Mark A Michaels & Patricia Johnson This couple has taken their sex life to the next level through tantric sex--and they've written a book about it. BY APRIL YAYOI PENNINGTON
Mark A Michaels & Patricia Johnson
Mark A Michaels & Patricia Johnson
MARRIAGE STATS Spouse: Mark A Michaels, 47; Patricia Johnson, 37 Married: 6 years Kids: 0 Notable: This couple definitely practices what they preach. In this case, itís Tantric sexuality, and their bond began when Patricia attended a Tantra lecture given by Mark. Now theyíre spreading the knowledge and passion to others worldwide through their practice outside New York City where students, both in studio or online (www.Tantrapm.com), can achieve a connection of epic proportions with their partners through Tantric sexuality. They break it down and include the esoteric side of Tantra in their new book, The Essence of Tantric Sexuality. While on a book tour, the couple takes some time to send a little sexual healing hitchedís way.
 Tantric sex practitioner Sting once said heís lasted seven hours. Thatís a little intimidating. Can you practice Tantra and still be able to do the laundry and watch Lost in one night? Patricia: Itís a common misconception. Sting later confessed that it included dinner and a movie. It doesnít require a lot of time; we have a simple practice couples can do three minutes every day and really see results in the relationship.
Mark: Another misconception is that itís really about a technique for having better orgasms or itís a series of sexual techniques, like the Karma Sutra love manual. Thatís really not what itís about. If you get hung up on techniques and goals, youíve really lost the core of what itís all about.
 So what is it all about? Patricia: The whole process is about bringing more awareness and consciousness to your sexual self and to your relationship. Things that can happen from doing that is an enriched relationship, a deeper sense of love and better sexual encounters, but those are not the goals.
 One of the four principles of Tantric sex is that itís goalless. Most think the ultimate goal of sex is to orgasm. So it goes deeper than that? Patricia: We encourage our students to think, as we do, of our sexual lives as a joint adventure, one that youíre collaborating on. I like to use the Lewis and Clark analogy. Youíre going out into new territory with every sexual experience, which is unpredictable. You have a sense of 'Wow, what will happen next? What if we try something new, what interesting experience are we going to jointly have together?' Itís a little bit different thinking about sexuality. If you start incorporating your whole being and have this attitude, thereís an incredible level of bonding that can happen.
 Say our "virgin" readers are ready to experiment with Tantric sex. Whatís the first thing they can do? Mark: Itís really not a matter of developing techniques necessarily or doing something exotic and different. The key is developing a deep connection with your partner. The practice we use is eye gazing. This isnít in the book, but itís where we begin with our teaching. We actually began this in our relationship. When we first started dating weíd spend three minutes a day standing, facing each other in a relaxed pose, gazing into each otherís eyes. Youíre bringing yourselves into harmony. Youíre connecting in an energetic way. Youíre recreating the experience of falling in love for the first time.
Patricia: Weíre doing it right now. If you think about it, when you first fall in love, you spend minutes, hours, just staring at each other. I believe you can virtually awaken all that tingly, wonderful newness by practicing this. The benefit of practicing this with a partner in a long-term relationship is that in addition, you get that deep profound love thatís developed in time.
Mark: Itís quite astounding how hard it can be for people whoíve been together for years to look into each otherís eyes. Itís important to do it as a formal practice, and get over that hurdle of it being a little uncomfortable. If you laugh, itís okay. It really has the power to transform relationships.
A second one is to explore what are called giving and receiving sessions. One person is the giver and the other is a receiver. Giving a massage that leads into a genital massage that doesnít go into intercourse.
 Tantra isnít all about the couple. Can you discuss what role masturbation has in Tantra? Patricia: Tantra uses any tool that gives you greater pleasure in life and a deeper understanding of yourself. By that definition, masturbation is a very important tool. Often times, people donít explore their own sexuality then expect their partners to find the magic button and orchestrate them to these wonderful sexual experiences. Itís quite a feat to expect of their partner. Men may not know how to prolong and really explore the nuances of sexual arousal, and maybe utilize self pleasuring as a way of relieving tension.
Mark: In this society thereís still so much negativity towards masturbation. Still there are jokes about it and people find it shameful. As a result, people use it as a way to get off basically. Thereís a lot more to it than that and if you start bringing awareness to it and intention, you can really start to discover a lot more about yourself as a sexual being.
We openly talk about when we masturbate together. I think it brings another dimension into it. The more that you are open and honest about it, the better.
Patricia: Speak explicitly, if you can talk about it.
 Whatís this about an oral g-spot? Patricia: Thatís a fun place to experiment with. Right above that place is a ganglion of nerves that go right into the cranial cavity. I find it very powerful and satisfying as a giver visualizing and really working energetically during oral sex to direct that energetic current right up into the roof of my mouth and goes through my head. Thatís some of the more esoteric things, when you start to recognize sexual energy as an energetic force you can tangibly move and work with, you become less wedded to the orgasmic part of sexuality and you start to really explore moving orgasms throughout the body.
 How can one partner get their more conservative mate to try Tantra? Patricia: Always maintain a sense of collaboration. One doesnít get to dictate what your attitude is toward this is and what your exploration might be. Youíre always on an even plane. Thatís very important. If one person really wants to delve into it, itís important to put on the brakes and stop at every step in the same manner their partner is willing to grow and work from there. If you separate and push too hard, the partner will feel left behind and give up. You donít ever want that to happen.
Mark: Itís very important for the person looking to explore this to be very appreciative of the small steps for the other person to go along and have encouragement. Weíve had couples come in where one person is very dissatisfied with the relationship and donít see that theyíre here to study with us.
If itís an issue of being worried that itís too weird, exotic or kinky, thereís so much beyond just the sexual dimension. For a partner who wants to start exploring this when the other partner is reluctant, present it as 'this is a way to connect more deeply, a way we can get more pleasure in our relationship on all levels, not just in the realm of sexuality.' Itís really to make the relationship work better. Sting said in a more recent interview that [his wife] Trudy is his church. We treat our relationship as the core of our spiritual practice. It just makes being in a relationship so much richer when you can bring even just a little of that kind of awareness to it.