Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Remember to breathe

A friend of mine, male, broached the subject of practicing Tantra with me and recommended The Heart of Tantric Sex, by Diana Richardson, as a practical, no-nonsense approach.

I think few people would dismiss the concept of tantra, whether in sex or more generally in life — it calls for more awareness, a reorientation of focus on the journey as opposed to the destination.

[Indeed, the idea of tantra has interested me ever since I encountered something like it at too young an age in Trevanian's Shibumi, in which a couple make a game of attaining orgasm without touching.]

As with all things, so much of what you get out of something depends on the attitude you have going into it. I am a sceptic of what I call "yoga-speak," and I found many passages laughable:
Remember to breathe! Breathe deeply and slowly. When you really get the knack of enjoying breathing, it becomes absolutely divine.
Breath is life-enhancing. Deep breathing massages the sex centre. It activates your sex energy. "However you decide to play with the breath, make it creative and interesting for yourself." When you make love, breath may actually stop momentarily, but don't worry — "the breathing will start up again of its own accord."

A more troubling aspect of yoga-speak is how it confounds the biological heart with its metaphorical sense. Similarly, words like "center" and "polarity" are used but they have no precise definition, let alone a scientific basis. The book is not scientific at all, but sometimes it pretends to be.

This is potentially dangerous.

While I believe in the conservation of energy, and I believe mind has some effect over matter, one should not exclude scientific fact.

For example,
Most women are not aware of this, but after years of heavy sex and forced orgasm, the ovaries and lower belly area become very congested and tense. This begins to disturb the health of a woman and she may find herself having repeated vaginal infections, irritations, or discharges, and it may even affect her urinary system. The breasts, which are not understood in terms of polarity, also begin to get diseases. Her hormones and menstrual cycle are affected too, thus her whole personality is influenced. The effects of these emotions are devastating and can leave a woman and her partners exhausted and confused for days.
While menstruating, it is recommended that the woman assume a position on top of the man to support the menstrual flow by not reversing it, which can have congesting effects. […] A conventional orgasm is known to dispel the tensions of menstrual pain, but this is only a short-term measure as the pain is often a reflection of gathered sexual tensions.
No one should ever dismiss pain as a blockage of energy. Pain, infections, et cetera can be signs of serious underlying medical conditions. While you should feel free to explore sex and its contribution to your overall well-being, sex won't cure everything — for this there are medications and other treatments.

Similarly, emotional behaviours may be a sign of mental illness that merits treatment beyond adjusting one's approach to sex.
Tantra teaches us that the emotional qualities that a man finds most disturbing in a woman are something that he himself actually creates through his insistence on excitement and orgasm. A woman is kept at the lowest level of her sexual expression and obstructed from fulfilling her true female potential. For centuries she had been used as a sexual object, the source of men's gratification. This saddens and enrages her. Over time her untapped divine energies become increasingly dormant and stagnant, while a deep dissatisfaction, disappointment, and lack of love pervades every cell in her body, making her emotionally unstable. Conventional sex, hot, frenzied, and focused on self-gratification, whips up these emotions within, and this triggers sexual excitement, interfering with her ability to be receptive.
I found myself feeling sorry for the author. She seems to harbour a lot of emotional pain and resentment regarding her early, formative sexual experiences. The advice and techniques presented in this book are very common-sensical. Maybe I have a naturally tantric disposition, but I think most women on their journey toward sexual fulfilment organically come to the conclusions this book offers. (Gosh, I hope most women are sexually fulfilled!)

The sex that is promoted is very much geared toward female pleasure. Richardson reminds us that the harder you try to achieve something (orgasm), often the more elusive it becomes. Relaxation is key.

There is a great deal of pleasure to be had in relaxing into sex energy, to luxuriate in being as opposed to doing. However, I don't buy the implied case this book is making that sexual tension is bad, sexual excitement is bad, and the pursuit of the orgasm is some patriarchal conspiracy perpetuated by the porn industry. I don't understand what's wrong with conventional sex.

To bring another layer of skepticism to my reading, Richardson is a disciple of Osho (her bibliography consists of mostly his books), who is steeped in controversy regarding everything from tax evasion to bioterrorism.

Some people may benefit from this book, and it's worth reminding ourselves to relax, enjoy the journey, etc., but I found it simple and misguided, if well intentioned.

Awareness enhances everything in life. I have found this to be especially true of sex — awareness of not only what you like but why like it.
Go to a park and look at a tree. Don't just glance at it, really look. Appreciate the leaves, the green, the aliveness. Now close your eyes and relax for a while. When you open them again, imagine that you are no longer looking at the tree but the tree is looking at you, and invite it into you, through your eyes. See how deeply you can allow the green livingness to enter you. Absorb it into the cells of your body. Then try it with the open blue sky, a puffy cloud, a glorious sunset. Allow yourself to be seen and penetrated by nature. Notice how this practice intensifies your awareness, dissolves your boundaries, increases your sense of connectedness to the rest of the world.
Perhaps I am lucky to already feel a great sense of connectedness with the world.

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