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There is plenty of kaleidoscopic language thrown around the field of sacred sex. The space is rife with self-appointed aficionados waxing their lyrical wands, brandishing a lexicon comparable to fairy floss: rich and disorientating in large quantities.

Couples travel abroad to places like Bali, Siem Reap and India in the hopes of restoring whatever a guru tells them is missing from their sex lives. But with words like ‘conscious’, ‘expansive’, ‘divine’ and ‘transcendent’ used to depict a human interaction that is, at its crux, rambunctious, disorganised and the opposite of impenetrable, how often do punters leave tantric talks with any real idea of what just happened? Is this jargon just a ploy to escape critical analysis? Could we all benefit for a little more background knowledge?

In modern dialogue generic words tend to surface because they are on trend. If sex has been trendy since Adam’s discovered the Garden of Eve, the arrival of such seductive lingo to the mainstream have its roots much deeper in history. Surely, if we are to be engaging in the act, this too is a connection worth exploring.

Tantra, Tantric Sex and Neotantra: what is the difference?

In contemporary times, the most common misunderstanding is the distinction between tantra and tantric sex. The etymology of the word tantra means ‘the weaving and expansion of energy’ but contrary to popular belief, tantra itself does not involve sex at all. It is instead a sensory experience that aims to reconcile both the masculine and feminine energy systems and can be achieved through meditation and breathing technique. Its origins have been traced in the traditional texts of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Asian beliefs where sexual exploration has often been forbidden, particularly for women.

Tantric sex is when these principals are applied in the bedroom. During such circumstances the aim becomes is to cultivate a more intimate connection between partners and, as such, a woven union with the Divine. The practice is not ‘goal-orientated’, but rather a form of worship seeking to keep its participants present throughout. While tantric bliss and achieving the big O may happen to occur concurrently, they are certainly not the same achievement.

But perhaps what New Agers are talking about when wielding the phrase tantric sex is much closer in definition to neotantra: a contemporary, Western division of tantra, associated with modern spiritual practices. These more recently appropriated and redeveloped philosophies sit on the peripheral of society’s more dominant religions.

The key differences between tantra and neotantra are these: neotantra relies on modern books, as opposed to ancient scriptures, and does not require a guru for initiation. In classical Indian and Tibetan tantra a leader (referred to as a guruparampara) is heralded as having the utmost necessity for spiritual progression. Neotantrics hotly dispute this, inviting the notion that anyone eager to express themselves sexually may begin on their tantric path.

It is also interesting to note that from the mid-late twentieth century, as India grappled with independence, partition, and finding new clarity over their national identity, Neotantra became a word frequently used to describe art. This genre of abstract, geometric art appealed to both domestic contemporaries and Western audiences.

While in 2018 tantra has become synonymous with “spiritual sex” and “sacred sexuality” these semantics are entrenched in far more complex historical beliefs. As with most elements of history, however, awareness and appreciation are key. These reinterpreted catchall phrases can be thanked for bringing more Eastern philosophy across to the West and, despite a neotrantic guru’s approach to study looking different to that of their more traditional counterparts, their dedication to the art form is no less commendable.

And of course, when it comes to having a good time and doing so respectfully, any kind of knowledge is worth sharing.

Where to find your tantric path in Bali

LoveLife Couples Retreat

Transpersonal Sexologist Jacqueline takes her clients on a journey of discovery during a five-day Couples Retreat in the hills of Ubud. The days are filled with classes aptly named ‘love sessions’ that focus on tantric practices, spiritual connection, breath work, meditation, energy sharing and mindfulness, as well as discussion and communication-oriented activities (she even provides homework for extra studious couples). Jacqueline brings together insight from modern science and therapy, as well as ancient Tantric and Taoist wisdom and her workshops cater for couples of all ages and stages of their relationship.

Where: Bambu Indah boutique eco resort, Ubud
Price: $2990 AUD per couple
Next retreat: 3-7 December 2018

Svarga Loka Tantra Yoga For Couples

Couples retreats at Svarga Loka can be booked anywhere from 3 to 10 nights depending on your time and budget restrictions. The retreat focuses on allowing couples to explore, heal and transform their relationship by creating deeper connections. This goal is assisted through private yoga sessions, massage, hydrotherapy baths, cooking classes, purification rituals and consultations with a shamanic healer. The program has been designed for enjoyment by any sex or gendered relationships, and is facilitated by international yoga instructor/health practitioner/labour and post partum doula/Reiki Master Savitri Talahatu.

Where: Svaga Loka Resort, Ubud
Price: From $560 AUD per night, per person
Next retreat: Available in-house throughout the year

Living Tantra Retreat

This course is for complete beginners as well as experienced tantrics and caters for both individuals and partners in any form of relationship. The course is held on the quiet and remote Northern coastline of Bali. Each day is dedicated to working with one of the 7 chakras and combines tantric teachings and practices, ceremony, exercises and yoga, to clear blockages around safety, sexuality, power, intimacy, self-expression, intuition & awareness. Participants will also leave the course with a certificate of completion for ‘Level 1 – Eliyah Training: Tantric Philosophy & Practices’. The course is led by Chantelle Raven, a practitioner with near 20 years experience in facilitating workshops and retreats in the field of spirituality and tantra.

Where: Shambala Oceanside Resort, Tejakula
Price: $5,890 AUD for couples / $3,200 AUD for individuals
Next retreat: May 11-18 2019

Header image via tantricacademy.com