Dawn Cartwright

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I like sex.

You probably like sex.

But, truly, how much do you know about it? I’m not talking to you, 16-year-old boy who thinks he gets everything because he read a Playboy and Googled doctored naked Selena Gomez photos. Nope, I’m talking to you—adult who has had sex, then more sex. It’s sometimes great, sometimes good, sometimes forgettable. Sometimes you’re really into it, other times you’re thinking about your fantasy football team, or Mario Lopez, or Melissa Gilbert, or all of the above.

I digress.

A few months ago I was working in my favorite Los Angeles coffee shop, 212 Pier, when I stumbled upon a brochure for something called the Chandra Bindu Tantra Institute in Santa Monica. It was intriguing stuff—not the standard baloney we put out there about intercourse (doctored, unblemished bodies on magazine covers; Eight keys to an unbelievable orgasm, etc), but genuine spirituality mixed with love making. It talked about sexual bliss and sexual fulfillment via “an ancient path of self discovery.”

Put different, it was sexy as hell.

Anyhow, I reached out to Dawn Cartwright, founder of the Chandra Bindu Tantra Institute and a “innovator in bio-energetic Tantra fusion,” and asked if she’d be down with a Quaz. Here we are. One can visit the website here, and follow Dawn on Twitter here.

Dawn Cartwright, prepare for the greatest orgasm of all. You’ve been Quazed …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Dawn, I’m gonna start basic here. I just read a web profile of you that included this: “She discovered the path of Tantra by accident shortly after a period of life-changing mystical experiences in lovemaking more than twenty years ago.” I’m gonna step back and ask, simply, what does that mean?

DAWN CARTWRIGHT: Like many people, I was sexually adventurous in my 20s and 30s. Sex was hot and primal. One morning, just before I turned 30, my lover and I started to make love and everything seemed more vibrant. The nerve endings all over my body were alive and sensing. I felt sound. I saw sensation. It’s not easy to describe, other than to say the world came alive in me and I lit up inside it. At a certain moment, I looked up into my lover’s eyes and sensed something extraordinary inside me looking through my eyes into his. There was a feeling of connection that was timeless. At the same time, I saw in his eyes a love I knew existed far beyond the exchange we were having. There was something going that was inexplainable. I’d discovered Tantra, by accident.

J.P.: So I just spent some time trying to figure Tantra out, and well, I’m kind of lost. Some places make it sound very sexual, some non-sexual. There’s a famous Sex in the City episode where an old guy at a Tantra seminar cums all over one of the characters—and that’s always been my Tantra vision. So, Dawn, what’s Tantra?

D.C.: The Tantras are a wide range of texts, quite possibility arising from ancient oral traditions, which describe the deeper significance of love. These texts are a set of highly scientific principles that teach the path to this deeper experience, principles that are conveyed through a beautiful array of practices.

From the Tantric perspective, sex is the union between who we are and who we can be, the ultimate expression of who we are. When we are awake and alive in our sexuality, we no longer feel separate or isolated, we know, as a felt sense, we are a part of life and that our sexual pleasure is the same pleasure that births galaxies and stars.

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J.P.: Clearly what you teach has to do greatly with sex, love making, etc. And in seems, in this country, sex, love making are still taboo topics; talked about, but in weird, awkward, off-putting terms. What do you think about America’s relationship with sexual discovery?

D.C.: Lisa Wade, Ph.D describes the cultural shift that happened just near the end of the Puritan era when the acceptable “purpose” of sex changed dramatically. In her article, “Before Love: Puritan Beliefs about Sex and Marriage,” Wade writes; “Over the course of the 1800s, Victorians slowly abandoned the Puritan idea that sex was only for reproduction, embracing instead the now familiar idea that sex could be an expression of love and a source of pleasure, an idea that still resonates strongly today.”

I’ll take it another step further, I believe we’ve replaced  the Puritanical idea of procreation with the Victorian idea of romance. Instead of having sex only for procreation, now we have sex only when our romantic expectations have been fulfilled. We’ve confused love with romance. What we fail to see is sex, the primal surge of the human spirit, is the grist for love. Without sex; love, passion, constancy and surrender cannot exist.

J.P.: So I know you’re from the West Coast, attended UC Davis, founded the Chandra Bindu Tantra Institute in Santa Monica. But, womb to now, what your path? How’d you end up doing this? When did you first know? Etc?

D.C.: I started off in rural East Tennessee. The community there was very small. Highlights were the 15-course deep fried, gravy laden, biscuit sopping, suppers my maternal grandmother cooked up every Sunday afternoon and the stacks of National Geographics in my paternal grandfather’s basement. I grew up soaked in sensual and intellectual pleasures. I feel this predisposed me for a life of Tantra.

Starting around puberty, I was fascinated with sex. Oh, wait, just remembered, since third grade when we started terrorizing boys during recess, I was fascinated with sex. I grew up during the sexual revolution and even though I have no idea how the revolution made it all the way to the foothills of the Appalachia’s, I felt it. And I was a part of it. Life magazine and the music of the time influenced me a great deal, my parents are very culturally awake.

I loved to read. I read constantly. The sex scenes in romantic novels drove me wild. I’d read those scenes over and over again until I collapsed in an erotic frenzy. When I started dating at 16, those scenes came to life in a 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. I felt like I was consumed by the glory of God. Right then, my reading material switched from romantic novels to sex manuals like “The Joy of Sex.”

In my late 20s, early 30s, I had my first experience of Tantric sex. It was everything I’d experienced in my sex life so far, and more. I’d never heard of Tantra, yet I knew that this experience, whatever it was, was the reason I was alive. I committed myself to exploring and, not long after, saw an ad in the LA Weekly titled: “The Art of Sexual Magic”. If the ad had said “The Art of Tantra”, I would have passed right over it. I was IN. That’s when I met my first teacher and started my formal learning.

J.P.: You write quite vividly about sex, including this gem (“For, as he entered me, he entered my whole being. From the moment he touched me there was nothing in me that was not filled by him. It was as if the light around us was now streaming within us from his body into mine.”). How do you feel so comfortable being so open about your own sexual experiences? I mean, most people shudder at the thought of sharing such intimate details?

D.C.: I study and teach because I want to meet other people who have or long to have, the same experiences I’ve had and have. Sex is important to me. The transcendental potential of sex fascinates me. I’ve found the best way to connect with other people who have similar interests is to openly share and explore those interests. I feel honest, appropriate disclosure is one of the best ways to find commonality—it got you to interview me. Your interview style inspires me, brings out less explored parts of me—Tantra in journalism.

J.P.: I’m petrified of death. The inevitability of nothingness. I’m guessing it doesn’t bother you. True? False? And why?

D.C.: I remember being down with a horrific flu a few years ago. While I was lying there doubled over in agony the only thing I wanted was to survive the illness. While I do not experience an overriding fear of death, and hope I’ll meet mine gracefully, I have an enormous respect for death and the will to live.

I am alive every minute until I’m not, how intimate with life can I be? This perspective makes me more comfortable with death and it also makes my life, as it is right now, feel complete. Less and less I feel I am missing anything. I sense death will be a bit like pushing myself back from the table after a huge feast. I’ll pat my belly, wipe my chin, and say, “That was good!”

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J.P.: So a couple comes to you. They’re dissatisfied with a stale sex life, blah, blah, blah. How do you work with them? What’s the approach? Is it a year of sessions? Months? Please explain?

D.C.: We start with an introductory session where I teach the couple specific Tantra practices to reawaken intimacy and connection. These practices take the couple back to the feelings of attraction and love they felt when they first met. Once they feel these feelings again, they immediately notice themselves and their relationship come back online. They discover their sexual relationship can be, once again, a source of great joy and physical and emotional connection.

In the following sessions, we turn on the the sexual pleasure circuits in the body using Tantra techniques. Couples learn how to increase their own capacity for sexual openness, sensitivity and pleasure, then learn ways of sharing this with one another.

I work with couples and singles in cycles of seven sessions. We meet once each week for an hour or more. Practices are learned and experienced, fully clothed. The clients go home at the end of the session, do their homework, then come back the following week and share notes.

I find most couples experience a profound shift in their sexual relationship within three months; that’s about two cycles of seven sessions. Many couples work with me ongoing, for a year or more. There is no limit to the sexual depths and transcendence the Tantra practice has to offer, I’ve been studying and practicing for more than 23 years and I’m still expanding.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

D.C.: The greatest moment of my career happened a few years ago at my father’s 70th birthday celebration. He proudly introduced me to his golf buddies like this, “This is my daughter, Dawn, she helps people with their sex lives.”

The lowest moment of my career is each time I leave anywhere I am to go somewhere else. When I leave Santa Monica for India. When I leave India for Santa Monica. When I leave Ireland. I fall secretly apart every single time.

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J.P.: I love my wife. I have never—and would never—cheat on my wife. But, from solely an animalistic standpoint, I wonder whether two people are supposed to only have sex with one another for their entire adult lives. It actually seems to go against nature. Do I sound crazy suggesting such?

D.C.: What’s crazy is we’ve made this question about the number of lovers we’ll have or not have over the course of a lifetime, never stopping to wonder if we’ve ever unpacked the vastness of who we are—with anyone.

J.P.: Maybe this is too basic, but what are the keys to great sex? A great sex life?

D.C.: The keys to great sex are simple; you are consumed with it, nothing exists outside of it, it fills you with a cosmic sense of wonder. A great sex life is one where sex exists in and beyond the bedroom. It’s being warm, accepting, caring, erotic, sensuous and endlessly awake in everything you do.

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• Five sexiest movies of your lifetime: Lust Caution, lo Sono L’Amore, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring, Unfaithful, Brokeback Mountain

• Rank in order (favorite to least)—Hershey Kisses, Jay Schroeder, Bohdi Avinasha, A Tribe Called Quest, “The Sixth Sense,” Tom Petty, llamas, the number 24, coconut oil, very tall oak trees: Bohdi Avinasha, coconut oil, very tall oak trees, Tom Petty, Blind Melon, “The Sixth Sense,” Jay Schroeder, Eric Decker, The number 24, llamas, Hershey Kisses

• One question you would ask Joan Kroc were she here right now?: What was your life like, Joan, between 1957, when you met Ray, and 1969 when you married him?

• In exactly 18 words, give me your thoughts on the Kardashians: The Kardashians are the Jekell to our Hyde, living out the repressed sexual fantasies of the western culture.

• Who are the five coolest people you’ve ever met?: My dad, my mom, my therapist, my guru, Robert Bosnak.

Am I wrong in thinking vaginas are sorta odd looking?: The unfamiliar is often seen as odd.

Shania Twain calls. She’ll pay you $20 million to move to Las Vegas and be her private tantric love making coach for a year. The conditions: You have to only eat salami and mixed greens for the year, and your name must be officially changed to Nancy Reagan. You in?: I’d counter with: One year, me as your private Tantra coach. At the end of the year, in addition to expanded ecstasies and pleasures during sex, you’ll orgasm each time you hit a clear true singing note. Cost $40 million and I’ll move to Vegas for the year. No other conditions.

Who’s the sexiest man you’ve ever seen?: My sitar player.

Is it possible that Tupac is still alive and working at a CVS in Ada, Oklahoma?: That, I’m not sure about, but I do know Marcc Rose has been spotted flying coach.

Best joke you know: An executive had to get rid of one member of his staff. He couldn’t decide between Mary and Jack: both had equal seniority and qualifications. Unable to choose, he finally decided that whoever used the water fountain first would be let go.

The next morning, Mary came with a hangover. She went to the water fountain so she could take some aspirin.

The executive approached her: “Mary, this is difficult, but I have to lay you or Jack off.”

Mary replied, “Then you’ll have to jack off. I have a hell of a headache.”