STEVE: Hi every one and welcome to another Raw Attraction Magazine podcast. Today we’re on the line with Barbara Carrellas, who is in New York. Barbara is an author, artist, innovator, instigator and a thought leader in the field of sex, gender and spirit. She is also a sex and life coach, sex educator, workshop facilitator, university lecturer, motivational speaker and theatre artist.

She is also the author of Urban Tantra: Sacred sex for the Twenty First century, Ecstasy is necessary: a practical guide to sex, relationships and oh so much more. And also Luxurious Loving: Tantric Inspirations For Passion and Pleasure. So I’m really excited, this is a woman that’s been working in sexuality for all of her life. So hi to you Barbara, how are you today?

BARBARA: Hi, I’m just excellent.

STEVE: We are connecting Prague and New York this evening

BARBARA: We are. I love this. I love being alive at this time in history.

STEVE: It’s a beautiful thing, and especially when we can talk about subjects that we’ll dive into today. I know you teach around a lot of different things. So we’re going to start with an introduction of yourself. If you could give us a bit of a snap shot into your journey of sexuality and I know you teach about Tantra, BDSM and kink and stuff. If you would like to give an introduction for those who wouldn’t have heard of you before…

BARBARA: Sure. Actually, my root art form and root career was theater. I spent a good deal of my life in parallel roles as a theater manager, producer, artist and also a sex and spirituality writer, teacher. How that came about was that I was in fact working in the Broadway theater in the 1980s and as people who were alive then would remember, people started (particularly gay male people) started getting sick and they started dying and then we were in the middle of the epicenter of plague.

Obviously because I was in the theater, I knew a disproportionately high number of gay men and I’m queer myself so that was my community. At some point during that plague, we could lose up to 4 friends in a week. It was really, really full on. So, I went to a healing circle. And there I met two other erotic pioneers Joseph Kramer and Annie Sprinkle. And as we were sitting around, we realized that we were there for the same reasons and had the same questions.

We were looking for a spiritual practice that included us instead of condemned us.

Because the Christian right in America was basically saying, “this is God’s punishment for living such an evil life”. So there wasn’t a whole lot of spiritual support in the mainstream to say the least. And we were looking for a way to deal with all the grief; the emotional pain was pretty intense.

Annie and Joseph and I had another question which we were seeking an answer to… what are we going to do about sex? Now people understand that this virus is passed sexually, so they’re just not having sex. But this isn’t going to last. And this is going to spread and this is going to spread and we’re going to have completely re-invent, how we have sex, when literally at that time sex could equal death.

Joseph had already started exploring—he was a body worker and a former Jesuit priest, and he started exploring Daoist sexuality, which is an ancient branch of Chinese medicine – he was combining that with erotic massage. And what became his famous erotic massages that we know all over the world today and have turned into the training course and profession of Sexological Body Work, this was the beginning of that. We found that there was a great deal of spiritual connection and emotional healing in the techniques he was developing.

So we went okay… what are the traditions might provide us with some of the same things we are seeking. And Annie and I started looking into Tantra. Because Joseph had Daoism covered for the time being of our little triad here.

We discovered the fierce love and intense emotional and spiritual possibilities in the energy of sex.

By which I mean, Tantra is far more, far bigger than sex. It’s like Tantra is the ocean and the sex parts, a gallon of water in that ocean.

However at the time the part of Tantra that we needed was a bit of the basic philosophy as we understood it, from people who brought it to us from India. We needed the philosophy of introspection and fierceness in the particular way Tantra offered it. And we needed a spiritual practice that included sex.

And basically Tantra says that everything in the life journey is fuel and food for your enlightenment. And that includes sex.

That made Tantra the only sex positive spiritual practice we could find. So with the full knowledge that we were adapting a practice, that belong to other people but we needed it, we dove more deeply into Tantra.

We tried to create a practice that was easily doable, easily teachable and understandable and effective for an urban American, at the time because that’s where we were, now it’s international, group of people who otherwise would not have come to the practice at all and we certainly would not have discovered the safer sex possibilities that Tantra offered us.

Tantra practices can get you so high and so connected that no exchange of bodily fluids is required, and that was what we were looking for.

STEVE: So this was a massive kind of not only psychological as well as spiritual paradigm shift that you were creating with Annie and Joseph.

BARBARA: I guess as it turned out, you’re right. I don’t think we thought that it was—I like your phrase paradigm shift—at the time we were just trying to save our friends lives but that is what it turned into.

STEVE: Yeah, there definitely seems to be a growing thirst for people to understand Tantra and body work and kink. It’s three conversations we want to have today, where people will learn more through these conversations and if you hadn’t started that movement, who knows where we would be in this point and I’m sure there were others starting movements at the same time and we will continue the movement forward. What is it that you are most passionate about teaching today in your work?

BARBARA: Interestingly enough the one thing that comes right from the beginning of my work back in the day and one much newer thing. The technique that I learned early on in my exploration of Tantra was, what I call breath and energygasm, which our mutual friend Elaine Young also teaches in the UK.

Breath and energygasm demonstrates that sex is more than energy than it is about the genitals.

It’s a way of having a full body orgasm like experience, hence the term breath and energygasm, by focusing on breath and the imagining of moving energy with your mind.

And since we know that energy powers thought, you really can move energy with your mind. It’s quite simple, once you learn it, this process of taking yourself into an expanded orgasmic state.

It’s got spiritual possibilities, it has emotional healing possibilities, it can put you into a place where you can just get above it all so to speak, and you’ll be in a place of easy meditation where answers to questions that you’ve been looking for, come in more easily. It’s a remarkable technique, particularly I find, for its healing and expansive capabilities.

So breath and energy orgasms I would happily teach for the rest of my life to anyone who wants to learn them. And I have taught it to thousands and thousands of people and it’s my great joy.

The other thing that I’m really passionate about is my Urban Tantra professional training program. I founded Urban Tantra—I have been doing Urban Tantra as I just explained but it didn’t have a name. And somewhere back in the nineties I was doing an interview with New York Magazine I think it was, and they were saying, what is it exactly that you do? And I said, “I teach Tantra but it’s a kind of urban Tantra” and I went, there we go, quick go trademark that. And because I wanted to differentiate what I was teaching and creating—I wanted to own it as essentially my own hybrid creation and I especially wanted to be careful to avoid cultural appropriation, so I wanted people to know that you were coming to something that isn’t claiming to be ancient guru driven traditional Tantra anyway.

The professional training program, my assistant several years back Donya wanted me to do a training program for sexuality professionals who were working with Tantra and wanted some specific training to grow their practice. It started there. And it has blossomed over the past seven or eight years I think, into an international professional community of people in some 26 countries around the world. And not everybody who goes through the Urban Tantra Professional Program is a sexuality professional. They might be an artist, they might be an activist, they might be a yoga teacher, there is a lot in the program that is personal development as well as professional development. And we have our eye on changing the world and making it safe for sexual expression, all forms of sexual expression and all genders.

So we’re a very, very inclusive group and a group that’s very supportive of each other. So the Urban Tantra community just grows bigger and bigger. You know when I started out, when I first wrote Urban Tantra my book, I left out Kink Practitioners, I didn’t mean to. There is also a number of quite a large portion of conscious kink people in the Urban Tantra community. But when I first wrote my book Urban Tantra, one of the main reason I wrote it, was to reach out and find likeminded people so that I’d have a community that I really related to. Because my early explorations in Tantra was when Tantra was known as a pretty exclusively white, heterosexual, middle class, middle aged community or at least that’s what it was here in the States. And I wanted to invite everybody to the table, everybody to the play space, everybody to the ashram. And I’m happy to say that with the help of my colleagues around the world, that’s what we’re doing. And that’s really, really important to me.

STEVE: So what are the key things or the key things in your training, the pillars of Urban Tantra, as oppose to perhaps Tantra you might find elsewhere?

 

BARBARA: First of all, the Tantra that I grew up with, if you will and I know from people who write to me that it’s still being practiced in large numbers throughout the world, is based on gender binary, that you have to have a man and a woman to do it. And Annie and I found that, that was absolutely not true, back in the eighties when we would go to Tantra workshops as a couple. And people would try to split us up and we were like, no, no, we’re choosing to work together because we’d heard about all this gender binary step and we’re looking to see if it were true. Because remember we wanted to take this work back to gay men. And we found out over and over and over again that it was nonsense. It absolutely could be done by anybody. It didn’t even have to be two people, it could be one or four.

Because the way energy works between bodies is just the way energy works between bodies. It doesn’t have to be any two particularly gendered bodies. Breaking the gender binary is one of them, therefore we have become the go to Tantra community or one of the go to conscious sexuality community, not just Tantra, for trans and gender non conforming people and I’m incredibly happy and proud of that.

We also very specifically welcome people of color and people of different abilities, people with disabilities. Because we can’t do the good work we do in the world if we can’t get into certain communities. So we make a real effort to include people who were differently abled and people of color. And we’re kink friendly. That was very taboo when I started out. Because Annie Sprinkle had come from being queen of the hell fire club. She had a pretty significant BDSM background and was now into Tantra and had become, as she called it at the time late eighties early nineties, under aged girl, she had a foot in both worlds, both the spiritual sexual community and the kink community. So I was exposed early on to the kink community. I remember the first day, she said Barbara I’m about to do the weirdest kinkiest thing I have ever done and you have to come help me. I’m like oh my god. Annie Sprinkle has walked edges, I’m not sure I can do that. I’m like, yes Annie, what is it you want? I’m going to go teach ecstasy breathing to The Eulenspiegel Society, New York’s oldest BDSM group. And I’m like, oh, I can do that. And sure enough as that workshop and others that we did after, the kink community was incredibly understanding of the principles of Tantra. Because just the rules of consent that apply in the BDSM community make them a bit more conscious than some other people who play in other forms in sexuality. Because they have to be safe, sane, consensual right?

So, also people who played with dominance and submission and with extreme sensation aka pain, have learned to read breath and body pretty darn well in many cases, because they had to. So there was in fact an actual existing affinity between Tantra and kink.

So thankfully and again thanks to Annie who has some extra-ordinary friends, I got to meet people like The Fakir the ultimate wonderful man, the great coming together of spirit and kink is The Fakir.

I remember we had long conversations. Half of what he did terrified me. We’re now good friends and I do a lot of those things he did back then. But at the time much of what he did terrified me but his spiritual understanding and philosophy was just so attractive to me.

Raelyn Gallina, who is no longer on the planet was another BDSM priestess, who I learned so much from. So, early on, conscious kink seem to fit into my world. As scared as I was a bit when I started out. Now I say things like, watch it people, the things that you say you’ll never ever, ever do today, might be your biggest turn on six months down the line.

At my Urban Tantra Professional Training, we dive into all styles and possibilities of sacred sex, and where the sacred and the sexual can meet, where the conscious can meet. So that we can find the places of healing, the places of transformation, the places we can be of service in the world, sexually and professionally.

I’ve even done workshops where I’m asked to come in and… here is a good example… I was asked by quite a forward thinking group of corporate people, there job was to help large corporations change in order to survive and thrive, big companies, worldwide companies. And I was asked to come in and share some facilitation techniques with them. Their perspective was—facilitating work around sex is really challenging. And some people don’t want to change or they’re afraid to change.

I took them on a journey in seeing conscious BDSM, especially dominance and submission as a conscious and consensual art that could be applied to their job. For example, the CEO of some huge company is normally in a very dominant position in his company. But when a corporate change person comes in that CEO is saying I am going to take a submissive role, that’s probably not the word they use, but I’m going to take a more submissive role and let you have a more dominant role because I want you to lead me through an experience of change, that I need for my company.

So basically I took the corporate change people into exercises where they could feel, on a very human level, the effect and the responsibility and the placement of trust they had when they were leading or should have when they are leading, and how vulnerable yet in-charge because it is the CEO who is actually paying them, how the CEO is voluntarily turning over some of their power to them for a particular period of time or a particular project. And they loved it. So we find that the principles of conscious sexuality can really be applied to any business or any area of life and I just loved that.

STEVE: Yeah, it seems to me you’re giving people the opportunity to access their own power within. People can access their true power when they tap into their sexuality to up level their career, business, would you say that was true?

BARBARA: Yeah I have to say I agree with you.

I have a particular bias toward the healing, because probably, maybe it’s just the way I was built when I came on to the planet, or maybe it’s because of the AIDS crisis, the epidemic. I would say that probably almost everything I do whether or not it looks like it, has some sort of healing intention behind it. I think that’s really, really important to me. Whether that’s emotional, professional, personal, physical, it’s just where I go.

STEVE: And what do you think the core ingredients are into healing?

BARBARA: Permission and possibilities. Permission and encouragement to change, because to heal we have to change something, maybe we have to change a lot of things. We have to completely change our lives in order to heal. And that change might be for the duration of healing or it might be a permanent change that supports the healing. And then we have to know that we can heal. We need possibilities—sometimes I think that’s all I do in any of my work. I give people permission and I give them possibilities.

The great metaphysical teacher Louise Hay once gave a talk called the totality of possibilities.

And what she was saying, was that we walk around much of the time under this low ceiling of possibilities.

We believe that only a certain amount is possible. Maybe it’s because we actually believe in certain limitations or maybe it’s because we simply haven’t imagined that there is something else out there.

And what I learned from this talk and from her was that anything that raises the ceiling I call it of your totality of possibilities is a healing wonderful thing.

If you leave the day knowing more is possible for you and for others, you’ve had a great day. You’ve had a successful day. Because possibilities of what I believe we are here to discover as human beings that there is more out there, and for healing it’s critical that people know that there are possibilities for instance it’s obvious extreme example, if you’re told you have cancer your first thought is, “oh my god, I’m going to die.” This is a pretty low ceiling of possibilities. But then bring in healing beings who, “say, no, no, wait we have western medical possibilities, we have complementary medicine possibilities, we have spiritual possibilities, we can combine these and we can beat this.”

That healing is founded on all those new possibilities. S

STEVE: Yeah, I recently went to some Chinese Medicine teacher here in Prague and he said that one of the greatest things he learned from his teacher was that whenever someone came in needing a healing from whatever it was, maybe a cancer or something less life threatening, his teacher would say, “congratulations you’re going to learn so much from this.” And that statement just opens up the doors of possibility even if you got a life threatening disease. You have a doctor or a leader or a teacher saying that to you, you there is so many possibilities…

BARBARA: I think that’s wonderful, because don’t you also think that we need to hear that phrase that you’re allowed to get a little excited and eager, the chance to do this. And excitement and eagerness is certainly a lot more empowering than fear.

STEVE: Yeah, it’s like what am I going to learn, what am I going to learn from this?

BARBARA: It’s like oh this could be cool. This could be cool. Alright, alright, yeah learning, that sounds fun.

STEVE: And he even said, (we had a conversation about death) and he was like, “if it does come to that then yeah you’ll be learning how to gracefully go.” That’s one of the deepest soul lessons that we can have. So there is always learning, even at the last breath.

BARBARA: Absolutely.

STEVE: A couple of questions… What are people coming to your workshops are they normally healing from? And are there places in our lives where we can play the victim too much and therefore exacerbate the healing process constantly wanting to be healed? I mean I’ve been in it myself, my own life and I’ve seen others do it, just constantly on the healing path. What do you say about that?

BARBARA: What a great question! Okay the answer in order.

The first is what do the people come into my workshops looking for most? Two things, first of all healing aside for a second, the overwhelming sort of general thing is they know that there is something more out there, they want to be able to let go and find it. That would be number one.

Number two, the thing they want to heal from, if I had to pick just one, I’d say shame. And there can be too much healing. That’s not what you said, I know. But can one be too dedicated to the healing path. I would answer yes, if the dedication to the healing path means, one is always convinced that one is broken.

I have a good example from my breath and energy orgasm workshops, because it is a Chakra based exercise, Chakra being a Tantra term for the energy centers in the body. A

And whether I use the word Chakra or just energy centers in the body, people who hear the word Chakra some of them will go, “oh you know, I don’t know if I can do this, because I have this perpetually blocked third Chakra. And I can’t move energy passed my third Chakra”, and I’m like… “okay.”

First of all I don’t even know what a Chakra blockage is. No one has ever been able to sufficiently define that for me and I really like definitions. Secondly, but if we believe something it tends to be true for us, so I go okay. Imagine the energy you’re moving into your body is water. Water will get in anywhere, if given just the slightest crack. Water is just unstoppable. It’s one of the most powerful and can be most destructive forces in the world that we’ve seen. So if you imagine this energy as water and you can just create one little crack with your mind in this blockage, you can just bless that whatever that is that’s stuck there and say thank you for sharing, I know you’re probably almost certainly here to protect me but right now I don’t need protection. So I’m just going to let this energy seep through and I’m choosing pleasure just for today.

And that reframe generally helps most people. It reduces the belief in the solidity of the block and it says, you don’t have to wait to heal. Everything in your life before you can have pleasure, fill in the blank money, success, a house, a car, a girlfriend, a boyfriend. Life is a continual healing process from something or another. At some point we have to perhaps say, you know what I’m healed enough for today. Now let’s move on to something else. Just for today.

STEVE: Yeah. I had another podcast—I think it was with Shashi Solluna, I don’t know if you know her, but she said in a podcast we were doing about Tantra that, “pleasure is the greatest healing tool, because it makes us whole again.” And so the more amount of time we spend and can access pleasure whether it be laughing, playing, sexual pleasure, or breath orgasms, then the more complete we all feel.

BARBARA: Totally. I ran into a young woman. I was teaching at an event and it was a kinky event. And she came into the dining hall or whatever with a tank top on. And I could see that there was a port in her chest. Clearly she was either on chemo or some very kick ass pain meds or whatever. And I asked her if she was having a good time, we got into a conversation and that port was indeed for some very strong pain meds. But she didn’t need those very strong pain meds when she was playing—she was the bottom, she liked pain. And the good pain, the enjoyable intense sensation raised enough endorphins that she did not need morphine. So yeah, pleasure heals!

STEVE: So yeah, we can sum up with that one. Make sure there is more pleasure in your life whatever form it takes!

BARBARA: Yes whatever form it takes.

STEVE: Yeah so for the listeners who have some interest in your training, could you tell people a little bit more again who it’s for, where are you doing it and that will be great.

BARBARA: We’re recording this podcast in February 2017, so the next two training programs are in Australia in mid May of 2017 and in Sweden over midsummer. Over this summer solstice, in a beautiful resort in Sweden. We’ve got a gorgeous space in Sydney and if you even think you’re interested in anything I’ve talked about today, just drop us a line. Go to barbaracarrellas.com or the urbantantraprofessionaltrainingprogram.com if you’re up for typing a lot. And drop us a line. Let us tell you more and we’ll help you figure out whether or not this would be right for you. We’d love to have you in our kink community.

STEVE: Yeah, highly recommended. I haven’t experienced the training but I know Elaine Young, we mentioned briefly earlier she is a great friend of mine, she has done the training and I know she only specifically chooses the best trainings in the world.

BARBARA: Thank you. She is a magnificent practitioner and teacher.

STEVE: Yeah she is. So I would highly endorse Barbara’s training just on that basis alone. Do check that out listeners and thanks for joining us Barbara. It’s been a pleasure.

BARBARA: It’s been such a pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting me.

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