Pala Copeland, Originally published 1998 in Tone Magazine, Ottawa, Canada, 

For many Canadians the term “sacred sex” is somewhat of an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Suggesting that you can find your way to God through sexual activity has been a bit like suggesting you can eat your way to thin-ness or you should vote Bloc Quebecois for a united Canada. Partaking in wildly passionate sex and seeking an intensely spiritual life just haven’t been part of the same curriculum. We’ve been taught that pursuing sexual pleasure, enjoyable as that may be, is at best hedonistic and at worst damaging for our souls. To be a highly spiritual person is to be essentially sexless. It’s an either / or situation.

But that view is changing. The concept of sacred sex, finding spiritual union through a sexual one, is slowly gaining ground in North America. Our psyches are certainly ripe for it. As a society we’re obsessed with sex. In part it’s a lustily healthful obsession, a celebratory dance of life’s great force, but much of it flounders in darkness and neurosis – sex for power, sex for profit, sex for oblivion. We use and abuse sex for everything from selling soap to making or breaking political leaders.

At the same time there’s a spiritual hunger running rampant through the land. The ache for meaning stretches from radical through traditional – Nina Hagen follows guru Babaji, Madonna embraces the Kaballah, the Peace Makers hail conservative Christianity. We’re screaming for substance.

Well why not unite the two? Bring sex and spirit together and find your magic! The idea’s definitely not a new one. Ritualized sex has been an acknowledged sacred pathway in Eastern philosophies for several thousand years. Tantra, probably the most commonly known form of sacred sexuality, has its home in branches of the Hindu and Buddhist cultures of India and Tibet. Based on a belief that the union of male and female principles (yin and yang, yab and yum) will lead to enlightenment, traditional Tantra uses a complex series of sounds, visualizations, breath control, and sexual positions combined with prayerful thought to reach the heights of godly bliss.

During the 19th century Tantric writings were introduced to the west by British scholars and travelers like Sir Richard Burton. Not surprising given the surface prudery of the time, these works were greeted with a largely hostile reception. Tantric practices were condemned as “orgiastic rites too terrible for civilized men to hear”.

Today, despite our more open attitudes to sexuality, much of this cult-like perception of Tantra persists. Partly this may be due to traditional Tantra’s highly ritualized religious aspects – worship and identification with particular gods and goddesses, and mystical signs, symbols and chanting. But perhaps an even bigger block is the absolute necessity of retaining your aroused sexual energy internally and the accompanying emphasis for men on not ejaculating. This directly challenges our culture’s sexual ideal of simultaneous genital orgasm. The practice of arresting your sexual fever and turning it in and upward rather than allowing it to flow out and down may seem abnormal and contrived; going against the laws of nature and our bodies. After all, the powerful release of a “regular” orgasm feels so very good; why should anyone voluntarily pass this by for the promise of unknown ecstasy?

However, a gradual shift away from a strong focus on semen retention to a slower approach of gently learning to move all that wild sexual energy around inside you, is part of the new sacred sex (or neo-Tantra) that’s been emerging in the last 20 years. Whole body orgasm, through eyes, elbows or toes, becomes a real possibility, not just our venerated Big O of the genitals. While learning to withhold ejaculation is part of the process there’s also a more relaxed, more fluid perspective that allows for personal preference and ability. You can take your time learning the delights that come with delaying or eliminating ejaculation as you explore the many other ingredients of sacred sex practice – emotional and mental as well as physical.

Neo-tantra begins with much from her traditional parent – for example, the precept that sexual union can lead to transcendence, and specific techniques of breath and muscle control – and adds an assortment of other goodies. Jungian concepts, Reichian bodywork, acupressure, aromatherapy, creative visualization and dynamic meditation can all be part of the loose and joyous eclectic meld. The essential approach is spiritual, meaning non-religious and non-dogmatic. And playfulness is woven into the fabric of loving – laughter and lust come hand in hand to the true lovers’ bed.

But sacred sex goes far beyond the bedroom, helping partners open fully to each other in trust and love through all facets of their relationship. Your relationship itself becomes a vehicle for spiritual growth and personal awareness. As you learn to open to yourself, to your own inner lover, you naturally open to others around you. You begin to understand that surrender does not mean submission or loss of self, but rather a loving expansion to something that is much greater than you are.

Like most spiritual paths, sacred sex teaches a discipline of the mind and body. It does so in a context of celebration and letting go into the sensual aspects of living, so that sacred sex is a paradoxical combination of control and spontaneity. As a celebration of life, sacred sex teaches the importance of conscious awareness, of being totally “in” your actions. By focusing attention on your body and your mind, and what you’re doing with them, you become all around healthier. Your emotions become more stable and more real. Your mental capacity increases. Your physical health improves as you discover that your body is indeed the temple of your soul and as you begin to honour it that way.

As for your sexual life itself, the glories that await are beyond imagining. The exercises and techniques fortify your entire uro-genital system; you gain muscle strength, improved circulation, and heightened sensitivity. (There won’t be any need for quick trips to Buffalo for a trunk-load of Viagra.) You learn exquisite ways to please your partner and your self, raising your physical enjoyment to new heights. As you master moving the sexual energy between your two bodies, you experience altered states of consciousness, and ultimately spiritual union. Besides deepening your connection with each other and with God, this is a sure-fire way to keep the purely physical experience of sex exciting, new and fresh for even the most long-term lovers.

Sex and spirit? It’s a door that more and more Canadians are opening as we yearn for hot monogamy and spiritual harmony. It’s not a path for everyone, but it can be for many. Perhaps you’re one.

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