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Interview with Laurie Handlers

by Edie Weinstein-Moser

Laurie Handlers is a Tantra Teacher, author, talk show host, intimacy coach and Spiritual Leader. She holds a Masters degree in Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology. Her career includes over thirty years as a corporate change consultant, individual empowerment coach and international seminar leader. She is a dynamic speaker, facilitator and has taught Butterfly Tantra workshops for women, men, couples and singles since 1999 on ancient Indian, Tibetan and Egyptian Tantric techniques and secrets that are the basis of healing the body, releasing past emotional trauma, stopping the aging process, and reducing stress. Pod casts from her internet radio show Tantra Café can be accessed through www.tantracafe. com. Laurie is a global citizen and currently divides her time between the US, India and the UK.

I have known of Laurie’s work for awhile and her reputation for being a powerful woman, with a sense of who she is that speaks of an inner knowing. Her easy laughter throughout the interview punctuated the joy she experiences and wishes to share.

Her Vision: "Women and Men Dancing in Eternal Ecstasy on Earth Now!" Is there anything that could be better than that? Her new book, entitled: "Sex & Happiness: The Tantric Laws of Intimacy" speaks of the desire to have a more satisfying personal life, both in and out of the bedroom.

Wisdom: For those who are not familiar, can you please define tantra?

Laurie: When people think of yoga, they mostly think of hatha yoga. Even if they’re thinking of a different kind of yoga, like Iyengar or Ashtanga or Vinyasa or Vispassana...all of those are part of hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is meant to put your body into postures and surrender with the breath into the posture. The purpose of hatha yoga is to give you strength, flexibility and control. It’s really control over your ego. It’s to give you that stamina that it takes to sit for a long time in a clear space. It is said that all yogas came from tantra yoga. It is the mother of yoga. It is about the feminine aspect, which is allowing ourselves to go into chaos and the unknown and surrendering to the flow. Just as there is a yoga center on every corner, like there is a Starbucks and everyone is going on to yoga mats and they’re putting their bodies into pretzels, it’s important that they go into an aspect of chaos as well. It’s a mistake to think we can control anything. Tantra allows us to relax and surrender into the flow of whatever the chaos is. They just go together.

Wisdom: If people have heard of the term ‘tantra’, they may think about how it was sensationalized a few years back when someone did an interview with Sting and he was talking about marathon sexual encounters with his wife. How do you respond to that?

Laurie: I go, "Yeah, that’s it...that’s about 1/1000 of it." Everything is sensationalized to sex in the Western world. All our advertising, everything that we buy and sell, is sensationalized to sex. Nobody is getting any sex and they are doing everything FOR sex. They’re getting their breasts enlarged and pumping up and getting penis extension and buying red cars. People think, if you study tantra, you’re going to have really erotic and esoteric sex. And you know what, maybe we are, but there is so much more than that. In my classes, I don’t stress that. I really stress personal transformation.

Wisdom: How would you define intimacy?

Laurie: I believe that intimacy is my ability to be with myself in the silence and then to be with another in the silence or the noise of whatever the creation of our union presents. The ability to be fully present and to embrace it all. Intimacy with someone else requires, first and foremost, coming to peace with your own emotional and physical life. This is not a small task, but it is a crucial one. It takes time and courage and forgiveness, coming from you to you. If you want a love affair that is sexually electric and truly intimate, you have to begin by unblocking and unleashing the sex force that is already inside you and learning to feel safe expressing it, in whatever way feels right to you. In order to do that, fear and rage and grief – feelings that you’ve learned to resist – have to be acknowledged and cleared out on a regular basis, and that alone can be one heck of a ride. What I’m trying to say is that this whole process is going to take time. It’s going to take some time, a lot of tolerance, and a lot of deep breathing. Fasten your seatbelt and settle in for the ride.

Wisdom: What is the journey that led you to tantra, both as a personal practice and a professional calling?

Laurie: I was in corporate America and I was doing really well and my body was breaking down. I probably practiced tantra long before this, but I didn’t know what I was doing. In the 60’s and 70’s, I was doing lots of personal experimentation and a lot of it bordered on tantra and going into altered states and experiencing sensation and finding out what that meant about me. It was about my ability to be with myself, rather than looking outside for somebody to make me happy. That all went away when I became successful in the corporate world. It thought I had to wear suits and close toed shoes and I followed the straight and narrow. I had a very high pressure job in sales and marketing and I had to bring in the bacon. I was great at it, but the pressure to do it and do it and do it, over time caused lower GI problems; like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I was bleeding. I knew something was wrong. I had never had health problems and haven’t since, so it had to be the stress. When I was playing tennis on one of my days off, I tore my meniscus in my left knee. It was like my leg kicking me in the head and going "Duh, get out of there. You’re going to die here." Also, my mother had died and that started me thinking how much I valued my life. A friend of mine, said "You should try this tantra course." and I said, "You think?" I had the experience of recognizing myself as who I really am; a primordial being. I saw my life’s purpose. I remembered who I was outside of a suit in a corporate setting. It was a wonderful revelation, an epiphany that I had.

Wisdom: How do we bridge the cultural gap between men and women, since we seem to speak such different languages?

Laurie: When I was in a lovemaking situation with my partner seven years ago, I got a glimpse into what I call ‘the cosmic joke’, which is that we’re all the same, just stuck. We’re all made of the same stuff and the joke on us is that we get stuck in different physicalities and that then tempers the whole life experience. In this life, I do what women do or change what women do, but I’m no different in my spiritual makeup than men. They have a penis and I have a vagina and we’re stuck with that. How to bridge it is to actually know that each of us is responsible for making our own happiness. If I expect him to make me happy and hold him responsible for my life, I’m crazy. The hardest thing for me is to know what I want and be able to say it and not be ashamed that I want something. As a woman, I’m ‘supposed to’ be the caretaker of everyone else. I want my own power, my own self-definition, my own inner focus of what’s right for me. It’s taken me a lot of years to come to that. My mother said to me when I would go bowling with a boy, not to win, not to get as many strikes as he got.

Wisdom: So, in other words; play small.

Laurie: I was like, "Are you crazy? I’m winning." I had in it me, that I should be embarrassed if I wanted to win, that I was so competitive.

Wisdom: Many tantra classes that I am aware of are geared toward a heterosexual audience. How can it be translated for same sex couples?

Laurie: Easily. I have many same sex couples and individuals who are homosexual or bi-sexual in my courses. My courses aren’t just for couples. Everyone has feminine and masculine polarity inside them and even among people in same sex relationships, there is one partner who has more male polarity and one who has more female polarity and just appreciate that and translate what any tantra teacher is saying. "I’m the more Shakti one; the more female polarity." and the other saying "I’m the more Shiva one; the more male polarity." I don’t think it makes a bit of difference at all. The people who come to my courses don’t have any problem translating it. There’s a huge fallacy that you need to have a partner to practice tantra. You can practice tantra with yourself forever. There are some things in a sexual realm that you may not be able to do, but you can certainly get into sacred union and feel completely filled up.

Wisdom: Why do you think sex is such a powerful force in our lives?

Laurie: Because it is THE force in our lives. It’s what gets us here. It’s creation. Osho said "When you see birds singing or butterflies fluttering or you see bees hovering around a flower, or flowers blooming, that’s all sex." It’s how babies get here, how the species gets to the next generation. The only other force on the planet is death. We’re born out of sex and then we die. It’s all creation, poetry, writing, architecture, media. I used to think that Freud was crazy when I studied Freud in college. I was a budding feminist then and I thought "No, he can’t be right!" I got into tantra and then discovered another cosmic joke. That’s all there is, just sexual energy and our fascination with sex on the way to dying. Some forces in the world create death and others create art and buildings and literature.

Wisdom: Tantra is often linked to the term ‘sacred sexuality’. How do we move from our culture’s focus on sex as merely a physical act, to being an all-encompassing spiritual act as well?

Laurie: I think that the original tantrics knew it was an act of creation and what was going to continue the species. They were in touch with their bodies, with the cycles of life and the seasons. Now, in an effort to control that, society has made it into this mundane thing. People who want to sell us things, lead us with a ring through the nose. It’s the same with sex. I named my book "Sex and Happiness", because I knew it would sell.

Wisdom: In your book, you speak of the concept of "making love in the unknown". What does that mean to you?

Laurie: That’s the real basis of tantra. There are a lot of tantra teachers who teach sexual techniques. It’s been exaggerated in the minds of Westerners that it’s about sex so they think they are going to get these esoteric, erotic techniques. I’m going to teach you how to breathe and bring that sexual energy up your whole body and charge yourself with your incredible vital life force. Once you learn how to do it, do it ahead of time on your own, or do it together as a ritual. When you are making love, surrender to the process and be in the unknown. Let go of all your techniques and the ways you have to have it. Let go of your porno, your addictions and the believe that he or she has to do it to me this way, or I’m not going to get off. Just let it all go and do what inner guidance tells you to do. Move when you are moved to move and not before. Move with whomever you are with. It’s not a mind thing, it’s totally an inner guidance thing.

There is a practice I do called Latihan (pronounced: lot-e-han). It is a process of following inner guidance and moving in the unknown. People get better and better at it and stop being afraid...because people get afraid and say "moving in the unknown, what does this mean?" It’s the chaos I was talking about, the feminine aspect. They say "I don’t know how to do that. I know this dance step, I know this posture. Sexually this feels good." So what? Enter that space and just breathe.

Wisdom: What prompted you to write your book?

Laurie: I’ve read at least 100 books on tantra and they are all about some ancient stuff mixed with some sexual technique; such as extended orgasm and riding the wave of bliss. I don’t think that gives people any greater sense of self or intimacy and that’s why I wrote the book. I really think that tantra is there to contribute to modern people, how to be really comfortable and appreciative and expansive as individuals and bring the power of that to relating. We can make choices moment by moment about all that. To be happy, to be fully empowered, whether male or female and whether we need to break with any traditions. I don’t care about sexual techniques. If you are lucky enough to find a partner, then great for you and if you don’t, you can still be fully alive, fully awake. Tantra, in my experience, is the fastest way to arrive there, whole, embracing it all.

Wisdom: What are the benefits of practicing tantra?

Laurie: This was taken from a random sample of 500 Tantra students who have participated in Butterfly Workshops’ programs.

1. Feel great about yourself - more attractive, self-confident; increase your capacity for more pleasure, experience joy and fulfillment as a way of life.

2. Empower your well-being - eliminate toxins, eliminate stress - accept yourself for who you are & release deep painful cellular memories; feel safe and whole.

3. Focus - set your intentions, do the practices and watch the laws of attraction bring what you want: i.e. life partner, more money, career change

4. Uplift your relationships - see others for who they really are, relate to their deep divine nature and trust your intuition
Experience the expression of your deepest emotions. Know rapture, love, passion and beyond! Become your own beloved!

Laurie Handlers can be reached via: Butterfly Workshops, Inc. (202) 686-7440

Edie Weinstein-Moser is a journalist, workshop facilitator, interfaith minister, massage practitioner, reiki master, as well as practitioner and teacher of tantric insights. She can be reached via her website www.liveinjoy.com or bydivinedesign@ comcast.net







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