If you are attuned to contemporary discourse on sacred sexuality, you should most definitely be aware of this rising star, Ty Shaw. I have had the pleasure of calling her friend and godmother for nearly ten years now. I've had the privilege of observing her progress and prowess in action as she commands multiple roles namely independent scholar, sacred sexuality practitioner, and priestess of a variety of female-centered African and African-rooted spiritual systems. Ty Shaw is fearlessly blazing a trail that equitably integrates mind, body, and spirit, and a healthy dose of healing and bliss.
I sat down with Ms. Shaw this week to pick her brain about her practice, particularly her emergence into the scholarly and lecture circuits with her upcoming speaking engagement at the 2018 Sex Down South Conference. Dig in, this is a juicy one!
Negarra A. Kudumu: I am super excited to feature you on the blog and introduce my readers to you and your practice. Many people still don't know who you are so please tell the people about you.
Ty Shaw: I am an Esoteric Sexologist, which means that in my approach to the study and science of sex & sexuality I focus on the esoteric applications and integrations. As a Somatic Sex Educator, Independent Scholar and Afrolatina, initiated, lineage-based priestess in African and African-inspired Diaspora spiritual traditions, my work is at the intersection between the practice of living a liberated existence, healing trauma, accessing embodiment and cultivating our spiritual development. I have spent the better part of the last 15 years studying, researching, training and teaching with and for others in the fields of spirituality, African history, Africana women’s history, sexuality and healing.
I came into Sacred Sexuality and its numerous sciences rather organically. Since I was a child, I have always had a keen awareness of the connection between sexuality and spirituality. At age nine, I stumbled upon the illustrated Kama Sutra and from there, a fascination with sexuality as a sacred art developed. As an adult, I began to study tantra through my research on Ancient Kemet. I continued to study with various teachers, programs, and practices here in the US and abroad before finally being initiated as a tantrika in the Sri Vidya lineage. My research in tantra led me to sex coaching and supporting folks in healing through sexual trauma.
NAK: Define sacred sexuality in layman’s terms: what is it? Where does it come from? Why one should do it?
TS: What we understand as “sacred sexuality” today typically refers to numerous forms of Tantra. Tantra has its origins in the earliest Mother-Goddess religions still practiced today in many parts of the world, but most popular in India. The lineage to which I am initiated comes from Southern India and centers their entire worship around the divine mother.
The word Tantra comes from the Sanskrit TANOTI, which means “to expand” and TRAYATI which means “liberation”. In order for expanding consciousness to liberate us from physical level of our being, we have to use the five senses to the limit, and then, go beyond that limit.
Tantra teaches us how to explore and integrate every aspect of our consciousness. Many tantric schools teach that we should sublimate our senses in our quest for ultimate truth or transcendence. This is particularly true of some interpretations of Egyptian tantra. They frown on sexuality, arguing that it distracts the Seeker from the ultimate goal of samadhi or enlightenment. These schools of thought lead us to try to subdue and suppress sexual desire idealizing celibacy and abstinence. Many schools teach that ascetic renunciation and withdrawal from life is the only means to truth; however, this comes from a gross misunderstanding of sexual energy and how to use it to achieve the same end.
The truth is that spiritual energy and sexual energy are two sides of the same coin: the upward flowing spiritual energy becomes sexual when it turns downward. In tantra,rather than subjugate and suppress the energy, we learn to redirect it and use it to our advantage. Then its power becomes a blessing and celibacy becomes irrelevant-just a matter of personal choice.
Many spiritual schools, metaphysical schools of thought, western society and culture in general have a deeply embedded conviction that sexuality is somehow evil (that relates to the persecution of the feminine, but that’s another topic altogether). They teach that we must choose: either God or flesh. They forget, however, that God is in the flesh and body and it's in there to be found and fully realized. Tantra teaches us that we don't have to choose - that God is sexual pleasure used correctly.
Most Westerners are so damaged that in expressing their sexuality they require a ton of healing. They must learn to overcome inhibitions, deal with guilt and abuse, and activate energies within them that have been dormant for some time. Sacred Sex involves coming into the understanding that sexuality and spirituality are one and then engaging in activities to cultivate our divine sexual energy. Sacred sexuality, as we know it in the West, can almost be seen as remedial work; the prerequisites to truly practicing and living Tantra.
NAK: What are common misconceptions about sacred sexuality?
TY: Most Westerners are drawn to Tantra because they believe it will improve their sexual satisfaction. And it absolutely will do that beyond your wildest dreams, but not by bringing more of what you already know. Tantra will take you to a whole new level of experience. Tantra embraces sexuality as a doorway to transformation.
Tantra is not a license for sexual abandon because the practices of true tantra require discipline. Tantra uses the most powerful energy that we know - sexual energy - to penetrate spiritual realms. It is not about sense gratification solely, but pushing the senses further for our development.
People should understand that not all tantra is the same and when they hear the word “tantra” they should know that it means many things. There are varying styles and schools of thought. Many styles are non-sexual. Some styles refer to tantric energy work and projection. Others are purely devotional and philosophical. It is important to learn about different styles, lineages and techniques. It is important to understand that while Tantra embraces and uses sexuality - as it does all things, it is not solely about development in the bedroom.
People should also know that tantra isn’t exclusive to India and cannot be divorced from people of color in general, particularly Black women.
NAK: What aspects of sacred sexuality do you offer your clientele?
TY: I offer training, courses and private coaching. I offer individuals, couples, and groups support in accessing full embodiment and cultivating a mindful, spirit-centered erotic practice. Clients come to me to work through and heal sexual abuse, explore new sexual techniques, kinks and fetishes, try erotic massage for education and pleasure, experience shamanistic tantra regenerative energy healing, learn new practices to increase their erotic knowledge, healing erectile challenges, learning to become orgasmic, healing their energetic vibrations, coaching and to find support in decolonizing the mind, spirit and body. My practice is layered and customized to each client.
NAK: What does healing look like as a result of incorporating sacred sexuality modalities into one’s life?
TY: In my practice I support clients in their healing by implementing my three pillars: embodiment, autonomy, and liberation. Sacred Sexuality is the foundation for embodiment and coming into our full spiritual, sexual power. Implementing Sacred Sexuality modalities helps us to release trauma held within the cellular body and rewire our neurological interpretations of pleasure. Sacred Sexuality expands our capacity to sense, to receive, and to manifest that pleasure.
NAK: Tell us about your presentation for the forthcoming Sex Down South conference?
TY: My upcoming workshop is called “Punany Politics: Rethinking Black Female Desire”. In it, I am exploring Black female desire as the roadmap for liberation and embodiment. In this workshop, we will explore tools and technologies for Black women to live and perform their desire with a focus on sacred sexuality, liberation, and empowerment. I plan to discuss:
How my three pillars - Embodiment, Autonomy and Liberation - can be united for sustainable wellness in Black female people;
How Black female people can use sexuality and sacred ritual to actualize their power;
How having a Black Goddess-centered spiritual practice sets the tone for freedom and decolonization; and
How through centering our self-care, creating a mindful erotic practice that cultivates our desire, and mapping our lives accordingly, we can come into alignment with our power.
By the end of this session participants will leave with an intellectual and tangible tool kit for expressing and actualizing their desire.
NAK: What are the three most important things people need to know about your practice?
my practice centers women of color in general, and Black women in particular;
foundational to my approach to healing and wholing is a firm rooting in liberation theology and praxis; and
without owning the body and one’s sex, being fully whole and human is not possible.
Ty Shaw will deliver her presentation titled "Punany Politics: Rethinking Black Female Desire" on Thursday, September 6 at 4 pm EST, at the Sex Down South conference in Atlanta, GA. To learn more about the services she offers, visit her website IAmTyShaw.com. Find her on social media at:
Negarra A. Kudumu
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