The Best Teachers tell you Where to Look, but not What to See... (An education in Tantra and the Transpersonal)
As part of my coaching recently I was asked to consider the most important teachers in my life, as a gratitude practice. It was a deep, intense, and very worthwhile process. Plus discussing it later generated some great new inner understandings and acknowledgments.
Since I'm sometimes asked where I trained, who with, and what I recommend, here's an edited and expanded version for public consumption. It's in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent, because: Why not?.
Clare Dea (Meisner Melbourne: Acting Training based in potent Authentic Relating)
I first encountered Meisner training somewhere around 2010 when Jonathan Horan (Gabrielle Roth’s son) ran the Mirrors intensive in Melbourne. (Mirrors is heavily influenced by Meisner.) It blew me away, and I at once began incorporating aspects of what I had learned into my own workshops. In 2015 I was drawn to Clare Dea’s Meisner classes and have not regretted it for a moment. Not only does this work present fantastic opportunities for courageously uncovering and sharing the authentic self, but also teaches authentic presence and connection at a profound level.
Barbara Carrellas (Urban Tantra graduate training)
In finally got to attend her training in 2014, after my skills in Shamanic/Shadow Tantra were already well-honed. Nonetheless, it was a truly great workshop, and it assisted me even further to drop in to congruence and potency in these realms. Plus her book ‘Urban Tantra’ was something I read a few years back that really opened my eyes to the possibility of conscious shadow intimacy as a path of authentic expression and deep personal development.
Janine McDonald & Bruce Lyon (ISTA – Shamanic Tantra trainings)
Since starting my journey into Shamanic Tantra with Dez’s practitioner training in 2009, I have attended several further retreats with ‘International School of Temple Arts’ trainers. In particular I recommend Janine McDonald and Bruce Lyon as two very grounded and experienced teachers. I don't resonate with all ISTA teachers. Different attitudes and approaches are very present in this work and it's really important to choose the teachers that resonate with you personally.
Phoenix Institute (Transpersonal Psychotherapy)
Phoenix has seen me through three Transpersonal diploma courses: Art Therapy, Counseling, and also the summer intensive to raise both of these to advanced level. The two things that stand out as the most valuable are: (i) allowing people to contact their own wisdom and power rather than trying to tell them what to do or how to be, and (ii) holding space for people to heal from trauma. [This latter is a crucial underpinning for shadow work.]
Dossie Easton (Books and weekend intensive)
One of the amazing grandmothers of conscious Shadow Intimacy. Extremely eloquent, courageous and imaginative. I have only attended one long weekend with Dossie, but she must have a mention here because her work (at least at the event I attended) is by far the closest I have ever come across to the Shadow Tantra events/trainings I hold.) Her books were also extremely valuable.
Kenneth Ray Stubbs (Skype Coaching, plus videos, podcasts and articles)
I'll use Kenneth's own summary: “The Path of the Sexual Shaman Training ... enables your ‘subtle energy’ bodies to engage another’s luminosity. This energetic approach can be used in conjunction with your personal ... practice and the professional methods you are already employing.” I’ve only done Level 1 and 2 so far, but it helped explain and expand many things I’ve already been working instinctively with, and ground them more fully.
Circling (Transformational Therapy)
I first came across this potent Gestalt-based 'Presence training' and deep self-development therapy as part of the Authentic Man Program DVD sets. A year later I was was fortunate to meet a guy in Melbourne who had trained with them. He had the vision to set up an Australian accredited training, and the keenest of us completed enough units to gain the Certificate. Then for various reasons the school folded before it really found the stability this amazing work deserves. Nonetheless the training was pioneering and profound, and I learned an incredible amount, for which I am deeply grateful.
Betty Martin (her amazing work on boundaries in the ‘Wheel of Consent’ model)
I’ve only met Betty once in person, at a small evening-talk in Melbourne, but I really liked her a lot. Very down to earth and approachable. I first encountered her work through ISTA, and it was one of the pivotal learnings that allowed me to hold healthy and clear space for Tantric practice.
Quodoshka (Shamanic Tantra experiential self-development retreats)
The ‘Qs’ I have done, plus the Shamanic De-armoring, profoundly deepened my learning in Shamanic Tantra. In particular they have some fantastic metaphoric Medicine Wheels through which they look at various aspects of sexuality, identity and relationship. Extremely powerful teachings, though if you don’t like to learn through being confronted it’s probably not for you.
Sharing with Practice Partners in Intentional/Conscious Space
I have been extremely blessed to very regularly share deep formal Tantric practice over the last few years. Since I only work with conscious folk who can communicate well about what they want and need, I have learned an incredible amount. Journeys like this are massive learning-curves. Our inner Transpersonal wisdoms are waiting to make themselves known in conscious connection, and many of my deepest learnings have occurred in intentional practice space. As much as at any trainings/events (though of course significant training is necessary in order to be able to hold these spaces.)
One Taste (podcasts and articles)
I came across this organisation in about 2009-10 I think, during the years when I was seeking out and devouring insane amounts of podcasts on Tantra, Authentic Relating, and Conscious Intimacy. In particular this group stood out as a pioneering bunch of people. I remember wishing that they had representation in Melbourne, and I began exploring their OM technique with female practice partners. (Since 2014 they now have a branch in Melbourne.)
Dez Nichols [‘Baba Dez’] (ISTA – Shamanic Tantra trainings, workshops and ritual events)
Dez is the founder of the 'International School of Temple Arts'. My first awareness of him was via an interesting Youtube talk about Masculine Identity, then a few months later saw him at Confest (New Year 2009). A couple of weeks later I was at their Shamanic Tanta Practitioner Training in NSW. (The only Melbourne Confester who made it from the Confest experiences into the training straight away that year. I had a huge intution that I HAD to do it, and somehow made it happen.)
At this training Dez said something that changed my life (I summarise from memory): “I meet many people who only do this work at these trainings. They return once or twice a year, or every couple of years, but haven’t used the work since the last time. That’ can be fine for your personal journey, but this work is actually meant to be a lived experience - shared with community. Evolving it in your own life, and not having to depend on the trainings any more.”
I still remember thinking what a 'but of course' idea that was. So as soon as I got back to Melbourne I started asking female friends and acquaintances if they were interested in formal Tantric practice. After a few months of courageously moving through a lot of rejection, someone said Yes, and then the experiences (with her and soon with other women) just began to unfold with amazing depth and beauty and mutual self-development value.
The other key thing I learned on this training was the importance of setting up clear frameworks, boundaries and agreements as a structure for doing private work and facilitating workshops. Especially around intimate contact. It is perhaps the single-most important aspect of exploring Tantric work, even with friends.
[This probably was the most transformative training I ever did. I walked away feeling as if I'd been somehow energetically initiated into something (though the teachers themselves offered no specific 'initiations'). Within a few months I was running Tantra workshops, as well as starting to evolve regular practice spaces.]
The Authentic Man Program (audios, articles and professional DVD programs)
Despite some of their presentation being specifically focused at US cultural beliefs, this was still a very useful and influential set of learnings at a time when I was deeply engrossed in the personal exploration of what being a man is really all about.
Deva Daricha (Shamanic/Transpersonal Breathwork facilitation trainings)
I met the ‘Steels Creek’ mob the last few times they were running Breathwork and Bodywork sessions at Confest. In my first Breathwork experiences I permanently broke through some life-long psychological challenges, and was so blown away that I later enrolled on the training. The Breathwork Trainings and other retreats I was blessed to experience at Steels Creek are amongst the most fundamentally powerful transformational journeys I have been on. I was so into the trainings that I would stay up for hours after everyone else went to bed, speed-reading all of the books on Transpersonal and Developmental Psychology I could.
Nityama (audios, skype sessions, and practical training with students of his)
Some extremely powerful Skype coaching, and the fortunate opportunity to experience bodywork sessions and coaching with people who had studied with him directly.
David Daeda (podcasts and books)
Despite a few issues with David D’s approach, over a couple of years I listened to literally hundreds of hours of his audios, and read all of his books, and was just blown away by epiphany after epiphany around conscious/authentic relating.
Developing Magic - NLP Training (several in-depth courses)
James Tsakalos is one of Australia’s most respected NLP trainers, and has a great international reputation too. I am lucky to have met him as a friend shortly before his initial interest in NLP, and so have had several opportunities to take part in his courses. I have studied with two other professional NLP organisations, and James’s courses were hands-down far and away the most potent and deep.
The Australian School of Tantra (private sessions and phone coaching)
Some amazing private sessions with one of their practitioners in Melbourne and very powerful phone consultations with Kerry Riley.
Five Rhythms Dance (Moving Essence)
My Ecstatic Dance journey took a new turn in 2005 when Meredith started her first Five Rhythms classes, and I’ve been moving at least once a week ever since. I’ve even seen 5R referred to in Tantra books as a Tantric embodiment practice. The intensive 6-10 day workshops by people like Jonathan Horan and Adam Barley are as powerful as any Tantra retreats I have encountered. Five Rhythms can be one heck of a life practice if you choose it to be.
Martina Hughes (workshops and private sessions)
I attended the first ever of Martina’s workshops in Melbourne, then many of the 'Tantric Nights' events back when they were a bit edgier and rawer than they are now. (I still like them a lot, and attend now and again, but I think Martina has transferred the edgier aspects to her private groups.) For instance, the three ‘Intimate Nights’ events I have attended were extremely deep and inspiring Tantric spaces!
Liat Sokal and Michelle Mahrer (Ecstatic Dance)
In 1997 I started creative dance at Mangala Studios. This difficult journey gave me the confidence to start actual ecstatic dance classes (‘Trance Dance’) in 2000 when Liat and Michelle began their offerings here. Doing a regular movement practice opens the whole body to deeper learning. The phrase ‘understanding something in your body’ is not a metaphor. If our bodies move and are open, then our learning (especially around personal development) is accelerated. At that time as well as dancing I was exploring very deeply a journey of ‘who the hell am I becoming?’ That process was profoundly accelerated due to Trance Dance, and the classes Michelle ran in Melbourne for several years afterwards.
Breathwork in Sydney
During my first visit to Australia I went to some group Breathwork sessions based on Leonard Orr and Sondra Ray’s style. They were amazing, and opened up a deeper sense of myself. I cannot remember who facilitated these.
Bath Spa University (at the time: Bath College of Higher Education)
I graduated from a BSC (Hons) in Human Ecology (Called ‘Social Anthropology’ in Australia) with a major in Global Futures (critical-thinking as regards politics, media, society and environment). I became so well informed around the rampant self-interest, hypocrisy and emotional/psychological immaturity endemic in society and politics that as soon as I left University I catapulted myself into raw and real personal development work as the only possible worthwhile future for me.
THE DAWN OF TIME
Daevid Allen (weekend personal-development/Tantra workshops)
A truly otherworldly character, he nonetheless ran some very interesting and pioneering self-awareness weekends in the West Country of England, that involved a lot of exercises of the kind I now run. This was all a bit overwhelming for me, but definitely assisted me in seeing more of the potential in myself and in conscious relationship.
Jack Wotters (Psychic-development group facilitator)
Part visionary/part New Ager. He ran a 'psychic development' group in Inner North London, at his home somewhere near Lord's cricket ground. (Then later moved to Totnes.) A small crew of us did regular deep meditation sessions. The group energy was supportive and exploratory into the fuller capacity and nature of human psyche. I had some kind of spontaneous initiation here, which changed me (beneficially) forever. Plus potent practical teachings about how to listen to the information available at the edges of consciousness, which may remain the most important thing I have ever learned.
Mantak Chia (books)
I’d already been disappointed by the shallow expectations of sexuality my home subculture tried to convince me was the ‘natural way of things’. I devoured Chia’s early works, and threw myself into the practices of male sexual energy cultivation. Within less than six months my embodiment of sexual energy, capacity and expectation was changed forever.
Sandy Cotter (Counseling and Encounter Groups: Somatic Psychotherapy)
Sandy worked with Bionergetics (Somatic Psychotherapy) and was one of its pioneers in England. She supported my leaving the north of England and moving to London, which was at that time the only place in the UK with ready access to alternative resources and activities. She also coincidentally moved to London a few months later and continued to support me for the next 18months with free fortnightly counseling sessions, plus attendance at her weekend encounter groups. (I was the youngest person at them by several years, and possibly owe her my sanity.)
Jungian Psychology (Counseling)
In my late teens I was severely depressed. (Living in a world like that depicted in ‘Trainspotting’ is not so much fun from the inside.) Somehow (I think it was self-motivated) I went to see a Psychologist on the National Health. I was extremely blessed to be assigned to a woman who was a Jungian. I was having pretty much daily nightmares of staggering mythic complexity (sometimes lucid), and she assisted me to see and find the meaning in them. She not only helped me to see that there was hope for the future, but this new sense of hope and potential also directly led me to Sandy... (And I love it that the place I saw this woman was a town called ‘Ormskirk’ which is Olde English for ‘Dragon’s Church’.)
From as early as I can remember I was freakishly self-aware, and also acutely a natural and astute observer of the hidden/unspoken social dynamics we all swim in.
Arven Alexander is a self-development enthusiast, currently residing in Melbourne, Australia.