By: Barbara Carrellas
Sex, whether Tantric or not, involves touch. Lots of touch. Traditionalsex guides usually discuss which body parts to touch, when to touch it,and how fast to touch it. This is great, as far as it goes. But inTantra, we want to go a step further. We want to become the touch. Inorder to do that, we need to find the narrow realm of touch that liesbetween too much pressure and too little. When you touch a body, youwant to touch deeply enough that the body pushes back just a little. Ifa muscle becomes rigid under your touch, you've gone too far. If themuscle feels flaccid, you haven't gone far enough.
The Resilient Edge of Resistance
This is the essence of conscious touch. It was named the Resilient Edgeof Resistance by my endlessly inventive teaching partner, ChesterMainard. If the concept of the Resilient Edge of Resistance soundscomplicated or vague, think about the times you've been touched. Whatdoes it feel like when someone's touch is too tentative? It may feellike an annoying tickle, or - if they are using the tips of theirfingers - it may feel like poking. Either way, it feels just plainicky. On the other end of the spectrum, some people's touch is way toointense. Have you ever received a massage by someone with a reallyheavy touch? Your muscles tense and contract as if trying to push theirhands away. You get more and more tense as they try and force yourmuscles to relax. It is painful and not at all relaxing. Then there isthe touch that is just right. It feels safe and supportive andpresent. It's neither too hard nor too soft. It lulls you into a placeof deep comfort and surrender. You're awake and aware, but completelypeaceful and relaxed at the same time. You want it to go on forever.The person touching you has found your Resilient Edge of Resistance.
Place you hand on your lower arm very lightly. Don't apply anypressure. Notice what this feels like. Now massage your arm, applyingincreasingly more pressure. Stop at the point where the massage becomespainful. Notice what this feels like. Now lighten your touch until youfind the point at which your arm yields to your touch but does notshrink away from it. You might find it with a massage stroke usingyour fingers, or just by holding your arm.
I've always thought a good illustration of the edge of resistance isthe tummy touch on the Pillsbury doughboy in those televisioncommercials. When the doughboy is touched on his tummy, he absorbs thetouch (the finger makes a little dimple on his tummy); then his doughytummy springs right back, and the doughboy giggles. That's theResilient Edge of Resistance.
The Resilient Edge of Resistance applies to all parts of our being:physical, emotional, and psychic. When we have too much mental stressin or lives, we shut down, overwhelmed; yet when there is too littlestress, we have no energy, no motivation. On the psychic level, theResilient Edge of Resistance translates into "sufficiently supported totake a risk." Without risk, there is no growth or energy; however,without support, risk becomes recklessness. In the territory between,we can grow, thrive, and find pleasure. We function optimally at theResilient Edge of Resistance.
The Resilient Edge of Resistance shifts constantly. When pressure isapplied the edge of resistance - whether that pressure is breath,touch, or tension - you expand a bit. This creates a new edge ofresistance. Yoga postures are a good example of this. If you are seatedon the floor and bend over to try and tough your forehead to your legs,it may at first seem impossible. Then, with each breath, you relax intothe stretch a little bit more. You don't force it, you just open yourlegs a bit more with each breath. Before you know it, your nose is alot closer to your legs than you ever thought possible. By staying atthe Resilient Edge of Resistance, you are able to go much deeper intothe pose than if you had not gone to the edge, or if you pushed pastthe edge in to pain. The Resilient Edge of Resistance is the placewhere you feel safe enough to surrender and go deeper.
Sex that is too soft is vapid; sex that is too had is assaulting. Wewant to learn to dance on the Resilient Edge of Resistance becausethat's where the real pleasure is. When we reach that level ofpleasure, gateways open to even more profound discoveries andconnections.
Most people touch the way they like to be touched, which may not be howsomeone else likes to be touched at all. For example, you may go allmelty and shivery when someone runs their fingernails along the insideof your thighs. Quite naturally, you'll want your partner to feel asyummy as you do, so you'll touch him the same way. However, he may findthat light, feathery touch ticklish and annoying. So how do you learnto recognize Resilient Edge of Resistance? Your hands and yourintuition will guide you, but your best guide is the person you aretouching. Ask your partner to tell you when a touch is too hard or toolight. When you get feedback, you can easily make an adjustment, andyour hands will memorize it. With practice, your hands will know whatthe Resilient Edge of Resistance feels like on more and more places onthe body, and your touch will become as perfect as that of the ladywhose fingertip poked the tummy of the Pillsbury doughboy.
Here are a few exercises to help you write the Resilient Edge of Resistance into your muscle memory:
- Hug someone. Find a connection that is neither too smothering nor too wimpy.
- Setthe temperature of your bath or shower water to the point where anyhotter would be too hot, and any colder would be too cold.
- Giveyourself a massage with body cream. Go slowly and find the ResilientEdge of Resistance on your legs, your arms, your belly, and yourbreasts.
- Give and receive a hand massage.
- Geta massage. Explain the concept of Resilient Edge of Resistance to yourmasseuse. With her agreement, give feedback to keep the masseuse'stouch at your edge.
- Give a massage. Ask the receiver to give you feedback to keep your touch at their Resilient Edge of Resistance.
- Practiceby petting a dog or a cat. Pets give great feedback. If they stickaround and beg for more, you've found their Resilient Edge ofResistance.
- Find the Resilient Edge of Resistance instillness. Stillness is extremely powerful. Put your hands on someoneso that you can feel both resilience and resistance. Embrace them bothwith your hands.
The Resilient Edge of Resistance Applies to More Than Touch
Although the Resilient Edge of Resistance is a concept most easilyapplied to touch, all of your relating with and lover (includingyourself) can take place in the lovely realm between too much pressureand too little. Let me give you an example. Several years ago, I met myadorable and adoring partner, Kate, at a most intense time in my life.I was breaking up with one lover, involved with two others in athree-way, long-distance relationship, and packing up my New York Cityhome to move to Australia. Not a day went by that I wasn't sayinggoodbye to someone or something that had been a hugely important partof my life. The stress was high as an elephant's eye, and I wasstarting to crack under the pressure and grief and drama of it all.
On afternoon, Kate and I started o make love. She was touching melightly and lovingly, and it should have been wonderful, but it wasn't.I couldn't stand it - I wanted to punch her. Of course, it wasn't herfault. I usually loved a light, elegant touch. After all, I was thequeen of ostrich feather caresses and silky, sensuous massages. Buttoday it just wasn't working for me at all. Kate. both a veryexperienced S/M player and a very intuitive lover, said, "Do you thinkyou might like something a little harder?"
She began by thudding my back with a padded nightstick. It felt sogood. I breathed and groaned and yelled out weeks of built-up pain andfrustration. When I turned over, I felt a tight pain in my solar plexusas though some malevolent force had grabbed hold of all my power andwas holding it hostage. Kate took a sharp pointed talon (a long steelclaw that extends from a ring worn on the finger to an inch beyond thefingertip) and started running it down my stomach. She startedrelatively lightly, as the talon was quite sharp. I kept asking her topress harder and harder. With each stroke I was opening up a bit more.Kate stayed right with me. She listened to me, gave me what I askedfor, and most importantly, made me feel safe. I knew she was focusedonly on me and that she had the technique to use the talon safely. Iknew she would not do anything that would actually injure me, no matterhow much I asked. I breathed and yelled and cried, and finally, as thetalon nearly sliced me open, I felt my solar plexus burst open,releasing all the evil, black, psychic gunk I had been holding there. Icried and cried and then I laughed and laughed. I felt so high, solight, and so me again.
That was meeting Resilient Edge of Resistance - psychically,emotionally, and physically. So, think about your own life: where youlive, what you do for work, what your home life is like, and so forth.If you live in a sweet little cottage beside a lake in the woods, workat a fulfilling but low-pressure job, and have lots of time for familyand friends and nature, your Resilient Edge of Resistance will be at avery different place at the end of the day than that of a person whoworks in a cubicle in a corporate office tower in midtown New York at ahigh-pressure job that frequently keeps them at their desk till 9 p.m.the person in New York is more likely to ant and need a harder touch inorder to crack through the armor they have built up to protect theirhearts and other soft tender parts. Whether you generally like a hardtouch or a soft touch, whether you like black leather or floatysarongs, even if you change your sexual style on a daily basis, youcan't go wrong if you simply find your Resilient Edge of Resistance.
Reprinted from Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century by Barbara Carrellas