This post is a response to the article “My Tantric ‘Awakening’ Turned me Off Sex” by Janet Hardy. link here
Although this is a response to an article written over two years ago, I feel that it highlights some of the timeless misconceptions and pitfalls around what we term “sacred sex,” “sex magic,” or “sexual energy work.”
First, I want to thank Janet Hardy for writing this article and her book “The Ethical Slut.” It was very influential in expanding my perspective on relationships and sexuality.
I’d like to start with several quotes from Janet’s article to frame my response:
“In the spirit of research, we added tantra and other quasi-religious practices into the mix and took classes in those, too.”
“Of the little that has been written about kundalini-awakening-or-whatever, the vast majority has been written by people I frankly think are kind of weird.”
“Maybe it’s also because she does not share my aversion to the language of, well, woo-woo.”
“ . . . they frame their knowledge in a faux-Eastern haze of abstraction and mysticism that makes absolutely no sense to me and does not fit in with the way my world works.”
It’s with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and 20 years of stumbling my way through various systems of sexual energy work that these quotes make me think, “uh, oh.” While I admire Janet’s pioneering spirit, it seems that she began her Tantric exploration with very conflicted feelings.
I, too, have a major problem trusting the language around spiritual practices and the mind-sets of a lot of people leading the charge. Just as, in my own work, I advise people to steer clear of health care practitioners whose models of health and language do not make sense to them, it is even more so the case with the models found in transformational work such as Tantric, Taoist, or Kundalini Yoga. Otherwise, there is little common ground for communication and frustration may arise when assistance is needed.
It’s easy to forget that practices that are intended to bring about personal transformation can result in, well, transformation, and that these effects cannot be predicted, as they are the result of opening up to forces over which we have no control. That’s supposed to be part of the fun, by the way.
It is one thing to study an esoteric discipline from the perspective of an uninvolved researcher, and quite another to engage in the practice and lay oneself bare emotionally, physically, and psychologically. I can only imagine that the contrast of being vulnerable in this way and trying to maintain the critical viewpoint of a sex researcher created a tension in which something had to give. And, if the vulnerability is deep enough, it is the mind’s conditioning around sexuality that crumbles.
Vulnerability has the potential to undermine the mind’s agenda and take us to a place that we could never have foreseen that is entirely based on feeling. If you don’t follow sensations and feelings to take you more deeply into the unknown, then all you’re left with is what you think you know about life, yourself, and sex.
Like a lot of people, I was drawn to sexual energy practices in search of more intense orgasms and a deeper level of intimacy. Without a doubt, the techniques found in these disciplines can have numerous profound, practical benefits such as increased sex drive, ejaculation control, deeper intimacy, and an expanded range for sensual pleasure, just to name a few.
Over time, though, it became obvious that I was courting a presence in my life that was digging its own channels and rewiring my fuse-box. Although it’s a phenomenon virtually unknown to the Western mind, the raw energy underlying sexual desire, romantic relationships, procreation, fantasy, and fetishes can be liberated from these customary contexts and experienced as an independent force.
In other words, the impulse underlying sexuality can be teased from the clutches of the conscious mind and allowed a broader expression in aspects of one’s life seemingly unrelated to sex. This untethered impulse has its own intelligence and does not give a hoot about whether we want to live a quiet life in the country or a rowdy city life as a dominatrix. This experience of sexuality as a non-contextual form of energy can provide a perspective on how sexuality has been mercilessly crammed into societal agendas, stunted by cultural and religious shame, and hemmed into a corner where it is beaten back into submission if it acts out too much.
Transformational work involves the real possibility of sacrificing everything we own, have worked for, and think we know about anything. When this really sinks in, then it’s like “Um, can I change my order, please?,” but by then it’s too late to stuff the genie back in the bottle. If you don’t want to risk the chance for something different and unexpected to barge in on your life, then it’s best not to take that first step toward dismantling yourself.
Whether Janet was conscious of it or not at the time, something beyond her researcher’s mind was asking for acknowledgement. If you keep knockin’ on that door, someone you’ve never met before may eventually answer it. And, if you don’t learn how to dance with that stranger, they can make your life hell.
This isn’t a topic that is discussed very often in sexual energy work, because it kind of takes the shine off the peak experience aspect and it’s difficult to describe why it’s desirable. However, if one is sincere about transforming one’s life through sexual expression, it can manifest an agent of sabotage not chosen by the rational mind to break us out of rigid ways of thinking, believing, and behaving. It can catalyze the surfacing of repressed character traits, strip away illusion, and retrieve a depth of feeling that is long lost to most adults. It can become the teacher that so many of us look for Out There.
We often forget that a sacrifice is required in order to acquire certain knowledge or experience. When it comes to sexual energy work, the heart will demand its sacrifice and unfortunately, when the sacrifice occurs on its own without our conscious participation, then it’s often viewed as a punishment or a source of regret that requires healing or repairing. In Janet’s case, she didn’t like the form of the knowledge or the sacrifice: the earth-shattering orgasm or the disappearance of her sexual desire.
If the sacrifice is a loss of desire for sex, then other areas need to be examined to see where your sexual energy has been funneled, and know that it will return one day, albeit fundamentally altered. What else is being intensely inspired within you? Where is there renewed momentum and passion? Is there a pursuit or activity for which you’ve previously had intractable resistance that now presents little or no inhibition? Although the scientist who proposed the law of conservation of energy probably wasn’t thinking about bangin’ the missus at the time, it nevertheless applies perfectly to sexual energy: It isn’t lost, it is simply transformed.
I also have gone through periods of disinterest in “normal” sexual activity as the result of cultivating and channeling sexual energy. As always, the first thoughts are of a worst-case scenario (“Omigod, it’s gone and it’s never coming back!”), because the mind hates anything that deviates from the standard script. During those periods, though, I’ve written two books and made numerous recordings of my own music, two things I’d never been able to accomplish before.
I had the benefit of years of watching sexual energy work create other dramatic changes in my life, so I eventually knew that a loss of desire was just another turn in the road. It was reassuring to me that I did not feel depleted on any levels and that this was solely a change in the outward expression of an impulse. It was critical for me to realize that this was something I’d asked for, whether I liked the presentation or not. And, it really helps to have an understanding partner, of course.
If this phenomenon is misinterpreted as sexual dysfunction and attempts are made to resolve it through medication or hormone supplementation, this will short-circuit the change that is trying to occur in that person’s chemistry and may create health problems where none previously existed.
When one’s attention is exclusively devoted to getting help for something that isn’t a problem in the first place, then it exhausts all the vitality that has been liberated and could have energized another area of one’s life. Identifying it as a problem only serves to separate oneself from the experience and massage the egos of the so-called experts who want to “help.” There is no intervention required here, because the intervention has already occurred in the form of the unknown. Janet literally changed her internal circuitry and that is where the power of vulnerability lies. What is it that Janet needs to recover from–an encounter with herself?
Honestly, most of us are not prepared to let go of the notion that we have control over our sexual impulses and expression until it becomes painfully evident that we are not in control. As long as the sexual impulse remains embedded in the habitual context of sexual activity then the mind can sustain the illusion of being in the driver’s seat. Our vain attempts over millennia to twist the irrepressible drive behind sexuality into something acceptable, predictable, and manageable is truly astounding, and a testament to its incredible potency.
This is one reason that, for centuries, only emperors and high priests were privy to sexual energy practices. We wouldn’t want Joe or Jane Six-Pack discovering a source of vitality that made him or her equal to the boss man, would we?
Yes, I can sit here alone at the computer and create what I call an “energy orgasm” out of nowhere: no sexual fantasies, pornography, or tactile stimulation. Nothing but a simple mental focus on my body that creates a powerful movement of energy. I could make it last for quite a while and even cause some involuntary shaking and flailing about. Most people would not remotely consider this a sexual experience, but that’s precisely the impulse that is being channeled.
And your response may be, “So what’s your point?” And you’d be right. There is no point. This is just how I prefer to live my life. I feel that unless I actively beckon forces into my life that may humble me when I least expect it, I will never know what it’s like to get off the hamster wheel.
Systems, models, and techniques are not ends in themselves, especially when it comes to transformational pursuits. They provide a context within which the mind just might trick itself into recognizing that it really knows nothing. The mind thinks it knows what S&M or Kundalini is and then it becomes an expert on the subject, and vulnerability goes out the window in order to preserve one’s status as an expert.
Aspiring to be a Tantric master, for example, is a delusional goal that misses the point. No one can master sexual energy. A person might, however, be able to get his mind out of the way sufficiently to experience sexual energy in its naked ferocity, and in the process recognize that she is being used by something and not the other way around.
James Rolwing, DC, is the author of the e-books “Multiple Orgasms for Men Made Simple” and “Activate Your Inner Physician.” Available at http://www.amazon.com.