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Date for your diary – Saturday 27 September – London Festival of Tantra

September 25th, 2008

Dr Petra

If you’re in London this weekend and are interested in spirituality and sex then you may want to head on over to Chelsea Old Town Hall from 10am for the London Festival of Tantra.

Organised by tantric practitioner, educator and activist Bernadette Vallely, the festival runs from 10am-11pm and costs £50 in advance or £68 on the door (the cost covers the whole day, refreshments are available at extra cost).

Promised highlights include a debate on ‘what is tantra?’, plus workshops and demonstrations including meditation, massage, belly dancing, and yoga. There will be performances of music, poetry and dance; plus throughout the day there will be activities including massage, ritual footwashing, body painting, Gods and Goddesses dressing up, and a very inviting sounding Cuddle Clinic (hosted by the Squeezy Fairy).

Some of you may be surprised that I’m promoting such an event in a blog that’s usually confined to discussions around the more scientific aspects of sex. But in our consumer driven culture where sex has become something prescriptive, product-driven and often unduly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry there is undoubtedly a space for creativity, passion, love, devotion and spirituality.

Of course I would prefer it if, where possible, practitioners of tantra and associated spiritual approaches documented the work they do so others can learn from it, and I do have problems with approaches that promise healing – particularly if its suggested that traditional therapies are ignored in favour of alternative ones. That said, we are beginning to see that certain techniques – particularly around meditation and massage do have a role to play within our range of therapies for couples experiencing sexual problems or relationship difficulties and research is currently underway to explore how meditation in particular can play a part in tackling issues like premature ejaculation or vaginismus.

Within the area of spiritual sex I have met with practitioners who I have sometimes felt were well meaning but not always qualified or reliable. But I have also met many practitioners who are open about what they do, who undergo regular training and supervision, and who reflect on their actions. They do not always promise to change your sex life (any more than a regular counsellor, drug rep or ‘sexpert’ does), and often provide us with different ways of looking at our relationships. And it’s not unusual for people with traditional or Western qualifications in psychology, medicine or counselling to also have an interest in spiritual sex. I’m also aware of a growing number of sex workers who have become interested in spiritual sex as a means of encouraging greater connection between them and their clients.

One piece of current research in this area you may be interested in participating in focuses on lesbian spiritual sexual experiences. The research, being run in Canada for a doctoral dissertation is seeking lesbians who have experienced unusual, nonordinary, transcendent or mystical states while having sex with a female partner. If you are aged over 21 and have had such an experience outside of using mind altering drugs or alcohol and through practicing BDSM, Tantra, Taoist or other esoteric
sexual arts designed to create an altered state then you may be interested in taking part in a two hour confidential telephone or face to face interview. The study has been approved by ethics committee. If you are interested please contact Anne Little by email at TranscendentSex@aol.com.

Amongst all the advice we read within the media and self help market around what positions to get into, what panties to put on, what sex toys to buy and what porn to watch – not to mention how to have those ‘greatest’ or ‘best ever’ orgasms there is surely a place to hear about thoughts, feelings, emotions, intimacy, touch, closeness and considering your partner(s).

Tantra is an area that is still debated and often misrepresented. The promised debate on what Tantra is should help answer some questions that believers and skeptics might have. Tantra and other spiritual sex practices encourage us to take time out, to reflect, to breathe, to see sex as something that occurs within and outside the body. Such practices invite us to explore, to learn and to experience pleasure in places other than our genitals.

It may not be your cup of tea, but it might be something you have always been interested in exploring. If that’s the case then put a date in your diary for Saturday 27 September 2008, at Chelsea Old Town Hall, Kings Road, London, SW3 5EE. The event is for over 18s only.

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