Tantra is a big topic. There are many different opinions, and I don’t pretend to be an expert on them, but it plays a big part in my life so I will do my best to explain the basic premise: Tantric teachings say that we have a life force flowing through our bodies, and with training we can learn to harness it for healing, growth and connection. It has it’s roots in many different Eastern traditions- Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu. Some think that life force connects us to gods, others think the energy itself is like a god. Either way, this energy is seen as divine. Rather than needing a priest or assigned holy person to be an intermediary for this divine interaction, Tantra describes the process of direct access. There are a ton of teachers who will show you different techniques to work with and tell you different things. No way is right or wrong, they are all just different roads to the same destination- a state of communion.
To put a common misconception to rest- Tantra is not just about sex. It’s a tradition which encompasses all aspects of being human. In our sex negative culture people tend to get all fixated whenever sex is involved.
My personal take on Tantra is simple. Be present and open. Observe the subtleties of shifting energy in your environment and yourself. Experiment.
I’ve always been a great believer in the school of experience. Books and classes are helpful to let you know what you’re looking for, and to access a language to talk about the things you experience, but ultimately you will learn more about Tantra by sitting quietly and observing than you ever will by reading a book. Try sending someone a blast of genuine loving compassion when they are upset and see what a difference it makes. Not with words, just feel it- they will too. The subtle energies we experience in the world are just as real as gravity or electromagnatism, but they require another level of awareness to observe.
Kinky Salon has been an ongoing Tantric experiment for me. It’s a really interesting experience to be a steward for all that energy. The day before a party it floods into the space, and ramps up until people start arriving. It can feel a bit like PMS. It can put things out of proportion and makes you want to snap at people. The best way I deal with it is to take extra care of myself and not leave too much to do on the day of the party. I like to set up on Friday, so that on Saturday I can rest, have a hot bath, and watch a movie. If I find myself in a situation where I have to work on the day of a party, I keep it together by remembering to breathe, observing the phenomenon and recognizing it for what it is. I talk about it to people around me. They will be feeling it too. I don’t worry if they think I’m a hippy and laugh at me. Laughter actually helps to rebalance the energy, like holding your nose and blowing when you’re going up in an aeroplane.
Once the party starts the energy shifts. From my perspective, with this extra awareness activated I can have Terminator vision, augmenting what I see with details about the scene I’m looking at. With practice I can scan a room and read situations which might need tending to. All my senses are alive to the needs of the party. I can even tune into things before they happen. I can’t tell you how many times Scott and I have shown up in the same spot at the same time not knowing why, but just in the right place at the right time to catch a problem before it gets serious. As the stewards of the party it’s our responsibility to stay vigilant and aware, but it’s inevitable that we are occasionally be knocked off our surfboards. I might feel overwhelmed or have a personal interaction that leaves me wobbly. I always make sure I have a place to get out of the fray and rebalance, sit quietly and tune in, or invite a friend to help me shake it off.
Kinky Salon is not a Tantra party. Most of the people there are not consciously aware of what’s happening on this level. We don’t have an opening ritual to put people on the same page, or get them to eye gaze or hold hands, or any of those activities that help people tune in. We create this event with a specific purpose- to invite sex out of the shadows. The people we reach are hipsters and cynics. The kind of folks that wouldn’t want to take a workshop. It’s a Trojan Horse. It catches you off guard. You think you’re coming to get laid at a costume party, and then you’re blown open by the sense of freedom and possibility.
As stewards, our awareness means that this freeform experience can be nudged when it’s going off course. Perhaps I walk past the lobby and sense that the people coming in are nervous. So I step forward and make sure the greeters are being welcoming and friendly. I take a moment to greet some guests, showing by example. Or maybe I feel tension- an argument starting to brew. I can’t be afraid to step in and diffuse the situation.
Kinky Salon is like a swimming pool. The majority of people are under water, swimming around having fun. There are a few people who have their feet on solid ground and their heads above water, able to see the whole pool. Once you pop your head out of the water and smile at the faces you see there, it’s difficult to go back to blindly paddling around. Breaking the surface to be a steward can be far more satisfying.