In a large split-level house north of town, from which a view of both the Jemez Mountains and the Thornburg Mortgage campus perforates the horizon, a group of people met one Saturday a few weeks before Valentine's Day to learn about Tantra.
The group, assembled loosely under the auspices of Santa Fe Tantric Arts, met at the home of Michael Caditz, a software developer and nudist ("I just don't like clothes," he says). Though some attendees were well-acquainted with Tantric arts, for many, this was their first exposure. Caditz wore a small green sarong, presumably for the comfort of the rookies.
The requisite throng of massage therapists and spiritualists was gathered, as well as a teacher, a former journalist, two engineers and a private investigator. The instruction, led by Mead Rose and Kameshwari-kate, was free (though some classes come with a nominal fee—to cover the cost of food and electricity, Caditz says).
"I do it because I believe in it. It's not my money-making occupation; it's my passion," Caditz says. "I've had many years of experience in this method of communication—a way for people to overcome sexual fears, heal themselves sexually—and I'm here to promote it as a way of community building and bringing people together."
And so the two-hour session began. Together 17 women and men assembled cross-legged on a crisscross of bright blankets and pillows that resembled a giant patchwork quilt. On the floor of the home's ground level, below tall furniture and dim lighting, the group sat ready to open themselves up to complete strangers—not to mention this reporter—for the sake of personal growth.
Tantra, which comes from the Sanskrit word for "weave," is a set of spiritual practices that originated in India but has been popularized in the West, primarily for its teachings on sex.
Tantra is not just about sex, but that certainly doesn't hurt…or shouldn't. There are many forms of Tantra, each associated with a different color. There is red Tantra—the sexy kind Sting and his wife practice—which gets much of the buzz. There's white Tantra—think monks and Mother Teresa. This workshop focuses on Ipsalu Tantra: the pink kind.
"Ipsalu is a safe way to move into Tantra experiences," Kameshwari-kate, petite beneath a tornado of gossamer white cloth, says. Kriya Tantra, of which Ipsalu is a type, "ads jet fuel to your daily practices of anything—yoga, prayer, mediation, Qigong, Reiki," according to Kameshwari-kate, who is herself an Ipsalu, Tantra, Kriya and yoga instructor.
There are five steps to Ipsalu Tantra:
1. activate the body
2. activate the mind
3. arouse sexuality
4. transmute sexuality
5. play in that space.
To activate the body, we are guided through a series of movements wherein we mimic, among other things, a green dragon, a clawing cat and a dish cloth being wrung—all along with tongues resting gently on the roofs of our mouths. The repetitive motions are lulling and the energy—with the help of steady narration by the two instructors—tangible. If I were of more spiritual (and less uptight) stock, this might be trance-inducing.
A series of breathing exercises to activate the mind follows. Herein I learn to breathe through my third eye (located on the forehead and purified upon entering Caditz' home with some burning sage and a light herbal mist). My mind becomes clear…or near sleep. It's hard to tell.
Arousing sexuality involves a series of "oohs," "aahs" and the contraction of what is commonly called "no man's land."
Transmuting one's sexuality differs depending on one's gender or which part of one's psyche one chooses to activate (according to Rose, a massage therapist and internet marketer, those who master the Tantric arts can decipher both the male and female within them). The men in the group are instructed to breathe in through the chest and out through the penis, or vajra; the women are told to breathe in from their yoni (which sounds nicer than vagina, but still not that nice) and out through their breasts.
The point of these directives is to link up the heart-sex circuit. When fully connected, there's "increased energy and awareness," Rose, decked out in Moroccan-looking garb just short of a fez, says. "It's kind of like a little intro piece to acquaint people with an actual experience of an energy circuit within their body."
Plugged in, we stand up and are instructed to pay attention to each others' energy, an energy we either mingle with or dismiss by walking toward or away from people. We take turns hugging different members of the group, aware of the
different energies emitted from each gender. This is called playing in the space—for grown-ups.
Any self-respecting loner would find all this very embarrassing, and Rose assures us of the normalcy of such a reaction.
As Rose tells the group, these exercises ask, "How much can you let yourself be open?"
I have to admit, to the great dismay of my inner cynic, the whole experience is rather nice, my mind and body for once both at ease.
Given that I'm with what is essentially a group of strangers who, for the most part, met online to learn about sex arts, I feel quite comfortable and not sketched out. It isn't (as I momentarily feared while walking behind an unknown couple up to the house) a swingers' club or a cult offering Reeboks and punch. It's a group of people who, at least ostensibly, want to expand their sexual and mental horizons—and then have a potluck and hot tub party.
After separating into women and men's circles, Rose tells the men that it's often difficult for them to access their hearts and sexuality simultaneously; for women, the problem is accessing their sexuality in addition to their hearts.
After what seems like 15 minutes but is actually the majority of the session, we recap. A man named Patrick successfully reached a major goal of Tantra:
"For the first time in decades I feel comfortable in the presence of women," he says. What he had always wanted in his relationships was to simultaneously open his heart and be sexual.
This is—sorry—at the heart of it all, or at least at the heart of the heart-sex circuit.
Two and a half hours after I arrived, I return to the city lights of Santa Fe, aware of the potluck and hot tub party going on behind me—and that it wouldn't have taken much to convince even me to stay.
Weekend of Tantra
A weekend of Tantra programs includes a beginner and advanced Tantra session, massage and a dance party. For more information, visit santafetantricarts.com.