Tantric Practices

July 1, 2018

From the beginning, this blog has been devoted to spiritual exploration. The tools for exploration have been, for the most part, those that I’ve developed and tested as I’ve worked with various teachers from Taoist, Tantric, and healing traditions  In this blog, I would like to introduce a teacher whose work I admire.  He comes from the Tantric tradition, so much so that he calls himself Jason Tantra.

Here are two videos he has made.  One presents a meditation that focuses on love.  I regard love as the creative power of the universe, and so I encourage you to try this meditation.

And the next video immediately appealed to me when I heard Jason say, “Take off all your clothes.”  How can we know our bodies when we keep them encased in cotton and wool – or worse, polyester and other synthetics?

Jason and his partner, Ingo, will be at Easton Mountain, where I live, August 7-12 for the Tantra Love Festival.  I’ll be leading a session at this festival an activating the chakras. Join us and discover the power of a teacher who focuses on manifesting love with an aware body.

My posting of November 21, 2014, gave my theory of who wrote the Gospel of John. I had started to study that Gospel, using a translation by Raymond Brown along with his massive commentary. At the end of October, 2017, I completed my study, which included reading the text and commentary followed by meditating and journaling.

My theory of authorship was that the words of the disciple John were the original source of the material. They were spoken in Aramaic during worship to a community of believers in Asia Minor and translated during worship into Greek for those who did not understand Aramaic. After John’s death, the translators engaged a scribe to write down the words they had remembered – and probably had repeated many times for that early community of believers.

As I continued to study this gospel, I found many passages tha confirmed my theory, with a final confirmation coming in the last two verses of the last chapter.

24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

Scholars, including Raymond Brown, have wondered about who are the “we” in verse 24, and who is the “I” in chapter 25. From the standpoint of my theory, the “we” are the translators who met to dictate the words they had been repeating from memory, and the “I” is the long-suffering scribe who – after having the closing words dictated to him that are found at the end of the previous chapter – was called back to add on this chapter.

It is my intention now to go back through my journals and extract those passages which give a clear impression of inspiration that has come to me while studying this gospel. This will be presented in future blog posts.

My Encounters with Butoh

December 16, 2017

Butoh is a form of dance originating in Japan just after World War II. Its creators rejected both the imitation of western dance styles and the classic Japanese theatrical forms of Noh and Kabuki. The raw emotions that early butoh evoked grew out of Japanese war and early post-war experiences. It has been described in the New York Times:

BUTOH IS NOT FOR THE FRAIL. THE AVANT-garde dance form that today is Japan’s most startling cultural export does not aim to charm. Instead, it sets out to assault the senses. The hallmarks of this theater of protest include full body paint (white or dark or gold), near or complete nudity, shaved heads, grotesque costumes, clawed hands, rolled-up eyes and mouths opened in silent screams.

I first saw butoh performed by a Japanese company, Sankai Juku, at SUNY Purchase around 1995. I bought a book of photographs of that company, but beyond that I had no contact with butoh until I met Douglas Allen, a member of Ollom Movement Art, a performance company guided by the choreographer, John Ollom. John, with Douglas assisting. facilitated a weekend in which the participants created their own movement art pieces. I supervised the video-taping of their work.

When I learned that Douglas had studied and practiced butoh, I invited him to perform during the weekend and suggested he use the mud pit that was part of the facility where we were working.

I forgot about the footage I had shot that day. Seven years later I edited it into the form shown above – a form that for me demonstrated the spirit of butoh. I could write a whole book and not cover everything that could be said to define this dance form,. Writing this book would be complicated by the fact that butoh perfomers often avoid giving verbal explanation of their work.

This was the case with Hiroko Tamano, a Japanese performer who has taught in the U.S.

When a completely new student arrived for a workshop in 1989 and found a chaotic simultaneous photo shoot, dress rehearsal for a performance at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall, workshop, costume making session, lunch, chat, and newspaper interview, all “choreographed” into one event by Tamano, she ordered the student, in broken English, “Do interview.” The new student was interviewed, without informing the reporter that the student had no knowledge what butoh was. The improvised information was published, “defining” butoh for the area public. Tamano then informed the student that the interview itself was butoh, and that was the lesson.
                           — From a Wikipedia article on butoh

My feeling is that my video goes beyond being a video of a butoh performance, it also is butoh.

I’ve written several times about the performance duo, Wild Torus: constantly traveling performance artists who have worked with other artists to further audience involvement in performance. In July, I was fortunate to get them to come to a video session in the Ridgewood section Queens. You can get a sense of what happened from the video below.

As you watch it, I suggest you think about three questions:

  • What do you get from watching?
  • What do you think the performers got from the session?
  • Would some type of performance art be valid self expression for you?

I’ll be holding another video session on the afternoon of Saturday, September 23 (2:30 to 5:30 p.m.). This session won’t involve smearing paint on our bodies. It will be an exploration of power, it’s effect on the person who has the power and on the people who give him power.

This session will be guided by a scenario called “The King Needs More Clothes.” In it, a generous king gives his clothes to his subjects; but when he has given everything, his courtiers demand more clothes until the king is overburdened with everyone else’s clothes. Our scenario is a starting point for improvisation. Every performer’s ideas contribute to the final shoot.

Doors will open at 2:10 P.M.

You are welcome at this event if you are at least eighteen years of age, are willing to be photographed with full nudity, and are willing to have this video be available for non-commercial display. You may bring guests if they also meet these qualifications.

Donations to help cover the cost of this event will be accepted, but not required.

Do you want to be part of the September 23 Video Shoot?

If so, please use Facebook to let us know you’re coming, or send a text message with your email address to 518-321-1356. I’ll send you the exact location of the session.

On April 19, 2016, I posted some thoughts I had while studying the Gospel of John. I have now reached the twenty-second chapter, which begins “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdelene came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb; so she went running to Simon Peter and to the other disciple (the one whom Jesus loved) and told them, “they took the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they put him.”

I have difficulty with the whole account of the resurrection. My earlier post, “Demythologizing Jesus,” referred to finding an explanation for the changing of water to wine. I find it more difficult to find a plausible, non-miraculous explanation for the last two chapters of the gospel. I’ve put aside studying it for a while. Liberal Protestants often see the resurrection as the disciples having a feeling of the presence of Jesus, and this may be the best we can do.

For many in my own Quaker tradition, Jesus is the one who speaks to them as they sit in silent worship. For other Quakers, the inner voice may be thought of as God, the Holy Spirit, the Earth, or a nameless mystery. The epistles of Saint Paul refer to prophesying, which was speaking out in worship in the same manner as Quakers do today. No one is obligated to think of something said in Meeting to be the Word of God, but if others recognize the truth of what is said, it becomes a truth for the meeting.

When the disciples first felt the presence of Jesus, one of them would speak as he was moved, giving what he felt was Jesus’ message. Others would feel that truth of what he said, and the message would come of all of them. As the accounts of the evangelist were translated into Greek and repeated by early Christians, the reality of Jesus’ appearance was no longer thought of as feeling but rather as sight.

The words of prophesy transformed the disciples from discouraged mourners to valiant apostles. This transformation is the miracle of the resurrection. I will be studying the messages which the disciples received, looking to understand what brought on the faith that transformed the disciples. I’ll report on that in this blog.

Creating a Tantric Mandala

October 24, 2016

At a retreat this past summer, I facilitated a ninety-minute workshops called Creating a Tantric Mandala. Here s how I announced the workshop.

Tantra is a Sanskrit term meaning exposition or teaching. In the West it is often used to refer to Hindu and Buddhist practices that use sex as a path to enlightenment; but tantra embraces much more than this, including meditation and chanting. Mandala is a sanskrit term for wheel or circle, and usually refers to a circular design used as an object of meditation. In this workshop you will create your own mandala by using collage (cut and paste), colored pencils, and oil pastels. You will start with a period of meditation with a partner, move to selecting various elements for your mandala by drawing or cutting out portions of photographs. You will then arrange these in a circular design and finally use this mandala as a meditative aid. No prior art experience is needed. A portion of this workshop is ideally done without clothing.

Preparation

Before offering the workshop, I had to create a collection of pictures that could be cut up for collages. I already had a folder of .jpg files from the internet that I had used as reference photos for my own drawings and for a previous workshop, Drawing What You Love. Most of these were from a site called Deviant Art. To this I added some photos I’d taken during a photo-shoot I’d done with two friends – one of them modeling with me and one shooting with my iPhone. In many of these photos, I and my friend were in the maithuna position, which is a position often used when there is an image in the center of a tantric mandala.maithuna4web

When I had assembled a total of about seventy-five images. My next step was to print them on glossy photo paper. Usually I printed each image twice, flipping the image horizontally for the second printing. Thus I had two pictures that were mirror images of each other. Sometimes I combined two mirror images into one file before printing.

cocksflipped4web

Now, all that was left was to gather all the materials I needed and set up the space I would use.

The Procdure

When the men arrived, we formed pairs and I asked each man to place his right hand over his partner’s heart and then his left hand over his partners right hand – a position known as the mudra of the heart chakra. We held this position for three deep breaths, all the time looking into our partners’ eyes. Then we changed partners and repeated this until every participant had worked with every other participant.

I told the group that the next meditation was best done without clothing, and everyone stripped. I had each man lay down on his back next to a partner with his head next to his partner’s feet. Each person had his partner on his right. I asked them to reach across and gently place his right hand on his partner’s cock and balls. The focus of the meditation could be either on the sensation of ones own cock being touched or the sensation of touching another man’s cock. We held the meditation for about ten minutes.

Still naked, we sat down at the work tables and meditatively began looking at the pictures I had printed. I asked the men to select three to five images that called out to them. When they had selected images, they took scissors and cut out the figures in the photos – sometimes a whole figure and sometimes just the cock and balls.

Next I had each man use a draftsman’s compass to draw a seven-inch diameter circle on a piece of colored construction paper and then cut out that circle Then they arranged their cut-out figures on the circle to form a design that would be bounded by the circle. It was okay to have a portion of the figure go outside of the circle, but that part would be trimmed off later. I pointed out that where two images came together in an awkward way, a third image pasted over the juncture might resolve this. (You can see this in the first of the three mandalas shown below.)

When each man had found the positions for his images, the next task was to use a glue stick to paste them to the construction paper, pasting the ones that went directly on the paper first, and those that might be partially on another photo next. After the pasting, one man used oil pastels to put spirals on the figures. They looked something like tattoos. The final step was to trim off anything that went beyond the edges of the circle and then paste that circle on a piece of Bristol board (a light cardboard) or on another piece of colored construction paper.

Using the Mandala

At the end of the workshop, we all sat cross-legged on mats and held our mandalas in front of us. We let our eyes rest upon them for a few minutes and then closed our eyes. I explained that a good twenty-minute meditation would be to hold a mandal and gaze at it for ten minutes, and then to close the eyes and visualize that mandala. If attention wandered, one should open ones eyes and look at the mandala for three deep breaths, then close them again and continue visualizing the mandala. Because of the time constraints of the workshop, we couldn’t do this, but each person would take his mandala home to use there.

Here are two mandalas I made – the first in preparation for the workshop and the second during the workshop.

mandalatwo

mandalaone

If you follow these instructions and make your own mandala, it may be right to show it to others or you may want to reserve it for your own meditation.

From May through December of 2013, I posted a series of articles created using active imagination centered on the figure of an explorer. I have recently been led to return to this type of meditation. The following is another episode that I recorded in 2013. If you have not read the previous postings with this theme, or if you don’t remember them, I suggest checking out my page, “Fantasy/Fables/Fiction,” where you will find links to all the postings with the theme of the explorer in chronological order. You probably find the series more interesting if you read the posts in the order that I created them.

___________________

I found it difficult to sleep that night. So much had happened. I felt very good, very positive; and yet there was so much that was confusing. Not the least of this was how the healer, Matta, knew so much about me. She seemed to know everything, and I wondered about things that she hadn’t said, seeing things that she hadn’t pointed out, she hadn’t dwelled upon.

Did she know my sexual orientation? Did she know my feelings toward other people, people I disliked. Somehow, I felt she did, but that that didn’t matter. I recalled a verse of Scripture where Jesus knew things about a woman that he met and she recognized that. Was Matta in some way another Jesus?

I wondered what kind of religion she had. At least it was one that taught people to be loving; because, of all else, I felt Matta was really loving – and by that I mean accepting, allowing me to be who I was and who I was not, not wanting me to be something different. I felt that I should go and look at Scriptures – Christian Scriptures – read more about Jesus; and yet I had no interest in conventional religion, and somehow something was saying this is not about conventional religion; this is about a spiritual man, the medicine man, who gave me the drugs that eliminated the parasites after a bout of diarrhea and delirium and who knows what. How did he know I had the parasites? My guide had referred to them as evil spirits. There was something I wasn’t quite seeing, and I wasn’t sure what it was.

I wondered if Matta could see evil spirits, if she thought of disease in that way. So I waited. At one point I almost called the Healing Center to break my appointment, but I knew I could not do that. Somehow this was exactly what I needed.

I was spending a lot of time now, as I had promised myself I would. thinking about the direction of my life, where I was going, what I wanted to accomplish – something I knew I could not do in the jungle, in the highlands, anywhere outside of the big city. While I was exploring I couldn’t really keep my attention, my focus, on internal problems; and something said “you must be an explorer of your own mind and accept this without question.” But still wondering what it meant to be an explorer of my own mind. I could do that just as well in my hometown in California or in El Paso or even across the border in Mexico. I wondered if it changed that much in fifty years.

For some people, security is very important. They have a need to be in control. Others are willing to take risks and may even relish being in a situation that has some degree of hazard. A few years ago a friend, Frank Crowley, sent me a story that illustrates varying people’s requirement for safety. He is describing one August when he was working as a volunteer for a non-profit organization that ran a retreat center.

That same first week in August on sunny days we workers painted the back of the guest house, the long, two-story, motel-shaped residence for guests who don’t camp. I was happy with the job: to be outside in dappled sunlight and fresh breeze watching my frisky helpers scamper naked up and down the frequently moved ladders. I took the lower half for fear of falling, and I kept up with B. and E. as they moved along and as I worked under them. At one point, I was looking up into dual, handsome posteriors in constant stretching. A dollop of green paint fell neatly onto the bridge of my nose and trickled down to the tip in war paint, American Indian style. I whooped and hollered! Both men looked down and giggled and flecked some more onto the top of my bare head! I was soon “the boy with green hair.”

Next thing I knew, B., standing slightly lower on the same ladder, painted E.’s bare-butt with two slaps of the big brush. I yodeled! E. was hanging on to the roofline for a moment, it seemed, to get his bearings. B. bolted down the ladder, and E. followed him quickly, full brush in hand. 

E. has the face of the wounded Christ with lugubrious lines, sunken cheeks and long hair. Almost everyone in camp remarks on the similarity in long-faced expression and on the longing in his eyes for the redemption of the fallen B. But, in this instance E. decides to avenge his green-apple cheeks. I could see that the slap of paint covered the soft downy hair on the hapless E., so he looked now like an aroused clown with a wide-brimmed paint hat.

E. chased the fleeing B. with a yelp, a whoop and burst of bloodthirsty cries, a painted warrior without a horse. B. screamed his high pitch laugh and ran for his life, but E. galloped on his long, powerful legs. He caught up with B. on the snake path aside the main driveway in full view of guesthouse and lodge. Three swift strokes with his right hand, while he pulled B.’s pants down with his left, achieved the goal of painted penis and crotch.

I laughed my stupefied cackle, E. turned and I cowered, as I knew that even with my own strong running legs I’d never escape. “I’ll paint you, too,” he threatened and turned on me with his brush outstretched in a fierce smile. He ran back up the hill toward me. “Oh, please, noooo,” I pleaded in my submissive crouch up by the corner of the guesthouse, where I had awaited the outcome. B. had meanwhile collapsed in giddy laughter on his knees. As E. closed in for the kill, I looked up into his face beseechingly, and slowly his expression changed to mirthful release, then pity and tenderness.

I returned to painting the guesthouse, B. and E. went to clean up at the lodge and the rest of the crew continued their housekeeping duties. But, it was a long time I was alone back there because both were reassigned to clean rooms, as they said, sheepishly, looking out one of the back, bathroom windows. It seems that our Canadian “Tom Sawyer” and American “Jim” escaped painting “Aunt Polly’s” fence, but only for an hour, as they were soon back out with me slapping away for the rest of the long, summery, slap-happy afternoon. 

What strikes me about this story is that if any one of these workers really felt unsafe, the whole story would be different. Something in their relationship made it okay to horse around as they did, and perhaps the fact tht they were comfortable naked together contributed to a feeling of safety in a situation where others would feel unsafe.

There’s an apocryphal gospel attributed to the disciple Thomas, in which Jesus says, “When you strip naked without shame and trample your clothing underfoot just as little children do, then you will look at the Son of the Living One without being afraid.”
(The Gospel of Thomas 37). I can’t say that the men in this story looked “at the Son of the Living One,” but they certainly looked at each other without being afraid, and thus found the security needed to have fun in what others might consider a crazy and perhaps threatening situation.

Two months ago I wrote about my planned second visit to the Torus Porta – this time for a marathon of performance art lasting from six in the evening to about three the next morning. It has been a busy summer, and my memory of that evening is now vague, but I’ve assembled some still and video images into a report of the evenings. You can draw your own conclusions.

When I say that my summer was busy, it was nothing compared to that of the two founders of the Torus Porta, the team known as Wild Torus: Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Sweden, Greece and the US. have been on their tour; and in one week they’re coming to Easyon Mountain, for an event called Q-Topia. The will be leading a workshop on Saturday and will be part of the performance on Sunday. You can read about this on Easton Mountain’s website.

In my May 30th post, “Being Wild with Wild Torus,” I wrote “I see in Wild Torus performers taking risks, inviting each other to take risks and inviting the audience to take risks. Do these risks help us know who we are? Do they help us be more truly what we are meant to be? Only by taking the risks can I find out.” In two days, I’ll be furthering my exploration with a second visit to the Torus Portal.

This time, I’m contributing a video to the evening. I noticed that between the live acts there were sections where performers were setting up and visual stimulus for the audience came from video projection. I’ve created about twenty-four minutes of video that will be used in this way. and here’s a short segment from it.

The event starts at 6:00 PM. this coming Saturday (July 2) at a basement space called “The Torus Porta,” 113 Stockholm Street (off Myrtle Ave.) in the Bushwick Section of Brooklyn. It has been billed as “The Closing of the Torus Porta” – the final event to be held at 113 Stockholm. The list of performers is long, with the last performances starting at 3:00 AM.

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