The Gift of Conscious Loving: Tantric Bliss with Charles & Caroline Muir
By Abigail Lewis, Published in Whole Life Times Magazine, 2007
“Secret to a longer, deeper and ‘higher’ orgasm” reads the heading on a class handout at a table near the entrance. “Sacred spot massage strokes,” “modalities of kissing.” Attention grabbers, yes but that’s not why Charles & Caroline Muir dispense much literature at their “Tantra: The Art of Conscious Loving” workshop.
This duo is teaching people how to heal themselves and their partners and possibly their partner’s future partners, by heightening their awareness of energy exchanged in the expression and sharing of love. Heal enough partners and we just may have found a way to “give peace a chance.”
The Muir’s workshops pick up where love-ins, Woodstock and the summer of love left off. Rebelling against our puritan based society which had spent centuries teaching us that our sexuality was something secret, forbidden, and (usually) bad, in the late 1960’s the youth of America finally raised the banner of sexual liberation. It was as if they decided en masse that sex is not a bad thing, but rather something inherent to our nature that they were going to relish. People began enjoying their own bodies and each other’s with gusto.
There was one itty-bitty problem that most people were too elated to pay much attention to at the time: Although people were freely sharing their bodies in a sexual way, they were not always communicating, not telling their partners what they had in mind. Despite a plethora of available self- help books, from what I hear on talk shows and from single friends, this unfortunate situation is still more the rule than the exception in the world of dating.
Two people who are both looking for casual sex may be able to have fun and walk away unscathed. But if only one of the two is looking for a true exchange of heart energy, all too often pain follows. People get hurt. They make themselves vulnerable, sharing their most private moments, and are wounded. We called it “free love,” but when sex became free, love didn’t automatically come with it.
Pursuing The Tantric Path
Charles and Caroline Muir, who have a combined 60 years of experience in the study of Tantra, yoga and metaphysics, are heart activists. I discovered this one exceptionally sunny and beautiful weekend in August when I opted to spend 28 hours in a windowless hotel meeting room. At least they had the good taste to choose the elegant, newly renovated Sheraton Miramar in Santa Monica.
Going into this workshop, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’d perused several books on Tantra, read an article or two, and had just enough information to know I wanted more.
Anything that could make that altered state of sexual bliss—you know, those times when you feel as if you’re hovering in space beyond time, transported almost out of your body, maybe even catching glimpses of other lifetimes – more than a hit-or-miss proposition, seemed worth exploring.
Tantra, an ancient spiritual system in which sexual love is considered a sacrament, was born in India several thousands years ago (B.C.). It is described in a series of Hindu books written in the form of dialogue between the god Shiva, who is “the penetrating power of focused energy,” and his consort, the goddess Shakti, who represents the female creative force. The Hindus believed that Shiva, the embodiment of divine consciousness, joyfully united with Shakti, the embodiment of energy, to create the universe.
The goal of Tantric union between two people is not the most fabulous erotic sex you every had, although that may happen; the goal is higher consciousness, or enlightenment. In this particular workshop, which included 100 people in a careful balance of male and female, about 70% of the group were couples seeking ways to find more intimacy together and enhance their sexual and spiritual union. Some singles came in search of similar tools, but at least a few were present specifically in search of partners on the Tantric path. At least two coupled women felt that the workshop was their last-ditch effort to save a failing relationship.
The aforementioned enticing handouts supplemented a lot of basic physical information given by the Muirs. I say basic, but my strong suspicion is that most of the adult population is ignorant of much of it. For example: The Muirs described the seven zones of the yoni (vagina), explaining that most of the nerve cells reside in the first one and one-half inches. They talked about the 1001 modalities of movement, and the equally important need for non-movement, for stillness. They focused on the importance of energy-freeing breath, whereby the tide of energy that goes out during lovemaking can be drawn back in.
Charles has a wonderfully light style—he’s my nominee to host the next Academy Awards presentations—and we couldn’t not laugh at ourselves when he enumerated the ways we describe our own bodies. They are so alien to us, who live in them, that we even make up silly names for our own sex organs! Although I’ve never heard any nicknames for legs, arms or heads, an informal survey by the Muirs elicited dozens of monikers for a penis ranging from weewee to jolly whacker to sledgehammer; none were flattering or endearing. While the list to describe a woman’s sex organs is almost as long, the Muirs declined to share it with us, explaining that it just wasn’t funny. The reason for this may lie partly in our society’s way of handling puberty. When a boy enters puberty it is empowering; for a girl, it is more likely to be embarrassing.
Tantra Uses Sanskrit words to describe the sex organs: Lingam, meaning “wand of light,” and “yoni,” meaning sacred space, or more loosely translated, jade gate, valley of bliss, or temple of light. The Muirs suggest that by honoring these parts of our bodies with our words and our thinking, rather than mocking them, we can begin to heal the negative conditioning and abusive sexual experiences that we’ve locked into our genitals.
One thing that is absolutely clear from this weekend—as if we didn’t know it—is the importance of communicating and not allowing ourselves, body or mind, to slip out of a relationship. The mind or the body can do it without even making a conscious decision to check out. Spending the day in each other’s orbit does not guarantee communication.
Charles and Caroline suggest that, as a general practice, couples spend ten minutes twice a day in close spiritual communication. This can happen on several levels of physical intimacy, not all of which may work in a busy, urban, two-career couple life-style. But taking the time to hold each other and breathe a few breaths together, or to bring energy up from your lower chakra as you place both hands on each other’s hearts, again breathing together, can totally transform the quality of your day.
And yes, you really can have great sex every time, a wonderfully, deeply intimate connection—and not necessarily orgasmic.
In this session of giving, honoring and loving another is a gift that everyone can enjoy. If you have any doubts about whether or not it is better to give or to receive, the essence of Tantra allows you to do both.