Let’s Talk About Tantra with Mark and Patricia of TantraPM
Deepening your Connection Through Sexual Exploration
Beyond the Bedroom wants you to know who our presenters are. With that in mind we attempt to interview each presenter so you get a sense of who they are and what they will be talking about at the Beyond the Bedroom conference in October or future. If you should happen to be interested in attending you can register for Beyond the Bedroom at any time.
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Michaels and Johnson wrote and appeared in two instructional DVDs produced by the Alexander Institute: Tantric Sexual Massage for Lovers and Advanced Tantric Sex Secrets. They have been featured on television (Good Day Colorado, AM Northwest, Naked New York), radio (Afternoon Advice andNightcalls on Playboy Radio, Go to Bed with Cosmo Radio, The Derek and Romaine Show, and NPR’s A Chef’s Table) and have been quoted as experts in numerous publications and on many websites – from women’s magazines to dating websites to men’s magazines to GLBT- oriented media – includingRedbook, Latina, Jane, Cosmopolitan, The Village Voice, Metro, Pregnancy and Newborn, More, Rockstar, Woman’s World, The Sydney Star Observer (Australia’s most popular GLBT weekly), Emotion(Germany), The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Enhancing Sexual Desire. They have also contributed articles to various online and print publications, includingChronogram and Debonair, and give sexuality and relationship advice at Dick-n-Jane.com.
Dan talks to Mark Michaels and Patricia Johnson about their class “Deepening your Connection Through Sexual Exploration” which talks about deepening your relationship through creating curiosity and adventure to explore in your relationship.
Beyond The Bedroom – Interview With Mark And Patricia
– Transcript –
Dan: Welcome to Beyond the Bedroom and another interview. This is actually our second take on this because we messed up a couple of times, but we’re here with Mark and Patricia from Tantric PM and first of all, I’d just love to hear a little bit about you guys and how you all got started.
Mark: A little bit of déjà vu happening here.
Dan: Yeah just a bit.
Mark: Well, we met in 1999. I had just completed a Tantra training and Patricia came to the first talk I gave in New York City and it actually turned out we later discovered that we had been on a sacred sexuality together for some time and that sort of factors into the story as a matter of fact. I gave this very over-prepared lecture with a lot of notes and …
Patricia: It was like this thick. It was like wow.
Dan: That’s one way to woo a woman.
Patricia: Lots of notes.
Mark: And a friend of mine was in attendance and happened to sit next to Patricia and she brought Patricia up and introduced us and I was in teacher mode and I said if you have any questions, feel free to email me and we talked a little bit. Over the next three or four weeks, we exchanged a bunch of emails.
Patricia: It was a lively email exchange. It was very interesting. I had always been interested inTantra since my early experiences with sex in my college age, era, time and I wanted to learn more at that time about technologies that would enable me to tap into this amazing energy that I felt like I was getting a hint of, but it was just like whew that was gone, “whoa what was that?” and I wanted to figure out technologies and ways to cultivate it and exchange it with a partner and that lead me to read a lot about Tantra and sex magic and Taoist practices. At the time, I didn’t find any partners that were interested in that or discussing sex at all really.
Dan: Isn’t that a sad commentary on our society?
Patricia: It’s a lot for someone that’s very young and just starting to experience sex.
Mark: It’s a lot for a lot of people.
Patricia: Right, right. So then fast forward several years I saw an announcement that there was going to be a public lecture on Tantra and I was so excited and that’s where we met.
Mark: So we exchanged emails for this three week period and Patricia finally wrote and said well why, can we continue this discussion over coffee and as it happened I had to be in New York City where she was living at the time that day and I said well I’m actually free today.
Dan: The universe has spoken.
Patricia: I thought wow, okay.
Mark: So we got together. It turned out to be sushi and not coffee and we were talking and by this time I had realized that she had been on this and that she really was writing about stuff that I didn’t feel that there was much I could teach her, per se and we’re talking and talking and finally she says, well are you going to be my teacher and I said I really don’t think there’s anything I can teach you.
Patricia: And I thought “ah, sure well can we at least be friends?” because this has been really interesting.
Mark: And I said well how about we explore this on a sexual level. So we basically, we never dated, we just decided to get together and practice the sexual aspects of Tantra together and here we are almost 15 years and four books later.
Patricia: It works.
Dan: Very good.
Mark: I think that I want to add to that that after we met and got together to practice the sexual component, and I had been trained in kind of a very western sexually oriented, healing oriented approach and I was really eager to find a more traditional teacher and with a real lineage behind him and so we had been together for about six months, we started studying online with our teacher, Dr. John Mumfordwho was initiated in the Swami in India in the 70s and had been going to India for like 20 years before that. So he really had roots in the tradition and we started studying with him online and have continued to do that for a long time. He’s our guru and we remain in constant touch with him. He lives in Australia, but …
Elizabeth: See there are snippets in this second interview, so I’m learning more about the two of you. That was really lovely, thank you.
On Their Workshop Deepening Your Connection Through Sexual Exploration…
Dan: So our listeners and viewers actually got a little bit more than our first pass at this. So you’re going to be teaching a Deepening Your Connection Through Sexual Exploration class at Beyond the Bedroom. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Patricia: Yeah, where do you want to start?
Mark: Well, one of the things that we think is really, can be an incredible thing to deepen a relationship is to treat your entire life together as an adventure, as something that you’re exploring mutually and if you have that kind of attitude, the whole goal orientation which we’re all so inculcated in this culture can sort of get pushed aside because if it’s an adventure and an exploration and you never quite know what’s going to happen, then your goal is just to see.
Patricia: And with that goal of just to see it encourages a state of real curiosity. Curiosity not only about what’s about to happen, but also curiosity that nurtures that in how you see your partner. So I think often times in our society there’s this need based idea about relationships that you get into a relationship and that person fulfills a need or you fulfill each others needs.
Mark: We like to get rid of the word “needs” all together and talk about desires or wants. It’s really kind of I think better.
Patricia: Right because yeah, if you think of a need, a need is something like oxygen, food, shelter and if you say to your partner I just need this from you, you’re giving the impression that they’re depriving something from you that’s …
Mark: Vital or even necessary for your survival.
Patricia: For your very life and that’s a little heavy handed when we’re talking about the dishes or something. So this idea of being collaborators and team members and adventurers, that really opens up a lot of realm in fun in sexuality because you don’t need to or have to have the situation where it’s like oh this is something I really like sexually. Let’s do that because this is what I like to do. It can be like, what do you think? I don’t know. Let’s give it a try and just see what we discover and then you’re both kind of like reading each other. Hey, does that tickle a little? What do you think? Then it brings back that childlike curiosity that is so vibrant when you’re first falling in love and it helps people who have been together a long time tap into that because the fact is we’re always changing. We’re not static and there’s always something to be discovered in your partner.
Mark: Another thing that I think is important about this approach and that in our next book which is really not a Tantra book, it’s a much broader sexuality and relationships book, we deal a lot with the spectrum of relationship possibilities from a monogamous configuration to more open forms of relating and this attitude is applicable no matter what your relationship style is. So it works if you’re choosing to be exclusive with somebody. It works if you’re on a more open kind of way of being together because it’s always about turning toward each other, treating it as a joint venture, a joint adventure, something that you’re exploring mutually and that works no matter what you do.
Elizabeth: There are a number of singles that will be coming to Beyond the Bedroom. Is your class appropriate for them as well?
Mark: Oh sure. I mean, it’s an attitude toward relating and it’s an attitude toward exploration that I think is valuable no matter whether you’re in a relationship or not.
Patricia: And what we’ll be doing is we’ll present the core concepts just behind the philosophy and the approach to relating. Then we’re going to talk about ways and principles to keep in mind when communicating and values to really hold in your mind before you speak about sexuality or sexual situations and then we’re going to run through exercises in which we will create a safe environment which people can start to experiment and play around with what it’s like to talk about a fantasy. We’re going to really shake it up and change it up, so nobody is going to feel like, “oh my God, I just revealed my fantasy.”Everybody’s fantasy is going to be private, so it will be good.
Elizabeth: Very nice. That’s a great measure of safety. Perfect, sounds good.
Dan: So is this your full-time job?
Mark: Well yes and no. We both have other things that we do, but those are more … what would you call it? They’re service, they’re conservation oriented and not really about making a living, but yeah I mean, we write and we teach and we travel and we also sponsor John Mumford’s online programs now.
Patricia: So we have online courses. We have courses of course that couples and singles can work through with us and our books and tours and lectures, so it all really can become time consuming.
On Creating Pleasure Salons…
Mark: Another little service piece that we do is we started an event in New York City with a friend of ours names Selena six and a half years ago and we call it the Pleasure Salon and it’s just a social gathering for everyone in the sex positive community regardless of seeing, orientation, kink, whatever. It’s just a gathering that meets once a month in a bar in New York City and it’s a gathering for people who maybe would never really interact with one another otherwise to get together and we feel that building this kind of community is important for our society because people still who are doing sexually nonconformist things are still really marginalized.
Patricia: So we wanted to really create a safe environment, an environment, in which people could cross-pollinate and exchange ideas and talk frankly about pleasure and pleasure activism because what we’ve found is when we go to certain events, people sometimes have very set kink or set crowds or people that they are playing with and the whole event just pretty much swirls by and you’re like wow, I remember that person. They were so cool. I would really just like to sit down and talk with them. We wanted to create an environment where all of that could happen and it’s interesting because a lot of very wonderful collaborations have come from this gathering.
Mark: And we actually … I’m going to offer this to you guys in Denver, there’s no financial involvement at all. We would like this idea to go viral and it has. There have been pleasure salons in Singapore, Adelaide and Melbourne, Australia.
Patricia: Chicago had one for a while. There’s one in New Hampshire. So hey, it’s just a neat kind of concept.
Mark: So if you want to borrow it or if there’s anybody in the Denver community that likes the idea, they should email us and we’ll give them kind of our general guidelines. Really, it’s really this concept of building community and allowing it to grow on it’s own. We don’t have a hands on thing. We do want people to kind of be in harmony with the basic principles but we don’t have … and one of those principles is that there’s no admission charge.
Elizabeth: Oh nice.
Mark: We do pass a hat just to cover our cost.
Patricia: We don’t want to turn anybody away if they are financially strapped for a month or two.
Elizabeth: That’s great.
On Their Books About Tantra, Great Sex and Sexual Exploration within Your Relationship…
Dan: Yeah, very nice. So what are the names of your books? You talk about four different books that you have. What are those?
Mark: The first one is called The Essence of Tantric Sexuality and it’s based on lectures that Dr. Mumford gave in 1976, probably the first time that initiated swami had talked publically about sexual Tantra to a western audience and a lot of swami teachings were borrowed by other people and often are credited …
Patricia: Kind of heavily borrowed sometimes.
Mark: And he often wasn’t credited for it. So we wrote the book with partly the intention of kind of reclaiming his legacy and giving him the recognition that he really deserves.
Patricia: And then people kept on asking us great, but where do I begin. So …
Mark: It’s pretty esoteric. We didn’t realize it at the time, but it’s a more advanced book.
Patricia: Our next book is Tantra for Erotic Empowerment and that’s a workbook. It’s designed for anybody, virtually anybody, a couple, colleague, relationship configuration can work through the book systematically and it leads the reader to tantric experiences through the gateway of sexual self discovery.
Mark: And it’s really about bringing an awareness to your sexuality as fully as you can.
Patricia: And people said, that’s great. Where do we begin. So we went to a tip format and this book is called Great Sex Made Simple and it is something you can put on your bedside, crack open and find an adventure to try that night and it just takes a few minutes to read and it’s sort of fun. It’s just a real quick whirlwind tour.
Mark: And all of our books have won various awards.Great Sex Made Simple in particular has won, it came in second foreword reviews book of the year award in self help which is amazing because it’s such a black category and John Cabot Zen’s book came in third, so we’re really kind of…
Elizabeth: Nice, very nice.
Mark: So I mean the recognition that Great Sex Made Simple in particular has been really gratifying. Our next book is called Partners in Passion and it’s going to be published by Press and the subtitle is “A guide to great sex, emotional intimacy and longterm love.” So it’s our magnum opus. It’s a hefty book and it covers the full spectrum from new relationship energy to old age.
Patricia: To your very last days together and what we focused on is couples that are in various stages but love their relationship, have a vibrant sex life, what are they doing, you know so we wanted to get that material out there because often while the books are very valuable, some books are geared towards couples in crisis or couples that are having problems and that sometimes doesn’t give you a good picture of what people that are super happy with their relationship doing. So that’s the focus.
Mark: And again, as I said about the class, our aim is really to be as inclusive as we possibly can, so we interviewed people from the LGBT community, longterm gay couples, lesbian couples. We have trans people that we interviewed.
Patricia: People with kids.
Mark: And also to be inclusive of kink and to be inclusive of people that are in monogamous relationships and also who are in open relationships because I think there’s a myth that goes around that you can’t really go deep with your partner if you’re in an open relationship and I think that’s really a misconception. One couple that we interviewed they have been married 28 years. They identify as swingers. They started swinging I don’t know eight or ten years ago, something like that. They made love every morning since they first got together and they continue, unless they’re apart obviously, but whenever they’re together, they make love every day first thing in the morning and it’s just part of their habit.
Patricia: It’s their habit and what a habit. Everyone talks about habits being negative. Well, you don’t want that habit…
Dan: Yeah, what a good habit to have. Nice.
Elizabeth: It’s really something to aspire to.
Mark: They’re really, really connected with each other and yet they’re also in a form of open relationship so I think it’s really important for people to understand that it’s not really how you behave in that sense as it is how you’re connected with each other and there are many, many different ways to do that.
Great Sex Through Sex Education…
Dan: That’s one of the things that Beyond the Bedroom strives to do is through sex education and relationship education providing people with the tools that make them have those longterm relationships until the end of days for themselves. That’s beautiful. I’m looking forward to seeing that book.
Elizabeth: Yes definitely. And that’s what you’re doing is you’re providing people with the information so that they can then make their informed choice about what’s best for them and their relationships, so that’s wonderful. It’s a great contribution, thank you.
Mark: Yeah, informed choice is really the key here because I think the one thing that we kind of are critical of in the conventional … we like to say conventional monogamy … or unconscious is that for so many of us I know that in my first marriage, monogamy was just like the only … I didn’t, I mean I was aware that there were other things out there, but I never examined it. I just sort of fell into the cultural paradigm and I think that’s really potentially a huge trap because if you’re just doing it because everybody else does you haven’t given it any thought. You haven’t made a choice.
Patricia: Yeah and you don’t even know what that abstract idea is.
Dan: Yeah and on the other side of that, too, I hear from the poly community that talks about monogamists oh they just are not evolved yet. I don’t believe that. I think that there’s a choice for everybody and through sex education, through relationship education, they get those choices to make for themselves.
Mark: Yeah, I mean we went to a polyamory event. This was in 2000. We had just gotten engaged and somebody says why are you getting married.
Dan: What’s wrong with you?
Mark: Yeah I think the truth is that it’s really a both end situation and maybe a little bit of a tangent, but in the book we cite I think it’s an anthropologist who was commenting on Chris Ryan’s Sex At Dawnand the blog post that he wrote about is “humans are blank –ogamists” and his whole argument really was that Ryan’s got a great point. He wasn’t taking the hard line evolutionary psychology trashing kind of approach, but he said we are also wired to pair bond. It’s not as simple as that we’re wired to be in open relationships. We also have a very strong need to be in pair bonds and I think that’s true. If you look across cultures and I don’t think Chris Ryan would ultimately disagree with that, so it’s all about how we in this day and age can choose where on that spectrum of monogamist to open we are and it’s really an individual choice. There’s not a right or wrong to it.
Dan: Right. Well excellent. Thank you so much.
Mark: Do you have any questions?
Elizabeth: No, I’m excited to see you. We hope that you are there for the Friday night festival that we have, the masquerade. I think we talked about that last time and … Well any type of costume or mask and it’s going to be quite a ride. We have a lot of fun on Friday and then actually all through the weekend hopefully. Patricia, so many times you talked about play and childlike and I would just love to end on why that’s so important in relationships, play, laughter, fun.
Patricia: Oh, geez, you know I would say yes being together and living life can be so serious, but the best way to negotiate life, to travel any sort of troubled waters is through the power of humor and laughter. I think that really can open up a lot of opportunity that people miss because they get too serious and focused and we’re making love now.
Mark: We’re having sacred sex now.
Elizabeth: Yeah, and there’s too much seriousness around them when it should be playing. We should be allowed to laugh and make mistakes and giggle about them. So I really appreciate you bringing that childlike innocence into this conversation. Thank you.
Patricia: Thank you. We’re so looking forward to it.
Elizabeth: Having fun. So thanks for your time. We appreciate it. It’s definitely the second time is a charm.
Mark: Well thanks for having us on and we’re looking forward to the event.
Dan: Okay great.
Elizabeth: Great thank you. Have a great afternoon.
Mark: You, too.
To learn more about Mark and Patricia visit their website at: www.tantrapm.com
Mark Michaels and Patricia Johnson are a couple devoted to the education of tantra and sexual exploration through face-to-face teachings and their books.