Ashram BaMidbar and My Foray into the World of Tantra

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From The Desk Of New

Today’s column reviews a tantra retreat led by Hanna Tantra. For more on Hanna, check out her latest book, Tantric Lovers: The Ultimate Guide – Making Your Relationship Last.

PG-13I opened my eyes and we were still hugging. I didn’t quite know what to make of it. I was always the big hugger amongst my family and friends, and here I was mid-embrace – a long embrace even for me – with a stranger I had just met.

We breathed together, our chests rising and falling until we both released our arms and he said with a smile “That was a tantric hug.” This tantric hug seemed remarkably similar to what I have come to know in Austin as the hippie hug, and as I walked to my room on the ashram, I wondered about just what I had gotten myself into for the weekend.

Tantra is one of those ideas that most people have heard about, but few actually understand. When I heard that Ben and Efrat were inviting a Jewish Israeli and one of the world’s foremost tantra teachers for a three-weekend retreat at Israel’s Ashram in the Desert, I knew this was going to have Jewrotica written all over it. I was itching to experience the ashram, dip my toes in the waters of tantra and report back. And I figured, what other tantric retreat would have Kabbalat Shabbat penciled into the schedule on Friday afternoon? So, I registered for the weekend – the first weekend – and didn’t look back (The first weekend focused on tantric breathing, whereas the second weekend featured tantric massage and the third weekend was “tantra for lovers”. Yeah…).

So, what is tantra? There are different definitions, but the one that I would put forth is spiritual, mindful and ritualized sexuality. Halacha is to religious Judaism what ritual is to tantra – it permeates every element of the practice, and is meant to elevate actions while providing a structure for intention.

My only other Jewrotica “field trip” so far had been to the World Erotic Art Museum in Florida – a new experience, to say the least. But that experience was as a passive observer, whereas Hanna Tantra – our weekend instructor – required full participation in the retreat.

I wasn’t sure how much I would absorb from the weekend – if only for the language barrier. While my Hebrew is fairly fluent, my Jewish day school did not equip me with the proper vocabulary for a tantric retreat (big surprise). Though I did pick up a handful of words, most of the weekend instruction was in English and much of the weekend chanting was in Sanskrit, Arabic and Hebrew.

Some folks came as couples, though plenty of un-partnered individuals were present as well. Each man was asked to partner up with a woman for the opening exercise. One woman’s arrival was delayed, throwing off the balance, and Hanna asked for a volunteer to partner with two men. I figured that I was here for the experience and besides, how intense could breathing be, so – after a prolonged silence without a movement in the room – I piped up and volunteered.

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Founder and editor of Jewrotica, Ayo spent the past two years full-time RVing North America with her Jewish educational film program. Ayo alternates between intensely pursuing fun new experiences and equally intensely trying to do good by people. She would love to hear from you.