Just as technique is never enough for great sex, a stellar curriculum isn't enough to make a great sex educator. It's hard for people who work in the sexuality helping professions to continue to grow personally and professionally. There's so much in place that makes it comfortable and convenient to do what we do and give little more than a token gesture to continuing education.
Barbara Carrellas is an author, educator, performer. Over the years she has developed a particular (I'm going to say - and I mean this in a positive way - peculiar) way of approaching a wide range of work in sexuality, a practice she describes in her most recent book, Urban Tantra.
What I appreciate about Barbara's work is more what I appreciate about her as a person than her particular curriculum. It's her generosity and interest in engaging a range of sexuality professionals. It's her ability to see connections where many of us don't, and encourage us to see them in ways that help us learn to do more, and do it better. She's also funny, without ever being mean or narrow minded, and a great presenter, two rare qualities in any teacher. When I heard that Barbara was doing a training for professionals in San Francisco I wanted to know more. Neither of us had much time, and this interview took place just before Passover, so here are four questions on Urban Tantra.
Where did the impetus to develop a week long training for professionals come form?
We did the first training in New York and it was great. We had professionals from five different countries, and it meant finding parts of practice we had in common, but also ways to bridge cultural differences amongst ourselves and with clients. I developed the program for empowerment. I want colleagues. I want creative, flexible, evolving sex educators on the planet. They're already out there, but this my nefarious plot to create more. When I developed it I thought of it as a mastery program instead of a certification program. I'm not interested in certifiying people to do things my way. I'm interested in creating a program where people leave feeling that whatever arises in their work they can think in a way that will let them come up with the practice, the solution, the program, the workshop, whatever they need.
I see it as my job to give people permission and possibilities. And the course is an invitation to join Urban Tantra as a community and ever evolving practice. As opposed to being certified in something that is rooted in a particular time. This is concrete in that we now have a closed Facebook group where we're sharing successes and failures,
It's also an opportunity to provide people who work with sex a place to find a common language. Often Tantric practitioners speak in a new age, energy based language that keeps people who would like their services away from them because they're put off by language. Sex therapists can be too clinical to attract some of the clients that they want to work with. Kink professionals can be a little scary, and not in a good way. So we transform language so that people get to say what they do in a way that will attract the people they really want to work with.
Who is the program for?It's designed for anyone working with sex and sexuality. You could be a massage provider, a sex therapist, a yoga instructor, you could be a sex worker. You could be any of those things or more. The training is for people who already have a basic confidence in their work or in the work they want to be doing, but they are yearning for something more. Everybody who comes to the course, comes with a struggle or issue where they want to get better at.
Can you describe the program?
The program is in modules and there are tracks that run over the five days. A lot of my work is based around conscious breath work, and that's a big part of the training. Conscious breath work can be brought to just about any practice as a healing and facilitating tool. Erotic touch and sensual touch is another big part of it. The learning is hands-on. We practice and we take it apart so that practitioners can use it themselves but also so that they can teach it to clients and workshop participants as a way of becoming more conscious around our touch and our sexuality.
Another major piece is gender. I think this is quite unique to the Urban Tantra trainings, the extent to which we work with gender and help people develop a way of working with people of all genders. A lot of work around sexuality is work around people's expectations or misinterpretations or confrontations with gender. So we spend a lot of time exploring personal experiences of gender. Working with GLBTQ clients is another big piece. As is working with power and intense sensation, kink, or BDSM. We look at the conscious essence of power exchange and of intense sensation. And again, we do that to take it apart.
In my work I like to deconstruct sex and relationships. What we do in this workshop is that we take things apart we look at the pieces of how sex works, so that we really know what the pieces are, what they're made of, what shape they are, what color they are, and how interchangeable they are, or aren't. We run it through our bodies to get a physical experience of it. And then we're better equipped to play with it, mess with it, help other people transform themselves. Then everyone can put sex back together again for themselves. So I teach participants how to do that and then they can teach clients how to do that.
In addition to all of that we have a track throughout the training that's about business and we work on everything from ethics to marketing to safety and security. No matter who you are, we're going to be touching on things you already do, but looking at them in a very different way.
Working with people who are doing such different work must be a challenge. What do you tell people to come with to be prepared?They should bring an open mind and a desire for change; personally, professionally and planetary. A sense of humor. Sex is funny and we need to be able to laugh, not at people, but at ourselves and at the whole gestalt that is sex. They should bring a commitment to expansion of themselves and of their practice and a commitment to working from a heart-centred space. Heart-centered to me means compassion. It describes a softness, a gentleness, a kind of openness that is unguarded but still boundaried.
Learn more - Urban Tantra Professional Training Program