The third 'Tantra of Rope Bondage' workshop looks set to sell-out again. That's actually quite moving, since it's all about the deeply human and conscious approach to our erotic shadows that I feel is extremely important and very under-represented.
With anything that dares to explore the edges of the erotic, sometimes events or people can be labelled as 'weird', 'scary' or 'kinky' and other such concepts. Having all kinds of preconceptions applied to them that are contradictory to what they actually value or promote. I was fortunate to have a conversation recently with someone who had such judgements but was interested to find out more. In the end they attended a workshop and really loved it, and apologised afterwards for having made a bunch of assumptions with no basis in reality.
I'm not saying it's easy to entirely discard labels. Putting things in categories is a way we commonly make sense of the world. Labels can also be signposts to attract appropriate interest. I still use the word 'Tantra' for instance. The decision I made to continue to do so was difficult. In the end I decided that the benefits outweighed the drawbacks of potential misconceptions. Because a lot of principles that folk in countries like Australia think of as 'Tantric' do apply to my offerings. (Erotic polarity, energetic resonance, satisfaction from deep feeling, heart-connected primal energies, authentic communication, the power of the subtle, the crucial importance of personal boundaries and informed consent …)
Plus, people apply different meanings to labels, and fields can overlap significantly. For instance I sometimes attend workshops or trainings with the word 'kinky' in the title or subtitle, and have learned many useful skills at them. (I've also occasionally had the interesting and not always comfortable experience of being the most 'mainstream' person in the room at such events.)
Let's be super clear though. I've no fundamental problem with anyone identifying as 'Kinky'. It can be a very liberating and self-affirming stance/identification. Plus, I'm more likely to have things in common with someone who identifies as 'kinky' than someone who identifies as 'bank manager' or 'real estate agent'. (Not that these things are exclusive or definitive, I'm talking generally.) Yet any label of this sort can attract widespread assumptions about what's on offer, or the kind of person you must be.
My motivations for exploring Shadow Tantra are: authentic intimacy, personal empowerment, Transpersonal/Archetypal self-development, and sharing rich human experiences (beyond the shallow engagements our culture tries to convince us are all we can expect from life). My motivations are NOT: 'to get off', 'to be excited by pretending to be someone I'm not', 'to feel superficially better about myself through wielding power over someone else', 'to enjoy anonymous encounters', or 'to have sex with a lot of people'. (All things commonly associated with the word 'Kinky'.) I'd also like to be clear that I'm not suggesting such perspectives/desires are necessarily wrong. They're just not mine.
The approach I resonate with, and present, is one of exploring our Shadows (in the broadly Jungian frame) of the Psyche as part of reconnecting to the wider truths of who we truly vulnerably are. Looking for the empowered and expanded self – the self beyond the cultural conditioning that so profoundly limits the truth of each human being. For me, any tools, techniques, skills, and roles are available to be adapted as appropriate supports for this adventure, rather than being the goals themselves. People can investigate such explorations in a committed monogamous connection, with practice partners, or in some other form of relationship - depending on their own preferences for erotic intimacy. So long as the engagement is conscious and emotionally healthy. As I often say about 'Shadow Tantra': if you aren't feeling richly and happily connected to whoever you are interacting with, then something is wrong and you need to stop and work out what that is.
Practical benefits include: wider erotic repertoire and greater erotic confidence; resolving old emotional wounds that block us from satisfying intimacy; letting go of unconscious embodied fears, shame & restrictions around experiencing pleasure; and opening our voice to be more able to state/honour/feel our boundaries in life. Plus, generally improved confidence in expressing and 'being' who we truly are. The truth is that (despite the fact that we still live in a moral code historically imposed on us by puritans) we are embodied erotic beings. It's a natural and healthy part of our biology and of our psyche, and learning to know ourselves more fully in these realms is taking a step closer to living as a full human being.
Arven (20th Oct, 2016)
Arven Alexander is a self-development enthusiast, currently residing in Melbourne, Australia.