By Derek Ruhland
Temple days, the Los Angeles iteration of Lightning in a Bottle's pre-party tour, promoted itself as a "day in the life of the Lucent Temple of Consciousness." Overall, the temple community's attempt to bring the spirit of the installation to the post-industrial streets of the Arts District was a resounding success.
Part of the credit for that success doubtlessly goes to the host venue, The Springs, which describes itself as a "multifaceted urban oasis cultivating health, wellness, sustainability and community."
The airy primary space served equally well as a venue for speaking engagements by David Wolfe and Dream Rockwell, as for a "belonging shamanic dance" workshop by Fernando Bright Feathers, a cardio-samba class, an aerial performance by Alicia Marie, and a DJ set to close out the night by Shaman's Dream. Beyond the openness of the space mirroring the indoor-outdoor design of the Temple of Consciousness, the hanging-rope design elements separating the dining area from the performance space recalled the fabric shade structures that often surround the temple.
The Springs also offered discounted bodywork therapy, UV treatment and energy work in their Spa, and opened their classroom to workshops on the Art of Ecstatic Intimacy with Eva Clay and the Elevated Expansive Explosive Entrepreneur" with Robert Kandell & Michelle Wright.
The attendees embarked on the conscious journey that was the Art of Ecstatic Intimacy workshop before Eva began speaking, though we didn't know it. As people trickled in, they found open spaces where they could put their backs to the wall, and began busying themselves unfurling yoga mats, avoiding eye contact, and offering mild smiles when their isolation techniques failed them. By the time the work was done, everyone in the room held their head high and their chest open as they waited to get shoes from cubbies or shuffled through the door, and opportunities for eye contact were met enthusiastically and accompanied by genuine smiles. The inversion of the group's body language and energy is hard to overstate, and I not only observed the outward effects in others, but clearly perceived the emotional and conscious changes in myself. I was so impressed by the efficacy of the flow she established, that I had to speak with Ms. Clay. The full transcript of that interview can be found below.
DR: "could you please explain a bit about the theory behind the flow of this workshop? The cycles and the progression?"
EC: "Verbal is left hemisphere and energy is right hemisphere. We open the gates using the verbal, and move into the physical touch, which is where we had each other leaning in. So we're kind of covering all the bases. And the physical touch is usually the end of what we do in intimacy."
DR: "So in that way the workshop mirrors the actual progression toward physical intimacy."
EC: "Absolutely. Think about when you meet someone. You engage with them first through an energetic exchange, then there's a verbal exchange, and if that's going well, physical touch. Even if it's just a handshake or a hug hello, or if it's a romantic physical connection."
DR: "You said you're a professor of neuroscience. Did you come to the intimacy work through neuroscience, the left brain right brain, for example, you were talking about earlier?"
EC: "I've been a licensed psychotherapist for 20 years, and I came to intimacy work through my own personal life. Because I needed it. I started to study tantra and many different paths through Taoism, including Buddhist tantra, as a means of figuring out my own stuff, and now I teach it."
DR: "Are any of these exercises inspired by Tantric practice?"
EC: "I would say that there's a Tantric flavor, in just the quality and depth of connection, but it is modernized. I've hybridized it, and fused it with modern neuroscience."
DR: "In what way? Where does the fusion occur?"
EC: "The fusion really occurs in the verbal communication. There's no verbal communication in sexual Tantra. It's really an energetic communication. So bringing in some of the dialogue. But I think it's important for people to rehearse that and really use dialogue as a means of deepening connections."
DR: "Where do you practice?"
EC: "I practice in Santa Monica where I live, but I also offer online courses and I teach workshops all over the world."
DR: "Have you taught at Lightening in a Bottle before?"
EC: "I have."
DR: "In the temple of consciousness?"
EC: "Yes. This will actually be my third year teaching at LIB."
DR: "Do you teach at other festivals?"
EC: "Yes I do. I taught this workshop at Munificence, which was a festival in Venice, I taught at the Ecstatic Dance Retreat two years in a row at Kalani on the Big Island. I've taught at Lucidity. I've taught at Burning Man obviously. But more-so I teach in retreat settings and in private workshop settings."
DR: "Do you ever have anyone have a negative reaction to the intimacy work?"
EC: "Sure. It's not common, but I have had women, if they have any kind of trauma, become overwhelmed by the interaction. That's why I always give permission at the beginning that if they need to leave, they're encouraged to take care of themselves. But it's really rare. In the five or six years I've been teaching intimacy, it's happened, I think, once.
DR: "You said you taught at retreats. Are the audiences there more mixed in terms of receptiveness? Here, just the nature of the event and the audience, everyone walked in open to it and ready to participate."
EC: "Yeah, I've taught at setting where people are not open. I've taught at nightclubs, where people are standing around with their drink in their hand like, 'What is this?' What I find is that people always, deep down, want to figure out how to connect. We all want that. So if I just meet people where they are in terms of how intense the exercise is, everyone enjoys it, and the walk away with tools and skills, and can hopefully see how to apply them in the world."
DR: "Well, thank you for your time and for the tools."
At this point, it’s been two weeks since my experience of Eva’s intimacy workshop, and I thought it would be interesting to append here my impressions of its ongoing applicability and the resilience of the shift in consciousness I described in the original write-up.
First, I have to re-emphasize the strength of the effect day-of. As clichéd as it is, “natural high” is the best phrase I can think of to describe the feeling. I was happier and I felt closer to my partner Julie. “Warm fuzzies” is another applicable cliché. Julie and I went to a grocery store near 12am that night, and I found myself open to the other shoppers, smiling and making warm eye contact with strangers, and having to remind myself when they didn’t reciprocate that not Evaryone had been tinkering, improving their conscious state a few hours ago. The experience was a similar, albeit toned-down version of the infamous first grocery-store foray following a festival.
During the two-to-three days following, the effects remained obvious. I naturally chose to spend less time at home on my computer or phone and more time talking to my roommates, Evan simply about what was on TV at the time. I was also nosier, but in a good way. I was more curious about how things were going with a girl a friend of mine took out the week before, and how things were coming along with another friends’ job opportunity. I was simply more interested. The same was true at work. Co-workers I normally don’t bother to interact with beyond professionally were suddenly sources of pleasure during my workday, as I cared more about them personally and found their conversation gratifying in a friendly way. Julie and I found ourselves falling into the pattern of the exercises. We spent long stretches of deep eye contact trading the second phrase in a common sentence, the way we’d done at Eva’s instruction. Our communication benefited from the structure. I beliEva it facilitates a sharing of the cognitive burden of, “what should we talk about?” One person picks a topic, “I am looking forward to ...” Together you riff on that topic for a while. During that time, another topic may occur to the other person. “One potential obstacle that worries me is ...” In that way the sharing flows naturally. The act of speaking different ends to the same sentence brings the partnership closer to a state of one-mindedness, which is not same-mindedness.
Now, all I’m left with is the knowledge of what is possible given the right mind-state, but that is a lot. Two weeks on, I am no longer naturally more open with people, more caring, or less self-conscious, but where before I lacked some perspective in recognizing that difference, now I’m almost accosted with it. I feel as if I’ve set an example for myself that I’m struggling to live up to. I’ve had this feeling before following other consciousness-altering experiences, so I’m confident that with more time this too shall pass as I forget the improvements made and epiphanies had, but for now their vivid memory is an excellent motivator toward excellent ends, and I’m going to revel in my own relative inadequacy for as long as it lasts. Or maybe I’ll go visit Eva in Santa Monica...