From The Intelligent Optimist Magazine
A conversation with Diana Richardson
By Jurriaan Kamp And Nancy Reed
Years ago two Dutch comedians did a great sketch. Ridiculing people’s needs always to be competitive, they introduced a new version of ping pong, which they called fun pong. The point of the game was to make the rallies as long as possible without trying to score a point—to enjoy the collaborative exchange. And, of course, one of the comedians didn’t quite succeed in mastering the game and kept hitting smashes…
The sketch had a serious message: How different would life be if we were not always focused on the goal, the outcome? What if we would first and foremost enjoy the experience?
Diana Richardson’s ‘making love a meditation’ is a similar attempt to re-focus our sex life. It’s not about doing, she says. Not about your orgasms. Not about excitement. It’s about enjoying and connecting. It’s rediscovery of what sex can be—when it is viewed as a path to the divine. The promise: If we make love like that, we create more harmony and less violence in society. We would make love, not war.
We need different different frame of sex. Next to the reproductive aspect of sex, there is a generative aspect. The first creates new life; the other creates more life and that supports your health, your creativity, your intelligence, your clarity. And that’s what Richardson, born and educated in South Africa, has been teaching since 1993 together with her partner. They host weeklong retreats for couples to learn to make love. And that’s an art few of us have mastered. In the words of a recent participant of one of Richardson’s retreats: “I realize that my lust for sex has evolved into a lust for life. Sometimes so much joy is bubbling up in both of us that we feel like exploding. […] I can hardly believe my life has changed so much in such a short time and in such a soft and harmonious manner.”
The sexual liberation of the 1960s was a promising beginning, freeing energy that—at least in the West—in past centuries had been locked up by the taboos of religion. Today, sex is everywhere. But in that presence, there’s more lust than relationship. “We are very much like hamsters going around in wheels of excitement”, says Richardson. Boys are exposed to internet pornography at an early age. That leads to a tremendous amount of stimulation of the body. As a result, erectile dysfunction and pre-mature ejaculation for men in their twenties is not exceptional anymore. Moreover, the boys think that internet porn represents reality. Richardson: “When they meet a girl they only want what they saw online. They are not ready and able to meet another human being, a woman with a body who has a different kind of energy.”
Confusion in sexual relationships is at the core of stress in marriages and relationships, and it spreads into society. “People don’t understand sex. All they know is the ‘boom boom’ orgasm and then it’s suddenly over. People feel insecure and insufficient. There’s a lot of self-doubt and a deep lack of satisfaction. As a result, we have more violence, more aggression, more emotion, more separation, more unhappiness, more wounded families. Society is being disturbed because we don’t know what sex is”, says Richardson.
The problem is that we have sex in a “vertical” way. We are building up energy along a straight line discharging it at a peak—only to long again for the next discharge: Sex is used as a form of stress release. And it needs to be ‘hot’ to be good. Richardson teaches that we should practice sex in a “circular” way, bringing the sexual energy in a full circle of giving and receiving between woman and man. Sex can be slow and soft and deeply connecting even when it doesn’t always lead to climaxes. “That’s the key. When you get there, there’s only peace and love. The Beatles were right…”.
Sex is the basic intelligence of life. It’s the force that drives the only objective of nature: reproduction. And, yet, humans don’t have seasons. We can do it anytime. And so, Richardson argues, there must be more to human sex. There must be another dimension beyond reproduction.
That search inevitable leads to Tantra, one of those eastern concepts that were brought to the West in a diluted, much-simplified understanding. Most associate Tantra with a free love cult and Indian gurus. However, Tantra is a 5,000-year old spiritual science. It teaches that humans live in a world of opposites where worldly pleasures are at odds with spiritual aspirations. Many fail in their attempts to reconcile these two impulses and fall prey to either guilt and self-condemnation or they become hypocritical. The word “Tantra” is from the ancient language of India, Sanskrit, and means “to weave, to expand, to spread”. According to the tradition, there can only be peace when all “threads” of life are woven together in accordance with the laws of nature. Tantra teaches to overcome the battle of the opposites through integration and union in a higher dimension. That’s the path of liberation.
The opposites live in each of us. As modern science now knows—from a chromosome perspective—each woman is half man, and each man half woman. Balancing these inner opposites is the way to realizing our full potential. And the mystery is that that individual inner journey to transformation can be found in the sexual union with another human being. In other words: You can find yourself in meeting your partner.
So, according to Diana Richardson, sex is not about “doing” but about “being”. It’s not about “exploding” in orgasm, but about “imploding” in deeper awareness. And, she says, you are the starting point, not your beloved. “The basic problem is that we want something out of sex. You need to move away from this pressure to prove and perform and relax, get anchored into your own body and then, from there, things start to happen. It’s like you plant seeds, you put all the elements in place, and then you wait to see what happens. There’s a natural alchemy where love is generated.”
We live in a materialistic world where things are so often more important than experiences. Yet, when it comes to ourselves we focus on our thoughts and emotions, we let our minds play and disturb our experiences. A more ‘materialistic’ approach focused on the body would help us find stability and peace. And the good news that sex—as a meditation of pleasure—can support that experience. Richardson, who calls herself a ‘practitioner of holistic body therapies’: “The body is the only thing that exists in the present moment. Meditation means to be present. So you use your body to anchor yourself and quiet your mind. Then you experience your life from inside out instead of from outside in. We are not teaching a new sex technique; we are teaching a shift in consciousness. When you become aware of your body, you reach out in a different way—not just to your partner but to the world.”
Diana Richardson is the author of three books: Tantric Orgasm for Women, The Heart of Tantric Sex, Slow Sex. She co-authored Tantric Sex for Men with her partner Michael Richardson. In the books she writes how she found the path to sex as a meditation of love through her own life experiences. As a young woman she spent time in India with the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh who later re-named himself Osho. Osho brought ancient Tantra scriptures into the modern world in his book From Sex to Superconsciousness (today sold as Sex Matters). The book made him the “sex guru”—much to his dislike. “Hundreds of my books have been published but nobody seems to read any other. They all read from Sex to Superconsciousness. No other book is mentioned. As if I have written only one book”, he wrote.
Disciples who have spent time with him, like Richardson, also tell a bigger story about the inspiration they found with Osho. His point was that sexual repression is one of the biggest obstacles to a happy life, a notion that others—Sigmund Freud—have expressed as well.
Richardson’s other source of inspiration is the Australian teacher Barry Long. Long was a successful journalist who experienced a spiritual awakening when he was 31. He wrote the book Making Love in which he addresses the fundamental issues of lack of love and sexual unhappiness in society.
Richardson: “Osho presented the big picture about the role sexual energy plays in our lives. But after reading and hearing Osho, you wonder: ‘How does that practically work with a penis and a vagina? That’s where the teachings of Barry Long come in.” That practical ‘how to’ approach also speaks clearly from Richardson’s own books. She writes in an easy way about her own sexual journey and about the experiences of the participants in her workshops giving advice that moves from basic meditation to how to find the most pleasurable spots in body and back. “When I published my first book, I wondered whether a book could convey the same message that I teach during a weeklong retreat. From the response I have received, I say, that’s quite possible.”
Love making—as opposed to having sex—requires a blending of the feminine and masculine energies. The female system works differently. As quickly as man gets ready for action, woman is slow. “That’s the imbalance that has to be overcome”, says Richardson. Many women are afraid to lose their love, their men and so go along with their men’s quick needs—at the expense of their own fulfillment. Therefor, the journey of love has to start with woman.
Richardson teaches: “The big shift is to understand how different woman is and that her vagina is a receptive place but that she really gets awakened through her breasts—not through her clitoris. It’s not through simple stimulation, it’s more through awareness, through loving, through presence. And then, magnetically, there appears an opening where the penis can meet the vagina. There’s a dance of energy between the polarities of the woman’s breasts and the man’s penis. That’s the circle of love making. In that circle, once the channels are open, energy can move and things can happen. There will be alternating passive states and active stages and it happens by itself.”
She pauses as if she’s bringing back an experience: “You can’t learn femininity, it’s who you are. It’s not something to do, the more you sync into your body, that power essentially comes to life.”
“It’s a feminine journey for both women and men. Women have lost their femininity; men have lost their femininity. Masculine energy flows outwards, feminine energy inwards. We are all just focused on the outflow, there is no back flow. That’s the problem of our world. We are on a one-dimensional, linear outward journey. If we rediscover the feminine, it will change the world. We wouldn’t cut forests and stop fracking for oil.”
Sexual pleasure and the origins of violence
In April 1975, James W. Prescott, at that time a neuropsychologist at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Maryland, published an article in The Futurist in which he argued that greatest threat to world peace comes from societies where people do not enjoy fulfilling sexual relationships. Below are excerpts.
As a neuropsychologist I have devoted a great deal of study to the peculiar relationship between violence and pleasure. I am now convinced that the deprivation of physical sensory pleasure is the principal root cause of violence. Laboratory experiments with animals show that pleasure and violence have a reciprocal relationship, that is, the presence of one inhibits the other. A raging, violent animal will abruptly calm down when electrodes stimulate the pleasure centers of its brain. Likewise, stimulating the violence centers in the brain can terminate the animal’s sensual pleasure and peaceful behavior. When the brain’s pleasure circuits are ‘on,’ the violence circuits are ‘off,’ and vice versa. Among human beings, a pleasure–prone personality rarely displays violence or aggressive behaviors, and a violent personality has little ability to tolerate, experience, or enjoy sensuously pleasing activities. As either violence or pleasure goes up, the other goes down.
The reciprocal relationship of pleasure and violence is highly significant because certain sensory experiences during the formative periods of development will create a neuropsychological predisposition for either violence–seeking or pleasure–seeking behaviors later in life. I am convinced that various abnormal social and emotional behaviors resulting from a lack of tender, loving care, are caused by a unique type of sensory deprivation.
These insights were derived chiefly from the controlled laboratory studies of Harry F. and Margaret K. Harlow at the University of Wisconsin. The Harlows and their students separated infant monkeys from their mothers at birth. The monkeys were raised in single cages in an animal colony room, where they could develop social relationships with the other animals through seeing, hearing, and smelling, but not through touching or movement. These and other studies indicate that it is the deprivation of body contact and body movement—not deprivation of the other senses—that produces the wide variety of abnormal emotional behaviors in these isolation–reared animals. It is well known that human infants and children who are hospitalized or institutionalized for extended periods with little physical touching and holding develop almost identical abnormal behaviors, such as rocking and head banging.
Brandt F. Steele and C. B. Pollock, psychiatrists at the University of Colorado, studied child abuse in three generations of families who physically abused their children. They found that parents who abused their children were invariably deprived of physical affection themselves during childhood and that their adult sex life was extremely poor. Steele noted that almost without exception the women who abused their children had never experienced orgasm. The degree of sexual pleasure experienced by the men who abused their children was not ascertained, but their sex life, in general, was unsatisfactory. The hypothesis that physical pleasure actively inhibits physical violence can be appreciated from our own sexual experiences. How many of us feel like assaulting someone after we have just experienced orgasm?
If we accept the theory that the lack of sufficient body pleasure is a principal cause of violence, we can work toward promoting pleasure and encouraging affectionate interpersonal relationships as a means of combatting aggression. We should give high priority to body pleasure in the context of meaningful human relationships. Affectionately shared physical pleasure tends to stabilize relationships. And, to develop a peaceful society, we must put more emphasis on human relationships.
Above all, male sexuality must recognize the equality of female sexuality. The great barrier between man and woman is man’s fear of the depth and intensity of female sensuality. Because power and aggression are neutralized through sensual pleasure, man’s primary defense against a loss of dominance has been the historic denial, repression, and control of the sensual pleasure of women. The use of sex to provide mere release from physiological tension (apparent pleasure) should not be confused with a state of sensual pleasure which is incompatible with dominance, power, aggression, violence, and pain. It is through the mutual sharing of sensual pleasure that sexual equality between women and men will be realized.
Clearly, if we consider violent and aggressive behaviors undesirable then we must provide an enriched somatosensory environment so that the brain can develop and function in a way that results in pleasurable and peaceful behaviors. The solution to physical violence is physical pleasure experienced within the context of meaningful human relationships. For many people, a fundamental moral principle is the rejection of creeds, policies, and behaviors that inflict pain, suffering and deprivation upon our fellow humans. This principle needs to be extended: We should seek not just an absence of pain and suffering, but also the enhancement of pleasure, the promotion of affectionate human relationships, and the enrichment of human experience. If we strive to increase the pleasure in our lives this will also affect the ways we express aggression and hostility. The reciprocal relationship between pleasure and violence is such that one inhibits the other; when physical pleasure is high, physical violence is low. When violence is high, pleasure is low. This basic premise of the somatosensory pleasure deprivation theory provides us with the tools necessary to fashion a world of peaceful, affectionate, cooperative individuals. | James W. Prescott