Ashram BaMidbar and My Foray into the World of Tantra

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A117 tantra

(On that note, it’s interesting how focused tantric practices seem to be on the pairing of “male-female energy.” I wonder how they would have approached a gay or lesbian couple, though it should be noted that transgender and transsexual individuals are often revered by tantric practitioners as they are thought to possess both “spirits.”)

Armed with my two partners, we kicked off the first session with deep stretches, guided breathing, chanting and visualization. The sexual imagery was powerful, direct and definitely made me blush, but what amazed me was that the opening session involved no touch. The participants in the retreat were largely uninhibited – chanting, shouting, moving and gyrating about the room while following the guided directions of Hanna – but they were effectively shomer negiah and spent close to an hour harnessing their sexual energy and building the sexual tension until closing the session with an optional touching shiva-shakti pose (facing your partner while sitting on his lap).

Following the opening session, we returned to our rooms to rest up for the next morning’s meditation at 7 AM! Though I am somewhat of a yogi and have always theoretically been interested in meditation, I’ve avoided it at all costs. I have tended to gravitate toward fast-paced activities, and in previous experiences meditation had just felt powerfully slow. The morning meditation at the retreat incorporated active movement to wake us up, and one thing that stuck with me over the weekend was an ability to slow down and just be – to focus on my breath and be present.

There were several meditation sessions interspersed throughout the weekend, and part of the reason for these meditative practices was to assist the men in strengthening their mind control as they (privately) worked toward multiple orgasms and delayed ejaculation. The idea of adopting a practice for the intentional development of sexual prowess and libido seemed to be key to the tantric experience.

The evenings offered powerful ritual experiences, including ecstatic dance and gorgeously dizzifying meditations that simulated the dance of the whirling dervishes. (Whirling dervishes perform a type of dance and meditation, where they repeatedly spin in clockwise circles with their gaze set on an uplifted hand and a second hand grounding down). Each of us mimicked the motions of the dervishes, spinning ourselves into an otherworldly state as our focused hand appeared to enlarge and the surrounding scenery appeared to fade away, much like you would imagine the surrounding scenery from a vehicle going at lightspeed in outer space (think Star Wars). And, at risk of stating the obvious, no mind-altering substances were offered, permitted or taken during this retreat. The highs were natural and the visual simulations were powerful. The participants turned and turned until finally being let down to the floor and guided to rest on a pile of pillows by one of the instructors.

The sexual openness of the retreat was coupled with a big focus on self-reflection and mindfulness. Though the instructor did not use the Hebrew phrase Dan Likaf Zechut per se, there was a focus on understanding, compassion and using the weekend as a catalyst for change in our life. Rather than seeming “too self-help-like,” the vehicle of tantric practice was used to provide inner clarity and help participants focus on what they sought, what no longer served them that they would like to throw away and what – if anything – they chose to forgive. In keeping with the ritual theme, unwanted emotions were thrown into the fire and left behind.

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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.