In Holland there is a big movement happening in the tantra community. A website has been launched to report sexual abuse during professional tantra sessions. The number of reports that is coming in about men in the tantric work field who are overstepping boundaries is alarming. And it is about time that those men are being held accountable for their actions and stop what they are doing. So I am completely behind that. BUT….. the message this website is putting out to women is mostly based on creating fear. ‘Do not go to a man for a tantric session.’ ‘It’s only men who do this.’ ‘If a practitioner is not obliging to a lot of strict rules during a session this means he or she is a bad practitioner.’ ‘People who say [certain things] are not to be trusted’.
In my opinion this only creates a lot of fear, contraction, tension and separation. And isn’t the main goal to create safety and encourage people on their path of personal development?
That’s why I wanted to create something that empowers people to find their own safety while taking their (first) steps onto the path of tantra or other bodywork. This path can be amazing and I would love for more people to step onto it, but how do you do that when you are wounded (which almost everyone is in some degree) or trying to heal from abuse or people crossing your boundaries? The key lies not in finding someone to fix you in a tantric session. No, the key lies within you. There are safe ways of stepping on to the tantric path and you can learn how to set boundaries and prevent people from taking advantage of you. How? Well, I don’t claim to be a tantric expert, but I am an expert of my own body. And on my path to embodiment I learned a lot which I would love to share with you.
One more thing before we begin. This article is not only for women. Because it is not men who are the bad guys here. It’s a number of people. Not men. People. There are men AND women who are crossing boundaries, in big ways or smaller ways. Of course there is a bigger dynamic playing out between men and women in the world at the moment, but I won’t go into that here. I will go into ways that allow us to grow together. Let’s not blame men. Let’s not victimize women. Let’s not create separation. Let’s empower each other, as people.
So, on to my contribution of things I feel are important when taking your first steps on the path of tantra.
1. Start at the beginning
I often see people who are new to tantra who begin right away with getting a tantric massage, a yoni massage, de-armouring etc. But then you’re missing a lot of steps! If you are not aware of your body and your boundaries, you also cannot name them in a very intimate and sometimes overwhelming setting. A tantric massage is amazing, but should be somewhere around step 10 (or 8, in case of this article). And I hate to break it to you, but it’s not a quick fix. It will not heal you in an instant. You have to walk the path, take it step by step. Heal yourself.
2. Baby steps
Where to begin then? The first important step is to start reconnecting with your body again. Your body has a lot of wisdom and is your compass in almost everything you do. Does it contract, then there’s something to look at, a part of you saying ‘help’ or ‘oh, wait!’. If it expands and relaxes, then your body feels safe. But most of us have learned very early on to ignore our body’s signals and numb our feelings. We’ve learned to live in our head, let our mind lead us. The mind is a beautiful tool, but should not be the solo partaker when making decisions. So the first step is to start listening to your body again, include it in your being. There are a lot of beautiful ways to do this. Different workshops that really focus on feeling and experiencing what’s going on inside of you. The journey within yourself. Private sessions with a haptotherapist or someone else who can help you to start living in your body again. Cuddle workshops or other light workshops around connection are a great place to practice and feel what is going on in your body when you come in contact with other people. Workshops or sessions based on breath are great as well, your breathing is a great tool and reflection of safety. Remember the last time you felt anxious? How your breath became shorter and high in your chest? Deep breathing is an art on itself and has amazing effects on your whole system.
And once you have learned some of these tools to become aware of your body, you can start to examine this in your everyday life. How does my body respond to different things and situations? Really observe what’s going on in your body when you meet someone, when you are feeling a certain emotion or thought.
3. Find your needs
Now that you are becoming aware of the communication of your body, you can learn to react. So if you feel a contraction, what do you do? You can learn a lot about this as well in the workshops mentioned above, and you can now start to learn it from your own body as well. Because once you start listening to your body, you can start to communicate, it becomes a teacher. When you feel a contraction when someone is near, what do you need at that moment? Do you need to walk away completely? Do you need to step back just a little bit? Do you need to close your eyes, putting a hand on your belly for support? Do you need a little break in the conversation and have some silence? Or is it enough to take a few big breathes? Start to play with this, see when your body relaxes again. Sometimes the relaxing needs more time, that is totally fine. And in some cases none of these actions will help, because your whole nervous system is constantly on edge and you keep closing down completely. In that case it’s good to go back to the personal space, slow down, take smaller steps. Or find one on one counseling. Someone who is familiar with somatic trauma work for example.
4. Be your own safe person
When you are learning your body’s language and needs, it’s time to build the connection, the trust. Really listen to the signals and create your own safe space. You are the only one who can take care of you. You are the only one who is always there, a safe space to go to. So build up that trust. Check in with your body on different moments during the day. Place your hands on your body, take some deep breaths and ask ‘how are you’? Feel if something comes up. An emotion that wants to be seen or maybe a request/desire. If you do this regularly, really taking care of your own body, your system will start to relax. And it will become much easier for you to hear it’s messages when the constant noise is gone.
5. Start to build up the intensity
Now that you’ve found the muscle of safety, this doesn’t mean that you can immediately lift the heaviest weight with it. You need to train it. Make it stronger. You’ll start to notice that you find the relaxation and safety in yourself quicker every time. You hear your body’s messages and can hold space for yourself during little triggers. Now it’s time to widen your safety zone. Finding that sweet spot just outside of your comfort zone. You can go to workshops that are more advanced. More interaction, deeper connections, more physical contact, maybe even nudity. And you keep working that muscle. But don’t overdo it. Don’t move to fast because you will only risk injuries. If you go to far out of your comfort zone, you’ll contract too much, loose the connection and make another imprint in your body that it’s not safe.
6. Slow. Down.
It’s easy to go too fast. I do that myself all the time. Having fun, wanting more, wanting to go faster, learn more, expand more…… until I become aware that I’m not in the moment anymore, not connected to my body, I didn’t even feel the contraction coming in. So when I realize that, I slow down. Take a few deep breaths. Literally slow down my movements. If I’m walking fast, walk slower. Bring awareness back to my body, inwards. And if I’m connected to myself again, I can start to connect to others. So check in with yourself when you’re doing all this amazing work, workshops, meetings, conversations. It is so easy to go along in the excitement and disengage a bit from your body so you cannot hear the messages anymore.
And this goes for the entire path as well. I so often catch myself thinking ‘I should know this by now’ or ‘everyone is doing it, so I should be able to do it as well’. But then I’m not true to myself. It takes time. And speeding things up does more harm than good in most of the cases. The more you are becoming aware of your body, the more you will start to feel. And it takes more time and space to feel it all. So accept your slowness. I even say it to people sometimes, that I’m a slow feeler, I need some time to let things sink in and touch different levels. If I rush that it stacks up and it becomes a mess.
Keep reminding yourself of this fact: you are a unique being. You are worth all the time and space that you need.
7. Find your voice
So now you’re feeling it, acting on it, holding space for yourself, know your body and are building the muscle; you’re well on your way! One more important thing is to find your voice. Speaking up can be quite a challenge. Especially when you’ve missed that first moment when you wanted to speak up, that little voice popping up. The longer you wait, the harder it gets. You end up in your head having conversations without anyone being aware of it. If you haven’t practiced this in previous workshops, find one that focuses on it. Radical honesty is good for this as well. And start practicing this in everyday life. Start with your inner circle of friends. Say what you want and say what you don’t like. Practice with saying yes and no, without apologizing. When you feel you’re contracting during a conversation, hug or when someone asks something of you, just say ‘wait, I need a moment’. And take that time to breathe, ground and reconnect with yourself. This is not rude or personal. You’ll notice that most people feel more comfortable with you when you take responsibility for your own well being and boundaries. If you learn to say no, you also learn to say yes. And that yes will be so much more real. Gradually start implementing this in other situations as well, strangers in a bar, sales people on the street, colleagues. It can be scary at first, but it creates magic, really. And I’m still telling myself this regularly as well ;).
Now here you are. Feeling you can hold space for yourself and you want to do a one-on-one tantric session or massage. What are important things to know?
8. Go to a recommended practitioner
The best thing is to go to someone a friend is recommending from their own experience. A friend who is in touch with her own boundaries that is. Or ask recommendations from a practitioner you’ve done workshops with and who feels genuine.
And keep in mind: A website can be built by someone who is good in marketing, so don’t focus too much on the words there. Do trust your instinct and your body. If you have a bad feeling with someone, don’t take the risk, find someone else.
And for women; if you know you are still working on your boundaries and even might be aware of your daddy issues (I still haven’t met a woman who doesn’t have those), it is good to start the first session with a woman. Just because there’s a totally different dynamic in that and it’s safer to practice in.
9. Create your own safe space within the session
Before you go, feel into what you’d like from the session. And what you need, what you don’t want and if you have any questions. Name all of this at the beginning, before you move into physical contact or take off any clothes. Create a safe container together and agree on rules. The practitioner should take the lead in this already, but take your own responsibility in this as well. If something is not clear, ask again. Those rules do not change during the session. You can always adjust them for the next session, but never during. Except when during the session you feel a no to something you agreed on doing. Saying no is always allowed.
10. Create a safe signal and practice it
Some practitioners use a safe word, like apple or red. I personally feel sometimes like this is the ultimate stop, like I should only use it when in big distress. And in big distress I have difficulty finding my voice already. So create something that works for you. This can be a word for ‘stop’, but also for ‘slow down’, ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘I need a breath’. It can also be a hand signal, which may be easier for you than speaking up. And you can even agree to practice that hand signal a couple of times in the first part of the session. Especially when you feel a contraction somewhere, just stop, breathe a few times and come back to the relaxation and safety again. The contraction can be the first step out of your body, so take it seriously. No means no. Maybe means no. I think so means no. I’m not sure means no. Only yes means yes.
11. The session is for you
The practitioner is there to hold space for your process. You don’t have to do anything that doesn’t feel good. You are never obliged to do something or feel something a certain way. Even in a tantric session you don’t have to feel ‘sexy’. If you feel like sobbing the entire session, that’s totally fine. If you want to keep on your underwear, that’s totally fine. All your emotions are valid and worth it. So don’t feel ‘too much’ or ‘nagging’ or ‘not tantric enough’ or trying not to hurt the feelings of the practitioner by saying no to something.
12. Rules rule!
Talking about rules may sound limiting at first, but actually they are needed for you to feel free. If you have a very clear container for you both to act in during the sessions and you know exactly where all the boundaries are, you can totally relax in the entire playfield that is there.
When something is happening that is crossing the boundaries or if you’re not sure about something, always name this, even in the middle of the session. You both made those agreements, so it’s perfectly fine to speak up when one of you is not taking responsibility for them or you feel like you need to sharpen the boundaries. And if you find yourself with a practitioner who is not keeping his or her end of the agreement even when you speak up, you can always stop the session. You are not obliged in any way to ‘sit it out’. You are your safe person, remember? Always take yourself serious in this. You are never overreacting, you are simply loving yourself and taking care of your own boundaries and safety.
13. Don’t give away your power
This is a really common thing on this path. I’ve done it many times. I’m with a male tantric practitioner and having an amazing session where I feel my full power and pleasure. Right away I start projecting it on to him personally. ‘He gave me this feeling, he is amazing’. ‘I wonder if we might have a romantic future, he is the ideal man, I feel so great with him’. ‘I need him to feel like this again’. After a session your body is releasing a lot of hormones, which feel similar to love. And it is love! But not persé for the other person in the room. So realize that and give yourself some time and space after a session to let it all come down again. Don’t act on it right after a session.
A good practitioner holds space for you so you can experience that amazing powerful feeling. That feeling is already inside of you, you are the source of it, not him. So be thankful that he helped you reach it, remember it. But always remember that you are the one responsible for that power and beauty you feel inside of you. Embrace it. Own it. And let it shine into the world.
14. Let go of the goal
Tantra is so much more than just the physical or sexual pleasure. It is a way of living. Connecting to the divine. Embracing and loving everything, the good, the ugly and the in between. So despite of what it might seem like in this article, the tantric massage is not the end goal. It is only one of the options on the tantric path and in life. So enjoy it all, learn about tantra, about yourself and the world. Like a child exploring the world, with pure curiosity. Empower yourself. Open yourself. Expand yourself. Love yourself.
Much love and strength to you on this amazing path. And don’t forget to have fun along the way!