Find out what Tantra is, how I got into it, if Tantra workshops "really are a bunch of naked people, touching each other’s bits, in a tent, in a field?" and what you can get out of Tantra.
Angela: Welcome to the Ace Lady Podcast. With me in the studio is Caitlyn Cook, a Tantra inspired facilitator, writer and coach, and she is helping to bring mindfulness to sexuality. Hi Caitlyn, how are you doing?
Caitlyn: Hello. Good, thank you. Thanks for having me.
Angela: It’s really exciting. This January you are going to be hosting a special workshop for the Ace Lady Network, and we just wanted to have a bit of a chat with you about what you are going to be doing, and how you became a Tantric-inspired facilitator, writer and coach. So, we are guessing - well actually I don’t know anything about Tantra, I’m going to be straight up with you there, and the only thing that came into my mind was Sting - I thought to myself, let’s ask the specialist. What is Tantra and how did you find yourself becoming a coach?
Caitlyn: Well, good question, it’s a big question. Tantra originally comes from India, ancient India, and it’s compiled of a series of texts between 500 BC to 1500 BC, so over a long period, and it’s had lots and lots of iterations and evolution, and basically the core of Tantra is about seeing the beauty, the divine, the sacredness of the body, the sacredness of your relationships, of your emotions, of the food you eat, of everything.
Angela: Oh, of the food you eat? I didn’t realise that Tantra was about food.
Caitlyn: Yeah well I guess Tantra has become popular for the sexuality part of it, and I guess it’s because, I mean for lots of reasons, but something that’s unusual about this spiritual practice, tradition, whatever you want to call it, is that it includes sexuality, whereas so many other practices don’t, you know? Like, particularly the monotheistic ones like Christianity, it’s all about getting out of the body and into heaven, that the body is not good. So what I really love about my experience with Tantra is feeling like, all of me is welcome, and that I’m able to include my entire life, everything that I do as, you know, a spiritual practice, as a path of personal development, so what I do in the bedroom can be as much a part of me becoming more myself, becoming more aware of what I want, what I don’t want, who I am, as me being in a therapy session or being in the yoga studio, or me being on the meditation mat.
Angela: How did you find Tantra? What’s your story? How did you get there?
Caitlyn: Well it’s not a super pleasant, happy story, but it ends happy. Basically, I had depression and anxiety when I was in my early 20s, and I also had disordered eating. I started seeing a mindfulness therapist about that, and that was the first time, during that mindfulness therapy, that I started experiencing my pain and my discomfort without just trying to resist it or get away from it, or pretend that it’s not there. So I was again welcoming all of myself just like in Tantra, and I wanted to start looking at why I had these feelings about my body, even though I had been - I was hyper-academic, had done women’s studies, philosophy, politics, all of it - and I was like too smart to have those kinds of problems, but nonetheless I did. I wanted to start exploring how I could relate to my body in a way that actually served me, and that was comfortable and expansive and delicious, not just where I kept trying to minimize myself, punish myself. Another aspect of that was, the body is pretty important when it comes to intimacy, and so I became really - I was very performance oriented when it came to intimacy, and very conscious of how looked, very conscious about was the other person enjoying this – and in a way I was kind of invisible in all of it because I was so obsessed with them having a good time and them thinking that I was doing a good job, that my experience, my pleasure, my connection just didn’t even factor for me. So I wanted to explore what, like, if I had never been taught to sex I had never seen porn and didn’t even know what that was and was taught to have sex by women who also had never seen porn, or a man, how would that look. So I started exploring alternative ways of approaching sexuality and found myself in this Tantric workshop and this festival, and yeah, that’s kind of where it all began. It was amazing, it was, like, really simple practices, 200 people, and yeah, I was just like, ‘Oh, this is what my body can feel like’ and, ‘Oh, this is what connection and being intimate with someone with my heart feels like’ and just FYI, it was fully clothed and all we did was touch hands.
Angela: Yes, that was my next question. I was like, ‘Oh my god, were you guys all naked, touching each other’s bits, in a tent, in a field?’
Caitlyn: Yeah I think that’s what people think about Tantra, but, and that’s the kind of wrap in gets in the West, but like, that can be a part of it, but it’s so much broader, especially when you’re starting out and exploring Tantra, it’s very simple, like often it’s just experiencing your own hands for the first time and you’re like ‘Oh my god, what are these things’ as incredible pleasure tools.
Angela: So then you, I assume you started becoming more and more – your practice deepened. When was it that you decided that you actually wanted to become a facilitator of Tantra?
Caitlyn: So I never really intended on becoming a practitioner at all, but the more that I explored Tantra, and the more that I was getting out of it, and the more that I was talking about it with my friends and they were like ‘Oh man that sounds awesome’, like ‘that’s what I need. I’ve been having the same problem, and I really want that exact same experience as you’, so I’m like, ‘Okay, well, come to this workshop with me’, but none of them would because, I guess there’s a lot of perceptions about what a workshop might be about, like ‘Are you all having sex in a field? What’s going on?’ A lot of fear, and perhaps judgement around what could happen there, being put on the spot, wherever. But I also knew there were a lot of people out there saying that they wanted it, so I decided that I would deepen my experience and my training, and start hosting my own workshops so that my friends would come.
Angela: So it’s kind of like a public service?
Caitlyn: Yeah, and I also get a lot out of it. In fact I did a session yesterday and was remarking afterwards how I feel like every time I facilitate a workshop or a private session or whatever, I feel like I’m getting as much out of it as everyone else.
Angela: So can you talk us through a workshop, for people, for our listeners, for the Ace Ladies, who are thinking ‘Yeah this sounds really great, but I am a little bit nervous and I’ -yeah as you say - ‘ I don’t want to be put on the spot.’ So can you talk us through what a workshop might look like?
Caitlyn: Alright, so I’ll just start off by saying that whenever I talk to anyone after doing one of my workshops, they always say, ‘Oh my gosh, I got so much out of it, and it was so much easier than I thought it was going to be.’ One of my friends, who I went to high school with actually, he was like, the hardest part is actually walking through the door at the beginning, but once you’re there you’re like, ‘Oh, I can do this. I can definitely do this.’ And it’s definitely, there are moments where it feels like an edge, potentially, like it’s challenging, but it’s that kind of gentle invitation to expand into more and more of yourself, and more and more into what you actually want, and more and more into how you actually want to connect. So what we do in the workshops, there is – if you’ve been to yoga or meditation, it’s kind of the next step from that – where we start off by doing some meditations and moving meditations to bring our attentions from our mind, which is where we spend a lot of our energy and our time, and bringing it into the body, and so inviting the heart and body into our awareness. Then the workshop that I’ll be doing with the Ace Lady Network, that’s about touch, and a way of giving and experiencing touch in a way that feels amazing. Some key aspects of that is getting in touch with what you actually want, not what you think you should want, or what you think your partner wants you to want, and that’s an incredible space where you can contact your authentic desire, the part of you that’s like ‘Hell yes, I want to do that’, not, ‘Yeah, if you want to, I mean, we could.’ Like, if you can get into that space of everything’s lighting up in your body; your body, your heart you mind is saying ‘Yes! I absolutely want that authentically,’ that’s where the magic happens. So we get to a point where we gauge what we are actually wanting, and then practicing some very simple, non-awkward, communication approaches to convey that, so that everyone’s on the same page, and you can just melt into this incredible safety and pleasure, rather than tolerating something, or just your mind running the show, rather than your body, you heart and your mind. And all of the practices are PG rated, so everything’s fully clothed, very relaxed, there’s lots of laughing and giggling and a lot of, as I say, it can be challenging at times, but in that way it’s kind of energizing. So there’s authentic desire, communication practices, and then we explore different practices that kind of expand your touch repertoire, so getting out of habits that we’ve perhaps developed over our 15 years of intimacy, or however long we’ve been doing that, and yeah – experiencing touch in a way that feels really, really good, for you and for your partner.
Angela: Wow that sounds amazing, sign me up! And actually all Ace Ladies – please sign up. Who do you think this workshop is for? Because, you know we’ve been saying that we’re going to be hosting this workshop, and we’ve had a few people go ‘Oh I don’t know, is this really for me?’ So who would you describe this workshop as being for?
Caitlyn: I’d say anyone with a body.
Angela: Okay, that’s quite a few people, that’s good.
Caitlyn: I'll talk about what I think you get out of the workshop, then people who are listening will be able to say ‘Oh yeah, that’s me.’ Basically, it’s about experiencing your body in a way that feels like your body is your ally, and you’re not just serving other people with your body and making sure they are having a good time. It’s about actually ensuring that you are having a beautiful, pleasurable experience as well. It’s about expanding what’s possible for your body, and what’s possible with your pleasure experience, for how you give and receive pleasure, and basically it’s about intimacy and intimacy with yourself. So for me, and when I’ve spoken to people after the workshops, there’s such a big thing about self-love, self-care, giving yourself the generosity and sweetness that you would give other people, but actually giving it to yourself, as well. And building confidence and not feeling so in your head when it comes to intimacy, but actually being like “Yeah I’ve got this, I can do this, like, let’s play,’ rather than feeling reserved, awkward, or… yeah. So really it’s for everybody.
Angela: So you don’t have to have a partner?
Caitlyn: Absolutely not, no. So some people with partners do come, and they might come alone or they might bring their partner, but loads of people who don’t have partners come too.
Angela: Great, that’s really good. So it’s open to anyone, who has a body, and who’s interested in exploring how they might feel better.
Caitlyn: Yeah, yup.
Angela: So this is all sounding fantastic. When I told Anna that I was going to come do this podcast, I said ‘I know absolutely nothing’, but I do feel like I’ve actually learned a bit more so thank you very much. Now we get onto the part of the podcast that we call ‘What gets on your tits?’ Caitlyn, it’s been a big week, uh, we’ve had Donald Trump… We have had Donald Trump – I think we can probably leave it at that. But is there anything that really gets on your tits that you would like to share with the Ace Lady Network?
Caitlyn: You know, I was thinking about that, and then when Donald Trump was elected, everything else just kind of fell out of my head. I was like ‘Do I even have any other problems except for this one, giant, issue in America?’ I feel like at the moment the thing that is really on my tits is the fact that Donald Trump was elected, and I can’t even think about anything else. Which I guess is kind of an interesting thing, as different issues arise in your life, it sort of puts everything else into perspective, so, in a way I’m kind of grateful to this horrible thing that’s happened, that, yeah, the rest of my life seems kind of manageable.
Angela: Yeah, I was trying to find some sort of positivity in it, and I’ve been doing this kind of, positivity workshop and really trying to connect with that and see the good in all things, and I have to say, it has been a bit of struggle over the last two days. But I suppose one of the things that really it has reminded me is that engagement is so important, and talking to people is so important, and even though we have this, amazing technology that brings us together, it has actually made us further apart from our fellow humans, which, I was kind of thinking about this workshop as about real engagement, not only with ourselves but with other people. I was wondering whether you think Tantra could heal Donald Trump, maybe?
Caitlyn: Yeah I would love it if Donald Trump came to one of my workshops. I think the struggle with that is I don’t know who would want to partner with him for any of the paired activities.
Angela: I would partner with him! I’m really interested, I’m like ‘Who is this man?’ and I was thinking, there has got to be a goodness to him.
Caitlyn: Yeah, so much of Tantra is about empathy and not just operating with your mind but your full self, your body, your heart, your mind, your energy, you spirit, and I would love to see Donald Trump access more of those parts of him, because I feel like, yeah, I want him to access his heart and the kind of collective heart of the world and not just the people who look like him.
Angela: Yes! Is there anything that we can do that can make that happen?
Caitlyn: Oh, this is the question. I might have to get back to you on that one.
Angela: Okay, yeah, we can talk about that next time. I’m like, there must be some kind of magic spell? It’s probably in the magic spell realm, but anyway, I’m trying to send positive vibes to America and to him to try and open his heart.
Caitlyn: Yeah absolutely. And I think so much of it is about the agency that each of us have, as well, and as you were saying, communicating with the people around us, living how we want the world to be, so embodying empathy and inclusion, and all of the things we want to see. I think that there’s definitely stuff we can do, and yeah, yeah, let’s all send DT some empathy-juice.
Angela: Yeah I’ll try and do that, as hard as it may be. And also the thing that I was, when I was doing some prep for this, ‘Tantra’, meaning loom or weave in Sanskrit, and I was thinking ‘Oh there’s something really nice about that,’ and feeling how disjointed everybody is and how people feel, you know, you just have to look at social media, and I really have tried to not look too much at social media because it was, kind of, a bit overwhelming for me, but just going, actually people do want to be woven into the kind of multicoloured blanket of humanity I suppose. And I was like ‘Mmm, I think that’s a really nice image for people’, potentially. It was a nice image for me, let’s face it. It worked for me. And so one of the other questions I just wanted to ask was, what are the kind of conversations that you’re having with your female friends? Are there themes that are often coming up?
Caitlyn: Yeah, there are. I think self-love is a massive one. A lot of conversations I have people are struggling with that, and the things that relate to that like, you know, anxiety and depression and things like that that, if you’re feeling like your body and your self is not your home, it can feel really uncomfortable. And yeah, a lot of the conversations I have are about learning to feel more at home, more loving, more centred in yourself. And again, like I said before, we’re so quick to give that to other people, that sweetness and generosity and patience and love and tenderness and all of the things that we are so quick to give to other people but somehow, neglect to give to ourselves. So yeah, a lot of the conversations I have are about building that and being able to give it to ourselves.
Angela: And, so is there anything that you would like to give a bit of a shout out to, for the Ace Lady Network?
Caitlyn: Yeah I was thinking about this as well and you asked me this in an email and a few days ago. So yeah I was thing about shout outs in general and I just had this really beautiful – I’m often a TMI person, so when you come to the workshops you’ll definitely hear all sorts of stories that are probably a bit TMI – but anyway, here’s one. I went to – it’s not terribly TMI – I had a therapy session last night with my mindfulness therapist, and one of the exercises he had me do was going back to particular moments in my life where things were rough, or whatever, and just acknowledging how tough that was, thinking about this 13-year-old girl who’s going through all this stuff and she’s figuring it all out by herself and it’s like an intense experience for this poor kid, and just feeling compassion for that kid. Because if I met a kid know, she came to my house or something and was telling me what was going on, I’d just be like ‘Honey, oh my goodness, let me hug you, do you need some juice? What can I do for you?’ So yeah, I was just thinking of a shout out to my 13-year-old self, and to everyone’s previous selves who have managed to ride the rollercoaster of a really intense time and just how, tough it is, and just feeling mega compassion. So yeah, a shout out to our previous selves, who are tough.’
Angela: Yeah that is a great shout out. I love that shout out. That’s a great one to sort of, hold with us over this crazy time as well.
Angela: Just wanted to say, thank you so much for your time. We’re really, really excited about hosting this workshop
Caitlyn: Thank you so much for having me, it’s been such as pleasure to chat with you, and I’m so excited about the workshop and the Ace Lady Network, so awesome.
Angela: Yeah cool well we’re excited to have you over. So thank you so much Caitlyn Cook for chatting with us today. For the Ace Ladies we have Caitlyn’s workshop on the 10th of January. Tickets are $40 and you can get them from aceladynetwork.com or check out or Facebook page or sign up for our newsletter. We really look forward to hosting you! And you can check out Caitlyn’s website which is SexyLove Project, or check out her Facebook page, again SexyLove Project, and her Twitter account which is @sexyloveproject. There’s no excuse not to be gettin’ lots of love. So if your new year’s resolution is to start giving yourself a bit more self-love, then this is the perfect opportunity. A Tantra-inspired workshop with Caitlyn Cook, and this is where you can open yourself up to some incredible pleasure, connection and with not only yourself, but with your lovers, with your friends, with existence. Ace Ladies, we look forward to sharing this with you.