Monday, September 23, 2013

Learning Tantra: First Steps

Okay, you and your partner are sure Tantra is for you, you’ve got everything you think you need, and you’ve gotten a good start on meditation and massage. It’s time to experiment with Tantra a bit at a time!

There’s a lot to concentrate on at first, so to get the most out of experimenting without wearing yourselves out, I’m going to suggest splitting up the elements of the full Tantric experience and practicing them on separate days (or nights). This post will describe preliminary warm-up sessions, that you can add to your usual sexual activities. You can start on them while you practice meditating and get the other preliminaries done.

After a few weeks, you should move on and start rotating among three different kinds of sessions. One session will be her turn to give a full-body massage. One session will be his. And one session will be devoted to couple meditation and sitting yab-yum (or your preferred equivalent) before having sex as you normally do. I'll talk about these in the next posts.

Because I don’t know your particular circumstances, it’s hard for me to give advice that’s going to work for everyone. Some couples who get to this point will be old marrieds, with kids long gone, no inhibitions, and no scheduling problems. Some will be new couples who are still living apart and might be seeing each other only two or three times a week. Some readers will have come to Tantra after years of meditation, others will be massage experts, and others will be beginners at both. I’ll try to offer suggestions appropriate to each, but please use common sense to modify my suggestions to suit your needs.

Reminder:  Be sure your fingernails are short and smooth and that you have no hangnails or rough calluses on your hands before you start any Tantra session. Tantra is dependent on touch, and your hands are supremely important. You want them to give pleasure, not pain!

Small beginnings

The first step – and I urge you not to skip it – is to start your regular sex activities by bathing each other and sitting and meditating together for at least ten or fifteen minutes. This is also a good time to experiment with incense or aromatic oils, music, lighting, and so on. It takes most couples a while to find a good combination of visual, auditory, and aromatic cues that subconsciously sets the stage for meditation and Tantric sex, so it’s a good idea to start experimenting now.

While bathing, wash your partner using firm, slow strokes. You want it to be sensuous and sexy, but also just a bit ceremonial. Afterward, dry each other off, dry your hair, and wrap your lower body in a towel or sarong.

Now sit touching each other in one of the positions I described in yesterday’s post. I suggest that you try them all during the first few weeks, including back-to-back, which may surprise you by how intimate it is.

When you are both comfortable, close your eyes and spend a few minutes just meditating as you would by yourself. Let any tensions and worries flow away and relax as much as you can. (This will become much easier with practice.)

When you are there – wherever “there” is for you at this point in your meditative experience – expand your attention to include your partner. If you practice mindfulness meditation and sometimes meditate with your eyes open, you can open them now, but keep your gaze down. Making eye contact with your partner at this point will usually pop you both right out of the meditative process!

Now continue your meditation trying to stay completely in the present moment. Attend to all the sensations involving both of you – your own breathing, your partner’s breathing, the tiny motions and sounds that lurk just at the edge of visibility and audibility as you both sway slightly, the interplay of muscles that keep you sitting as you are, the warmth of each other’s bodies, and so on. Try not to think ahead, or about the past, or about anything not right there with you in this room at this moment. Above all, feel – don’t think about or verbalize, just feel – your love for your partner.

When you have meditated as long as you want, begin to make more contact. Placing one hand on your partner’s heart is a good start if your positions allow it. If you both do that and hold it for a minute, it makes a good transition to the next stages. Now begin to stroke or touch your partner, whatever you think will feel good. Keep the pace slow and the touch gentle to moderate.

When you’re ready to move on, stand up, drop your towels or sarongs, and just hug for a while, rubbing each other’s backs and flanks and kissing and nuzzling your partner’s ears, neck, and shoulders. Now is a wonderful time to verbalize your feelings, so murmur your love and appreciation.

Stay with this for a few minutes, and then move to the bed. Do whatever you would normally do, but try to do it a little bit more slowly, at least at the start. You want the initial mood to be more dreamy and smooth, not urgent or rough. (That can come later!) Consciously follow the rules of Better Sex 101: overdo the lube, nothing goes inside until she’s fully aroused, use a slow stroke, and ladies be honest and take responsibility for your own orgasm.

Try this every time or at least every other time you have sex for a couple of weeks, assuming you can make time for it. It obviously won’t fit in if you’re sneaking off together at lunch for a quickie, or if you get home late after a party and have to be up early in the morning, but if you can’t make time for it fairly often, learning Tantra is probably a lost cause!

If you have to skip the bathing step, at least take a few minutes to clean up and be sure you smell fresh. However, I urge you not to skimp on time for the bathing if at all possible. Most couples feel that it’s a valuable part of the ritual and an important step toward relaxing and getting rid of the day’s tension.

Wet hair and other things

I had short hair for years, and still just towel it dry, so I didn’t fully appreciate what an issue it can be. Several of the people I interviewed pointed out that long wet hair can be such a nuisance that it keeps them from wanting to bathe together before Tantra.

I asked the long-haired ones how they coped. Several women use shower caps to keep their hair dry. Two others take the time to let their partners dry their hair thoroughly with a hair dryer. And one couple, with fairly limited time for Tantra anyway, skips the normal bathing ritual in favor of washing each other’s feet. They happen to be evangelical Christians, and find that this ritual is a good emotional and spiritual bridge between the two traditions.

I’ve also been asked about why you should dress in something, like a sarong or towel, after bathing. I suggest some “modesty” covering at this point precisely because the sight of your partner’s genitals can be so arresting that it grabs your attention and directs your thoughts to what comes next, taking you out of the moment and interrupting your meditation. Also, it is not unknown for guys to get and lose full or partial erections while meditating, and all that movement can be distracting to both of you!

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