My website, tantra.com, contains lots of sacred iconography: pictures of gods and goddesses, candles, and other archetypal imagery. I've had people tell me that they can't relate because they're not Hindu, or they don't like religion. They ask me, what does all this god and goddess stuff have to do with sex? And why should sex have to be "sacred" anyway? Can't it just be simple and good?
Here's the thing: I don't think sex should be simple! I think it should be a profound experience. The laissez-faire attitude we have about sex today is liberating in some ways but limiting in others. One of the reasons that the ancient tantrics and Taoists devised methods to prolong orgasm is that they realized orgasm takes us to a sometimes mystical, wholly different place, but only momentarily. So the idea was to extend that ecstatic moment and make it a portal into higher states of consciousness.
For now, younger people may not be bored yet with average, everyday sex, because they have the hormones to support them. But I think the biggest misconception out there is that good sex should come naturally and people should instinctively know how to do it. I don't think you really wind up having a satisfying sex life that way, even when you're young. People get very disappointed when great sex doesn't happen magically. This can lead to a life without the healing power of touch, love, intimacy and magic.
Sacred sex is a profound merging, an absolute presence with another person for long periods of time. I'm not saying my partner and I always have sacred sex, but I know the difference, and yes, I do think sex should always be sacred. In sacred sex, you're not off in some fantasy place, and your partner is not preoccupied by some worry. You're both completely there in the moment.
Some people get confused by the visualization element of sacred sex. They say, well, what's the difference between a visualization and going off into a fantasy? The difference is that visualization is something shared that you and your partner agree to ahead of time. And when you imagine your partner as a god or goddess, that increases your presence with that person. For example, if you're doing breath work and eye gazing, on the in-breath you might imagine the breath rising out of your belly, up your chakras, out through your seventh chakra at the top of your head, and showering over your lover. Your partner is imagining the same thing, so you're passing energy back and forth and through one another. The mirror image flows of energy rising up and out and into both of you form a heart-like shape.
The parietal lobe, which is the region of the brain that interprets the data we perceive through our five senses, is also one of the areas involved in daydreaming and visualization. So, you take an exquisite touch from your lover, it's received in your parietal lobe, and you combine that sensation with visions of your chosen iconography: a candle, a yantra, your lover's body, a picture on the wall of your bedroom. And you're actually building that lobe as you visualize ecstatic pleasure coursing through your body. You are strengthening your capacity to visualize, and to magnify sensation. If sports professionals use this technique to improve their game, why shouldn't lovers make use of it too?
Maybe images of the Hindu pantheon do not move you. But you know what? We are an image-based species. We all have sacred images we relate to. Take something as simple as a heart shape. You find a heart rock on the beach and you love it; you take it home and put it on your doorstep or fireplace mantle or by your bed. It's sacred iconography -- and it happens to look very much like a woman's yoni. Of course, male symbols of sacred iconography are everywhere too. Just look at any tall building or a space shuttle or the Washington monument.
It wasn't that long ago in the history of humans that we held nature as sacred. Even in this modern world, which is really very new in the scheme of things, we're heavily impacted by iconography whether we choose to be or not. So pick and choose what gets you off. I don't care if it's a stiletto shoe you put on your altar. I don't care if it's a heart with an arrow through it or the Virgin Mary or the goddess Kali, but I do think it's important to consciously call on those forces. Sacred images will move you and take you places if you focus on them.
Sacred sexual practices may look like a lot to learn. But though they're very involved, you can get better at them quickly. And once you do, when you're truly making love in a tantric way, you forget about the techniques because they simply flow out of you. And the most important thing is that you are focused and present with your partner. There's nothing to lose and everything to win: a bigger brain, much better sex, rising consciousness, more fun and more love.
Suzie Heumann is the founder of Tantra.com. She studies, writes, has authored three books and makes films about conscious sex, Tantra and the Kama Sutra. Check out Tantra.com Premium for the most comprehensive tantra training available on the Internet!
Marc Polonsky (marcwordsmith.com) is a freelance writer and editor. He is the author of The Poetry Reader's Toolkit (Glencoe/McGraw-Hill).