Have you ever experienced the kind of relationship that, years after it’s ended, you look back and think, “How is it possible that I remained there as long as I had?”
But before entertaining further negativity, you remember how pivotal the experience was to your growth and evolution. You stand where you are today because of it.
That’s how I feel about tantra and sacred sex. I’ll tell you why.
Years ago, I was courted by a man who called himself a “Tantric Sacred Sexual Healer;” we’ll call him “Father Ron.” We’d been acquaintances for several years. He’d never failed to express his interest, and although I considered him charming and attractive, nevertheless I was sure he was a player, so never gave his advances any real consideration.
But, life has a way of finagling with our ideas about things, doesn’t it?
On my birthday, May of 2005, my brother, who was my father figure and best friend, passed away from a massive brain aneurysm. I was 33 at the time, in my sexual prime, and for the six months that followed his death, I lived in a perpetual state of anxiety, flip-flopping between grief and a burning desire to explore beyond the emotional, economic, and cultural bandages that had always enveloped my life.
My job, my relationship, everything around me seemed unbearably meaningless and flat. It was as if all of my unmet needs and desires were suddenly arising like phantoms from their 33 year slumber, dancing the jig in my gut, and whispering into my ears their perpetual arsenal of desires.
If I had had the money, I’d have put myself into some ashram, hidden away in the Himalayas.
Meanwhile, my Daka friend, Father Ron, was calling me “Goddess” and telling me how special I was. He was sure I was meant to be a Dakini, a Tantrika.
“I was born for it,” he said, and I had to admit, I’d heard this before, from others.
Ron wanted to see what it might be like if we were to enter into partnership, and invited me to live with him in his Temple-–and the cherry on top, what if we were to travel the world, and teach Tantra together?
Me? Teach Tantra? I had no idea what Tantra was. How would I do that?
But, he was the expert, and he was saying I was meant to do this, and certainly the name of Tantra sounded very cool, and sacred and mysterious. Surely it was full of spiritual wisdom and secrets, and regardless of the all the red flags about Ron, i.e. the voice of discernment that, like most women with histories of sexual abuse, and/or parental abandonment, I had never learned to hear or acknowledge or my over-sexualized, materialized, and objectified self was desperate to find the love and healing I needed.
So I went, and I’m happy I did. Here’s why. It will take some explaining.
I was hyper-sexual all of my life, but not in a completely joyful way. Really, there was a looming sense of obligation attached, a subtle form or prostitution or unconscious sexual trading that simmered within the petrie dish of so many relationships.
I sought safety and validation from the men in my life, from one partner to the next, and my happiness was contingent on the state of whatever relationship I happened to be in and they were always based around sex. After all, even though I’d have preferred otherwise, I’d never even thought to question if sex was the foundation of my relationships. Wasn’t that how it was for everyone?
I had no sense of discernment or self-control. My life was based on fear and survival. I was broke. I was bored. I was terribly uncreative. Still, if you asked me at the time, I’d have pronounced, with each man I was with, the truth of my undying love and commitment.
My patterns were so ingrained that I was enslaved to them.
I didn’t know how to let go. I was desperate. Surely then, I would find the healing I needed in tantra and sacred sex.
At the ‘Temple, “Sacred spot” (sensual massage) and “Sacred Union” (sex) became daily, if not two or three times a day practices, assuredly encouraged via an arsenal of spiritual linguistics, “It’s your birthright to be a juicy, orgasmic Goddess,” and “When the amrita (female ejaculate) flows, all will be happy and the rivers shall run clean!”
My dopamine levels skyrocketed, and my warning signals became eclipsed.
“How cool is this?” my mind said “I’m not only doing this for myself, but for the entire world!” Surely I’d found the deepest meaning and purpose.
Yet, without realizing, I was entering onto the ultimate spiritual battlefield.
My partner showed me the tools to direct my fears, judgments and tribulations inward. I learned how we project our denied pain and wounds onto others, and how to take self-responsibility by keeping my emotions “at home” by keeping myself centered. The tools made sense and I ruthlessly sought the places in myself that were triggered by the mirror of my reflection, especially those of Father Ron.
Although we had agreed to be in an open, poly-amorous, relationship, the deeply centered and loving experiences that I’d hoped for, found no ground to manifest. Between euphoric moments, I was looking obliquely at Ron’s perpetual sexual focus and what was turning out to be an endless revolving door of lovers.
But wasn’t poly and sacred sex meant to be deeper and more present than this? I mean more like the way he spoke about it.
But, it seemed like what was happening was really just a lot more sex. But maybe I was missing something. Surely it was my fear and conditioning talking, as he so confidently suggested. I had to admit, there was something there, and dealing with Father Ron certainly was great fodder to learn to go inside and “bring my shadow into the light.”
But when I became tired of the intensity and requested he give the lovers a rest so I might emotionally catch up, I was accused of “being in my fear,’’ “projecting from my wounds” and “coming from my victim mentality.”
The numbers of lovers was inconsequential. “I had to face my shame, guilt and fear around sex.”
Something didn’t feel right, and after a while, I just had to ask, why does he need so many lovers? Where is his ability to be quiet, centered and contented? Is all this drama really only because of my issues? But I kept coming back for more over and over again.
And of course, they were my issues, but not quite in the way things were being presented.
I sat, day after day, in talks and workshops, listening to Ron prattle endlessly on about the Goddess and authenticity and the sacredness of sex. But his words, so often, were completely antithetical to his actions.
I’d never faced anything like this. I hadn’t known it existed. Was any of this even real? Here I am learning about ‘sacred relationship’ in the most unhealthy and contracted experience of my life! I was profoundly confused and conflicted, pounding my head against the wall.
Until I finally got it! This is why I love Tantra and sacred sex.
There was nothing ‘out there’ to find. I’d spent the entirety of my life in this pursuit of something outside of myself and I had hit the wall for the final time. It became painfully clear that I had to learn to stand strong on my own. Otherwise, I would sentence myself to a life dependent on the actions of others, and in that, there is no liberation.
Since that time a wonderful ease and relaxation has descended into my being. The ferocity of my pains and fears has quieted and calmed. I no longer have to give my body or my power away. I have become my own teacher and guide, knowing that which I seek was within me all along.
Having worked through my own fears and delusions, denials and masks, I make healthier decisions. I am safe in the context of relationships, because I no longer need or depend on them. I no longer will place myself in harms way. Rather, I will only participate in the deepest, most authentic love, a love that is real and joyful. A love no longer contingent upon sex, but rather sex contingent upon love.
This story, I have come to understand, on one level or another, is profoundly common.
Share this with every woman you love.
Maya Yonika is the author of No Mud, No Lotus: a Memoir of Sex, Betrayal, and Spiritual Awakening and a Personal Empowerment and Integral Self Development Coach. She lives in Ubud, Bali.
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Assistant Ed. Rebecca Schwarz/Kate Bartolotta