March 6, 2014
ZENTROPA ENTERTAINMENTS / THE KOBAL COLLECTION
I arrive early to the "Embody Tantra/Tantric Taster," a workshop held every few months in Santa Monica at the Sacred Energy Arts studio in a room filled with the distinct scent of sage and incense. The lights are low and the pillows are neatly arranged in arching rows as if for meditation. A man, all smiles and warmth, welcomes me as he ushers a growing crowd of 40 to 50 people into a small room. Everything that might seem otherwise innocuous suddenly feels sexual: the straps, the blankets, the smoky room. I imagine we will sit cross-legged, topless, and intertwine our legs. I assume that Tantra—what Charu Morgan, the woman who leads the workshop, describes as “a vast, vast path of meditation that originated in India"—will be something wild, sexual in that Playboy mansion, Kardashian, TV objectification way. Maybe we'll do it like animals and call it a Tantric evening.
But it isn’t like that. Instead of sex-hungry beasts, the crowd is poised, eager, and effervescent. We make up a brave, bold selection of Los Angeles’ finest: those willing to walk into a room with a large group of total strangers and admit we want to experience better, deeper, more connected sex. We are short, tall, fat, thin, muscles, and no muscles. The youngest amongst us is probably in her late twenties, the oldest pushing 70. Some come in pairs, others arrive solo. Per instructions to show up in loose, comfortable clothes, we are dressed in jeans, leggings, yoga pants, and sloppy T-shirts. Why are we all here on a Saturday night, I wonder? For fun? For desperate measures? To deepen a spiritual path? Or, perhaps, for what the workshop promises: the key to a full body orgasm.
Charu, a nice Jewish girl from Connecticut turned Tantric master, descends upon the room like a fairy in bell-bottomed lace pants. She has long curly hair, arms like Tina Turner, and a smiley glow that puts everyone at ease. “Your sex life,” she tells us, “will change through this work.” She begins the session cross-legged on a red fur chair with that guru-mother goddess vibe. She tells us about the ancient roots of Tantric practice and about the need for sexual liberation. “A lot of what has been taught in the West is that this human body is problematic,” she explains. As she talks I feel as if I should hug myself or make love to the sounds of Enya. “Tantra is different because rather than seeing the body as bad or wrong or a hindrance to the experience of the divine, we see the body as a gateway to experiencing the present moment more deeply. It’s all about sex and it’s nothing about sex at the same time.”
It was simple enough. According to Charu, meditation leads to great sex because it sensitizes people. Meditation brings people in touch with their deeper selves. “Once I have resensitized my body, it doesn’t matter if I have any sexy techniques,” she tells us. "It doesn't matter if I know how to give the person the perfect blow job or if I know some kind of tantric breathing thing that supposedly makes her come for hours.” If great sex is your goal, the Tantric key lies in sensitivity training. Charu calls it a “practice." She explains that on the road to tantric lovemaking there is “a learning curve.” That is why we are all here.
We meditate first in total silence. She asks us to pay attention to what she terms “the caress of the breath as it enters the body.” We focus on breathing, on feeling the changes in temperature and moisture of the air entering and exiting our mouths and nostrils. “Lick your bottom lip if you have trouble noticing,” Charu suggests. “It makes it so you can feel the cool air in, and the warm air moving out." We allow our tongues to relax and imagine our eyes moving through our bodies. I begin to feel it, that Tantric wave. I feel the urge to make love to everyone in the room, to come alive, to touch bodies in order to liberate one another. “If you are lucky enough to be sitting next to someone and to catch his or her eye,” she says, “just notice the sensation.” Suddenly “sex," the TV version, seems vile. This is something else altogether.
It isn’t seedy. It isn’t creepy. I don’t feel afraid of having to do anything against my will, of the older men in the room trying to cop a feel. No one is an object. “If you can orient like a five-year-old then it will be so much more fun,” Charu cheers. “Just let yourself go wild.” We do more exercises meant to open us and sensitize us. After a movement meditation where we dance and wiggle in place and a sound release meditation where we bellow collectively, I am lucky to find a very good partner for paired meditation. I wonder, in retrospect, if everyone would have been a good partner. But I like him immediately. I like the depth of his breathing and the way he engages with my energy as I walk in front of him.
Charu tells the couples who came together to find each other. The rest of us, in search of a mate, are to wander and find one. I quickly pivot and face him. I open my eyes, nod in approval, and close them again. You, Mr. Tantra, I decide, will be mine for this exercise. Charu has us greet each other without touching. We bow slightly and look each other in the eye long and slow. And then, with permission granted by a nod, we touch foreheads before beginning the exercise. Told to stay an inch away from the body itself, we run our hands over each other without actually touching. “What do you feel as you hover your hands over this person?” Charu asks. It is intimate and loving and melts away boundaries that normally prevent getting this close with a complete stranger. Everything is PG, simple, but also provocative. I am fully clothed but feel totally naked—and beautiful.
Eventually we are allowed to touch. Charu continues to guide us: “Is there anywhere that is asking for a little extra tender loving care? Let your hands fall right onto that spot and let your hands become very heavy.” I can feel that my partner’s hands want to be held, but I am too nervous to hold them. I place my palms on his chest, one by one. “Inhale through the soles of the feet,” Charu tells us, “all the way up to the heart."
When we switch positions, he places his hands on my lower abdomen. It makes me cry. I want to hide, to leave, to curl up completely but am instructed to thank him. Tears and all, I am told to offer wordless gratitude with my eyes and am met with his staring back at me. I realize I have let a total stranger see my heart.
At the end of the workshop, we pair up with another couple to debrief. Charu warns us that this open feeling may wax and wane. “And if you loved it, got a taste of something wild and fun that felt good in your body,” she coos, “drink that in.” Charu plugs her future workshops; tells us about how if we keep “practicing” and also visit her next event we will learn, really learn, to experience a full body orgasm. “On our radio dial we get two channels right now,” she explains, “Tantra opens up access to more channels with really, really great reception. There is so much power here.”
On the way to the parking lot I realize that if I keep attending the workshop, my barriers could melt away; I might learn to honor my deepest desires, to seek and receive a crazy amount of pleasure. I crave more. I want to go back for more. Clearly, something inside of me is waiting to come out, to make love to people as if the world depended on it. I want to slut it out in the most elegant way possible.