Book Reading: Conscious Touch Workshop

EXCERPT: “When I woke up I had no idea that the day would involve getting intimate with a butch, hairy chested, bald man; that just wasn’t typically my sort of thing….”

The Motorcycle & The Molecule is a book about a humorous and risky Central American adventure featuring Mayan rulers, mischievous beavers & mind-bending molecules! This book reading features an excerpt from the chapter “Meet My Grandma” about a particularly intimate massage session. If you enjoy it, consider pre-ordering the book here!

Excerpt from Chapter 6: Meet My Grandma

When I woke up I had no idea that the day would involve getting intimate with a butch, hairy chested, bald man; that just wasn’t typically my sort of thing. As I walked towards town to find some breakfast, I met a friendly older guy with an impressive beard, whose daughter had wanted to visit Guatemala. Concerned for her safety and looking for an adventure, he had decided to drive her down from Texas on his motorcycle. As I talked with him, listening to tales of his travels through dusty Mexican towns and negotiating with crooked border officials, my desire for a two-wheeled adventure was reawakened.

After parting ways with the bearded adventurer I found a cafe, run by a lean, blonde man who also taught pilates above the cafe. He had a slightly unsavory vibe, but he ran a tight ship and the tipico that I ordered was superb. The meal consisted of bright yellow scrambled eggs, sliced avocado, two strips of fried plantain, a slice of local fresh cheese and a generous portion of warm, blue corn tortillas. This breakfast was found almost anywhere throughout Central America and became a regular way to start my day.

I struck up a conversation with the girl next to me and proceeded with the typical backpacker volley of information. Where are you from? How long have you been travelling? How much longer will you travel for? It was all a little bit repetitive but she was friendly and we soon found that we had a bunch of things in common.  We both enjoyed being solo travellers, getting dropped into a strange new cultures, and having to make new friends and learn how to get by. There was something thrilling about it. As a young boy I had been been moved around a lot so I learned to embrace the challenge and to enjoy novel experiences, or at least tolerate them when they were less than ideal.

In my earlier days on the road I’d gravitate towards the party crowd, often the loudest, and hence easiest crowd to find; new friendships forged through blurry nights of drinking games, bar hopping and hung over sightseeing during the day. Now, in my late thirties, my trick is to find the yoga studios, look at their notice boards, take a class or two, talk with some bright eyed, healthy folk, and find out what’s going on in the neighborhood. Worst case, say if there’s no local yoga studio, you can still usually find the health conscious folks congregating at vegetarian restaurants or upscale coffee shops that serve the alternative, wide array of non dairy milks. Here in San Marcos it wasn’t hard to find these people at all because the entire town felt like a living, breathing transformational workshop. After breakfast, I strolled down the muraled alleys to the large noticeboard that I’d seen upon my arrival and began perusing the town’s offerings. A tapestry of overlapping flyers promised every sort of esoteric and consciousness prodding workshop. 

On a whim I decided to head to a “Conscious Touch Workshop”, led by  my friend Sharon, an L.A. tantra teacher who I’d run into at the Cacao Dance a few days earlier, so I wove my way through some flowery paths and into the garden of the Ananda Wellness Center. It was a thoroughly pleasant environment, right on the water, gentle waves lapping at the shore with reeds swaying in the breeze as the sun glittered on the surface of the crystal blue lake. 

About eight people had shown up for the workshop, and to my surprise, and slight dismay, almost all of them were men. That’s okay, most of the guys who would show up at a conscious touch workshop are probably the pretty heart open, easy going type so it shouldn’t be too awkward. Sharon, an excitable and vivacious blonde, projected full embodiment of her sensuality as teachers of workshops like this often do. As we sat down she launched into her introduction.

“Welcome everybody!! I’m SO excited to have you all here. YAY!!” She clapped. “This is actually my first workshop that I’ve ever taught in San Marcos, so DOUBLE YAY!” To call her bubbly would be an understatement, the woman was effervescent to a fault. “I know I called it conscious touch, but what we’re really going to be doing today is tantra.” She giggled as some of the men in the group exchanged nervous smiles. “However they wouldn’t let me call it tantra. So shhh! Don’t tell anyone that you went to a tantra massage workshop!” Apparently San Marcos, for all its openness, possessed a strict judgement towards the word tantra. Some years back, as a hoard of new age healers and gurus had flooded the sleepy lakeside town, there’d been some rather dubious teachers that had established reputations for being a little too involved in their students’ progress. I hadn’t heard the full story but I was already well aware that teaching tantra was historically a very rocky affair, especially for male teachers. In our culture there is certainly a lot of healing that needs to be done and a huge, and often unspoken part of it surrounds our sexuality. Many people, often due to trauma of one form or another, suffer from a restricted or even completely blocked connection to their sexuality. And while there are certainly techniques for healing this trauma, some might appear to the uninitiated public as inappropriate or downright immoral, occasionally prompting them to start rumors. Sometimes the student, exposed to a sudden and unfamiliar rush of sexual response, can become very shocked and even recoil from the experience, directing accusations towards the workshop or the teacher. Some students, newly liberated from their repressed sexuality might become romantically attached to their well intentioned teachers, only to later report them when their love went unreciprocated. And then of course there are CERTAINLY the blatantly inappropriate teachers who abuse their position of power and who rightfully get exposed and labeled as sexual predators. Regardless of whatever happened in this case, it left most of San Marcos reluctant to use the term “tantra” ever again. So here were were, a group of mostly men, at a conscious touch and definitely not tantra workshop.

“And how exciting that we’re mostly men!” Sharon quipped gleefully. “I love teaching men. I find women are a lot more open to many of these practices already so it’s great for guys to be putting in the extra effort to get in touch with their sensitive sides!” The smile on her face seemed to know no bounds as she talked in all caps. “And don’t worry guys, we’ll ALL get turns with different partners!”

We broke the circle into pairs and sat cross legged facing each other as the exercises began. The first exercise was deep eye-gazing for minutes on end. The initial awkwardness quickly subsided and besides the occasional loop of smirks, my partner, a lanky dutch fellow named Niels, remained calm and connected. At times his face seemed to vanish and all that was left was a narrow tunnel into his left eye, upon which my focus was directed. After that we switched partners and this time we were instructed to extend one hand on to the other’s heart, while still eye gazing, as a way to deepen the connection. The next round, in which I was partnered up with a tanned Spanish man, was all about asking for consent and handling rejection. We each got to ask the other if we could touch certain parts of their body, to which the other person would say “no”. The rejected person would then respond by saying “Thank you for expressing your boundaries”. 

“Consent is SUPER SEXY, everybody!” Sharon clapped and squealed. 

We moved on to our next partner and I found myself sitting across from a very pretty German girl. Once again we were instructed to practice asking for consent, and this time the other person got to choose whether or not to give it. She was strikingly beautiful and I felt a rush of excitement as we began. Almost immediately however I could tell she was a little uncomfortable; while she was bold enough to both give and receive openly during the exercise, even this basic level of intimacy was obviously challenging for her. I tempered my initial excitement, calming my instinctual desires and turning the focus of my energy towards more of a soothing, fraternal expression of love. 

“Okay, everyone! Are you having fun?! You’re all doing SOOO GREAT!! It’s time to your next partner!” The sweet German girl moved along and now facing me was a burly, hairy chested, bald man named Chris who I recognized from the new moon ceremony a few days earlier at the Tribal Village. “Okay! GREAT! Now that we’re all warmed up and feeling yummy,” Important side note that tantra teachers like to use the word yummy almost as much as they like to use the word juicy… ”Now it’s time to move on to the juicy main course of the workshop!! The Five Elements Tantra Massage!” I smiled. Chris smiled back. The two of us, our bald heads, broad furry chests and all, were going to be partners for an activity called The Five Elements Tantra Massage. 

I was first to lie on my back and receive the massage, which was intended to take the recipient on a journey through different styles of touch, as related to the five elements. I closed my eyes as Chris started with the earth element, which was expressed as a powerful, deep tissue massage. Chris wasn’t shy and made sure to get really into it, massaging my entire body, while narrowly avoiding my nipples and genitals. He had large, strong hands. The next element was water and Chris’s hands washed over me, still forceful but more flowy this time. Fire, the next element, was more choppy and sharp, pokey and slappy and Chris shook and rattled me, which I especially enjoyed as it seemed to wake up and activate parts of my body that had felt a little sleepy. The fourth element was air, which moved over the surface of my body like a gentle breeze, and Chris amplified the sensation by lightly blowing on my skin. I had lost myself in the moment; it felt so good that I felt my sexuality begin to wake up and all of a sudden I was thinking ‘Please don’t get an erection in the conscious touch workshop with Chris!’ Don’t get me wrong, he seemed pretty cool and may not even have minded, but still, I had just met him and getting an erection in a class of strangers still seemed a little bit inappropriate. I moved my attention to things that dulled my sexual excitement, in this case scrambled eggs and wrinkly old men. Not that I don’t like either of them, just not usually in a sexual context. I took some deep breaths and felt relieved as my erection began to subside. It must have been quite a scene for any onlooker to watch these two large, hairy bears share such an intimate and tender moment with each other. Luckily the last element, ether, was more hands-off and Chris passed his hands above my body, hovering a few inches from its surface, while being instructed to project loving intentions towards me, but try as I might I didn’t feel much. Maybe I’m not sensitive enough to feel that level of subtlety I wondered? Or maybe I’m a little suspicious about energy work in general. Are people really feeling anything or just imagining it? On the other hand does successfully imagining a feeling make that feeling any less real? I decided to remain open to a continued exploration of the energetic realm. We switched roles and I attempted to treat my new intimate man friend Chris as lovingly as he’d just treated me.

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