When we think of sensually connecting with a partner, this usually involves looking at each other, listening and touching. That makes sense and is pretty much in line with the senses we use in most interactions, but it leaves out two important ones: smell and taste!
Those two senses are closely linked, and most of us would probably agree that they take the back seat over sight, hearing and touch. They appear so much less important, and yet taste and smell can be overwhelmingly powerful at times. My theory is simple: while the three big ones are focused on the ‘now’, taste and smell form a shortcut to Memory Lane. They also seem to be more temporary and reactive, while the big three feel more proactive. You can, of course, tune out sound, or you might daydream and not see anything in front of you, but that is more of an exception than the rule.
When you think about it, you most likely have had moments where a smell conjured up strong memories of a place and time that means something to you. And then again, taste can be a huge player in the ‘now’: just imagine eating your favourite meal and you may just taste or smell that meal as if it were in front of you. Vision can override pretty much every other sense, especially the less prominent ones, so why not use a blindfold and open the pathways for other senses?
When it comes to conscious sensuality, using smell and taste requires more preparation than other senses, but it is worth it. Making use of those two senses adds an exceptional, even unexpected, element to the time you spend together. Maybe you can set up a ritual that involves particular locations, like a blindfolded walk with olfactory highlights. Or you could add a specific smell/taste to particular parts of your interaction with your partner by using food items and spices. There is a good reason for all that incense in sacred spaces!
Whatever you do, make sure you get consent, especially when it comes to feeding your partner something while he wears a blindfold. Be aware of intolerances!
expand the playing field, make use of all the senses!
I recently sat in the coffee shop around the corner, enjoying the sunshine, watching people and taking a bit of time to myself to regroup my thoughts when I observed something normal, yet astounding at the same time.
At the table next to me, there was a couple with a toddler and a male friend were having breakfast here, chatting away happily and the toddler being a toddler: occasional screams and general happiness. When they had just left and were organising their stuff just outside on the pavement, one of the ladies from behind the counter came along and cleared their table.
Nothing extraordinary so far, but this is where the magic started: it took 10 seconds flat for one of the ladies behind the counter to come over and clear the table. Yes, it’s good practice, but with a café nearly empty those things often take longer than they should.
And then she saw the fluffy toy sitting on the table, and immediately ran outside, catching up with the group 20 meters or so from the café. Suffice it to say, they were utterly delighted that their kid would sleep soundly that afternoon!
When she came back she continued her work, with a smile on her face and humming along with the music in the background. Lesson to be learned: it’s the little things that bring the most unexpected joy to everyone involved.
What is this to do with tantra? Everything, in fact! Every small act can bring joy to not just your partner, but to yourself, and to anyone who witnesses the joy expressed by either of you. It’s a brilliant win-win situation.
Tantra is all about bliss, right? And joy is the high road to bliss in my book! Whenever you experience joy, your mind opens pathways that remain closed otherwise, and who is to say that is not the single most important thing that could happen to you during a tantra session?
spiritual awakening need not come from physical touch
There is a certain element of addiction to being a tantra practitioner.
Don’t worry, it’s nothing you have to go cold turkey for at any time soon, but there are parallels to drug use in that you want to get your fix of tantra every so often or you start feeling bad otherwise. Let me explain.
Once you had a bit of an encounter with tantra and some of the techniques have taken hold, have become a habit, you will start to expect things to happen in a way that adds to your daily life experience. You’ll be on the lookout for partners who are able to fulfil that particular need in ways that you find pleasing beyond the purely physical connection with that person.
As an important side-effect you simply want to learn more about what makes you feel this great. It’s similar to the inertia you get when you push something heavy on a slick floor and it keeps floating along nicely once you have overcome that initial resistance.
In tantra, that resistance usually takes the shape of false expectations, worries and misconceptions. Once those are out of the way, not only does progress come much more easily, but you also crave more of the stuff you have been given.
This means you want to learn more as you move forward, and you want to meet others to try what you have learned for yourself. Having a partner in crime helps, of course, but never limit yourself: I have personally found that many of the lessons I have learned in tantra (about myself and the practice itself) have found their way into other parts of my life, particularly into my work environment.
The surprising truth about tantra is this: it’s not just about sex! Quite the contrary, it is about you, the world you live in, and even what’s beyond that.
once you are on a roll, keep it going!
One of the big issues about going to a tantra-inspired activity – be it in a large group of strangers or with your partner of 12 years – is the build-up of expectations before the class or workshop even starts.
When I talk about what I do, I tend to come across two clearly defined groups of guys: either they have no clue at all what tantra is about (and that is brilliant) or they have clear (if mostly erroneous) ideas of what will happen. While I like the enthusiasm of the former, I sometimes struggle with the latter as they often expect things that are not likely to happen at all: more often than not, they expect an orgy or something very much like it.
I blame neo-tantra and especially Osho (in his Pune incarnation) for that somewhat skewed view on what tantra is supposed to be. Setting this potentially false expectation aside, both aforementioned groups have one thing in common: in the running up towards the class, people wonder about what is going to happen. They often even make decisions on what they want to happen and maybe even what they do NOT want to happen.
Interestingly, most of what is part of tantra happens much better if you just go with the flow, let it happen without thinking too much about it. It’s easier on yourself if you just do what you are told for those 90 minutes or so. It’s easier on the teacher as well, of course. Nothing will happen without your consent, of course, so just keep an open mind and relax.
In the worst case, you’ll experience some things you never have done before. Then again, you may have an amazing time and maybe even want to explore more.
be open to the experience
There is a lot of focus on the ‘before’ when it comes to sex: finding a partner, flirting, talking about it, setting a time and place, foreplay, preparations of all sorts. Often, when things actually have happened, what remains is a strange kind of void.
I think we can all agree that sex can be somewhere between just so-so and amazingly awesome on occasion. It is true for all those occasions, though, that we usually focus on the ‘before’ when it comes to sex, and all the arrows point to the act with no indication of anything that might come after. I believe this to be the main reason why we end often up with awkward conversations and a quick retreat. Your partner either leaves or – if you are in a relationship – you may continue your evening with separate activities altogether.
In a way, this is very similar to movie storylines: big build-up, lots of important steps, big finale, the end. We never find out what happens afterwards, because that is considered to be a slow burn and “boring”. Myths and heroic stories didn’t usually end with “they lived happily ever after” but there was a bit when the wonderful conclusion is brought back home and integrated into regular life. Just think of what happened to Odysseus: his tale really starts on his trip back home from Troy, right?
Yes: of course orgasm is the energetic high point and then we go straight into the “ever after” part of the story. Why not extend that story a little? You could bask in the afterglow together, enjoy each other’s company, gently caressing or even reigniting that flame once more. You could just sit together and watch the sunset. The important thing is that you do it together.
Don’t disconnect from each other right after orgasm, you will miss out on that little spark that will keep your intimate connection alive. There is so much more to sex than just the act itself: it is perfectly possible to have a shared experience AFTER the act, most of us simply end up in their own space rather than stick together for that a little bit longer.
extend shared experience as long as you can
These are my own thoughts on aspects of my work I feel strongly about.