Saturday 24 November 2012


I went to the dentist recently and was profoundly grateful to find a skilful, experienced and probably highly trained dentist. I really wouldn't have been happy with someone who said that they knew all about dentistry because they had been on a whole weekend course in how to do it, had had couple of fillings themselves and had even read a books on it!

When it comes to therapy, it seems to be very different. Many people seem to believe that they know what psychotherapy is and how it should be done and are perfectly happy to set up as therapist; others are happy to go. It is based more on belief, fashion and conviction than on knowledge or experience. I suppose that this is part of a post-modern, pluralist world suspicious of expertise and hegemony. Reluctantly, after nearly thirty years as a therapist, I have come to the conclusion that most people really don't know what psychotherapy is; they confuse it with personal growth or development or some particular ideology that they subscribe to which often boils down to willpower or belief. They offer people self-help books, quick-fix courses and the encouragement to become powerful, discover themselves and follow their own truth. There is scant understanding of the difference between the pre-personal; the personal and the transpersonal.

What many will say is that the State should licence therapists but this requires us to trust the government. No thanks!  In Soviet Russia, Freud's works were secretly printed and circulated underground. The present government's love affair with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is only slowly coming to an end. The alternative is for people to become more discriminating.

To evaluate a therapist, as well as trusting your intuition ask them how long they have seen some clients for; (warning;  less isn't better some people take quite a time). Ask they about how they deal with suicidal clients,  how they understand dissociation and embodied trauma; what their experience of long term therapy as a client was like, if they have good regular supervision; their understanding of ego-strength and how it can be built. Ask about what they can do between sessions and what support is offered.

Sunday 18 November 2012

International Mens Day

Tomorrow is International Mens Day. Its not the most widely publicised event and could attract the comment that every day is men's day from their profile in politics and the public agenda.This prevents the need to look at men and their vulnerabilities which their competitive capture of the public spaces hides. More men die of testicular and prostate cancer than women die of breast cancer but breast cancer and screening is well know. Too many men don't even know where their prostate is (its behind you!!!!) Three times as many men commit suicide as women and it is the biggest single killer of men aged 15 - 34 in Britain. In inner city areas, crime is the major cause of death amongst black men under 25. The dysfuntion of men creates lots of young men who grow up without fathers or father-figures, creating the next generation of lost men who remain as overgrown teenagers with no good means of entry into true manhood. Sport and the celebrity culture don't provide many good role models. So honour the positive functions of the masculine; power, authority, presence; all used to witness without judgement, create safety and hold space. In that held sacred space the feminine can heal and blossom and children can flourish. This is function of the Divine Masculine principle; that can be in both men and women. Tomorrow celebrate it! 

Sunday 11 November 2012

Men and why we need them!

Many women’s emotional well-being is dominated by an internal wounded masculine. The job of the masculine is to create a safe space and guard it for the feminine to be in and to witness without judgement. You need your inner mas­­­­­­­culine to do this so that you can let go and your deep feminine can feel and express emotion and radiate love and passion.

Your inner masculine comes from two main places;  your mother’s inner masculine and your father.  So; what do you know of your mother’s father; your maternal grandfather and his life? What was he like as a person? Did you know him and if not what are the stories that are told about him? How did he treat your  mother? He will have lived in the early or middle of the twentieth century;  a century dominated by two world wars and numerous smaller ones. How present was he; physically, emotionally?  He may have been away a lot or absent or he may have been a workaholic and so only around when exhausted, if at all. He may have been an alcoholic and so there but not really there. He may have been traumatised by events and angry or abusive. He may have been scared or dismissive of women because of their intensity or their sexuality or his fear of being helpless in their hands as he was once with his mother.

All of this related to your grandfather unconsciously creates a large part of your inner masculine and to the extent that he was damaged; it will be part of your wounded masculine. The other part comes from your experiences of your father; these are closer to consciousness and the same questions can be asked. How present was he? How whole and healthy? Did he embody the healthy masculine and hold space without judgement? Was he deeply able to accept you as a little girl and as a beautiful sexual teenager?
So these two men; your mother’s father and your father create your inner masculine.  How wounded is he? The more he is wounded the more you have to hold yourself and have a masculine presence in the world which prevents your feminine essence from flourishing.

In our culture there has been much masculine wounding; from wars, from technology which has made  the masculine quality of strength superfluous, from the lack of rites of passage for young men in to adulthood and from lack of positive role models.  It leads men and women to question; what are men for?  The dishonouring of the deep masculine has backfired on women through the damage to their inner masculine which needed to hold and honour their feminine essence.  This interdependence is the "inner marriage" within every person of our masculine and feminine essences to support a full flow of aliveness.

In tantric healing massage, the male tantric practitioner embodies the deep masculine qualities of presence, and from that presence witnesses without judgement and creates safety.  In that safe container the feminine can at long last let go and allow the feminine radiance and vulnerability to flower.  The particular parts to be nurtured, supported and witnessed are the emotions and sexual desire and passion; for these are central to the divine feminine power.  It is this divine feminine power that each women needs to fully embody and that the world desperately needs. 

See for how I work with this, Namaste

Monday 29 October 2012

Vagina Biography by Naomi Wolf

At last a mainstream author Naomi Wolf, who wrote The Beauty Myth twenty years ago, has written about the yoni and its central place in women's sense of identity, power and creativity. Gradually some of my work in tantra and bodywork is coming in from the margins! I first learnt yoni healing on my  extended tantra training in 1996. Since then, neuroscience has advanced so much that we can now begin to understand why this work is so powerful.

Of course, it is resisted. Naomi's new book was called "dotty" by a reviewer in The Observer. There is a huge resistance to any biological level explanations for everything; fearing that people are being put in to boxes and restricted. Tantra is clear that the masculine and feminine are radically different; but complementary and any one individual can have a mixture of both (never mind intersexual and all the different sexualites that exist). Tantra is also clear that the feminine is the active principle of creation; all of life and all abundance comes from her and the only true response to that, is one of honouring and worship.

Unfortunately, the yoni; or rather a woman's relationship; to it, to her sexuality and to her body, are fragile - particularly in puberty and therefore easily damaged by guilt, shame and fear from parents and society and the media's crazy and confusing depictions of women. Plus of course the overt sexual abuse that comes the way of a significant proportion of girls and young women.

Neuroscience has helped to clarify how trauma gets embedded in the body and some of important but hidden connections. For example did you know that you have more serotonin receptors in the belly than the brain? The vagus nerve, an ancient system separate from the spinal column nerves connects the primitive brainstem to the heart, to the belly and then in women, to the  cervix. Head, Heart, Belly and Sex really are connected.

The book looks at tantric massage as sexual healing and give her experiences of sessions. It connect this to history, mythology, neuroscience and to society.  So, huge congratulations to Naomi, who, through the accident of her particular neurological condition came to give her attention to her body in a new way and ask some questions that science and tantra can answer. The yoni and the belly, the creative second and third chakras are the keys to creativity and power for women. I have been doing this work for over 15 years; now it is coming in from the dark. For sessions see .     Namaste.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

New Moon and the start of Navaratri - Celebrate Shakti in all her forms!

Today is the start of Navaratri, a ten day festival to celebrate the feminine, Shakti and the forms of her wisdom and virtue in our lives.  It starts with the goddess Durga which can be seen as a form of Kali who destroys impurities and things that no longer serve us.
For the first three days you can meditate on this or perform pujas connected to Durga.  She is often seen as fierce and has weapons like  bow and arrow and spear riding on a tiger to ruthlessly seek out what is not serving us any longer.

For the second part of the festival the goddess is Lakshmi who is seen as the Mother and is often seen as connected to spiritual wealth.  She is often depicted on a fountain of milk holding symbols of wealth and abundance. Much more serene than Durga!

For the last part the goddess is Saraswati who represents wisdom and knowledge. She is generally shown playing a rudra vina a stringed instrument as she is connected to music and the arts.

On the tenth day all forms are worshipped and in some areas pubescent girls are particularly revered as beginning to embody the virtuous qualities of the goddesses, who are companions of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.

So, find a woman, and the goddess inside yourself (men and women) and revere her. If you know a young woman; next week particularly celebrate her femininity.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Cutting Through Tantric Materialism

I used to think that the main danger to the development of tantra in the West was its co-option by the sex industry to sell its products; so tantric massage becomes almost synonymous with candles, incense and “happy endings” rather than a way of supporting the practice of circulating energy in the body.  This has clearly and inevitably happened and is surely unstoppable. 

However, I am now wondering if the danger isn’t greater from my own profession of psychotherapy! I have been interested and involved in both tantra and psychotherapy for nearly thirty years but have never seen them as more or less the same.  True, tantra can have therapeutic benefits just as meditation can lower blood pressure but it is a side effect of a profound spiritual method or path.  Much of the tantra in the West sometimes called “neo-tantra” relies on techniques that are squarely based in humanistic and traditional psychotherapy; Gestalt techniques, body therapy and bioenergetic methods, psychodrama methods.  None of these are spiritual practices or particularly connected to tantra. The central methods of tantra are mantras and ritual, mudras and yantras and the shamanic practice of becoming the god or goddess with profound worship of Shiva and Shakti.

The West is busy doing to tantra what it has done to yoga; turning it in to a form of therapy to further polish the ego, perfect the body, sort out “issues” or remove past trauma. In part this is the problematic side of the genius of the West, the discovery of the individual so we can have a dynamic society with much variety, freedom and change but with the accompanying danger of narcissistic grandiosity.  Therapy can feed narcissism with the idea of placing the self centrally and perfecting it; and tantra with its method of becoming the god or goddess can give permission for grandiose excesses; “I am Kali so whatever I say is right”.

By having tantra as a commodity in the marketplace, it supports the bringing to tantra of a seeking for what I can get out of it. This is natural within a Western mind-set as tantra is a thing that is bought in workshop-sized pieces.  I need to get a return on my investment. I need at least therapy or personal growth from it. I need to buy an exotic lifestyle (no wonder most tantra videos feature lithe bronzed bodies on a tropical beach). I need some ecstatic experiences, preferably some giant orgasms or visions of the divine. This consumer culture fits with another characteristic of Western tantra as it is seen in its most visible, (ie. marketed) form; a privileging of Shakti over Shiva.  So tantra becomes the maximum number of “bangs per buck” and the best thing you can say about any workshop or teacher is that they are “powerful”.  None of this is wrong but it is important to see to the bottom of the implications.  Shakti is the active power of creation; she creates the whole phenomenal world of objects and experiences.  As we tend to be addicted to both we become enthralled to Shakti. At its worst tantra workshops become something between a shopping mall and a funfair. In the West this goes along with tantra being seen as the resurgence of the feminine after a few thousand years of patriarchy, aligned with feminism and with the forms of paganism and Wicca which again privileges the goddess.   

The core methods of most tantra workshops are breath, sound and movement; all Shakti and designed to intensify energetic experiences. Sometimes this is combined with loud music and encouragement to really “go for it” in dance.  When energy moves; issues will emerge and if combined with potentially intense interpersonal exercises will put many people in touch with experiences from the past and strong emotions.  Essentially we have moved to the realm of therapy. This is not wrong but it is a path that has been taken away from the direction of the Transpersonal. It has gone to the Pre-personal and Personal using Ken Wilber’s map. In which we are working on an ego which can function in the world not realising its provisional, even illusory, nature. Having entered the realm of therapy when we were aiming for tantra something curious happens. The methods used are ancient! They come from humanistic psychotherapy of the 60’s; primarily an encouragement to strong catharsis and the breaking down of “blocks”. This approach, essentially from Reich via Lowen and bioenergetics has a long and worthy history (Reich started writing in the late 1920’s). It is important to note that clients that this developed from often grew up in oppressive patriarchal families – even Victorian in their outlook. Permission to express and be sexual was often denied.  As a result their bodies were armoured at a muscular level with much inhibited movement and affect. 

This if often not the case today; people now in their 20’s and 30’s often grew up in families without strong authority or boundaries. Anything could happen and freedom was unrestricted.  Chaotic and changeable boundaries and figures are common. Parent or parents who were missing or self-absorbed are common. The resulting issues from childhood are of a fragile sense of self with inadequate mirroring to develop a healthy ego. Impulse disorders become more common; such as self-harm, eating disorders or binge drinking and substance abuse. Narcissistic and borderline conditions are more prevalent than half a century ago. Shame rather than guilt dominates in its typically hidden way. Two world wars physically or emotionally removed generations of men from being strong figures in their families; the fathers or grandfathers of today’s clients. So men lack any role models or archetypes to aspire to and any rites of passage; remaining as perpetual teenagers as portrayed in the media both in sitcoms and in the celebrity lives of musicians and sportsmen. 

So if heavy catharsis and the breaking of blocks belonged to the 1960’s how has therapy changed since then? This is huge topic and I can only summarise a few of the changes.  It was noticed that heavy catharsis starting with Primal Therapy (A. Janov) and Bioenergetics ( A. Lowen) and co-counselling ( H. Jackins) far from clearing everything out so clients moved on, became an endless cycle in some people or lead to breakdowns not breakthroughs.  We now understand much more about neurology and how reinforcing certain pathways increases addictive cycles.  Adrenaline and drama are addictive to some.  Of course, for people otherwise shut down it gives a sense of relief and more energy but relief is not the same as growth and energy needs a direction, From the Reichian side softer approaches developed such as Biodynamic (G.Boyesen) and in Gestalt more appreciation of the fragile self and what it needed (Polsters) combined with insights from Self Psychology(H. Kohut). Looking at what supported change in therapy E. Gendlin noticed the importance of finding the “felt sense” as an energetic shift within.  B. Hellinger developed Family Constellations work with the hidden issues and messages in the family systems.  The understanding of the myth of the unitary self in favour of a more plural approach and led to more appreciation of sub-personalities and powerful approaches such as Voice Dialogue (H. Stone) where the energetic shifts mark the move to a different voice or self-state. From trauma the selves can be fragmented and lead to dissociative conditions. They have become much more readily identified and may be common in 5 – 10% of people. Shame, envy and regret have had to be added to primal list of anger, sadness and more anger.  Where we work too much directly with the primal emotions we reinforce the pathways in the limbic system and amygdala that produce the fight or flight response as well as the dissociate and freeze responses. These further cut off access to the cortex, the seat of consciousness. It is a sort of privileging at a neurological level of Shakti over Shiva.

 Most recently the field of energy psychology has blossomed which started in the late 60’s and now incorporates elements from kinesiology. It uses Eastern approaches to the body and energy, such as meridian points and has a confusion of initials, EFT,  TfT, AIT, and Matrix Reimprinting.  Advances in neuroscience, primarily from brain imaging have led to a much deeper understanding of trauma and the neurology of trauma and its relief and again to more subtle and less re-traumatising forms of body therapy such as Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (P. Ogden) and Somatic Experiencing (P. Levine).  Even within the psychoanalytic world intersubjectivity has begun to replace the notion of the therapist as expert and an attuned, strong, flexible therapeutic container is appreciated.

To return to tantra, what these newer developments in therapy have in common is an appreciation of the subtlety of awareness that is required to really move someone on; rather than provide relief by venting emotions or an addictive drama of catharsis. This again brings back the centrality of Shiva and the masculine as the principle of awareness. It is less dramatic and visible than much visible (and audible!) energy work.

When modern tantra again privileges; the feminine, emotions, intense experiences and powerful dramas through its alliance with a rather out-dated idea of therapy it falls into this modern  consumerist fantasy; that the self can be perfected and adorned with trinkets, that pleasure is the way to bliss and that being “in the moment” with “what is”; constitutes the whole of life and spiritual practice; that bravado and shamelessness is a sign of spiritual attainment.

The relation of Shiva to Shakti in tantra is best understood not as a divine couple which is a romantic projection and leads to tantra as a sort of couples therapy, nor it is a picture of symmetry, the western democratic notion of a cooperative harmonious couple. Here is an example of this from modern India.  


Neither is it the picture of Kali with Shiva lying prone in this way where she has one foot on him and is holding his trident in. This may well be the patriarchal nightmare of triumphant, aggressive “feminism” trampling everything else underfoot.

This picture gives a different story. Shiva is neither reclining nor defeated as in the one above but is in deep meditation providing the platform on which Kali can dance.  Consciousness is the “ground of being” and everything arises within consciousness.  

            The first Shiva Sutra of Abhinavagupta the foremost writer of Kashmir Shavism (eleventh century CE) is “Chaitanyamatma”, which is translated as ‘The Self is Consciousness’ and can also be translated as ‘The nature of reality is Consciousness’, or, ‘Everything is Consciousness’.  Matter and the whole phenomenal world is danced in to being through Shakti, the creative power of Shiva.  She births all that is. A contemporary metaphor I use for the relationship of Shakti to Shiva is that of the pole-dancer to the pole and the floor. It is precisely the static unmoving quality of the pole fixed to the floor which allows the spectacular and alluring dance of the pole-dancer.  Kashmir Shavism, stands as the highest point of traditional tantra formed in the Valley of Kashmir, a crossroads of many traditions for over a thousand years and before the decline in India of tantra with the various invasions of “puritans”, Moslem, Catholic and then British.

                I have given some of the reasons for the privileging of energy and phenomena in modern tantra;  it is easier, it is addictive, it fits with a western “shopping” culture of exchange, it is an easy source of the essential empowerment of women as patriarchy declines. However, there is another factor which should be mentioned.  Most western tantra owes a great deal to the creative fusion of East and West that was catalysed by Osho (Bhagwan Sri Ragneesh) in India mainly in the 1970’s.  This has undoubtedly produced proportionally more widespread experiences of enlightenment than any other spiritual movement in history.  However it needs to be noted that Osho had a great deal of feminine energy and, particularly in America was surrounded by women. Indeed the show there seems to have been run to a large degree by the wounded masculine within women.  Tantra that comes from the Osho tradition generally carries some of this element of the feminine using the wounded masculine as a source of power. Thus it is virtually the norm for tantra to be taught primarily by women who sometimes then bemoan the absence of strong men!

The marginalising and denigrating of the masculine and of consciousness and awareness is sometimes overt but more usually hidden behind the assumptions about tantra, spirituality and therapy that are current. This is partly driven by the very understandable legacy of anger and pain from women. I have three times in tantra workshops, where the participants are charged in separate groups to produce an honouring ritual for the opposite gender, seen the men produce sweet and beautiful experiences for the women and the women in turn produce intimidating and abusive experiences for the men.  Also, in workshops (which always have a hidden competitive element) it is common for the men to feel that they are just not getting it or doing it right when the emphasis is on intense experiences.

                It is for all these reasons it is important to look at traditional tantra particularly Kashmir Shavism and at the long Western traditions of tantra (including alchemy and Kabbalah) Also important and interesting is the history of tantra in the west (the Tantrik Order of America was set up in 1905,) and practises such as Karezza. The basic formula in tantra is that Presence plus Excitement equals Bliss and Transcendence.  Without the presence excitement goes to chaos or becomes addictive. Presence is the supreme quality of the Shiva; the Divine Masculine. In modern tantra and sacred sexuality we have to keep searching to find ways of really recognising and honouring the masculine and in particular the Divine Masculine in its role of serving the Goddess and allowing the full flowering of the Divine Feminine.  I hope that in writing this brief piece I have been able to further that.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Olympic Tantra

     Central to tantra is the use of ritual and the most ancient rituals are fire rituals.  It seems from reports, that the Olympic torch being carried around the UK has been very moving for many who saw it; the power of it taking them by surprise. Lingam which literally means "mark" or "sign" is often translated as "wand of light" as well as its meaning as phallus or penis. It is both phallic and has all the symbolism of fire within it. 

     In the original myth connected to the Olympics it commemorates the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus. In modern times for each Olympics it is lit from the sun in Greece by eleven women representing the Vestal virgins.

     In Britain, after a trip around the country it is brought to the site in a boat driven by David Beckham and a woman at the front guarding the flame; the divine couple. It is then used to light seven flames, which could represent the seven chakras. The seven young athletes then light petals; the end of a spiral and the flame then travels around this spiral; (sadly more than the three and a half turns that traditionally the serpent as the Kundalini is coiled in the base of the spine). The petals then rise up to create the magnificent cauldron of flames.

     The divine couple activate the seven chakras which awakens the kundalini dormant in the base chakra. It rises up and transforms the whole body with the fire in the belly and the chalice of the pelvis being reflected in the fire of transformation in the crown chakra - a many petalled lotus of flames. 
 Truly the ancient archetypes are alive and well in the human psyche. In tantra we learn to use ritual and the fires of the body in a conscious  way for transformation. Have a great summer. Namaste.

Tuesday 20 March 2012


5am this morning, in our tantric temple in Wiltshire - the exact time of the Spring Equinox. I light the havan kund on the central sri yantra and make offerings of gee, rice and cow dung into the flames; chanting the Maha Mrityunjay Mantra 108 times. The mantra is to Shiva as the "three eyed one" that is one who has the third eye open.  Western neo-tantra places a huge emphasis on energy; breath sound and movement and all forms of Shakti, the Goddess. However, in most forms of traditional tantra consciousness is everything; it is the foundation of all, including the dance of Shakti to bring everything in to existence. The three eyed one expresses this sense of all-seeing presence and awareness.  The Equinox, the equal balance of day and night is a perfect time to meditate on the balance of Shiva and Shakti, consciousness and energy. 

Sunday 4 March 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This is a very sweet, beautiful movie about ageing and life and death. Unusual for featuring older women with the incomparable Judie Dench and Maggie Smith and assorted other English people who find themselves in a decrepit hotel in India. (see You Tube clip ) .  India is shown in all its colourful chaotic and contradictory exuberance; essentially as Shakti an embodiment of the feminine. It is the power of Shakti which awakens and renews these weary retirement folks, giving them life.  It shows that aliveness itself; not spiritual practice that can renew us.

Monday 20 February 2012

Shivaratri; Honour the Masculine!

Tonight is MahaShivaratri - the great night of Shiva, the male principle.  This is a festival observed in honour of Lord Shiva and it is believed that on this day Lord Shiva was married to Parvati. Shiva is the male principal. How often today do we think of worshipping the masculine as the Divine Masculine, who's greatest desire is to serve the Goddess by creating safety, making and holding space and witnessing without judgement? 

Traditionally,  people observe a strict fast on this day. Some devotees do not even take a drop of water and they keep vigil all night. The Shiva Lingam is worshipped throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, curd, honey, rose water, and anointing with flowers, whilst the chanting of the Mantra "Om Namah Shivaya" continues.  This picture is one I took in Varanasi three years ago. This year, I celebrated early at the weekend at the Winter Bhakti Gathering ( with about 150 others. Beautiful chanting; amazing people... How much the world needs again the dance of the Divine Masculine and the Goddess rather than the mutual wounding of the dysfunctional masculine and the wounded feminine. Find a good man and celebrate him!!

Monday 6 February 2012

Sex/Spirit Drive

We hear a lot about people's sex drive and how it comes and goes; whether it is too high or low but you may have never hear the term "Spirit drive".  This is the drive to connect to Spirit; to Source to the Divine. Some people experience this as a deep longing for the One; for union with or absorption into the Divine. Some young children experience it, though they may have a hard time formulating it; a longing to go home. This later gets eclipsed by, or transforms into the sex drive. Later in life they may separate out again and we can experience the two as more separate drives. The author of some recent research published in the American Journal of Medecine on this said, "Approximately half of the women aged 80 or older reported arousal and orgasm most of the time, but rarely reported sexual desire."  See Article . So you could think of the variations of your sex and your spirit drives through your life. Where are you now? Tantra, of course says that at the deepest level the two drives are from the same source; there is only the deep longing to realise the Oneness that is All.