EPISODE 14: Sacred Sexuality
Originally Aired: May 16, 2017
HOST In today’s episode we bring you two couples from different generations. Both approach relationship with a tantric lens. Andy and Johanina are in their seventies. Through past relationships that came went, they stayed in touch and remained friends. Recently, they saw one another in a new light and dared to love again.
Johanina When we come together it’s not just skin and it’s not just parts, and it’s not just a goal of some kind- you know, getting off or climax. It’s a full experience of energy and emotion, and playfulness and all manner of connecting, and that it doesn’t end in the bedroom.
HOST Like Andy and Johanina, Grace and Corwin, our second couple, are in their twenties, and they practice a Taoist Tantric sexuality. They see relationship as an art form that’s always evolving.
Corwin We didn’t have sex for five months while we were basically in relationships. It was this time of taking sexuality out of the equation so that our relationship is more, that you can have sex without even touching each other. With just eye gazing and having really intense orgasms without touching each other.
Grace One of our practices is really harmonizing the giving and receiving without even penetration so, or, traditional penetration. I just feel like if there’s a consistent flow of the give and the receive and if that’s in harmony, then that creates this feel of harmony within the bedroom and outside of the bedroom, or wherever we’re having sex which isn’t always in bedrooms [Laughter]
Corwin I was thinking about making a bumper sticker that says ‘Good Sex Equals Good Communication’
MY NAME IS ANDY HORNING, AND THIS IS ELEPHANT TALK. IT’S ABOUT ALL THINGS RELATIONSHIP – THE SOULFUL, THE SILLY AND THE SEXY.
STORY #1: “Andy and Johanina”
Johanina We met in 1989, at a mutual friend’s birthday party. We were both in relationships with other people. What I remember is that I liked you and I felt drawn to you. And we got together, the two couples got together, we had dinner and we socialized a bit, and then our paths- we went in different directions. And we didn’t see each other for several years. And then I was going through a divorce and I moved to Petaluma where we now live and you had been living in Petaluma and we had dinner one night.
Andy Which I hardly remember [Laughter]
Johanina I think some time went by, we were at a Christmas- some holiday party and spent a lot of time in a small group of people talking and I remember I kept finding myself sitting next to you for some reason.
Andy This I remember. I remember we were sitting in like high benches.
Andy Like bar stools, even though it wasn’t a bar.
Johanina Bar stools! Yeah.
Andy And it was just a pleasure to talk with you and be with you, and catch up on things.
Johanina You always felt familial to me, not just familiar but, like family. Tribe.
Andy Tribe, yeah.
Johanina And you were in a new relationship.
Andy With someone who had gone to your high school.
Johanina At that time I was in a relationship with someone who had cancer, got sick soon after we got together. Over the course of the next year he got very sick and died.
Johanina We reconnected during Steven’s illness.
Andy During that time my relationship was- was coming to a completion in Chicago and I was coming back to the Bay Area, and we again connected.
Johanina We had lunch one day.
Andy Lunch! Right!
Andy The word ‘new’ is the one that resonates for me because you’re talking about the process of Steven dying and I just looked at you with like new eyes and heard you with new ears, and thought ‘wow! What an amazing person!’ but again, it wasn’t like in a romantic sense, or – ‘Oh! This is somebody I want to go out with or be with’ it was just ‘what an amazing person!’
Johanina That day was- I had a sense of, oh, knowing you over a long period of time I got to see you in a new way and that kind of marked something for me.
Johanina At some point we recognized there was something happening between us. One of us said, ‘This feels like falling in love. And then we- then one of us said ‘But it’s too soon.’
Johanina Then one of us said ‘But what is it too soon for?’ And so we named it. It’s too soon to be lovers. It’s too soon for a relationship.
Andy But it’s not too soon for falling in love.
Johanina We said we’ll just let this be what it is and not turn it into something else’
Johanina And then we kissed.
Andy And then we kissed.
Johanina We kissed in our kitchen, in a certain spot, that’s our spot- that spot is a touchdown for us so we, we go back to that spot when we feel like we need to remember the love and the romantic connection [Laughter].
Andy That moment in the kitchen is when our essences created a new kind of dance together and started forming the foundation of our relationship. There’s something steady in our essence connection, that’s stronger and deeper.
Andy Telling it now from the place we are reinforces the richness, the depth, the rightness of our being together and that’s something that is continued to build. We had some things to work out the first couple of years that we decided to be together as a couple, stuff that came up, triggers, patterns that we needed to work out.
Johanina Like clunky baggage that we were carrying around, really we were tripping over them the first few years of our relationship. I think we have kind of thinned it out to a way that we don’t fall over it so much as we kind of run into it.
Andy But having worked it out to tell the story reinforces, again, I’ll use the word ‘the rightness’ of our being together.
Andy I mean, I’m feeling very tingly and looking- looking at you and [Laughter] just loving you in such a deep way, and rich way
Johanina We’ve gotten really good at making repairs quickly, recognizing what we’re doing that is not kind.
Andy It’s more like a little match lighting now when stuff comes up, as opposed to like a huge bonfire that’s going to burn down the house.
Johanina Well, we almost did burn down the house!
Johanina I mean, you know, we ran into patterns that we each had that just fit perfectly into one another in a very negative way.
Andy I started going into some behaviors that really were self-destructive for me and also self-destructive for the relationship.
Andy Around how I was handling money and this triggered your huge stuff from your childhood. I got really stubborn and what happened for you? [Laughter].
Johanina I unconsciously started acting out my own family patterns.
Andy And it broke down the partnership.
Johanina You became my enemy and I became your enemy. We needed to separate for a bit to sort it out.
Andy Getting help sooner might’ve been, you know, a help.
Johanina Perhaps, perhaps. Yeah.
Andy We were always talking, we wouldn’t not talk. But we still recognize the bond between us. And that’s what- that’s what made it even more frustrating at times and poignant is that we still have this bond and there was something we really needed to move forward as a partnership, as a couple.
Johanina The time apart was to get some perspective on what was going for me. You did amazing work personally for yourself that completely turned things around and enabled us to recognize how connected we were. We found ourselves at one point we were kind of- I said, ‘I feel like I’m following you around the house like a little duckling following its mother.’ And you said ‘oh! I thought I was following you around the house!’ [Laughter].
Andy And what we realized is that we want to be close to each other.
Andy I had to let go of a major obsolete identity that was getting in the way of the relationship, that I was holding on to a certain self-image from the past that was not serving me and was not serving us. That there’s an us that has become more important than the me, in terms of the relationship as an entity itself and we need to serve the relationship. I need to serve the relationship and sometimes that means letting go of who I think I’m supposed to be or was supposed to be or my own self-image. It’s a question I live with every day in present, how can I love you more, how can I be a better parent, how can I be kinder to you and to myself.
Johanina We’re imperfect human beings and we mess up, and things come out of our mouths that, you know, we hear them and go ‘Oh! Let me to do that over.’ [Laughter].
Andy I’m really good at that. We come from backgrounds where a lot of times love was banter and sarcasm and teasing, and that doesn’t feel good. That didn’t feel good as a kid but that’s all we knew.
Andy The sarcasm, teasing and banter masquerades as cleverness, as one-upness as kind of like
Johanina Making a joke about something rather than being um direct and speaking from how you’re feeling, you know.
Andy It usually covers some kind of vulnerability in the moment where if I’m feeling a little scare or weak, even weak, oh, God forbid weak or needy! Then I’ve got to make a joke about it or one up you in some way to avoid feeling the vulnerability of that moment and I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t think you do either.
Johanina My personality is got stuck around being right and seeing the glass half empty. So I can be critical and judgy and it fits right into your patterns of being a little passive-aggressive.
Johanina One of the ways that we have gotten better with that is to really feel what that feels like. And that takes stopping in the moment and feeling in the body where the pain is and rather than keeping it going just saying.
Andy The resilience, the bounce back is not avoidance or emotional disconnection, it’s recognizing what’s going on.
Johanina What’s important. What really matters.
Andy Yeah, recognizing what happened and then what really matters instead of either indulging, pouting or inflating.
HOST Who doesn’t have baggage from a previous relationship? Perhaps very new couples in an early stage in life. Andy and Johanina have lots of relationships and lots of baggage. What’s different is that there is a level of humility and courage in owning their baggage.
Johanina We were talking about our relationship, kind of doing an inventory a few days ago and we were saying how we’re best friends and great housemates and –
Andy Working partners.
Johanina Working partners and husband and wife, and –
Andy Doggy parents.
Johanina Doggy parents and step-parents to each other’s children. But we felt that an area that we hadn’t been paying enough attention to was the lovership. And that one of the reframes that we- that we made in the last few days is calling each other lover rather than honey.
Andy To remind ourselves.
Johanina To remind ourselves that we are lovers and that we want to be lovers, and…
Andy Regardless of our age [Laughter].
Johanina Yes, right, as we continue to mature and what does it mean to be lovers…
Andy At seventy.
Johanina In my journal was my travel notes from a trip to India about ten years ago where I went on a Tantric quest in search of a teacher! We each have spent time studying and learning both ancient yogic traditions of Tantra and modern interpretations of Tantra. I think the basic piece that we have taken that I think is kind of the foundational piece is ‘presence’.
Johanina Being able to drop into being present with each other is our practice, really. It’s not complicated technique-oriented way of being with each other. But it is an important aspect of how we connect with each other emotionally, physically and…
Johanina And spiritually, yeah.
Johanina One of the things that really helps us is that we have a practice that we call Yoga of Touch. It’s a non-goal-oriented way of being tactiley, physically present with each other and it’s a partner meditation that includes touch.
Andy I like a lot of music analogies. So for me it’s harmony, it’s rhythm. The rhythm of my breathing, being present to that, being present to you as I look at you and I see you breathing. Feeling the harmony of our energy, of our love for each other. And really tuning and aligning to that.
Andy It’s not a complicated practice. It’s our commitment to… to appreciating as many moments as possible because we don’t know how many we’re going to have.
Andy The idea that our relationship is improvisation. We’ve never been here before. A lot of it we’re making out as we go along [Laughter] And the other image around that is a dance and I want to dance, you know, I want to dance with you and discover new steps. [Laughter].
Johanina The practices of Tantra are energetic more than technique. I recognize that you are an energy being, you recognize I’m a being with energy and when we come together it’s not just skin and it’s not just parts, and it’s not just a goal of some kind- you know, getting off or climax. It’s a full experience of energy and emotion, and playfulness and all manner of connecting, and that it doesn’t end in the bedroom.
Andy I’m in an orgasmic state right now. I don’t know about you but I’m just sitting here vibrating and enjoying this, loving looking at you and listening to you and…
Johanina Yeah, I mean, that is part of, you know, the whole Tantric world view is that everything is pulsating and the genital orgasm, I like to say that the genital orgasm is just one aspect of that pulsation.
Andy I’m pulsating right now [Laughter].
Johanina Yeah. [Laughter]
HOST Andy and Johanina do a beautiful job talking about connecting physically, sensually and spiritually. I love when Andy says they view their relationship as an improvisation, an organic thing where they’ve never been before. At Elephant Talk we like to view conversations as that, as organic improvisations. What if we looked at relationship as if it were an improvisation? Grace and Corwin are in their twenties and similar to Andy and Johanina who view relationship as a dance, Grace and Corwin view it as an art piece. They talk about balancing and sharing and harmonizing the energies within a relationship.
STORY #2: “Grace and Corwin”
Corwin Being in a relationship for me is an experience, like an art piece, you get certain ideas and ‘What if we try this out? What if we try this out?’ Figuring out what do I want and what do I need, and then seeing how that relates to what Grace wants.
Grace I feel like it was last December when we talked about relationships being an art piece, it was that conversation that we had that sparked, ‘Oh! We’re creating something here together and I’m going- I’m here for it and I wanted to be revolutionary’ [Laughter].
Grace So for me, like a really big intention of our relationship is moving from what I see as dysfunctional relating to functional relating. I feel like we live in a world that is full of dysfunctional relating between lovers, between parent-child, between person and plant
Corwin My idea of revolutionary is not going into a new structure but what if we were to get out of structure all together.
I feel a lot of people ask us if we’re in a polyamorous relationship or an open relationship or a monogamous relationship and I say ‘no’ [Laughter] We are acknowledging our deep connection with each other and supporting each other fully, but we don’t have to put parameters on it.
Corwin I feel like there’s this rebellious or anarchist in me or something, it’s like ‘yeah, fuck structure!’ I love that part of me and if we don’t have the structure of the ground of communication, nothing can flower or grow and so…
Corwin Maybe more than getting out of structure is like this constantly evolving structure, just like a tree grows, it has patterns but there’s fluidity in which way it grows and how it grows. And maybe I wouldn’t say completely getting out of structure but constantly reforming the structure that we are a part of together.
Grace It reminds me of a conversation that we had somewhere recently where I was experiencing doubt about our relationship. You just said it’s not really up to us because we’re surrendering to something that’s coming through us.
Corwin It was this idea, because we’re both artists and we have a lot of mediums of art. A lot of artists think, well, everything is art; physical, visual or sound art but then what about things you can’t see or feel, what about a relationship. Everything we do together and interact with each other is important, we have to be conscious of it because there’s an entity that we’re creating called a relationship
HOST How many times I’ve asked couples in therapy sessions to view their relationship as a third entity. It’s not just about you and me, but also this thing, this third entity we are creating together. Grace and Corwin describe that beautifully. They also talk about the strong value they place on communication and how it is a focus of their relationship.
Corwin Part of our meeting story too, was we slept together but we didn’t actually had sex, we didn’t had sex for five months while we were basically in relationships and we both knew it, we both practiced certain sexual techniques that were synchronistically the same. It was this time of taking sexuality out of the equation so that our relationship is more, that you can have sex without even touching each other. With just eye gazing and having really intense orgasms without touching each other. Then you’re not guided by your genitals all the time, which is just need, and want and consume and instead guided by your heart.
Grace Well there’s a connection, I feel, between genitals and heart. I love that story about how we didn’t have sex for five months. I feel that is this little secret that when I tell people they’re like ‘What!’ And for me that time was really rich with a lot of the unwinding of that conditioning because in a lot of my previous relationships there was that cultural pattern of, oh, you like him, then you act on it and then you have sex’ and it’s this kind of routine pattern. We we’re just like ‘it doesn’t feel right, right now. I still love you, I want to still befriend you and get to know you intimately, I’m attracted to you and how is this going to form itself and just trusting and surrendering into that.
Grace In terms of balancing energy, I feel one of our practices is really harmonizing the giving and receiving without even penetration so, or, traditional penetration.
Both of us really being able to guide the energies like if I’m pleasuring you and I’m in a more active role and you’re in a receptive role, and you’re fully surrendering to that and I’m fully surrendering to the activity of that, then also reversing that where I’m fully surrendering to you and you’re pleasuring me, and I just feel like if there’s a consistent flow of the give and the receive and if that’s in harmony, then that creates this feel of harmony outside of the bedroom, too, within the bedroom and outside of the bedroom, or wherever we’re having sex which isn’t always in bedrooms [Laughter]
Corwin I was thinking about making a bumper sticker that says ‘Good Sex Equals Good Communication’ because…
Corwin It kind of goes against of what people think, they think communication often ruins the mood and it can but, done deliberately or maybe beforehand or after, and discussing it can bring so much more life to this because often times we’re just guessing ‘what do you want? What do I want?’ and rather than guessing just bringing that up into a very clear, communicative way and it can change, too
Grace Just to kind of give a larger context what we’re talking about, I personally studied through the lineage of Mantak Chia, which is like a Taoist sacred sexuality Healing Tao practice, it’s called ‘Healing Love.’ It’s a way of using sexuality as a spiritual practice so not just seen as sexuality as something that happens on the physical form but something that can really be utilized in my body to bring me to an enlighten state of being and enlighten state of health. It’s really consciously working with it.
When I was studying this, my teacher was basically just like, ‘Oh! You’re never going to find somebody who also knows this practice, you’re just kind of always have to teach your partner this certain ways of circulating the energy or certain ways of holding it’ like it’s a perspective that I carry into my sexual experiences that I didn’t before I started studying this and then I met you. And that was one of the first things we connected on, it was like ‘wait! What? You studied very similar lineage’ It was amazing! My teacher was totally blown away and surprised, and so was I.
Corwin Well part of the men’s practice is not ejaculating and still having way more intense orgasms than if I were to ejaculate. Then there are times to ejaculate because that energy builds up so much in me that is becomes so vital and animal I can explode. Like, you need to deep into a more feminine state, relax and accept that calmer state because I always wanted to be super crazy, vital and alive.
HOST I love Grace and Corwin’s commitment to learning and growing, and using sex as a form of surrender and pleasure and getting curious, and seeing it as this beautiful path of discovery.
Grace For me, I feel like we’re in this incubating phase.
Grace I remember the conversation that we talked about earlier when we were in the fireplace room and we talked about relationship as an art piece.
Corwin Yeah, I think that intention part is a really unique part of our relationship as well. There’s letting go to that mystery but then it’s also how can we use this relationship as a vessel or a spaceship to explore the places we want to explore. One aspect, I feel, is sexuality. Seeing sexuality as what it is, sexual energy is the creative life force. Part of our sexual practice too is intending ‘where do we want to put this sexual energy?
And then asking each other for what we want, getting rid of the shame of asking for exactly what you want.
Grace I remember one time where we were sitting by that river.
Corwin We were playing with the water on your body, we started asking ‘what do you want?’
Grace And we just played that game! I mean, it’s like a game of ‘Okay, now it’s my turn, I’m just going to sit here and listen to you, and what do you want?’ And, ‘I want you to just like really stroke up the sight of my leg like this’ and then you being like ‘Okay, I can give that’ and then ‘now what do you want?’ and then switching!
Corwin And then permission to ask for whatever. I could ask for a massage or for you to kiss my toe.
Grace It’s a way of tending to our bodies together, which I feel builds trust and builds intimacy, it builds that communication, that open communication.
Corwin My hope is that we’re cultivating and building sexual energy at all moments of the day.
Grace I can feel it. And there are different ways to having sex. Even having this conversation is having sex in a certain way where we’re- because I feel like what is really having sex? If we’re opening up and we’re being vulnerable, we’re listening to each other’s body, I feel like I’ve been tracking my body and your body this whole time.
Grace Where something feels off between us or there is a charge and one practice that we do together is entering into it non-verbally, in a way, this practice of witnessing an expression. Because I feel also in relationships it’s what do we really want as human beings? We really want to be seen and heard. I’ll sit and simply just witness you as you express through movement, through sound, through words. And I’ll just simply witness without any sort of reaction or expression back. And then when you feel complete, then I’ll be in the expression role and you’ll be in the witnessing role. And we’ve done that in a variety of different ways and I feel that has really helped. There was some kind of interesting energy that we were both picking on up between us and we just like danced out and it felt really resolved after that, I remember. And that was amazing for me! Because I was like, wait, it doesn’t always have to be verbal.”
Corwin I feel that’s a great basis for our relationship because I think what we’re trying to do is be a support for each other to find our fullest expression in whatever way that means.
HOST Grace and Corwin demonstrate the beauty of intentional commitment, to one another, to their relationship, courageous enough to think outside the box and to not engage with one another in a traditional way. Their willingness to be open and creative around what it means to communicate, not just using words, that brings a deeper embodied level of communication. As a result, their trust in one another and in the relationship is greatly enhanced.
THANK YOU TO ANDY AND JOHANINA, AND TO GRACE AND CORWIN FOR SHARING THEIR STORIES WITH US. PLEASE VISIT OUR WEBSITE FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT VARIOUS TAOIST AND TANTRIC TEACHINGS THAT WERE MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE.
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