Not having had a woman in my bed in the seventeen years since my separation, I was tempted by the Sacred Cuddle event at Soul Play on Saturday night. “Cuddle” sounded safe enough – like a pile of puppies. It seemed possible that the participants would be counseled to avoid sexually explicit behavior, and I was beckoned by memories of the sweet pressure of a woman’s torso resting against my chest.
I realize now that I was reaching further back for motherly or platonic sensuality predating sexual fascination. Probably not the goal of the average adult.
The event started out tamely with regulated exercises, but after “free play” started, I stood up from my second chaste encounter and glanced around the room to discover that the energy was tipping inexorably into the sexual. Slipping discretely through the corner panel of the enclosure, I danced playfully through the last hour of the DJ set in the Ecstatic Ballroom, and held on until after 1AM to appreciate the romantic lyrics and tender acoustic guitar of the live closing act that I know only as “Colin.”
Despite the solace of Colin’s artistry, my expectation on Sunday morning was that I would leave Soul Play with only the gift that Parmatma Cris had delivered to me.
I could not have been more wrong.
My knees were aching from three nights of dancing, so on Sunday I decided to focus on workshops. The first was the Group Energy Mandala offered by Matt Sturm and Leslie Grace. I arrived early, but didn’t poke my head in the door because I found a free power cord lying at the corner of the building. Waiting for my cell phone to charge, I absorbed the warmth of the early sun and eavesdropped as the two worried whether anyone was going to show up at 8 AM.
Not wanting them to get too panicked, I retrieved my phone and introduced myself. After settling, we wondered about attendance until I asked them to explain their method. People began trickling in, until with the fifth participant they announced that they had enough to start.
In Tibetan Buddhism, a mandala is a visualization of sacred relationships. Some are purely abstract; others visualize deities. For the tantric practitioner, the body itself is a mandala. Tantric sex is an intimate paired mandala in which each lover surrenders to the inspection of their partner. Matt and Leslie hoped to guide is into a larger sharing.
The session evolved much as it did in Movement Alchemy. First grounding, then activation of the third chakra to chop away impediments. That was the actual physical metaphor: we did belly crunches while chopping the air with clasped hands. Just as when Parmatma described Kali tiger claws, in going through the motions I called forth the presence of my supervisor at work.
The process continued with exercises designed to build intimacy among the participants, culminating with a compassion mandala in which each of us took turns at the center while those outside grounded our immediate experience of love to source and the earth.
As this reached its conclusion, a final participant joined us, sitting to my left. She had Persian features, serenely youthful, her hair tied in a bandana from which a long helix escaped to fall along her right cheek.
Matt and Leslie organized the four men first, two sitting back-to-back and two resting against their shoulders. The women were posted outside, face-to-face with the men. I found myself paired with the young beauty. We introduced ourselves, and I was confronted with a tender femininity almost confounding in its receptivity. Incongruously, a female voice whispered in my ear, “This is our gift to you.”
The organizers asked the women to scoot in until our knees touched, and the meditation began. It was a simple journey through the chakras, and as stages of our experience were triggered by the description of chakras, it seems easiest to describe it in that framework:
The root chakra: grounding in the self. I as a man and she as a woman, but with a gentle intimacy where her knees rested on the inside of my calves. The tender tickle traveled upwards, so we rerouted it into the bones, establishing between us that whatever occurred would be managed consciously and consensually.
The second chakra: seat of passion. Awakening that energy, both of us were aware of the potency of sexuality, but I redirected my response into admiration for the freshness of her flowering. Gently she offered her passion to mine, and the energy built slowly, resonating back and forth until arousal became inevitable, and then we redirected again: she the flower, I the sun shining down to reveal her glory. Gazing into that light, she saw herself also in the trees and the sponges and corals of the ocean shallows. In each species the male emitted the seed, the female receiving and bringing forth new life.
The third chakra: seat of will. We fell back through time to an era of barren earth. The sun beat down, willing life forward. Lichen and moss spread, to be burned and digested by bacteria, becoming nutrients for new forms of life. Rain fell, capturing nutrients that enriched the fresh waters. Breathing deeply, the muscles of my abdomen forced my will out with my exhale: glaciers ground the stone into powder, merging with the dead residue to create soil. Again forcing myself into her, she saw herself with child, blocked only by the fear of birth. Inhaling I promised her relief, and exhaling she dilated effortlessly. The vision was broken by the sudden thrusting through the soil of the giant conifers amidst which we sat. Life presented itself to us: full, replete, joyful and proud.
The fourth chakra: seat of compassion. Our hearts opened to each other. A simple awe seized us: the rightness of our complementarity. We saw that reflected in the world and its contradictory dualities, and concern for its suffering filled us. Not compassion, in the sense that we felt also other’s pain, but as a unending resource for the wise to draw upon in attaining well-being.
The fifth chakra: seat of universal awareness. Seeing life as a system for healing, we sprung upwards and outwards, that purpose being revealed to us in the Earth as a whole: in the relationships between ocean, ground and atmosphere. Not ending there, it embraced the moon and tides; the sun and the space surrounding it.
The sixth chakra: seat of understanding. We regarded ourselves again, not as man and woman, but as masculine and feminine. Light emanated from jewels in the center of our foreheads, not merging but reflecting as sprays that formed two half-planes in reality. The two domains gathered themselves in preparation.
The seventh chakra: seat of enlightenment. From the planes threads arose into the heavens, guided by points of light. The lights sought each other, and as they danced the threads wove into helixes, the helixes merging into fibers, the fibers into stalks that merged into a great trunk. Braced by the trunk, the lights diverged to explore infinite possibilities. Pathways of inspiration drew others to become branches that branched again until individual expression was restored.
The Tree of Life.
I had opened my eyes several times on this journey, wondering whether she was with me, only to be confounded by her serene feminine receptivity. With the meditation at a conclusion, I gazed gently at her face, awaiting her return. She finally relented, smiling softly out of the side of her mouth.
We gazed into each other’s eyes, ignoring the suggestion that we describe our experience. I finally offered: “That was beautiful. Thank-you for the journey.”
She stirred and smiled more broadly. “Thank you.”