference is, however, the idea within Tantra that orgastic release was not the ultimate expression and that the orgasm could be played with to allow the Sexual (Kundalini) energy to move up the spine and explore and develop higher centres and perspectives with more accent on spiritual and transpersonal development rather than therapeutically assisted alleviation of body/mind trauma, body armouring and energy blocks.
However, all this is not saying that Tantra is not useful in alleviating body armouring and energy blocks, quite the reverse it is an immensely powerful means of doing so, its ultimate aims are simply different. It is about bringing your awareness experientially into your body via breath, Sound, Movement and Touch and in doing so becoming aware of areas of numbness, Pain, Disease or ill-health. Whether it is by using breathing techniques or Tantra Massage techniques, by activating our energies we can release blocked emotions and energy and heal old trauma and hurts. We become more present (or using the latest buzzword: Mindful) and connected with our sexual energy and becoming more open and intimate with ourselves. Not only does that promote healing, but can change the nature of how we relate to others. In my opinion though, combining modern cognitive behavioural and coaching techniques adds yet another aspect to dissipating body-armouring. The fusion of eastern and western philosophies and techniques, of experiential and talking therapies: Tantra, Coaching, Psychotherapy, Hypnosis, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and the catch all term “Mindfulness” all can be skilfully employed to not only prepare your mind/body for the necessary changes but to put those changes in place.
Mark Sutton January 2015
To top of the page
Sacred Tantric Healing Massage
People come to us for a Tantra Massage for many different reasons: sexual dysfunction, re-connection, energy healing, spiritual transformation or simply to re-experience the flow of life. The experiences vary considerably but if there is one constant though that is said by everyone it is simply this: it is not a sexual massage. If I am going to talk about the experience of Tantra Massage with Karen, then the only experiences I can talk about are my own:
There is something powerful and heart opening to be lead into a room that has been dedicated for me and to me: whatever the reason I am here for, this time is for me. Both dressed in sarongs I am led through a ritual: seated, or a meditation, or Bhakti (Devotion), where the reverence and honouring I experience brings me into the present moment and allow me to connect to Karen: her smile and her eyes. There is no rush and no goal, just a simple reverence for me as a human being that is quite simply melting me inside. Whether it is my feet being washed, or soul gazing, or Bhakti I eventually am disrobed and led to the padded platform for the massage, and in her soft, gentle voice asked to lie face down and let go any expectation or outcome, simply breathe into my core. Sometimes there is the sudden delicious trickle of warm oil on my back, sometimes the pattering of cornflour signalling a “dry” massage. But then the sensual, slow touch begins as the oil/flour is spread over my body, from toes to head, no rushing, simply the sensation of touch. Sometimes I sleep, sometimes I feel every glide and move of her hands and fingers bringing an aliveness to my skin: such a light slow touch, delivered with caring and utter presence. There is always that knowledge of Boundaries, that this time is for me and for my growth and healing that allows me to relax and open as the touch moves from my feet to between my thighs, releasing tension in my hips and pelvis. I can sometimes feel the electric tingling of energy beginning to move, at other times it is simply tension being vibrated loose.
I am asked to turn over, the front is given the loving care and my genitals treated with respect and honoured. No it is definitely not a sexual massage: I am unconcerned about being “hard” I am simply allowing myself to relax more and more into the experience. I can go deep, being transported away somewhere else by the sensations. I can stay with the sensations feeling the familiar shaking and tingling as energy moves completely through my body. Relax more, breath deep, do not focus on the pleasure, simply experience it as a waterfall rushing and gushing over me. It hits the heart and there is warmth and opening for me, healing of sorts from past hurts, sometimes emotions and thoughts. Sometimes I am in the head, thoughts churning around, but there is the touch and the voice to bring me back into my body, asking me to accept anything that is happening: something or nothing. The swirling churn as my body shakes and responds, trembling from toes to head or that move deeper inwards. Time? What is that? There is only the touch, the presence, the candle flames flickering and the music.
I feel the connection to my Karen, the care and compassion she embodies. Different times, I feel different feelings: Love, openness at some points, Tension and sadness at others. But here it is, the important point I feel... I sense, I release. No there has not been ejaculation, there has not been a hardness of my penis. But there has been a deep experience: an intensity of orgasm that goes beyond an outward explosion. It is an inward turning, a shifting and a movement and a reconnection to my body from a life in the head. I experience this as the massage draws to stillness, allowing me to integrate what is happening in my body, what I have felt and what my emotions are now: feeling the deliciousness of being in my body. Feeling the change in that 90 minutes, the awareness of the subtle shift in sensations and swirling energy, the slowing down, the vocal expression that I too often do not give vent to. The bodywork is so powerful: I can feel everything, its so alive. My body is so relaxed and the flow of my blood can be sensed moving through me. There is still no hurry, this is a slow returning, at times a letting go of old emotions and self-doubts, at others as time to express and to be nurtured through vulnerability as I feel many complex emotions. But there is also love too, for what I have shared with Karen and the care she took nurturing me through the massage.
There is physically a sense of space inside, the tension is gone, there is a sense of intense aliveness inside and on the surface of my skin. It is almost as if I have been cleansed inside and rejuvenated. There was no need to orgasm and ejaculate, and in all honestly, I very rarely do the latter in the massage. But there is intense ecstasy and pleasure none the less which can last for hours or days afterwards: I feel connected and close. There is nothing quite like the experience and it is brought more real for me using breath. Even writing this brings back the experience of it and the gratitude for Karen for doing it. I never know what is going to happen as each time is slightly different, or radically different depending on just how I am at that moment. But one constant is the care and nurturing Karen brings to the massage: without that the process would not be the same.
Whatever your experience of Tantra Massage, this was and is mine. They are experiences I am grateful for and appreciate for their ability to heal and to reconnect, to enable me to open to love. Of course Karen is a large part of that and I am grateful to her for all she gives and brings to my life: for the humanness and caring, the love and appreciation.
Mark Sutton December 2014
To top of the page
Why do we spend so long cultivating sexual energy? How is it going to benefit us? What does it feel like and how can we feel it?
It’s an important point that we have energy moving in our bodies constantly. We simply are not aware of its subtle ebbs and flows within us. But when we become aware of it we can begin to move it with our consciousness and begin to feel the effects. Many people describe warmth and tingling as effects but others have also reported prickling, pulsating, humming and similar sensations. Particularly if you are beginning to work with energy, it can feel like treacle, though at times you may feel a rush and you may feel it in particular places within your body more than others. The energy goes where the awareness goes, but it is important as well to realise that you are not trying to force this movement of energy and that it flows much more readily when the body is loose and relaxed as opposed to it being tense and rigid.
Our sexual energy or Ching-chee energy, is a very powerful form of bioelectric energy which is generated in response to our arousal. The arousal and the sensations we have with them is that energy. When you can cultivate this you can do so for your expanded pleasure, health and spiritual growth. When this energy is circulating we have agreat deal more of it and feel more alive. Our genitals can generate an enormous amount of this energy, our brain can transform it, but it is the organs of the abdomen that are ideal for storing it. One of the major differences between Tantric and Taoist practices is the way energy is channelled through the body. In tantra energy moves from the root chakra to the brain, in Taoist this is then sent back down to the navel which they consider to be the energetic centre of our body (see this month’s Meditators guidefor specific meditations on moving excess energy away from the brain). It is important to note that this energy will expand whatever emotions regardless of which they are, but there are exercises which can allow you to recycle negative emotions and develop compassion.
The healing benefits of sexual energy can be explained partially by Biochemistry and partially by Bioenergetics.
From a neurochemistry standpoint the hormonal aspects of dopamine, prolactin, oxytocin and phenylethylamine and the level of androgen receptors are very powerful in the way they affect mood, desire for intimacy, our perception of our mate, as well as our susceptibility to addictive activities and substances. They have both positive and negative effects, but in general hormonal terms we need to maximize oxytocin production and avoid the dopamine rollercoaster that occurs with orgasm. Thus, when cultivating our sexual energy with a partner, the emphasis is on the inner feeling awarenesss as well as on the feeling of complete union with the partner. This generates a steady stream of sexual energy that is consciously converted into feelings of sublime joy and love without the attendant depletion of Dopamine and other hormones following Orgasm.
I have mentioned Wilhelm Reichs previously and it is worth looking at his work in terms of healing and the relationship between the mind and body and energetic processes. He was the first scientist to describe orgasm as a build-up and release of excess bio-energy and recognised the negative effects of blocked energy. Bio-energetic static and emotional-energetic blockages are probably major factors not only with hypertension, mental problems and other stress-related conditions, but also in hip, knee and lower back problems, leg cramps as well as gynecological and other disorders in the pelvic area, including impotence and frigidity. Persistent bio-energetic static and its associated emotional blockages tend to cause muscle tension with permanently reduced blood, lymph and nerve supply to these areas, and makes them susceptible to infections, arthritis and other health deterioration.
All this is not only emotionally satisfying, but produces strong bonding and greatly strengthens the relationship.
Our sexual energy circulates in our acupuncture meridian system and its vortexes form our chakra system and this energy also forms the healing agent of many natural therapies. Thus, our health and energy rely on a strong flow of bio-energy into the chakra system. If we let our sexual energy deteriorate through poor nutrition or by blocking the flow of sexual energy or frequently use it with orgasmic sex (losing an inappropriate amount of in the process) it results in a low energy level, in addition to the negative effects of strong hormone fluctuations as a result of orgasmic sex. If however we cultivate our sexual without discharging it and without creating an energy blockage we produce a high amount of sexual energy and then channel it into the chakra and acupuncture system to keep us young and healthy.
In terms of spirituality, the context within which spirituality is framed should be made clear and that is to speed up our evolution of consciousness by the formation of higher energy bodies and in a human as a species sense a society based on compassion, love and cooperation. The tantric, Taoist and yogic methods attempt this by transforming sexual energy into kundalini or spiritual energy and fast developing the whole chakra system and higher energy body. Kundalini is a sanscrit word for the primal energy of consciousness, or the life force. It is said by yogis to set the energy field of the subtle body and chakras into motion, and then curl 3 ½ around the base of the spine. Kundalini energy, in unawakened individuals, remains coiled and is synonymous with Chi, Ki or bioenergy, when it unwinds it becomes Kundalini and moves up the spine to the brain via the Sushumna channel. It can awaken as part of some intense and concentrated experience, which may be in a spiritual practice using energy manipulation, or meditation, but it also can happen in response to an intense challenge, like a near death experience. It may also arise spontaneously and its apparent function appears to be the deconstruction of the personal identity, and the clearing and restructuring of our interior space so that consciousness can flow more freely, without attaching to all the held patterns of our personal conditioning (Source: Bonnie Greenwell, KundaliniGuide.com). While practitioners who are aware that as their Kundalini awakens there are likely to be effects, which comprise the Kundalini syndrome can manage them successfully, it can, if one is unprepared or unknowing provide a frightening experience and lead to a potential spiritual emergency though its awakening is not always so immediate or dramatic. The most predominant feature is the feeling of heat or energy moving along the spine and Ring and Rosing put forward a nine point scale:
1. Feelings of energy in the hands.
2. Feeling deep ecstatic sensations.
3. Experiencing severe, or migraine type, headaches
4. Awareness of energy discharges, or currents, flowing through the body headaches.
5. Sensations of tickling, itching or tingling on, or underneath, the skin
6. Awareness of internal lights or colors.
7. Hands feeling hot.
8. Sensations of extreme heat or cold moving through the body.
9. The body shakes, vibrates or trembles.
As facilitators we are aware of, have experienced our own, and been present while others have had Kundalni awaken. We have been there to support and guide our students through this very important part of their development and believe that that is part of our responsibilities towards those who are looking to us for guidance. If however you are experiencing symptoms and feel that it is out of hand, Rather than something that is important for your development. Then here are some tips for managing it. They are all centred around grounding to allow you to bring your energy down and come into contact with your body and leading as balanced and simple life as possible, free from as much stress and stimulation as you can:
1. Be with nature
2. Do physical work
3. Do physical exercise
4. Eat full meals
5. Avoid stimulants
6. Take a break from your spiritual practice
7. Rest and relaxation
Mark Sutton November 2014
To top of the page
We stepped out of the car into bright sunshine. It was a late afternoon at the Earth Spirit Centre at the edge of Compton Dundon Village in Somerset. It was the beginning of the Quintasensual Festival and myself and Karen were among the facilitators there. But before I blog about the festival, how did we get here? What brought us from Ireland into Somerset?
The answer to that lies back over a year ago and also in our attitude as regards Tantra. I am going to state plainly that many “sacred sexuality” festivals are exclusionary to people who do not fit into a gender binary. This is particularly evident last year with the OSHO Leela in Somerset who actually banned men from booking in the interests of “Gender Balance”. That really conflicted with our core belief that Tantra is for everyone regardless and Karen made a rather loud Facebook protest about it (in November 2013 she wrote a rather elegant post in the awakenings Blog page about gender Balance based on this). Quite rightly in my opinion as well: If Tantra believes that separation is the cause of all ills, then what do you make of a festival which a) assumes hetero-normative approaches and b) bans a gender from booking once the quota is met? Whatever work they do there should then be tempered with that caveat. There is a place of course for specific gender groups, but really OSHO Leela should state clearly that they are hosting gender binary only and hetero-normative sexuality festivals (and the rest can go fig!).
It appears we were not the only ones to notice and a Facebook thread was started where someone posted “suggesting it would be fantastic to create a UK festival of tantra and sexuality that would be an inclusive place where every combination of sexualities, genders, body types and beliefs was truly accepted and celebrated”. Someone, Buzzy Tantra, listened and the Quintasensual festival was born. The name itself derived from “ Queer Inclusive Tantra Sex and from the Word Quintessential which has a definition "of the pure and essential essence of something" and the definition of the word Sensual of "enjoyments derived from the senses". We saw the call for facilitators and were immediately drawn to its promise of total inclusivity and the removal of all labels, misconceptions and definitions. In this Context Queer is by definition whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant. There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers. It is an identity without an essence. 'Queer' then, demarcates not a positivity but a positionality vis-à-vis the normative ( David Halperin (1997-02-06), Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography)
Months later there we were, settling in, meeting people we had heard of, maybe e-mailed, but never met as well as meeting old friends....... Quintasensual was about to start, this was definitely the first of its type in Europe, perhaps in a wider sphere. The 80 or so participants and facilitators knew very quickly that they were involved in something big, the start of something unique. The vision of inclusivity, acceptance, and openness was fully realised. The festival explored over 6 days and in a safe, respectful container: Tantra, Desire, Relationships, Kink, The Queer body and Sex, Ecstatic Dance, Intimate Massage, Tantric Yoga, Intimacy and Conscious Relating, breath energy techniques, OSHO Meditations and Tantric Twerking (yes we twerked).
Yes it was challenging, opening, instructive and all you would expect from a festival but it is hard for me to describe my thoughts and feelings, the gratitude for all those there, the joy, the rollercoaster ride we went through as, in giving and receiving that total acceptance we all moved very deeply into our ecstasy and our vulnerabilities and fears. But it had the extra ingredient that was lacking in my previous experiences of festivals: Total, Complete Acceptance and Inclusion. It reaffirmed that THIS was the essence of my Tantra practice: beyond gender, beyond all forms of labels and definitions, no one was excluded. One of my favourite poems is by St. Thomas Aquinas, “The Mandate” (it is actually copied in a previous blog post, but I am going to take the liberty of repeating it here):
Because of my compassion, the sun wanted to be near me all night,
And the earth deeded her fields to me,
And all in heaven said,
“We have voted you our governor; tell us your divine mandate.”
And I did, and god will never revoke it:
Nothing in existence is turned away.
More tender is my Lord’s heart than any heart has ever been.
So, when the divine realm asked me to govern it with one simple rule,
I looked into His eyes and then knew what to say to any angel who might serve as a sentry to God:
No Creature should be turned away.
The Mandate, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
I cannot help but think that St. Thomas was describing what we experienced. It was simply the most powerful and moving shared experience I have had. This really showed the potential that we as humans have, when we come together without the labels and baggage we carry. We were all, facilitators, cooks, workers, organiser, participants part of something organic, orgasmic and ecstatic.
We parted though as we all must as change happens and the festival ends, as we begin to go back to the real world. But it was OSHO who said that Sex is the seed, love is the flower, compassion is the fragrance. Something was planted and took root in the fields in Compton Dundon and I can smell the fragrance of the flowers growing from these particular seed. It is a delicate fragrance, but heady in its promise. There are 80 of us nurturing the seeds of Quintasensual inside of us and I would like to think that this is the start of something different and more powerful, something more inclusive. Does it seem impossible that this could be the new wave? Perhaps not if one considers that 5 miles away lies Glastonbury, the festival there started in 1970, £1 to get in with free milk and was attended by 1500 people. It drew 120,000 this year- and no free milk. So who knows where this will lead arising as it does from the soul of Somerset and putative resting place of the Once and Future King, the potential is there, the love is there. But above all, and to my eternal gratitude, I was there
Mark Sutton September 2014
To top of the page
Is that my reflection or your projection?
Sometimes I fear the unknown, I guess this is a common facet in human behaviour but however I decide to couch it though, it has profound physical, psychological, behavioural and emotional effects: From triggering the stress response to projecting my own unresolved feelings and emotions onto others. I guess the fact that should be stated is that as far as my unconscious mind is concerned it is real. It is what happens when my mind perceives events, scenarios, and change as a threat.
I came to an awareness of my response to change, for example, during a boundaries exercise in a tantric workshop. In this exercise the partner I was working with was to come closer and closer in response to my “yes”, “no”, “maybe”. As my partner stepped closer and closer slowly my internal response was “yes” until they were touching me. However, in a sudden forward movement, fear arose and the response was a definite and strident “no”. Once again when slow forward movement occurred the fear subsided and the answer became a “yes”: it appeared to me therefore that sudden change was a trigger for a particular type of response and series of emotions from fear to insecurity. Conversely great changes could be achieved by a slow methodical approach where each step is clearly defined, it reduced my sense of fear: My boundaries became more flexible when the change was gradual they became hardened and impenetrable when the change was sudden and direct. My default option, therefore was to go into defensive mode. But in knowing that, I now had a choice in how I reacted, rather than ride the wave of emotion I could communicate my feelings, unmet needs, and a request (I am feeling fear, I need more clarity, slow down and explain). I knew where my old habitual response was coming from and had a strategy to handle it, to be sure this takes time, but it promoted greater awareness around the basis of the fear, confidence and self-esteem. It also showed me where I was projecting my stuff onto my partner or another individual.
So I began to look at the issues of projection, which is essentially seeing me in you: If there is something about myself I don’t like or want to acknowledge I unconsciously start to see it in others. Depending on what I projected onto the other may have serious affects on them (especially if they begin to see the projection as part of who they are) and the relationship. For example it is not uncommon for parents to project their unconscious issues on their children or one partner’s sexual fears onto another. Things worsen when both people in the relationship project their unconscious negative traits on each other. I get it, I really do, Jung’s “anima” and “animus”, do we fall in love or do we simply project our unconscious needs? As Pogo quotes: "Everywhere you go, there you are." In other words, I can't leave me behind. I take me into all of my relationships, problems, life situations and circumstances. Yes indeed there is great learning in understanding that I am projecting, but then I hit a wall: was everything merely projection? Was everything what i was observing and evaluating merely in response to my own unconscious? Was there a different side to projection that we need to understand? If I was looking at someone’s behaviour and not liking what I saw was it all my own stuff coming into play, how did this conflict with the fact that Tantra accepts everything. When someone hurt or manipulated another was their defence of “You are projecting your own unconscious traits, it’s not my responsibility” totally valid? Or was it merely a way of avoiding responsibility for their actions? I admit it was causing me to become very disillusioned. At least a partial answer came one day reading a Facebook thread in which an individual had been called out on their behaviour: there response was what I call the “Projection Mantra” and “we love you anyway” finale. This prompted some feedback and the quote below was posted:
“Lets get real about the ole "What we judge in others is a direct reflection of what exists within ourselves" routine. To be sure, there is value in considering how we are projecting our own stuff onto others- that is a wise inquiry- but not every negative judgment we feel is sourced in our own stuff, or in our soulular memory of past life misbehaviors. Sometimes we are appalled by certain behaviors because we have evolved to the point where we can discern good from bad, healthy from unhealthy, benevolent from malevolent. Do you know who planted the anti-judgment mantra with the world? Gurus who wanted to deflect responsibility when they were not living up to their professed standards. You call them on their stuff and they turn the mirror right back on you. It all comes back to good ole common sense. Sometimes we are projecting, and sometimes we are seeing things exactly as they are.”
Things began to become clearer for me: it was the difference between making judgements and being judgmental, the difference between our unconscious mind and making a conscious observation. It was also the difference between Projection being a very real and common process and it being an excuse for those who do not wish to take responsibility for their behaviour but push it back on another (projecting projection perhaps would be a way of putting it).
Does this judgment/judgmentalism conflict with Tantra?
I would propose on the first part that the “Projection Mantra” potentially establishes thought processes and behaviours in both the deliverer and recipient which cause separation and pain. One the one hand the recipient becomes closed and believing in their own lack of worth and on the other the sender is failing to acknowledge and take responsibility for behaviour which inhibit growth and development, planting them firmly and unconsciously in their ego and shadow. Secondly, OSHO mentions that as far as Tantra is concerned, morality is an external artificial construct. That one should simply go inwards and find ones true compass.
It is my belief that Tantra is the centre line of awareness and through embodiment, shines a light on the unconscious mind and ego based patterns of existence. Given that projection is largely unconscious, then if one goes inwards to explore the feelings and needs behind evaluations and judgements one can begin to see if what one is evaluating and judging stems from unconscious projection or from a solid, grounded and conscious sense of your embodied values. Of course a good pointer is the internal self-chatter and the words that we use in response to an observed action: is the language of a judgemental nature (Right or wrong, must and have to, should or shouldn’t) or is it of a less condemnatory or attacking form. Similarly, if you are prone to using the “projection mantra” when in conflict situations, again going inwards and honestly examining why this is being said will determine its validity for yourself. That takes a high degree of honesty and courage to do and for many it is easier to hide in their ego and couch this in terms which maintain the illusion of sanctity and maintains the need for the ego to be fed.
In the end though, if you were to ask me for one word which to me sums all of this up, then the word would be RESPONSIBILITY. From taking responsibility for our actions in relationships, through the shared responsibility within the relationship, to becoming responsible for our emotions and behaviours and the thought processes behind them, it is the first step in truly understanding what we are projecting (both negatively and positively) and beginning to integrate them back within ourselves and in so doing enrich our lives and our relationships.
Mark Sutton June 2014
To top of the page
Who am I?
Who am I? What do I identify with in my life? And is this inconsistent with how I am acting and my beliefs. No more is this series of questions more evident than in one of the fundamentals of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs: Sex.
My Sexuality and sexual preference (who I am attracted to and what I like doing) have altered through the years as is naturally the case for anyone who is growing and changing. I began to understand what has consciously and subconsciously been driving me in terms of my relationships and my sexual expression as well as driving my beliefs in life in general. But sex is a fundamental for me and in particular within the aspect of the Tantra. It seems that Tantra too has gone through a series of changes and developments as my understanding of myself has grown. Of course the tantric precept that I am a microcosm of the universe holds true: as I understand myself, so I understand the universe. But that’s not the Thrust of the blog this month.
Perhaps a place to start would be my relationship with Tantra. I first came to Tantra through sex and Sting, though not sex with sting: it was 1995 pre- internet and the resources were not there at that point in time for me to easily glean a modicum, of knowledge and the books in Easons were somewhat limited in their scope. I have mentioned before that the goal in this was initially to be better in bed ( As tantra was portrayed by the media and Sting with his marathon sex sessions), to be able to give better orgasms: It was later the realisation came to me that this was to avoid intimacy rather than enhance it (Tantra has a way of showing you these things), but simply put sex was my way into Tantra. Further engaging in multiple simultaneous relationships were for me at the time very important but ultimately became, a way of avoiding going deeper into myself. (It is in vogue at the moment to talk about polyamoury as the next big step, but for me at least it was easy to bypass the challenge of deeper intimacy within a monoamoury relationship, when one could skip to another partner at the first hint of trouble PLUS having been given the list of rules associated with at least some polyamoury relationships they were MORE restrictive than the more traditional styles).
Let us be clear though, I enjoy sex and experimenting, I had always loved in my 20s and 30s exploring swinging and recreational sex, it was a preference and one that I thoroughly enjoyed while being able to pick it up and put it down. For some though, the lifestyle is addictive (and truth to tell being able to express and experience sexually can be very addictive) and while I enjoyed some fun experiences in groups and evenings with couples I knew, it was flirtatious and there was an aliveness to it: There was no online in the 80’s you sent off a handwritten letter or replied to an ad and then awaited a response, you talked, arranged to meet for a drink, then re-arranged for a date or party invite, it could take three weeks or more: the anticipation though was electric. But skip forward two decades: As a result of experiential workshops and immersions, the possibilities of what Tantra meant to me expanded, I began to be aware of what was motivating me why I held back in areas of relationships. As I moved along the tantric stream, the concept of sexuality in Tantra defined as “sacred sex” came forward. Did that mean that if Tantra was sacred sex, then other forms of sex were if not sacred then what? Profane? It simply did not feel right for me to deny my past simply because it was “fucking” and not spiritually aligned or too class my multiple relationships in a more socially acceptable container labelled polyamoury. Sitting and listening to people talk about the fact that while they had one night stands and enjoyed them, they now felt guilty as they were not “sacred” and pushed them to one side, indeed I began to believe that myself. It came to a head a few years ago when a partner simply said: “I can’t be spiritual all the time, sometimes I just want you to bang my brains out”. I was, under my perception of what Tantra was, suppressing and denying aspects of myself of what i liked doing in sex.
Similarly with the terms “divine masculine” and “divine feminine”: was I forcing myself into a gender binary? How did I view myself and was this outlook causing more suffering as the common belief that we are masculine and feminine gender binaries? Did that mean that Tantra was limited male and female? What about my attraction to men and man-on-man sex how would that be viewed? Actually, the latter would be a good example of what happens when we repress our nature. Looking back, this repression started in the early 80’s, or perhaps even earlier as regards the prevailing attitude to homosexuality and same sex intercourse at that time in the UK. The Thatcher led government in response to the AIDS crises embarked on a campaign of fear to instil “Victorian values” on the populace. On a subconscious level that worked on me. I suppressed an essence of my desire. But as usual when something is suppressed it finds a way of expressing: this took the form of impulsive or compulsive and sometimes risky behaviour, usually followed by fear. It took me many years and a new understanding to look at this and say openly: I am Cis-gendered, attracted to members of the same and other gender types and understand that the majority of judgment was my own internal mechanisms and that other peoples judgments stemmed from their own perceptions and fears. A Big step, as was the idea of moving away from gender within Tantra. That was something that over the past few years had been developing within me and that has found expression in mine and Karen’s facilitation in part thanks to some like minded people working in sex positive environments and members of various LGBT communities. LOVE is without and beyond gender. A truly amazing Facebook post by Jane Abbott beautifully encapsulated the whole concept and I repeat (with permission and my thanks) a part:
"Language creates our reality. But even those in the field of consciousness raising re imprint these stereotypes daily. How often do we read statements such as "today there is a feminine energy of flow" or "the ego is a masculine aspect", why not just "today there is an energy of flow"? I see these roles being actively played out by participants, whilst supported and encouraged by facilitators, within groups that are supposed to be expanding people into their whole self ie all the aspects of being human. In doing so we are colluding with gender/genital stereotyping and further colluding in the sexual fear and violence that follows from this. If a male takes on any of the 'female' states he is effeminate and therefore disempowered and lessened: to be laughed at, devalued. In Uganda to be burned. For a female to take on any of the 'male' states she is dangerous and needs to be controlled, whether in the promotion/wage ceilinged workplace or at its most extreme through FGM.
Is a man receiving prostate massage from his (any gendered/genital'd) partner any less receptive than a woman? Is a woman fingering, fisting, tonguing her partner any less assertive than a man entering his partner? Is the traditional male role of a farmer any less nurturing in his care of the land than a mother with her child?
"But men and women are different". To that I say Snowflake; we are all different, all unique, perfect manifestations of the same. "”
So where does all this leave me in my current understanding of Tantra, my sexuality, myself, life and the universe and everything (for which incidentally the answer is not 42)?
Well this is how I currently view Tantra: it is a centre line of awareness, accepting everything, and excluding nothing. I represent Tantra as the centre line in the ying yang symbol with either side representing the opposing poles. These opposing poles may be anything in my life: from my sexuality to my attitudes to money (Osho explains this very well in Tantra the Way of Acceptance). The centre line is my awareness developed from going inside myself to find my own compass. In the realms of my sexuality (as that is the example we are using) that awareness allows me to acknowledge, accept and take responsibility for everything: My sexual preferences and history in all it’s aspects: from what I like doing to who I like doing it with, the kaleidoscope of gender identity, the myriad of relationship types: from celibacy to multiple relationships. All of this has come together to make me ME. To make me REAL.
Further as my own acceptance and understanding of my world has grown, then it has enabled me to accept and understand others, to appreciate their reality. Importantly when I live from the centre line I have no need to prove that I am right, to win any argument, enhancing my ability to be present, to make judgements rather than being judgemental, to live from feelings rather than emotions, to balance the outer world by balancing my inner world. But also to understand that this is my perception, others in their reality hold different views that are to be respected. During my fragrance of the lotus training I remember Dawn saying: “Tantra prepares you to face reality” and that is also my understanding of myself now: that in my realness I am taking responsibility for all aspects of myself not burying so-called negative feelings and emotions and focussing solely on the positive ones. Accepting and experiencing them all as part of myself: My reality, My Authenticity, My Life and My Sexuality.
But why is ability to be real important? For my mind an answer to that lies in a recent Facebook post by Jeff Brown. In this he detailed the contribution the ungrounded spirituality movement made to a friend’s death who made the detachment tools a way of being which ultimately, when reality became too much ended with her taking her own life. I quote from his post: “Real spirituality is all about enrealment- it includes everything human in the equation. The real now is the one that includes everything we left behind on the path. We must work through our story, before the unresolved elements of our story kill us”
For me, in my reality, Enrealment is Tantra.
Mark Sutton April 2014
To top of the page
Everything I write is nonsense!
Everything I write is stuff and nonsense. It simply has to be. It’s logical really: what I write and muse over stems from my experiences, my perceptions, my values and beliefs, my reading and my bias. It is filtered through my own internal lens. As such it reflects my reality and no-one else’s. So let’s qualify everything I write is my own nonsense or my own stuff.
The trick of course, when we are in a relationship, is to recognise and acknowledge this, then set it aside. Tantra is very good at enabling that, it walks the centre line of awareness, accepting everything and attaching to nothing. In doing so I am no longer projecting my beliefs and bias onto anyone else, I can recognise when this is coming into play and step back from it. Sit with what is arising and see what insights this awareness of my own stuff brings. Admittedly I don’t always get it right, I can be triggered, but always there is a learning for me in what happens.
While it is essential in personal relationships to be aware of this, it is absolutely critical to be aware of this, as a professional, in another form of relationship: the relationship we have with our clients. Take for example the issue of “guilt and shame”. I have seen that projected onto people as a reason for their behaviour and transgressive sexual expression touted as the means of overcoming this. There is an inherent risk in this, in my opinion. For starters I believe that we are dealing with extremes. One extreme would be the RCC and their use of the repression of sexuality through “guilt and shame” and at the other extreme to encourage aggressive sexual expression to overcome “guilt and shame”. But both use “guilt and shame” as a tool for manipulation, because both are attached to it, because both filter it through their own lenses. Then consider the adage you will see it when you believe it: If you believe that “guilt and shame” is the root cause of issues, if you are not careful that will be projected onto others: your partner, friends or clients. The very real risk occurs then of actually creating the situation in the other person because we are actively looking for it and see only that as possible reason which must then be overcome, this then becomes a self-reinforcing attitude and almost a form of self-delusion and an avoidance of responsibility. In some cases, where an objection to being asked to indulge in sexual activities mentioned above was lodged, then they were told it was simply the “guilt and shame” they had been carrying and not a severe smashing of their boundaries and conflict with their core values. While indeed “guilt and shame” may play a part, it is not a one size fits all philosophy and in any event, I believe, should only be used when the other in the relationship (personal or professional) comes to their own conclusions. We simply need to be aware of our own baggage, put it to one side and be present and not to pursue an aggressive policy using the only tool we have that we believe works.
If we look at the pioneering work of Masters and Johnston (Human Sexual Inadequacy (1970)), they successfully challenged the widespread notion that sexual dysfunctions could not be dealt with until the unconscious conflicts which had caused them had been thoroughly explored and resolved. They demonstrated that behavioural approaches could be useful in many instances in which lengthy analytical treatment was proving ineffective. The researchers explained that a great many sexual symptoms developed out of fairly mundane difficulties: performance anxiety, inability to relax, lack of sexual knowledge and similar. These were not deep or complex problems at all, but easy to understand and treatable using behavioural methods in quite a short period of time.
Also take, for example, those who believe that relationships are doomed to failure because they are based on “Fear” and those who believe that relationships only need to thrive on “Love”, two extremes, I agree, but common ones. If that is a core underlying belief, then either consciously or subconsciously, this will be reflected in our personal and professional relationships. We have to be extremely careful to be aware of our own beliefs and the affect those can have: So the “doomed to failure through fear” or that “love will conquer all (and that the relationship must be maintained at all costs)” ideologies will be projected on what we do, the relationships we maintain and how we communicate (both verbally and non-verbally).
We may honestly believe then that we are doing the best for the client’s relationships or indeed our own relationships: but in reality we must be cautious not to project our beliefs onto it. In that becomes the case, whose agenda are we working towards, whose belief system are we reinforcing and what outcome would we achieve? Those are interesting questions to ask ourselves?
It, at least to my mind, is obvious that we should leave our own baggage firmly at the door and the key to that is presence and awareness. The combination of Tantra and Coaching techniques are an exceptional means of doing so.
To explain: Tantra, in my belief, is a life-path, not merely path of sexuality. One of it’s central tenants is that separation is a cause of conflict and that integrating all our aspects is important in “liberation”. OSHO in “Tantra: the way of acceptance” talks about extremes and the obsession at each pole. He uses the example of money, but I will give a more relevant example, the Polyamoury and Monoamoury relationships debate. Both sides in the debate: one extreme those who exclaim that Polyamoury is the way and the life and the other that Monoamoury is the only valid path are both firmly attached and obsessing on the central tenant: the nature of the relationship. In fact they are creating duality and separation and this is coming from a product of the mind, the ego. As Karen said on Facebook, none of these are Tantra. The tantric path lies in the middle accepting all as valid, being aware and integrating all aspects and then letting them go, simply not concerning ourselves with them. Everything we do then becomes a conscious choice and by so we transcend the mind and ego and bringing it into balance with the body and spirit. It is a very powerful life-skill to have and to experience, moving beyond the beliefs and limitations I have set up. Perhaps this is for me the concept of “liberation” at the moment: freedom from the attachment to my beliefs by accepting them without the expectation that they will necessarily change. This idea is also akin to the concept of Radical Acceptance that Barbara Carellas talks about in “Ecstasy is necessary”, and is a very good starting point for anyone, in any circumstance or at least that is my take on it.
I have found that there is a lot within the coaching process that has a synergistic reaction with my practice of Tantra and it’s definitely a two way thing. With its accent on personal development, emotional intelligence, presence, awareness, acceptance, empathy and connection coaching melds beautifully with Tantra and Tantra brings very much the same thing to coaching. Together they provide a very powerful system for uncovering and overcoming what hidden beliefs, emotions and experiences have been holding me back and the ability to not attach to them. But it is in the area of client relationships that things really come together for me: Tantra has given me the perspective of acceptance, most importantly the self-awareness of my beliefs and thoughts that comprise part of my toolkit of skills. It has, critically, given me the ability to let them go, to leave the toolkit at the door until the individuals and couples I work with decide they need the contents of it. There is no agenda (other than that of the person I work with), no belief that this or that is the underlying cause of what is wrong, or that a particular outcome is needed or desired. It is a strong centre line of awareness from which to work with people and from which to maintain perspective (I am acknowledging and accepting everything). Coaching is a client centred process, and both it and I believe that we already have the skills inside if us, we just have to access them. Working from my clients unique reality, not mine, is a powerful experience for them when I facilitate Tantra: It becomes so totally personal to the people I work with and it is that aspect of individuality that I believe is so important, it avoids blanket statements and assumptions, it avoids engaging my ego, it also works with what is happening right now. When all of this is coming from the individual, the individuals in a relationship, as well as the relationship itself there is an immense amount of empowerment that occurs. It is not only a question of having the right skills to be deployed if and when my clients need them, it is also a matter of them being fully heard and understood. Tantra has been described as a means of preparing you to face reality. To my mind Tantra enables us to see another’s reality by altering the filter on our perception using awareness and acceptance, while coaching allows us to engage in it.
Of course all this simply could be just my stuff and nonsense.
Mark Sutton March 2014
To top of the page
Elvis the Pelvis
It was the first yoga class of 2014 in Yogilibrium in Portlaoise; we had had a busy run up to Christmas and what with the weather and the travelling for the Christmas festivities had not had much opportunity for exercise. I can always tell when there is an issue with my lower back and pelvis: It aches and there is a distinct pop when I lie out straight, that and the first thing in the morning I can hardly straighten or touch my toes. Additionally before Christmas I had slipped while shopping and come crashing down on both my right elbow and coccyx and they were a range of rainbow colours for weeks afterwards. For years I had been plagued by a stiff lower back which seemed to have resulted from sleeping in a single bed with a mattress with a hole in it. Of course being me, not necessarily the archetypal male, but simply me, I had dismissed it, I didn’t need any help. Add to that driving for long periods of a day with a peculiar style of tilting my right foot outwards, and stress (which classically affects us guys in the lower spine) and you have a slow but sure stiffening of the joins and general lower back and pelvic region. Previously physiotherapy actually unlocked two vertebrae which had become lightly linked and had highlighted what was causing the back pain (as it transpired it was due to the angle of the foot while driving, not a leg the different size, but the fact that with a turn to the right on the right foot had gradually pushed my hip out to the right). It was also taking me longer to recover from knocks and injuries: What took me a day to shake off when playing rugby, parachuting or Tae-Kwando during my twenties was lingering now that I am approaching 50.
I had always found that yoga was an excellent way of loosening the tightness in my body and particularly the spine, hip and pelvis. So what has this to do with this month’s blog? Well as I said it was the first yoga class and we were opening the hips and pelvic region. I could feel, under the teacher’s expert guidance the opening of the Pelvis and the loosening of the muscles of the pelvic floor and lower spine. I also felt at that moment, very strongly, the movement of energy coursing and streaming through my whole body, with the opening of the opening of the pelvic floor and surrounding region there had been a decongesting of blocked energy within the pelvis, allowing it to flow through the body. As the muscles and body loosened and relaxed, so the energy began to move. This free movement I experienced upon the release of tension would not surprise you if you are interested in the work of Wilhelm Reich’s and Alexander Lowen as you will be aware of bioenergetics and bioenergetic analysis. At its basic bioenergetics is concerned with the relationship between the body, mind and energetic processes and is a way of understanding personality in terms of the body and its energetic processes. What goes on in the mind is reflected in the body and they should be considered functionally identical what we think affects how we feel (think about the physical tension caused by stress for example), how we handle life events is determined by the amount of energy we possess and we can cope more effectively if we have more energy and this can be translated into movement and expression (for further information see “The Way to Vibrant Health” by Alexander Lowen). The amount of energy that is freely available in the body is directly related to the state of aliveness of the body. Rigidity and chronic tension diminishes the aliveness and decreases the available energy. Stress for example causes tension within the body which normally disappears when the source of stress is removed. When a state of chronic muscular tensions remains then the amount of energy and individual has is reduced energy and subsequently disturbance in emotional health. When the chronic muscular tension is removed then we regain our emotional wellbeing and sense of aliveness. While there are specific bio-energetic exercises that allow this to happen, this is essentially what I experienced while in yoga class: A release of pelvic tensions leading to a streaming of energy through the body, needless to say I felt more alive and emotionally balanced afterwards.
In our workshops, we have observed many participants who have chronic tensions to such an extent that they are unable to sit or lie down for extended periods. When we begin to explore the pelvis then we begin to notice not only the physical tensions or lack of aliveness, but also emotions based around our upbringing and sexuality which are located there. Margot Anand acknowledges the work of Wilhelm Reich and others in “The Art of Sexual Ecstasy” and in particular the relation of the release of orgasmic and creative energy through the whole body is completely related to the rocking movements of the pelvis enhanced by breathing patterns. She describes pelvic rocking techniques to increase pelvic flexibility and release tensions which block the flow of energy. The pelvis is the powerhouse where we generate, store and distribute our sexual energy, but how often are we aware of this? Do we allow ourselves to connect to and explore the pelvis, to feel the tensions and blocks, the sensitivity and openness of our pelvic region?
I previously mentioned that the pelvis also contains our emotions around our sexuality, when we begin to energise and loosen our pelvis long suppressed emotions can arise. In this instance simply give yourself permission to express and release the emotions, whatever they may be: Anger, fear, tears to joy and laughter. When we allow the emotions to be expressed then we can bring more aliveness into your body and more potential for releasing tension and generating energy. Quite often the only time we become aware of our pelvis is during sex and then is a specific instance. If we choose too we can bring our awareness more and more often into our pelvis (certainly in the yoga I was aware immediately of the releasing of tension and flow of energy), not only is this extremely useful for sensitive, integrated lovemaking but it can be useful for those who suffer Premature Ejaculation to become aware of the tensions leading to “the point of no return”. The awareness goes deeper into the emotional and, if you are tuned to the flow of energy and your body you can obtain insights into your own inner world. As an example, several years ago I began to meditate on my pelvis and genitals: I received the impression of being driven, of an urge to move, an urge to be in action. It related to a point in my life where I was sexually incredibly active and outgoing. Years later, in 2012, in retreat with Dawn Cartwright, I once again explored my pelvis. The visual imagery was completely different: I drew it as a cathedral and got the imagery of cloisters complete with monks (interestingly I visited Chester cathedral and it was almost exactly as I drew what came to me in that meditation). It reflected once again my internal state: exploring deep emotional intimacy and love with my life partner: My pelvis and genitals were reflecting my sexuality and my emotional state.
But how do we release tension in the Pelvis? There are very many methods but initially being aware of what tensions are present is the first step. Then for some deep pelvic release work is required, this may involve external or internal pelvic release- the latter providing the opportunity to open blockages and emotional-physical contractions often stored in the vaginal and anal areas (and for which Tantra massage can prove very useful). For others it may be pelvic rocking, yoga, dance or a variety of pelvic opening exercises and for others still it is a matter of meditating, breathing and relaxing the area through their own awareness.
No matter what the means of releasing tension from the pelvic area that you are drawn too, a lose open pelvis is important to experience the aliveness within your body, for generating and exploring sexual and creative energy, for enhancing your lovemaking, for transformation and healing. The first step is being aware of your pelvis, so my question to you for this month is: How is your Pelvis?
Mark Sutton February 2014
To top of the page
And there lays the bare truth...
It was 3.30 am on June 21st, 2008 and I was gathering with friends in Dublin to catch a bus at 3.30am to go to the South Wall. Was this some after hours Rave or post nightclub party? Well not exactly. There were 2,500 of us gathering for the second Installation of acclaimed artist Spencer Tunick. Famous for his mass nude artwork installations all throughout the world Spencer had come to Ireland. His first instillation had been in Cork and was a success, now he was travelling to Dublin
It was cold, very cold. Unseasonably cold, with rain showers and winds chilling us to the bone even with clothes on. We made our way down the pier with a blue bag to hold our clothes. You could feel the nerves, even though we were huddling together for warmth, you could sense the energy. I ended up about 18 rows back from the lighthouse. It was still dark and we were chatting quietly, simply waiting for Dawn.
It took a lot of time to set 2,500 people up to take the shot, the rain was slanting across the pier and we shivered and not from the nerves. As dawn broke you could hear the instructions being shouted down. Ten minutes, clothes in blue bags to be left by the side of the pier. This was it, you could feel everything rise: the laughter, the nerves, the expectations. In the distance you could see the ferries that plied their way across the Irish Sea coming into Dublin Port.
OK clothes off: Almost as one clothes were removed, a deep breath and that was it. We were all naked. For some it was life-changing, this being naked in front of others for the first time. Others had an epiphany or crossed a rubicon. Yet others, me included, were more sanguine: nudity was not really an issue. But overall, there was a sense of freedom and a sense of community. Within less than a minute being naked was natural, the norm. We relaxed and enjoyed the installation: lying on cold concrete, standing on it, head up, head down, and curled like little commas in small lines. It was so cold and it took time to get people in position: but the humour and sense of complete relaxation were there always. In the end I believe the installation was cut short due to people going blue and the length of time it took to get people in position.
There was a sense of aliveness which was more than just the cold, though even that was sensed more intensely. There was a sense of awareness and presence. Then it happened, right when we were all getting our clothes back on, it happened: Not too me, but I witnessed it, and what I witnessed stuck with me. One participant, a man, had lost his bag. His immediate instinct was to cover his genitals. Seconds previously he had been happily nude, now he was embarrassed and crouched low to protect himself while other, now clothed, people walked by.
I have often thought about that experience and what I witnessed. What was the reason behind it?
Was it the re-assertion of cultural values?
Was it the sense of being exposed and standing out from the crowd?
Was it fear of being judged?
Was it the re-implementation of boundaries more suitable to the situation?
Was it simply habits re-asserting themselves?
Or was it re-joining the world as is?
I guess I will never truly know, but it is something I think about from time to time. Perhaps now because myself and Karen were in Tantra retreat with Dawn Cartwright. 6 days in the beautiful Wicklow Mountains with no social media to intrude, no telephones and no TV: Just the chance to explore and open to myself and to Karen and the other beautiful souls present in the retreat under the guidance of a truly inspirational teacher. All those questions and reasons I have given were what shifted when we were in retreat: we were not judged, our boundaries shifted but were not transgressed, old habits were explored, we were away from imposed societal and cultural values, we were in the company of like-minded people from all walks of life and far from being judged we supported and loved each other: helped and encouraged. Some there had been working with us, attending our workshops for example, and watching them continue to open and blossom was beautifully heartbreaking in the best sense of the word.
It showed us the power of this particular path of Tantra (Prasava) in its essential form. We all went deeper into the processes and all were changed at the end of the 6 days. In all aspects of our lives: emotional, physical, spiritual and sexual we grew and some grew beyond recognition. Then came the last day and we prepared to leave: what we had left behind now we would pick up again. How long would the change last? How long before all those reasons to cover up what we had uncovered would predominate? More importantly how could we retain the essence of what we had experienced? Or would we end up like that poor unfortunate at the Spencer Tunick: covering up in the face of the norm.
For myself and Karen, being immersed in Tantra continuously raises our awareness as too where our practice is developing or lacking and where we are re-armouring in response to what is happening in our lives and inside each other. Without a doubt that certainly helps us to keep picking away at the various layers we have over the years laid down.
But for others who go back to family and friends, workplace and personal stresses, how do they continue working effectively when the “real world” once again re-asserts itself? One of the things to remember (and incidentally one of my core beliefs as a coach) is that you already have all that you need inside you. All the power is yours and all the skills are already present: you have just been re-aligned with them. The space and workshops may have provided that re-alignment, but the challenge in yourself is to stay connected and anchored with those feelings and emotions, those core values and beliefs that you have re-discovered through the practices. Of course one way is to continue to practice, to involve others in your practice and to communicate what is happening: Co-create this new found reality and keep it fresh. It takes commitment and some time to create the sacred space for yourself and/or partner and use the skills and techniques to continue to open regularly. So ask yourself how much time can you spare? And how many days a week? What is stopping you from deepening the practice? What resistance is coming up? And what motivations do you need? What would be the net effects of continuing the practice as compared to not doing the practice? Motivate yourself by checking in with those feelings you had and maintaining an internal locus of control: being in present moment while staying with containment and grounding inside yourself. How does that feel in comparison to having an external locus of control, being ungrounded and in the mind: projecting both forward and back?
Of course, things are going to come up; it is the nature of what happens in Tantra. You are challenging and uncovering layers of ego and guilt, self-judgments, negative self-talk and prejudice laid down over years around your sexuality, your physicality, your roles and values. Perhaps for the first time you are giving an expression to your essence and essential self or being emotionally naked (just like the Spencer Tunick shoot in a way). It can help to journal everything and give you some pointers as to what emotions are recurring but invariably at some point you will hit a wall or flat spot. In my experience Tantra is not a linear exponential progression from unconscious, habitual behaviours through to sexual and spiritual enlightenment, but a series of slopes, plateaus and valleys all trending upward. Your boundaries are being challenged; the way you perceive the world, the acceptance of physical pleasure can easily result in a complex series of emotions and feelings: fear, doubt, elation, joy, sadness, grief, happiness and all the beautiful and terrifying complexities of being human. While it is important to understand that this is a natural part of the process, it can easily be overwhelming: the temptation to quit, to stop permanently can feel irresistible. I know, I have been there myself, several times, facing these emotions and will undoubtedly be there again. In this situation then, support of others is useful: it can be your partner or it can be the tantric “family” you have shared the workshop with (it is very useful to share with this group as they will directly identify with what is happening) and they can provide verbal support or even form an active meet up group (even Skype distance groups!). As facilitators both myself and Karen do not believe our work ends with the completion of the workshop: we are there supporting with aftercare for every single one we work with. There are Facebook groups, like Dawn’s Endless love Group, and resources like our own Tantra Awakenings page: Questions and issues posed by one member are answered by others for all to read. It is one of the great things about the digital age in my opinion, this ability to connect over great distances, to share and pool information and feel supported by others.
So what would it take for you to lose your little blue bag of clothes permanently? To imagine them as your layers of armour around you which have prevented you fully expressing yourself being thrown off the end of the South Wall Lighthouse and carried out to sea? Too turn to others still clutching the bag or clothed in the armour and simply stand there?
It’s an intriguing thought..............
Mark Sutton December 2013
To top of the page
Who are you really?
“At all times, you are the face of your business”. That phrase came to mind recently for me. It was stated in a start your own business course I had undertaken at the Mountmellick Development Association. Of course it means different things to different businesses but the core message is the same: How myself and Karen are perceived reflects on our professional facilitation of Tantra, everything we say and do affects us professionally. I have talked before about attachment and labels and the problems that they can cause, certainly examples exist of people who are completely attached to a persona or an image or way of behaving that they have created and are locked into, a way of being or looking that they feel compelled to put out to the world. They are generally easy to spot: not because they crave attention or are necessarily overtly controversial or original in what they say, but because that persona may not necessarily reflect the truth. That sometimes manifests as intolerance of others or subtle/overt aggression. At other times it manifests in the reaction of others to what they say and claim: Confusion and Distrust stemming from the perception that what they say is not really what they believe and act.
As usual the answer to the potential dilemma is in the dilemma itself. Align your professional life with your values and beliefs and be honest about it. Do not, as Frank T. J. Mackey puts it: “learn how to fake like you are nice and caring” in all likelihood you will get exposed sooner or later, it is very tiring trying to keep up such a lie, VERY tiring. It also leads to ego based attachment and insecurity, as the mind cannot bear the thought or the lie being exposed.
If you are in alignment though, then it is very straightforward to simply be present: what you say and do is congruent with what you believe then that will be reflected in the business you run, the way you act, how trustworthy you are perceived and the clients you attract. But what has this to do with Tantra? Well quite a lot actually. Business , like life, is about relationships, their cultivation and development, so it is a logical step to say that business, personal and sexual are all one, bring the honesty into one aspect it shows in all others, bring in the tantric values of self-awareness, presence, acceptance and authenticity and the possibilities in all walks of life expand. Yep Tantra is a life path alright: not just about sex and intimacy. To immerse in it is to immerse in all life’s emotions and feelings, not just the ones we tend to like, but also the ones that we shy away from: fear, anxiety, doubt it is to immerse in all aspects of your life. Embrace all feelings and emotions and we find what we are attaching too that is holding us back. I find for example that when I am congruent any aspect life, I know it internally through my awareness of my feelings, my openness and my ability to accept other views or critiques, my ability to be flexible in my approach. However, when I am inconsistent then I can recognise when I have stepped into the mind and ego: the reverse behaviours come to the fore. The fortunate thing is that, these days, I can recognise what’s happening and do something about it, if not there and then as soon as possible. It’s a damn sight better than being unconscious about that habitual behaviour and Tantra opened the door to that, painfully to be sure, but it was part of the process of stepping from Kansas to Oz, from monochrome to Technicolor and in the process slaying a few internal wicked witches along the way: All part of the process of building and clarifying my own personal mission statement, as well as a statement for our professional calling. Bloody useful thing altogether these statements, good referral points for those times when I am attaching to my ego, we tend to think of them in terms of professional and business contexts, but when created for a life path, it can be very useful for establishing what your values are and what you are attaching too that is a toleration or self-limiting belief or simply a product of an extensive ego.
As I am writing this I notice that I am talking about ego and attachment and my thoughts are turning towards attachment, or rather moving towards non-attachment. There is a lot of this being bandied about in Tantric circles. Indeed non-attachment is a tenant in Tantra, but in my opinion it is being misused and misinterpreted either unconsciously or consciously. For example, I have heard practitioners talk about non-attachment in relationships to the extent that they believe that all love should be reserved internally, that any attachment the other may have is their problem that they must sort out. Well here is a Newsflash: in my opinion this usage of the term non-attachment is a form of cowardice. Hiding behind the excuse of non-attachment when having got what you wanted and manipulated the feelings of the other you decide to walk away (I also believe that someone claiming awareness who uses this as an excuse with someone who is not aware is pretty much falling into manipulator/abuser territory). It is avoiding taking responsibility for your actions, an excuse for serial monogamy, a warped form of polyamory , or a way of moving from one to the next without challenging your inability to fall deeper intimacy or facing the challenge of entering deeply into love with another. Perhaps I should be generous and say that it is perhaps motivated by fear rather than cowardice: fear of opening oneself to another, fear of being hurt, fear of being seen as we truly are, fear of surrendering the ego. Interestingly as I write the last statement, I recall the last few circumstances when non-attachment was used in this context and that was by people who WERE attached to their ego and their image: so is this a case of claiming non-attachment to hide the fact that they are attached? There is an interesting thought!
All this of course is reflective of my personal experience and so what currently is my view of non-attachment in a relationship or relationships? It stems from acceptance, self-awareness and honesty. Accepting my ability to love and to be intimate, accepting the fear of doing so and the awareness of where it arises, being honest in what I desire and not hiding behind terms as flags of convenience as an excuse for a particular behaviour. Accepting and aware that it is myself and not the other who has the responsibility for my own feelings and having the courage to acknowledge and face this and accepting that there is an opportunity to go deeper with another by not attaching to fear, or attaching to the need to be constantly validated by another or many others. Not attaching to the giving or receiving of love as a measured amount to be traded on the scales of my own judgments. Not-attaching to the need to be judgmental and taking responsibility for, but not attaching to my actions within a relationship. That last point that I take responsibility for my behaviours, I believe is important in the process of non-attachment and that takes a degree of courage and the use of the tantric “middle path” awareness to open to that. When that is done though (and it’s an ongoing process) then words like non-attachment, authenticity, openness, heart-centred, grounded and all the rest cease to be popularist sound bytes and become meaningful in a very real world context.
I started with the phrase “At all times, you are the face of your business”, it’s a good place to start, less threatening, you can look at that and see your life and values reflected in it. So I will end with a modification:
“At all times, you are the face of your relationship”
Until next time
Mark Sutton October 2013
To top of the page
No creature should be turned away
Because of my compassion, the sun wanted to be near me all night,
And the earth deeded her fields to me,
And all in heaven said,
“We have voted you our governor; tell us your divine mandate.”
And I did, and god will never revoke it:
Nothing in existence is turned away.
More tender is my Lord’s heart than any heart has ever been.
So, when the divine realm asked me to govern it with one simple rule,
I looked into His eyes and then knew what to say to any angel who might serve as a sentry to God:
No Creature should be turned away.
The Mandate, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
I first heard that poem in the middle of my Tantric Immersion, the Fragrance of the Lotus, with Dawn Cartwright. It was a lovely May in Ireland, a volcano in Iceland with an unpronounceable name had erupted, but here in the Wicklow Mountains it was sunny, hot and equally as eventful. The well to the retreat had imploded and it appeared to reflect my inner journey. My armour had cracked and I was moving inwards. This was not easy and physically and emotionally it showed: I was unravelling the past, the habits and the attitudes that had held me back, revealing the layers and layers of judgements that I had laid down: judgments of others but mainly the judgements I had of myself.
It was causing a rebellion, all these revelations, all at once. I was struggling, the easy thing would have been to quit, to walk. But where would I go? Running away was not an option, I would meet myself in some form or other. Tantra does that to me, it shines a light on places and things I had buried. It enables me to bring them to the surface and deal with them. Yes it hurt, but that is the thing, you go through it, you challenge and you dig deep. I found reserves of courage over that ten days and emerged with new awareness, new perspectives and new values. Awareness of my habits, so that if they arose I could deal with them, new perspectives in terms of how I related to others as well as myself and on what Tantra meant and was to me, and new values on how I related to others: More acceptance, less judgement: on sex, on spirituality, on relationships, and on life in general I guess. All based on my internal journey. Again isn’t that Tantra? The microcosm, in this case myself, IS the macrocosm, the Universe. That in understanding essential truths about myself I was fundamentally understanding the Universe and the way it works?
So how did “The Mandate” fit in? Well we had finished some process work and were being gentle with ourselves. Dawn began to recite from “Love Poems from God” compiled by Daniel Ladinsky. “No Creature should be turned away” that was the line I took from this beautiful poem, written by a Catholic saint and theologian. That opened me up further in many ways: one of my prime beliefs has always been that Tantra was for anyone and everyone, it’s all inclusive. Gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, race: all are accepted and embraced. Divisive dualistic approaches in terms of Masculine and Feminine, Moral and Immoral, Sacred and Profane all act as barriers to understanding our true natures and hence our connection to the universal. There is no one true path to enlightenment, no single way, no renunciation and no indulgence, no male and female ideal, no guru or master and hence no student or slave. There is simply awareness and acceptance of everything. Obtaining balance within yourself and then living from that centre line.
It’s interesting what happens when you follow that simple principle: it can have a major effect on your outlook, that simple line “No Creature should be turned away”. This acceptance of yourself and other’s openly and honestly: Fear drops away as you recognise this simple truth. But is it easy, hell no. We are fighting years of judgement, contrary values, hatred and of course fear.
It is interesting as I come back to this after a couple of days that sometimes events overtake me. Looking what I overcame in myself as the microcosm and the changes it wrought in me and then looking at what is happening in the macrocosm, the world, the way it acts. Can accepting everything within yourself have an influence on the larger scale? I was going to write about Fear, Hatred and Marginilisation and groups that promote such like Youth Defence in Ireland when my Facebook newsfeed presented me with an unfolding situation in Greece, In Thessalonika to be exact where it appears that Transgendered people are being the subject of illegal police detainment and discrimination. You can read more here http://www.transgender-association.gr/. Then you have Richard Littlejohn who used his position in the Daily Mail to write a Transphobic article about Lucy Meadows, a transgender primary school teacher. He did not instigate the hatred, but responded to the initial press reports with an article that promoted fear, loathing and scorn. Lucy committed suicide and this promoted the coroner Michael Singleton to say “To the members of the press, I say shame. Shame on all of you! Lucy Meadows was not somebody who had thrust herself into the public limelight. She was not a celebrity. She had done nothing wrong. Her only crime was to be different. Not by choice but by some trick of nature. And yet the press saw fit to treat her in the way that they did.”
A mere 70 years ago, many hatreds such as this came together in a collective madness. The marginalised, the weak, the vulnerable were the first to be victims of it. Martin Niemöller , a German pastor and theologian wrote a famous and often quoted poem “First they came for........”. It remains a powerful indictment on apathy.
But here is the thing and perhaps the uniqueness of Tantra, I can see what is behind this, the motivations, the hatreds, the fears and jealousy, because as a human I am subjected to the same. I am aware of them and releasing them, they have no hold, they are no longer a presence or a force. Tantra is not limited by Doctrine or Dogma it is a freedom of being, that is its beauty and simplicity for me this total acceptance. Because of this my microcosm of awareness is expanding into the macrocosm. I do not hate Littlejohn, Youth Defence, The Greek authorities the RCC or any other organisation for whom fear is power. I challenge them as I challenged my own inner demons: With awareness and openness of my own human nature and with a mantra taken from the poem by catholic saint written 700 years ago.
“No Creature should be turned away”
Mark Sutton August 2013
To top of the page
The Orgasmic Breath
We had just finished having sex, it was one of those Tantric lovemaking sessions where things went as they will. Karen’s g-spot had yielded a floating bliss before we moved to penetration and a deepening of the passion and heat: raw, primal, urgent and noisy. Afterwards though, we both felt an urge, a desire, to have a breath orgasm using a specific technique designed to charge the body’s energy through breathing then releasing it through: an explosive tensing and release of the muscles. The thing is there is no set thing that can happen with this technique: I exploded with energy throughout the body and for a time did not know where I was, a state of no-mind, for Karen the experience differed - she cried as emotions were released: they came for no particular reason or as a result of a particular event, or perhaps from stimulation of the g-spot releasing the hidden feelings. The fact was that the experience was different for both of us. Importantly though we are secure enough in ourselves and each other that we can surrender, not suppress whatever will happen or expect something to happen. That is perhaps the important point, that willingness to explore wildly or spirituality, to surrender to the moment and with awareness of what is happening: nothing to prove, nothing to strive for, no goal or expectation.
That’s the thing with us and tantric sex, we don’t focus on marathon sessions, or an end point on multiple orgasms and whole body orgasms. They are there, accessible if we choose to have them: we don’t have the orgasm as goal in sex, neither is semen retention a necessity. If I choose to ejaculate so be it. That’s where I am at that point in time (in fact OSHO says semen retention in somewhat unnecessary as you are generating energy through your sexuality). The energy and breath we use may not be sexual at all, but certainly utilising the sexual energy. So perhaps it would be safer to say that the orgasm is not an end point but a starting point. We are not “breath junkies” by any means, but know how breath and connection work for us, how our energy moves, how we enhance intimacy and the range of our experiences using the techniques, and also how this enables us to move into a transformative state both together as a couple and in ourselves as individuals. More importantly, we are aware of how this moves out of the bedroom and into all aspects of our lives: the presence and awareness of how our physical body responds to this movement of energy, how our emotions and feelings are affecting the way we behave, the way we view the world. This is for us, our Tantra path, a path of connection and intimacy, of expression and healing, of challenging and experiencing, of opening and saying yes. Using the techniques to fully live our lives, present in our bodies, open to every experience and recognising every experience and moment as valid and acceptable: sexual or otherwise. That is what we facilitate and share. Certainly the sexual aspects of Tantra are valid, but perhaps should be viewed as a starting point, when sex and sexuality becomes natural then the focus is not on it. A revolving door principal on sexual partners may seem at first sight to be what Tantra is about for some. But OSHO said this was simply “indulgence” and not tantric at all, it was in fact part of duality: repressing or indulging was still obsessing about sex and at two opposing poles. It was also a product of the mind, the ego. The tantric path lies in the middle accepting all as valid, being aware and integrating all aspects and by so doing transcending the mind and ego and bringing it into balance with the body and spirit.
As I am writing this, I am reminded of a question I was asked by a client: Is a breath orgasm real? They attended a Talk on Tantra in Dublin. During the talk it was stated that the breath orgasm was not a “real” orgasm. In reality, for that person it would not be: when you say “No” you are automatically denying the possibility of ever having one. I would also refer people to a You tube video of Barbara Carellas having a breathgasm while in an MRI machine (type in “Thinking Off”). The results indicated that there was no difference, between that and the means we traditionally associate with orgasm. Hell, even Cosmopolitan magazine ran an article in its May 13th 2013 issue entitled 'The breathing technique that's guaranteed to give you killer orgasms'
We facilitate using breath and awareness in our workshops, when you bring awareness and a deep centred breathing into your connection to your body you can feel energy, you can move energy and you can generate energy, prana, chi or kundalini whatever you wish to call it. With practice you can use that to have your killer orgasm without a doubt, but the potential for so much more is there. We have had Reiki clients who have said it is the most rapid way they have experienced to generate energy, we have clients who have had creative expression and bursts of ideas, we have clients who have experienced emotional release, a relief from chronic fatigue, a simple connection to another, we have had clients who have felt an dissolving of tensions and blocks to energy flow, a letting go and an easing of stress. Of course we have had clients who have felt nothing: in itself that is useful as it has increased awareness on desensitised areas, difficulties in connecting. From this aspect, Tantra is simply saying yes to connecting to all parts of your body, and the energy centres they contain. To realise that all the centres, from the base and the sex centre through to the crown are all to be accepted, none is greater or lesser than the other. The acceptance of our sexuality, or sex centre, our genitals and our pelvis opens the way for the movement of energy, it opens the way for dissolving blocks limiting our awareness, health, communication, ability to become intimate and our ability to experience everything life has to show us. There is a very famous saying about the lotus in the mud. The seed being our potential and the flowering our enlightenment and awareness. The flower needs the mud to grow, from my perspective, it is synonymous with experiencing the human condition: who we are in our entirety, from our sexuality to our values, beliefs, attitude, emotions and feelings. It starts with the primal creative energy. For me that started with the wonderful diversity of my sexuality, of allowing myself to connect to this energy and use it to explore all my feelings, emotions, attitudes and beliefs. Now to share with my lover a synergistic deeply sexual, emotionally intimate relationship, exploring our range of experiences, moving into different ways of interacting and being and accepting that this began with an exploration of the breathgasm and sex.
This then is perhaps a way to look at Tantra and the Tantric experience: Sexual energy is primal and connecting to it is the door leading to a world of potential new possibilities, very much like Dorothy moving from Kansas to Oz, from black and white to technicolour. It’s about being courageous, finding out who you are and staying true to that, opening and deepening your connection to yourself and allowing the process to occur, to see where it goes, surrender to yourself and your lover. Yes Tantric sex is fantastic, but it’s only part of the whole. Enjoy it, connect to it and experience it, accept and cultivate the pleasure and energy, but do it with awareness: it can lead to something greater. A richness in your life, and understanding and the potential for health and transformation. It’s challenging to be sure, it shines lights on aspects of your ego you have hidden, but it’s the lotus breaking through.
Mark Sutton July 2013
To top of the page
Hello Big Boy
“Mark Sutton, Take these meds, drive her good, make her happy”. That was an e-mail that landed in my Inbox having bypassed my Spam filter. I am sure that many guys have had these ads for Viagra and Cialis come through electronically, either that or ads promising to increase your girth or dick size: Both usually accompanied by a large euro or dollar sum to pay out, to give you the security you need to “satisfy” your lover. This continued bombardment on the importance of a long hard erection and a big dick really highlight where commercial interests lie: Penis pumps, herbal remedies and surgery. Women too have bought into the big dick, lasting a long time fallacy but they are subjected to the same crap: firm large breasts that don’t move quite right, collagen boosted lips and botox. Even the growing trend in cosmetic Gyneacology: Labiaplasty (trimming or removing inner labia, €5000), Vaginoplasty (tightening the vagina, €4000) and Hymenoplasty (“revirgination”, €3000). An article in the Irish Examiner newspaper (September 09, 2012) claimed that the number of procedures performed in Ireland had gone up 5000% and Less than 10% of such procedures, it appears, are due to a genuine medical need. I think Naomi Wolfe puts it succinctly: “The overwhelming majority of women who think that there is something wrong with their labia have completely normal labia and the porn trend — which features surgically altered women is part of the distortions in their perception of themselves.”
Yes, the male driven Porn industry has a part to play, sex sells after all. It gives an “ideal”, the “perfect” body, how you should “perform”, what noises you should make. But it extends out to other industries: Cosmetics, Clothing, Diet fads and plans, Sunday supplements on wrinkle creams with wonder formulas to stave off signs of ageing, you name it (look at advertising an dthe images there in all aspects of life). How you should behave, how another person acts, thinks and feels (without the actual need to engage), how to date, how to have sex (with the appropriate supplements), what you should do and what you should not do. Media, Society all bombard us with this and consciously or subconsciously we are affected to a greater or lesser extent. It is pandering to the mind, the ego, selling us the idea of perfection and doing it for the most callous of reasons: Profit.
The problem is this: When we have that image of “perfection” then that means the rest, by definition, is “imperfect”. That happiness is somehow to be achieved by making things perfect: that at best is transitory and an illusion. There may be a momentary satisfaction to be obtained, similar to buying a new car, a TV or any other commodity, but it will not last as change happens. But ask yourself this: are you a commodity? Is the way you think, your values, your beliefs, your perceptions subject to the whim of commercialism. My guess is it’s a rare person who is not affected in at least some part of their life: it’s insidious and constant after all.
From a Tantric perspective, you are creating a duality in that ideal of perfection and imperfection. But should you then be perfect in your imperfection? Look at it this way: Perfection and Imperfection are two extremes. You can seek to be totally perfect sexually and physically and you can seek to be totally imperfect in the same fashion. They are still opposites. The person seeking to be totally perfect and the person seeking to be totally imperfect are, while appearing different, inside are totally the same (obsessed with their image). OSHO in the book Tantra: the way of acceptance says “just be in the middle, watchful, alert, aware”. He gives a great example: those who lust after money and those who are so against money they will never look at it. One side greed, the other fear, but the importance of money is the same: they are both obsessed with it. They key then is understanding through awareness. The unaware person tries to create change but does not succeed, the aware person find change happening.
It’s a delicate balance though this union of opposites. I find myself drifting to one side of the line then the other. But in awareness I can observe and accept this: I am growing older, my hair has grey in it, I don’t use “just for men” because it does not matter. I am a little overweight and would like to lose a little, so I accept I want that and modify my diet: walking delicately across that line that is the tantric path by asking myself why does it not matter or why do I want to lose weight. There is a key in that: I go inside and find the answer, I do not seek it externally, I am aware of the external influences but am centred and grounded. The same sexually: I like and accept my dick, it’s average, but it’s mine. The same way I accept I like raunchy sex and slow intimate ex, not one or the other. I accept my desire for both. I acknowledge and accept my body in its perfection and its imperfection: change then happens automatically and not at the behest of a commercial enterprise or a complete rejection of the same.
That union of opposites, stemming from the same place, is reflected in how I view my partner, I seek neither perfection nor imperfection, but accept her as she is. That too stems from awareness of what is in me: What I love about her, what I find attractive. Being aware that it is not superficial or wrong to have a type I am physically attracted to as well as emotionally attracted to (and recognising that balance in my lover) and being aware too that she is not responsible for my happiness, as many people believe the other is (thank you Hallmark for that one!)
For me, that is the foundation of true happiness: Self awareness and walking the tantric path in the middle, knowing and accepting my reality as mine, in its entirety.
Mark Sutton June 2013
To top of the page
It took me a long time to realise I had a fragile ego borne of insecurity, and a means of closing myself off from my lovers or sexual partners. It was a slow realisation but one I had at some level always been aware of. It was a very cleverly masked one at that as well: under the guise of giving.
I guess the process of this conscious self-awareness happened several years ago, I would like to say that it was an overnight Tantric transformation, but as these things mostly are it was a gradual process, and at times a painful one. But let’s look back at perhaps the first time I can actively remember the thoughts (and the attendant feelings that arose).
It was in my late 20’s perhaps early 30’s. My partner had just orgasmed, I was well satisfied, job done, how could she not love me after that? Now looking back over the years, there it was, that first glimmer of awareness, of how I was closing myself off. It had always been maintained that I was good in bed, sure yes, I could bring a partner to orgasm: It mattered more to me that they orgasm rather than me. That was the ego, and if they didn’t come, then in reality inside I was gutted that they hadn’t, resentful even, feeling a failure. So in the end, the sex was all about me, not my lover or us. I simply was not present, but thinking about what I needed to do for them to reach their end-point. I was good at the mechanics but not at the true meaning of lovemaking.
It was the ego then that allowed the thought to arise, “How could she not love me after that?” I was lying in bed after and realised I was keeping my lover out. Under the guise of giving I was being if not dishonest, then defensive. I was using the act of giving pleasure as a barrier to truly opening myself, of communicating at a truly basic level. That stemmed from fear and insecurity. Fear of rejection, Fear of failure, Fear of hurt. Fear, Fear, Fear. As so often happened then, if those fears arose as a result of a need to go deeper into intimacy or open myself presented itself, I would be gone, move on, nothing here to see. I would run away, not face my fears not go deeper into exposing my feelings: Retreat into the persona of sexual dilettant. But all the while wondering why I was unfulfilled, why my relationships were transitory or would fizzle away.
The first and perhaps biggest realisation was the fact that it was not due to the “Other”, but was all stemming from within me, that the other person was reflecting back what I feared and hated in myself. I started exploring various ways of overcoming this, attempting to bring to the surface old, habitual ways of thinking and hence of feeling and doing things. “I feel” statements, journalling, tantric meditations, you name it. Some worked, some didn’t. Sometimes there was a leap forward and then a fall back. But I changed the way I did things, on meeting Karen, I opened to her, altered the patterns of behaviours I had until then pursued. I was, at the bottom line “Grounded”: Challenging myself but, importantly, not looking back with guilt, but with awareness. With the acknowledgment of this is where I am now, my insecurities and where they stem from, the abilities to recognise and communicate them and an ability to recognise and challenge the ego.
In the realms of lovemaking and desire, I learned to reframe something: something fundamental. I reframed what it meant to give. It wasn’t about what I could do, that’s not it. But about surrender: giving by doing nothing, but giving by receiving, by accepting pleasure openly, allowing the other to give to me. Not only by expressing my wants and desires, but my fears and concerns, by showing my vulnerability, by letting her in. Truly understanding the art of surrender as not being a weakness, but a strength. Yes it’s about accepting pleasure, but it’s also about accepting what Karen has to give. That in accepting all this I am creating a fertile ground for intimacy, for opening, for communication, for a deepening of what we share. Not only sexually: There is an ebb and flow to that which I accept as part of the growth (For me it is now the most natural and intimate process of sharing, not dependent on an end goal, but varying in it’s outcomes based on what we desire at that present moment), but this giving and receiving exists also in day to day living, in being present in the world and being part of a synergistic relationship. Knowing now that Love is truly present and allowing it to sink in. Also being open to someone in both their entirety in who they are and in MY entirety in who I am, at any given time. Good days or bad days, simply being with it, not searching for an ideal or perfection: Authentic.
It was, and is, challenging to constantly expose these raw nerves, sometimes exhausting and sometimes exhilarating. I have sought help to explore issues when I needed and recognise and accept the love and support I am being offered by Karen. But the crux is this: Tantra is about the union of opposites. That can be taken to mean many things: here it’s the opposites of giving and receiving in lovemaking (and in life). Reconciling, or reframing, the two within myself and recognising the importance of allowing Karen to both give and receive.
So here are some questions to those reading this to consider: Do you class yourself as a giver or receiver or a blend of both? Does your partner, current or past, class themselves as giver or receiver or a blend of both? Are both your needs being met when one or the other gives or receives all the time, particularly if it conflicts i.e. both givers, both receivers or even permanently in opposite camps? If your needs are not being met, how are you going reconcile this union of opposites?
Mark Sutton May 2013
To top of the page
Ever wonder what resonance is? Did you know that it is an integral part of theoretical physics string theory: that is the theory of everything? The whole universe: the basic particles, DNA, You, Me and the planets, stars, solar systems and galaxies. Everything vibrates and the energy with which we vibrate is influenced by its wavelength and amplitude. The shorter the wavelength and the greater the amplitude, the more energy it has: in the case of a violin, you can see that if you pluck one of the strings vigorously (with more energy), the more intense the vibration. And if you pluck it more softly (with less energy), it vibrates less vigorously.
This energy is always present, an untapped potential and a subtle communication between our bodies and the world around us. That is one reason why Acoustics and music and sound have emotional power and kinetic power. Music can stir the soul, and large numbers of people can find similar music empowering, uplifting, depressing; It alters the frequency at which people resonate (resonance frequency).
The resonance frequency of a system is the frequency it naturally oscillates at and all objects have a frequency or set of frequencies with which they naturally resonate when struck, plucked, strummed or somehow disturbed. A good example of this is when a wine glass is broken by sound at the correct frequency and volume. Further, again in physics, resonance can have the effect of amplifying relatively small forces or effects so that they become much larger. A great example of this is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940, where the wind blowing at the resonance frequency of the bridge resulted in the bridge oscillating and eventually collapsing
But what has this to do with Tantra? If we look at what has been said: Everything and everyone resonates with a particular frequency and people have particular resonances that are stronger than others. Remember the saying that people who get on well 'resonate' with each other or they are harmonious: Their energy (and frequency) matches, and when matched well the amplification is termed synergy. Tantra is the bringing about of the union and harmonising of opposing frequencies and subsequent amplification of the matched frequency. For myself and Karen, this happens via synchronising our breathing, either through the use of a meditation (Osho chakra Breathing, for example) or making love and allowing our energies to blend, flow and match. Resonance occurs when our natural frequencies absorb the energy we are bringing into our systems. We both resonate and are in harmony. There is amplification here too: the energy being drawn away and through our merged fields is amplified, bringing about altered states of consciousness and feeling.
By bringing more energy or consciousness into our systems potentially can we alter the frequency at which we vibrate and hence how particles act, interact and react to make up our physical reality? If we potentially can alter our resonance frequency then we effectively tune in to other states of being: the frequency of the world around, the universe and even extra dimensions. (If the idea of being able to change your state into extra dimensions seems a step too far, remember that (super) string theory postulates the existence of a multi-verse). Does it alter our consciousness or vice versa?
There are those who believe that if we vibrate systems at higher frequencies then we have a means of reducing blocks to health and feelings, as thoughts and emotions are frequencies themselves. Could it be superconsciouness and moving beyond the self, even the music of the spheres is a result of altered frequencies? Or, if not a change in our natural frequencies, could we observe in the depths of Tantra “bliss” different harmonics of our fundamental frequency? It’s intriguing to muse over the possibilities, but the resonance, harmony and oneness I feel with Karen is real and observable. That in the end is what for me matters.
Mark Sutton April 2013
To top of the page
A Different Perspective
Sometimes the greatest challenges and greatest rewards come from unexpected quarters. At Tantra Awakenings, both Karen and I have a policy and belief that what we facilitate should be available to everyone regardless of age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or race. That policy was put to the test recently in our meditation classes. We were contacted by an organisation, the Muiriosa foundation based at the Moore Abbey in Monasterevin in County Kildare who serve the needs of adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. Would we engage in a Meditation course with some of the adults attending? It would be easy to say no, but what then on what we believed? So we said yes. I’ll admit to being nervous, the mind and brain saying can you do this, you are used to people who know kundalini, who can meditate? You can still say no, what meditation would you do? I decided saying no was not an option, that I would trust Karen’s and my internal compass and or the meditation I chose OSHO Kundalini meditation.
On 24th January Mary, Imelda and Maura along with their assistant Denise arrived and for the next four weeks until the last session on Valentine’s Day we enjoyed each other’s company and the meditation. Our ladies took to the meditation, enjoying the movement and dance and the music into stillness that is OSHO’s Kundalini. Initially it must have been as overwhelming for Mary, Imelda and Maura as it was for me, but that quickly changed as we settled. Denise simply, effectively, with great compassion and humour looked after the needs of the women and ensured they were safe and happy. Over the course of the weeks we all changed, relaxed and grew. The normally very active Imelda would sit in stillness, hands on heart fully immersed, Maura opened and laughed and Mary, the busy bee of the group would always be counted on to cheekily stick two thumbs up at some point. But it did show the benefits of meditation.
It would be fair to say that Karen and I changed as well. I learned insights into myself and the values I hold, and to saying yes. We felt our hearts opening to our girls as we call them, simply because Imelda, Maura and Mary were all heart opened, there was no dissembling. What emotions and feelings were there were completely genuine? A hug and a kiss was always guaranteed if they were relaxed and happy, if one or other was overwhelmed or nervous it was shown. If they were excited it was present. There was no hiding, it was not childish, but child-like and that living in the now presence. That’s something you hear Tantrikas talk about, that return to a child-like state, that transparency in feelings and emotions. And here it was right in front of me. I don’t know who benefitted most from the experience, I was completely in awe of our girls, and I learned from them and also saw how they genuinely looked forward to the meditation and how it affected them. But let’s not forget all the volunteers and assistants, without whom this would not have happened: I witnessed some of the real good that humanity can show, a change from the negativity and selfishness that exists in society, that caring and support for others who may at first seem to be less well-off but who have a different perspective that’s all. All things change and the four weeks have gone. We miss the girls, that Thursday afternoon group, but they will be coming back in the future and we can’t wait.
Mark Sutton March 2013
To top of the page
Time to reconnect
The festive season has been a busy time for myself and Karen at Tantra Awakenings. We were fortunate enough to undertake the Urban Tantra Practitioner’s training with Barbara Carellas and a Deep Immersion Tantra Retreat in Ireland with Dawn Cartwright. Both different and both exceptional. The workshops and retreats were both badly needed. It is easy to get caught up in business courses, writing workshops, meditation groups and the like. Particularly when we are setting up.
It was good to reconnect, we had been stretched a little, no arguments or hiding. Its one of our strengths, that we can talk about anything with 100% honesty. So mutual antsy-ness over the way things were developing with all the courses really meant that we needed the break from the routine. That Included our lovemaking, it had been getting parcelled and boxed. The breaks away provided that. The chance to explore in the open environment generated: not only the sex, but ourselves and our relationship. Looking at sources of friction as well as the loving sections. It clears blocks, this means of communicating without either taking offence. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable hearing things: Far from being a “seasoned traveller” I have now found I am somewhat nervy if things go awry (to say the least). But in being aware, then I can do something about it.
Same goes with our lovemaking and sex. There is a massive difference in the lovemaking if I am present with Karen compared to when I am not. The richness of the pleasure is deeper, the orgasm and ecstatic potential is higher when I am present. It’s a meeting rather than mutual friction to achieve an end. It’s that presence and awareness that is the essential heart of Tantra for me: not the awareness of the pleasure in the genitals, but of the feel and movement of my lover as I am inside her ro kissing or stroking. Her moves and sounds, that blending that brings me to the knowledge that she is in an orgasmic or ecstatic state. The abillity to respond and move with her without thinking, without wondering what moves to make, what to say or ask, just simply going with what IS. It’s not that orgasm, energetic, physical, multiple or quick and deep is the end point. It’s part of the process. A process that when present and aware, becomes innate, natural and ongoing. Both in and out of the bedroom, erect of flaccid, passion or peaceful. it’s that connection. It is simply that.
Mark Sutton Feb 2013