Asanga’s experience during a Tantra workshop.
In 2011 I wrote an article describing my experiences of the Path of Love retreat with Turiya and Rafia. In that life changing process I expressed my desire to find a passionate woman to share my life with. I went on to join the team as a voluntary staff member and on one of those occasions, nearly 3 years ago, I met a woman. She was in her late 50s and I was in my late 60s. After our first meeting three months later, I asked her to be my tantric sex goddess. She said she needed a little time to think about it, but it transpired that it was “an offer she could not refuse!”
The tantric sex bit did not go to plan. I chose to forget that Tantra is beyond plans! I avidly read books on the subject and attempted to get her interested in what I was reading with the express purpose of practising together certain rituals and exercises. I even harboured a secret fantasy of dissolving in cosmic orgasm! She had no intention of playing ball, saying it wasn’t like that for her – she wanted things to be spontaneous and organic. On our first long time spent together during a month in Rajasthan this came to a head when I announced that we were sexually incompatible! She was refusing me my expected fulfilment! Her response was, “Bullshit!” I had a lot to learn about honest communication with such a woman, especially how to be vulnerable around my needs instead of expecting to be able to force them upon her.
Since then we have been on an ever evolving adventure of ‘conscious relating’. Living apart, we are separated by a five-hour car drive and look forward with great anticipation to the times we spend together. Luckily we share many interests but also have very different lives: from rural isolation between the mountains and sea of Snowdonia, North Wales and a vibrant cosmopolitan life in London. This actually makes for a happy blend of opposites.
There is a saying, “Brave is the man who loves a wild woman, and very brave is the woman who loves a wild man!” Such love is not safe, yet challenging and exciting. We can trigger each other’s emotional wounds and fight to defend our egos, yet we have been sustained by sexual attraction and a developing trust and love. Dramas are fine but at our time of life we both also long for softness and peace.
The Making Love Retreat for couples, in which we participated a few months ago, has shown us a way. Other people in the retreat were of similar age which was very encouraging. They say that the tantric approach to lovemaking frees us of the tensions and expectations of having to perform, so it is ideal for older people like me. Sex does not need to be seen as the domain of the young; there is no upper age limit for a healthy intimate love life. Rose and I decided that we wanted to bring an extra dimension into our lovemaking and were looking forward to deepening our love even more. We were not disappointed.
The workshop, run by Tim Broughton and Jayne Blackman, a couple from the UK, was held at the Mill Retreat Centre in Normandy, with extensive grounds including a large lake fringed by woods, and a rowing boat for guests to use. The building used to be a cheese factory powered by a water mill. The millrace continues to flow under one end of the building but the machinery has long since gone and the original building has been converted into a charming ‘olde worlde’ country house with interesting features. Having many skylights, the roof space has been turned into a large, light and airy room for activities.
Our own room was perfect with a huge bed, open fireplace stacked with logs, and a balcony. Across the corridor, we each had our individual bathroom with a spacious shower that delivered vertical and horizontal streams of water. Perfect luxury for the job in hand.
There was a lot of dancing (5 rhythms) which was challenging for me as I live with chronic pain and limited physical ability following a serious pelvic injury, sustained over 20 years ago when rock climbing. I still have a tendency to be achievement oriented and do not find it easy to stay within those limitations, which means more pain and frustration as well as being self-judging. It was inevitable that I had to share this and thus show my vulnerability – not so easy for me.
A particular example of this was: we decided to spend one of the designated three hour lovemaking afternoon sessions outside at a secluded spot on the edge of the lake. We were standing facing each other about to undress each other – one of our familiar slow and meditative rituals. The physical pain I was experiencing was affecting my being present and instead of making myself vulnerable and sharing that, I made a comparison: she was wearing more than I was, implying it would take me more effort! Ridiculous, and understandably received in a negative way as she felt criticised but reacted angrily, at which point I shut down and we stayed cut off from each other for the rest of the afternoon. So much for lovemaking! And although we had been instructed in ways to diffuse such scenarios, by then it was irredeemable. We absolutely had to have a session with Tim and Jayne that evening to help us to access the hurt behind our anger and break through the deadlock.
In this private session, as in the group, we were encouraged to use various tools designed to ground us in our bodies and help us to be present – obviously breathing, but not to forget a sense of humour! One exercise I particularly liked was ‘soft gazing’ – allowing to receive what we see rather than projecting vision outward. Although this was not new to me in general, I realised that most of my life when making love to a woman I did not usually look at her – in any way! It was enjoyable to lie together with Rose and look at her face – and see how soft and full of love she was.
As the week progressed we both experienced a very juicy feeling of tenderness toward each other in so many different ways. Intimacy and making love encompassed everything we did during the day – going for a walk, having a cup of tea, as well as sex.
The focus was on “slow, cool sex,” as described in the books by Diana and Michael Richardson (aka Puja and Raja), who Tim and Jayne trained with at their place in Switzerland. This is in complete contrast to ‘normal hot, fast sex’: relying on stimulation, friction, fantasy and tension with the goal of orgasm/ejaculation. Cool sex is not focused on a goal and does not necessarily require the man to have a fully erect penis, as it is possible to do ‘soft entry’.
When I first lost my erection I was alarmed but when I shared this in the group I found I was not the only one, and that it did not really matter. This has been another breakthrough for me; I realised that my whole life up to now had been focused on performance with all the effort that it requires. It was really a relief to see this; and ‘soft entry’, where the man has a semi-erect penis, can get around issues of erectile dysfunction.
If anyone is thinking, “This sounds too good to be true,” I have to admit that making love in this way does not come naturally to me after years, if not lifetimes, doing it the ‘normal’ way. However, I am motivated to keep practising. Even putting aside a time to make love is strange as we are conditioned that it has to be unplanned and spontaneous, although it never really is! So in future my beloved and I will be arranging dates – not only to go out to see a movie or such-like, but to make love and specify a time to ‘stretch it out’. This is because as one gets ‘better’ at it, lovemaking can go on for hours!
Here I want to clear up what I think is a misconception about tantric sex. I think some people use techniques to delay male ejaculation in order to make the sexual act last longer, although ejaculation itself is still relatively short-lived. This takes a lot of effort and, in my understanding, has nothing to do with Tantra.
A valuable lesson for me was to switch from doing to being and to see the distinction between feelings and emotions, a specific teaching point. As relationships act as mirrors of our shadow sides, inevitably, in this way of conscious relating, we have to deal with our projections onto our partners. I understood that feelings are in the present and can be shared lovingly but that emotions relate to past, charged and unresolved traumas.
Since the retreat I feel much more grounded in myself and with more energy, an energy that comes from a sense of inner stillness. There is a sense of a continuous level of inner strength which I did not experience before.
We both feel closer and more compassionate to each other in a number of quite subtle ways. I am aware of a shift towards more tenderness, understanding and emotional sharing – particularly of vulnerability. After listening to another man in the workshop talk about unexpressed grief over his father’s death, a sadness and grief related to my injury came up that I did not know I was still carrying. Both of us have had problems expressing our vulnerability – either too little or too much!
Coming from my background as a medical doctor, I can see that this work can have a far reaching effect on healing humanity both of psychological and physical problems, as well as psycho-sexual ones.
Asanga grew up in England and came to Pune in 1975 where he took sannyas. In Osho’s communes he was mostly practising his profession as a medical doctor as well as working as a mechanic. He now lives in North Wales, UK on a smallholding, and enjoys rock climbing and wild ocean swimming, painting, photography and growing vegetables and flowers, especially roses.