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You Have to Do It All

An interview with Margot Anand
by Susan Bridle


Margot Anand

"Absolutely not. I totally disagree with you. I would say radically no. The tantric path is profoundly a spiritual path," she stated emphatically. Had I gone too far? I had just asked Margot Anand [formerly Margo Anand], the world-renowned teacher of tantric sexuality, if modern tantra may not really be a genuine spiritual path.

Only four hours earlier, sitting in a crowded café in Larkspur, California, sipping a fruit smoothie colored green with spirulina, I had been testing my tape recorder and reviewing my notes before going to meet Anand. I laughed to myself—just when I thought I had escaped the paradisal blue skies, the reluctant-casual displays of wealth and the sensitive New Age smiles of Marin County, California, I found myself drawn back again. With both more BMWs and meditation cushions per capita than anywhere else in the United States, it is a strange land where almost everyone has a spiritual teacher, a spiritual therapist, a spiritual health regimen or a spiritual lifestyle. I was relieved, after having spent five years as an ambivalent Marinite, to have finally relocated to the rural East Coast, where you can't necessarily find smoked tofu or arugula pesto in your corner grocery, but where things are much more—refreshingly, straightforwardly—as they seem. Only Margot Anand could have brought me back.

Anand, a pioneer in the movement to bring the ancient esoteric practices of tantric sexuality to a popular Western audience, was one of the first people we considered interviewing for this special issue of What Is Enlightenment? Her books, The Art of Sexual Ecstasy and The Art of Sexual Magic, which together have sold over 200,000 copies, present one of the clearest, most methodical approaches to contemporary tantra in print today. She has developed a unique system of sexual practices that she calls "SkyDancing Tantra," which combines elements from Tibetan Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu tantric teachings with humanistic and transpersonal psychology. Since Anand began teaching in the 1970s, hundreds of books, workshops and videos proclaiming tantra as a path to spiritual enlightenment and a better sex life have sprung up to meet burgeoning interest. All the while, Anand herself has remained one of the boldest and most popular voices on the subject. She has established SkyDancing Tantra Institutes in eight countries and certified close to a hundred people to teach her "Love and Ecstasy Training" programs. And she is currently working on a third book.

Sitting in the café, I reflected on the two weeks I had just spent preparing for this interview. It had been a mind-expanding experience—not only because Anand's approach to the spiritual path is so unusual, but also because her books describe in graphic detail some very unconventional sexual mechanics. For Anand, "sex and spirit are one"; sex is both the doorway to ecstatic mystical experience and an expression of the spiritual force itself. And while this is not a unique belief, Anand does have a particularly original approach. In The Art of Sexual Ecstasy she describes the pinnacle of tantric practice as the "orgasm of the brain." This experience, she writes, "creates a bridge between the left and right hemispheres, fusing the intellect of the left hemisphere with the intuitive faculties of the right. It is this fusion that creates the experience of ecstasy, in which body, mind, heart and spirit all participate." And in The Art of Sexual Magic she writes, "In deep sexual embrace, the mind stops. Quite literally, you 'f__ your brains out.' Your consciousness becomes clear, innocent, fresh." As a guide to attaining these "ecstatic states," Anand provides an extensive (and explicit) manual, or "menu" as she calls it, of exotic sexual practices.

With a high-society upbringing in Paris and a graduate degree in psychology from the Sorbonne, Anand has traveled extensively around the world, studying and practicing tantra with a number of different teachers. The greatest influence on her own philosophy probably comes from the renowned "sex guru," the late Bhagwan Rajneesh (now known as Osho), of whom she was a disciple for many years and who gave her the name Margo Anand, which means "the path to bliss." It was Osho who encouraged her to begin teaching the tantric methods in which she was becoming adept. Anand is an extraordinary woman, someone who has chosen throughout her life to follow a calling that led her outside the mainstream, someone not afraid of taking risks. Confronting and harnessing the power of sexuality has given her an unusual confidence and sense of personal power. And she is at times bold, outrageous, even shocking in her defiance of sexual taboos.

The Art of Sexual Ecstasy, Anand's first book, guides the reader step by step through a series of exercises designed to break through sexual inhibitions, increase trust and communication between partners, and develop sexual yogic skills. While she does introduce spiritual themes periodically throughout the book, it is primarily a collection of therapeutic techniques for improving psychological and sexual well-being. It was her second book, The Art of Sexual Magic, that raised the most questions for me. In it she combines sexual techniques with creative visualization for the purpose of manifesting personal desires. She has developed a unique method of projecting a visualized object of desire into the "astral network" at the moment of orgasm. She writes, "It is in these moments of expanded consciousness that you can project a vision of your goal, your creation, into the harmonious fabric of the universe that surrounds you. In ecstasy, you come very close to the universal source, the creative womb out of which all things arise. What better moment to make magic?" Throughout the book she includes examples of how to use this technique to acquire, among other things, a new job, a new home, or even a new lover. According to Anand, her system of sexual magic is a means to access higher states of consciousness and to bring more of the spiritual dimension into her work; she often describes it as a spiritual practice. Yet as I read her book, while I found it educational and innovative, I couldn't help but wonder again and again, What does all this really have to do with the spiritual path?

When I arrived at her sunny hillside home, Anand greeted me graciously, and as we sat down to begin the interview, I took in the decor. The walls were adorned with thankas (Tibetan religious art) depicting male and female deities in tantric embrace. Crystals, softly colored cloths and pillows, bells, candles and numerous ritual objects were carefully placed throughout the room. There was a faint scent of incense in the air. She put on a tape of soothing New Age music for atmosphere and told me that the previous day she had been in a "very enlightened space," which she thought would have been good for the interview—but which was disturbed because today she had gotten enmeshed in a number of frustrating and difficult encounters. We proceeded to talk for several hours, and she was charming, animated and generous throughout.


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