Sex has been getting a raw deal for a long time. It is in our nature to desire and enjoy it – to love sex the way we love chocolate or champagne. But few of us have been educated to give sex our love.

This is hardly surprising. It’s still not so long since sex was synonymous with shame and sinfulness, and while – at least in western Europe – that holy oppression has pretty well collapsed and sex is more accepted and available than at any time since the Roman Empire, the real revolution – the one that brings sex in from the cold – still hasn’t happened. Something is missing, and you only have to pay attention to the way sex is addressed to see it. Look at how sex is used as a sales commodity, how frequently it is exploited for profit; listen to the way it is discussed in the media or talked about among friends. Normally missing is a sense of shared respect for something regarded as precious. It’s not that we should be speaking of sex in hushed and holy terms. But even disregarding blasé, coarse jokes and sexual cynicism, there isn’t any such thing as a normal sense of loving regard and caring for sex. It just doesn’t occur to us because we haven’t grown up in a culture that treats sex with love. As a result, whether we are still contending with issues of shame and repression, or are liberated enough to be having fun with sex, we are probably still unconsciously stuck in an attitude that one way or another keeps us unable to celebrate the deepest magic and mysteries of sexual intimacy.

To find this is like bringing an unknown sense into being, like someone who has been blind since birth being suddenly able to see. This is why I created the Body, Heart and Soul series of workshops, and honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t need the experience that Body, Heart & Soul One provides. It is such an eye-opener! It transforms people’s lives. By the time they have come through the celebration of a new sexual awakening – the Initiation ceremonies of the final days – after 4 days of preparation that undoes all their very normal conditioning, sex has an entirely new place in the woman or man they are – a very loved and honoured place in their body, heart and soul. So my friend, however young or old you are, whatever your sexual preference, for the sake of love and beauty in your intimate life, you are most welcome!

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Why MYSTICAL Tantra?

Tantra is not about having wonderful sex. It is about becoming open and awake in our whole being – which makes sex as wonderful as it makes any experience. Much of contemporary Western Tantra is focussed on the pleasure and beauty to be found in sexual and sensual intimacy, and good that it is so because it helps people get free of the heavy conditioning – whether repressive, or shaming, or exploiting and sexist, or merely crude and trivialising – that still shapes mainstream sexual attitudes. Good too because the idea of finding more enjoyment in sex attracts lots of people who might not otherwise discover the deeper and higher mysteries that lie beyond the entrance hall of erotic pleasure. They can be discovered through Zen meditation too, but there are not so many takers.

As we venture beyond the entrance hall, it is not just that we experience more; we BECOME so much more of our own magic and beauty –  more perceptive, more sensitive, more playful, more creative, more loving, more understanding, more intuitive, more trusting, more graceful, more passionate and more serene too. If we keep opening to our inner being, one day we open beyond the things of this world – beyond even ourselves. We come to our soul, the bridge on which we balance between our being and eternity, open to both. Whatever we do now is with soul-consciousness.

The Tantric journey is this inner progress: from sensing into feeling into heart into being into soul. On the journey our life becomes a mystical adventure, in which, as we become adept at being with whatever life brings, we are also not contained within it or limited by it. We play, work, love and make love with total presence and in all of it we are one with the eternal spirit: this is the meaning of mystical.

This is what Tantra is really all about, but because Tantra can mean just the preliminaries going on in the entrance hall, I prefer to call it Mystical Tantra. If we never get beyond the entrance hall, pleasurable though that sexy state may be, it keeps us limited; it is always the experience that matters. If we are tuned in enough to recognise that all the gratification leaves us still longing, then we need to go further in. Searching for what we are still missing, we find ourselves discovering WHO we are still missing. No matter what the experience may be, our adventure becomes the quest to transform the experiencer. This is mystical Tantra.

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The Heart and Soul of Gun Control

I’m posting below what I said to a participant in one of my workshops last year, because it has something important to say about what is happening in the USA this past couple of weeks – the horrific shooting of the children in Newtown, and the bizarre responses of some members of Congress who – blatantly or discreetly – still oppose the banning of weapons and ammunition whose only purpose is to kill people. Something is rotten in the United States when half of its political leaders have any reservations at all about a complete ban on assault weapons. I find it hard to imagine how they can live with themselves. Then the obvious jumps out at me: THEY DON’T LIVE WITH THEMSELVES. They can keep up their opposition precisely because they are disconnected from their hearts and souls. They are not in touch with themselves. They have lost the connection with their own humanity that sees that it matters – and matters more than all the ifs and buts – to eradicate without delay these weapons from all of civilian society in the USA. It is a no-brainer that this process begins with a total legal ban on the possession and sale of such weapons and the ammunition that goes with them. No compromise, no procrastinating, no watering down, no loop-holes, and never mind the difficulties, because the difficulties of eradication are nothing compared to the tragedies inflicted on innocent people by this crass and callous gun-cult. What matters is having the INTENTION. If you are heart-and-soul-connected with yourself, you care about other people’s hearts and souls. This is where the intention comes from and it cannot be subverted. It is not subject to manipulation by corporate lobbies, by money or political conniving and power-mongering. It is the rational and heartfelt position of anybody who is fully in touch with their whole being. And if, by the way, they are not, then what right could they possibly have to be governing other people?

So here is what I said to one of my workshop participants about caring:

“I realized many years ago when I was going through my own healing and therapy, that by the time I came out of the orphanage where I spent five years of my childhood, what I had learned to do in order to survive was to not care. My general attitude was, ‘So what, I don’t care! I don’t care what I do. I don’t care what they do. I don’t care what happens.’

“What it meant was that my heart was totally closed. That was how I learned to survive the unkind and sometimes cruel ways I was treated as a child. Of course, like everybody, my healing happened as I reconciled with all the feelings that I was afraid to feel and from which “I don’t care” saved me. As I learned how to be friendly again with my feelings – especially the tender and vulnerable ones that were the scariest to allow – my heart gradually opened again. With that opening came eventually the realization, Oh my God, I do care! That was almost four decades ago, and through all these years I have only come to care more. That is what I see happening for you. You found the courage to feel again and it is opening you to your real being. The more of your inner being that you befriend – and what you are afraid to feel is always the key – the more you care!

“And let me add, for all of you here, that, learning to care you become not only happier, but sadder too! Almost every time I read or listen to the news I am saddened, because most of the news is about people not caring. The crimes, the wars, the abuse – it’s like an endless procession of stories that can only be as dark as they are because of people who don’t care. And saddest of all is that so many people in positions of power don’t care, not with their hearts and souls. It seems as though in the corporate and political worlds most of those who climb high sell their souls to do so. When you sell your soul, how can you care? The most transforming thing that could happen to our human world and to this suffering planet is that people who aspire to positions of power and leadership have no chance if they are not fully connected with themselves – with their hearts and souls. That is a far cry from the way it is. What a pity!”

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A few words to a friend about the dark night of the soul

I posted this on my old blog about 18 months ago. Something moves me to re-post it here today. Perhaps it has relevance for someone out there who reads my blogs?

“This is a really important time for you. The door that I talked about is open – that is why you feel that there is no protection in front of your heart. The protection was the wall that kept you safe, but it kept you safe from your heart. Now the wall is falling down, leaving your heart and all your feelings open. This of course makes you also afraid. It is so unfamiliar to you to be so open, and you cannot be open on one side – the sweet, light and beautiful – without also being open on the other side – the dark and scary wounds that you carry, mostly from your childhood, in your psyche. It sounds so simplistic to say it, but it is true nevertheless that all you need to do now is stay open – keep feeling everything, including the fear, WITH FRIENDLINESS. Loneliness, despair, emptiness – allow yourself to experience all of these, until they are no longer frightening to you. They are demons guarding the treasure! If you allow yourself to embrace them, you will find your way to a happiness that is no longer haunted by fear. But you have to be willing to go through the fear to find the light. It is what mystics call, “the dark night of the soul”. And everyone who really means to awaken to their whole being has to come to, and dare to pass through, this night. Embrace your inner experiences whatever they are. And know that here is a friend who has travelled this path and so can be in spirit with you as you walk yours.”

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The soul of longing!

No matter how much we may try to shut it down – and life sometimes pushes us that way! – our soul yearns to play its full and mystical part in our daily life. Deep down, we know this! I think this is the dearest longing in all beings. If we respond, the longing takes us on our personal journey of opening and awakening. It is our Odyssey. Some of our friends and acquaintances may not understand. Still, we have to go, and pray that our trust will bring us home.

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Soul to Soul!

Alan talking to participants at the end of the Soul-Life workshop in Czech Republic, April 26, 2012

What happened here this last hour is my way of sharing with each of you, without the need for words, what soul-life really is. My wish, my prayer for all of you it that from now on you can more and more let the mystery be dancing in you. Out in the world, ninety-nine out of a hundred times you meet someone’s eyes and you see only a curtain, because the way our world is, we learn not to let people see in. And one in a hundred times there is no curtain. Then you meet soul-to-soul and something dances between the two of you.

Just don’t try to make it happen! If you go around now self-consciously looking in people’s eyes, I hope you get into trouble. The Sufi’s have this beautiful saying, “Pray in secret.” It’s how I feel about our soul-life. It’s not something to write on your forehead or display. It’s a dance going on in your being. It’s your secret celebration! Sometimes people may wonder what you’re on. OK! But you’re not busy displaying yourself or advertising how amazing you are. People only need to do that because they are not in touch with their souls! I hope you caught at least a glimpse of you without curtains, of life without curtains.”
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