In the past decade I’ve seen the good, bad and downright dangerous when it comes to Tantra retreats and workshops.
In one course a facilitator screamed at me: “go to your edge!!”. I overrode my body’s signals (assuming as she is the teacher she knows best). What happened? The next day I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. I got physically sick and emotionally shut down. I knew in my gut I shouldn’t have gone to that edge and felt angry, confused and bruised.
There’s a tendency for many facilitators to encourage a big emotional or energetic purge. Why? Because yes, sometimes cathartic release can be helpful. If we’ve been unable to access and express our anger for a lifetime, then sure, we need to let off some steam once in a while. But some workshop leaders feel like they have a duty to make you feel something (because you’ve paid good money to attend and you expect “results”).
But what if those experiences do more harm than good?
I’ve had private clients come to me who’ve been pushed so far out of their comfort zone that they’ve been retraumatised and it’s taken them months to recover. I also have some clients who are “advanced” in Tantra- they’ve travelled the world, done all the retreats and festivals and had big energetic awakenings… but struggled to integrate the whole experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a lover of intense experiences and they can be awesomely powerful and beneficial.
But there’s a lot to be said for going slow and tuning into subtlety.
When we’re exploring deeper intimacy, greater feelings and expanding our consciousness, slowing down invites a richer experience. Many teachers in Tantra focus on the big blow-out experiences but they’re not always easy to integrate and afterwards you’re right back where you started (and maybe even gone back a few steps).
Yes, you had a peak experience- but you haven’t actually made “progress”.
If your body and energy system hasn’t opened gradually over time- if you haven’t trained your system to expand its capacity to hold more– you risk blowing your circuits (what the yogis call nadis). You might end up feeling frazzled, ungrounded and emotionally chaotic.
Essentially you’ve taken one step forward and two steps back. It’s the same as going to a beginner’s yoga class and doing advanced breathwork techniques- you won’t get the benefit and you might do yourself damage.
If you’re in a workshop or retreat, what happens if:
- you’re paired up with someone to do an intimate exercise and you don’t feel safe?
- everyone else is screaming and going crazy and it makes you feel unsafe?
- memories of abuse or assault arise and you get retraumatised?
- that facilitator or support staff aren’t trained to spot your triggers/ trauma responses?
- you do an exercise and it shuts you down instead of opening you up?
- you “push through” because everyone else seems to be ok with it?
- you go into freeze? (a common response for women when feeling threatened)
- the exercise/workshop/retreat unleashes energy that you then can’t manage?
- you’re left feeling shaky, ungrounded and unable to integrate the experience?
- you go back to work (and “reality”) after a big weekend workshop/retreat and suffer a massive comedown?
This is the sledgehammer approach. It’s so tempting to throw yourself into such experiences, particularly if you feel “numb” or you have deep wounds to heal, and “everyone else is doing it so it must be good”. I see it all the time and much of my 1:1 client work focuses on helping women integrate such experiences.
Basically in these scenarios you’re being encouraged to tune out the subtle whispers of your body and your intuition right from the get-go. You’re overriding them. You’re tuning out your own sovereignty.
So then what happens in an intimate experience with a partner?
If we’ve gone for these peak experiences in workshops and retreats and take that into the bedroom, we’re missing out on a whole range of pleasure that comes from relaxed arousal.
We’re missing out on true intimacy.
What happens if we slow right down and take the goal off the table? What happens when we make every moment an opportunity for exquisite awareness and unique pleasure?
This is true presence. This is where the magic lies.
My suggestions, whether you’re male or female, in a workshop environment or with an intimate partner are:
- Go at your own pace. Particularly if you have a history of sexual trauma/abuse- move at the rate of the slowest part of you. Take the time to build trust.
- Continually check in– with yourself, with your partner. Does this feel good? Are we both on the same page? Are we still connected? Do I feel safe?
- Focus on your breath, take long, slow, deep breaths. If you’re with a partner- synchronise your breathing so you feel more connected.
- Slow everything down. Observe micro-sensations and become aware of every subtle movement
- Take the goal off the table– whether it’s a peak experience or multiple orgasm- you’ll have a much better chance of actually experiencing it if you stop trying to hunt it down.
- Trust your instinct– if something or someone feels “off”- trust that feeling. Even if all your friends resonate with a teacher and you don’t- listen to your inner voice.
The more we tune into our own subtle cues, the more discerning we become and the better experience we’ll have- whether that’s in a workshop, retreat, exercise or intimate experience with a beloved.
There’s a whole other world of riches to be discovered when we take the time to slow right down and become aware of subtle sensations. We become deeply intimate with ourselves and truly sexually sovereign.