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.

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.

In my post on June 6, I spoke of two workshops that I will offer at Easton Mountain during our next Summer Splash weekend, June 26-28: “Infinite Imagination” and “Video from Your Smartphone”

“Infinite Imagination” will be incorporated into the Friday-evening opening circle and will set the tone for the weekend. The video workshop will be on Saturday morning and will provide a background for those who want to create video later in the day. If you’re interested in video, check out the Erotic Imagination Channel on Vimeo.

In addition to these two workshops, Saturday morning will start with an hour of stretching and dancing that I call “Listening to Your Body (Sarong Dancing).” Two or three times a week, I spend a half-hour either alone or with others, letting my body tell me how it wants to stretch and move. Usually I start with ten minutes of stretching without music, using yoga stretches if I feel that’s what my body needs, or improvising my own yoga in the moment. I also let my body tell me what clothes, if any, it wants to wear. One time I was wearing a sarong tied in a knot. I loosened the knot and the sarong fell off. I picked it up, began tossing it in the air, and then seeing how many dance movements I could come up with that incorporated the fabric. The result was something like flagging, but not the same. I’m looking forward to seeing what the results will be when we try this as a group on Saturday morning.

One possibility for this weekend that excites me comes from two women who have an on-line magazine called “MAKE8ELIEVE” – yes, that’s an “8” in the middle of the name. They have issued an “open call for art/design/sound/video/action” with a theme of Homoeroticism (for their issue # 9). They have invited Arthur Gillet, a gay artist from Paris, to help curate this issue. You can read more about this on their call. If anyone coming to Easton Mountain is interested in working on something to submit to MAKE8ELIEVE, I suggest doing the exercise that’s part of my April 30th post. Indicate your interest as part of your answer to the question, “What fields of art interest you?” Even if you can’t attend the June weekend, if you do this exercise we may be able to incorporate your imagination into something for MAKE8ELIEVE.

More on Imagination

June 6, 2015

In my posting on February 18, I spoke of a possibility of a sequel to my workshop, “Drawing What You Love,” which was offered at Easton Mountain earlier that month. There are now two workshops on the schedule: “Kink Imagination” will be part of the Kink Odyssey weekend, June 18-21 and “Infinite Imagination” during Summer Splash, June 26-28.

My ideas about erotic imagination have developed during that time – and an important impetus for that development has been some of the video’s on Vimeo. I’ve put a number of these videos on a channel called “Erotic Imagination.” In general, I’ve selected videos that go beyond just showing a naked figure posing or doing ordinary activities. I’ve included videos that have elements of art, dance and other disciplines. Some are there just because I thought what was shown might be tried at Easton Mountain. There’s a crazy boxing match from a Danish Music Festival that’s an example of this.

I’ve put my ideas about erotic imagination into a video.

Imagination from Sunfire on Vimeo.

While video certainly isn’t the only possible medium for expressing imagination, it is tool that, with new smart phones and apps being written for them, that is now available in to a much wider group of people than ever before. In addition to my workshop “Infinite Imagination,” which will focus on all types of expression, I’m also planning a workshop on what can be done with a smart phone or other readily available video tools.

Drawing What You Love

February 18, 2015

Eighteen guys responded to this invitation to participate in a ninety-minute workshop:

Drawing What You Love

Small cocks, large cocks, thin cocks, fat cocks, tight balls, dangling balls – we love them all. This is an opportunity for you to have fun creating simple line drawings of male sex organs. You’ll start with reference photos and move on to drawing real cocks. You’ll have the opportunity to have another man draw your cock. Some people think of drawing as a kind of meditation, so this workshop can be considered a meditation with paper, a drawing implement, and a subject that holds your attention.

I had the men at two tables, with two easels at one end of each table. After some preliminary drawings, I asked for four men to stand at the easels to draw each other’s cocks, while the men at the tables drew the cocks of the standing men. Since the men at the easels would have to at least take their pants off, I suggested that they would be more comfortable if everyone stripped – which they did. Almost every man took a turn at the easels.

There was quite a range of background in the graphic arts, including one man who was an art teacher. I told the experienced men to ignore my instructions. For those with little or no instruction I encouraged them to make simple line drawings and to have fun.

I asked the men to select their best drawings. Here are some they selected.

Cock1

Cock2

Cock3

Cock4

 

All the responses at the end of the workshop were positive. Some said it was too short. Others wanted more evaluation of their work, but no one said they were bored or didn’t have fun.

I’ll be doing this workshop again at some upcoming weekends and week-long camps at Easton Mountain. I’m also contemplating a sequel workshop, “Erotic Imagination,” that will include other areas of expression – such as writing, music and performance – in addition to visual art, with each participant choosing which area(s) will be his focus. I’m in the process of setting up a trial run of this work, possibly at the March 20-23 retreat for gay men, “Spring Awakening.” I’m also exploring the possibility of offering an opportunity for women to come to Easton Mountain to create something from their erotic imaginations. If you’re interested in being a part of this work, please fill out the “Erotic Imagination Interest Form.”

My previous two postings have been about creating sculpture from my imagination. I wanted to see if I could take the concept of a drawing from the imagination that I found in Judith Cornell’s book Drawing the Light from Within, and adapt it for sculpture. I mentioned that I would be facilitating this in a retreat at Easton Mountain, May 31-June 2. I was impressed with what the men in the retreat created. You can judge for yourself based on these pictures.

Sculpture with clay and wire

Sculpture created by Michael Wilson

Modeling clay sculpture

Sculpture made from Mdeling Clay

Head made from modeling clay

Modeling clay on board

Man with modeling clay sculpture on board

Wil Fisher with his sculpture

Man working on modeling clay sculpture

Freddy Freeman working on his sculpture

After the men in the retreat had created these sculptures, they were guided by Wil Fisher in writing stories inspired by what they had created. Then we moved into improvisational theater, led by Michael Wilson. Then Freddy Freeman set up a recording session in which participants sang, read poetry, made sounds, and improvised characters. Freddy arranged all the material into a short composition which became the sound track for this video.

If you’re coming to Gay Freedom Camp (July 3-7), Eros Spirit Camp (July 29-August 4), or Gay Spirit Camp (August 12-18), you’ll have opportunities to create drawings and sculpture from your imagination in the Art Tent. I also anticipate that we will be doing some life drawing there with nude male models.

I have been writing about my work with the exercises in Judith Cornell’s book, Drawing the Light from Within. As the exercises work primarily with the visual arts of painting and drawing, they are obviously only for sighted people. I consulted with a friend who has a degree in art education about what could be done to make this work available for the blind. He suggested that I work with wire and modeling clay.

The first exercises is Cornell’s book deal with creating paintings and drawings from the imagination. I’ve discussed my work in several postings on this blog. A few days ago, I sat naked at a table outdoors and put on a blindfold. I had a pound of non-harding modeling clay divided into ten pieces. I also had nine lengths of wire, some bare copper some plastic covered. I removed the blindfold periodically in order to take pictures of my work Here’s a video that records my progress.

I’ll be using this technique with participants in a retreat at Easton Mountain called Expressing Your Authentic Self (May 31-June 2). For my session, it won’t be necessary to be blindfolded or naked, though these are both options. One of the other facilitators, who will be leading a session on writing, is excited about the idea of using sculptures created from the imagination as a basis for stories. I’ll keep you posted on what develops.

I’ve been studying Erotic Body Prayer by Kirk Prine, one of the founders of the Flesh and Spirit Community. About half of this book is preliminary theory, and I’ve just reached page 97, the start of the section called, “Simple Steps for Erotic Body Prayer.” Step A in this section is “Creating a Sacred Space,” and in it there is a sub-section is called “Sacred Geometry.” This inspired me, while sitting naked in my cabin (a way for me to enter sacred space), to make some pen and ink studies based on the vesica pisces and the yin-yang symbol.

The vesica pisces is the shape formed by two intersecting circles.

Two  intersecting circles

I’ve allowed my imagination to guide me to expand on this symbol, making it a form that might be used in erotic spirituality. Variation on intersecting circles

The second symbol that came to my attention, was the Yin-Yang from Taoism.

Chinese Yin-Yang Symbol

Again, I have allowed my imagination to show me how this symbol might become part of erotic spirituality.

Two cocks forming yin-yang symbol

Then I went one step further by using this drawing as a basis for a water-color.A color version of the previous image

I am reminded of the words of Lao Tzu, as translated by Ralph Alan Dale: “The space between yin and yang is like a bellows – empty, yet infinitely full.”

Two cocks touching, forming the sacred symbol of Yin-Yang affirms that two men can sexually relate in the way referenced by Martin Buber when he said, “When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the energy that surges between them.”

Perspectives on Spirituality

October 18, 2012

I’ve subtitled this blog, “Spirituality from One Gay Man’s Perspective,” but as I write this, I realize that I have several perspectives on spirituality: the erotic perspective, my personal Quaker perspective, my perspective as an Easton Mountain volunteer; my video-maker’s perspective; my perspective as a healer; my social-activist perspective. All these have been explored in postings on this blog.

Recently I’ve been exploring the artist’s perspective.

It’s not a totally new perspective for me. Years ago, I did a week-end workshop with the artist Frederick Frank, who looks on drawing as meditation. Then, as I noted in a posting last February, I discovered Zantangles – a way of using doodling as a meditative process. Recently, I’ve been working with the book, Drawing the Light from Within, by Judith Cornell. This book stresses combining painting and drawing with visualization as a way to awaken creative power and a connection with inner wisdom. On Monday, I did three drawings as part of an exercise from this book called “Creating a Line Design for Your Paintings.” Here they are.

A line drawing using a compas

A line drawing using a ruler

Free-form line drawing

As my work develops, I’ll keep you posted.

I know that my path involves helping others find their paths. I can’t map out a spiritual path for another person. I don’t have the path of a guru, only the path of someone who helps others find their own inner gurus. And this creates another perspective on spirituality for me – one that understands the truth contained in the first words of the Tao Te Ching – as translated by Arthur Waley, this reads “The Way that can be told of is not an unvarying way.” To me this means that any time I try to turn “The Way” into a fixed path, I lose the path entirely.

This is only my sixth post this year. In my first post I stated, “I look to my Higher Self for ways that will move our society toward life.”

I had listed four elements as moving us toward life: “The Transition Movement, the Occupy Movement, the faction of the Tea Party that is devoted to the Constitution, and those who call us to listen to our inner God.” This post covers my involvement with these elements.

As co-chair of the Greenwich Citizen’s Committee, I’ve supported The Transition Movement by showing “In Transition 1.0,” and through a display in downtown Greenwich devoted to the problems which the Transition Movement seeks to address.Display in Greenwich NY Storefront

The display promoted a poorly attended day of discussion, though those who participated said they found it valuable, and I recorded it all on video which I will post as soon as I edit it – so the day wasn’t a total loss.

The Occupy Movement seems to have quieted down. I hope that these activists are concentrating their efforts on the coming election.

I haven’t attended any Tea Party meetings, to determine how devoted to the Constitution they are.

The area of listening “to our inner God,” has been important to me. In January, I was accepted as a member of the local Quaker Meeting, and in February I attended a conference of LGBT Quakers. This Sunday, I’ll drive to Rhode Island for a conference of Quakers from all over the country. Each person attending is part of a morning workshop. The one that called out to me based on the activist work of Joanna Macy. I’ll post more about my experiences either from Rhode Island or shortly after I return to New York.

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