Prologue: this essay is written in support of my new documentary Love School — you’re invited to join us in raising $50K by Aug 12, 2019. Please watch the pitch and support on Kickstarter.
“One of my erotic archetypes is that of Wild Lilith.
I love being a woman, and I love being a sexual being.
And there is a beautiful man here who I feel attracted to, who I want to go to bed with…
“Did she just say my name??” I pondered, as a I sat, stupefied to that possibility, 75 people in the circle around me, with a beautiful woman in a red summer dress, her long red hair flowing like wildfire over her shoulders and breasts, standing in the center — who had just expressed a wish to have sex with me.
“John,” called Sabine Lichentfels, the co-founder of Tamera, and leader of this Forum, Tamera’s social technology of transparency and trust-building.
I sat there frozen, still unsure if this was real.
“Please come to the center John,” Sabine called again, now looking directly at me, in a more powerful intonation.
With a nudge from the man to my right, I slowly stood up and walked into the center of a circle of 75 humans on the terrace of the Bodega — Tamera’s Temple of Love.
I stopped about 20 feet from the red-haired, too-beautiful-to-have-really-meant-me, woman, while Sabine, who was dressed in garb worthy of a Greek Goddess and called by the theatrical name of Abundancia, came behind me and put her hands on my shoulder. Leaning into my ear, Abundancia whispered, loud enough for the whole circle to hear:
“make an approach.”
— — —
This was my 9th Love School with Tamera and although seasoned enough to know resistance was futile, I had no idea how to “make an approach.” I had seen other men given this task of “approaching” a woman — to move towards contact with authenticity — a surprisingly puzzling task for most men, who mostly succumb to an effort of “doing it right,” which often results in being inauthentic.
With Abundancia’s hands still on my shoulders, I took a deep breath, and came back to my body, and realized that my head was lowered. Shame is what most Western men feel in the presence of an erotically awakened woman.
Often, this shame manifests as an over-compensation I’ll-be-your-hero-and-slay-the-dragon archetype (i.e. Mr. Macho), and yet for others, like myself (and much of my generation), it’s manifested as being the “Nice Guy,” who wouldn’t dare overstep and resists any authentic claiming of his own desire.
I noticed that my arms and legs were trembling.
I took another breath, cleared my throat and lifted my head, beholding not just a wildfire of feminine beauty ready to devour me, but a human being, with soft eyes, a beating heart, and the same hopes and fears, longings and doubts, that I hold. And behind her, sat a circle of people, all gazing at me, with hearts wide open, courting me to feel mine.
I instinctively lifted my hand to my heart, and paused for a moment, just perceiving the woman in front of me. Her eyes spoke such unbounded love, such a warm invitation of safety, revealed by a soft smile from her own shyness, and my fear began to dissolve.
I slowly lifted my foot and took a step…and then another… and in a slow and meandering sashay pattern, I moved towards Annika, until I stood about middle-school-slow-dance-distance apart from her.
I was only there a moment when Abundancia came over to us, and in a kind yet certain tone said, “And now a kiss, imagine that these 200 eyes are 2000.”
At that point another energy had completely taken over me, and thoughts were faraway. Annika looked at me, and I at her, and we both took a deep breath, moved closer, until at a few inches from each other, our hands met as if we both were lightly pressing up against a glass window. And that’s how our lips met — touching a thin, transparent veil of our separation, all eyes watching.
Soon our hands found their ways around each others waists — I remember feeling her shoulder blades arch over my finger tips as she leaned into the kiss.
We must have lost ourselves in the moment, for soon Abundancia’s hands were on our shoulders, gently pulling apart with a loving, “thank you.”
As we stood back a few feet, Abundancia, glancing at us while addressing the circle stated, “it’s clear there is eros wanting expression here. You two are blessed to have a room in the temple. You may go now.”
With that, a door from the Bodega opened and one of the “bodega mamas,” an elder woman tasked to run the Love Temple at Tamera, motioned for us to enter. Annika and I gently clasped hands, pivoted 90 degrees and began to walk in. As we moved towards the open door, the circle broke out in applause — and the magic of an intergenerational circle applauding as I publicly walked off towards love-making was not lost on me.
My feet were definitely a few inches off the ground.
I lost my virginity when I was 17.
We didn’t know each other. It happened late one night at a typical high school party, both of us slightly drunk, with no circle to witness us off into the experience, instead our audience was an array of empty Keystone Light cans that scattered the living room of my friend’s parents basement.
The experience lasted maybe about 10 minutes. Afterwards, we both felt awkwardly proud and shameful.. too intoxicated to really process the intimacy we shared and the mixture of feelings afterwards. We simply walked out of the room and back into the party of drunk teenagers. No one really noticed our brief absence.
But then, cheers erupted in the corner and for a moment I thought maybe it was for us. Then I looked over. A crowd had gathered as two of the more jock guys in our class were doing a push-up contest on dual kegs, spouts in their mouths as they pumped their way into black-outs.
Now in the Bodega, Annika and I sit softly on a bed in a room with red curtains, a few abstract style erotic paintings, and a vase of freshly picked flowers on a night stand. Outside we could hear the circle we had just left, our 75 friends and witnesses, carrying on with the Forum, more people having the chance to be witnessed in whatever was true in their moment of healing with love and sexuality.
It was the first time that sounds of other people didn’t feel threatening when in the approach to love-making.
“It’s wild that everyone out there knows and even blessed us being here together,” I said to Annika, breaking a few minutes of silence between us.
“I guess this is allowed,” I continued.
“In a new culture, love and eros are celebrated,” she said, leaning in, pressing her cheek against mine, the way a long-term girlfriend might have in a very tender moment.
Then began one of the most simple, guided, safe, at times slow and fast, and wild love-making experiences of my life.
After we finished, our breathing slowed and we tuned back into the voices, still there, still in circle — our village, feet away, still holding us.
At that moment, Annika, naked, sat up and grabbed my hand and yanked me, also naked to standing. She snatched up a pillow and hit me with it, and then started to jump, laughing wildly. I followed suit and soon we were both jumping on the bed, playfully hitting each other with pillows, enraptured with the beauty we had just created.
At some point, we heard a knock on the door and a soft voice saying our time was up (experiences in the Love Temple typically last 45 minutes…for container and equity reasons).
Our joyful play slowly subsided, Annika grabbed my forearms, and looked me in the eyes:
“Isn’t it wonderful to have a body?” she said.
I didn’t know it could be this wonderful.
A few minutes later we dressed and walked out the front doors of the temple, onto the terrace, where the people, now adjourned from Forum, were lounging, talking, and dancing— Argentinian tango music floated in the background.
As we re-crossed that threshold into community, Annika, more seasoned in this kind of experience (she had been living in Tamera for some years), simply turned to me, gave me a quick yet deep hug, said thank you and then merged back into the crowd.
And with that, our connection was complete.
At Tamera, and especially in the Love Temple, connection is held by the moment, and the safety comes from a clear cultural norm: no continued relationship is assumed or expected after an encounter. Of course, one can continue to express desire (publicly) and make invitations, but it would no longer be a safe culture, especially for women like Annika, if men became expectant or demanding of continued contact after an experience.
I saw Annika go and was received by a circle of women to share her experience, and as I turned to grab a drink, two elder men were right there looking at me, smiles on their face, as if they had been waiting for me.
“That.. was… incredible..” I muttered, quivering a bit with the profundity of what has just transpired.
“Welcome,” one of them said with an eye brow raise. “Today you took an important step… and had a very special experience,” he continued.
“Your energy field is very high, that’s beautiful but can be dangerous if not grounded. You must anchor this experience into your body, into the earth, and place its memory on the altar of your heart.”
I looked at him, nodding silently.. obviously with no idea what he meant.
“Go to the oracle spring and submerse yourself in the water — give this power back to the Goddess,” he instructed motioning to a path through the thickets that led to the natural spring pool in Tamera’s Terra Deva or “spiritual forest,” a valley on the property, full of beautiful plants, wild boars, hidden grottos and many altars to various nature archetypes and deities.
As I turned towards the path, the other elder man, who had been silent and a bit more stern in his expression as if he was studying me, placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “Don’t personalize what is a universal experience. Annika is on a path to be a Temple Priestess.. you could easily entangle yourself by projecting romance and attachment from this high energy,”
I looked at him, again nodding, without really comprehending.
He must of understood, for he tightened his grip on my shoulder and warned:
“Don’t fall in love with a Love Priestess.”
I departed and went to the Spring, the elders’ words echoing in my mind.
I meditated at the water’s edge for a long while underneath the overhanging fig tree, alternated with submersions in the cool, clear pool, joined by a frog family, a snake, and many song birds overhead. As dusk came on, I thanked the Spring, dressed, and slowly walked up the pine-lined road back to the Village.
“That was an incredible, surely one-time experience,” I thought to myself as I walked towards the eating area, people gathered in line for dinner — my threshold back into the social world.
“I wonder how it will be to see Annika now,” I thought as I grabbed a tray and stepped in line.
Just then, Annika and her friend walked into line behind me. We smiled and said hello, and exchanged pleasantries, no mention, of course, about the events from the Temple, just hours earlier.
“Whew,” I thought to myself, “back to normal.”
When we got to the food, seeing that it was fried zucchini and cauliflower (Tamera is vegan and local.. which has better or worse food days), Annika exclaimed, turning to her friend and I, “mmmmm.. this doesn’t feel yummy. Want to bike to town and get some real food?”
A few minutes later, us three were mounting dusty Potuguesse bicycles, pointed West towards the nearest village, 3km away.
“Don’t fall in Love with the Love Priestess,”
The words rattled in my mind but were soon forgotten as I was now riding away from Tamera, exchanging yee-haws with Annika, the idea of any consequence to this harmless excursion, like the Alentejo countryside, now slowly passing us by, as we rode into the sunset. Soon night would descend, and Annika and I, over a few beers, a medium rare Portuguese steak and too many french fries, were slowing entangling each into a projection of something we weren’t yet ripe for. Before my time at Tamera was over, these debts of the heart would have to be paid.
PART 3: The Fall — Coming Soon.
This essay is written in support of my new documentary Love School — you’re invited to join us in raising $50K by Aug 12, 2019. Please watch the pitch and support on Kickstarter.