For the past decade I've shared openly and honestly about my childhood sexual trauma. I wrote, unabashed, about traveling back to the country he fled to and being paralyzed with fear that I would bump into him somewhere. I wrote about how I slowly, bravely, consciously chose to take back that space, that life, those parts of me he'd shattered. I had a lot of healing I had to do - and at that point in my life, I intentionally chose to do it out loud.
That said, I've chosen to do a lot of things out loud ever since.
Healing from childhood sexual wounds.
Turning my academic life path on its head and pursuing blindly in the direction of a "gut knowing" i didn't even know I had.
Many years of life, love, (mis)adventures, and the Universe.
I wrote about my travels around the world, lessons I learned in every corner of the globe; spiritual teachings by Buddhist monks, kink lessons from one night stands. I've been boldly open for some time now.
What I'd spent far less time sharing (largely due to not even realizing I was doing it) - was how much time I was spending healing. It wasn't a conscious healing path... but when your earliest memories are of trauma - and you're literally born into war-torn/post-communist epigenetic lines - if you don't spend your lifetime healing you'll spend it suffering for sure. I realize now that I've been healing since I was born.... but now - NOW is when everything takes on a different shape. I spent a lot of years (as most of us do) healing my wounds unconsciously by adamantly pursuing the life that others wanted for me. Somewhere along the way I stopped doing that thing. Somewhere along the way, the Universe decided that I'd put out enough positive (albeit unconscious) intention that she gifted me the most beautiful, powerful, safe and secure connection - a high-octane gentleman/crossed with a Norse-like Viking God - a man who would offer to grow with me the kind of stable foundation that lets you springboard into the stars; and we have. Picture the most open-minded, safe-to-explore, welcoming of new experiences, happy and healthy nonmonogamous love - and that barely comes close to what we've built. And from this place of mind-bending safety and peace we've continued to build upon and explore ourselves, each other, and everything/everyone life has offered us. And.... five years ago, he spontaneously asked me a question that would change my life forever.
“Have you ever heard of tantric massage?”
We were in Europe for the holidays. Just a few days before we were set to leave he was searching for couples’ massages online. We’d both just survived a serious bout of norovirus in Paris and we both felt mega crummy.
“Have you ever heard of tantric massage?” he asked, scrolling through his phone.
I had heard of it loosely. The very name itself conjured up mental images of Hindu goddesses of which I knew nothing about, and hippie people sitting around touching each others’ "no-no-private-parts". Clearly my initial take was a tad on the immature side.
“Not really.” I answered him casually.
He showed me their website and I read through it. They were a couple themselves, trained in Tibetan tantra, yogis from the sounds of it… but they seemed deeply grounded and were missing that flighty, hokey, "voodoo" stuff that I wasn’t super interested in when the word tantra would float by. (keeping in mind this was 5 years ago, when I was the CEO of a tech startup and had not a stitch of spirituality in my body).
Their "temple" was called anahata - which I had to search at the time. The results yammered on about something called a 'heart chakra' which I also didn't understand... but this photo appeared and it was a little lime-green'y for my tastes but nice enough:
Their website read, confidently: The Anahata Tantra Temple is a place for powerful spiritual practices such as Tantric Massage and meditation. The Temple is also a school of tantra open for everybody who wants to integrate their divine consciousness, connect on a deeper level with their partner, experience sexual healing or simply feel more peace and love in life.
At the time, my eyes glazed over the words meditation, consciousness, and sexual healing (I also repressed the urge to burst out a poorly keyed rendition of Max-A-Million).
But... “Connect on a deeper level with your partner”? Okay. I was intrigued.
We were already pretty connected... they were suggesting it could be better? I was willing to try.
Being entirely uneasy and completely unsure of what to expect I devoured every stitch of Testimonials and FAQ I could get my hands on.
Tantra is not erotic massage.
Tantra uses massage to generate sexual energy for the purpose of personal development.
The purpose of tantra is not to achieve orgasm.
The “this is not about orgasm” part must’ve been mentioned at least a half dozen time over the pages of their site. Okay. Noted. The goal was not orgasm. Perfect.
The purpose of tantra is to load the body with vital energy, which facilitates cleansing and healing and creates space for pleasure and bliss.
What even did all of this mean?! I was so new and so inexperienced the worlds of energy, mindfulness, and non-science speak. Despite how airy-fairy-bullsh*t it sounded - I couldn't pull myself away.
A quick Google images search revealed sites that labelled tantra as 'the science of cultivating personal power'.... so, obviously, I needed to know more.
"Side effects include feeling peaceful, sensitive, confident, and more powerful."
They said that I would become more “huggable” - which I found pretty cute.
Then, the warning:
The next day after massage it may happen that you don’t feel good. You may have headaches, physical pain, anxiety, short-term quarrels with loved ones
I read on and was assured that this was normal, short-lived and part of the cleansing process. -- cleansing of what, exactly?
Well, they sold me at “deeper connection with your partner” – so I was willing to try.
That, and the masseuse, "Sergio"... had unreasonably positive reviews on his Testimonials page; I hoped I would get him.
Mark booked our sessions at the very last possible minute – I believe it was literally the night before we flew back to Canada. We chose that evening to walk to the “temple” – a brisk hour-long stroll from our hotel downtown. We had exactly NO idea what to expect.
When you've been nonmonogamous for as long as we have, you become an expert at making plans for any situation that doesn't feel like a full-bodied FUXK YES.
“If it’s awkward, we’ll leave.”
“If the house is sketchy we won’t even go in.”
Action plans in place, we walked up to a gorgeous luxury condo building on the outskirts of town, took a deep breath, and rang the bell.
The door swung open and the smell of Nepalese incense wafted out from behind it. A dark-haired yogi opened the door and behind him stood a beautiful blonde yogini – both with smiles on their faces. Definitely no discomfort yet – we went in.
The condo was welcoming, warm, lovely. More than just a luxurious living space, it was understated, with unignorable zen-like charm. The smell of incense took me immediately back to my lengthy and deeply transformative time in India and Nepal, as did our practitioner’s soft-spoken tone and gentle approach.
We talked a bit about them, a bit about us, and a bit about tantra.
They told us about their travels and their teachings and their practices and how it deepened their connection – and Mark and I reiterated that we, too, sought to explore the connection this practice could evoke. I mean, could it actually get any better?
It was time for the session.
We were asked to change into breezy, mandala-print sarongs. These would later be removed for the massage. We were led into the “temple” room… the second bedroom of said lovely condo – and to say the energy poured out of the room when its door was opened is the understatement of the century.
(this photo isn't of their room, but the general vibe isn't far off)
They’d transformed their second bedroom into, truly, a temple. Rich, heavy, dark red and gold tapestries hung on the two walls opposite the door – blocking all natural light. An oversized plush rug covered the floor and two massage mattresses were laid in the centre of the room covered in deep red sheets. An intricately ornate dark wood ‘altar’ was positioned to one side of the room and from it flickered a dozen candles, wax dripping down their holders into beautifully time-etched designs. Pillows, drapes, golden Hindu figurines…. I didn’t even have time to judge whether I thought it was weird – it was so powerfully serene that I didn’t even care. We took our places on the mattresses and the session began.
Mark would work with the female practitioner ... and from the whispers I heard I assumed she was checking in with him on all the same intentions and boundaries that my practitioner was asking from me. We both audibly stated that our intention was a deeper, closer, more powerful bond with one another and deeper, more powerful growth on our own.
As with most ancient practices, we were instructed to focus on our breath above anything else. Our breathing was to be deep, long, rhythmic, in and out at as slow and calculated a pace as we could build.
Iiiiiiiiiiiin through our noses.
Oooooouuuut, audibly through our mouths. I mean.... even back then, with zero spirtual inclination, I knew it was basically impossible to not relax when so much attention is put on your breath.
I don’t know about Mark but I melted into my mattress and into the hands of my therapist. I hoped, for his sake, that it was the same.
Iiiiiiiiiin through my nose.
Oooooooouuut through my mouth.
Five years later and I'm still not a fan of breathwork... but, I hate to say it - it ... works. (GAH!)
I don’t want to get into too many details of the massage itself as I feel it’s an experience everyone should have on their own. The logistics and sequences and techniques may be different and I think it’s important to connect with a practitioner you trust in the highest degree to feel it for yourself.
Weirdly, trust I did.
I was open to the yoni (internal) massage when he asked me if he could incorporate it into his ‘cleansing’ session (I’d read on the website that not every massage would include this component). I consented, set my uneasiness and nerves aside and melted back into my breath and into the hands of my masseuse.
So. Yup. The website said that orgasm was NOT (!!) the intention of the massage (about 17 times)… but what must’ve been no less than an hour later it was literally impossible for my body not to surge with energy through every molecular fibre of its being….
THREE. TIMES. IN. A. ROW. I literally couldn’t have even stopped it if I tried. (for the record, try I did).
I’ve never been multi-orgasmic.
Actually, not allowing anyone to pleasure me had been part of my trauma response for decades. Multiple orgasms seemed to me like this elusive urban myth I’d heard from pseudo-removed women who were freakishly connected to themselves.
Actually, I didn't know it at the time - how VERY disconnected from myself I was. Maybe that's what he was cleansing me of? The session ended.
I felt like I was floating.
We got dressed and went back to the dining room table to debrief, ironically casually and without any awkwardness about how deeply his fingers had been inside of me just minutes prior. He and his partner were so steadfast, confident, safe. It was impossible not to follow suit.
I felt light. Airy. Like I'd left my body.
I'd read that their work was based upon generating (sexual/pleasure) energy and redistributing it throughout my body (what did that even mean?!), generating and redistributing….
It was not about release (ahem, x3) but about generation and redistribution ... "to create higher degrees of consciousness". At that juncture in my life, I definitely didn’t grasp all the spiritual stuff – but the most theory-drive, rock-solid scientist in me couldn't deny it - I FELT DIFFERENT.
We'd barely begun debriefing and I was hit out of left field:
“You have a blockage.” Sergio stated.
I was a little shocked, and he was very adamant.
“You’ve had sexual trauma. It’s blocking the energy. I couldn’t get past it."
I looked over at Mark and I’m quite certain I literally had to pick my jaw up off the floor. A simple, “Huh.” is all he could choke out.
I confirmed Sergio’s completely unexpected observation… still spun and stunned that he picked something up of that magnitude.
“It’s not healed.” he affirmed.
Who is this guy? I retorted in my head. What does he know?
I choked on my flurry of racing thoughts.
What does he mean it’s not healed?
Of course it’s healed!
I worked really fuxking hard to heal that sh*t!
It doesn’t affect my day to day life anymore.
I don’t think about it anymore.
I don’t dwell on any of the negativity anymore.
How dare he tell me it’s not healed?
All I wanted was a couples' massage!
Thank god I had done so much of my own trauma processing before he brought that up.
Thank god I felt in-control of my past and his words didn't send me spiraling out of emotional control. I mean, they irked me, sure - but I didn't feel like I was set back because of them. Sadly, looking back - he was ZERO trauma-informed.. and in this type of work, that's a massive red flag.
But I had to give him the benefit of the doubt – he called something out of seemingly thing air. Who was this crazy voodoo guy who’d just made me have three accidental orgasms in a row?! (To note: I’ve had the privilege of experiencing some very skilled partners in bed… but this was a first).
“You have healing to do.” – those were the final words we left with that night.
They mentioned to us about a retreat they’d be hosting in Poland in September. I mentioned wanting to bring them for a retreat to Toronto. We all discussed the power of places like Thailand, Tibet, Bali for this type of work. And that was that – we left.
On a cloud.
On Cloud 9.
Whatever it was, it truly was the bliss we could never have expected.
A girlfriend from back home (coincidentally also a tantra teacher) texted me to ask how I felt... I responded with this photo as it perfectly applied:
Fast forward two months and Mark and I traveled to Thailand. We weren't planning to... we looked at Bali, at India, at Vietnam. All we were after was a place to live that was cheaper than urban Toronto - and we finally settled on Thailand because, well, green curry chicken.
Lo and behold, the Universe guided us to Koh Phangan. She's called "Healing Island", in the gulf. Every yogi, yogini, tantrika and healer seemed to flock to connect there. Treatments were accessible. Sessions were affordable. We immersed ourselves in acupuncture, yoga, and young baths. We meditated and did breathwork regardless of how silly we felt doing it ("When in Rome...") And you know something weird? My acupuncturist said a thing: (He was “listening” to my meridians during our first session - I didn't even know what that meant) – and he says to me: “You have a blockage…. In your sacral chakra. This is related to sexual trauma. It manifests as urinary infections and kidney problems.” (both of which I’d struggled with for literally as long as I could remember). I felt ill.
I looked at Mark with desperate eyes as Carlos held my wrist ‘measuring’ me further. To this day I barely even know what he was doing – I just know he wasn’t wrong.
What did he see?
What could he tell?
How did HE know too?!
Was this written all over me?!
Was I ignoring something that I thought I’d overcome?
Was this something bigger than I’ve ever paid notice to?!
How was everything so connected?! Oh.... but how EVERYTHING is SO. VERY. CONNECTED.
Back then, I didn't have the answers... but it seems the Universe did. And she knew where (and to whom) she was guiding me. I was running a company, hiring people, managing people, marketing my a** off because that's what I thought I was 'supposed' to be doing... but then, in between, I was.... changing? awakening? uncovering? .... healing? Ugh. back then, all of it sounded so hocus-pocus to me. But I couldn't deny how it felt. For the first time in my life, I was beginning to feel. - and that, ladies and gentlemen, was a BIG DEAL for me. I even began studying more about WTF I'd actually experienced a few months prior in Warsaw. I journaled that night: Is there some cosmic transformation that I’m meant to undergo on this island that I didn’t even have in store when I came?
Maybe, just maybe - I mused - my connection(s) with [others] would only become deeper once I healed my (dis)connection with myself.
Today, five years later, re-claiming and re-integrating more and more as I hold space for others to do the same - with a flourishing practice (which I refuse to call Tantra - but I will give it a subtle nod of thanks) - my life, our love, and my Self are more aligned than I could've wildly believed.... all because that one day, in that random town, I decided to open up and be brave.