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Here in the West we think of the ancient practice of Tantra as a form of super-sex, a cross between meditation and yoga which is designed to help you get a better orgasm. But Tantra is much more than a superior kind of massage as Bruce Anderson explains in his book Tantra For Gay Men a well respected guide to the art of Tantra. Bruce teaches Tantra at the Los Angeles Lesbian & Gay Center following years of study.
Bruce explains that Tantra is actually a rigorous practice that harnesses sexual energy as fuel for spiritual development. He maintains that you need to understand the spiritual concepts and integrate them into your life before experiencing the transformative effects of Tantra. There are also some essential techniques to learn, such as harnessing breathing, exercises designed to enhance body alignment and strength, as well as more transcendent concepts, such as understanding the complexities and paradoxes of love and merging the spiritual with the more mundane aspects of life.

Bruce says that through these lessons, gay men will find themselves enhancing the power of their lovemaking and the strength of their orgasms to reach a state of cosmic bliss...but that's only one of the benefits as he told OutUK's Mike Gray.

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Tantra For Gay Men by Bruce Anderson is published by Alyson Books. It's available from Amazon.
Bruce: In the West, we think of Tantra as code for a particular type of sexual experience. Truth be known, the sexual branch of tantric practices is the smallest branch. Yet, it commands the greatest interest for us. The aim of Tantra is no less noble, than the transformation of matter into light. This sounds a bit grand (and in defiance of biology), but by following certain practices and by receiving initiation, it is entirely possible. Of importance is that Tantra is about experience, while for us Westerners, we are often more comfortable with explanation. So to your question about better orgasms, I ask: how many times at the point of a fabulous orgasm have you been carried off into realms of indescribable beauty, of places beyond sight and sound? Tantric practicitioners learn how to expand this experience and extend it thereby experiencing greater degrees of the Divine and of Light.

OutUK: What are the essential principles?
Bruce: Curiosity, is up there on the list! I think the following are paramount, for interested students of Tantra and of life: powers of observation, flexibility to change, a commitment to spiritual growth, initiation and learning from an accomplished teacher. By learning to observe the most basic, fundamental bodily processes, we can develop a greater understanding of them.

For example, the power of breath under the right circumstances leads to amazing experiences. First one observes the breath, then one cultivates breathing techniques to create specific experiences that lead to expansion of the Divine in one's life. In addition to breathing, there are practices for other senses such as hearing, touch and sight. At a very basic level, Tantra is about expanding consciousness through new experiences. To have new experiences means that you must create space for something new. To do this, one usually must set aside your individuality in order to make room for something new. This requires a flexible identity so that you may incorporate and synthesize these new experiences into a greater totality of life.

For me, spiritual growth means experiencing the Divine in all of Life. This sounds much easier than is the practice. How much simpler to be righteously indignant and support our ideas of who we are through arrogance, than to challenge ourselves to find Divine in all acts. This stems from the Tantraic concept of GOD as Generator, Operator and Dissolver of all of life.

Tantra as an experience-based practice has a long history of initiatory rites held between a Master-practitioner and his/her student. There are some self-initiations, but nothing can replace the spiritual quickening that is transmitted from an accomplished Master-practitioner. Learning from an accomplished teacher. I put this here, because I feel that in our modern age there are too many self-styled teachers, without proper accreditation, who are misleading people.

I highly recommend the a man that I study with: Umeshanand, who lives in New York and teaches at the Kailash Center and conducts excellent on-line courses over the internet.

OutUK: What first made you study Tantra?
Bruce: It was through an inner need to reconcile my most spiritual experiences, which were sexual, with my own upbringing and education that villified sex - especially gay sex. I was introduced first to the Body Electric School under Joseph Kramer, and then expanded my studies to more traditional Tantra.

OutUK: How easy is it for newcomers to learn the necessary skills?
Bruce: With dedication, I believe everyone can learn. In my book I detail several beginning exercises, as well as a simple Tantric-ritual that any man can use.

OutUK: Are you saying then that anyone can learn to harness their sexual energies?
Bruce: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again! With observation, commitment and good teaching anyone can learn to apply their sexual energy to their spiritual development. One of my teachers, Sunyata Saraswati, says that your sexual energies are the rocket fuel for your spiritual development!

OutUK: So do you think that Tantra is particularly valuable to gay men and their relationships?
Bruce: I think gay men are well suited for Tantra, because, our identity is based on coming to terms with a deep inner, body-based drive to love other men intimately. Tantra requires the same courage, conviction and caring that it takes to come out as a gay man. In fact, I think because of this, it's almost easier for us than for our non-gay brothers and sisters, as the cloak of consensual reality envelops them much more deeply, than it does us.

OutUK: Can it work for anyone, or do you have to be a believer?
Bruce: I like this question!! There is nothing to believe in Tantra. It's all about experience. And once you have experience, then there is no need for belief.

Bruce Anderson's book Tantra for Gay Men is published by Alyson Books.

 

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