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.

Gustavo Solar

March 29, 2016

In July of last year, I put a comment in the “Shout Box” of my Vimeo channel, “Erotic Imagination,”  about the videos of Gustavo Solar.  Since then, Solar has posted four additional videos, and I’ve added all of them to my channel, as they are all examples of a fertile erotic imagination.  The most recent, “Visionado Beso Negro Solar” (Google translates this “Black Kiss Solar Viewing”) has short excerpts from a number of performance pieces he has done.   Longer versions of some of his performance pieces can also be seen on Vimeo.
Cuerpo Eclipsado2
The 2012 performance, “Cuerpo Eclipsado,” in which Solar is penetrated anally by a dildo-wearing woman, elicited this comment:  “Whoaa!! It must have been difficult, painful & very brave to share that kind of intimacy in front of all those people. … It got MY attention. It was also captured on video beautifully, sometimes those kind of things can be embarrassing or ugly to see in porn, this wasn’t pornographic at all, and it was beautiful in its own way.”

In a manifesto presented at the Festival Internacional de Performance, (Quito. Ecuador. 2015) Solar stated three times, “Un artista de performance debe amar profundamente a otro artista de performance antes de morir. [A performance artist must deeply love another performance artist before his death.]”  Could “Cuerpo Eclipsado” be a documentation of that love?

The latest entry on Solar’s blog is 24 July 2015.  In it he describes this posting as documenting his final project in qualifying for the Academic Degree of Bachelor of Arts majoring in Visual Arts. The project consisted of riding around the School of Arts of Las Encinas on the top of a car and covering his naked body with the Chilean flag.

After reading this I wondered, “Now that he has received his BA, what’s next for him?” I’ve discovered that he has a Facebook page with links to other sites that document his work – such as El Archivo en la Creacion Visual – and that he is scheduled to perform at the Zuhause Festival, which is being held from April 21 through 24 in Buenos Aires.  For this festival he will be doing a performance in his own home.  I hope that he will document what he does on his blog and certainly on Vimeo.

Last Saturday, we took another step in our development of the Pavilion of Imagination at Easton Mountain. My friend Dave hooked up a solar panel, controller, battery and convertor. When he clicked a switch, we had light.

This has led me to think about my own vision concerning the Pavilion of Imagination: as a place where men might take workshops, such as “Drawing What You Love” (described in my post of February 18) – as a place where they might draw and paint from their imagination – as a place where they might create video that would be part of my Vimeo channel, “Erotic Imagination“…. This is some of the creative activity I’ve envisioned for the Pavilion of Imagination.

But I realized, as I thought about the event of that day, that this project has been part of another vision I’ve had – that of Easton Mountain reducing its carbon foot-print nearly to zero. Carbon foot-print is “the total sets of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an organization, event, product or person” (Wikipedia). In practice, it is used to indicate the theoretical amount of carbon from fossil fuel that each person and institution consumes. We in the United States have a very high carbon foot print. Other countries have taken steps to reduce theirs. A jungle native has a carbon footprint close to zero.

My own involvement in efforts to create a world where everyone has a reduced carbon footprint has waxed and waned. I’ve attended workshops, marched in the People’s Climate March, posted on this blog, written for a Quaker publication, and registered for the coming Parliament of the World’s Religions, which I hope will make a strong statement on the necessity of combating climate change.

In the seventeenth century, Quakers were thought of as strange people – and we might find those Quakers strange today. They addressed people with “thee” and “thou,” words reserved for close friends and servants; they wore simple clothes; they refused to take oaths, pay tithes to the established church, or to haggle over prices – and with these simple actions they were a major force in bringing about freedom of religion, equality before the law, and integrity in business. Many Quakers today look to civil disobedience as a way to change the direction of society. Within my own lifetime they were part of sit-ins in segregated southern restaurants.

The problems of today may need new practices that will lead the world to a reduced carbon footprint. What will these practices be? They may be something as simple as the practice of keeping a hat on was in 1650. But I find myself wondering if we will find these practices before humanity suffers from a drastic climate change that could lead to the extinction of the human race.

Solar energy for the Pavilion of Imagination is one tiny step – but it’s part of my vision for a restored planet. Here are groups I’ve joined on Facebook that relate to my vision of a restored planet.

Please share your vision on Facebook, on your own blog, or as a comment to this blog.

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.

In my February 18 posting, I described a ninety-minute workshop I did during Easton Mountain’s Winter Gay Spirit Camp. The last paragraph of this posting described a possible sequel workshop – Erotic Imagination. That idea has been expanded to include all types of imagination. The workshop Infinite Imagination will be part of the June 26-28 Summer Splash weekend at Easton Mountain.

You can help me create this workshop by doing a simple preparatory exercise. In this exercise you will create a set of instructions for you or someone else in the workshop to follow. Here’s how to do it.

Write three imperative sentences or three paragraphs each beginning with an imperative sentence. The first sentence or paragraph should begin with the word “Contemplate”; the second, with the word “Visualize”; and the third, with the word, “Express.” The third sentence or paragraph should not specify a mode of expression – like writing, drawing of movement – but rather focus on what should be expressed. It might simply be, “Express what you visualized,” or “Express how you feel when…”

I will transfer your three sentences or paragraphs to a five-by-seven index card. In an upcoming workshop, participants will be asked to select a card at random from all answers submitted and use the process of contemplate … visualize … express to create a drawing, painting, song, movement piece, poem, essay, sculpture or collage. Participants will have the option of working with their own card.

To make it easy for you to take part in this project, I’ve create a form for you to

  1. express your interest in this work and
  2. send me the results of your doing this preliminary exercise.

Click here to participate in the preparatory exercise. Your imagination will contribute to our work, even if you can’t be at Easton Mountain, June 26-28.

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.”

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.”

Phallic Worship

August 17, 2011

In the High Meadow at Easton Mountain, my friend David Townsend created an altar using a phallic sculpture by Moss Tidd.Altar with Phallus

 

 

 

 

David’s philosophy behind the altar is reflected in his statement: “The inevitable woundedness of queer male sexuality in a homophobic world needs safe containers where we can affirm our desire and the animal nature that generates it.”Path to Altar

As an affirmation of my own sacred sexuality, I walked down the path to the altar with bare feet. At the end of the path I stripped naked and walked three time around the altar.Instructions for Puja

David had placed instructions for puja (a Sanskrit word for reverence, honor, adoration, or worship) in front of the altar.

Following these instruction, I took the prayer shawl from the phallus and draped it over my shoulders.Three bowls

 

Using one of three small clay bowls, I poured water on the phallus.Water with flowers

I caressed my heart with one hand and the phallus with the other.

 

But my soul would not allow me just to worship the creative force of the universe in a wooden phallus. I needed to venerate the creative force within my own being. I lay down in front of the altar and poured water on my cock. I took deep breaths as I caressed my cock and heart. I returned to the phallus. Caressing my body with both hands, I kissed it. I danced – entertaining the possibility of bringing myself to orgasm. Were I a younger man, I would have done so; but for this worship, it was sufficient to raise up erotic energy and send it out with my breath.

The teaching of this day for me is that rituals of phallic worship reclaim the sacredness of sex. I intend to find other ways to incorporate phallic worship in my sexual explorations.

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