Some ground rules: All names have been changed, as have some identifying details. I've tried to keep the changes to things that are similar in spirit. Also, I've edited the answers where necessary for clarity, concision, and consistency of terminology. I tried it both ways with the first profile, and trying to preserve literal quotations meant adding a lot of annoying corrections and clarifications, so the end result was harder to read and still wasn't really clear.
When I interview Tantra practitioners (Tantrics or Tantrikas), I ask them to describe their typical Tantric experience. Then I write up their description and go back over it with them and ask for more details. Then I do it again. And again. And again!
Each time I ask them to clarify what happened here, what they did there, which hand/fingers/body part they used, which way they were facing, how long it took, what it felt like, and so on. And, bless their hearts, they mostly keep answering my questions!
Although there have been many similarities between these accounts, no two have been alike. Every couple I’ve talked to has modified Tantra in some way, often in many ways, to suit their tastes, their bodies, their libidos and sexual arousal curves, their anatomical differences, their family circumstances, their schedules, their budgets, and simply their tastes. This is exactly as it should be.
But even if no single experience is typical or normal or right, one description, out of all of them, has really stood out for me as an exemplar. The couple who described it for me are a quintessential middle American couple, with jobs, a house, a mortgage, and kids, yet they seemed to me to be as deeply in love and as physically turned on by by each other as most love-struck teenagers.
This is their account:
Cammie and DonDon is 43, the service manager at an auto dealership, medium height and build, with a hint of a paunch and big, powerful hands. If you look carefully, you can see traces of his half-Cherokee grandmother. He has a nice smile and a somewhat shaggy mop of dark hair, but is quite unremarkable in appearance.
Cammie, 39, is a CPA. She’s about 5’5” and “pleasantly plump,” with carroty curls and a lot of freckles. She’s in that indefinable borderland between pretty and plain that is often called “nice looking.” Except for her red hair and an engaging grin, she also wouldn’t stand out in a crowd.
Don and Cammie have been together for 18 years, have been married for 15, and have practiced Tantra for 14. They have 9 year old twins. Every Sunday after church they drop the twins next door at their neighbor’s house. Their neighbor, Karen, is a single mom. Her daughter normally spends Saturday nights at Don and Cammie’s house so Karen can have a mom’s night out.
Sundays, however, are for Don and Cammie. First stop is the kitchen to grab a tray of snacks, fix a carafe of coffee, and pick up some flowers that Cammie cut before church. Don gets a bottle of almond oil out of the refrigerator and pops it in the microwave for 30 seconds to warm it up. The next stop is the front door, to hang out a “Do Not Disturb” sign.
Next, they head to the bedroom and the “treasure chest,” a small bureau they picked up a few years ago at a tag sale that fits between their regular bureaus. The top drawer contains sandalwood sticks and a holder, a box of matches, aromatic oils, an oil warmer, a wide stoneware bowl for the oil, a box of unscented babywipes (good for cleaning up spills), a bottle of lube, a few toys, and some decorations that have special meaning for them. The middle drawer contains two sarongs and two large panels of brightly colored silk. The big bottom drawer holds a supply of big, thick towels.
Getting ReadyDon unfolds a large mat on the floor on one side of the bed, sets up a portable massage table at the foot of the bed, and arranges the room as they like it for their “Tantric temple.” Cammie gets the various items out of the chest, puts the oil in the warmer, and plugs a thumb drive with their favorite instrumental music into the player, while Don closes the curtains and tucks each silk panel over a curtain rod, dimming the light further and giving the room a late sunset glow. One panel shows Shakti and Shiva in a wild dance. The other shows Shakti nestled in Shiva’s lap, in the position called yab-yum.
Then they undress each other and head to the shower, where they slowly, sensually wash and rinse each other. Afterward, they dry each other off, knot the sarongs at their waists, and sit cross-legged facing each other. Don puts his hands palm up on his knees and Cammie puts her hands in his, also palm up. They sit quietly for a while with eyes closed, meditating, calming the mind and relaxing the body.
(Cammie calls this process of preparing the room, bathing, and meditation “the entrance to the stress-free zone,” a way to shut down, at least for a few hours, the mind’s constant obsession with kids and jobs and PTA meetings and doctor’s appointments, the rush of daily life, and the pressure of our perpetual mental to-do lists.)
After a time, perhaps 15 or 20 minute, they open their eyes. Cammie sways forward, puts her right hand on Don’s chest, over his heart, and puts her left hand on his right thigh. Don mirrors her actions. They sit looking into each other’s eyes, feeling each other’s heartbeats, breathing in synch, and feeling their connection to each other. Very soon, their hearts are also in synch. After a few minutes, they begin caressing each other’s faces and upper bodies.
Don’s Full-Body MassageAfter a bit, Cammie reaches out and tugs the knot from Don’s sarong. They rise, and she leads him by the hand to the massage table. He lies face down on the table and she begins a long, sensuous, full body massage. Making liberal use of the warm oil, she works her hands from his neck down his back and buttocks and legs to his feet, making sure to give a little extra attention to each toe and to both heels and both Achilles tendons.
Starting back up, she strokes the backs of his knees lightly several times with the backs of her nails, kneads his buttocks and thighs, massages his perineum, and gently plays with his testicles. She lifts and stretches his scrotum with her left hand and strokes his penis, which is pointing downward between his thighs, with her right. Her fingers trace lightly along the frenulum and the rim of the glans and over the tip of the penis. As the penis elongates, she encourages it with strokes on the shaft and continued attention to the head.
When the penis is elongated, but not fully firm, Cammie signals Don to switch to his back. (She knows that a full erection in that prone position is uncomfortable for him.) She continues the massage on his front, going from his head to his knees, with some extra loving attention to the penis, testicles, and perineum at intervals along the way. This time, she devotes more time to the arms and hands, giving the palms and each finger extra care.
Lingam WorshipWith Don’s body completely relaxed and his penis fully erect, Cammie signals for him to move to the mat. He positions a thick pillow on the mat, spreads a big towel over it, sits down on the pillow, and lies back. She kneels down between his legs and begins the Tantric ritual of “lingam worship.” (“Lingam” is often translated as “penis,” but as it is used here, it refers to Lord Shiva, the Hindu archetype of masculinity, who is often represented in Hindu temples by a stone obelisk or pillar known as a lingam. I also think "worship" is a poor translation of the Sanskrit term, which is closer to "honoring" than "worshipping.")
Cammie prefers to kneel with her knees somewhat apart, on either side of the pillow under Don’s butt, so Don raises his legs, pulling his knees toward his chest while she gets into position, and then lowers his butt so that his thighs are resting on hers and his feet are behind her, enclosing her. This makes them feel more connected and gives her better access than kneeling farther back with her knees together.
Using her hands, lips, tongue, and breasts, Cammie strokes, tickles, presses, twists, licks, sucks, nibbles, and rubs Don’s thighs, perineum, scrotum, shaft, glans, groin, and abdomen. She varies these strokes and caresses, not using any one for more than half a minute. She is careful to keep the intensity just high enough to maintain Don’s arousal, and she slows down at his signal or stops completely and shifts her massage to his abdomen, chest, and thighs when necessary to prevent too much arousal before he is ready.
Tip: If you’re uncertain about the words for the various parts of male and female anatomy, check out the Glossary tab at the top for definitions.
During this ritual, Don is practicing slow, controlled breathing and meditation. He keeps his focus on his pelvic area at first, concentrating not on the sensations in the genitals themselves, but on the feeling of warmth and engorgement as his arousal spreads through the whole pelvis. Gradually, he broadens his attention upward to include the belly, and then the chest. As the feeling of sexual tension increases and expands to follow his focus, he continues to expand his attention until he is acutely aware of sexual tension in his whole body. As he is doing this, he is visualizing a pool of sexual energy growing within his pelvic area and gradually expanding to fill his whole body.
Cammie, in the meantime, has moved to one side. Switching hands as necessary, she continues her lingam massage with one hand and occasionally her lips and tongue, while using the other hand to stroke gradually further upward and downward from the groin, helping Don feel the spread of sexual energy throughout his legs and torso. Gradually, his breathing speeds up.
When he indicates that he’s ready to finish, Cammie returns to her position between his legs, with both hands on the genital area. She strokes firmly with her thumbs from the base of the perineum up the root of the penis, between the testicles, and uses both hands to stroke upward along the shaft and rotate around the head. She repeats this until Don’s body begins to spasm. Cammie continues to stroke from the base of the perineum up along the shaft, but now avoids the sensitive head. The spasms continue in clusters of three or four for several minutes, until finally he ejaculates, and they gradually subside.
(Don will later describe this as feeling like his whole body gradually became a gigantic chamber filled with ball lightning and then released the stored energy in a long series of thunderous discharges.)
Unlike most men I interviewed, Don doesn’t want Cammie to push for a strong aftershock by continuing with vigorous stroking after he ejaculates. So instead, as his contractions come to an end, Cammie cups her hands around his testicles and penis, maintaining gentle pressure, protecting and warming them as his erection subsides and his breathing slows down. He gradually returns to a more coherent state and opens his eyes. They share smiles and loving looks, and it is time to move to the next phase.
Cammie’s Full-Body MassageCammie takes off her sarong, moves over to the table, tucks a cushion under the towel, and lies face down with her abdomen and the upper part of her hips resting on the cushion, while Don does a quick cleanup and pours more warm oil into the dish. Then he begins the massage, as she did, working slowly from head to foot. After he completes the foot massage, he works back up the legs, kneading her thighs and buttocks, and using one hand to lubricate and massage her vulva. His attention for now is just on caressing and gently massaging the perineum and the outer lips of the vulva, with only a light touch on the clitoral hood at the end of each motion. He is paying special attention to the outer labia, feeling the increase in thickness as blood flows to them and they begin to swell.
When the labia are noticeably plumper and Cammie has begun to squirm around a bit, rubbing her vulva into his hand, he signals for her to switch to her back. He removes the cushion as she turns over, and then he begins to massage her front, moving from her face and neck to her thighs. He pays special attention to her breasts, arms, and hands, and makes frequent side trips back to the genital area to keep her at an intermediate level of arousal.
They will not move to the mat at this point because Don has tendon problems and can’t kneel for long periods without strain. So he signals for Cammie to move her legs further apart and he begins the Tantric ritual of “yoni worship” while standing next to the table.
Yoni Worship“Yoni” is the Sanskrit word for a woman’s genitals, but it also refers to Shakti, the goddess of wisdom and fertility, who is Shiva’s mate and complementary other half. In many versions of Hinduism, it is in the union of Shakti and Shiva that the world is constantly reborn. “Yoni worship” is therefore a way of worshipping Shakti, but also worshipping (or, more accurately, honoring and cherishing) the eternal goddess in every woman.
Using his thumbs and fingers and plenty of lube, Don gently stretches, strokes, and massages the outer labia, then each of the inner labia, the central vestibule, and the area around the entrance to her vagina. He leans down and uses his lips to grip and gently stretch each of the inner labia in turn. He also uses his lips to surround the whole vulva and to suck gently; he knows Cammie loves this feeling and that it helps the labia and clitoris fill with blood.
When Cammie’s vulva is plump, red, and fully engorged, he places his left hand on her mons, covering her pubic bone and most of her clitoral hood with moderate pressure while using the fingers of his right hand to massage her perineum and around the entrance to her vaginal canal. Gradually, he shifts his left hand so that he can gently massage the clitoral hood and shaft, while the middle fingers of his right hand explore the entrance to her vagina and find their way inside. He begins to slowly stroke the front wall of the vagina with a beckoning motion of his fingers.
Vaginal Strokes and VariationsAfter a minute, he rotates his right hand to the left and right so that his fingers can stroke other parts of the vaginal wall. He moves his left hand to stroke her belly and her breasts, while using his right thumb to caress the clitoral shaft. Then he covers her vulva with the palm of his right hand, massaging the clitoris with the base of his palm, moving the whole labial area up and down, and moving the tips of his middle fingers in and out of the vaginal opening.
He varies these and other strokes and caresses, not using any one for more than half a minute or so and being careful to keep the tempo slow. Occasionally, he bends down to kiss or nibble different spots or tease them with his tongue, but only briefly.
While all of this has been happening, Cammie has been breathing slowly and concentrating on achieving and maintaining a deep meditative state. As Don did before, she avoids focusing specifically on the genitals, and begins by diffusing her attention throughout her pelvic area, feeling the sexual tension in that area increase as it becomes more and more filled with blood. Gradually, she spreads that awareness more widely, visualizing a ball of sexual energy expanding and flowing throughout her body.
However, the process is not entirely the same as it was for Don. For one thing, she has learned that she mostly prefers Don to keep both hands where they are, to maintain contact with both the clitoris and the vagina, with only brief excursions to her thighs, belly, and breasts. She also knows that the curve of her orgasms will be different. Instead of having to signal Don to reduce the intensity periodically, she will signal him only when she needs him to increase it. She rides a long slow curve of increasing arousal, using the rate of her breathing and her mental imaging to control the pace at which she approaches a pre-orgasmic state.
When she feels that she is ready, she allows her breathing to speed up, which is Don’s cue to use his left hand to gently retract the clitoral hood just a bit so that he can use his tongue to stimulate the clitoris directly. Cammie’s clit normally hides deep under the hood, but it is now several times its usual size and has grown long enough to peek out on its own.
FinishingUsing the smooth underside of the tip of his tongue and extremely soft, quick strokes left and right and up and down, he brings on her first orgasm. She arches her back and her legs convulsively clamp shut on the fingers in her vagina. He lifts his head to watch her face and the tendons in her neck, using his left thumb to maintain gentle pressure along her clitoral shaft. When her face and neck begin to relax, he begins the tongue caresses again. As her legs unclamp, he is able to restart the internal massage as well.
This is a process that usually repeats itself four to seven times, or sometimes more, until Cammie is completely exhausted. Her yoni is replete. Indeed, she goes abruptly from being eager for more attention to being supersensitive to friction, and she grabs Don’s left hand and presses it hard against her vulva to prevent any further movement.
As the muscle contractions from this last orgasm gradually wind down and Cammie’s legs unclamp, Don is able to slowly, carefully withdraw his fingers from her vagina. He uses his right hand to cover and cup her mons, clit, and vulva, with the heel of the hand at the top and his fingertips resting on her perineum. He keeps gentle even pressure and warmth on the whole genital area, but he makes sure that that hand doesn’t move at all. Her yoni wants to be held and cuddled, not stroked!
With his left hand he strokes her belly, her face, her neck, and – very gently – her breasts. After several minutes, her eyes open. She kisses the palm of his hand, smiles, and says, “Wow!”
IntermissionDon helps her stand and they wrap their arms around each other for a long hug. Cammie notes that Don has an erection again, but contents herself with cuddling it between her belly and his. They kiss deeply, rub each other’s backs, and murmur I-love-you’s, then slowly separate.
Don fixes mugs of coffee and puts out fresh towels as Cammie retrieves the tray and unwraps the snacks. They sit cross-legged and feed each other bits of coffee cake, thin slices of fresh cantaloupe, apple wedges, macadamia nuts, cherries, and chocolate-covered strawberries. They talk, but only about what they just experienced, what it felt like, what they love about each other and what, if anything, they would like try differently next time. The outside world and its problems are not allowed to intrude.
Yab-YumWhen the refreshments are finished and put away, they return again to the mat. Don sits in the center with his legs crossed loosely and invites Cammie to come sit on his lap. She does, wrapping her legs around his butt, and they sit for a while, just meditating, but focusing their meditation on each other, while cuddling and occasionally murmuring silly stuff in each other’s ears. Gradually, his penis begins to stretch and make its presence felt against her bottom. She grins, says, “Hello there!” and begins to squirm around, rubbing her clit against him. He starts massaging her buttocks and helping her move. As he gets firmer, he reaches his hands further around and under her bottom, and begins massaging her vulva.
When they are both ready, she slides back away from him for a moment and applies lube to his shaft and her clit and vulva. Then she lifts up slightly, sways forward toward him, and settles down onto his shaft. The lingam is in the yoni. The ritual union of Shakti and Shiva has begun.
They sit in this position, kissing, gazing into each other’s eyes, nibbling or biting each other’s necks, rubbing each other’s backs and chests, moving their hips just enough to slowly, gradually increase their state of arousal. If Cammie is lagging a little behind, she tilts her pelvis back, creating some space between them so Don can help her along by reaching down and providing some clitoral massage with his fingers.
When they reach an intermediate state, with Don completely hard and Cammie completely ready, they become still, control their breathing, and return to a meditative state. Don’s focus is on Cammie, not himself, and Cammie’s focus is on Don, not herself. They continue to gaze into each other’s eyes and each concentrates on what the other person is feeling. As Don breathes in, Cammie breathes out, and vice versa. They visualize their arousal as a ball of sexual energy growing inside their joined genitals as they become more aroused, but now they visualize this energy moving back and forth between them with each exchange of breaths. As they trade breaths, the churning ball of energy grows. Their arms and legs grip each other more strongly and each can feel the tension growing in the other.
After a period of meditation and alternate breathing – neither of them seem sure how long it typically lasts – they start a game. He clenches his butt and contracts his PC (pubococcygeus or Kegel) muscles. This makes the head of his penis tap against the front wall of the vagina inside her, right at the g-spot. She responds by clamping down hard with her PC muscles, making her vaginal opening grip his shaft. He goes for a triple flip. She echoes it by squeezing him tightly three times in rapid succession. He tenses his thighs, making her slide up on his shaft. She pushes back down, swings her right knee out a bit, and slides her butt to the left, twisting his shaft and pressing it hard against the side of her vagina. He gives a little buck, making her bounce, and leans to his right, making his penis press even harder to the side as it slides inside her. She leans back on her hands, tilting her pelvis back, and wiggles her hips.
MaithunaThey keep this up until, as they say, they feel like they just can’t stand it a moment longer. Then things can go in any direction. This time, perhaps, he grabs her, pulls her to a full upright position, and flops on his back, converting yab-yum to the cowgirl position, one of her favorites. Instead of moving up and down, she slides forward and back on top of him, knowing that this gives her a lot of stimulation and him much less.
Then she rotates to her right until his left leg is between her legs. He raises his left knee so his left thigh is almost vertical in front of her. Now when she posts up and down on his penis, her clit rubs against his thigh, bringing on her first orgasms. When she’s had a good ride, he rolls her over for some good old-fashioned missionary.
At this point, they are almost, but not quite, out of control. Some days, “we go through half the Kama Sutra,” rolling and turning and changing positions frequently. Other times, they find a position that just seems right and they stick with it. Sometimes they stay on the mat, sometimes they move to the bed halfway through. Whatever they choose to do, they say the passion is made even more intense by the feeling that each of them is sharing and experiencing everything the other person feels.
Climaxes at this point are often unpredictable in duration. Cammie has had days when she had an extended orgasm start when they were barely getting warmed up and just continue through fifteen minutes or more of yab-yum and hard driving sex. More typically, though, it will take longer to start, but then she will have one orgasm, then another, then another, in rapid succession. This will usually happen several times, until the string of contractions and the sounds she makes trigger Don’s last orgasm.
Every now and then, Cammie will climax early and especially hard, and she will decide she doesn’t want any more. (She calls this “One and done!”) When this happens, she switches to oral and manual massage to bring on Don’s last orgasm. Don does the same for her when he climaxes before she's done, but Cammie says that that hardly ever happens any more. “He’s getting to the point where he has really good control, so he can usually have orgasms without coming until he’s ready to finish. I feel his orgasms so intensely that when he is building up to one, it carries me up with him, and I have a string of climaxes that keep getting stronger. When he does come at the end, it’s even more intense and it almost always triggers my biggest and last orgasm.”
AftermathThey usually choose to finish in a position that allows them to be face to face, with arms around each other, or at least to slide into that position with little effort. This is important, because Cammie, in particular, really wants to hold onto Don and to be held and cuddled. However, as she says, “I’m the next thing to being unconscious afterward. A lot of times, I don’t know what planet I’m on. I couldn’t tell you what day it is, or even what month. And there’s no way I can do anything complicated like moving around on the mat or bed, so it’s kind of up to Don to get us adjusted so I can just hang onto him without having to think.”
I asked her why contact afterward was so important.
Cammie: It just is. We’re so merged together at that point that it’s like being ripped in half if he pulls away from me. It’s like we have one skin, wrapped around both of us. Whether I’m on top or underneath, or we’re side-by-side, I want us to be belly to belly, chest to chest, cheek to cheek, with our arms around each other’s ribs so tight I can feel both our hearts. It’s really painful to let go too soon.
I asked them to clarify what they meant by feeling what the other person feels.
Don: I know it sounds ridiculous, but I honestly feel like I AM her, that my nerves and my brain are connected to her body, and I can feel every sensation exactly as she feels it. I feel myself inside her, of course. And perhaps I feel her yoni give a little quiver. And I truly feel like I am connected to her vagina, feeling that quiver from her side too, and feeling exactly what it feels like to BE Cammie and to be wrapped around my cock, to have a clit and to feel what it feels like to be pressing it on Don’s fingers, to have breasts and to feel what it feels like to be rubbing them against Don’s chest.
I think it’s because we’ve done Tantric massage so many times over the years. During yoni massage, I’ve touched her, inside and out, and held her and watched her and felt every reaction, every contraction, every muscle twitch, listened to every breath, hundreds … maybe thousands … of times. Now, when I do something, I know how she’s going to react. I don’t have to think about what I’m doing. I just feel what she’s feeling and do whatever will feel best for her. And it works! As nutty as it sounds, when we’re in that state, I feel like I really do feel every single sensation that both of us are feeling.
Besides, you know, we’re not entirely rational at that stage. We’ve both just been through several hours of intense pleasure and sensory overload, and we’re still goofy about this love stuff. If I can feel sympathetic pain while looking at a stranger who gets hurt, or grin just because someone else has a great big smile, who says I can’t feel exactly what Cammie’s feeling?
Cammie: I don’t care if it’s literally true or not! What I know is that when we are sitting yab-yum and I’m looking in his eyes, I become him. I know what his penis feels like inside me. I also know what my yoni feels like to him. I can feel it from both sides. I’ve watched him and held him and seen and felt how everything affects him in every stage of erection and climax. If you know someone that well, and you know exactly what they’re feeling, you don’t have to think about it, you just become them. You are them!