Jun 24 2021
Step 3: Find Your Superpower.
We all have Superpowers. While we can easily name and describe other people’s superpowers, it can be difficult to identify and name our own. That’s partially because we take our superpowers for granted, but it’s also because bragging about how great and talented and kind we are is generally considered an super-uncool thing to do.
I’ll bet that the pandemic revealed at least one superpower you didn’t know you had. Maybe it was patience, or perseverance, or the ability to give strength and hope to others. This newly recognized superpower can be an important insight in your Post Pandemic Process.
Let’s have a Brag Festival. In the comments below, please tell us one of your Superpowers. (Extra brag points if you can name one discovered during the pandemic.) If you can’t think of one, ask a friend or family member to tell you the one they see in you. If you can think of several, go for it—brag away!
I’ll go first. Living through this last pandemic reminded me that I am really good at long-haul endurance projects. Linda Montano calls it Art/Life performance art. I excel at it.
Jun 22 2021Step 2: Forgive Yourself.
I am forgiving myself for everything I did not accomplish last year while everyone else (I imagine) was baking sourdough, remodeling their house, writing a book and learning to speak Italian.
Whatever you and I did or did not do was perfect because we stayed alive. That was our only job. We don’t have to make amends to ourselves or work harder now to make up for all the things we imagine we should have done.I have am forgiving myself for…
How about you? What can you forgive yourself for?
- not having read all the books
- not having cleaned out the basement, the drawers and the garage
- not having prepared a complete archive of my work
- not having written an updated version of a previous book
- not having driven more rescue dog transports
- not having stayed in touch (or even gotten back to) all the people who reached out to me during the pandemic
- not having lost weight
- not having worked harder, longer or faster
- [This list is still in progress…]
Jun 20 2021Fifteen months ago, a client told me that one of their intentions was to get ready for the “Summer of Love” they they suspected would follow all the quarantines, lockdowns and social distancing. Well, for some of us that Summer of Love might be starting now, or will be starting later this summer of 2021. Are you ready?Honestly, I am not sure I am. I don’t want to unconsciously jump back into “life as normal.” I want time to discover who I am and how this pandemic has transformed me.I am in the process of re-entry. While I am enjoying the summer sun and the possibilities of returning to art and performance and music and group erotics, I want to be mindful. So much has changed. Who am I now and what do I want?
This is the first in a series of posts that I call the Urban Tantra Post-Pandemic-Process. Basically, it’s my process as I find my way out of the pandemic and into this new chapter of life. I’m sharing it to start a conversation with like-minded folks about how we re-enter the transformed world with love, kindness, sensuality and purpose.I discovered Tantra during the AIDS crisis which is the only other pandemic I have lived through. What appealed to me most about Tantra—then and now—is the invitation to experience everything life throws at you—from the ecstatic to the terrifying, as deeply, consciously and fully as possible. When you walk through the fire of a situation and come out the other side, you are transformed, purified and forged into something stronger and finer. Each one of these walks through the fire of earthly existence brings you one more little slice of enlightenment.Here is Step #1 of the Urban Tantra Post-Pandemic-Process:Reflect/Assess: What did you like (or even love) about the Pandemic Year? What did you loathe?Here are some of my Likes,/Loves and Loathes:
How about you? What did you like/love and loathe?
- I loved how as the world got slower nature seemed to move faster. I loved being in one place for an entire year and observing the minute details of how the seasons changed.
- I loved that theatres around the world opened their archives and put them online. I saw brilliant pieces of theater that I never would have been able to see in person.
- I loved the creative challenge of teaching embodied practices online. I loved teaching for audiences from all over the world at the same time.
- I loved not being in airports.
- I loved the freedom of not having to dash all over the city. I realized how much time I spent just getting from place to place.
- I loathed not being able to share smiles with random people on the street.
- I loathed not being able to go to Camp Crucible and other large erotic events.I loathed masks. They made my nose run and then I would sneeze a lot and that made people really nervous.
Feb 21 2021
It’s been One. Whole. Year. Four seasons have passed. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, and funerals have all gone uncelebrated, or celebrated with a handful of people carefully spaced two metres apart, or alone in front of a screen. We’re tired, worn down, depressed. Even the exceedingly creative ways we’ve discovered to gather together or create some delight in our lives now feels disappointing—kinda like we’re living half-lives. It sucks. But for the friends, families, and colleagues of more than 2.5 million people around the world who have died in this pandemic, these are all mere inconveniences in comparison to their profound grief.
So, how I dare I talk about ecstatic anything, right? It’s like hearing someone rave about the banquet they attended last year while now all the grocery stores are closed and you don’t even have the makings of a sandwich. But stay with me, okay? I want to talk about a particularly timely flavor of ecstatic experience—Ecstatic Resilience.
My concept of an ecstatic life does not demand that I walk around in a constant state of bliss. My concept of resilience does not mean that I never feel defeated. Ecstatic Resilience means that I have the ability to access ecstatic moments when I want them, and that my regular practice of creating ecstatic experiences makes me more resilient. Even when things are difficult, painful, and upsetting, I know that I will ultimately be able to use the elements of whatever is happening to create an ecstatic experience, if not now, then in the reasonably near future. For me, living an ecstatic life means looking upon ecstasy as a spiritual practice.
The way I see at it, we all have a choice right now. We can tough out the next several months (or more), gritting our teeth and getting more and more numb and resentful. Or we can embrace some tools for ecstatic living that we can use to make life more joyful right now, and prepare ourselves for lives filled with joy, connection and ecstasy when the pandemic has passed.
Here are some tools that have been working for me. I know that some of you are going through extraordinary challenges right now and all of these will not be available/possible for everyone. Just try the ones that feel appropriate or adapt them to suit your circumstances.
Radically accept—everything. Radical acceptance is the practice of accepting things as they are with no expectation that they will ever change. Of course, all things change all the time, but by accepting things as they are with no expectations, and releasing your attempts to change them, almost any situation can be turned into an experience that—if not ecstatic in itself—can lead to a place of peace and no regrets, both of which contribute to an ecstatic life. Radical acceptance also provides the opportunity to find creative and ecstatic alternatives to the situation, and it paves the way for positive change.
Dissolve the boundary between your body and nature. Whether you live in a big city, a small town, or in the country, take a moment each day to establish a connection to a natural element. This could be as simple as taking a walk in which you lose yourself in the feeling of the sun on your skin, or feel yourself absorbed into the blue of the sky. You could hug a tree, listen intently to the song of a bird, or even spend quality time with your dog. A key aspect of ecstatic resilience is feeling connected to all that is. Consciously practicing this connection on a daily basis keeps that ecstatic channel open, even while isolating.
Live what you love. This is hardly a new maxim, but it’s essential to an ecstatic life. Do as much of what you love as you possibly can. Do as little as you must of anything you don’t like. The more you commit to what you love, the easier it is to let the rest be handled by someone else who enjoys it more. Pay attention to your intuitive energy meter. Remember to ask yourself: Do I feel an energy gain or an energy drain in this situation, or around this person? Eliminate or minimize your exposure to anything or anyone that drains your energy. Embrace that which feeds you.
Whatever you’re doing—do it whole-heartedly. Do not hold back. Give yourself over completely. Be bigger than you think you are. Be more than you’ve ever been. Be too much. Yes, even on Zoom.
Embrace and celebrate your inner teenager. What was your passion at age 13? Or age 16? How did you pursue that passion? What was your most compelling reason for pursuing this passion? How did you behave if people told you that your passion was wrong, silly, or a waste of time? Revisit your most ecstatic, stubborn, passionate, activist years. Take notes. See your inner teenager as a vital part of your authentic adult self.
Go to the edge. Fall off. See what’s there. Start a love affair with your own fear. Imagine your fear as your best friend. Throw a virtual fear party. Invite all your friends and all their fears. Make a fear playlist and dance with your fears.
Seize the moment—and stay in it. Slow down! Spend as much time in each present moment as you can. Time is such wibbly-wobbly stuff these days. Create meditative moments in varied areas of your life and stretch each one to its fullest. See how much ecstasy you can savor in each moment of the day.
Live in amazement. I am consistently amazed at life in all its weird and wacky permutations. I am amazed by the infinite kindness and courage of humanity. I am amazed by how much I’ve learned over the years. I’m amazed that I’m surviving the second plague of my lifetime. I’m amazed by how little I know and how much I learn every single day. Make a list of what amazes you.
Would you like some help and support strengthening your Ecstatic Resilience? Would you like to learn some powerful, practical, and fun ecstatic exercises that you can enjoy both now and when we can be with others again? Would you like some techniques to expand your sexual pleasure, even and especially if your only sex partner is yourself? Would you like to sit in a virtual circle with others who want the same things you do? Join me for my four-part series beginning 10 March 2021—Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century—Online via Zoom in partnership with The New York Open Center You can register for the whole series or take individual classes:
10 March: Ecstatic Breathwork
31 March: Creating Tantric Connections
21 April: Sex Magic
12 May: Taking Erotic Risks
Apr 04 2020
I began my Tantric practice many years ago during the AIDS pandemic. I was looking for a spiritual practice that was body and sex positive, that could support me in the huge emotional shifts I was going through, and that provided a sense of healing, purpose and peace. Urban Tantra was born out of both the times I was living in and what I learned from my own personal Tantric practices in those times. It has continued to grow and evolve over the years as the Urban Tantra community has grown exponentially, both geographically and intersectionally. Each and every person who has a connection to Urban Tantra has contributed to what it is now, and what it will become next.
Like you, I am profoundly affected by the worldwide pandemic that we are all living through. We each have our individual emotional and physical reactions to our new reality. We are also a participant in a global collective human experience.
I have no magic answers for these times. Truthfully, I’m not looking for answers right now—I’m searching for the right questions. For me, answers are useless if they aren’t attached to the right questions. This week, the questions were “How can I help my friends and family who are particularly vulnerable at this time?” and “How can I soothe and center myself while feeling useful?” The answers? I’m sitting at my sewing machine making face masks and preparing them for mailing. And writing this email to you. That’s this week. Next week the questions will be different and so will the answers.
This week I have been inspired, soothed, and motivated by a few resources I think you might find helpful. As the weeks go by, I’ll continue to pass along things that might provide long or short term answers to our unfolding questions.
With Love and Lots of Breath,
Thought for the Week:
(Thanks to Shelley Dungan of the Sacred Center in Portsmouth, RI)
… “On the other side of this journey of acceptance are hope and resilience. We will know that we can do this, even if our struggles continue for years. We will be creative and responsive, and will find light in all the nooks and crannies. We will learn new recipes and make unusual friends. We will have projects we cannot imagine today, and will inspire students we have not yet met. And we will help each other. No matter what happens next, together, we will be blessed and ready to serve.”
A free dance class with Debbie Allen.
Debbie Allen was one of the great Broadway dancers, and one of the stars of the TV show Fame in the 1980’s. She’s now a director of Grey’s Anatomy and one of its stars. She also runs a dance academy in Los Angeles. She is teaching a series of dance classes via Instagram. No matter your age or level of fitness, you can dance like a pro with Debbie.
This is a great time for a Breath and Energy Orgasm! Download this mp3 and I’ll guide you through one.
Feb 19 2020
Lately I’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of people who contact me to learn about Tantra. Well you might think, is that really so odd? The media, and the culture at large, pretty much demand we focus on love and relationships in the weeks leading up to Valentines Day. But that has definitely not been the flavor of the requests I’ve received. In fact, the majority of people who have contacted me are interested in learning a solo Tantra practice.
Why is developing a Tantra practice—especially a solo Tantra practice—suddenly so appealing?
I thought back to when I first began my study and practice of Tantra. It was in the late 1980’s, just as the AIDS epidemic was reaching its peak. People were dying by the thousands. A couple of hundred of them were my friends and colleagues. Every week brought a new diagnosis, a new symptom, another death. I felt helpless. Overwhelmed. My world was a profoundly unsafe place. I sought out Tantra for inner strength and inner peace, not to enhance a relationship (although it had that effect, later on.)
Today, many of us are living in a world characterized by chaos, uncertainty and fear. A whole lot of people are feeling overwhelmed and unsafe. People tell me they are numb, uninspired, and prone to binging on Netflix rather than pursuing goals that used to seem important and fulfilling. These feelings are reasonable and natural. It’s hard to feel alive, inspired, and empowered when we do not feel safe. Living in a consistently traumatizing world overwhelms our capacity to cope. The antidotes to trauma are choice and agency. When we believe we have the power to change the things that oppress us, we set ourselves free. We discover our resilience.
You are here because you are a descendent of resilient people. If your ancestors had not been resilient, they would not be your ancestors. They would have died off long before the chain formed that that created you. You have inherited your ancestors’ resilience, and you will pass resilience down to the next generations—whether or not you have biological children. (If you don’t believe me, just think of one of the many conversations you’ve had with a younger person that gave them the strength and inspiration to keep going.)
Tantra is a resilience-building practice. Walking the Tantric path can transform any and every experience—no matter how unspiritual it may appear— into a path of fulfillment, and even enlightenment. Tantra harnesses the energy of our human desires and pleasures as fuel for personal and interpersonal transformation. Walking a Tantric path can inspire us to seek out brave spaces instead of simply safe spaces. It teaches us how we can contain bigger emotions, greater energy, more intense physical feelings, and have agency with them.
One of the core principles of Urban Tantra is the Resilient Edge of Resistance, so named by the endlessly creative Chester Mainard. It may sound obscure, but it’s really very simple. When we apply the Resilient Edge of Resistance to touch, we’re talking about the touch that feels just right. It feels safe and supportive and present. It’s neither too hard nor too soft. It lulls you into a place of deep comfort and surrender. You’re awake and aware, but completely peaceful and relaxed at the same time. You want it to go on forever. The person touching you has found your Resilient Edge of Resistance.
The Resilient Edge of Resistance applies to all parts of our being: physical, emotional, and psychic. When we have too much mental stress in our lives, we shut down, overwhelmed; yet when there is too little stress, we have no energy, no motivation. On the psychic level, the Resilient Edge of Resistance translates into “sufficiently supported to take a risk.” Without risk, there is no growth or energy; however, without support, risk becomes recklessness. In the territory between, we can grow, thrive, and find pleasure. We function optimally at the Resilient Edge of Resistance.
The Resilient Edge of Resistance shifts constantly. When pressure is applied to the edge of resistance—whether that pressure is breath, touch, or tension—you expand a bit. This creates a new edge of resistance. Yoga postures are a good example of this. If you are seated on the floor and bend over to try to touch your forehead to your legs, it may at first seem impossible. Then, with each breath, you relax into the stretch a little bit more. You don’t force it, you just open up a bit more with each breath. Before you know it, your nose is a lot closer to your legs than you ever thought possible. By staying at the Resilient Edge of Resistance, you are able to go much deeper into the pose than if you had not gone to the edge, or if you had pushed past the edge into pain. The Resilient Edge of Resistance is the place where you feel safe enough to surrender and go deeper.
I have explored—and invited others to explore—the Resilient Edge of Resistance in physical touch for many years. Now, my Urban Tantra workshops are expanding to address our need for Tantric techniques which expand our emotional and psychic Resilient Edges of Resistance. With breath, and with a focus toward respecting yet expanding our resilient edges, we will be able to convert all our emotional states and physical desires into fuel to empower us both personally and as human community.
If you’d like to add Tantra to your toolkit of resilience, or you want to deepen your practice to deepen your impact in the world, take a look at my newest workshops, beginning 8 March.
Join me for a workshop specifically devoted to this topic: How to Create Ecstatic Experiences in Challenging Times—an Urban Tantra Adventure.
Dec 13 2019
Introducing Igniting Intimacy: Sex Magic Rituals for Radical Living and Loving by Rev. Rowan Bombadil
Magic is the art of transformation. It’s the ability to imagine an alternative existence and then create and sustain that existence. Sex is one of the easiest ways to experience magic in action. Sex magic both requires and creates in us the ability to see, hear, feel, taste, smell, and just plain know that there is a fragile yet unbreakable connection that binds us together as humans, and binds us as humans to the rest of creation. When enough of us can imagine an alternative existence we inevitably, collectively, create that reality.
I remember the day I discovered sex magic. Louise Hay, my mentor and friend, had suggested we all send love to a person or a place on the planet that needed it. Always an overachiever, I concluded that if love sent by thought was effective, love delivered via an orgasm might be even more powerful.
There were a lot of people and places that needed love and healing back when I started practicing sex magic in the late 1980’s. I decided to focus on sending individual doses of orgasmic healing energy to my friends with AIDS, and collective orgasmic energy to South Africa, to support the fight to end apartheid.
I learned countless lessons through my sex magic practice.
- First off, I learned the unsurprising fact that an erotic connection is a powerful motivator. Unlike other practices that require discipline to practice regularly, it was easy to show up for my sex magic rituals.
- Secondly, the results of my sex magic practice appeared in the real world in ways I didn’t expect. Suddenly (magically, you might say) people and events showed up in my life that gave me concrete ways to support my sex magical intentions. This gave me opportunities for real activism.
- But the biggest transformation was personal. I felt empowered in ways that felt new. I felt a part of movements that were bigger than me. I felt more connected to the collective power of humanity. I felt like a part of the solution. It was as if the sex magic I was sending out was coming back to me multiplied. It was like I was plugged into a vast network of inspiration and possibilities.
We need the magic of sex and spirit more than ever in these times.
In a world increasingly defined by what we don’t want, by separation and division, by seemingly irreconcilable differences, and a dire disconnection from the earth, we need a road map back to oneness.
That is why I’m so excited to introduce a powerful new book, Igniting Intimacy: Sex Magic Rituals for Radical Living and Loving, by our very own Urban Tantra UK Program Coordinator, Rev. Rowan Bombadil.
This book is for you, whoever you are. The language is inclusive and the content inviting and inspiring. You’ll learn new ways to relate with yourself, beloveds, friends, family and the world. You’ll get to discover and define your own personal meaning and style of intimacy, not only with people, but also with the planet and with divinity. And—whether you identify as straight, queer or something else entirely—you’ll reap the boundless benefits of queering love, sex, ritual, and of course, magic.
Best of all, opening this book invites you into community—a powerful community of people waiting to include you, accept you, empower you, celebrate you, and enfold you in a magical embrace.
So if you’re curious about sex magic, or you’re looking to deepen your practice, I cannot recommend this book enough!
Sep 17 2018
On Friday, 12 October, I’m hosting a live panel discussion on Women, Sex and Power at the New York Open Center.
For this Symposium, I’ve called together a group of the most intelligent, radical, and informed experts working at the intersection of sexuality, politics, and power. Together, we’re going to explore the current climate of sexual politics, sexual freedom, pleasure and power that women in today’s world are facing.
The #MeToo movement and the Women’s Marches have given rise to a new era for women, filled with new possibilities for sexual and political empowerment. But what exactly do sexual and political empowerment look like? It depends on who you ask. Not all women have the same needs, priorities, or goals.
I believe that as free thinkers, and erotic explorers, and agents of our own sexual power, the more deeply we can engage with and question our collective sexual landscape, the more sexual freedom we can consciously create for all.
Women, Sex & Power brings together a panel of brave, visionary women from different racial, cultural, social and professional backgrounds to share their visions for this new era.
Alia Adams is a trans woman of color. She was born in Uganda and fled the country in 2015 after the president of Uganda signed the Anti-Homosexual Act. Having been outed by a local tabloid for being transgender, she was forced to flee for her safety. She currently lives in Albany, NY, where she works as a patient care associate. Alia is also a sex worker rights activist, human rights activist and queer feminist.
Diana Adams is Principal of Diana Adams Law & Mediation, PLLC, a boutique LGBTQ family law and mediation firm based in New York City and Frankfurt, Germany, serving primarily same-sex couples, polyamorous and non-nuclear families. Diana speaks internationally as a thought leader on LGBTQ family law and evolving family structure. Diana also teaches Courageous Conversations, her program on empowered communication, Non-Violent Communication and dispute resolution, in diverse venues such as Yale, law schools, Omega Women’s Leadership Center, and corporate trainings. Diana is the Director of the Euro LGBT Family Law Institute, connecting leaders in LGBTQ family law internationally. Follow her on twitter or Facebook @DianaAdamsEsq www.DianaAdamsLaw.net; www.CourageousConversations.Work
Zahava Griss (Z, pronouns: they/them) is a dancer, coach, kink educator, and author. Z directs Do Good Things with Power, a leadership immersion for facilitators transforming our culture of intimacy. Z has supported many people’s empowerment as they navigate sexuality, gender, race, and conscious power dynamics including guiding women’s circles for 15 years. Z focuses on inclusivity in sexuality, somatic, and dance communities. Z leads erotic grief rituals to enliven us, remind us who we are, what we want, who we come from and what we want to contribute to the world we desire, while seeing humanity as our team. www.EmbodyMoreLove.com.
Mollena Lee Williams-Haas is a NYC born and raised writer, actress, BDSM Educator, Storyteller, sobriety fiend since March 14th 2007, and an Award-Winning Executive Pervert. Her opinion and viewpoints on issues of kink, Leather and BDSM are frequently sought after by news and information sources like The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Newsweek, Essence, and Ebony. Consciously kinky since 1993and active in leather and BDSM since 1996, she travels extensively, speaking on topics including kink, BDSM, power exchange relationships and negotiating it all safely. She’s the co-author of the Toy bag Guide: Taboo Play and Playing Well With Others: Your Guide to Discovering, Exploring and Navigating the Kink, Leather and BDSM Communities. www.mollena.com.
Please join me for this powerful and important discussion. Get your tickets here.
Women, Sex & Power: A Symposium
The New York Open Center
Friday, 12 October
7pm – 10pm
Members $35/ Nonmembers $40
Mar 30 2018
I created Urban Tantra to serve a community that was desperately in need. I wanted, or rather needed, to create a safe space for my brothers during the AIDS crisis so that they could, once again, experience an ecstatic expression of life in a safe and supportive container.
It was through Tantra that I became revitalized and empowered during this time of great grief. I could keep going, keep learning, keep teaching, and then bring my new skills back to my community. It shifted everything—my mindset, my career, my relationship to healing. It was huge!!
It changed my life.
That was 30 years ago. Today, Urban Tantra stays true to those roots.
My main goal in creating the Urban Tantra Professional Training Program was to facilitate the teaching of these profound skills so that lives and relationships around the globe can be changed by this work.
I’m dedicated to the expansion of this work. My mission is to give skills, training, and support to facilitators, practitioners, educators, healers, and leaders who serve communities and clients who are the most in need, underserved, at risk, and disconnected from the tools and knowledge of conscious sexuality. I love nothing more than to see the ripple of transformation grow.
Here is what The Urban Tantra Training Program is all about:
Accessible language, novel skills, and no dogma!
I want you to walk away from the training able to create real change in your professional endeavors, no matter what your job entails. You’ll be given the tools to strengthen your unique talents, and make a bigger impact in your community and in the world
Facilitated ecstatic experience, embodied learning opportunities, and plenty of processing time.
This program is a place for visioning, exploring, nourishing, and playing with various aspects of Tantra, sacred sexuality, sex education, and business to gain a deep understanding of the variety of directions that this work can support your larger goals.
Better Boundaries, Ethics, & Consent
At it’s core, Urban Tantra was built on a foundation of safer sex principles, sexual ethics, and clear boundaries.
As leaders in the field of sexuality and intimacy, we must strive to be impeccable with our practices of boundaries and consent. We need to learn and practices these skills ourselves, create space for conversations about ethics and accountability, and be able to clearly communicate these teachings to our communities for the sexual empowerment and sexual freedom of all.
Global reach, continued support, and unique avenues for growth.
I want you to succeed, but more importantly, I want you to succeed in your own way. I’ve graduated students from this program for over 8 years, and each one has a brilliantly unique way of engaging with Urban Tantra. Each generation of graduates gets connected with the larger community, their wisdom, and their resources. It truly is a diverse group of change agents, leaders, experts, and explorers!
The Urban Tantra Professional Training Program
24-29 July, 2018 in Greenwich, New York
Ready to Register?
I hope to see you there.
Nov 17 2017
As I began the first draft of the first edition of Urban Tantra, I wrote, “I want a revolution!” Not only did I want a revolution in cultural attitudes about sexuality and spirituality, I wanted a revolution in Tantra: the only spiritual practice I’d ever found that welcomed sexuality as a path to spiritual freedom. I wanted that revolution. Then and there.
Now it’s eleven years later, and that revolution is well under way. I looked around the graduation circle at my most recent Urban Tantra Professional Training Program, and saw: a transgender professional dominatrix, a cisgender male medical doctor, a gay male sacred intimate, a nurse, an escort, a relationship coach, a social worker working with indigenous peoples, several sex educators, several more Tantra teachers, two yoga instructors, a performance artist, and an ordained minister. One-third of the group were people of color. We ranged in ages from early twenties to late sixties. We loved, cried, howled with laughter, felt deeply, experienced life-changing “ah-hah” moments, and supported and shared love with each other for an entire week. These were beautiful, brave, passionate explorers—and now they were my colleagues and friends. I initially wrote Urban Tantra because it was the book I had always wanted to read but could never find. I knew there were fierce, loving, spiritually minded, erotically focused people in the world who wanted that book, too. I wanted to meet them. To play with them. To work with them. To learn from them. And here they were. I wrote it, and they came. My dream come true.
So many of my Urban Tantric dreams have come true since 2007. The phrase conscious sexuality is now common. Sacred sex has expanded to embrace all sorts of different beliefs and practices. The field of sexuality education has exploded, providing resources to people of all races, religions, and cultural backgrounds. BDSM was taken off the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders list as of 2013, making it a consensual choice, not a mental illness. Non-monogamous relationships came out of the closet and invited us all to take a fresh look at how we create and maintain relationships. And then there was gender. Oh my! In recent years, the twin explosions of gender identities and trans rights initiatives have changed everything, opening a box of unlimited gender opportunities that can never be closed. Today, Urban Tantra is a global movement. The Urban Tantra Professional Training Program alone has graduated hundreds of practitioners from twenty-six countries, and they, in turn, are taking the practice into corners of the world I’d never dreamed it would go.
I got my revolution. Big time.
Now that we’re post-revolution, it’s time for Urban Tantra to grow into a new era. I’ve made revisions, updates, and additions to this edition, not only to bring Urban Tantra up to date, but also to cast my gaze toward the future. I have always regarded Urban Tantra as an ever-evolving practice. Where might we go next? What might Urban Tantra become next? This revised edition is a step into that future.
As often happens in revolutions, when someone raises a flag, everyone else who’s been longing for a revolution runs over to introduce themselves and ask how they can help. That’s just what happened in 2007, when the first edition of Urban Tantra was published. Everyone who had felt shut out of other schools of Tantra discovered a flag under which they could rally. We first gathered online and then in person—from all around the world.
In this revised edition, I’m extending an invitation to even more inclusivity. I offer practices and suggestions for people in multi-partner relationships. The number of people openly practicing consensual non-monogamy has grown enormously. Over the past decade, I’ve developed Tantra workshops for triads, quads, and more. In this edition, I suggest ways in which partner Tantra can include more than one partner.
Many schools of Tantra have become more inclusive, and so groups of people with common interests and identities have formed their own Tantric groups or incorporated Tantric principles and practices into existing organizations and schools of thought. Gay Tantra, Dark Tantra, Pagan Tantra, Queer Tantra, and Women’s Tantra are just a few of the new flavors of Tantra. I find inspiration in the many creative expressions of Tantra blooming around the planet and I hope this new edition of Urban Tantra can, in turn, inspire them.
I have also been inspired by the rise of the asexuality movement. An asexual is someone who either does not experience sexual attraction, or experiences attraction, but feels no need to act out that attraction sexually. Lack of sexual interest and/or desire is commonly pathologized in our culture. I applaud asexuals and aromantics (people who experience little or no romantic attraction to others) for refusing to be pathologized. And it turns out that an increasing number of asexuals and aromantics are becoming drawn to Tantra. In this edition, I point out practices that allow people with different sexual and romantic affinities to find ways of relating, running energy, and creating connection and intimacy that do not have to include sex and/or romance.
TANTRA AND BDSM
The relationship between Tantra and BDSM—considered radical and heretical when I first wrote about it—is now common practice. The explosion caused by the book Fifty Shades of Grey catapulted BDSM above ground and into the middle class. Those BDSM practitioners who had always played with a Tantric touch now had a name for the energy play they had long enjoyed. Tantrikas who liked things a little more physically or emotionally intense had permission to go there. Some Tantric practitioners are now combining elements of power and intense sensation with traditional Tantra in a variation sometimes referred to as Dark Tantra. Longtime BDSM players are coming out of the closet as spiritual seekers and creating scenes intentionally designed to welcome god/goddess/universe/all-that-is into their dungeons. Communities in which kinky people and Tantrikas meet, mingle, and play together are growing and can now be found all over the world.
Tantric sex and BDSM have much more in common than may seem apparent at first glance. Both are erotic arts of consciousness. Both arts add intensity to life and sex. Both embrace a wide variety of powerful consensual practices. Both Tantric and BDSM rituals are about raising erotic energy. Both practices involve conscious giving and receiving. Both encourage risks—either physical or emotional. Both erotic arts encourage personal freedom, individuality, and imagination. And both produce trance states, and transcendental, transformational experiences. In this edition, I provide a larger toolkit for those who wish to explore this intersection.
Everything about how we look and talk about gender has changed. When I wrote the first edition of Urban Tantra, I wanted to use they instead of he as the gender-neutral pronoun, but my editors (justifiably) felt the general public would find that confusing or grammatically incorrect, so I wrote around the problem by using gender-neutral names instead of pronouns, switching between he and she, and using s/he. During the editing of this revised book, the subject was not even raised. Now most English dictionaries include they as a third-person singular gender-neutral pronoun.
The language of gender is changing so rapidly that by the time you read this I’m quite sure it will have evolved to name new aspects, or new understandings, of gender. This necessitates a new mindfulness in using this evolving language of both sex and gender. As I remind people in both my workshops and my books, defining our terms before we speak or write is critical to accurately communicating our feelings, identities, and desires. In that spirit, here are my definitions for the gender-related terms I’ll be using:
• Cisgender (or cis) is a person whose gender identity matches up with the sex they were assigned at birth.
• Transgender, at this writing, refers to a man, a woman, a boy, or a girl who has transitioned from another gender. As recently as a few years ago, transgender was a term inclusive of anyone who was messing around with gender. That inclusive term is now trans.
• Trans, at this writing, is an inclusive term for anyone whose gender is in any way at odds with cultural norms for gender. This includes nonbinary, genderqueer, and gender-nonconforming people.
• Nonbinary, genderqueer, and gender-nonconforming refer to people whose gender identities and expressions are neither, both, or other than male or female.
In this edition, I am offering more Tantric erotic possibilities for both transpeople and the people who love them. When I wrote the first edition of Urban Tantra, I titled my Erotic Awakening Massages as being for “People with Pussies” and “People with Penises,” instead of for women and men. I wanted people to understand that not all people who identified as women had pussies and not all people who identified as men had penises. Now, as more and more people understand that genitals do not equal gender, it’s the perfect time to be more explicitly trans-inclusive by introducing my new chapter, Erotic Awakening Massage for Trans and Gender-Nonconforming People—an erotic/spiritual adventure based on the knowledge that all erotic tissue is simply the same Jell-O poured into different molds.
The word Tantra is, alas, now virtually synonymous with sex in mainstream Western culture. Although I have tried to keep focus on the larger spiritual practice, I want to honor and support people’s profound need for a spiritual practice that embraces sexuality. In chapter 1, I take a more nuanced view of the nature and history of Tantra and its evolution into a modern Western sacred sexuality practice.
When Urban Tantra was first published, my primary intention was to create a Tantric practice that welcomed people of all genders, races, abilities, sexual preferences, and spiritual beliefs. I wanted a school of Tantra that was down-to-earth, fun, accessible, and transformative. I also wanted to expand the boundaries of what Tantra was and could be. In the ensuing years, I’ve watched people experience countless emotional and physical healing miracles through their personal Tantric practices. Today, I’m asking, how can the practice of Urban Tantra heal not only ourselves, but also our world? How can we be of service? What else is possible at the intersection of spirit and sex? How can Tantra—and specifically Urban Tantra—not only inspire people to become their best selves but also to create change in the world for the benefit of others? Part 5 of this new edition, Tantra: The Next Dimension, points us toward that future. I invite us all to use the Tantra-related art of sex magic to create our own personal brand of sexually and spiritually fueled social activism.
Whether you have been on the Urban Tantric path since the first edition of the book was published or you are just beginning your journey with us, welcome. It is my fondest hope that this new edition of Urban Tantra inspires you to create your own flavor of spiritually infused sexuality, and/or erotically infused spirituality. You could call that practice Tantra, sacred sex, conscious sexuality, erotic spirituality, or sacred kink. I call it simply, How I Love.
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