'I lay on the floor with my body and mind spreadeagled. I couldn't lift a finger. It was a fantastic, spiritual, multi-orgasmic experience'. LIFE's Deirdre Morrissey, was dubious about exploring the world of Tantric sexuality with two strangers, but after two hours of bliss, you could say she was glad she came.
A couple of months ago, a buddy who I always suspected of being a bit of a perv sent me an intriguing text. "I have a good idea for a story for you," the text said. "Tantra massage. It's mad stuff and it's not for the shy or faint-hearted, but you'd have the guts to do it, I'd say."
Of course, I'd heard of Tantra before. Like most people, my first thought was of Sting, who has said that his Tantric orgasms last up to five days, but I knew there was more to it than just spending days on end having sex. My buddy's text sent me researching online, and there I discovered thousands of websites on the philosophy and meaning of Tantra -- including actress Heather Graham's assertion that people who haven't tried Tantra haven't lived -- but fundamentally it is all about attaining the ultimate enlightenment. And enjoying the journey. Tantra massage is meant to awaken the kundalini, a type of powerful energy, through working on the yoni, and the lingam, the vagina and the penis, respectively. When you awaken your kundalini, you tap into the flow of energy that already exists in you and it enables you to merge with your universal self in a divine union. That's the philosophy, and I'll spare your blushes by allowing you to research the techniques yourself.
Eventually, I clicked on the website my friend had mentioned, a group called Alegraluz, who run Tantra retreats and holidays all over the world, including Ireland. My heart pounded at the idea of exploring the unknown and, immediately intrigued by the concept and its possibilities, I made contact with Martin, Alegraluz's Tantra Love Coach.
I told Martin that I was an Irish journalist interested in Tantra and asked him whether they would have a workshop coming to Ireland soon, and he answered cautiously. Ireland, he told me, is a Tantra challenge. "Many Irish people enquire about our courses," said Martin, in his sing-song South African accent, "but then they let us down out of fear, and if they do come to us, most of them haven't been touched by another person in an intimate way in their whole lives. That is the level we are dealing with, so Ireland is a challenge."
"Really?" I said, taken aback by his position and keen to prove to him that the nouveau Irish have open minds and hearts, and are cool, poetic types who celebrate a modernist spirituality.
"Sexuality in Ireland has been oppressed for so long," Martin continued, "and that sexuality is the key to one's freedom. We are born through a sexual act, we are sexual beings and we are full of sexual energy. It is our birthright to explore the sexual energy we have within and experience multiple orgasms. We need to stop looking outside of ourselves for fulfilment, everything we need is already within us."
It all sounded so easy, almost too good to be true, so I asked Martin how it worked. "In Tantric ideals, your entire body will be massaged," he told me, "including those particularly sensitive areas, the yoni and the lingam. But, of course, that depends how deep the client wants to go." But, of course.
After talking to Martin, I thought I wouldn't mind trying a little watered-down version of Tantra massage and although his team travel to Ireland occasionally, he suggested that myself and my partner travel to their headquarters in Spain, to meet and work with him and his wife, Maria. All I had to do then was convince my fella, Rory, reassuring myself that since he's already on the path to spiritual awakening via yoga and meditation, he might just take to the Tantra.
Luckily, Rory was hesitant but willing to give it a go, and one week later we were on a white-knuckle cliffside drive to Ronda, near Marbella, my imagination running wild on what would await us at the Tantra Centre, should we manage to arrive alive. I was thinking outdoor hot tubs, Naomi Campbell lying out on a deck chair minding her own business, Kate Moss with her head stuck in a book, a massage room overlooking the water and the beautiful mountains. At the same time Rory admitted he was a bit nervous. What if he didn't fancy Maria? What if he couldn't let go and experience the full value of the massage? "I don't care what she does," he said finally, "as long as she stays away from my bum!" I suggested we could put a stitch in it, before contemplating the reality of my impending erotic experience with Martin, who was as much a stranger to me as Maria would be to Rory.
As we entered the bullring car park in Ronda, we were greeted by an extremely happy couple, waving and shouting out a greeting with big voices and cheerful smiles. We were mildly relieved to see that they both had two eyes, two ears, two legs and no obvious physical deformities. On first impression, Martin was a tall, jolly, smiley gentleman, with a full head of hair, a deep tan and a pot belly. Maria seemed warm, enthusiastic, slim and well kept for her age, which appeared to be mid-40s. She spoke broken English, with a German accent that was reminiscent of a B-movie vampiress.
Over a welcoming cup of coffee the four of us sat with the sun on our backs and I asked this married couple how they began practising and then teaching Tantra.
"I worked for international corporations my whole life," said Martin, "and I always felt like something was missing, because I was appealing only to people's intellectual side. I always wanted to appeal to people's whole being"
"Then," Maria takes up the story, "when our son was born 10 years ago, we sold our businesses, house and cars and left London to travel the world. As we travelled, we thought about lots of things like our selves and our lives, and we wondered what we could change."
"When we had first got together," Martin interjects, "we owned one book in common, and that was The Art of Sexual Ecstasy by Margot Anand. Back then, we thought it was a sign and later we thought maybe Tantra would help us with our marital problems. In the end, it was just this big yearning to experience intimacy with yourself, with your partner and with other people."
Martin and Maria studied Tantra at schools in India, Germany and the United States, and took a bit from each course to produce their unique teaching of it.
"We take people through bliss," explains Martin. "Our workshops last between two and 14 days, and we take participants through different experiences regarding touch, breath work and energy flow. We teach people to have a kind of mini-orgasm 10 times a day. One of our favourite exercises is yoni gazing and lingam gazing. Imagine some sexually inexperienced person who has never seen a yoni having to have to look at a yoni for two hours! Things happen in that person as they gaze at the yoni and they realise that it's not an 'it' anymore, it's part of that whole person."
The four of us left the coffee shop and walked through the streets of Ronda until Martin and Maria stopped outside a little yoga centre. "Here we are," they said, and my face dropped, all visions of ocean views and celeb partners banished. They must have sensed my disappointment, because Martin said the new centre is under construction and will be nestled in the countryside. They led us through to a room adorned with lamps and candles, and two makeshift beds laid out on the floor about 6ft away from each other. With cheesy Indian music playing in the background, Martin and Maria asked us to take a shower and put on a sarong each.
When we arrived back from our showers wrapped in our skimpy sarongs, we found Martin and Maria standing there wearing nothing but their smiles. They directed Rory to one mat, where Maria was, and me to the other, with Martin.
Martin then asked me to sit opposite him on the mat and he coached me to breathe properly -- in deeply through my mouth, while extending my belly out, and then exhaling through my mouth while sucking my belly in towards my back. During each exhalation I was instructed to make a loud vowel sound, kind of like those noises that made Samantha Jones from Sex and the City famous.
Over on the other mat, I could hear Rory breathing away like an old Tantric pro, and I tried not to be distracted by what he was doing and focus my own experience. That is, being face to face with a middle-aged man instructing me to gaze into his third eye while controlling my breath. I couldn't get the image out of my head that Rory's mum had suggested before we left Ireland: a shrivelled-up man with a sack of balls swinging down by his knees. The urge to giggle like a schoolgirl quickly converted into a chuckle, which in turn became raucous belly laughter. I reprimanded myself for this childish behaviour and we began our third attempt to perform the gaze.
I stapled my eyes shut at this point and concentrated heavily on my breathing. Breathe in, extend belly out; breathe out, suck belly in and make a loud vowel sound. As you get more comfortable contracting your belly, you start to bring your bum into the motion, so you're very much using all your core muscles and relaxing the rest of your body. After about half an hour of doing this breathing technique, your body sinks into a deeper level of relaxation and it starts to move to a natural rhythm and you feel almost like you are in a trance. The loud A and E vowel sounds you make as you exhale no longer embarrass you as you become engrossed in the motion of breathing.
When I was in a totally relaxed state, Martin asked me to stand in front of him and he then slowly moved his head up and down the inside of my legs. As his big, thick, fluffy hair tickled the inside of my thighs, my vowel sounds got louder, deeper and faster and it began to feel erotic. He then untied my robe and performed a little act in removing it. As I stood naked before him he asked me to lie on the rug face down.
I peeped over at Rory and was slightly mortified to see that Maria was not beating around the bush, so to speak, and was already straddling his face. I thought this might be my last chance to run for the door but my devotion to the story insisted that I grin and bear it.
Martin began massaging, kneading and tickling my entire body while we both made loud moaning sounds in unison. My whole body was in motion, working together to achieve a very blissful state. It was naturally, automatically, uncontrollably beating to the universe's tune and I could feel the flow of sexual energy as I began releasing everything from my mind and detaching myself from the physical.
Still, I felt very much in the present moment because all my senses were at play. Continuing to concentrate on the breathing, I could hear both our voices repetitively moan as the music picked up in tempo. Martin prodded and poked me in not unfamiliar ways. The room was spinning but I just kept on breathing. The smell of ylang-ylang and jasmine incense filled the room and I could feel his hands all over me, and my mouth began to dry up from all the heavy breathing. The tempo seemed to pick up again. I thought I might burst and when I did, time disappeared. I lost all concept of how long the massage lasted and later discovered it was an incredible two hours from start to finish. As the massage drew to a close, I experienced pure bliss, familiar but new. My mind was wide awake but my body was paralysed. I lay on the floor with my body and mind spreadeagled, and I felt as though someone had pinned me to it. I couldn't lift a finger. It was a fantastic, multi-orgasmic, spiritual experience, but I don't think I could say it was sexy. I had completely transcended out of my body and visions flashed before me. In that moment so much clicked, I understood the importance of breathing properly, something my yoga teacher has always been banging on about.
When I did open my eyes I found that myself and Rory were in the room alone and he was whispering over, "Dee, can you hear me?" Delighted to hear his voice, I jumped up and we ran to the shower room to frantically exchange our views on the previous two hours. Rory giggled and laughed at the whole experience. He said it wasn't really his cup of tea, although he didn't seem to object. For Rory it really was an exercise in detachment. I guess Maria just didn't do it for him and he couldn't detach from that. Now, Martin wouldn't have done it for me in a million years either, but I was able to close my eyes and be in the moment.
The techniques and rituals of Tantra are overwhelming and mind-blowing. Everyone should learn how to give their partner a Tantric massage, I reckon, and I'm sure it is much more erotic and intimate to look into the eyes of your lover during a Tantric massage than it is to do it with a stranger. So, with a few new tricks in our repertoire, Rory and I just might continue our Tantric journey at home.
On the return journey to Marbella, the atmosphere between us was light and full of banter. Conversation ran from how I was going to write about this, and what my poor mother was going to say should she dare to read it. If my granny was still around, we'd have had to hide her glasses after Sunday Mass! Perhaps Martin was right about the Irish, I don't know. Tantra is quite an experience, but maybe not one you want to share with everyone. But it's certain that we came a long way with it, Rory and I. A lot done and a lot more to do.
Make-up by Derbhal Leavy; hair by Christian Shannon, both at Brown Sugar,
50 Sth William St, D2, tel: (01) 616-9967
Shot on location at The Morgan Hotel, Fleet St, D2, tel: (01) 643-7000, or see www.themorgan.com for special offers such as the 'Summertime . . . and the livin' is easy' package. This includes one overnight stay in a designer bedroom, exclusive access to The Morgan Bar, two complimentary cocktails, €50 to spend in your choice of five top Dublin restaurants, check out until 2pm, full Irish breakfast and personal runners to fetch your shopping bags