(from Lesbian Sacred Sexuality by Diane Mariechild)
because of its sensuous, total body expression, much of lesbian sexuality might be labeled tantric or contemplative sex. The word tantra means continuation, thread or link. Nothing can exist separately, in and of itself. Everything exists in relationship to everything else. To employ tantric methods is to employ the tools that enable this awareness to arise within us, not as intellectual knowledge but as direct, immediate perception of a universal truth. Everything in life, including sex, is embraced and utilized as energy that can be transmuted into the pure essence from which all phenomena in the universe are created....
Sexuality is at the core of our physical, mental, and emotional nature. Playing with our sexual energy lets us touch another reality or realm, the spiritual or sacred energy that nourishes our physical lives. Awakened sexuality means being fully present in the moment,... opening to the Sacred through three connections: to our breath, to our bodies, and to the body of the Earth. The focus is to become grounded in our bodies and to feel a genuine appreciation for them as they are now. It is to become fully connected to our own energy, the energy of our partner, and the energy of the Earth. In lesbian lovemaking the roles we assume are easily interchangeable. Orgasm isn't always the goal. The experience is one of being totally connected, awake, and alive in this state of vibrant, loving, erotic energy.
Lesbian Sacred Sexuality is one step on a long journey of unfolding the Sacred in our lives. To recognize the Sacred is to make holy, to make whole. To recognize the Sacred is to see the connection with the divine, to know that we are divine. We acknowledge the Sacred by treating all of life with respect and reverence. When we recognize the Sacred, this attitude informs everything that we do; thus our thoughts, words, and actions are transformed. Experiencing life as sacred allows us to slow down and greet each person and each of life's circumstances in a more gentle way. When we revere each person, each object, each situation, we treat them with loving care. When we rush or when we are afraid or angry, we often do harm. Connected to and part of the divine, the whole, the holy, we respond to everyone, including ourselves, with kindness, clarity, and compassion. (p. xiv)
Erotic love between women can be a celebration of and an initiation into the female creative spirit, the feminine mysteries. When we open to the great feminine, the holy space that is the foundation of the world, making love becomes sacred. Lesbians hold the form of woman power at its most profound. Many lesbians seek to identify ourselves from an inner source of woman wisdom. With each act of loving we can embrace this deep inner space and explore the possibility of returning to our original perfection. Woman loving woman can be an alchemical process which reaches into our very cells. Through the purity of this energy we may recognize the essential wholeness of nature. We know ourselves as "virgin," meaning one-in-herself, belonging to no man. Lesbian sacred sexual love has the potential to awaken and reunite us with the divine source of our being. Whether or not we have sexual partners depends on many factors, including our circumstances, our karma and our life purpose. Sex is sex. It is not our partner's gender that makes our sex sacred. It is the consciousness that we bring to our sexual acts that makes them sacred, whether we are making love to ourselves or with a partner. Lesbian love is sacred when it is visionary, interconnected, and transformational. Through the power of love we come to know ourselves as both mothers/ creators of our lives and as daughters/ caretakers of the Earth. Our lives and our work can become expressions of this wisdom and power. (p. 3)
Rarely do the books, from translations of ancient texts to modern sex manuals, speak of sex between same-sex partners as sacred. Whether referring to Hindu tantric practices or Chinese sexual yoga, most of the techniques described are directed towards heterosexual couples. We are told the man holds the yang and the woman the yin, and, through their sexual union, the energy is balanced. Yet each of us, woman or man, contains both the yin and the yang energy. They are the rivers of life that spiral upward through the spine. It is not necessary to have sexual union with the opposite sex to balance us. The wholeness that is spoken of in all spiritual traditions is the openness of the heart. It is finding the balance of sacred life energy within each human being. For this balance to be possible we must first love and accept ourselves. In finding this balance we move beyond our personal boundaries to a communion with all life. (p. 5)
Sacred sexuality needs neither fancy techniques nor a partner. It flows from an openness to the creative energy of the universe. When we experience the interrelationship of all beings, then who we are—sexually,emotionally, mentally, and physically—is sacred. When I am attuned with creation, I feel energized and at peace. I feel my whole body alive and tingling. I sometimes experience states of arousal that demand no release. It is a sensation of being thrilled to be alive. I can walk on the beach and feel this sense of oneness with the waves, the playful seals, the sun on the water, the breeze on my body. I can rest in this state of arousal while lying in the sand dunes. There is no tension, no need to make love to myself or to anyone else. It is a space of openness and groundedness. I am no longer dwelling in my small self; I am centered within this great universe. It is from this space that sacred sex with another becomes a possibility.
Awareness of ourselves as the Goddess is a gift of grace. Many experiences in my life have filled me with grace: walking in nature, chanting, meditation, mantra recitation, rituals, dance. When I make love to myself or with a partner from this Goddess space, there is more energy to be shared with the universe.
Sacred sexuality or tantric sex is about awareness. It is opening to all the senses without any goal, just openness. The sexual energy arises spontaneously through non-activity. That is, nothing is being done to force it, prolong it, or make it come to some preconceived desired end.
In the conventional way of viewing the world we see things as separate from ourselves and separate from each other. Tantric awareness is a radical understanding of the inherent unity of the universe. Women often have an easier time than men in realizing the connection between our bodies and the body of the planet, the body of the universe. Our moon cycles present us with the direct experience of the ebb and flow of life. There is constant change and yet this changing process is infused with a radical unity. All things, all beings are interconnected. And it is at this level of awareness, of interconnection, that lesbians, women loving women, have much to share about the dynamic dance of love. We have more freedom in changing roles, in experiencing a wider range of behavior and feelings. Our lovemaking is not focused on one single act. Our sexuality can be sacred, playful, lustful, serious, humorous, joyful, tender, angry, or anxious. Our sexual communion becomes tantric when it serves as initiation to the "body" of the universe. Our sexual acts become acts of worship when each partner experiences herself and the other as Goddess/Divine. (p. 30)
Sex can be both a common and a dramatic union of self and other. The ordinary experience of sexual pleasure can afford us a momentary glimpse of the bliss that constitutes our ultimate nature. Yet, no matter how intensely satisfying our sexual communion may be, its bliss is limited. The heat of love's fire eventually dissipates and leaves us alone and wanting more. We are physical, sensate beings; our needs and desires (whether expressed or suppressed) are never-ending.
Conventional reality teaches us that happiness comes from fulfilling as many desires, wants, and needs as possible. Spiritual reality teaches that happiness comes from understanding how we've become identified with our desires. Beneath all our actions in the world is a fear of the unpleasant and a desire for the pleasant. This fear is often unconscious, yet it is expressed through a variety of coping methods: We may try to have absolute order and control or we may become people pleasers. We may get angry when things don't go our way, or we may escape into fantasy. We may try to figure everything out intellectually, submit to an authority figure, or madly dash after pleasure. A deep exploration of our desire for pleasant experiences can make these coping methods conscious. The more clearly we see through the coping methods, the less these patterns will control our behavior....
Each time we explore the feeling of desire, we have an opportunity to uncover the source of the desire. For many of us who have suppressed our desires, a further investigation can show us that pain comes not only from suppression, but from over-identification; we have identified with conditions of scarcity (we are not worthy, we are not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough). If we create a new set of conditions and then over-identify with them, we won't find freedom. Freedom comes from an awareness of the mind's tendency to identify with or grasp onto conditions, whatever they may be.
It is crucial for lesbians not to mistake this understanding of desire and craving with the confusion and self-hatred we sometimes feel around sexuality because of society's denigrating attitudes towards lesbians. There is no need to feel badly about our sexual desires or the habit of desire itself. There is no moral judgment that says to have desire is evil and to be without desire is good. We need to feel good about being alive and being who we are. We can learn to work with the energy of desire. We can learn to identify the difference between desire as loving connection and desire as some mind movement towards grasping, which can cause harm.
Conventional healing methods (even those we label alternative) cannot get at the root of this problem. We can't change the ego with the ego. We must observe the mind, and this is what we do in awareness meditation practice. The process of exploration and observation is a gentle and attentive process. It is tolerant and never violent. We learn to face the fear of the unpleasant. There is nothing we have to get rid of. We want to treat ourselves with respect and gentleness, not violence. Desires are part of us. It is impossible to stifle them. We can only observe them when we are ready, and find the source of our desire. Mystics tell us to master sexual desire not because sex is wrong but because it is such a great source of power. Mastery doesn't stifle sexual desire. It means we have a choice in how we direct our sexual/creative life energy.
Using conventional language, if someone tells us that we are greedy or grasping, we would probably be very insulted. In spiritual terms, grasping or greed is the natural reaction of the mind when it touches a pleasant sensory object (sight, sound, taste, thought, etc.). Each of these hundreds of impressions produces in us a pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral feeling. These impressions are happening so rapidly that we are not aware of them. For example, we continually change our physical posture to hide the discomfort that is always present.
When we aren't aware of the mind's natural reaction, each time we experience pleasure we want to have more. Grasping or greed doesn't have to do with us personally. It is something that all minds do. Although we can't stop this natural reaction of the mind, we can become aware of it. When the mind knows whether it is experiencing a pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral sensation, it doesn't get stuck. We no longer need to embroider a story around each subtle experience. (p. 33)
The purpose of this exercise is a loving, sensuous exchange of energy. It is not necessary to do the exercise in a seated position. Nor is it necessary to physically gaze into each other's eyes. Please feel free to adapt this exercise to physical abilities and desires. For example the lovers could be lying side by side mentally envisioning the energy exchange.
Sit naked, back to back.
Take time to ground yourself by breathing deeply.
You may want to imagine the base of your spine
like a giant root extending deep into the heart of the Earth.
Imagine breathing energy from the earth up along your spine.
When you feel grounded, allow that image to dissolve
and without losing your grounding become sensitive
to the sensation of your back touching your lover's back.
Lover one imagines breathing the energy
drawn from the base of her lover's spine
up along her own spine
and exhales the energy out the top of her crown chakra.
She continues breathing in this manner.
Lover two imagines receiving her partner's energy
through her crown chakra like a waterfall,
and allows the energy to descend down her spine.
She exhales the energy through the base of her spine.
She continues breathing in this manner.
The lovers continue to sit back to back
breathing the energy from one to the other
and feeling the circle of energy.
Now the lovers may want to imagine
sending colors through their spines.
Continue to breathe colors
and be aware of the sensations and feelings
that arise during this exercise.
Without losing the sense of this circle of energy,
the lovers slowly turn to face one another.
With eyes open and soft, continue to sense one another's energy.
It is not necessary to try to maintain the visualization.
Simply be aware of your breath
and keep your eyes focused on your lover's eyes.
Be open to any feelings, emotional or sexual, that arise.
Keep softening and opening to the gaze of your lover.
Allow yourself to see and to be seen.
Be sensitive to any energy changes.
You may want to increase contact with touching, kissing, and lovemaking.
Move slowly and keep eye contact as much as possible.
You may choose to complete the exercise without increased contact.
Slowly move apart from each other,
while maintaining eye contact.
Take a deep breath, close your eyes,
and imagine your roots deep into the Earth.
When you are ready, open your eyes. (p. 73)
I have had experiences in lovemaking
where I lose all sense of a personal self,
myself or my lover.
My lover becomes a Goddess or the Buddha Tara,
and I am her devotee.
My love for her is the ultimate act of surrender,
of opening into the universe.
I reach out to the world.
I come naked with the dearest thing I have to offer,
my body, my self, and I offer it to my beloved.
In our union we are united not with ourselves alone
but with the body of the universe.
Lovemaking becomes an act of worship.
Sometimes I play with my breath during lovemaking.
I keep my breath slow and steady,
resisting my body's urge to quicken.
The slow, steady, deep breathing
coupled with intense and pleasurable sensations
creates a tremendous expansion.
I become open to vast reservoirs of energy
within myself and my lover.
The transformation of energy is tangible.
I open out into the universe
and there is no gap or separation
between me and the universe.
It is one seamless, shimmering net of life.
It is sacred space. (p. 74)
(from Lesbian Sacred Sexuality, text by Diane Mariechild and photographs by Marcelina Martin [Oakland, CA: Wingbow Press, 1995].