"You have to tap into your feminine power. The feminine power is to receive, so let your boyfriend give you massages and take you out to dinner. And don't work too hard at your computer or you'll burn out your uterus!" I like Shekina Ray, the tantric teacher and former nurse running this workshop on Erotic Intelligence. I want her on speed dial for when I'm in a crisis. Asking her what she'd do seems like a sure fire way to improve my life immeasurably.
I first spoke to Shekina for an interview about full body orgasms, i.e. the ones you feel in your forearms and your ankles just as much as your rude bits. As a tantric teacher, she has coached over 100 people to achieve full body orgasms — so I've come along to her two day workshop in Hackney Wick to see if I can have one myself.
"Over the weekend, we work towards clearing our blockages"
An FBO isn't guaranteed, but Shekina tells me that two or three people usually get there. With a dozen of us in the workshop, I'm hoping to at least see one, but apparently it all depends on energy flow. "During the workshop we will do exercises to sense, clear and move our energy — that might lead to full body orgasm for some people," says Shekina, who points to the tissues twice during her housekeeping announcements. "However, there are several factors that can cause blockages in the energy flow, so some people won't achieve it right away," she adds.
And so, over the weekend, we work towards clearing our blockages — and I spend the majority of the time wondering what is going on. "Tell a member of the same sex that you love them," says a coloured card I pull from an assorted pack that Shekina offers to each of us, as we sit on the floor in a circle. I do not love anyone in this room. I don't even know anyone. "So? You think you can't love someone you've just met?" asks a guy who claims he's fallen in love with strangers at festivals. "Don't you love everybody at some level?" he persists. Erm. "If you were in India and there was a starving child, would you give that child your food?" Yes. "That’s because you love that child." No it isn't.
"We are meant to shake our bodies and make noises with our eyes closed"
I had hoped that establishing a #fakenews love declaration would mean that we could move on, but as this clearly isn't going to happen I grit my teeth and say it with all the warmth of someone with an icicle up their bum. "There, you see? It was nice!" says Shekina. No, it was not nice. I was just saying words I didn't mean.
Then there is 'Kundalini Shaking' where we are meant to shake our bodies and make noises with our eyes closed. And I do this (minus the noise, which I can't quite bring myself to do) wondering when it will end. Later, however, I am cheered when two seasoned participants tell me they found Kundalini Shaking awkward when they first tried it. One woman says she throws herself into it even though she always feels silly at first, and that it's a case of "fake it until you make it." The trouble is, I don’t even know what 'making it' might be like.
"It's after lunch and I have had tuna, unaware I'd be breathing fish salad into someone's face"
We spend some time on chakras which Shekina says are places in our bodies that mean different things e.g. to do with sex or creativity. The chakras are different colours and they have different noises associated with them. I am paraphrasing — probably badly because I do not get it — and I am not sure if I am meant to take chakras literally. Are they really a thing? I want to ask but I am too embarrassed, so I sit in the circle copying the hand shapes Shekina is doing and making whatever noise she makes.
Then we get into pairs and scream "EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" into each other's ears seven times and then it is "OMMMMMMM" with our foreheads pressed together. It is after lunch and I have had tuna, unaware I'd be breathing fish salad into someone's face. "Don't worry, I'm not judgemental like that," says my exercise partner when I apologise in advance. And so he inhales my tuna for seven long OMs.
"I'm not sure if I'm meant to be thrusting it or if I'm just skewering him in a stationary fashion"
Most flummoxing comes in the guise of 'energy sex,' which is some imaginary sex I have with a man named Ben*. Ben is ever so nice and I am sorry to tell him that I didn't feel his imaginary metre long penis penetrate my imaginary metre long vagina. We are standing a couple of feet apart — fully clothed — and facing each other with our eyes shut. As we'll take it in turns to play each role, Ben suggests I penetrate him first. So I ask him — as instructed — "may I penetrate you?" and when he says yes, I utterly fail to imagine having a massive cock that I'm sticking inside him. And so we both stand there with our eyes closed, apparently imagining that my pretend penis is in Ben and I'm not sure if I'm meant to be thrusting it or if I'm just skewering him in a stationary fashion.
We build up gradually to the exercises that involve more physical interaction and reach the bit where we stick our thumbs in each other's pressure points to unblock the energy. People make a lot of noise during this, as if they can feel the energy being unleashed. I cannot feel this, whether I am the person using my thumbs or whether I am the person having thumbs stuck in me. I do not know if there is something wrong with me for not feeling it or if it's all a bit Emperor's New Clothes. At one point the pressure points are apparently in our bum cheeks. Nobody else seems to have an issue with it, so I tell myself it is just another body part that is covered in thick jeans anyway, but I think I may be lying to myself.
"This workshop in which we are fully clothed is only level 1"
It is possibly at this point in the workshop that one of the guys says, "I'm used to more advanced classes where we don't wear clothes — clothes just get in the way!" This workshop in which we are fully clothed is only level 1 on the sexy scales. At level 2, participants take part topless or in underwear, and at level 3 it's The Full Monty, when the chakra up your bum can be unblocked, "with a prostate massage. Or an anal massage for women," says Shekina.
"There is a bit where I get a quite nice non-bummy massage off an affable guy"
According to Shekina, her clients are predominantly men, so I ask some of the guys how they came to be here. One says it was after having one-to-one sessions with Shekina to work on himself after his relationship ended. He explains that his last girlfriend — and exes before her — had told him that the way he spoke was hurtful. He realised he spoke to himself the same way and he wanted to learn to be kinder to himself, so he could be kinder to others. Another guy tells me he started volunteering at music festivals — only one of the festivals turned out to be more like this workshop and he realised it was something he wanted to explore. And then there’s a guy who's taking psychedelic drugs and came across this workshop when he was looking for other ways to open his mind.
There are some nice bits during the weekend, like when I sit back-to-back with one of the other women. This is pretty relaxing, even though I don't really get the bit where I'm meant to imagine doors to my chakras opening and closing up my spine. And there is a bit where I get a quite nice non-bummy massage off an affable guy and I wonder when Bae last gave me a massage and oh yes it is never. I think about this.
And perhaps it is not all bollocks, because there is a also bit where we work in threes and one person 'sends energy' through the middle person to the third person — and when I put my hands on the middle person’s head, I actually feel electricity in my fingers. It is like when my dad had some medieval device in the garage and we’d sit holding hands then turn the handle and electricity would go through us all #childhoodfun.
At close of play on Sunday evening, although I'm still to experience a FBO, I conclude it's been a great weekend with lovely people. Two men, it conspires, have indeed seen the orgasmic lights (Shekina later sends me two videos to evidence this). Another guy says he feels fluffy from the oxytocin and doesn't want to go back into the real world, and several people talk about signing up for level 2.
While I am dubious about imaginary penetration and bum blockages, and have no intention of repeating the experience nearly naked, I have enjoyed hearing Shekina's take on life, love and uterus preservation. I shall indeed be tapping into my feminine power and if Shekina ever runs a workshop offering her unique brand of advice (The Shekina Ray Rules for Life, perhaps) I’ll be there with a notepad and my best shorthand.
*Name has been changed.
Samantha Rea can be found tweeting here.