The office doesn’t look quite like a regular therapist office. There are these interesting floor chairs in the corner of the room on a multi-colored tribal-looking rug. I smell something both sweet and musty at the same time; it reminds me of my teenage years. Brightly colored and beautiful objects line the glass coffee table that looks itself like a piece of ancient art from India. And in the corner of my eye, I can see what looks like a prayer or a blessing framed on the wall. Still, it has all the items you’d expect to see: a grey couch, yellow chair with polka dots for her to sit on, notebooks and pens within reach of her chair, tall mahogany book shelf filled with textbooks, personal growth books, decorative books, and most of all two clocks – one in her view, and one in ours.
“We begin every session with a centering,” she says with a smile. And although I think it’s strange, I also know it’s what I need – to center, or calm down – after all, seeing a therapist to talk about our sex life, or lack thereof, feels like the scariest thing I’ve ever done! So when Robyn smiles at us with her bright blue eyes and says, “Take a nice deep breath and gently close your eyes,” something inside me relaxes… just a little bit.
My therapy office may not look like other, more traditional therapy practices, but to be sure I offer a rich combination of eastern and western philosophy. The unique alchemy of couples therapy and Tantra offers my clients an experience of talk therapy, with special emphasis on Harville Hendrix’s communication style in his acclaimed, “Getting The Love You Want,” along with opportunities — I call them ‘invitations’ — to drop into a deep space inside themselves and explore their own personal boundaries.
Couples not only listen to guidance on removing the obstacles to intimacy, they are invited into a specific practice that they actually do in my office. Seemingly diverse approaches alchemize. Whether it be an exercise in conscious communication or a guided Tantric meditation, the intention is to support their goals for coming to therapy — often to heal the distance that’s been created during the years of living together.
Over a decade ago, I had a sexual experience with my beloved where I felt something I had never felt before, and the only word I had for it was “God.” It’s difficult to put into words, but that experience of making love was filled with not only the beauty and wonder one could expect, but also a deep sense of ecstasy. I felt an energy that was profound and greater than the two of us combined.
Intrigued, it led me to dive deeply into a well of ancient philosophy and practice, similar to yoga, that provided spiritual guidance. It was through my study and practice of Tantra that I came to experience the Divine, or God, and the sacredness of all life. I experienced pleasure and passion in a more expansive way and began to wake up to the vast possibilities for self-expression.
Tantra is an ancient philosophy and practice dated back to a long-forgotten culture in the South Pacific known as Lemuria. Although there are no known records of their practices, it is said that their methods were kept alive through their descendants. The Lemurians lived in harmony with body and soul and honored the sacred in every day life. Their practices combined vibrational healing, aromatherapy, spirituality, and more.
One of the oldest preserved forms of sacred healing arts is that of Tantra. The island of Lemuria eventually sank into the sea, and its survivors landed in nearby Tibet. From there, Tantra was introduced to India and reborn into the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
Tantra is a sanskrit word with two parts. The prefix, tan, means “to expand, weave together, or join,” while the second part, tra, means “tool.” By putting these together we have “tools to expand, weave and join together.” It is true that Tantra practices support our ability to expand into a deeply loving connection (with ourselves and each other) and join together with another in sacred presence.
After the centering exercise, Robyn asks us to share our intentions for our session together. Intentions? I just want to feel better. I’m miserable in this marriage and I’m truly terrified that these sessions are going to clarify that divorce is our next step! Intentions? What’s an ‘intention’ anyway? As if she read my mind, Robyn explains with exquisite gentleness that each time we meet we’re contributing something delicious and juicy to a big pot of soup. Each time we meet we are going to allow an intention to arise from our hearts, and as we stir the soup, adding our individual ingredients, it’ll slowly begin to taste better. I take a deep breath.
After hearing our story, our reason for coming to therapy, a bit about our history — including how we met, what our sex life was like before we had kids and my dad passed away — she asked us to look at each other. That was strange for me. In that moment, I realized I hadn’t looked at my wife in a very long time. When was the last time? Did she color her hair this week? I see beautiful wisps of blonde amongst her soft, curly auburn hair. She’s so pretty all of a sudden and her eyes, red from crying, sparkle just a bit, as she wipes them with a tissue from a perfectly placed box.
“Breathe,” Robyn coaches us. “Look beyond the physical and into your partner’s eyes. You’ve come together for a reason, even though it can be hard to remember sometimes. I know you’ve both been hurting, and for that reason I am glad you’re here. Coming back to a place of love takes only an instant. Truly seeing your partner’s essence is the first step.”
It’s beautiful to witness miracles in my office every day: in person, over the phone, video conferencing. Working with couples combining psychotherapy with Tantra philosophy and practice is magical. Staying connected and loving after a while is hard for couples. For good reasons, our creative, erotic, life-force energy turns from each other towards things like growing children, satisfying work, and aging parents. Resentments build easily when life is moving at such a fast pace. Couples need skills to navigate the rough terrain, and they specifically need intimacy skills. Traditional talk therapy can provide part of what’s needed but not all. Tantric intimacy provides the rest.
Over time I coach my clients in all areas of intimacy from conscious communication, clearing resentments, making genuine apologies, offering appreciations that land in their partner’s heart, acknowledging and speaking their needs respectfully, to eye gazing, connecting through the breath, sensitizing to the patterns of energy between them, moderating their own energy, grounding, maintaining boundaries, raising desire and attraction, creating arousal with intention, and so much more.
Verbal skills are required for a healthy relationship but in the case of working with couples, we actually don’t have to “put the cart before the horse” as many therapists do. As a Tantra teacher and sex educator, I also know that sometimes a non-verbal cue or connection can melt away hurts and reignite the fire that hasn’t been felt in way too many years.
Often the energetic dynamic is what’s blocking intimacy, and using the breath, sound and intention, clears things up between a couple and suddenly they feel more open to having that difficult conversation! Lo and behold, we don’t always need to feel emotionally close in order to share sexual energy. It also works the other way around.
We both cannot believe how much lighter we feel since our session with Robyn this morning. I feel young again! I know we have a lot of work to do — that also became clear today — but I feel hopeful. The wind is beneath my wings again. I said things I didn’t know I wanted to say, and my wife listened intently. Somehow her anger just dissipated and she actually looked like maybe she loved me again. I hope so because I know now that I still love her dearly. Maybe it was the tribal rugs, or the trinkets from India. The incense? Or the candle? I feel like I traveled somewhere far away with my wife and for the first time in many years, she was by my side. I’m looking forward to our session next week.