"Suspicion...keeps us apart, Suspicion...why torture me?" sings Elvis on a golden oldie. "Hey jealous lover, you're acting so strange..." tell the lyrics of an even older tune from the late 50s. So do our popular songs recount the suspicious fears that our lover is wanting to be with someone else: worse, that s/he may be having a secret affair right this moment.

What we call being jealous is a pattern common to lovers, often mistaken for an indication of great love. While it's true that the jealous lover has a big investment in his or her object of desire, jealousy itself is not really about loving: it's about anxiety and a sense of being 'one down.' It could be fear of losing out to someone perceived as more alluring and attractive, or more powerful and exciting.

Jealous fears may seem unjustified -or vice versa, as in the case of being with a partner who has been unfaithful in the past. What all jealous reactions have in common is their fearful element, of not being someone special enough to love and be faithful to. This negative expectation rises up out of lowered self regard, a sense of unworthiness that leads to an expectation for betrayal. The jealous lover may or may not be aware of having these lowered expectations which can produce emotional states that vary from mild annoyance to wild paranoia. Regardless of the Richter scale reading, jealousy never contributes to trust and closeness.

Jealousy dynamics always involve triggers. The jealous lover's partner behaves in ways, purposely or not, that threaten his or her friend's sense of safety to love or be in the relationship openly. Obvious triggers range from flirtations with outsiders to actual transgressions of vows to be exclusive sexually and intimately. Sometimes the promises themselves are unrealistic and need modification. Other times the inability to keep them needs work.

Not so obvious triggers for jealousy attacks also exist. Excessive cold shouldering or other kinds of emotional withdrawals can provoke doubt, as can unclear sexual messages. For instance the use of sensual videos by one partner - especially during "love"making - can intimidate or alienate the other partner into concluding s/he is not sexy enough. Sexy pin-up pictures can stir jealous episodes, as can talking excessively about former lovers and comparing them to your present one.

What is most important to understand is that the patterns of jealous behaviors are kept in place by BOTH partners in a less-than-conscious and often painful dance. You've attracted and manifested each other for a jealous relationship -in order to create an opportunity to heal and outgrow the mutual patterns of lowered self esteem. There is a potential truck-load of shame, guilt and resentment to unload as new relational dance steps are learned. Vow not to dump on each other. Find ways to open your hearts through communication skills. Seek understanding for your mutual feelings of vulnerability and need for reassurance.

If either partner is not ready to change and grow, be prepared for the love in the relationship to be put on hold or even terminated as the other partner becomes healthier. The lover who's growing will want a relationship freer from addictive power struggles.

  1. Do you have recurrent thoughts about losing your lover to somebody "better/" Do you obsess about it?
  2. Do you try to control your partner's comings and goings to minimize their chances to meet other potential partners? Tell yourself it's because you "love" her/him sooooooooooooo much?
  3. Do you fantasize about getting rapt attention from others to make your partner jealous, thus proving you "still have it?"
  4. Do you ever flirt outrageously in front of your partner? To somehow get even? Feel insecure, but afraid to tell for fear of giving your lover more "power" over you?
  5. Have you ever "cheated?" Think/fantasize about doing it? Often? Fell guilty about it? Or justified?!
  6. Do you cover up jealous feelings by pretending you don't care what your partner does with someone else? Do you believe you're worth being faithful to?

If you've answered yes to even one or two of these questions, a jealousy problem is likely to exist or be brewing. If you answered yes to most of these, getting professional counseling may prevent a blow up.

Marcia Singer, MSW, CHT, directs the Foundation For Intimacy in Los Angeles. Inquiries about her wisdom circles or Love Arts sessions/ programs: 818-331-3153 or "Jealousy" is excerpted from a book manuscript, LOVE ARTS :ABseCrets For Lovers.

Published in Awareness Magazine, 2000


Mark came into my office for his first session looking road weary -and small wonder. He'd driven an hour by dark on the Los Angeles freeways after a full day's labor (a cabinet maker) to meet with me, hoping to find help for the past year's creeping despondency.

Removing his jacket, he wrestled with the throw pillows on my client sofa, looking for a position of comfort for his six foot burly frame. His face was nearly handsome, weather beaten, wind worn, eyes bright behind a dull exterior. Mark told me he was nearly sixty-three years old, divorced two years from a wife of nearly twenty-five years that he never really loved nor felt loved by. "Dying on the vine," he'd finally mustered the courage to end the torment by divorcing the relationship.

Except that the past three months, he was becoming increasingly depressed and worried that he was perhaps "beyond help": that the love he so yearned to experience, with a woman, a partner, "a soulmate," would never happen for him.

I was moved that Mark, unlike a majority of my male clientele -and most of my clients for the past fifteen years are males - was clearly relationship oriented, while also experiencing the usual frustration over lack of sexual fulfillment. As a woman, I am always drawn to the "sensitive"man, and doubly when he is also a manly man, which Mark is. I listened intently to his story of woe, and his description of himself as a possible lost cause. He had never been the "testosterone" type, he said, although his rugged looks are anything but wimpish. Hesitant lest he alienate me, Mark confessed that up in Oregon once, out in Nature, he "heard a tree singing": was he "weird?" Did I think he was really out of it?

Quite the contrary. I was touched deeply by Mark's confession, and later in the therapy session, used the fact of his deep connection to Living Things to help bring forth the day's healing that he - and I - had shown up for. For I too had knowledge of these things. And although I was assigned the role of faciltator, of healer, I knew Mark to be a kindred, equal, a "brother."

He offered himself up to me to work with him however I felt inclined. I was encouraged by his trust, his willingness to surrender. I knew the best work comes from here. Yet, as always, I had no idea what exactly we would do, what would be asked. My process as a helper is "organic," unfolding.

I had him climb up on my massage table, clothed, and I turned on a shamanic, undulatingly rhythmic CD. To the music, I proceeded to gentle him with a laying on of hands. As is often the case with male clients, I felt in Mark a deep deprivation of ordinary nurturing. The lack is like an ancient, ongoing wound. And all too often, that man assigns the task of filling that hole to the women in his life - usually his lover or mate. Typically, sadly, no woman, no nurture.

Mark was no exception. I touched his heart, and his jaw began to quiver. I stroked his brow, and the quiver became muffled sobs, which like most men, Mark, well trained in the ways of the culture, tried to suppress. Ashamed.

"Let it go, let it all go, just let your body do what it needs to do, trust this moment," I coaxed, moving to Mark's belly with a circular movement that brought an abrupt and all too brief display of tears.

"That's good, that's so good, how sweet those honest tears are," I said as Mark sniffled. "You honor me, yourself, all the brothers and sisters who are hurting, you help us heal with these tears."

I moved behind him, sitting, placing my hands over his heart, beginning a yogic breath my "guides" taught me some years back: breathing in deeply, audibly into his left ear, exhaling over his face, out audibly into his right ear. It is deeply lulling, trance-inducing, and I believe, balancing of the cerebral hemispheres. Mark took my hands in his, holding on tight, over his heart, and began to cry silent tears, - cry for all the unnameable hurts that he, as a man, as a person, a son, a father, a husband and a soul had born for a lifetime. Still the sounds of his cries lay inside, trying to be safe.

I held the emotional fort, embracing, witnessing, mothering, even as my sense of the Universal Divine Mother Goddess played through me, through us.

"Do you feel the little boy inside of you, Mark" I queried. He nodded, and going deeper, told of that little boy's loss of a father when he was only four, and a mother who neverseemed to want him. His jaw trembled mightily. Then he told me about himself as a young teen, shy and awkward with girls, no father -or mother- to guide him. And of his hopeless marriage.

I held the ground, the music carrying us deeper. I hummed along. Mark reached up to touch my throat: puzzling, but I kept on.

"Sing to me," whispered Mark, daring to ask as a child might. "My grandmother used to sing to me. She was the one who loved me," he shared. Off guard, I hesitated, then rose to the occasion, finding the words to an old Camp Fire Girls song that flowed out as a lullabye: "Peace, I ask of thee oh River...strength to lead and faith to follow....these are given unto me..."

A deep sigh welled up within my new client, his head now resting softly against my right arm. "I must pray, pray to my God," he muttered, from way inside. Sounds began to tumble outward as Mark began murmuring a beautiful prayer, in a language I could not identify, but totally understood. I joined him, improvising a chant, half Native American styled, half in English. Together we prayed in some primal, native tongue. Together we healed for all the brothers and sisters.

I ended our mystical session in a way I seldom feel free to do, and even rarer with a first timer. I gave him a "sound bath," chanting, toning, composing lullabyes, channeling hope, sounds cascading over his body in a rainbow of new possibilities for wholeness. His eyes still closed, Mark's hands rose of their own accord to a mysterious calling, slowly opening and closing as if sensing something. -Energy? I supposed so. Energy of life coming through his carpenter's hands. Large, worn, capable, craftsman's hands. Hands that felt healing even to me, as he held on tightly for the mothering he so sorely needed.

Mark called a few days after our session full of thanks and to tell me he was seriously considering learning massage: he couldn't stop recalling all that energy flowing through his hands during our session.

I am so grateful to Mark for his courage to open his heart and to share from such a vulnerable place. And to experience the tremendous power that being in such integrity releases. I am grateful for this work when it comes, and for the healing in my own life that men like Mark bring me. For I have spent many years fearing men, and healing from the hostile sexuality and the lack of nurturing that men in my past bore into me with. That several times left me abandoned to self-destructive, suicidal contemplations.

I am grateful that I have been given new eyes and ears to understand the ways of pain and shame, that give me ways to hold the ground, words to soothe and appease, and energy hands that can touch, train and help contain the fires of men's bodies until they become strong beacons of Light.

I share this story in hopes that more of you will trust women, trust each other, and that more women will become trustworthy. At Thanksgiving, I am grateful for these things.(1325 words)

Marcia Singer, MSW, CHT directs the Foundation For Intimacy in Los Angeles. A "love arts" educator in private practice, she advocates a "body-centered" approach to Hypnotherapy. Marcia is a Tantric Shaman, creator of "Coyote" -a shamanic theatre of the Self," a former international singer, an active freelancer, dedicated to finding love at the heart of absolutely everything, and every man and woman.


It seems to be our common challenge in our busy, "civilized" world to have to educate ourselves about how to be and do what "comes naturally." Whether you are inquiring about a way to heal hurts that linger for a long time, to learn skills in intimate relating or sexual functioning, to gain or regain access to full sense-abilities, or to "enhance" what is already working, a sensual or sexual guide may be required.

First let's define our terms. "Sensuality" refers to our senses and their corresponding organs: physical touch/skin, visual-sight/eyes, auditory-hearing/ears, olfactory-smell/nose, gustatory-taste/taste buds. We might also include the mysterious intuitive and instinctual sixth sense. Often the developmental road from infancy to adulthood is rough and uneven, leaving us less than fully functional. Someone who suffers from the effects of abuse, attack or neglect may lose their ability to feel, see, hear, etc, or may tune out stimuli as an unconscious attempt to feel safe and in control of life's challenges. "Sensate Focus" therapy and conscious breathing may help. Another kind of sensual imbalance caused by fearfulness or anxiety is to focus outwardly to the exclusion of the inner world, or vice versa, to be shy, withdrawn and a loner to the point of isolation. On the up side, you may be functioning well and desire to expand and deepen your sensitivities. You would choose a teacher or mentor to help you enhance your intuitive imaginal faculties, and your body's natural "gut" knowing. You might also seek to learn Tantric practices to develop your sensing abilities for lovemaking. (More on that in a minute!)

Sensual Wholeness is very necessary to sexual fulfillment, but is not exactly the same thing. We can define "Sexuality" as everything pertaining to engaging in sex or physical lovemaking; but this is only a piece of the field or what qualified therapy, healing and even enhancement training is about. Sexuality refers to our male and female bodies, self esteem, our masculine and feminine gender identities, how we deeply feel about ourselves as men and women. Wholeness also includes how we communicate about all this.

Would you believe, that is still not all there is?! Sexuality is also about our "fire," our creative life force energy. It all comes from the same wellspring or circuitry in our "energy body." A favorite word for this powerful energy is "kundalini," the sacred charge that is ignited in the root "chakra" ("wheel" of energy or light in the subtle body) and can be freed with training to travel unimpeded through the other six major recognized chakras, bringing wisdom, healing and even extra sensory perception in its wake.

Which brings us to the matter of Tantra, a Sanscrit word for "weaving together" of yin and yang elements and for "liberation." Tantra is a spiritual path to enlightened living and loving that recognizes and uses the power and grace of our inherent sexual/kundalini natures for our growth and healing. Many cultural traditions have "tantric" style teachings, such as Indian, Tibetan Buddhist, Taoist and Native American. The "yoga of sex" is perhaps best known in the west, where our focus is often more "secular," at least in the beginning. Thus many men inquire about tantra to learn ejaculatory control, retrain timing problems or to prolong plateaus of sexual pleasure and arousal, in part to please their partners. Women usually come to learn how to open more deeply to orgasm and to ecstacy, to heal ancient wounds, and to communicate with their partners more fully. Couples add to these reasons a desire to unite their lovemaking with the deepest sense of who they are as spiritual Beings, the true roots of these beautiful practices.

If you are a man or woman seeking help for any kind of sensual or sexual concern or interest, ask a lot of questions of your potential guide to be sure they are qualified and caring. Move past any shame if necessary to do so. Know that it is healthy and even courageous to seek this development. Last, while the focus of our exact needs may, fulfillment requires opening our hearts, as well as our body instruments, so that the joys of intimate connection made be played.

Member Marcia Singer, MSW, CHT is creator of the Foundation For Intimacy training and Organic Tantra. A Love Arts educator, Marcia is a board certified hypnotherapist, accomplished bodyworker, sensate focus instructor, and a deeply compassionate healer. She is a frequent contributor to New Thought publications and programs on intimate fulfillment.

SEX: The Final Consciousness Frontier

A colleague of mine reported that out of curiosity she'd gone online recently to find out about web sites on "sexuality." She was flabbergasted to find thousands of them right at her fingertips. Perhaps the rumors are true, then, that "sex" is the most popular, the most sought after experience on the web.

-And off. For those of us living in metropolitan Los Angeles, our weeklies sport hundreds of ads about sex: hot and heavy phone sex, breast or penis implants, viagra or viacreme, escort services and "full body" sensual massages.

But even if you are living in officially more conservative Orange or San Diego counties, and are part of a New Thought spiritual community, you've probably noticed a newcomer frequenting the SoCal sex scene: "Tantra." Growing numbers of its local advertisers offer to provide a sensual and/or sexual spiritual experience, readily available in conjunction with massage, or in the form of a "playshop."

One way to interpret the phenomenon is that New Thought communities are feeling a need to bring their bodies into conscious play, not just their minds -a very important shift. Yet, along with soulful embodiment of spirit comes the challenge of dealing with the deeply moving and powerful physical and emotional feelings that arise as "kundalini," - a Sanscrit word for the sacred serpent fires of sexual, creative, life force energies - is liberated.

From the proliferation of promising ads, it would appear that enlightened sexuality isn't hard to accomplish, but how are we really doing?

Working behind the scenes for 15 years in the intimacy arena, having served hundreds of clients requesting tantric-based healing sessions, I find that we New Agers have all the same difficulties as the rest of society: lack of education, dysfunctions, deep hurts and doubts, addictions and compulsions -and shame-based belies. And speaking with colleagues about their experiences corroborates my own: our own "conscious" spiritual communities are in as much denial about having issues as is the general population.

Fortunately, many of us have acquired relational tools and skills to help us with the hurt and anxiety that our relationships bring to the fore. More of us are embracing the path of "conscious relations." Yet because of the shame around sexual or sensual matters, we often fall short of using these tools and gaining the skills, even in our tantric communities. As a final frontier for consciousness, sexuality lies deep at the heart of our very sense of worth as men and women: it takes great courage to face, embrace and learn from our sexual shadows.

Walking our conscious talk in our love lives, means intending to be present for soulful connection, fully alive, harmless or loving in our interactions with others, and warriors for love and truth. When it comes to the potent facts about sexual energies and their intimate legacies, we must stay the course of the deep healing work needing to be done there as well. We can't afford to hide behind platitudes, or rush to find pleasure fixes - even "ecstatic" ones. Try as we may to grab onto ecstacy, joy or blissful love, we cannot hold onto it by creating intense pleasure sensations alone, momentary highs, trying to avoid the discomforts of the Unknown -avoiding what's known in personal growth circles as shadow or abyss work.

Going deep within and expanding out into unknown turf is necessary for the full breath of spirit to soar, necessary to heathy, viable relationships, and essential to sexual fulfillment as well. Part of this "unknown turf" is home to all the hurt we've suffered around our core identities as men and women -the part that we've learned to avoid for a myriad reasons. Our denial cuts deep into our potential experience of well being.

It is ironic that tantra, the bastion of ancient practices that woo the conscious merger of all things spiritually divine with all sentient life, including sexual, sensual and creative living, is seldom presented by its SoCal facilitators as requiring any passage through our "dark side." Ads tout benefits such as ecstatic experience, deep communion, cure for sexual wounding, enormous orgastic pleasures and all the lovers you desire. In a single weekend playshop all these things can be ours for the asking. Come have a great time, be "spiritual," find the God and Goddess within, leave your heartache or pain behind -perhaps forever!

While it is technically possible that you might have an epiphany over a weekend and be transported to a permanent heaven, it is unlikely. Further, although it is unpopular to mention in advertising that you must do spiritual workouts in tantric sex as well, and that work means facing what you most distrust in yourself, in life and in partnership, facing up is still a necessity. If a teacher doesn't include that fact in his or her work, there is much laboring-under- delusions instead, delusions that act to perpetuate the kinds of patterned hurts, angst, even physical illness that denial assures: the very stress and pain that may have sent you to a workshop or private session in the first place.

There must be a "new tantra." One that doesn't confuse sensation with love, intensity with spirituality, momentary deep connections with the whole of the work of creating and maintaining stalwart relations. A new tantra opens to trust that what we call shadow is not only the storehouse of what we fear from the hurts and disappointments life has bestowed, but the Divine Recognition we crave to remember about ourselves as well. What we might call "shadow dancing tantra" skills are essential to the whole experience.

Whether the word "sex" conjures up for you the possibility of a hot tryst, deep lovemaking, rescue from loneliness, erotic connection to Nature, learning g-spot massage to make your partner go crazy for you - or painful past invasions to your body and soul, please promise yourself to explore the "work" of healing and of truly celebrating your sexual and sensual nature. The urge for sexual expression reiterates the act of Creation itself, the ultimate passion to create, to bring into being, to Love.

Sexual wholeness is our final frontier in personal, spiritual growth, in order that we may truly emBody spirit. The future of "conscious relationships" with a new tantra in the forefront is a dance between light and shadow. It's the breath that flows through the play of our moments. Let's embrace this sacred challenge as a labor of Love. Namaste.

Marcia Singer, MSW, CHT directs the Foundation For Intimacy. She is a tantric & shamanic healer/artist, a hypnotherapist, body and breathworker with a master's in clinical social work from U.C. Berkeley. She's a frequent contributor to New Thought publications and websites. For information about The New Tantra for couples or individuals, gender reconciliation, mediation and private healing sessions, 818-331-3153.

SPIRITUALITY AND SEXUALITY: Recovering the Divine Connection

In both sexual relations and in the realm of soulful recovery, "making Love" is the gateway to fulfillment. The expression of deep love, in either arena, is also an antidote to the pain, stress and heartache of love and sex addictions. How sad then, that the fundamental connection between sex and Spirit is seldom realized in our stress -ridden, addictive culture. Why? Because we must be physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually open to the idea to begin with, and secondly, we must have practices to support having the actual experience. Full recovery of our Sacred Intimacy birthright must be claimed first.

If your instincts and intuition are reasonably intact, you sense this deep, natural connection between your body and your soul. In an honest moment, even the most "sex and love" addicted will admit that sensual and sexual connection that is deeply heartfelt is always the most satisfying. What you may not know is that when your heart is in it, you've also taken the most important step towards experiencing sensual lovemaking as a sacred endeavor as well.

Complicating things, many traditional secular and religious circles still consider it blasphemous to speak of sex and spirit in the same breath. These traditions teach that matters of sex or sensual pleasure are apart from -and inferior to - matters of spirit. Such beliefs limit the chance to trust deep, soulful loving during sexual and sensual encounters, and instead produce a profound body-mind-spirit split. Recovering from this widespread "split" is a major task, contributing to addictions not only in lover relationships, but fueling eating disorders, substance abuses and other "aholisms."

Even so, many are taking up the challenge to rediscover for themselves the inherent, divine connections among matters of Spirit/ Soul, Love and the Body.

Southern California is a fertile turf for bridging the divides. Recovery methods call for responsible, conscious coupling which may take the seeker into teachings about "sacred intimacy" or "the yoga of sex." Ancient practices for "finding God through sex" are still part of many contemporary cultures. The ancient Kama Sutra texts of India are very famous, but there are teachings from Tibet, China, Africa, South America and our own indigenous Native peoples, just to name a few. In these teachings, there is no shame about the body and any of its natural functions: no fear of the "flesh" as in puritanical times. You may even dedicate yourself to spiritual awakening via a Divine Lover's path. "Tantra," popular in the U.S., comes from a Sanscrit word meaning "liberation" or "transformation" through the "weaving together of yin and yang" forces for Self Realization. Tantric practices are a path of loving relationship: to self, to lover, to Creator and all creation.

What this means to healing for someone in Recovery is impressive. Our cultural legacy of alienation from the "divine" nature of our bodies, fears of sin and punishment, plus personal experiences of neglect or abuse -makes for a private hell. Distrust of natural bodily "appetites," "impulses," or "urges" robs us of both instinctual feedback (our body's knowingness), intuition (our mind's knowingness), and the deep pleasures of living, resulting in the sort of angst that addictions are borne of. Ignorance of the natural connections between sexuality (the creative "fire" of our life force energies), sensuality (the ability of our five senses to bring life alive for us) and Higher Power makes those connections hard to experience. Instead, we get disturbances in our psyches, noise in our heads, "stress" in our bodies, and walls around our hearts. No wonder most of us suffer from some form of codependent love or sex addiction.

Fortunately, as we recover our trust of expressing ourselves naturally with our whole hearts and souls with our lover, we experience the spiritual or "Love" nature of the act. We may even touch into the Mystery of life itself.

Perhaps the heart of Recovery is in learning to love ourselves as our Maker designed us. That includes being male or female even in the womb, and a masculine and feminine orientation for living. It includes having marvelous sense-abilities that provide information about everything we perceive and experience. Healthy pleasures are natural balm to a host of ills. We are impressive, awesome creatures and beings; we are not sinful in origin, or wrong in design. The power of the pull to be "turned on" by a lover, or a great meal, a lovely scent, a caring touch - and to turn on another with your love power -is one of life's surest gifts. And isn't Love the greatest "power" we know?

Ultimately then, both sexual and sensual fulfillment are about Love, about living in our hearts and becoming that wisdom. To embrace a conscious path to "sex" as a sacred undertaking, ultimately is to find intimate connection to Spirit. - A happy merger. A divine union of body and soul.

Marcia Singer, MSW, CHT, holds Foundation For Intimacy and The New Tantra classes and talks. She works in private practice with men and women to restore sensual, sexual, creative and spiritual wholeness. Hypnotherapy, counsel, "emotional release" or nurturing bodywork, art/acting and dream therapies.


Trials, (Tricks, Tramps,Tan-Tricks) and Transformations

"Dakinis and coyotes are people or situations that purposefully embody chaotic elements...throwing us off track...making us feel out of control or fooled...especially with our lovers, waking us up to the fact of something greater than ourselves at work." -Vicki Noble, Shakti Woman

"Lovers...they're the luckiest people in the world," croons Streisand; Heaven is their domain. But as the philosopher Nietzsche reminds us, as a relationship branches towards celestial heights, its roots must anchor in hellish depths; such is the nature of Duality.

For fifteen years I've walked the twin paths of shamanic and tantric "medicine," moving between the worlds of shadows (Yin) and light (Yang) in search of the Breath of Grace, the Beloved found at the heart of both domains, and in the dance of relationship between them. My struggles have taught me a priceless lesson: "true love" cannot be attained by avoiding what's unknown or painful about myself or another -as our culture believes. "Chasing the light" comes at a high price: injury to the wild hearted Lover within who must trust life totally in order to love unconditionally.

Tantric shamanism gives me two especially compelling teachers: "Coyote," the infamous Trickster of Native tribal traditions, and Dakini Woman, ancient Tibetan Tantrika, the embodiment of female sexual energy and its awesome powers of healing and transformation. Found in virtually every culture, they come in many guises. Their gifts are surprises of love and wisdom, slipping in through the backdoor. They only come to us in surrendered presence, in the play of the moment: pure Trickster/Dakini turf.

Due to their elusive nature,I don't always recognize either my dilemmas or good fortunes as Coyote or Dakini enterprises. Other times I know they're near, like now, as I endeavor to tell some of my story, share hard won lessons, and perhaps lay a couple of personal ghosts to rest in the process. While I have no idea what they may have up their sleeves, I'm learning to expect the unexpected.

My tale is a long, winding ( androgynous) Journey to redeem the wounded Lovers within me. It begins in August, 1945 on a sultry Kansas, bible belted morning. For my (natal) birthing day, Venus, goddess of love and the arts, rose to a moody Cancer midheaven. Chiron, the wounded shaman-healer, stood on my Libra ascendent beside mystical Neptune, casting a shadow over my house of Lovers.

My childhood was "normal," - steeped in repressive Judeo-Christian traditions, shameful hand-me-downs passed on from one generation to the next. Careful attention to appearances, distrusting emotions and intimacies, hiding insecurities and saving face at all costs were the norm. In our family home, naked bodies were embarrassing, while talking heads were in. Daddy was the often critical head of our house, Mommy self-effacing and placating. I followed my father's sarcastic suit, uncertain in my femininity, uneasy in my bid for a share of power. In my spare time I dreamed of rescues from fairy tale princes and being safely beautiful, while I ran tomboy races, took ballet and drawing classes and made straight A's with a fierce, competitive spirit.

I had matured early physically -to my chagrin. My first bra (age 10), my first menses (age 11), my first date (age 14) and first intercourse and attempts at lovemaking (just shy of 20 years) were humiliating. Worse, there were sexual violations - the first by a secret, guilty male visitor to my crib. I remembered nothing until age 45, after a particularly devastating relationship breakup which brought me to the Recovery movement, awareness of my "codependent," addictive love and sex patterns, and deep release bodywork. I now had a context to better understand my history of nightmares, suicidal depressions, rape hypervigilence, bulimia, exercise-oholism, workoholism, perfectionism, ongoing touch deprivation and failed relationships with men. I had a context for healing.

The late 80s and early 90s came, bringing continual changes. I embraced my body, the earth, goddess-based spiritual traditions, new age metaphysics, channeling and fetish art making. I faced anger work, firewalked and quit a fifteen year career as an international night club entertainer, reluctantly packing in the provocative costumes along with a bid for Hollywood stardom. I found a new calling doing massage and hypnotherapy and found a use for my master's in clinical social work from U.C. Berkeley. I discovered a penchant for inducing "altar"ed states and past lives, reliving scores of my own, alongside those of my clients. The Archetypal stories of EveryWoman and EveryMan became my own. Hindsight would show that I'd passed successfully through my first tantric-shamanic initiation, and "dark night of the soul." I was a survivor.

My "grief-relief" work had opened me simultaneously into the twin paths of sacred sexuality and earthy shamanism. Goddess had revealed Herself at last, promising resurrection for my wounded Aphrodite, and union with the God in me as well. I was a new tantrika: volts of shakti kundalini cascaded through my body in uneven rushes, bringing ecstacy, rapture and bliss in its wake, along with memories of sexual priestess roles in Roman and Grecian temples. Mystical visions, visits from power animals, angels and ancestors were frequent. I was imbued with a sense of destiny, even as I teeter-tottered between my usual high and low "ego" states, between inferiority and superiority.

Still I had my work cut out for me. Coyote and Dakini suggested I call this work, "Shadow Dancing Tantra." Although I had lived in between light and shadows from birth, consciousness of the fact of it, and its role in my joyfulfillment was just dawning on me. To prompt me along, my Mentors gave me a difficult gift from their bags of tricks: the enmeshment of my new healing practice and tantric awakening with my sexual wounding, distrust of males, and ongoing challenge to open wide my heart. To up the tricky ante, I got to do it in L.A. -the heart of the (high paid) sex industry, magical fantasies of transcendence, and maya.

"Because sex sells,... most (western) tantric teachers accent this portion of the tantric lifestyle..." -Swami Nostradmus Virato

"The original whore was a priestess, the conduit to the divine." -Deena Metzger

An historical perspective helped me re-context my growth trials. Women offering sexual favors to men in exchange for love, money, food or shelter, protection from bodily harm, work, position and power, comforts, trinkets and other pleasures is an ancient, cross cultural, worldwide phenomenon. Through it, men seek love, potency, vitality, nurture and "release" from all manner of ills. In its bare essence, "prostitution" is barter, but in patriarchal societies like our own that still devalue women, cycles of abuse and disempowerment are fueled. Where the norm is John Bradshaw-ian "shame-based" feminine and masculine identities, L.A. tantrikas are not immune. To successfully bridge the gaps between secular and sacred, conscious and unconscious lover relations, it's imperative to disentangle "tantra" from sexual and sensual baggage, and healing practices from subtle shame and guilt patterns. Could I free myself to value being who I am, 'imperfections' and all, in order to transform myself -and represent that path honestly to my clients? In a society that demands "magic" and instant results? With my sexual and relationships history?

An article by Deena Metzger in 1985 was helpful: our ancient spiritual heritage revealed that exchanges of sexual congress for reunion with Deity were once sanctioned. Servants of the Goddess, veiled temple priestesses received into their embrace male warriors ravaged by combat, in need of restoration. A sacred prostitute or Quedishtu ("the undefiled one") offered her body as ritual prayer; pleasures were secondary. When later male dominated religious factions interceded, prayer was pronounced sacrilege assuring the body-mind splits, denigration of the body, alienation of the core Feminine and harm to our Earthly home prevalent today.

L.A.'s formal tantric family was birthed from both traditions. Before us lay the promise of ecstatic enlightenment tangled up with countless injuries to the Feminine and Masculine psyches, and untellable heartaches: our own and those of our clients. Erectile dysfunctions, frigidity, touch hunger, intuitive and instinctual disconnection, fear of intimacy and commitment, poor body image, fear of aging, eating disorders, unnecessary breast and penile enlargements, cancers and other physical ills, performance anxiety, shyness, isolation, sex/love addictions, shot gun marriages, serial divorce, S&M, rape, "flashing" and other forms of sexual and/or power abuse reflect deep wounding to gender based identity.

My new massage and hypnotherapy healing practice was challenging. Most of my clients were men, most became aroused during my touch therapy -to my dismay. It frightened, angered, confused and haunted me: I was a good girl, - not a tramp. But I felt uneasy a lot, bad about myself. What were the criteria for being a real healer?

Debates between my inner Tramp and Prude sent me into therapy, determined to embrace all the shadowy parts of me until I was clear. Contradictions raged: to feel safely distant via power over men, yet feel desired, close; to effect sexual healings, yet be invisible (safe) sexually; to be free of repressive limitations, yet maintain healthy boundaries; to be rewarded financially for the difficult, exacting work I did, without usery; to be emotionally honest and non placating in face of great fear over angering men....

In answer to my prayer for help, an offer arose to take a private course on sexual surrogacy. In a subtle abuse of his power, the instructor, a well known sex therapist, sexually violated me during my "final exam." Too ashamed and confused to report him, I stuffed my rage.

Stumped for reliable mentoring, bursting at the seams, I proposed an exploratory article to Massage Magazine. "Sexual Turn-ons During Massage" (May 1990) created a national scandal by suggesting that massage therapists might play a role in healing sexual problems, that it can be appropriate to touch the genitals or breasts of clients, with their permission, IF the therapist is skilled in emotional release work. Over the next six months of heavy readership debate, the AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) yanked their full page ad in protest, and I wound up mentioned in Esquire Magazine. A Wall Street Journal feature in 1998 reported that tantra has become big business. No where is this more obvious than in Los Angeles: in the Hollywood sex trade, "anything goes"- for a price. Hundreds of beautiful women clamor for a share of the market: phone sex babes, bondage partners, escort models -tantric masseuses.

Now in 2001, I find myself arguing from a conservative POV -very coyote. Haven't massage and tantra practitioners have become too liberal in distributing sexual releases of all kinds, handing out promises of god and goddesshood like candy? Are we getting confused? "ESCORTS-STRIPPERS-TANTRA" reads a banner ad in a local weekly. Ads in new thought publications promise model types that in just one month, they can be dakinis, healers. Featured on the internet, naked "goddesses" and "priestesses" compete with porn sites for male attention and financing.

Ten years ago there was a decided separation between secular inquiries for sexy massage favors and those for tantric inductions; now there is not.. Where practicing sacred sexual relations automatically meant discipline and respect for the transformational process -for its requisite shadow journeys to liberate our hearts, increasingly the focus is primarily sensate and power driven.

Yet every dark cloud has a silver lining. We are growing. Life's thrust is for Love and Play, the realm of Coyote and Dakini Woman. Let's trust that as we continue to throw off repressive, puritanical legacies and embrace bodily pleasures and sexual congress as "spiritual" or "healing," we will be less afraid of the emotional dark. And more trusting of all that life brings so that we may be the gifts that God/dess make us to be.

Marcia Singer, MSW, CHT, SAG/AFTRA directs the Foundation For Intimacy. A tantric shaman, healer-artist and pioneer in body-centered hypnotherapies, her Love Arts practice includes sacred arts and performance. For info about The New Tantra, private sessions or Coyote Players, an improvisational Theater of the Self 818-331-3153.