Q & A with Suzie Heumann: Sex and Tantra Expert
When it comes to tantra, the Kama Sutra, and the subject of "good" sex, there's no better person to learn from than Suzie Heumann.
Heumann has studied, taught, written, spoken, and produced instructional videos on the subjects of the Kama Sutra, tantra, and other sexual practices since 1987. She is the founder of Tantra.com and Tantra.org.
Over the last decade and a half, many people have turned to her for advice about "real sex." In 2004, HBO recruited Heumann to participate in its documentary series Real Sex, which includes a lengthy segment of her leading a tantric sexuality retreat.
Heumann has co-produced instructional videos on tantra and the Kama Sutra, and videos like Ancient Secrets of Sexual Ecstasy and The Art of Orgasm for Women and Men. She is the author of three books: The Everything Great Sex Book, The Everything Kama Sutra Book, and The Rules of Love: The 64 Arts of the Kama Sutra.
MindBodyGreen: What exactly is tantra?
Suzie Heumann: Well, there's a huge difference between original tantra and the tantra we practice today in the West. True tantra originated in ancient Hindu society, and was very esoteric and rigorous. Sexuality was just a tiny part of it.
But that is not what we're doing today. We Westerners have latched on to the sexual part of Tantra, and it's only fair to call this "Western tantra" or "neo-tantra." It's a hodgepodge of modern psychology, Reichian therapies, Taoist practices, some sensate-focused stuff, and connective practices that people make up, all blended together with modern interpretations of the ancient tantric sex practices.
I'd say the primary objective of Western tantra is to lessen the sense of duality that exists between people, to deepen our connectedness, to break down barriers so that love can be more present. There is nothing that separates me from you, really. We each have a skin, but we're exchanging molecules of oxygen and CO2 even right this moment. When you get down to it, everyone has the same needs and desires; we are one.
Westerners are involved with sacred sexuality because we are searching for a personal experience of spirit. Many people start with the sexual practices and then move on to the more esoteric breath and emotional practices. Today, just like in ancient times, tantra is about risking, and pushing the edges of discovery. Tantra basically says, "Say yes to everything." In that way, you get beyond maya, the veil of illusion, much faster. All the outrageous experiences you can have aren't really what life's about. It's ultimately about presence, about being.
MBG: What is the biggest misconception about tantra?
SH: That it's about polyamory or sex orgies. It is really about just another "vehicle" to higher consciousness, much like how you would use yoga, meditation, care-giving, or any other conscious practice to increase your capacity to understand, empathize, and build consciousness of non-duality.
MBG: How have Western ideas about sex evolved, and do you see any possibility for future evolution?
SH: Stuff happens. I think that it is absolutely apparent these days that everything changes, and more rapidly now, too. We are evolving, and it is surely my hope and wish that we get a whole lot more conscious about everything we do. Sex is a great place to start because it informs our bodies, minds, souls, intimacy, relationships, health, well-being, and more.
MBG: Do you think television programs such as Sex and the City have altered any cultural attitudes toward sex and relationships?
SH: We are inundated with violence, bad sexual portrayals, "sex lite," brushed-off attitudes -- it's all pretty sick, to my mind. And yet this is where we learn. Despite the fact that I would always defend freedom of speech, I think pornography (at least the kind that seems to have manifested in this reality) is not healthy. I notice that young people have the freedom to live with potential long-term partners first, and this may not be a good thing, necessarily. Just about the time that the early love chemicals wear off and the reasons the two chose each other (we are each other/s healers, after all) start to materialize, they can throw up their hands and get out easily. I don't think this is giving it a good try. We are each other/s gurus -- we have issues we need to heal to grow and become conscious, compassionate humans. If we can simply have serial monogamy relationships forever, we aren't going to heal.
MBG: What is the most important key to great sex?
SH: There isn't one key. There a few, though, that make all the difference: presence, breath, strong PC (pubococcygeus) muscles, creativity, self-love, trust, loving care, good communication.
MBG: What advice would you give a couple who is trying to rekindle the flame in their relationship?
SH: Consider joining our premium membership area at Tantra.com. We have about 30 hours of video, e-courses, e-books, articles, and audio, all for a really reasonable price. Workshops are wonderful if you can afford them. But always back up a workshop with more information, because what you learn will only last if you continue to inform yourselves and practice. Here's the tour.
MBG: It's been said that only 20 percent of women experience an orgasm during sex. Why is this?
SH: This isn't the right stat. I believe it is around 20 to 25 percent of women who have an orgasm during intercourse without any clitoral stimulation. This doesn't have to be so. We just aren't free enough with our energy-our sexual energy and openness -- to allow ourselves the pleasure. Women, especially, are told not to self-pleasure as children. Boys are often given a cursory stop but allowed to explore. This is not so with women. Consequently, most women don't know the basics about their own bodies or the pleasure potentially available to them. They play a catch-up game, and if they don't have a good lover, then they miss out probably their whole lives. I believe that every woman has a G-spot and that every woman can have G-spot orgasms.
MBG: How does sex relate to mind/body wellness for you?
SH: There are many studies and statistics that show that a good sexual life brings many benefits. I would say adding the parts that neo-tantra improves, like mind/body wisdom, consciousness, an active sex life (great for all muscles in the body), breathing practices, Kegels, communication practices, touching (big!)-all these things bring a greater awareness to the person. This, in turn, causes them to want to know more about health and well-being.
MBG: When are you the happiest?
SH: In nature, with my family, my dear friends. In the garden or in the water in Hawaii -- but in nature. Nature is the best place for me to be reminded, and stay in, non-duality -- a state of grace and flow and oneness.
MBG: What is your greatest fear?
SH: That we have been so amiss at living on this beautiful planet that we will be gone in an instant and not fulfill the higher possibilities available to us.
MBG: Favorite quote?
SH: From the film Dangerous Beauty: "I confess I find more ecstasy in passion than prayer. Such passion is prayer." That's from a real person, Veronica Franco, who lived in Venice during the Inquisition -- she was a high courtesan.
MBG: Favorite guilty indulgence?
SH: Filling a small children's blowup pool with three cups of warm olive oil and getting into it with my lover. Hint: Find the pool in the summer when they are on sale and make sure it has a soft blowup bottom and sides for maximum comfort. Girls, if you have long hair, braid it first so it is somewhat under control. Put two cups of warm oil in first, and then save the rest for a warm-up later. Don't have sex in the pool -- it isn't that clean after a while-but do roll all over each other for hours; it is so much fun and so sensual. You can do it with friends, too, in a bigger pool if you can find them. (The pool, I mean!) You used to be able to get a pool that held eight perfectly at Costco a few years back for only $40!
Also, good wine!
MBG: Please tell us about your company and what it's aim is?
SH: It has been through many changes in the 15 years it has been on the Internet. Our mission has always been to provide information and education to those who are intrigued by tantra, neo-tantra, conscious sexuality, conscious relating, and sacred sexuality.
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