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What is tantric massage?

What is the difference between tantric and erotic massage?

If you were to draw a venn diagram showing the relationship between Tantric and erotic massage practitioners in the market place, you would find that there is a huge overlapping area at the centre, and two much smaller (but growing) areas of separate and ideologically quite distinct practitioners.

The purpose of this article is firstly to identify the differences – those areas where the circles do not overlap. Then acknowledging the huge overlap in the marketplace, we will look at how client’s can exercise discernment when identifying the right practitioner for their needs.

Tantric sessions:

Osho

Osho

Neotantric teachings came to prominence in the 1960’s, early pioneers being Osho (considered by some the Grandaddy of the movement), Margot Anand and Daniel Odier. The movement has since massively proliferated with as many new influences and teachings as there are teachers in the field, no wonder it is confusing for prospective clients!

In essence though the best description I have found to date at the essence of all teachings comes from my teacher John Hawken:

“Tantra is the dance between energy and consciousness. Reality is created through the unity of energy and consciousness, and through the unity of the divine female principle of shakti and the divine male principle of shiva.” – John Hawken, the Paths of Transformation

tanka35-samantabhadra-yab-yum

Shiva and Shakti

You may be familiar with the image of Shiva and Shakti sitting in yab yum embrace. Some poorly framed teachings out there have led to the understanding that neotantra is about sex. Whilst sexual energy is an integral part of neotantric teachings, the central union is not about sex between a man and a woman.

It is about the unity of energy and consciousness within, enabling liberation from conditioned choices (i.e. those imposed by parents, religion, state etc) so that we become completely free beings consciously creating our reality – either in line with our own deepest truths, with our soul contract, with spirit, or fulfilling our karmic destiny unimpeded (depending what your belief structure is!).

Roughly speaking the energy (or Shakti / female) aspect is our embodiment and material reality both seen and unseen. Unseen aspects of this reality are accessed by tools such as breathwork or meditation, and include maps helping us navigate the geography of the unseen, such as the shushumna, kundalini energy or chakra system.

The consciousness (or Shiva / masculine) aspect, includes developing our personal awareness – e.g. noticing when we are making conditioned choices from inherited fear based beliefs systems – for example cultivating conscious sexuality. But it extends all the way through to an experientially known transpersonal awareness, one that implies both transcendence and immanence (meaning simply put “I experience divinity both beyond and within my being”).

Neotantra tends to focus on sexuality because it is an area that has mostly been excluded from or shamed by religious and government sanctioned teachings for the masses. This being so, sexual energy has tended to become repressed, it’s ubiquity in media and on the internet mirroring the extent to which we are seeking something lost. Collectively we have much to learn simply being more conscious and personally aware about sex, and secondly to experience it as central to our spiritual lives, or sense of meaning.

And finally as if that were not reason enough: all transformation requires energy to fuel it (e.g. we become fit by giving energy to exercise). When transforming consciousness, it is arguable that sexual energy is the most potent fuel for this activity, and that this is precisely why sexual energy has been shamed for the masses, as conscious self actualising people are less malleable to fear based control systems.

So that is both the greatest potential – and some of the hype! – around Tantra. The extent to which a practitioner can genuinely impart the full scope of these teachings to a client (or student?) is hugely variable. However there are a lot of practitioners out there doing a great job passing on aspects of what they themselves have learned and practice, through the vehicle of Tantra massage or related sessions. And here is the spectrum of ways they may do that, thus helping identify a genuine Tantric practitioner if this is truly what you seek:

  1. Overall – as well as receiving pleasurable massage during a session, expect to experience some kind of teaching on how you yourself can participate in awakening more pleasure.
  2. The most basic teachings will include practical ways to access more of your sexual energy, through specific practices that often utilise breath, movement and sound, to break through conditioned responses (and repression of) the experience of our sexual energy.
  3. They may also include teachings about ejaculatory choice for men, and how to move towards whole body (as opposed to genital) orgasmic experiences for all.
  4. Or the practitioner may awaken your sexual energy in a ritual context – such as in a bathing ritual, or ritual of the 5 senses – to remind you of the sacred nature of your body and sex.
  5. More experienced practitioners will begin to be able to discern and mirror back to you things you are as yet unaware of in your conditioned approach to creating reality. These might be quite practical reflections – e.g noticing how your body is conditioned to respond to limit your sexual energy when aroused, by contracting muscles and breath.
  6. Or reflections may go even deeper to look at how you are approaching many facets of your life. The practitioner’s capacity to become a mentor for deep transformation, may draw on other experiences and skills, such as a path of sustained deep spiritual enquiry, or western educational pathways including a myriad of mind and body healing and therapeutic modalities.
  7. These reflections may also be able to bring to your awareness the causes of, and offer tools to help you move yourself beyond experiences of erectile dysfunction or anorgasmia.
  8. At this level some practitioners may be able to support the healing of sexual trauma, though it is important to be upfront if this is what you are seeking, and check how suitably mature and experienced the practitioner is to support this. Consider seeking spoken therapy prior to or alongside tantra sessions in this instance.

Erotic massage sessions:

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Erotic massage

The misleading appellation of “Tantra” to erotic massage, has become a way of hanging a pseudo spiritual cloak around sexual services, as a means to shield both practitioners and clients, from shameful societal projections about what it means to either offer or pay for, a sexual service.

This tragic happenstance is at the root of much muddiness and lack of clarity in the market place. It muddies the work of genuine Tantric practitioners, and degrades collective understanding and appreciation of the potential for a truly extraordinary erotic massage experience.

Central to understanding how we can access the truly extraordinary experiences, is the reframing our understanding of eroticism – and sexuality in general – as an activity that exponentially increases its potential for enjoyment, in-line with the degree of passionate engagement and awareness that we are willing to bring to it.

And if clients can cultivate their own passionate engagement with things erotic, then the likelihood will rise of finding a practitioner for whom erotic massage IS also their real passion, for there are many excellent practitioners out there. Evidence of this passion in a practitioner maybe manifest in many different ways:

  1. Most obvious is evidence of an identifiable skills base. For instance certain massage forms have evolved particularly to stimulate a sensual experience, such as the Japanese Nuru massage. Or you make look for confidence in appropriate bodywork, that has been cultivated through a sound base of massage training, intelligently applied to a passionate engagement with all things erotic.
  2. Alternatively a practitioner may demonstrate the care with which s/he has cultivated a practice, through advertising materials that combine clear and informative content with intelligent articles that demonstrate his / her unique approach to the work and erotic life in general. For instance blog posts may provide evidence of how that practitioner’s life experiences inform his / her practice.
  3. If you are seeking an experience with a luxurious quality, you may look for evidence of this through care and attention paid to the details of environment, well thought through creative options on offer, and care exercised over products used during the experience.
  4. Many sexuality and erotic educators have become high profile pioneering figures in the sex positive field, such as Miss JaiyaAnnie Sprinkle  or Barbara Carellas  to name but a few. Perhaps your erotic masseur may have invested in their development with resources or trainings from these teachers. Or perhaps their passion will be expressed through an interest in other cultural expressions of eroticism from erotic novels to films, to which s/he can introduce you.
  5. Finally the most obvious attributes to look for are the clarity, maturity and integrity expressed through the practitioners work. This will be articulated through clarity of offering, clear contracts, shame free and celebratory advertising material. For general indicators of good practitioners read on here.

Ultimately though, whilst there are now a number of identifiable schools for neotantra, and so then some consensus on the practices you may encounter in a session at the very least, the “schooling” for erotic arts at present is much more nebulous and harder to identify. So finally it is really important to say that the best erotic masseurs out there may be working away quietly doing their thing, with little fanfare or webs presence to point to their work.

Someone to whom I would refer clients (when Tantra was not really what they were seeking) for the quality of her work, had for many years just a simple 3 line ad in the local newspaper, with no website or nothing else to point to the amazing work she was doing. However upon talking with her, the maturity, intelligence, enjoyment, discernment and loving presence she bought to her work would quickly be evident upon being prompted to talk about it.

How do I know which kind of practitioner is right for my needs?

This is a simple process really:

  • Be honest with yourself about what you are seeking!
  • Find the practitioner who offers exactly that.
  • Be clear and upfront with him / her when discussing your needs
  • Don’t be afraid to probe into a practitioner’s experience.

Much of the huge unclear areas where erotic and Tantric massage overlap, is the result of erotic massage being hidden as something else that sounds more spiritual and therefore more acceptable in a society that shames the buying or selling of sexual services.

Genuine Tantric practitioners who lack confidence may give up the educational aspect of their work, when faced with an endless stream of clients who really want an erotic leisure experience and spirituality or transformation is not really on their agenda.

Equally erotic masseurs may miss the potential for passion and pride to be expressed through skills and professionalism, because they do not see that potential mirrored back to them by our collective beliefs systems.

Finally clients seeking the best practice in either circumstance, may become disillusioned by a string of poor experiences and give up the search.

I am proud therefore to be part of a growing collective movement of professionals, activists and practitioners both erotic and tantric and beyond – seeking to address appalling gaps in our collective sexual awareness!

This article is an edited version of one first published on Soulkittens>>

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