Recently I have spent a whole month at the Osheanic retreat centre (Fortaleza, Brazil), participating in Levels 1, 2 and 3 of Tantra Training by Homa and Mukto.
I didn’t know anything about the training, other than that it was supposed to be amazing. And amazing it was.
First we need to clear out the confusion about the term “Tantra”. In the west it is used most of the time to indicate Sexual Tantra. Whereas Tantra itself is a huge science of all aspects of life in relationship to spirituality, and sexual practices are but a very small part of it. So whenever I see Tantra in the title of a book or a training I’m never sure what it might imply. In the particular training, this article is about, luckily, Tantra meant “all of life”, and sexuality was a part of it.
The core of the training is comprised of learning to be with one’s feelings. The approach is not to try to resolve or escape from those, but to feel “what is”, not do anything about “it” and allow the feeling to find its way out of the body when it’s ready to do so, or often transform into another feeling. It’s somewhat a variation on the “being in the now” method, except it’s specifically about embodying this state. The 3rd level introduced a more advanced process called “felt-sense” (the term coined by Eugene Gendlin), which I will discuss later.
Homa and Mukto facilitate like very few others do – they have no agenda and every new group gets a very unique experience, as they constantly feel into the energy of the group and choose the next things to do based on that, rather than following a predetermined sequence. So if you were to repeat the same training several times, it’d be different each time. As they shared during the training, they only ever plan 5 minutes into the future. This makes for a very unique experience, as the group gets exactly what will serve it the best.
The training includes almost no theory and pretty much hands-on practice all day long with occasional breaks for verbal check-ins and issues resolution when the latter raise at times. At times many issues raise for the participants and then those take a priority and then other practices are postponed until the issues are resolved.
Homa and Mukto also do a very good job at sensing who is ready to go deeper and they really go for it and take one there. For those who aren’t ready or not willing there is no pushing. From the efficiency point of view I was first surprised that after paying all that money some people weren’t asking for deep work, but of course it became clear to me that paying a lot of money doesn’t necessarily make someone ready to let go and dive in.
Personally after years of working on the improving the power of my mind I realized that without having a rich emotional life, this life is no longer worth living. A great mind is a great machine, but it’s just that – a machine. Incorporating a juicy emotional layer alongside a great mind – that’s a different story. Then emotions are no longer a threat to sanity, instead, they add a whole new palette of rich experiences to one’s life. Realizing that this year I opened a new page and started working on the earlier “transcended” emotions. And therefore this training was exactly what a doctor prescribed.
Table of Contents
As Homa and Mukto were Osho’s disciples, they have integrated some of his practices into their work. The two practices that we did daily were the morning Dynamic Meditation and the evening Kundalini Meditation.
The Dynamic Meditation goes for about 1 hour is made of 5 stages:
- Chaotic exhaling through the nose (10 min)
- Cathartic release, where people scream, hit the floor with a pillow, or do whatever they feel like to let go of pent up negative emotions. (10 min)
- With arms raised high above the head, jumping up and down, while shouting the mantra, “Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!” (10 min)
- Standing without moving after hearing the command ‘Stop’ from stage 3 in whatever position one finds itself at the moment of the command. (15 min)
- Dancing and celebrating to a gentle music. (15 min)
I found that this meditation was giving me quite a lot of energy to use through the day. I haven’t yet figured out which stage(s) of it were responsible for it. I wasn’t quite connecting with the catharsis stage, as I didn’t feel any pent up anger or negative emotion that I needed to release. Especially not at that hour of the day. Luckily one didn’t have to scream in rage to go through it.
The Kundalini Meditation also goes for 1 hour and is comprised of 4 stages, 15 min each:
- Shaking the body in a special way
- Sit and Meditate
- Shavasana (full body relaxation)
I liked the shaking part, but didn’t quite connect with the whole meditation either. A few of my encounters with Osho’s methods haven’t quite resonated with me so far.
Of course there are many more details to the description of the stages of both meditations, but you can easily find those online should you be interested to learn more.
And there were 3 amazing buffet meals every day, with a small snack tea break in the afternoon. I guess this fits along with the other daily practices. Since we did a lot of dancing and shaking, but also eating so much delicious food, I wasn’t sure whether at the end of the month I was going to gain or lose weight. I think food had a slight advantage and won. But that’s because I was taking a break from the practice of awareness while at it 😉
Tantra 1. Liberating Sexual Energy
The foundation stones of the first level were: energy, awareness and staying with “what is”. By doing a lot of dancing, jumping and the daily aforementioned Osho meditation practices we were accumulating a lot of energy that according to the instructors was essential for doing the work. When issues would come up, the participants were encouraged and talked through to develop first the awareness of what their felt. And then recommended to not run away from it, rationalize or transcend the feelings but instead – to stay with it and just feel it.
It was quickly established that even though we were about 60 people, that this was a space of love and care. Nobody was wrong or bad regardless of their shortcomings and difficulties and everybody was loved. When there were group conflicts those were dealt with in the group and it seemed that most participants felt safe to expose their problems and openly talk about how others “served” them at triggering those problems that were otherwise hidden.
Blockage Exposure Through Sex
For many participants the first level was about opening up to their sexual energies. What I observed was somewhat different. I felt that exercises and interactions we did around sexuality were not directly about clearing the sexual-self, but about using sexuality to quickly expose repressed emotions, patterns, difficulties, etc. It’s relatively easy to go about hiding difficult aspects of oneself in daily life, while interacting with other people. But when it comes to sexuality, our bodies would typically refuse to take part in the process, if there is an emotional or a mental blockage that hasn’t been dealt with. When this happens men tend to have pain in their genitals, have issues with erections and premature ejaculations. Women tend to have vaginal pain, dryness, not being able to reach an orgasm to mention a few. And of course the repressed issues tend to uncover themselves long before an intercourse, and usually will start at the first stages of an intimate interaction. I thought it was a fantastic idea, since if normally you’d ask a person to expose their difficulties and blockages–so that could heal those–it could be a very slow process, since they need to be willing to expose something they don’t really want to expose. Bring the sex in, or even a suggestion of a possibility of having sex and the same repressed blockages get exposes almost instantly. There is nowhere to hide. Our bodies are that smart.
One of my most favourite practices through the whole month was the breathwork. We practiced a few variations of a practice called “chakra loop”, where one visualizes that they inhale into one chakra and exhale through another. On deep inhale the belly fully inflates and the coccyx is pushed slightly back. On exhale all the air is sent out while pushing the coccyx up. So the pelvis gently rocks back and forth through the exercise. There are no poses between inhale and exhale in order to keep the introspective mind out of the way. This practice would go non-stop for 1-1.5h, with various variations on which chakras were used. A typical one would start with inhale into chakra 1 and exhale through chakra 2 (1->2), then into chakra 1 and out through chakra 3 (1->3), and then into chakra 2 and out through chakra 3 (2->3), and so on.
This practice took different participants to different places, with a lot of catharses for many. I found it very fascinating since every time I did it, I experienced a very noticeable high state of consciousness. It was a state where many of my mental blocks were gone and my heart was feeling things as they are without having my mind interfere. It was very clear to me that this was the case, because some 20-30 minutes after the practice I felt my mind was back at filtering my feelings again, since what I felt while being “high” didn’t feel true anymore. I had to make a special effort to convince my mind that what I felt was real and not imaginary and allow it to be integrated it into my normal mental state. The main unfiltered realization was a simple yet powerful feeling of unconditional love for myself, people around me and especially my family, with different people being the recipients and sources of love at different times. To solidify the experience after the practice, I talked about my experience to those I felt the love for and shared how I felt. I felt it was a risky thing to do and I was hesitant to do so, but I was surprised that I was received well and so I was able to integrate those uncondtional love experiences into my daily life.
I was somewhat familiar with breathwork through yogic pranayama and also by having a few experiences with Stanislav Grof’s Holotropic breathwork, but never before I had the awareness of the high state of consciousness doing that and the amazing fruit it brought with it.
Later in the course I learned that there are two ways to perform the breathing. One is by breathing through the mouth, and it is used when one deals with strong present emotions. This helps to embody the emotions and stay out of the head. If there no overpowering emotions then breathing through the nose is recommended.
Unlike in Holotropic breathwork, where one breathes hard and fast, here the recommended breath is of a more gentle nature. Fast breath tends to overoxygenate the body and lead to uncomfortable muscle contractions, which can be painful. A gentler non-stop breath will still have a similar effect but it won’t be as pronounced and will take longer to get there. Apparently if one gets to a very uncomfortable body contractions the trick is to get up and run in place fast to quickly burn the excess oxygen.
I think the biggest difficulty for many participants was to choose a new partner for each new exercise (except for old time couples who didn’t have to). For me it was a fantastic opportunity to let go of my mind and trust the universe to send me a partner who would be perfect for me in every given circumstance. I made that resolution from the very beginning and it was smooth sailing for me. It helped that I studied Portuguese a bit before coming to Brazil, since some locals didn’t speak any English at all and many exercises required verbal communications, so I could practice with anybody, even though it was quite trying at times, because my command of Portuguese was insufficient. But even then it was an experience of itself, with its own revelations and gifts so it was perfect too.
The next big issue was the looming level 2 where you could participate only if you had a sexual partner that was willing to go through the whole 6 days with you. I wasn’t quite sure what the requirements were so I was somewhat concerned and the last thing I wanted to do is to turn my judging mind back on and start on a hunt of a suitable partner, rather than going deep in level 1. I voiced my concern and was told to not worry about it, which I did and luckily I naturally found a partner long before level 1 started without fussing about it. It wasn’t the case for everybody. When level 1 finished there were about 16 participants who had no partner. They went through 3 days of intentional match making, facilitated by Homa and Mukto. We weren’t invited, so I don’t know what was going behind the closed doors, but I understood it was quite an intense and direct experience. I think about 6 couples came out of it, since there were more men then women. Some of those couples had a better experience in level 2 than others. What’s for sure is that everybody has grown and received goodness through that process.
The main purpose of me taking that training was to practice letting go of my mind and feeling, and being present with what is without trying to rationalize. My emotional body is quite fragile and not well practised, being mostly superseded by my mental body through most of my life. Because of this several times through the training I came to a point of reaching my limits to receive on the emotional layer and I crashed. Of course I didn’t realize that until I recovered a few days later. The first time it happened in the level 1. And in a much deeper way in level 3. I feel that I just wasn’t able to constantly be present to other people’s issues and there were a lot of people and a lot of issues without burning out. So when it happened the second time I basically had to tune a lot of the emotional sharings and check-ins out until I regained grounds.
The other thing I struggled with was not feeling anything at times. I was supported by suggesting that it’s totally ok not to have any feelings at times. That I need to allow even the smallest feeling to be and just feel it. It may or may not develop into a bigger feeling, it may just disappear to re-appear later or not. The key is not to force it and trust that it will show up in full when I will be ready to receive it.
Overall, the first level, that lasted 11 days, was very intense and fantastic for me.
Tantra 2. Sex and Presence
As mentioned earlier, while levels 1 and 3 were open to couples and singles, level 2 was only open to couples (long standing or just created just for the purpose of the course). We were 17 couples in the course.
This level was not very complicated, but mainly a deepening of what we have learned in level 1. While it’s still possible to hide parts of yourself with a very temporary intimate interactions, it becomes much more difficult to do so when it’s the same partner you are with for all practices. So this level was all about exposing even deeper wounds and trying to deal with those, again, using the feeling the what is approach, with some psychology and counselling tossed in as needed.
The main practice of this level which started in level 1 was a sexual interaction which had no goal or destination. The only goal was ‘slow sex’ – taking the practice of the breathwork of intentional inhale and exhale and bringing it into love making. The only difference is how the energy is moved – a man inhales into his hearth chakra and exhales through his first chakra, and a women inhales the energy into her first chakra (as the man exhales), and then exhales it through the heart chakra, so that the circle of energy is created. A variation of this circle is when the same is done with first and second chakras.
In level 1 this practice was done without a penetration and therefore could be done with any member of the opposite gender while wearing clothes, and in level 2 the penetration was added.
The intention here was to reach intimacy and a deep connection between lovers without needing a strong stimulation and an orgasm, turning sex from a goal-oriented activity to a meditative practice which develops one’s awareness and presence.
Several of us came with years of traditional tantra practices, which calls for sexual continence and absolute control over the sexual act. So this was very challenging for us, because it was asking do abandon most of what we have worked hard to gain and let go of control. I have only had glimpses of what might be gained through it, but I’m not quite there yet and I’m not sure I am going to choose this path in my sexual practices. This is because ejaculation is quite a depleting experience for me.
Overall I felt that 6 days was a bit too short of a ride and this time we ended up spending a lot of time talking, since more issues were coming up, so more days and/or more practices would have been good.
This level reinforced the teaching that compensating for difficult and uncomfortable feelings doesn’t change anything in the long run. Only staying with those feelings will bring a positive long term change. Feeling unconditional love to oneself and everything around is the main tool for allowing this change to happen.
Through the whole training Homa repeatedly said that we didn’t come to this course to find a soul mate. But I think some of us did anyway. Time will show.
Tantra 3. The Art of Working with People
Level 3 was dramatically different from the first two levels. In this level Homa and Mukto attempted to train us in the facilitation work they did with us so far. This first sounded like it’d be quite normal, as many other trainings go, except little did we realize that we are going to be our own clients and instead of small pretenses during the exercises we are going to work on the deep wounds that we have been carrying all along. Needless to say this level was very intense, mostly because we had to dive into the deep waters and stay there for the duration of this level.
One set of practices was to develop and improve our intuition. We had to feel into the client and come up with images, ideas, feelings and get those received by the client.
But the core of the practice was the introduction to the Focusing technique which was introduced in the 80s by Eugene Gendlin, who was trying to understand why psychotherapy was successful with some clients and not the others. He discovered that the outcome had little to do with the practitioner or the method they used, but it mainly had to do with the client’s way of being during the sessions. He discovered that successful clients focused on subtle feelings inside of their body and had a deep body awareness through the session. He then abstracted this discovery into a system which can be taught to clients and thus help them get what they need out of the sessions.
We were introduced to the concept of felt-sense, which we unknowingly have already been practicing through the first two levels. And we were instantly thrown into the practitioner-client sessions, doing the work. The goal of the practitioner was quite simple – keep the client focused on their body awareness and out of their head. If the client was successful at doing that alone, there was no work that needed to be done by the practitioner other than holding a space of love and presence. The client needed to watch their felt-sense and every few minutes or so report on what they feel – be it colors, temperature fluctuations, images, feelings, anything but stories. The teaching was to follow the felt-sense and let it unfold and take the client places that it wants to take them to. If the practitioners noticed that the client wasn’t breathing and/or going into their head and reminder to breath deeply and gently was needed. If the client didn’t know what to work on in the moment of the session, i.e. if there wasn’t already something alive to process, a simple question of “what prevents you from feeling happy at this very moment” can be asked. Of course there is a lot more to it, this is but a few insights into the practice.
As I mentioned earlier Homa and Mukto made this process extra intense by not letting us to work on whatever we wanted to, but they validated the suggested problem and at times disagreed and suggested something else to work on (when sensing deeper wounds or feeling that something else would be more beneficial).
Based on my experiences as a practitioner and a client, these sessions were quite transformational for all of us. No mind or analysis was done, yet there were major shifts and releases happening. This suggests that whatever repressed energies were stored in the body, left the body or transformed themselves into something lighter at the end of the process.
As in the previous two levels we did do energizing practices and breathwork to keep up our energies high and allowing us to continuing going deeper.
In this level we also spent much more time debriefing and talking through issues as compared to level 1.
In the last few days we were introduced to an interesting practice called ‘The King Chair’, where one person faces the whole group and the group tries to see how the person can change to really be in their power. The person is “proposed” to be a new king or a queen, and the group is the people of the kingdom trying to see whether they would trust their lives to he or she who is in a complete charge over them. We didn’t have enough time so only a few people went through the process, including yours truly. It was a very different experience for each person, easier for some and very difficult for others. But in almost all cases there was a great resolution and a place of power was found.
As I mentioned in the section of the level 1 I had another big emotional burnout happen to me sometime through the middle of level 3. It took me a few days to recover and be able to swim again in the emotional soup.
Overall this was a very interesting and deepening level which went on for 8 days, which could have been a bit longer to accommodate more people going through the king’s chair experience, but otherwise those of us who did all 3 levels back to back were quite tired to go on for much longer, so it was good to end it there.
I had a fantastic time during this month of training. It served my intention of tapping into developing my emotional body, and taking the risk of leaving the safe, but boring shell of my mind, being more with what is, loving myself and others more, trusting the universe to give me what I need without me needing to fuss too much about it. Slowly but steadily moving away from being a human doer (a term coined by Wayne Dyer) and becoming more of a human being.
I met fantastic people and bonded closely with quite a few of them. I greatly deepened my connection with some of participants that I have known for many years and making very close and dear friends with them.
Working with Homa and Mukto was a very unique experience for me. I asked for help and they were paying close attention to me, poking me, gently and at times not so gently provoking me, loving and supporting me through the process. Between us we called Homa a benevolent witch, since she was doing all kinds of things that a witch would do, except she was doing it for our betterment. I think I received a lot of subtle energetic gifts from her, but I’m yet to discover what they are when I’m ready for it. I liked Mukto’s German attitude to problem solving which was coupled with a deep wisdom of trusting that whatever is, is a good thing. I really appreciated their directness and if you were up for it, they were really giving it to you. It was fascinating watching them work with others. It was not always easy to be on the receiving side and at times it was very difficult.
Homa and Mukto facilitate this and similar types of training outside of Brazil as well, you can find more information about their whereabouts at their website: http://www.homaandmukto.com/.
I have a feeling that I’d like to come back perhaps in a few years once I have enough time to integrate what I have learned and be ready for support to go even deeper.