Diana Richardson wrote The Heart of Tantric Sex: A Unique Guide to Love and Sexual Fulfilment to bring the ancient Tantric practices to modern Western lovers. This book has a lot of great information and suggestions on how to increase intimacy and mindfulness in our lives and relationships.
I really wanted to love this book, especially because of the opening paragraph. It was recommended to me by a Tantra teacher I follow on Instagram. I was so excited to read it and learn about Tantra but I immediately found myself bored. This book is very repetitious. It could have been half the length and still cover everything in the book. I found myself skipping over paragraphs and just skimming pages. This isn’t how I normally read. I feel like skipping over parts out of boredom defeats the point of reading a book but I couldn’t connect with this writer’s style. Many of the negative reviews of this book that I read online had to do with the length and repetition, gender stereotypes and a focus on heterosexual relationships. I definitely agree that this book was too long and repetitive but I don’t hold it against her that ancient Tantra focuses on male/female relationships. The purpose of this book was to explain Tantra in a way that a Westerner could comprehend. She wasn’t attempting to rewrite ancient Tantric literature and practices. On a personal note, it’s driving me crazy that they used the British spelling, fulfilment, on the cover but use the American spelling, fulfillment, throughout the book. It felt wrong spelling it the British way but I did because of the book cover. Then while reading, the inconsistency really bothered me.
The first lines of this book resonated with me so much! When I read, “The first time I made love, I recall being overwhelmed with disappointment, especially since I had waited for love and made it a special occasion. I asked myself, ‘Is this what all the fuss was about? Surely there must be more to it?’ ” … I literally laughed out loud!! I didn’t wait for love and it wasn’t a special occasion but the rest was so accurate! I remember laying there in pain during my first time thinking, “Why do people make such a big deal about this?” Luckily my experience quickly improved but initially I wasn’t impressed. Many women I have spoken to had similar experiences their first time too. Why do we continue to hype first times as this magical life transforming experience when the reality for many women is pain and disappointment?
Richardson explains that the biological or reproductive phase happens when sexual energy moves from the brain to the genitals and then is released through orgasm. The spiritual or generative phase occurs when sexual energy is held and recirculated back to the brain. This is Tantra. I wish I could have taken a picture of my boyfriend’s face when I started to explain to him that the point of Tantric sex isn’t orgasm. Our society has taught us that something is wrong if there isn’t an orgasm at the end but the fact that our emotional state plays a huge role in our sexual experience is largely ignored. Many couples don’t take the time to connect emotionally before initiating sex. Overtime, this often creates distance and other relationship issues. Richardson stated, “Where there is dissatisfaction in sex, the seeds of discontent are sown, resentments, frustrations, and fears easily arise, and slowly the love and rapport between partners can break down, ultimately leading to separation.”
We are constantly shown on TV that sexual ecstasy occurs when hearts are pounding, sweat is pouring and movements are fast and aggressive. But Tantra is about slowing down and being conscious of our own experience. Richardson wrote, “What we don’t realize is that genuine sexual ecstasy goes hand-in-hand with physical relaxation.” As a women, I feel that this point is so important. We are often expected to just want to have sex at the drop of a hat when we have been stressed out and frustrated all day. Our minds are jumping from task to task and our bodies can become stiff and rigid. It generally takes women longer to relax and get in the mood but men often want to jump right in. After awhile, this disconnect can create major issues in the relationship.
Richardson explains that the “positive poles” of men and women are different. A woman’s positive pole is her breasts and a man’s positive pole is his penis. The magnetic field between the opposite poles (negative vagina and positive penis) is called the rod of magnetism. The idea is that when the opposite poles meet, they complete an electrical circuit of sorts and the circular movement of energy through the bodies is called the circle of light. It’s difficult to create this circuit when a woman’s negative pole (her vagina) is receiving all the attention and her positive pole (her breasts) isn’t getting the love and affection it needs.
Richardson stated, “When loving emphasis is placed upon her breasts prior to penetration, the readiness for sex is there, both physically and psychologically, and this is very important.” YES! For me, it isn’t even so much my breasts, it’s the time spent paying focused attention to me. It’s the intimacy that comes from someone slowly and gently attending to my needs and doing what feels good to me instead of just trying to immediately enter my body. When things are hurried and the sole focus is on penetrating me, I don’t really enjoy the experience. It becomes just another chore. Something that I’m doing (or often in this case, having done to me) for someone else. It doesn’t feel like it’s about my pleasure or satisfaction at all. And in large part, it isn’t even men’s fault. They think that’s how it should go from watching movies and porn and we (women) continue to allow it, until we get so fed up that we don’t allow it anymore and the relationship starts to crumble.
Something that was repeated over and over was the importance of relaxation and consciousness. Richardson wrote, “The more we relax, the more we become involved in the present moment, and from here the sexual experience can emerge spontaneously.” (This is an example of me not liking her writing style but also agreeing with what she’s saying.) I think allowing things to progress spontaneously is so important. Both partners need to be ready and we relax gradually. Tantra is often thought of as hours long experiences with orgasms that last forever but it’s really about spending focused time and attention on yourself and someone you care about in a way our society generally finds odd or stupid. When I posted that this would be the book of the month for my book club, someone messaged me and said she didn’t have time or energy to waste in bed. I felt sad when I read that. What is a better use of your time than connecting deeply with yourself and the one you love? What is a better use of your time than allowing your tense body to relax in the arms of your partner? Richardson also talks about how Tantra invigorates us. After a Tantric experience, you feel more energetic, which is the opposite experience of hurried sex that leaves you exhausted.
While reading this book, I kept thinking about the beginning of my relationship with my boyfriend. We spent a lot of time in bed. I loved spending time just cuddling and laughing. I felt so connected to him and that would pretty much always lead to spontaneous sex. But as in most relationships, we fell out of this practice. The newness of our relationship wore off, routines became established and we slowly began to disconnect from each other. Reading this book reminded me of just how much I loved that time in our relationship and how much I want that back. That lazy Saturday afternoon spent relaxing in bed together instead of in front of the TV.
A recommendation Richardson made was to schedule lovemaking. This is not a popular idea for most at first, us included. What’s spontaneous about scheduling sex like a doctors appointment? But Richardson explained how much stress and tension it helped alleviate. Men reported feeling more relaxed knowing they would be having sex at a specific time and claimed it helped reduce their mental obsession with sex. Women claimed they felt a deeper contentment knowing they would definitely be making love at that time. We have started scheduling our own Tantra time. I’m happy to report that while it was a little weird at first, it has been greatly beneficial to our relationship. I feel more relaxed and connected to him and he gets more sex. It’s been a win all around. Richardson wrote, “The more we make love, the more we wish to make love,” and I agree completely. If you’re struggling to reconnect in your relationship, pull out your planner and make a date to make love!
Richardson claimed, “The art of Tantra most simply defined is the union of sex and meditation.” I really love this. Meditation has been a tremendous help to me over the last several years. I have been working to break the numbness of dissociation for a long time and meditation has helped me reconnect and access myself again. Pairing this conscious awareness with lovemaking has been so beautiful.
There is a lot of great relationship advice in this book despite being repetitive (and in some ways, maybe anti-feminist). There are exercises, meditations and tons of practical guidance to help get you started. Richardson talks about many of the sexual issues that plague modern couples and offers alternatives to medication. I think this book could help many couples reconnect and increase intimacy in their relationships. One day I’ll read this book again, hopefully in it’s entirety. Until then, I’m so grateful to have found these exercises and look forward to continuing to implement a more Tantric approach to our sex life.
Rating: 3/5 Stars
If this book sparks your interest, join my online book club! We read and discuss many life-changing books.