April 6, 2005

by Julia Sonders, on Juice Box on CITR 101.9 fm Vancouver

J.- Maryse is a teacher of Tantra and Sacred Sexuality, Maryse…How would you define Tantra?

M.- Tantra teaches the reconciliation of body and mind, of sexuality and spirituality and of all aspects of oneself. Contrary to the reputation it knows in the West, Tantra is not about sexual techniques aiming at miraculously liberating its practitioners. Essentially, and to borrow Georges Feunstein’s quote from his book Sacred Sexuality: it is: “nirvana through samsara. That is attaining liberation through living life fully with awareness rather than attaining liberation through renunciation.”

Tantra is a very ancient teaching which goes back 7000 years in goddess worshipping traditions where one can find Shaivite Tantra in Kashmire, India. It resurfaced later as a branch of Tantric Buddhism and then again around the X1 century as a departure from more traditional Hinduism. To help us better understand, Miranda Shaw summarizes in her book Passionate Enlightenment: “Monastic Buddhism … (practitioners) display a tendency to devalue other aspects of life, overemphasizing the role of intellect in gaining enlightenment and losing sight of the capacity and potentials inherent in the body, the senses and the emotions. Tantra emerged as a corrective to this imbalance and as a witness to the fact that the mind alone does not provide sole access to knowledge. Passion and pleasure also represent primary sources of knowledge and power”.

J- And what about Sacred Sexuality?

M- Sacred Sexuality is a deep integration of sexuality which emphasizes the spiritual dimension of pleasure; particularly of ecstatic pleasure or sexual ecstasy, as an experience of wholeness with our selves, with one another and with god/goddess, the universe, all that is.

Sacred Sexuality is the natural integration of sexuality and spirituality. Unfortunately this natural integration has been fragmented by the processes of acculturation and socialization. Most of us grew up hearing negative messages in relation to our body and our sexuality. For all of us this rupture has created not only a sexual, but also a psychic wounding.

J- How does one become a teacher of Sacred Sexuality?

M– I don’t know that there is any particular procedure to follow. It is a combination of will and destiny. Having had a Tantric teacher early on was certainly a blessing! It is such an unusual pursuit; I think you have to have a calling. It is a journey of deep transformation which implies death and rebirth, time and time again. Tantra is certainly not for those whose pursuits in life are essentially defined by security and pleasure.

When I was doing my training while at the ashram in India, I followed guidance and I kept getting confirmation that this is what I was to be doing. It is like a mission… I hesitate to use the word mission because of its strong association with religions and conversion. You need to trust when you are on a mission…or else you are a believer. I choose to trust. Belief has more to do with religions, believing in God, believing in a doctrine. Tantra is not a religion and it is free of dogmas. Dogmas keep you in the world of duality, the world of morality based on right and wrong.

Tantra is about non-duality. It embraces the opposites. It teaches the union of the opposites, light and darkness, body and mind, the masculine and the feminine, sexuality and spirituality.

J- What is your work really about?

M- My work is about reclaiming that which is our natural birthright; a natural, healthy and joyful sexuality, our birthright to pleasure, love and spirituality.

J- Can you say more about that?

M– The view that sex has a spiritual dimension is so foreign to everything we have been taught that it takes most people aback. To some women the notion that their body is a temple is sacrilegious. The split between sexuality and spirituality is ingrained in our Western cultures. I see that the most important factor to contribute to that split historically is the strong anti-sexual pleasure stand that was taken by the medieval Church, and the suppression of all remnants of earlier spiritual traditions that associated sexuality with the sacred and the divine.

This split is still showing today in how sexuality rather than being associated with the sacred is often associated with violence, fear, illness and the obscene. FBI Statistics show that a woman is raped in the USA every 6 minutes. I heard that in Canada it is every 7 minutes! Date Rapes are rampant on Campus, gang rapes and drug- related rapes have been escalating.

The split between body and mind, love and sex, sexuality and spirituality is manifesting itself in all kinds of health problems including PMS and painful periods, hormonal imbalances, breast and prostate cancers. Bulimia and anorexia are also a direct product of our mass marketing of low self esteem and denial.

We can’t expect the changes to happen socially unless we take care of ourselves individually by assuming responsibility for reclaiming our own sexuality, love, pleasure and the sacred.

The split that I am talking about is evident in the difficulty we have in opening to love in our intimate life; opening to our full orgasmic potential. Many of us have had to create a strong armor of protection in our bodies so we could no longer feel the pain we were experiencing as children. Unfortunately, those layers of protection not only serve to protect us from painful feelings but also shield us from love and deep sexual feelings.

My work is to facilitate those individuals who make the choice to take responsibility for their own sexual fulfillment.

J- How do you work with Tantra and Sacred Sexuality with individuals and with couples?

M– I work mainly with four different aspects: Tantric instructions, Communication Practices to establish, sustain and deepen intimacy, Rituals and Healing.

Through basic Tantric breath practices for instance I teach people how to open to their full orgasmic potential. You see…orgasm is one of the most profound human experiences. It can serve as a powerful agent of reconciliation between the body and the spirit. The problem with our modern culture is that “we don’t have time to stop”. We have become obsessed with work and filled with stress. Sex, like fast food is ingested quickly and mechanically and, like fast food is also devoid of high quality nutrients.

The experience of ecstasy requires a letting go, a surrendering, but for most of us this natural inclination of letting go into pleasure has been suppressed from early childhood. Very early we learn to hold back our emotions, suppressing our sexual instincts. As more painful experiences accumulate armoring is created around our bodies in an attempt to protect ourselves from being hurt.

J- Can you say more about the ancient goddess worship cultures and how it relates to Sacred Sex?

M– The evidence of the link between sexuality and spirituality is amply evidenced in archeological finds. As Riane Eisler points out in her amazing book: Sacred Pleasure , “A recurring theme in a rich and abundant art is the sacredness of women’s body- the sacredness of women’s vagina, breasts and womb. Those ample body figurines of goddesses are generally understood to be ancient images of the powers that give and nurture life, as symbolized by women’s vulva, womb and breasts.”

Our ancient ancestors were in awe of the woman’s body and of her sexual power. They imaged woman’s body as a magical vessel.

‘We are told that through maithuna , the highest sexual rite in Tantra a man achieves union with the life-giving or primal power of the great mother. For it is through a woman’s body-through her sexual pleasure-that the erotic energy of the goddess is evoked.

Cultures going as far back in time as 20 000 years celebrated sex as the mysterious and magical source of life and pleasure. Sacred Sexuality is all about Reclaiming Love, Sexuality, Pleasure and the Sacred; all aspects of our selves which have been stifled though the loss of the archetype of the Great goddess.

Nancy Qualls- Corbett a Jungian analyst and author of The Sacred Prostitute, Eternal Aspect of the Feminine writes: “I began to see, that pervasive emptiness people complained of could be explained in terms of the loss of the goddess- the one who renews life, brings love, passion, fertility- and the sensuous priestess- the human woman who brought the attributes of the goddess into the lives of human beings. The connection to an important layer of instinctual life- joy, beauty, a creative energy that unites sexuality and spirituality- had been lost.”

The last great goddess culture disappeared about 2500 to 3000 years ago. The rest is his story.

J- What do you think the consequences of losing the great mother archetype are for a society and how does it affect our sexuality collectively and individually?

M- Personally I think that the consequences are tragic. We have lost our connection with the great mother, the nurturer, the life giver. It is no wonder that we find such a high incidence of suicides in those between 18 and 23 in our modern societies; Canada, Quebec most particularly, having one of the highest rates in the whole world. It breaks my heart!

Our culture has become a cult, the cult of performance. It’s all about performance. Ask teenagers and they will say that between feeling good and looking good, they would rather look good. It makes for very shallow relating, fake orgasms and sexual exploitation.

Women’s magazines! That’s a whole other subject about which I could go on and on as to how it imposes its ‘shoulds’…should look this way, should wear this, and should strive to be someone other than who they really are, so as to be acceptable and accepted!

There is nothing wrong with wanting to look good, it’s healthy, we just need to look at the brain washing and indoctrination that too often comes with it…

At a very young age, women are pressured by the media to match established standards of beauty which make them feel insecure about themselves. Their own unique beauty is denied.

  • According to statistics, the average woman sees 400 to 600 advertising per day and by the time she is 17 she has received 250 000 commercials messages through the media.
  • After viewing images of fashions models, 7 out of 10 women felt more depressed and angry than prior to viewing the images.
  • In 1970 the average age of a girl who started dieting was 14 by 1990 the average dieting age felt to 8.
  • Young girls are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer or losing their parents.

J- What is your vision?

M- My intention is to co-create sanctuaries designed to honour the spirit of the divine feminine through our bodies, our hearts, our minds and our spirits; thereby educating people of all ages in the wisdom of our ancient ancestors who could celebrate love, sexual pleasure, life and the sacred as one and the same.