The following is an excerpt from my publication, The Intimate Aspie – The Tantra Issue (no.1), which I publish “on demand” at MagCloud (http://www.magcloud.com/browse/Issue/95097).
The various schools of Western Tantra offer practices for spiritual growth and protocols for intimate interactions that may provide a format for relationships where one partner is diagnosed with or presents Asperger’s Syndrome.
Like any other “subculture,” the Tantra community has its own social conventions, ways of behaving, jargon, and even clothing. For example, men are referred to as “Shivas” or “gods” and women as “Shaktis” and “goddesses.” This can be either unnerving or silly if you’re not used to it, but the purpose of this language is to remind participants that the energies invoked during Tantric practices are subtle energies which link us to something greater than ourselves, and that these energies can be tapped with often profound and transformative results. Spiritual/sexual technologies like Tantra provide tangible experiences of these “energies,” individually and within a dyad or group.
I propose an adaptation of Western-style Tantra to serve as a relationship technology or relationship template which can be used by people with a diagnosis or traits of Aspergerʼs Syndrome (AS) or other autism spectrum conditions. Tantra can be incorporated into an AS-friendly curriculum for intimacy and sexual education. It can be used to create satisfactory – yet manageable – opportunities for spiritual and emotional communion between intimate partners, whether Aspie or neurotypical or both.
There are many schools of Tantra in this country. Some claim to be more authentic, with regard to Buddhist and/ or Hindu traditions, than others. Some will have more emphasis on sexuality than others. You may hear the term “neo- Tantra” or “Red Tantra” which refers mostly to the “relationship/sexuality” oriented variety currently in vogue in this country (also called Western Tantra). If you are seriously interested in the authentic traditions of Eastern Tantra, there are many books and resources available to you. Passionate Enlightenment by Miranda Shaw (Princeton University Press) is a great place to start. This is a scholarly and accessible introduction to Tibetan Buddhist Tantra.
There are many Tantra classes available, some at a fairly high cost. Well known schools of Tantra include Ipsalu Tantra (Tantrika International) founded by Bodhi Avinasha and Sunyata Saraswati; the Skydancing School of Tantra founded by Margot Anand; and the Sedona Temple founded by Baba Dez. There are many qualiﬁed teachers in certain areas of the United States and countless books have been written for Western readers. However, there are also teachers who are not well-qualiﬁed or who have exploited their students. Some sex workers also claim to offer “Tantric Massage.” If all you want is a sexy massage, thatʼs ﬁne. Just donʼt let someone tell you that you are now “learning Tantra.” Before you pay money for anything “Tantric,” be sure you know (1) what it is you want and (2) what it is you are buying.
If you decide to take a Tantra class, or work privately with a teacher, you are going to have to make sense of the culture and social conventions as well as learn the material presented in class. You can get a sense of the main teachers by visiting Tantra websites, looking at DVDs and streaming videos, and reading their books. Remember that in this country, great emphasis is put on “opening” and “expanding” in Tantra classes. You may have to balance this with your own conﬂicting desires to retreat or shut down under sensory overload.
Keep a notebook of your observations and impressions. Develop a few social strategies in advance. Try to imagine what you would feel like and how you would respond if the teacher or a classmate called YOU “Shakti” or asked you to nibble a strawberry from a stranger’s elbow. You may not understand the reasons for these types of things but they can happen in a Tantra workshop. It is best to be prepared. Think about your current comfort levels with sexual discussion, playful (non-sexual) touching, sensory stimulation, etc. and be prepared to stretch a little beyond that. But don’t violate your necessary limits. Give some thought to these matters beforehand, and if you have questions about things that might happen in class, ask your teacher in advance to describe workshop activities.