My Tantra Mantra

At one of my sex workshops, I overheard a bright-eyed young guy, a dead ringer for Felicity star Scott Speedman, ask, "What's tantric sex?"

His friend, a strapping Canadian, replied, "Oh, that's where you have sex for a really long time and don't get off."

I saw the opportunity to educate these hetero hunks at an impressionable age to consider that sex can be something more than the ol' wham-bam. "Well, you may not get there by the traditional route, but you certainly do get off. It just might not be in the way you think," I suggested.

Lest you think that these two were all beauty but no brains, let me reassure you that these misconceptions about tantra are pretty common. Before I knew anything about tantric sex, I had some bizarre ideas in my head of what it was all about. Tantric sex is what I always imagined Dharma taught Greg, ancient secrets no corporate lawyer could ever resist. The first image that sprang to mind was of two people in an uncomfortable yoga position, breathing deeply and meditating on sex, but not actually having it. That didn't exactly sell it to me. Or I pictured having to channel some Eastern god while I had my fist in my girlfriend's pussy, a tall order for a girl who's easily distracted. Then there was this vague notion of partners creating and exchanging sexual energy with each other. That just befuddles this particularly grounded Taurus—I still don't even have the chakra thing down pat.

In tantra, sex (like all other aspects of life) is sacred, and sexual energy is considered to be our life source. People fuck to connect with each other and a higher power; they channel sexual energy to reach greater consciousness and enlightenment. Unlike Western sex, tantric sex is not just about pleasure and orgasm; in fact, tantric lovers prolong the experience, often having multiple orgasms, in order to focus the ecstatic energy. Guys especially, if you want to learn how to be multiorgasmic, tantra is one way to get there. When some people think of tantra, they associate it with The Kama Sutra, the classic eighth-century Indian text that teaches sex as an avenue to spiritual bliss. The connection between tantra and The Kama Sutra is that both come from ancient Indian teachings. Let me tell you that The Kama Sutra, which has been published in various translations, is not a breezy beach read. (Thank the gods for The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Kama Sutra, but where is Tantra for Dummies?)

Even with an ancient, impenetrable erotic manual and a bit of confusing spiritual mumbo jumbo, something continued to intrigue me about tantra, and I wanted to know more. Then, there was Madonna on the cover of Rolling Stone with a bejeweled bindi on her forehead and henna-stained hands alluding to her discovery of Eastern spirituality—had she ditched her material ways to dabble in Hindu nooky? If Madonna could go tantra, maybe I could too.

There was still one sticking point: Tantric sex reminded me of people in Northern California who smoke too much pot, burn too much incense, and have way too much time on their hands. How are all the latte-addicted, Palm Pilot-carrying, hyperactive New Yorkers ever gonna reach a higher level? The answer came to me last Sunday in the form of spiritual leader, sex educator, and one right-on hip chick Barbara Carrellas ( Carrellas concluded her series of tantric sex workshops at Toys in Babeland by teaching a practice of her own invention—urban tantra. She calls it "a conscious sacred sexuality for a kick-ass environment," and urban tantra is where Eastern sensuality meets Western s/m on a street corner in a rough part of the city. Carrellas's form of tantra helps us shed the armor we wear to survive our fast-paced, high-stress lives and reconnect with our erotic selves.

Her incorporation of s/m elements into conventional tantra makes sense to me, since I have seen people practice s/m who are clearly on some sort of journey. When my girlfriend Red gets flogged, she looks like she's flying, and the scene definitely transcends the traditional concept of two bodies doing things to each other. It's this look she gets in her eyes, the way her breathing changes, the way her body reacts to the intensity of the feelings.

Carrellas, our blond tantranatrix, took us through several exercises—one where I got to blindfold my partner and feed her strawberries and chocolate. ("Don't just taste what you are being fed, actually become it. Notice something that you hadn't noted before about what is in your mouth: its sweetness, sourness, temperature, or texture.") Another exercise directed us to pick a nearby toy to help waken our bodies. I selected a vibrator shaped like a gun that had an exceptionally strong buzz, and Red chose a rubberized billy club. The idea was to stimulate our bodies and give feedback to each other about what we liked. Our final exercise had us breathing in tandem, rocking back and forth, and then simultaneously holding our breath and tensing all our muscles. When we let go, we were light-headed, much like that postorgasmic blissed-out feeling.

Since the workshop, I have read Sexual Energy Ecstasy and Tantra: The Art of Conscious Loving, watched Tantric Journey to Female Orgasm (, and surfed over to Each writer and practitioner has a different take on tantra, but there are shared themes. The concept that sex is a significant, powerful force is what appeals to me most. Western culture denigrates sexuality and relegates it to the margins of our lives. Family, relationships, career, and spirituality are prioritized, and sex is seen as an added bonus to the important things in life. When the power of sex is acknowledged, it's used by the advertising industry or Hollywood, but only as a means to sell more stuff. The idea that sex could be channeled to transform your life is what tantra is all about. But the funny thing about tantra is that there is no one-two-three how-to guide. It's not as much about learning techniques or skills as it is about reorienting your beliefs and ideas about sex.

Yes, I am just beginning to figure it all out, but watch out—I'm definitely getting tantric on your ass.

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