Back in 2003, I was living with a partner of 10 years. Like many relationships we started well but over the years I found I was enjoying sex less and less. Sometimes it was painful, sometimes numb, and the worst was the feeling of grief that would often overtake me (the way arousal had in the past).
On a good day, I’d managed to not let this show and after sex I’d say that I needed to pee, then sob silently and alone in the bathroom. On a bad day I couldn’t stop the tears flowing during sex. You can imagine the havoc it reaped with my relationship.
One night at a party I got chatting to a friend and confided the problems I had. She told me about Hilary Spenceley who had just started to run women’s Tantra workshops, she was going and did I want to join her?
This is just what you need, she said
I’ll think about, I said.
Inside, I was thinking, I can’t do that. It will cost money and I don’t have money. It sounds really odd, I don’t do things like that!
I didn’t say yes but somehow I didn’t say no either.
A few weeks later she emailed and said we needed to book soon, I didn’t reply. I remember resolutely ignoring that email. Then she emailed to say she’d paid the £100 deposit for each of us. Now I felt obliged to go, decision made (not!).
I was plain terrified. But what I remember most about that first workshop is how I wanted to do everything ‘right’. Despite my indecision during the booking process once I arrived I wanted to get gold stars for everything, and I did alright until the last structure of the Sunday. As I learned what we were invited to do, my mind worked out how this would be for me and I would shine, shine, shine, I felt giddy and excited, but when it was my turn what had lifted me up now turned on me, and I was crippled, unable to move. I hated every part of my being and wanted the ground to swallow me up.
Looking back now I can see how fearful I had become not just of my sexuality but actually of life itself. I couldn’t trust how I would react, how anything would be. I saw how I needed to hold back because my true self had become unacceptable, my feelings didn’t fit the situation, sex should make me smile and not cry, I should instantly shine at everything I try. Life should be a certain way and anything else is unacceptable. Rationally, I knew this was nonsense, yet somehow these beliefs controlled everything I tried to do.
First the Women’s Programme and then the Mixed gave me a space to let my messy awkward, inappropriate self out into the open where I could learn to live on a much deeper level. With compassionate teachers I learned to relax into being present to myself in each moment and that journey goes on, seemingly ever deeper.
Tantra is a tool for expansion. For me today this doesn’t mean life is plain sailing but it does mean there is space and movement, there is perspective and choice in all things. Sometimes sex might leave me crying but that’s testament to how moving it can be and what a gift it is to express myself, I don’t instantly shine at everything I try but that’s testament to my courage to express myself and the value I now see in allowing authenticity and vulnerability.
There is so much more I could write, Tantra is a great tool for learning about sexuality but its much bigger, a place to examine how we are in this world, a place to notice what brings us pleasure and fulfilment and then to expand that possibility, to go to the places we never thought we could go, to be the people we never thought we could be. And all the time creating more and more freedom to express the truth of our existence in each and every moment.
Life is many things and through tantra I have learned to express it, honour, it accept it and above all notice the pleasure inherent in every second.