I'm lying on the beach at Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai'i. This beach and the one just to the South of it, Hapuna, vie for the distinction of being the most beautiful beaches in all of the United States (Conde Nast Traveler). Of course it would be difficult not to feel as though you were in Heaven here. The breeze, the sun, the just right ocean, the soft waves and the fact that you are probably on vacation if you're here, all add up to a wonderful experience.
But I can't help wonder if I could actually notice the deeper, subtle elements of the experience if I wasn't trained in what sexologists call 'Sensate Focus'. The Tantric version of Sensate Focus goes far beyond the sexological one. In Tantra one focuses the mind, breath and consciousness on tracking every possible and minute portion of every touch situation. This is what brings awareness to the most subtle moments in touching, kissing, sexual stimuli and our thought processes that are part of the human experience.
Back to the beach; a metaphor for any life situation. As I lie here I have a soft, continuous awareness of the big, dry leaves rustling in the warm breeze next to me on the sand. I'm aware of my breathing. I'm aware of the mellow joy in my body. I'm aware of every moment and the spontaneous ideas that pop-up that I can either entertain or let go of. I just got the idea to go back into the ocean again. So, I go. I'm present, without judgment, and with my field of vision wide-open and aware of much of what is going on around me and within me.
I'm a sensualist. I seek out sensual activities. This isn't just about the sexual aspects of sensualism, it is about 'feeling'. Your skin is your largest sense organ. Women are about three times more sensitive to touch than men are. Your whole body is an erogenous zone. This makes a fine 'instrument' on which to play and discover subtle, sensual awareness.
Blame it on the 'light' touch receptors; your Merkel cells. These cell receptors are found in crescent shaped areas of the skin in places that need special sensitivity to touch. "Merkel cells are not like pain fibers. They exist in special areas of the skin to feel light touch. We have a lot of them on our fingertips and also on our lips." Says Dr. Ellen Lumpkin, professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Merkel cells have high spatial sensitivity so that we can discover the shape and textures of the world around us. The blind couldn't feel Braille if not for Merkel cells. Your fingertips can navigate your lover's skin, thighs and earlobes because of these cells.
Hawai'i again; every hair on my body is standing up to the tropical breeze I'm experiencing right now. I notice an ecstatic ripple. I feel a part of everything. Even the children playing on the beach, that I don't know, curiously feel a part of me, of the All. I recognize that I am a part of the whole of creation. Sensate focusing helps develop your sense of awareness to everyday life. That's why it's used in neo-Tantric practices. Training your awareness is what Tantra is really about. Pleasure awareness training can be one of the steps to consciousness.
You don't necessarily have to go all the way to the tropics to explore some new modes of touching. For Valentine's Day you may want to do a different kind of 'ritual', though including flowers and champagne could be part of this celebration too. Consider a 'touch' evening to explore some new sensations and rediscover each other's bodies and, thereby, each other's souls. Make it fun. Find something to use as a blindfold, as this simple addition will take the sensations to a whole new level. Watch the brief videos below for some key pointers on quality touch.
Then, prior to your evening, gather a few of the following items to explore touching with:
a feather, a small piece of fur, velvet or silk, flower petals (roses work especially well), a soft paint brush or makeup brush and anything else you can think of that might be unusual and erotic. You can also use light biting, sucking, nibbling and blowing. These modalities can be applied to lips, breasts, toes, creases in the knee and elbows, the back of the neck and the ears. I'm sure you get the picture.
Take your time and be present with your lover. Explore the whole body with touch techniques that might not have occurred to you in the past. You can remind your lover to breathe and focus on receiving the touch; every tiny stroke, brush of the finger on a hair follicle or warm breath on the back of the neck. Call them to consciousness so they can bring the experience back to every-day-life and expand the benefits for themselves.
Suzie Heumann is the founder of Tantra.com. She studies, writes, has authored three books and makes films about conscious sex, Tantra and the Kama Sutra. Check out Tantra.com Premium for the most comprehensive tantra training available on the Internet!