Ben Lawson, musician and activist, teaches empowerment through sacred sexuality.
The universe itself was danced into existence. According to tantric cosmogony, Shiva (masculine energy) and Shakti (feminine energy) combined to create a balance of matter and spirit. Life is the living manifestation of that balance, though in this age the balance has been lost. Social and ecological crisis are the result of rampant dispirited materialism. Tantra, the mother of all Yoga, was developed in ancient India as a revolutionary praxis to restore harmony. It was originally taught by women and was made available as a public resource that transected the caste system.
When I discovered the radical nature of tantric tradition, it resonated with my punk spirit and ethics and made me look at the alchemical caldron of the mosh-pit in a whole new way. Perhaps, punks were unknowingly and without guidance tapping into a deeper pathway to ecstasy, empowerment, and bliss.
In early 2009 I attended my first tantra class. The teacher had the group of about 40 strangers (half women, half men) stand up and do some yogic body movements to get their mind/body/emotion flowing. Then she gave a presentation on the history, origins, concepts, and applications of an array of spiritual tools to reach higher consciousness through self-love and relationships.
She stated that her background was in eco-activism and community organizing. I was stoked because she approached this spiritual work as a warrior goddess and hoped to empower the group to liberate themselves from the negativity and programming of the industrial system. Further, she emphasized the need to clean our bodies, thoughts, and emotions to elevate our consciousness.
She then organized us into a dance where all of the women created an outer circle, and all of the men created an inner circle facing the women. She instructed the women to evoke their erotic goddess power to love, heal, nurture, seduce, and be wild and primal. The women were to build this intention through their dance and give full presence and attention to the men they were facing. The men were instructed not to focus on our physical sexuality, but rather to take the building heat and energy produced through the transfer of feminine dance, draw it up through our chakra systems, and apply it to visualizations of our highest self-improvement goals. The exercise was intended to give women a safe space to really cultivate their sensuality/sexuality and apply these to heal and empower the men. This helped the men get beyond our base sexual desire and selfish egos and apply ourselves toward positive trans-personal transformation.
At first there was a lot of awkwardness and tension, but the teacher did an amazing job to help people understand this was not about coupling, or even being turned on. The level of presence profoundly moved the men. They all seemed to be entranced and enchanted, not with the individual they were dancing with, but by the interconnectedness of the whole group.
There was no touching, just dancing, deep breathing and eye contact. The key for this to work so well was that every minute or so the teacher clapped loud enough to be heard over the music, and the women rotated to the next man.
There were people of all walks of life and levels of experience with this kind of stuff. At first there was unease but the collectivity of love, trust, and abandonment of ego and self-hood led to a melting away of fear. Eventually we achieved the dissolution of our social masks that we normally hide behind and trap ourselves in. A deep sense of unity was established and the level of healing that began brought me to tears. This may sound like just a bunch of hippies dancing at a drum circle, but having experienced both, I can tell you that this was radically advanced.
I was making a sacred connection with each woman. They all opened their hearts and gave of themselves, and the universe, with such authenticity and purity it felt like making love to the cosmos, experiencing the goddess and being a god. Not just symbolically but experientially. It was a realness experience: the presence of surging, flowing, electrifying, energy filled my body and gave me a tangible sense of spirit. I was able to direct this sensation through my body, through my mind, my visions, and my intentions. Everyone was in tune, doing the same thing. We were guided to create a dance that was generated and charged with power channeled through the conduits of eye contact and breath.
I felt so awesome to see the growth, and everyone slowly letting go of their shyness. This multilayer journey started with a building up of fiery animistic seductive energy, then moved towards a healing, nurturing, maternal energy. The teacher kept people engaged, focused, and directed in their dancing and intention. By just saying a word, she was able to change the character of the entire room’s atmosphere; you could almost see the colors change in the auric fields.
The dance peaked. Each breath I took in, my eyes were locked with a dancing woman, that sent energetic shock waves through my entire being. As I danced, I felt what one woman described as the “sculpting of auras”. She said at first she was just dancing, in her self, dancing with movements she self-consciously created; but as the dance evolved, she began to move in currents and patterns that were totally beyond her conscious control. She began to sculpt the masculinity of the group in a loving and healing way.
After the female to male exercise, the roles were reversed and the males were put in the outer circle and instructed to impress the females. This was really comical and challenging for many of us. The dominant culture teaches men that to impress a woman, one must offer a display of alpha male machismo, financial wealth, and/or social status. For the first time a lot of the guys only had their ability to speak through their eyes and dance movements, since they couldn’t pull up in a fancy car, act tough and intimidating, or appear to be of high rank.
We looked like a bunch of fools, but in time, group consciousness began to animate us into sacred geometric patterns of motion, very much like what the females had been doing. We felt as though we were massaging and sculpting the femininity of the group. The exercise brought forth positive, constructive, creative masculine traits and cultivated male strength and power in a nurturing and giving way, not in the so often culturally conditioned hostile or aggressive way.
After the dances, the group did a series of chakra clearing exercises based on ancient Egyptian martial arts. It was basically a series of striking movements combined with breath and visualization whereby each strike is designed to break through and throw out blockages in our mind/body/emotion connection. It felt like a sort of D.I.Y. self-exorcism.
We closed the evening with a discussion of how we felt, and what we had experienced. After we all expressed how profound and life-changing the dancing was, the conversation moved in the direction of confronting patriarchy by using sacred traditional ways to restore balance. It was clear to all of us that the sacred feminine (which had been honored in prehistory but violently and systematically suppressed world-wide over the last 5,000 years) is never more than a few breaths away from us. Empowerment flows through all of us whether male, female, queer, straight, or any combination thereof.
Tantra as Punk
You don’t have to read a book about what to have faith in. You don’t have to imagine empowerment, you see it and feel it under the proper direction. Ancient tantric culture developed the means to actively engage real empowerment that we now suppress and deny.
I think the gateway concept to get people to understand the potential of this kind of healing/therapeutic/empowering work is to ask if they’ve ever felt emotional sensations in their heart area. Everyone has had crushes, and many of us have been heart broken. During those times it’s impossible to deny that there are emotional fields and circuits that exist beyond our normal perception of the physical world, and are beyond the current scope of scientific instruments of measurement.
You don’t have to follow a belief system to discover and work with your own empowerment. There are many pathways to direct your attention toward, to develop and cultivate, as you would your intellect or your muscles. Sacred sexuality, martial arts, singing/chanting, dancing, meditation, and many other means are available. Less ascetic cultures valued and held sacred the ability to transcend the normal waking state and access higher states of mind and body through ritual practice.
You don’t have be a freaky hippie on a commune, a Buddhist monk, or move to India to start to reclaim these skills. You can do it yourself, and it can enhance any lifestyle and social identity you have. Yoga is a ritualized practice that has transcended almost every sector of society. I am now thoroughly convinced that Yoga’s highest potential is realized by its maturation into Red Tantra (sexual yoga). Imagine a sexual health and wellness studio at every strip mall between the karate dojo and the yoga studio.
Blazing a Trail
In my early punk years, I had fully rejected all religion and without knowing it, all spirituality. Within the last few years I’ve been able to reclaim experiences of the sacred, without limiting myself to one belief system. Our profane existence can become sacred on our own terms. I used to chant “No Gods, No Masters” but now I feel more like we are all goddesses and gods, and if we choose a path of self-mastery, we can truly be our own masters. It’s my hope that we’ll evolve new ways to access very old sacred experiences that will help us return to sensually embodied, primal, animistic polytheism.
As I’ve pushed myself to go beyond the mosh pit and learned to dance in other circles, I’ve found that there are many allies for social justice that I once dismissed as hedonistic ineffectual hippies. Now I feel much more whole and balanced and can experience the best of both worlds. Punks can benefit from being more spiritual, and spiritualists can benefit from being more punk.
The new age movement is often blinded by its obsession with the light, and overlooks the pain and power to be transmuted from the shadow. As much as I love the hearts, flowers, rainbows, and unicorns of the more hippie scene, I’ll never be able to forget the powerful rage that comes from confronting the dark imagery of the reality that we inhabit.
Conversely, the punk movement is often blinded by its obsession with the shadow. Punks often won’t wear clothes with any color other than black, won’t transcend the lower emotional vibrations and transmute the rage into love. Worst of all, punks are in their own words “born to die in the gutter”; disillusionment leads to disempowerment, nihilism, and self-destruction, alcoholism doesn’t help. I’ve lost two band mates to overdose, and many friends to suicide. If only they’d tasted the elixir of tantric bliss, they’d still be here, healing more than hurting.
Eventually we’ll be able to synthesize the two visionary movements. The artwork of Jeremy Clark does this for me. It depicts both the dark and bright aspects of the post-industrial future. I’ve dedicated myself to building a bridge by creating sacred dance music with punk song structures, lyrics, and intensity.
Another punk aspect of tantra is its inherent radical feminist attitude towards the sexual ethics of consent. By demanding absolute full presence and consciousness for consent, Tantra becomes a powerful tool to empower the masses to end rape and sexual abuse. How can you worship the divinity in the person you desire to touch if you’re blacked out drunk and/or forcing yourself upon them? What does every male rapist and sexual abuser have in common? They lack of a system of ethics that prevents them from disgracing themselves and others through misuse of their most personal organ, their Lingam (Wand of Light). The Tantra Task Force is a system to bring the practical application of Tantra into abuse prevention and sexuality education.
My Initiation as a Healer
Over the last several years I’ve been blessed to study under and train with an array of modern tantra masters. In the process I’ve discovered healing talents I didn’t know I had. Like most ancient cultural arts (martial, sexual, medical, etc.) western commercial society has reduced the richness and complexity of the tantric life path into high-priced sessions and weekend retreats. Though well worth the price, my punk ethics drive me to liberate this powerful healing modality and make it more affordable to everyone. Permaculture Goddess Temples lays out a vision for an Edenic neo-tantric future. The spirit of Tantra’s traditional roots make it a public resource to be experienced.
Close your Eyes, Breath Deeply and Visualize this:
In a deep meditation the voice of a goddess whispered to me: “Ben, what’s the fastest way to reforest the planet?” I didn’t know. She gave me this idea: train the rock and movie stars to be tantric healers then put them through a permaculture design course. They’ll get off the hamster wheel of divorce and drug addiction and naturally choose to use their capital to heal the planet. Imagine the tabloid headline:
Sexiest Celebrities in the World offer Free Lingam and Yoni Massages for Anyone Who Plants a Fruit Tree.Pink Sherbet Photography/Flickr Photo: bigburpsx3/Flickr