My introduction to the effervescent, passionista Barbara Carrellas came as a result of attending a Tantra workshop in Philadelphia that she taught in 2004 or 2005.
I was impressed with the comfortable, casual way she approached what, at the time, was a bit intimidating for this ‘recovering good girl.’
Creating a safe container, the workshop was more about energy than the stereotypical kama sutra-ized, sexual acrobatic view of the ancient life enhancing modality.
Over the years we touched base and I kept track of her activities, the books she had written and classes she created. One humorous encounter involved my then 86-year-old mother. She had been placed in hospice in May of 2010 and I had made one of my forays to Ft. Lauderdale to be with her. We always had a close relationship and there were no taboo subjects between us. She would relate that when I was a child, I would ask all sorts of questions, often about sex and usually at the dinner table.
I had heard that Barbara was going to be featured on The Learning Channel’s show called “Strange Sex” speaking about what the producers referred to as ‘thinking off.’ Barbara is quick to add, “That term is much too limiting. Non-genitally based orgasms are achieved by different people in different ways, but very few people use only their minds to achieve these orgasms.”
What it amounts to is energetic orgasm that incorporates breathing, visualizing and squeezing the pelvic muscles.
The show aired during one of our visits. I was sitting on my mother’s living room floor while she slept (or so I thought) in her hospital bed. As Barbara had participants lying in a circle, breathing their way to ecstasy, my mother opened her eyes at the moment of erupted rapture.
She asked, “What are you watching?” wondering if I was watching some porn flick featuring a free for all orgy.
I responded, laughing, “Mom, this is my friend Barbara, teaching people to have the safest sex there is: hands free, clothing on, nobody touching nobody.”
She looked at me, waved her hand and said, “Ah, meshuggenah!” (which is Yiddish for ‘crazy’) and dozed back off.
Having the opportunity to interview Barbara for elephant journal gives me unabashed bliss and you a luscious teaser, sampler, nibble of her work/play.
What sparks your passion and enthusiasm for the subject matter of sacred sexuality?
I love the light that goes off in people’s eyes when they finally feel the connection between sex and spirit in their own bodies! Both their spirituality and their sexuality take a quantum leap forward. I get a contact high from their wonder and delight.
Were you always an out of the box thinker?
I suppose so. I horrified my conservative, Catholic parents by announcing that I wanted to be a movie star at my fourth birthday party. The most successful (and my personal favorite) Broadway and Off-Broadway shows I ever managed or produced (eg; “NINE”, “Cloud Nine,” “A Coupla White Chicks Sitting Around Talking,” “Annie Sprinkle: Post Porn Modernist”) were all plays, musicals and performance art that people thought were too “out there” to succeed. And I have always been intrigued by marrying seemingly unrelated or even opposing topics—like sex work and theater, or BDSM and Tantra.
How do the two worlds [sacred and sexuality] merge in a society that often holds them at arm’s length?
Often brilliantly, sometimes badly. It all depends on who’s trying to merge them. It’s certainly possible to combine the most manipulative aspects of religion with generous helpings of sexual shame, guilt, objectification and manipulation. The results are predictably horrible. But when we—individually or as a community—get it right, the integration of sexuality and spirituality is healing, inspirational, revolutionary, and transcendent. It can work miracles.
By the way, I prefer the term conscious sexuality to sacred sexuality. I believe the successful integration of sex and spirit involves scrupulous soul searching and the highest respect for informed consent. When conscious sexuality is seen as a kind of ongoing mindfulness practice, I think the odds of getting it right go up considerably.
You speak about orgasmic energy as being life force energy. Can you explain what that means?
There is no difference between going to work energy, creating a great work of art energy, taking out the trash energy and sexual energy. It’s all life force energy.
How would you define Tantra?
For me, Tantra is a spiritual practice in which all aspects of earthly life, including sex, can be a path to spiritual realization. The essence of the practice is going into everything as completely, as totally, and as consciously as possible.
What is your wo-manifesto (what do you believe in)?
- that the universe is conspiring in our favor.
- that pleasure is good and ecstasy is necessary.
- in an embodied spirituality that celebrates the body as a path to spiritual growth, awareness and freedom.
- in the power of love to heal.
- that the combination of love, consciousness, and sexual energy can change anything.
How can we expand our thinking beyond gender, beyond sexual preference, beyond ‘normal’ (which is a weird word to begin with), family configurations?
My friend and colleague, Artemesia De Vine (consciouseroticarts.com and consciouskink.com) addressed this topic beautifully recently:
“Worshipping the gender binaries of masculine and feminine encourages us all to project stereotypes onto each other rather than be present and truly see, experience and connect with ourselves and each other. Today I’m making the effort to approach each individual person as a unique being I know nothing about and allow them to unfold in front of me like the exquisite mystery they are. Yes there will likely be recognizable gendered patterns that emerge but the difference is, I will allow them to emerge naturally rather than assume they are there in the first place. That way I won’t miss the times when they are not there. I won’t be blind to the unique combination of characteristics in each person. I will unconsciously assume power dynamics less often. The words “masculine” and “feminine” are being banned from my vocabulary today so I can see and be beyond them.”
If you substitute her use of the words “masculine/feminine” for “normal/abnormal” or any other binary, the practice still works.
Talk about sex magic/erotic prayer, please.
I discovered sex magic after hearing Louise Hay suggest we send love to someplace on the planet that needed healing. I thought, “Great idea! And if that loving heart energy can heal, what if I put an extra spin on it and send orgasms?” And this is how I reinvented sex magic. Hah! Talk about reinventing the wheel, right?
For me, sex magic is orgasmic prayer. It’s simply dedicating erotic, orgasmic energy to a specific desire. The erotic connection is very powerful. (Remember the last time you were totally hot for someone?) When you put your erotic energy into your prayers you are likely to put a lot more attention on your intention.
I love the idea you pose of a “Sexual Permission Slip.” Can you share that?
I wrote the sexual permission slip as a performance rant for a sex education day at a New York City public high school. It was a big hit with the students. When I shared it with a much older group it landed equally powerfully. I had originally written it in the second person-as in “I give you permission to… . Then I thought it might be more effective in the first person, as a list of affirmations: “I give myself permission to… . Here’s My Sexual Permission Slip.
Tell us about your exciting “Orgasms With Spirit” live online course.
I am really excited about this course. It incorporates the most popular segments of my in-person workshops. So now, no matter where someone lives, they can attend a workshop with me.
It’s a 4-week workshop beginning July 17, but if you can’t make the live airdates, or you sign up late, you can still take the course. Everyone automatically receives downloadable mp3s of all four classes, so you can listen anytime.
Over the four weeks you’ll learn the importance of ecstatic experiences and get to practice simple, powerful techniques that will increase your desire, expand your orgasms, reignite your relationships, and bring sensuality and pleasure into every aspect of your life. The cornerstone of this class is the connection between breath and erotic energy. You’ll even get a chance to experience one of the most effective ways to connect spirit and sex-a breath and energy orgasm-literally, an orgasm with spirit.
As a special bonus, you’ll also get a free copy of my newest book, Ecstasy is Necessary.
To read about each class in more detail and to register: click here
What is ecstasy and why is ecstasy necessary?
Ecstasy is the human reset button-physically, emotionally and spiritually. It has an erotic component (but it’s not necessarily sexual) and a spiritual component (but it’s not necessarily religious). It’s a transformational experience that shakes you awake and turns you inside out and upside down. When you finally land back on earth, everything looks very different. It’s as if your low-hanging ceiling of limited possibilities has been shattered and now you can see a new totality of possibilities.
Tune in, light up, dance into, breathe into your own orgasmic life.
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Ed: B. Bemel