I love learning about ways that I can incorporate more mindfulness into all aspects of my life and when I stumbled upon the book, Urban Tantra: sacred sex for the 21st century by Barbara Carrellas I was highly intrigued. For those of you that may not be familiar with tantra or tantric sex, it is derived from the Sanskrit word for "web" or "to weave energy" and is traditionally practiced by Hinduists and Buddhists. Essentially, it is using deeply intimate and meditative sexual rituals and exercises as a vehicle towards spiritual enlightenment. What I liked about Urban Tantra, in particular, is that it takes a lot of the traditional teachings and ideas and transforms them into: 1) more casual (and realistic) exercises that one can do with oneself, in a group or with a partner; and 2) more inclusive exercises for those that identify with the LGBTQ+ community.
This book contains a huge variety of practical exercises and stories from the author's personal experiences with the practice so if you are curious, then I highly recommend picking up a copy. However, in this post, I want to highlight some of the "big takeaways" I got from reading it and some tips that I think everyone can benefit from in some way.
1) Think of sex as a journey, not a race to the finish
In meditation, the emphasis is on the journey, not the destination. There's no "end goal" or "being finished" with meditation because you can always explore the practice (and yourself) further. This same idea also applies to sex. When we think of the "main event" of sex in popular culture, the emphasis is placed on the orgasm or "finishing". I'm sure almost all of you can think back to a time when you were kind of just going through the motions, waiting for that moment of reaching climax. In Urban Tantra (and tantra in general), the most important part of sex is the act of sex itself, whatever that means to you, regardless of orgasm. Orgasm can happen (or not) but it is not the main event and referred to more as a byproduct. By shifting the focus away from the orgasm, you open up the space to develop greater intimacy and connection with your yourself or partner(s) throughout your sexual journey together. It also releases anxiety around finishing too quickly or too slowly (or not at all) and instead lets you enjoy the moment with no expectations.
2) You need to breathe during sex
This advice is going to change your life (and your orgasm). Typically, we tend to tighten up our bodies and hold our breath either consciously or unconsciously to help us reach orgasm. However, although we might have an easier time reaching orgasm with this method, we are blocking the free-flowing movement of our sexual energy, suppressing the strength of our climax. Thus, ensuring that you are breathing full, deep, belly breaths keeps the body relaxed, allowing for an unrestricted flow of energy and a much stronger orgasm.
3) Partnered meditation can foster greater intimacy and bonding
If you haven't meditated with your partner (especially before sex), I highly recommend it. Meditating with your partner evokes such a strong feeling of intimacy and connectedness that cannot be replicated anywhere else. Meditating together before sex allows one to focus on and visualize the strength and free-flowing nature of one's sexual energy, moving up and down one's body (or chakras) without blockage or restriction; as well as the movement of sexual energy between two partners.
My favorite couples meditation poses include something called a heart meditation, where you sit cross-legged facing your partner and you each put your right hand over each other's heart and sync your breath to one another, and a third eye meditation where one partner sits in the other partner's lap (both sitting cross-legged facing each other) and you touch foreheads (or third eyes) and sync your breath to one another (see below).
4) Don't be so serious
What I loved about this book was that Barbara placed so much emphasis on silliness during sex. As a society, mainstream media and porn culture have taught us that we need to be serious and sexy when in reality sex is one of the most un-sexy and awkward things you can do with another person. Women, in particular, are so focused on how they look during sex, what their genitals look/smell like, how their body looks, if they're good or not, etc. When we are so focused on what we look like, what we're doing, what our partner thinks about what we're doing, we are no longer in the moment and have shifted our attention away from enjoying ourselves. The key to better sex is presence. The only way to be fully present in your sexual encounter is to ditch the expectations and insecurities and just let yourself be in the moment and to show up as your most authentic (and awkward) self.
5) Feedback isn't an insult
So many times I have heard of individuals, usually women, say that they don't like how their partner does something but don't want to tell them or are too afraid. So instead, they act like they're enjoying it when they're really not. This physically pains me to hear because, if this book has made one thing clear, it's that feedback necessary, not an insult. Your partner isn't going to know what you like and what you don't like unless you explicitly tell them. This means communicating to your partner about what they can do to improve your sexual experience. Obviously, you don't want to hurt their feelings by coming right out and saying, "hey, you're really bad at this", but instead approach it as "I like when you do this can you please do more of it" or "I would rather ______ instead of ______ today". Our mood changes from day to day and influences our preferences for the type of sex we want in that moment. Don't be afraid to come out and tell your partner what you need and what you want from them. Alternatively, don't be offended when your partner says that they want something else from you on a particular day. If you really want to please your partner, do what they want, not what you think they want.
6) Sex is literally whatever you want it to be
Sex doesn't have to involve penetration. Let me say that again, sex doesn't have to involve penetration. You can give your partner an intimate massage and that can be sex, digital sex can be sex, oral sex can be sex, touching each other externally can be sex, laughing together can be sex, meditating together can be sex. Sex can literally be whatever you want it to be as long as it allows for the conscious and free flowing expression of one's sexual energy. The biggest misconception that Barbara addresses is that sex has to involve the genitals. Defining sex as penetration is not inclusive of all sexualities and identities; and honestly, is just too restrictive of a definition.
Overall, Urban Tantra is quite practical in nature which is nice for being able to easily implement some of these practices into your own life. Have I or would I try every single one of them? Probably not as some of them are quite time-consuming. However, I really enjoyed her own perspective on the practice of tantra and appreciate how she took careful consideration into making it inclusive for all types of sexualities and identities; and took the time to challenge our society's beliefs surrounding what sex and intimacy should look like.