There was a time that I felt deeply spiritually fulfilled, yet my physical body was suffering from sickness. I was living in India, attending many sessions with great enlightened masters (known as ‘satsangs’) and my seeking mind was finally recognizing the Truth I had always searched for. Yet, at the same time, my health was failing fast. I struggled with chronic fatigue and systemic yeast overgrowth. Even just eating a meal made me exhausted as I struggled to digest it, and I was barely awake for more than a few hours a day.
I was becoming awakened, yet I could hardly stay awake!
It seemed that enlightenment was not going to heal my body. In fact, if anything, my dedicated quest for Truth was taking me away from my body and away from intimacy in my life. Luckily, I fell in love with a man I met at one of the satsang circles (whom I stayed with for a decade of growth together). At first my body was brittle to his touch, but he was very experienced in a field known as Tantra, and he persisted in his loving, gently reawakening my body.
This was a major turning point in my life – when I realized that spirituality for the mind was not nourishing my body, the temple of my consciousness. Thus, I accidentally stepped onto the path of Tantra, a path of embodied spirituality, that was to completely change my life. 15 years later, I find myself writing a book for Hay House, Tantra: Discover the Path from Sex to Spirit, with immense gratitude for a path that saved my life. In some ways, you could even say that Tantra is a path of Conscious Intimacy.
Intimacy is Good for You
We all long for more intimacy in our life. This is because we are prewired to be social animals. In fact, if you think about it, it is a major genetic advantage to seek intimacy! This explains why intimate moments such as cuddles, hugs and eye-gazing actually shift our inner chemistry, releasing a cascade of happy hormones into our system. Some theories hypothesize that addiction is actually, in part, caused by a deficit in real intimacy… if we had enough true connection then we would not need to seek for external chemicals and artificial highs.
But even outside of the realm of addiction, intimacy is as essential to the human existence as the air we breathe and the water we drink. Touch and connection help us to release oxytoxin, also known as the ‘love drug’, as well as shifting gears in the nervous system. All of this means that we have access to a free inner pharmacy with no nasty side effects, and we can heal our life just by increasing the amount of intimacy we have. Many years of hardcore solo meditation had done wonders for my mind, but my body had been left behind and was struggling.
Why We Don’t Receive Enough Intimacy
So why is it that many of us do not receive enough intimacy in our lives? Of course, with this age of rapid growth of the internet, it’s easy to see that we can receive plenty of connection without the accompanying intimacy. In fact, the allure of social media is that it appeals to our primitive systems that seek connection, yet it never fully delivers to the level that our body needs. Thus, we can also become addicted to social media, yet never become fulfilled from it.
Another reason that we tend to not receive enough intimacy is that we have boxed intimacy into a limited container marked ‘intimate relationship’. For many people in society, intimacy is reserved for that special one. The trouble is that we do not always have that one special relationship. And for many that do have one intimate partner, the desire for physical connection can wane over time, or get lost under lists of household chores and to-do lists.
How to Create More Intimacy
Tantra offers the solution of creating opportunities for connection, outside of the box of that special relationship. I like to call it ‘innocent intimacy’. We need to rescue intimacy from its limited place in culture, which makes it sometimes even taboo. In some societies, you say the word ‘intimacy’ and people giggle nervously… as Osho the Tantric mystic once said ‘people have become very touchy about touch’.
So here are five ways you can instantly bring more intimacy into your life:
-Create intimate situations: There is no need to wait around for intimacy to happen to you. Take the initiative. It’s worth remembering that we long for intimacy, but we also carry fear around it – that’s natural. So create safe situations that gently enable more intimacy. Examples would be: inviting a close friend for a walk in nature, choosing quiet and cosy locations to meet people (rather than noisy bars and clubs), inviting someone over for a night of listening to your favourite music by candlelight… a lot of intimate situations contain both privacy and relaxation.
-Organize a cuddle party: This is taking your intimacy to the next level. You can invite friends round for a cuddle night (this can be single sex or mixed gender, but with clear intentions and safe boundaries: nothing sexual, only cuddling). It is facilitated by soft lighting, plenty of big cushions or sofas, a complete phone ban and a fixed timing. Many people like to start and end with a circle… with all the participants sitting holding hands. You may also want to just choose one cuddle buddy, and invite someone whom you feel safe with, to come and lie in a spoon or a cuddle with you. If you want to keep it clearly non-sexual, keep it out of the bedroom and make intentions and boundaries clear.
-Enroll on a massage course: This is a great way to receive more touch, as well as learning how to become more skilled at offering it. Because our cultures tend not to teach us so much about touch as we grow up, many people end up feeling awkward about touch. For others, they only know sexual touch and have not explored the huge range of touch between holding hands and making love. Massage covers this range very well, and it’s possible to join a course even with no intention to become a masseuse. On a massage training you will give and receive more touch than you imagined was possible! Plus, it’s extremely safe as it is in a held space, with a facilitator present.
-Find a local Tantra group: If you want to explore intimacy and sexuality a little deeper, then you may find that joining a Tantra group is for you. Many Tantra groups give you the opportunity to learn about relating, even if you don’t currently have a relationship. All of those difficult topics, barely taught to us as teenagers, are covered in Tantra, such as asking for what you need, speaking your boundaries, eye-gazing, opening the heart, becoming conscious with sexual energy and the art of touch. However, there is a huge range of types of Tantra and it’s best to find the class that suits your current situation. If you just wanted a bit of gentle eye-gazing then you may not be ready to sign up for a class in which everyone gets naked! (See the chapter in my book on how to choose the Tantra that’s right for you.)
-Take an intimacy risk every day: It’s worth remembering that everyone longs for connection, and everyone has some fears around it. So let yourself become an ambassador for intimacy and find a way to create connection every day. There is an absolute art to this, which is finding something that the other person can receive comfortably. If you run up to a stranger and offer them a ten-minute hug, this is likely to make them more uncomfortable than opening them up. So try gentle offers and find the place where you are taking a risk but making it very safe for the other person… this is the art that Tantra teaches us. Feel into how people receive you: if you feel them relaxing and letting you in that’s great, but if they tense up then back off and find a less invasive way to connect. Intimacy is all about sensing boundaries and letting them melt away in their own time. Invite people in your life for: cosy café meet ups, nature walks, spa visits, cuddle dates, massage exchanges (now you’re glad you did that course!), shared meditations with eye-gazing, and other creative ways to connect.
As you consciously bring more intimacy into your life, you will no doubt experience tangible effects quite quickly. In fact, even one ‘oxytocin high’ will make you feel more relaxed, more open, like your walls have come down, and with more laughter. Many people leave a cuddle party feeling as if they are ‘drunk on life’. But you will also start to see long terms effects, such as an overall feeling of wellbeing, belonging, interconnectedness, and fulfillment. So let yourself become an ambassador of intimacy, and heal your life as well as your circle of friends.
What Is Sacred Sexuality? with Tantra Teacher Shashi Solluna
Shashi Solluna is an internationally recognized teacher of the sacred sexuality practices of world Tantric philosophies, and has been studying and practising Tantra for over 15 years. Shashi weaves together the wisdom from several lineages: the Taoist lineage for the international organization Universal Healing Tao, the Osho Rajneesh lineage of Neo Tantra and the Agama Classical Tantra Tradition. http://www.shashisolluna.com