Episode 5: Dr. Deborah Anapol, Red Hot Tantric Sex
Red Hot Tantric Sex: A Conversation with Dr. Deborah Anapol, sacred sex specialist and tantra practitioner
This program brought to you by personallifemedia.com is suitable for mature audiences only and may contain explicit sexual information.
Beth Crittenden: Hi and welcome to "A Taste of Sex: Guest Interviews." This is Beth Crittenden, your host for the show, coming to you on Personal Life Media from OneTaste™ Urban Retreat Center in San Francisco. OneTaste™ is a collection of about 50 people who live together and do orgasmic research. We have come together around a practice called orgasmic meditation and have decided to weave that throughout our lives. We invite you to join us as we hear from a series of guest speakers on their sensual practices and their beliefs. We have an open source here so we say everything comes in, anything can come out and you just never know what will happen when you are living orgasmically.
Today on the show I am very pleased to present Dr. Deborah Taj Anapol. Dr. Anapol is the cofounder of Loving More Magazine, which is the only magazine in the world that focuses on polyamory. She works with couples, families and individuals who are exploring conscious relating and sexual healing. She has a PhD in Clinical Psychology. She leads seminars across the country and she has also written several books, the latest one of which is called The Seven Natural Laws of Love.
Beth Crittenden: Join us on today's episode of "A Taste of Sex: Guest Interviews" as we hear from Dr. Deborah Taj Anapol. She tells us how the sex center is the power center and how we can direct it towards a purpose and consciousness. She'll discuss sex, love and enlightenment and how they intertwine. She also gives an excellent definition of what is red tantra tantric sex. You'll hear that it takes quite a bit of homework to learn it.
Beth Crittenden: So Dr. Anapol, what's your message? What are you here to tell people about sensuality based on your experience and your beliefs?
Deborah Anapol: Oh, that's a big question.
Beth Crittenden: Isn't it? I just jump right in there.
Deborah Anapol: It is. I think for me the most important thing to realize is that we are sensual beings and we're all born with the capacity to experience tremendous pleasure and a whole variety of sensations and to be able to connect energetically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally with other human beings. I think what happens for a lot of people over time is they get trained to shut down. They get trained to decrease their sensitivity; they get trained to focus their attention just on one person. They get trained to avoid feeling deeply and really become alienated, often, from the physical body, the energy body, emotions, all of these things that are not conveniently suited to support the society and its focus on production and consumption.
Beth Crittenden: Was that your experience - of getting trained to kind of shut down and then you had to open back up again or have you remained open through your life?
Deborah Anapol: Well I kind of escaped that socialization process myself which, honestly, in a way hinders my work as a teacher because since I did not have to relearn it, since I was always somewhat in touch with my natural self, I don't share that experience of being completely cut off from my body and my feelings. But I didn't escape entirely and so, even though I thought I was quite open and sensitive, I discovered when I started doing this work that there was a lot more there than I was aware of.
Beth Crittenden: What are some indicators for you when you're coaching or you're teaching that someone could get even more into their sensuality? How do you know when someone's been cut off from that aliveness?
Deborah Anapol: Well one of the most common escapes for people and one of the trickiest things for people to overcome is this habit of living in the mind instead of in the body. Particularly during sexual encounters and especially stressful sexual encounters there is a tendency for people to actually go out of their body - to not really even be present there experiencing. And this is something that many people aren't aware of until it is pointed out to them. They don't realize they're doing this and yet they wonder, "Why am I not feeling anything? Why am I not enjoying this experience?"
Beth Crittenden: What's your vision of a peaceful relationship between men and women? What does that look like for you actually?
Deborah Anapol: Well one of the things that's become very clear to me over the years is something that I resisted for a long time - is the realization that everything that happens on the outside is a reflection of what happens inside, and so to have not just a balance, but a harmony with the masculine and feminine within. We're taught that male and female are kind of unidimensional concepts and they're really very multidimensional. So we're talking about harmony between the whole family of masculine and feminine aspects within and the realization that the source of love, as I discuss in The Seven Natural Laws of Love, is not out there in a partner but inside. And from there, from this inner harmony and direct connection with source then it's possible to build harmonious relationships outside.
Beth Crittenden: What do you tell people when they have the inevitable discord come up? How do you get to harmony through the fights and disagreements and all those things?
Deborah Anapol: Well one of the most important parts of this is one, to be willing to tell the truth; politeness or trying to sweep hurt feeling under the rug is just not sustainable. So there's many different ways that truth can be expressed. It can be done with a lot of emotion, feeling and fireworks; it can be done more quietly and even rationally up to a point. But I think we get into a lot of difficulty when we try to deal with emotional problems with the mind - doesn't work so well. But one way or another it's just essential that people be willing to tell the truth, and of course that requires knowing the truth yourself. You can call it emotional literacy or emotional intelligence to have some awareness of what's going on with you - to be willing to own your part in it, take responsibility for it and also to ask for what you want and need from others around you.
Beth Crittenden: If you look back on Dr. Anapol of five years ago, what was something - like maybe a habit or pattern that you were in back then in your relationships - that you've had some relief around and what helped you get there?
Deborah Anapol: Mmm. Great question! Well one of the things that I have been struggling with, probably longer than five years but I think I had kind of a turning point around five years ago, is the tendency I have had to be a control freak. For many women growing up with a father who is in some way unavailable or not supportive there is a distrust of the man to really show up and to really care, to really be supportive, and a tendency to not trust, to think, "If I want it done I've got to do it myself." And so what I really became aware of about five years ago is that as long as I'm holding this belief and operating out of that belief that's what I'm going to create in my life. And so about five years ago I really made a big shift towards letting that go. I can't say that it's completely gone but since then I have attracted into my life men who are extremely competent, extremely supportive and so that reflection tells me that something has shifted.
Beth Crittenden: Nice. And when someone would ask you what's your relationship orientation do you say, "I'm polyamorous" or how do you identify - how do you explain your choice to people?
Deborah Anapol: It's very tricky to explain my choice to people. You know I wrote Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits - I actually started to work on that in the 80s in order to create some language and some labels, kind of a shorthand for people to communicate with. But having done that I've kind of swung the other way and find I can't really put myself in a box, or I don't want to be put in a box, and I don't really have a preference at this point as to what a relationship is supposed to look like other than that I get to decide. You know I don't like the idea that someone's going to impose their concept on me but I don't want to impose my concept on me either.
So kind of what it ends up looking like for me now is that because I have been building a personal and social network over the last 30 years I have a lot of friends who have been lovers at times; some of them are occasionally still lovers, some of them are now in monogamous relationships or on the other side of the world, so it's not really an active relationship, but many of them have met each other, created relationships with each other. And so I have what I've called an intimate network of friends and lovers and I'm really more interested within that in focusing with one person at this time. I'm not - I've done my exploration and I'm not really interested in exploring just for the sake of exploring. For me probably what would be much more novel territory would be a monogamous relationship, but again not one that is that way because it has to be but because that's the truth of the way it's flowing.
And this is really what I meant by polyamory, and in fact I wrote this in the first edition of Love Without Limits in 1992 - that it's not so much about the form of multiple partners but it's more about the willingness to let love determine, to let the relationship itself determine the appropriate form rather than saying, "I have this form and now we all have to fit into it."
Beth Crittenden: That's really nice. We say that here to, that there's no formula, that orgasm just goes where it's going to go. We're getting ready to take a break here to support our sponsors and thank you so much. You're lecture here tonight at OneTaste™ is actually entitled "Sex, Love and Enlightenment." So when we get back from the break let's get into some of those ideas. Is that all right with you?
Deborah Anapol: Sure.
Beth Crittenden: Okay, great. So this is "A Taste of Sex: Guest Interviews." I'm your host, Beth Crittenden, on Personal Life Media. We'll be back shortly.
[music and commercial]
Beth Crittenden: Welcome back to "A Taste of Sex: Guest Interviews." This is your host Beth Crittenden, hosting today Dr. Deborah Taj Anapol, author of The Seven Natural Laws of Love. Welcome back Dr. Anapol.
Deborah Anapol: Thank you.
Beth Crittenden: Thanks. So let's get into sex, love and enlightenment. What do they have to do with each other?
Deborah Anapol: Well one way that I like to think about this is that conscious sex and conscious love are the quickest route to enlightenment. And this is essentially what the practice of red tantra, so called, is about. A lot of spiritual paths really only want to work with what's above the waist: with the heart centers and the spiritual centers. But if we use the sexual centers, the power centers and the emotional centers - that's where the connection is to the earth; that's a tremendous source of energy. And so if that can be directed toward greater consciousness then there's a lot faster progress that can be made.
Beth Crittenden: Why do you think certain approaches stay away from using that tremendous source of energy?
Deborah Anapol: Oh, well in a word: fear. There's also - in the religious business just as in the psychotherapy business - sometimes there's not a real interest in reaching the goal because then you no longer have a client. You know, you put yourself out of business. So I think in the institutionalized religions they've come to serve purposes that really have nothing to do with even spirituality, let alone enlightenment, and so they want to keep things under control. And it's much easier to keep things under control when you're not playing with fire.
Beth Crittenden: How do you define enlightenment?
Deborah Anapol: It's tricky to talk about enlightenment because it's not something that happens in the mind - it's not something that can really even be understood by the mind. And I will talk about it but with the warning that when the mind, when the ego gets a hold of this concept of enlightenment what ends up happening is spiritual materialism, a word that was used in the book titled Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism I think in the 70s. So there's been an awareness for a long time of this probably greatest danger on the path of the ego latching on to, "Oh, I want to be enlightened" and then developing a spiritual personality that thinks it's enlightened, but by definition can't be. So having said that the best way maybe to have a conversation about enlightenment would be to say that when you're no longer operating from the mind, from the ego - you still have a mind and an ego, it's a very useful thing to have, but your identity is not there. Your identity is in the oneness that includes everything. I would say that's enlightenment.
Beth Crittenden: Thanks. Did you say that the practice that you're discussing is called "red tantra?"
Deborah Anapol: Well people have used the term red tantra to distinguish it from the type of tantra that is just dealing with visualization practices and breath practices but does not include tantric sexuality.
Beth Crittenden: And what's tantric sexuality like?
Deborah Anapol: In tantric sexuality, as opposed to physical sexuality, first of all there's an awareness that the lovers are worshiping the divine as reflected in the human beloved. So it's not two egos trying to get off but it's form of worship, as in the namaste: the divine in me recognizes the divine in you and through the experience of the opening of bodies and hearts and minds through the lovemaking process there is a altered state of oneness with the other - often a losing of a sense of boundary, not knowing where one ends and the other begins and often an expansion, temporary expansion of consciousness. The challenge for many people is to remain in the meditative state even when the sexual energy gets very high. And rather than rushing to discharge the sexuality downward, outward through the genitals, the intention is to contain the energy and raise it into the higher centers.
Beth Crittenden: And then what?
Deborah Anapol: And then these experiences of oneness, of a great unconditional love - one can be graced with these experiences. But they are only experiences and since we can't spend all of our lives engaged in lovemaking, although some people try, I think that a tantric sexual practice, as many other practices, gives people a glimpse of what's possible. But really the point, once you've had this glimpse, is to find a way to bring this into every activity, to treat each moment as the beloved, to have each sensual experience, however slight - seeing a flower, tasting chocolate, hearing beautiful music - to have all of these experiences to be orgasmic.
Beth Crittenden: Mmm. Nice. Let's say there's a couple who's engaged in tantric sexual practice. If you walked into a room what would you observe?
Deborah Anapol: Hmm. Well it doesn't necessarily look any particular way but how it might look different from ordinary sex is that there might not be a whole lot of physical movement going on. There's something called the valley orgasm in which lovers can remain still or nearly still, possibly seated in yabyam but could be in any position, and really just tuning in to the very, very subtle movement and very, very subtle changes of energy that are easily overlooked if there's a lot of physical movement and stimulation. You might also observe deep breathing and perhaps sounds of pleasure.
Beth Crittenden: And for someone who isn't familiar with how do you feel energy or how does that work, how would you explain it?
Deborah Anapol: Oh, that's a very tricky one but you can get a taste of it if you rub your hands together briskly.
[sound of hands rubbing together]
Beth Crittenden: Let's all try that now. Okay we're rubbing our hands together.
Deborah Anapol: And you'll notice they start getting kind of hot and maybe a little moist and then when you stop you'll have a tingling sensation in the hands, and that sensation can be felt everywhere in the body and can become very, very strong - much stronger than the awareness of the physical body.
Beth Crittenden: And why sex? Why not just kind of rubbing each other's hands together? Well I guess that could be sex depending on how you define it, but what do you have to say about that one?
Deborah Anapol: Well it doesn't have to be sex but the genitals have more nerve endings than almost any other part of the body and they're also intimately connected with the endocrine system and the brain. And so the sexual experiences stimulate the whole nervous system in a way that can happen with other activities. Certainly sex is not the only route to enlightenment or to enhanced energy experiences but I think it's one that is very attractive to people. And because it is so attractive it’s more likely to be practiced regularly.
Beth Crittenden: So what does it take to get started with learning tantra and learning red tantra in particular?
Deborah Anapol: There's quite a bit of homework that people need to do.
Beth Crittenden: [laughing] Oh darn.
Deborah Anapol: Again, if you're one of the fortunate people who hasn't had this trained out of you it does actually come quite naturally in the right circumstances. And the right circumstances would be to not have just eaten a heavy meal, not be using alcohol or other consciousness altering substances; some are used to give people a glimpse of what's possible at times but over time they actually get in the way. It's essential to have some kind of meditative practice that has trained you to keep your attention focused. In other words, to be present here and now.
You can't practice tantra if you're thinking about the laundry or what you're going to do tomorrow. So this practice of keeping your attention focused here and now and also quieting the mind. Not that the mind has to be completely empty of thoughts, that may never happen, but enough inner quiet so that you can sense yourself and your partner. You need to be relatively free of identification with any particular gender or other role so that you're willing to fully embrace whatever shows up. And I think this is again a place that a lot of people have difficulty, is they have an idea of what a sexual experience is supposed to look like and feel like and be like and so if that's not what's naturally there they start trying to manufacture it to be that way. And as soon as you're trying to manufacture it, as soon as you're lost in fantasy, as soon as you're trying not to feel what's actually coming up - maybe anger is coming up and you have it that anger is not part of sex - all these things make it impossible to be present.
Beth Crittenden: Could you describe a moment or maybe a set of moments where you felt that all over body feeling that you were describing before in your practice?
Deborah Anapol: Oh, well I've had many of these - I call them peak experiences - in which there's a shift from identification not only with mind but also with emotions in the body. My awareness becomes the space in which everything else exists. It's no longer personal. And I've had the experience when the shift occurs of sensing everything happening in my lover's body, knowing the thoughts in my lover's mind; sometimes I've had experiences of it seems to be moving back in time or out into space, in other words traveling out of the body, out of here and now. There's a feeling of bliss, a feeling of wellbeing, an inner knowing that everything is good. Good not in the sense of moralism but that there's nothing that needs to be changed. It's perfect exactly as it is.
Beth Crittenden: Very nice. Images of Hawaii just came up for me so I thought I'd tell the listener too that they can study with you in Hawaii and go and have everything be good. Do you want to say more about that and what you offer there?
Deborah Anapol: Yeah, well a few years ago I kind of burnt out on running around the country being a road warrior and decided that I wanted to live my dream in Hawaii. And I have small farm there that many people take one look at and go, "Oh my god, it's the Garden of Eden."
Beth Crittenden: Oh wow.
Deborah Anapol: There's a huge variety of tropical fruits and nuts and flowers and foliage. It's quiet, it's private, it's warm, sensual - all the Hawaiian islands you just go there and immediately the chi, the prana, the mana as the Hawaiian's call it, can be felt it's exponential leap in aliveness just from being there.
Beth Crittenden: So this has been "A Taste of Sex: Guest Interviews" with Dr. Deborah Taj Anapol. I'm your host, Beth Crittenden. If you would like texts and transcripts of this show, if you want to just download that lovely Hawaiian list of things and leave it at your office, you can visit www.personallifemedia.com. You can also email us at [email protected]. Also check out our website. We have blogs and videocasts and a chatboard and all sorts of good things happening there. You can go to www.onetastesf.com.