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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

You Think Tantra Is Just for Marin Yuppies? Well, Urban Tantra Is for Everyone Else

Posted By on Tue, Apr 10, 2012 at 6:30 AM

Barbara Carrellas - BARBARA NITKE
  • Barbara Nitke
  • Barbara Carrellas

Certain people seem to live several lives in the one lifetime that they are given. Barbara Carrellas is one such person. Carrellas started her career on Broadway. In 1982 Carrellas was a general manager, her show Nine won five Tonys including Best Musical, and she was on top of the world. Then a lot of people close to her started to die. The 1980s was the height of the AIDS epidemic, and the number of people it claimed was astounding. Carrellas lost as many as four friends per week, and she needed a way to cope with her anger and grief.

Carrellas learned about the New York Healing Circle, a support group for people with AIDS and their loved ones.

"It was a great group, and it helped me with the guilt and incredible bitterness and anger I was feeling," says Carrellas.

At this healing circle Carrellas met Annie Sprinkle and Joseph Kramer. The three realized they all had the same question: "What are we going to do about sex?" The sexual revolution continued in the 1970s. How did a group of people go from that to the horrors of the AIDS crisis?

Sprinkle and Carrellas began to study the ancient spiritual practice of tantra, while Kramer began to research forms of Taoist sexual teachings.

"We were looking for clues as to how we were going to find hot, satisfying, and safe sex, with a spiritual component. The spiritual component being one that is so important, after all that death. When I started studying tantra, I essentially took the genitals out of sex -- I studied just the energetic components of tantric sex. I was floored, gobsmacked, and amazed at the amount of energy that can run through a human body," says Carrellas.

However, it was a time when the brand of tantra being taught in America seemed to be the exclusive property of white, middle-aged, middle-class, Marin County workshop junkies. That left her and her friends out.

"I would go study this kind of tantra and then bring the essence of what I discovered back to my gay and queer communities," says Carrellas.

Thus was born the idea for the book Urban Tantra. Carrellas wanted to create a book on tantra that appealed to queer people, people of color, disabled people, people living in inner cities. She also wanted to create a style of tantra that would be appealing and effective for them -- as well as for everyone else.

Annie Sprinkle (right) was among those helping Barbara Carrellas (center) search for ways to reclaim sexuality in the hysteria of the AIDS crisis.
  • Annie Sprinkle (right) was among those helping Barbara Carrellas (center) search for ways to reclaim sexuality in the hysteria of the AIDS crisis.

She didn't stop there. Carrellas had been creating ecstatic experiences for herself and people in her workshops for many years. However, she noticed she was not always as successful at being able to sustain these experiences in relationships. So she wanted to write a book of ecstatic erotic fundamentals that would be appropriate for everybody, including those at various points of erotic and spiritual exploration -- whether young people just starting out or more experienced people wanting to review fundamental ideas that had become too static.

This is how she came to write Ecstasy is Necessary. Carrellas presents possibilities and gives people permission to try them. She explains to people what she believes ecstasy is -- a deeply necessary state in which eroticism, emotion, spirituality, and intuition converge to create transformational experiences.

Carrellas helps people find out who they are as authentic sexual beings. She encourages people to find the safety they need to move forward. She shows people how to take an erotic risk without beating themselves up about it or getting it wrong.

"I think sex is a component of ecstasy, but not a necessarily the most important one," says Carrellas.

Both her books offer practical, entertaining guides, which people can personalize. When you meet Carrellas, you can't help but be interested in her concepts. She is an extremely warm and joyous soul. You can tell that writing the books has helped her, and you can see how much she wants to help others. Learn about her books and workshops at her website.


Vanessa L. Pinto (aka Fleur De Lis SF) documented a year of her sex life on her blog Whatever You Desire. She also blogs for the Huffington Post and is a contributing writer with Whore! Magazine. She has a degree in political science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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