On a regular basis at Tantra Massage Training we receive applications from folks who wish to offer Tantric massage professionally. Many of those folks are muddling Tantra with a primarily erotic or sexual service and think that learning a bunch of techniques will be enough to start offering Tantric massage. More alarmingly, a number state that they simply “fancy a career change” without ever having actually done any inner work or exploration of their sexuality for themselves.
Of course, there is a great confusion out there in the world about what Tantra is and isn’t. That’s a big conversation in itself. In this blog I’d like to focus on some of the elements that I consider essential for anyone offering or considering to offer Tantric massage professionally. It’s not exhaustive, yet it provides a starting point for any practitioner wishing to work with integrity.
I’ve shared the elements under two key areas – form and formless. “Form” is the tangible and measurable outer work required; such as specific qualifications to have in place as a foundation. “Formless” is the less tangible yet deeply sensed and intuited inner work that gives a particular frequency to your offering.
In reality these two are not separate as one flows into the other – like the symbol of yin yang. Yet it feels supportive to offer this kind of clarity to the different dimensions to consider. Many folks only consider the aspects of form as they have not yet come to know the formless within themselves.
Form – The tangible and measurable outer work
- You have a recognised bodywork qualification as foundation (e.g. ITEC massage)
- You have walked the path of personal development / spiritual awareness / sacred embodiment for some years
- You are committed to your professional development and accountability by engaging in regular supervision sessions – either with an individual mentor, group programme, or peer support.
- You have engaged with some kind of trauma awareness training
In recent years we have become much more aware of trauma – individual and collective – and how it impacts someone’s capacity to be in their sovereignty; particularly when in the presence of sexual energy. Working in a “trauma informed” way is essential for all practitioners to be in integrity and minimising harm.
Formless – The intangible and intuitive inner work
The most essential quality of a Tantric practitioner is the depths that you have explored in your own being. It is only when you have met and befriended all the colours of the human experience within yourself that you can meet and befriend them within another. What you cannot meet and befriend within yourself, you will condemn or reject within another.
One of the key qualities you must cultivate is self-awareness. You have done the inner work. You have invested significant amount of time and energy in your own personal growth. You know your shadows as well as your strengths. You have looked at your blind spots as well as your gifts. You have deeply explored your own relationship to sexuality before you try to guide someone in theirs.
As an adjunct to exploring sexuality through the portal of the erotic body, I recommend same-gender work (i.e. women and men’s circles) for deeper self-enquiry. There are many shadows between the sexes when it comes to attraction and intimacy and it is not healthy or helpful to be playing them out with your clients. If you are a man intending to work with women, it is supportive to have examined your relationship to women by understanding yourself as a man. If you are a woman intending to work with men, it is supportive to have examined your relationship to men by understanding yourself as a woman. If you are working in a LGBTQI+ space you also need to understanding your own sexuality and gender identity and how this informs your relationships and practice.*
Lastly, ask yourself these questions…
How comfortable are you in your own skin? In a culture that is body-shaming and pleasure-negative (despite sex being co-opted everywhere!), can you offer your clients an imprint of innocence, naturalness and sexual wellbeing? What is your relationship to the Sacred? Can you guide your clients beyond what they already know into an expanded experience of themselves through the awakening of sexual energy?
For many people, all the elements mentioned above are part of the evolving exploration of liberation and integration. You don’t have to wait until you are perfect. In fact you can’t wait until then. The world can’t wait till then! But you do have to perfectly awake to what you know and what you don’t know.
In essence, having a piece of paper with a qualification does not a Tantric practitioner make. Thinking that simply learning techniques without having done any inner work is dodgy and potentially dangerous. Tantra is not something that you “do”; but rather a transmission that emanates from your “being”.
Be in humility with your capacity and be in service to the Great Mystery.
*Gratitude to Rowan of Moon Hare Yoga who offered these words in reflection of their conscious massage offerings for clients of all bodies and genders