Transformation Beyond the Edges

One Man’s Journey with Tantra

It’s Friday morning, the 3rd of February 2017. I’m sitting in a Melbourne café, reflecting on the last year and everything that has unfolded within me since Tantra arrived in my life. There’s so much to reflect on. 2016 was the most profound year of my life. It was a year of new beginnings; of learning how to live from the inside.

I came to Tantra in early 2016. My friends in the United States referred me to Martina Hughes of Tantric Blossoming. While I had heard of Tantra before, I didn’t know what it would mean for me. I just trusted my friends’ recommendation – and I was extremely curious.

When I spoke with Martina she struck me as incredibly human. She wasn’t pretending. I sensed that she was very comfortable in her own skin. Martina’s humanness was a refreshing change from the “Godlike” facade I detected in other spiritual and personal growth leaders. Martina suggested I attend the 5-day Intensive Retreat that she was facilitating in Victoria in late January.

My initial response was one of fear. I was deeply afraid of the unknown. I would have to travel from Brisbane for the retreat, I didn’t know any of the participants, and I had no knowledge of Tantra. I also felt seriously challenged because I knew the other men and women attending this retreat had already done significant personal growth work. I was, in Martina’s words, a “wild card” (someone who had not journeyed in these spaces before). Despite the fear I felt, I couldn’t ignore my longing to dive deep.

I can’t point to an exact moment on the retreat that changed or “transformed” me. It is actually difficult to write, with clarity, what happened for me during the retreat. This retreat reconnected me with my body. I could feel, finally, all the pain that I had been repressing. I also experienced a deep compassion for my body, as if it were my own long, lost child.

I hadn’t known what to do with the pain as a child. I had felt unsafe to express pain because I had grown up in a world that was grinning and bearing it. I had been taught to hold the pain inside, and that strong feelings were not ok. I became aware that I had internalised the actions of those who had raised me, and that I had simply been doing what they did. As a young boy, I cried out to be held in my strong feelings, but no-one knew how to meet me. As a result, I never learned how to hold and care for myself, and so began the pattern of sacrificing my needs for other’s needs.

I see now that allowing feelings to flow through me was the first step for me in reclaiming my power. Because I was supported and held in my feelings during the retreat, my body was imprinted with a new level of permission. No feeling or emotion was “right” or “wrong” anymore and, as a result, everything came rushing to the surface. This came with a lot of confusion. I was flooded with feeling, lost at sea, and I didn’t know what to do. I was experiencing an “awakening” but I was too overwhelmed and confused to recognise it.

I travelled to the United States for work in April 2016. I was working on a lawsuit with a friend in the US Federal Court at the time. The law in the United States was new to me and there was a significant amount of learning and challenge involved. At the same time, I lacked the clarity to see the relationship dynamic playing out between my friend, our client and myself. I was playing out patterns adopted in childhood. Meeting everyone else’s needs, at the expense of my own.

Even though I had my doubts, I held onto the idea of a grand result for the lawsuit. I was susceptible to the influence of other people, too. Because of my susceptibility and the playing out of my own patterns, I unknowingly gave away my power.

Fortunately, a gap opened for me from late September to late October 2016, and I used that time to return to Australia to attend two further Tantric Blossoming retreats – another 5 day Intensive Retreat, in Byron Bay, and a Men’s Retreat, in Victoria.

I was relieved to leave the lawsuit behind for a month and get some much needed perspective. Despite my efforts, we were – time and time again – unsuccessful in the lawsuit. And, interestingly, on the first night of the retreat in Byron Bay, I had a dream that I was pushing a mattress up an enclosed waterslide, which caused me to suffocate to death.

The dream hit me hard. It was as if my subconscious had clued onto what has happening in my waking world, and it was attempting to send me messages. My interpretation of this dream – that I was pushing against the flow in my life – resonated with many people. I found this dream comforting in a sense, because it supported me in cutting through so much of my own mind-chatter.

Around this time, too, I became overwhelmed with a deep sense of fear. During one of the practices on the Byron Bay retreat, I became aware of how scared I was of losing control of my body. I was afraid of allowing my body to go after what I wanted – to take the driver’s seat. But I didn’t see this right away. I had to embrace the fear first.

Fear is a strange beast. Fear will only dissolve when it is completely faced. Group circle is a way to experience a deep internal process within a contained, safe environment, providing a safe space for facing fears. We often struggle with clarity when it comes to emotional processing. Others see in us what we cannot see in ourselves. And others know what we need, even when we are unable to see ourselves.

So, I shared my fear in the group circle. I was confused. The dots were disconnected, and I lacked the objectivity to connect them. Fortunately, Martina saw what I couldn’t see, and she knew what I needed. And I’ll never forget what she said to me that day:

“You surround yourself with powerful people and you make yourself smaller, but you’re so, so powerful.”

I was ignited by these words because deep down, I knew they were true. I instantly realised that there was a reason why I had surrounded myself with powerful people…I saw myself in them. I was attracted to them because I was the same as them. I had deep reservoirs of power in me, too. I just hadn’t fully accessed mine yet. And now I was finally seeing it and feeling it in my body. Energy rushed through my arms, my chest, and my stomach, as if I was breaking down the wall of fear and allowing my body’s wisdom to take charge.

Martina then asked me what I wanted to do next. I was feeling my body more – I was feeling the fire burning in my stomach, and it was as if her question was a call to action. Having access to power is one thing, but harnessing it is another. It requires incredible courage. I realised that I had to have courage to declare what I wanted. I directed the men to join me in the centre of the circle and roar with me. Roaring connected me to my fire, and supported me to continue breaking down the wall of fear. And it allowed my body to take charge even more.

I came into my power that day and it continued to strengthen. I had expanded, and was taking up more space in my interactions. I felt like I’d gained access to deeper levels of self-expression, and I felt much more grounded.

These changes permeated every aspect of my life.

I noticed how this new sense of grounding worked as a barometer for all my different feeling states. It allowed me to distinguish between fleeting and enduring feelings. On one hand, I could see how certain feelings moved in and out quickly – and were often caused by my thoughts. On the other hand, I could also see how some feelings stayed for longer periods of time. I decided to take note of the enduring feelings, and to trust that these feelings had the potential to guide me.

This new sense of grounding and power changed how women received me. Before coming to Tantra, I had closed myself off from women. When I attended the Being Man Retreat in October 2016 it became very clear just how much had transformed, and was still transforming, within me.

Because I was more grounded – more “in” my body, I could feel everything so much more. I could feel pleasure in my connections with women, and even in the subtlest physical touch. I felt it in my entire body, and noticed that because I felt and enjoyed it more, others did, too. I could make women feel good in their bodies simply because I was awake to the sensitivity within my own. This changed my referential index and empowered me as a man.

The day after the retreat, I boarded the plane in Sydney to return to the US. I had a strong feeling that I had to stop working on the lawsuit and instead return to Australia. I had experienced glimpses of this feeling before, but this time it was much stronger and more obvious, and it wasn’t going away. When I arrived in the US, I noticed that everything felt different. The leaves had fallen from the trees, and it was as if the external world was changing to match my own internal rearrangement.

I had expanded to such an extent that I had to make changes. The lawsuit was still active, and I didn’t want to leave everyone else with the workload. The niggling feeling endured, though, and I had made the decision to trust it. I edged into following the feeling more and more each day. There were a series of difficult conversations I had to have. I noticed that with each step I took in following the feeling, greater truth was revealed. I had learned how to access my own power and claim what I wanted, and suddenly everything started to change around me.

My silence had kept everyone, including myself, in the dark. My silence was like the material used to repair a sinking ship, and the supply was running out. This was no longer sustainable for anyone. At my insistence, we settled the lawsuit in mid-November 2016. I was met with resistance throughout the entire process.

The enduring feeling to stop working on the lawsuit and to return to Australia was my integrity speaking to me. Integrity came via this new sense of body wisdom. I felt my decision unequivocally. And as I moved into greater alignment with my integrity, the world around me changed even more. After we settled the lawsuit, everything crystallised. Peoples’ true colours were revealed, and illusions were shattered. I could clearly see that the working dynamics didn’t serve me. I had co-created this situation and it no longer felt appropriate for me.

My decision had consequences. It caused hurt for others. But I was compelled to make it, and, I received confirmation that it was the right one. If I had stayed, there would have just been more damage. In hindsight, my body wisdom – my integrity – called me to shatter the illusion before it was too late. What I learned is that the truth cannot hide in the light of my own integrity. In other words, through my work in Tantra, I have become a force in the world. I could create change without doing anything outside of myself.

I’m still on this journey. There is no end point; there is always more to explore. We have an innate curiosity as humans to want to know more. I want to better understand and align with life and my purpose. There’s so much I am yet to uncover, and I continue the work with Tantric Blossoming for so many reasons.

I am now exploring a relationship with an incredible woman, and she is committed to growth also. There is learning for me around how to be my best for her, and for us. I am in the midst of relocating to Melbourne. My continued work in Tantra is supporting me to find more ease in my body as I go about this transition. There are always going to be challenges in life. The biggest challenge is attempting to do it all with my mind. I am grateful in knowing I can trust my body wisdom to lead the way. I find ease and strength knowing that my body can support me as I embrace the challenges that come.

– James Marshall, 2017.