Ahead of a tantric dating workshop, L'Oréal Blackett finds out what Sting was on about two decades ago
The Manchester tantric sexperts are easy to spot in Whitworth Art Gallery on a quiet Monday afternoon. Alison Pilling, an intimacy consultant, is proudly wearing a ‘certified sex geek’ t-shirt whilst Tantra coach, Annabel Newfield, is holding a tantric prop in the form of a large peacock feather. Nearby, a video installation of two full-frontal nude dancers plays on constant loop – we think it signifies sexual repression but we aren’t sure as they’re wearing deep sea diving helmets. Clearly today’s conversation about tantric touch and heightened sexual awakenings won't leave any red faces – we’re in a ‘safe place’.
“So this idea that it’s just about sex and sex that lasts all night - it’s not, it’s about being present in any given moment of our lives,” says Annabel assuredly.
Strange, I think, as every mention of Tantra brings up a dated reference of Sting and Trudie and their experimental sex life. Why had I assumed Tantra was all about heightened seven-hour orgasms? (I read that somewhere).
“It may turn a little bit kinky if that’s what you want - but if you’re so focused by what’s in between your legs you may not notice someone pulling your hair or touching your face, it’s about sexual connection,” explains Alison in an otherworldly airy voice. “It's not about sex or incense and feathers - though Tantra can teach people to touch beautifully – but you learn to slow down and be more sensual. One lingering kiss could be more erotic than a disappointing hook up."
Is there such a thing of tantric Tinder swiping?
The tantric two are hoping to rid any misconceptions about the ancient practice when they run their 'Dating Tips by Tantric Temple’ singles evening on the 16 February. They will be teaching singles men and women techniques such as ‘eye gazing’ (staring at someone for an uncomfortably long time) and ‘melting hugs’(apparently it can be arousing), all in the aid of helping people find deeper connections and allowing them to ‘tap into their ‘deepest desires’.
With roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, Tantra can be a deeply spiritual endeavour – it was clear from the way the two talked about ‘energies’ and ‘attraction’. Yet I wondered how easy it was to put Tantra into practice in a modern dating scene – especially if you’re no Russell Brand. Is there such a thing of tantric Tinder swiping?
“I know a few people who have found true love on dating apps – you can find a meaningful connection but there’s still a crudeness about this as well,” says Annabel.
What about sex on the first date? What’s the Tantra stance?
“We do seem to live in the world of the hook-up – especially with the Tinder generation,” she adds. “Relating that to Tantra, I’d say what happens between conscious, consensual adults is okay; but if it’s no longer fulfilling you then, the question is to be honest with what you really want that.”
Alison and Annabel are keen to teach the singletons looking to be more mindful and thoughtful about the dating process. For anyone who’s ever found themselves in the midst of an awful date, planning your escape route out of the bathroom window, then their advice is simple: “There are ways to honour that a meeting happened. If you want to accept love into their lives, you have to be open what’s coming towards them even if it’s a learning curve about what you don’t want,” says Annabel.
there’s all this tension in the body, it can almost be like a genital sneeze – that sounds a bit crude
But what about the guilt of ‘ghosting’ romantic encounter – how easy is it to say 'sorry, I don't fancy you'?
“Tantra teaches you not to tolerate stuff that you don't like,” encourages Alison. “And to help you find out what you do like so we can't imagine getting ourselves in a situation where we felt under pressure to ‘perform’. We’ve learned what good touch feels like and we can teach our partners with confidence. We like to take our time and be in the moment.”
As Valentine’s Day quickly comes and passes, for some singletons the urgency to find ‘the one’ becomes a little more intense. After a dating dry spell, is there ever a good reason to compromise and be a little less selective? Alison doesn't think so. "Your inner selection procedures are very important in Tantra and we get very choosy,” she explains. "Be like a Queen or King, not a beggar. Value yourself and your body.”
Noted. I’m a Queen. Yet, whether you consider yourself royalty or not, the dating process does not become any easier. First dates can be awkward, make you feel vulnerable, and sometimes there's uncontrollable sweating - I wondered whether there is anything a person shouldn’t do on a date to ensure a better success rate?
“Don’t get drunk because when you get drunk you make poor decision," warns Alison playfully. "By all means enjoy yourself but when you get drunk your ability to say no gets skewed, in Tantra we’re more interested in the things to say yes to.”
Or ‘yes, yes, yes’ in some instances.
I'm often asked by people how they can be ‘good in bed’
While the tantric sexperts were cautious not to paint Tantra as simply a means to an orgasmic end, its reputation for heightening sexual pleasure is renowned. So go on, tell us… what is the tantric secret to better love-making?
The certified sex geek had a more general answer:
“I'm often asked by people how they can be ‘good in bed’. We know sexuality isn’t like car mechanics - it's more about connection and following the energy than a series of clumsy moves to get to a goal. Holding another person in the highest regard is important, not treating them like a commodity.”
While Annabel decided to use her tantric sex prop as a visual reference.
“Life can be quite hard and people are quite tense," she says, stroking her arm. "It can almost be like a genital sneeze, crude as that sounds; softening into energy by touching your body."
To attend the 'Dating Tips from the Tantric Temple' workshop on Friday 16 February (6:30 - 9:30pm) at City Therapy Manchester, please see here. Tickets cost £25 per person. Alison Pilling is an intimacy coach and consultant, while Annabel Newfield is a Tantra teacher and hosts tantric workshops.