From Whips to Tantra: A Tantric Approach to BDSM

Rina Trevi • Dec 16, 2020 • 7 min read
When I became a professional dominatrix more than a decade ago, it was because I wanted to explore humanness.
Rina Trevi
For me, the mystique of this career path, for which I had left a promising position in corporate finance, was always this: to have the freedom to see what it’s like when we’re given full, unapologetic permission to share our innermost fantasies, and to find ways to make them real.

I didn’t quite know what I was leaving the corporate world for, but I was certain that its stifled and formulaic manner of relating with others felt false and superficial. And, indeed, the contrast between this style of communicating and the reality of the dungeon, in which I found myself a few short months after leaving my corporate job, was stark.

In the shadows of my dungeon, things were real, raw, unmasked, honest—at last! So, I dove into it headlong (and without a clue), and I loved it.

At first, I was curious to try it all in order, I suppose, to explore all the possible varieties of, well, humanness. I accepted just about every client. While retaining my hard limits, I was liberal about exploring every type of kink and fetish.

After all, how could I know what these things meant if I didn’t try them?

Quickly, it became apparent that seduction, femininity, and beauty were my strengths, as I found myself attracting clients who fetishized my looks and outfits and who enjoyed goddess worship and tease-and-denial types of play.

After a while, I had my fill of these and challenged myself with something more spicy: I decided to explore my sadistic side. I started with photoshoots of myself dressed in leather from head to toe or in military dresses, a no-mercy look on my face; I offered my clients sessions of corporal punishment and interrogation. This, too, went well, and it certainly helped me to raise my confidence and embrace my inner fire.

Still, once again, in the wake of these sessions, I would be left feeling that there was something left unexplored, untouched, unrefined.

The feeling remained in the background as I attempted to make my sessions as interesting as possible, but after a while, it all began to feel pointless. Clients would come to see me for a session of domination, bringing their desires to me like an itch to be scratched. They would obtain some temporary satisfaction, only to come back for more, each time with increased intensity.

I started to find myself becoming dissatisfied with my work and bored of repeating the same actions again and again. I felt that my submissives and I were keeping each other trapped in repeating loops; it became inescapable. I was ready for a change. A breakthrough. A new direction.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Where would this new direction come from? How would I transform the seemingly “un-transformable?” Was a change of career in order? I didn’t know.

But, the intention to find more depth and honesty in my practice, both for me and my clients, was enough to bring about a transformation in my sessions, as it turned out. Intention, as I discovered, has incredible power. As soon as I made it, reality followed suit.

My new direction did not emerge out of nowhere. Rather, my career as a dominatrix came naturally to meet my spiritual practices, in which I had been engaging in parallel as a personal pursuit. I suppose this was inevitable, as I take both seriously. I am passionate about my work, and I am also deeply passionate about spirituality, tantra, self-inquiry, and meditation, of which I am an avid and dedicated practitioner—it had just never occurred to me that the two could be merged.

For a while, I took this new direction on faith, not knowing precisely what the interweaving of these two paths would ultimately look like; I did know that I no longer wanted sessions that remained on the surface or, worse, encouraged a mere addiction to pleasure.

I had an important question I wanted to be answered: How do I give to my clients something deeper, more mutually revealing, that leads to true freedom?

The past few years, and this year, in particular, have brought me closer and closer to an answer.

A Tantric Approach to BDSM

Mainstream stereotypes about tantra imagine blissful sex and hour-long orgasms. As I have studied the tantric approach to spirituality and sexuality for a while now, I want to divulge that tantra is a great deal more than that.

Tantra is a Sanskrit word that means “woven together.” It uses the sexual union as a metaphor for the weaving together of the physical and the spiritual—weaving man to woman and humanity to the divine. Many religions separate the—sinful, unrefined, evil—material world from the—pure, refined, good—spiritual world.

Tantra, however, assumes that everything is already divine and that we don’t have to escape the material world in order to discover our true and divine nature.

In tantra, we delve deeper into our desires through self-inquiry, that is, by asking questions about ourselves and answering them honestly. For instance, a closer look at our desire for human connection might reveal that it is really a desire for connection with something greater—a higher power.

Tantra is actually not about sex at all.

Sure, it can be practiced within a sexual context, but at its core, it’s about bringing awareness and richness into all of our activities. Then, why not BDSM, too?

I have always deeply honored my clients’ fantasies, no matter how strange they might sound. This is because I knew, both intuitively and from my studies of psychology and sexology, that attractions that strike a deep inner chord do so because of a mysterious and complex inner resonance, and therefore, should be honored. Being brave enough to look into denied aspects and to find safe outlets for them permits people to integrate their suppressed parts, which in turn makes them happier and more whole.

Here are my tips, useful for both dominant and submissive participants to know:

Trust yourself

Few of us have been taught that we can trust ourselves (or, for that matter, others) in the erotic realm. Quite the opposite. When we were little, for instance, we were encouraged by a variety of subtle and explicit messages to be wary of our eroticism, even as it was developing.

Understandably, as adults, we often feel uncomfortable about examining the content and meaning of our turn-ons. Holding on to such an attitude, however, restricts our vision and can be detrimental to our well-being and enjoyment. We’d get much better results if we would simply acknowledge our feelings while staying patient with ourselves. Discomfort with one’s sexuality can take years to build up and can’t be expected to change overnight.

We might discover that it doesn’t need to be changed at all or that it can be transformed into something amazing. But, for this to happen, brute honesty with oneself is an important prerequisite.

So, make a commitment to keep digging deeper in this direction, and trust your fantasies—they have things to tell you.

Set an Intention for the Session

We all know about self-fulfilling prophecies; well, they work here too. The intention you set will determine what you get out of your session with your partner. For instance, coming in with the thought, “I’d like to get as much pleasure as my time or money can buy,” places you on a fast route to neediness and addiction, and to sessions that barely scratch the surface.

Try, however, to instead adopt the thought, ”I’d like to expand my ability to let go of control, experience how safe it is to be vulnerable, and to see whether it can bring me a more fulfilling experience,” and you might have a much deeper experience.

Other examples of simple but refined intentions might be: I’d like to use my passion for kink in order to access deeper levels of relaxation and release; or, I’d like to learn how to be intuitive and trust my play partner.

Creating a more refined intention facilitates deeper levels of surrender, growth, and enjoyment.

Be Aware and Empty Out

“You have to be totally empty in order to experience things the way they are; otherwise, it’s only your opinion of things,” says my beloved teacher, Mooji.

In order to tune out from the busy world, I find it helpful to explicitly state my wish to leave the past, the future, self-identifications, and the drama of the world outside the walls of the session room. After doing so, I like to breathe a bit louder in order to easily focus more easily on the breath, which is a great portal into a present-moment awareness. This awareness makes it possible to feel my submissive intuitively. I often like to start a session with this little ritual. And it’s fruitful when my submissive and I both do it, together.

As long as I’m deeply tuned into the present moment, and keep my submissive there too, we can access deeper realms of reality, so-called altered states of consciousness, which bring deeper relaxation, insights, and even a healing space that’s beyond pleasure and pain—surrender.

My submissive surrenders to me and allows for anything to unfold, while I surrender to the great unknown and do the same. We have to be willing to mess things up a little, let things be unpredictable. Otherwise, we cannot stay present and let the session move spontaneously.

Instead of chasing one bliss or another, we need to leave our perfectionism and planning outside the room to create a space for safe surrender. Real surrender is a state of vulnerability, and a vulnerable space is far more conducive to growth and pleasure than a well-protected one.

Be Prepared for Challenges
“People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls,” observed famed psychologist Carl Jung.

While Tantric BDSM may sound like a lot of fun (and I hope it does), it also contains various challenges. It’s best that you be prepared.

So, let me tell you what they are:

Getting out of your comfort zone and meeting yourself. Together with bliss and insights, be prepared to see everything that you’ve repressed become revealed to you. This includes, but is not limited to, various emotions, fantasies, and traumatic experiences. We’ve all heard that one has to face all the skeletons in one’s closet in order to become free from them, so facing them is not a bad thing; but, it does require you to be willing to become even more vulnerable than you planned to be.

Many people find it challenging to fall to pieces and to act out all of the emotions that come up, but it always turns out to be a healing experience for those who do.

Getting lost in pleasure. Some experiences of altered states of consciousness can be so blissful that it’s easy to lose sight of things. Some people lose sight of the greater goal of self-liberation and start “chasing the high” in an expectant or manipulative way. Others try to replace all their other everyday pleasures with it. This addictive behavior is a major trap—nothing takes you farther away from experiencing bliss than a blind attachment to bliss. Expanding consciousness has a way of changing things; ultimately, I believe, for the better, but often not before shaking everything up. Deep, honest self-discovery through play can affect your entire person, which will, in turn, affect the way you see many aspects of your life and your role in them.

While awesome and satisfying, this isn’t necessarily easy.

The erotic manifestations of our “shadow” hold the keys to the whole self, as opposed to the limited self to which most of us have become accustomed. As our sessions deepen, new possibilities for ecstasy and discovery emerge. The fact that we can use our kinky play to create something beautiful and meaningful is immensely inspiring to me, and I can’t imagine it becoming less so.

Through this new direction in my work, I have come to feel more intimately connected with my clients, which has allowed me to take them on a journey that is far more authentic and rewarding for us both.
We mustn’t blame ourselves for not having been taught how to process challenging emotions. The good news is that it is possible to master this skill at any point in life. Perhaps the first thing we must realize is that we can’t strategize surrender.
We can’t try and surrender: surrender happens when all the resources against it are exhausted, and giving up is the only choice remaining. My job is to guide you to this point and, while my way of guiding someone to this place is a rather intuitive and even shamanic skill acquired with time, there are still ways in which I can provide explicit guidance, especially if we are to address some specific aspect of surrender, such as feeling your feelings.

I will take myself as an example to illustrate what I mean. I believe I have come to be good at feeling my feelings, in all of their variety. My emotions are now allowed to roam and pass freely, so I never feel stuck, as I do not resist them. I’ve re-conditioned myself into having a healthy, welcoming approach towards my inner world. Once my feelings are welcomed fully, they tend to come and then to go so that there is nothing left over for tomorrow. This way, the “poor me” victim state has no opportunity to be formed at all.

How did I get to this point? Well, I have been putting myself through various experiences of surrender throughout my life: BDSM submission, BASE jumping, freediving, psychedelic journeys, extensive solo travel, radical shifts in my life direction, giving up homes, work, partners, friends, even when all this felt terrifying (but right, nevertheless). These transformational experiences entailed going through a cocktail of vulnerable emotions and have provided me with some authority in offering ideas on how to process your feelings harmoniously.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Come with the right intention, that is, to feel your feelings. The intention is like a self-fulfilling prophecy, a very powerful tool. Intend on opening up to your feelings. Give yourself the permission to be unapologetically you, moment by moment, without hiding a thing.

  • Whether for good or ill, feelings exist to be felt. To resist or deny our emotions is only to strengthen them. Now, your mind can be tricky — you might notice how your thoughts are looking for every possible excuse not to feel what you’re feeling. It’s not the right time, why am I here, what’s the point, I’ve already tried feeling this before, it’s useless and painful, if I fall apart I will lose my mind and go crazy… Expect this resistance, give it the right to exist as mere thoughts passing by. Do not identify with it. Do not think of your feelings! Think of them as clouds, while you are the sky of awareness; let it all pass freely upon it.

  • If struggle comes, don’t just label it: “I don’t like it.” Instead, really see the resistance. What is it made of? Who is resisting? If your reaction is“of course it’s me!” ask yourself: who is this me? You may notice that your inner judge, who is equipped to resist, is getting out of his comfort zone. You may notice the tone of your mother in it, or your father, or someone else. Observe the forces fighting within you, feelings, emotions, storms, tsunamis, all fighting against this inner critic, inner judge. A tsunami of thoughts: stop it, I don’t want it, I want it to be over…. This is when you don’t take sides. Acknowledge the battle raging within you while you remain merely as presence — the space that contains it all without any preferences for the content of it.

  • Feel your body. Feel your breath. Feel your being. This is the best way to avoid becoming entangled in thoughts and remain here and now. What is your body feeling like? How are your fingers and toes? Curved and tense? You can communicate to your body it’s safe to relax, there is no need to fight, and then allow it to relax.
How is your breath? Are you holding it at times? Encourage yourself to breathe fully. Breathe with the whole body. With every cell of your being. Let the breath expand beyond the boundaries of your body. Scan your body, scan your breath, feel the subtle layers, the energy, the flow. Find the tension’s location and see if you can relax it. If you cannot, just acknowledge that the tension is there and move on.
  • Notice the grossest expressions as well as the most subtle ones. Dissect the gross labels such as “pain” into more subtle ones. Make it a metaphor: “an erupting hot, orange, volcano” or “stiff and firm like an ancient rock.” Give it space to be, and keep on feeling how it shapeshifts. You will notice how, on a more subtle level, everything is constantly flowing. Feel your body, and go from gross to subtle.

  • For those who are more devotionally minded, it helps to do a ritual of consecration, either before the session or a reconnection with it during moments of struggles. Consecration is an internal prayer aimed at offering all the fruits, merits, and results of a certain action or experience to the divine consciousness — God or Goddess or all sentient beings, whichever form is higher than our limited human existence. This is a major act of surrender your will to the Divine will. When struggle and resistance comes, it can be helpful to divert your mind towards the Divine and internally say something such as, “I’m feeling like I’m falling into the abyss. Whatever happens, I want to place it at Your feet.” Then exhale deeply to drop the weight off your shoulders.

  • Imagine, if you were to really give up, what would this look like? If you found yourself out of time and out of moves, what would you do? Would it be a loud shout of desperation — “Whyyyyy!!!” or a more subtle, deep breath of release? Would it involve the snake-like undulations of your body? Or would you allow yourself internally to sink into the deep rabbit hole of the unknown without any physical expressions? Or would you say something like “Oh fuck!” and release a long “ahhhhh”? Just imagine it first and then try doing it. Resisting your feelings is hard work; try something different, surrender.

What happens after Surrender? A logical question, but not so wise, because it presumes to place conditions upon surrender. As in, first I surrender, and then I get such and such goodies. Surrender must be unconditional. So I won’t be giving you any goodies and will give you a chance to uncover it for yourself. Yet, I can speak of your emotions.

When emotions are allowed to be felt fully, with every cell of your being, with every layer of your existence, magic happens. Things start to flow rapidly. You are no longer stuck in habitual patterns, such as daily anxiety or habitual rage attacks. Emotions become vivid, acute, rich, and fluid. They come, are felt without any filter, appreciated for their raw beauty, and are transformed into another feeling. Rage turns into tears; sadness becomes laughter; laughter becomes a heartfelt confession; a confession becomes an act of creativity; creativity becomes an act of unconditional love for all. Feelings are no longer enemies but friends that hold innumerable and profound gifts. They are a part of an unapologetic You, a Divine Being in a human form, living life every moment to the deepest depth, fullest of full, and saying Yes to every precious moment of being alive because there is not one moment that is more auspicious than another.


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