by Jennifer Miller
I wouldn’t exactly call it a “whim,” but it wasn’t far from that. I was tired of paint fumes and unopened boxes so when I saw an ad for “Dance Meets Tantra” (DMT). I was intrigued. I’d been in Asheville, NC for something like three weeks and I knew no one in Asheville other than one really dear friend and my UPS driver (instead of hiring a moving company I hired Amazon).
It didn’t matter that the neighbors didn’t welcome me with brownies, because my UPS driver was there every day bringing me goodies. By the time, Saturday, October 8th rolled around I was ready. There were so many dance opportunities in Asheville, but I was at Home Depot three times a day. This day was going to be different!
I really didn’t know what to expect although the team was very clear to arrive between 9:15-9:30 am, because the doors would close at 10:00 am sharp with no one entering after 10:00. Because I didn’t know my way around town, I left early not taking the chance I would get lost. Once I figured out where to park, I came into a large open space which looked half like a dance studio and half like a church. It was empty, but before I had time to panic a few other people arrived. There were a couple pews on the side, but otherwise we were to sit on the floor. We were told to bring a pillow, still I wondered how my butt and back were going to hold up.
As the room began to fill up, I was delighted to notice I wasn’t the only old person in attendance! How often had I been the only token old person at these groovy events? The assumption always is “able-bodied” and “young.” Let’s be honest, old people aren’t sexy or hip. I struck up a conversation with my neighbor “Pierre” (with a lovely French accent) and was relieved finding an older man could still be sexy. But before I had a chance to hit on him and/or complain about my knees, he introduced me to his wife the “Tantrika.”
She was a little too busy making love to everyone for us to have much of a conversation, but I did learn from Pierre that they had just gotten married and relocated to Asheville. A modern-day love story so I scanned the room looking for my storybook. I mean Pierre was in his 70’s… why not me?
Right then a woman came over to us and “asked” us to bring our energy “back into ourselves.” I figured this was a polite way of telling us to shut the fuck up. To Pierre’s credit he just ignored her and we continued our conversation. Beside I didn’t see her auditing anyone else’s energy in the room.
I have to confess I also began rehearsing in my head what I was going to share with the 45 people (or so) that had showed up to dance and become enlightened. I was going to make sure everyone knew I just gotten off the boat three weeks ago so this way if Prince Charming happened to be there, he would know I was available!
But instead of us introducing ourselves we began the discussion of the “container” when the door blew open and in walked a self-perceived dominant male, I shall call Guardian. I wondered if the two facilitators: would follow their mandate and not let the dude in (I didn’t realize yet he was the guardian of the space) because it was after 10:00 am. And instead of sitting down he started messing with the windows. Dude, sit your ass down on the cushion like the rest of us!
And just when he, and the rest of us, settled down out popped a little surprise about “clothing optional.”
The facilitators and the Guardian went back and forth like a ping pong match.
“But nudity is always a part of DMT events.”
“Not in this space,” came the reply.
How can we build a “safe container” when the facilitators haven’t even talked about this? WTF!
And here’s my problem with the whole Tantra/instant intimacy world which I’m suddenly part of (and this is not the first time). Trust has to be earned, it doesn’t come instantly, and the tantra “family” seems to encourage, like my Prince Charming BS, this false intimacy. One of the unspoken rules is because we are currently hanging out in a love bubble- it’s really not cool to question anything and certainly not ok to dissent! Like good disciples, with our hands caressing the cookie jar, do not be a buzz kill! Besides, I want to be seen as hip, liberated and cool!
How many times have I done shit I didn’t want to do to be hip, liberated, and cool?
While one woman on the other side of the room lets everyone know she’s “bummed” she can’t get naked, I’m relieved. I certainly don’t recall reading “clothing optional” in the fine print! I’m reminded of my time at Harbin Hot Springs in CA (which was very clear it was a clothing optional venue) with my once upon a time boyfriend. We were invited to get naked (or not), but it was more like playing the Hokey Pokey and completely the opposite of anything remotely reverential.
My boyfriend and I, along with another couple, were sitting knee to knee when they turned the lights off and voila when the lights came back on, we could see who played and who did not.
I did not. And if I recall neither did my boyfriend, or the other couple, but my boyfriend was obsessed with big breasts and my neighbor had some jugs. So, he was preoccupied with her hooters, while I was preoccupied with him, and who exactly was there to help us heal this shit? Nada.
Before the Hokey Pokey we had done an exercise about the parts of our bodies we liked least and that revealed some real vulnerability, but now the mostly naked room felt anything but vulnerable. Exhibitionism and vulnerability aren’t distance cousins.
So apparently, I still need to unpack this getting naked thing. I know for my friend, Martilias, who I met at another tantra event, he loved being naked and looked for opportunities to strip and he was in his 70’s. He felt confined in clothes and loved the feeling of being free/liberated. But when I think of the exhibitionist that seems more about being seen or needing some external validation, but perhaps I have that all wrong.
My time at Harbin Hot Spring allowed me not to give into peer pressure, because at Harbin keeping your clothes on was weird. The fact was at DMT I wasn’t being given the opportunity to ponder where I’m at now. That was taken away.
I mean for sure my aging body isn’t as enticing as it once was. I’ve done my best to address this loss. I also know I’m an American which colors my views on nudity, but there is something clearly out of alignment with the extremes of hyper-conservatism and hyper-sexuality. And again, there was no space to let me feel into where I’m at now. What happened to the real conversation, the vulnerability, not the Hokey Pokey or “we forgot.” Funny, when I was younger, I had to put up with the male gaze and now I’m invisible. Either way I am disembodied.
I did my best to move on and there were some real moments on and off the dance floor. Each person is so different in what they offer. And like the past, I simply couldn’t maintain my “positive energy.” My encounter with one of the facilitators, didn’t help when I told him I appreciated his vulnerable share. No, he didn’t owe me anything, but still I was surprised I’ve gotten more back from my UPS driver.
The “team” did attempt to address the power inequities during our “safe container” talk, but DMT is founded by three men. That alone is inherently problematic and I told them that after the shit hit the fan (stay tuned). I used to leave so disappointed because I believed the lie. Well, it’s not exactly a lie, because there are always real intimate moments, but you have to swim in the ego and there is always way more of that. Is it worth it for the few moments of something real?
After the event was over more weirdness came out. Actually, it’s more like reality happened after the event was over –only “reality” is open to interpretation. The participants got a “humble request” from DMT team, which they spelled out the Guardian’s message reported there were issues “with consent and boundaries with the group leaders with past participants as well as some current participants who left early.” Next came the rebuttal asking participants to address the “mistruths,” but the truth is I have no idea what someone else’s truth/perception is.
I do know this much:
My response was not responded to. And the tantra world is ripe with abuse typically men abusing women. Power/ego/money corrupt and DMT had an opportunity to take on a leadership role and address this rather than play politics. What are the credentials for calling yourself a tantra facilitator? I get trying to regulate this profession is more than challenging, but without any sort of oversight or checks and balances this sort of shit happens.
And a lot of “tantra” in the US is a full of shit, money making, male dominated, ego driven enterprise. In theory, it is a heart opening, healing practice (and I caught glimpse of that), but “tantra” can also create more trauma. I’ve seen that as well. Check out the now defunct “Healing Goddess Temple” in Phoenix, AZ. I was there when it got raided, yes, raided! The police stormed the building with their guns out busting down the door while I was in “session.” It was like an episode of CSI! The “Mystic Mother” (words matter) was escorted to prison as the rest of the Goddesses, and my healer, turned state witness!
Funny how that happens when the shit hits the fan! Maybe instead of all this instant intimacy we human should be spending a lot more time deal with conflict resolution, because suddenly those healers turned on each other. Mystic Mother, Tracy Elise, was so convinced with her world view (the temple was a church and not a brothel) that she went to prison for 4.5 years! My “healer” the founder of “The School of One” wasn’t willing to go to jail for his beliefs. Beside the Goddesses were making (by donation, of course) between $204-$605 per hour. It’s one of the few professions where men make less money than women!
Please tell me what I was thinking putting my faith in some dude to heal me? And not only that– he worked with the same boyfriend (see above) without any degree/credentials doing couple’s counseling. We broke up shortly after we started working with him. My boyfriend was sniffing around on-line and had been a bad boy, but the healer agreed with him since he hadn’t stuck his dick in someone that it wasn’t an “affair.” What happened to consent and transparency, y’all?
But all that was in the “good old days,” until DMT started me thinking again about healing/safety/consent/trauma/ego/shadow.
Most days, at this point in my life, I’m content to sit on the couch with my dog. So why do I still attend these sorts of events? Hoping this time, it will be different? If I no longer buy the instant intimacy, what am I looking for? Am I looking for the moments when something real happens because moments add up? But then my dear friend saved three puppies (yes, puppies) who were going to be euthanized and that shit is real. As real as it gets. There is no escaping into some fantasy when it’s show up by 5:00 pm (or else)!
My friend is the real hero of this story. She didn’t “talk love” she “did love” and she’s now bathing three puppies everyday with ringworm and giving them meds while caring for her own three dogs and two cats. I keep telling her to write a kid’s book. Two cats, plus three dogs, plus three puppies is 2 plus, 3 plus, plus 3, equals 8 and that is a lot!
Today was adoption day and we brought one of the puppies, named Hope, over to meet her new family. Hope was understandably scared. In a perfect world the siblings would stay together, but this is not a perfect world. But, oh, imagine the life ahead of her. And the crazy thing is it was like witnessing “instant intimacy” when Hope met her new family–only this was real because there was also commitment! This was cleaning up shit everyday real, not some pseudo, tantric fairytale. Don’t get me wrong, as I mentioned, real things can happen at those events, it’s just ephemeral. And is it really enough… especially when some people are getting hurt? And if you get hurt where is the accountability? That’s the problem, folks. Because who is going to be around to clean up the mess? No one.
So, what if we took the potent energy harnessed at DMT and actually saved a life instead? Like my friend who is trying to clean up the mess of a system that is killing puppies, because there are just too many to take care of. Whose responsibility is that?
I get the need to feel alive, to play, to connect, to dance, but it gets out of alignment real quick when the ego shows up. And, honestly, what could be more potent, and necessary, than saving an innocent life? What is intimacy without commitment and responsibility?