GAY-TANTRA and More at Frog Meadow Oasis for Men

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday July 31, 2018

Can sexual energy and connection be both erotic and authentic?

Armin Heining believes the answer is yes. Heining, a former Benedictine monk and the founder of GAY-TANTRA, has spent the past 25 years helping workshop participants realize that human sexuality is not just a drive, but also a gift: A joy to be cherished and explored.

Armin has expanded his workshops and coaching beyond his native Germany, offering GAY-TANTRA to men in Europe and the United States. Armin's workshops range in duration and intensity from three-hour "samplers" to two-day "introductory workshops" to three-day "intensive seminars."

In 2015, Armin brought his work to the United States for the first time, with a workshop hosted at Frog Meadow, a "country bed & breakfast and massage oasis for men" outside of Brattleboro, Vermont that hosts frequent men's workshops and retreats. Since then, the wildly successful workshops have returned to Frog Meadow eight more times, and now Armin is preparing for a multi-state tour of workshops for later this year, planning to return to Frog Meadow and then to Boston; from there he'll head north to Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, before returning to the U.S. and leading workshops in Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Palm Springs, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando.

Always effervescent and upbeat, Armin obviously takes real pleasure from the work he does in teaching others how to find pleasure and not just embrace it, but celebrate it. There's no place for shame or fear in Armin's workshops, and no time for it, either: Armin sets a brisk pace, pouring so much into each and every segment of his workshops that anxieties evaporate and rapport between participants quickly emerges. It's that sense of connection that sets Armin's workshops apart; whereas other retreats for men focusing on erotic subject matter tend to get caught up in technique, connection - with self as well as others - is the fundamental basis of Armin's instruction.

Adding to one's erotic toolkit is always an enriching experience, but techniques are not enough; they must be applied to a larger goal if they are going to contribute to the enrichment not only of one's sex life, but one's life overall. "I focus not so much on the tools," Armin says, "but on the inner process."

Part of Armin's ability to set participants at ease comes from his authentically joyous personality, but in part it's also down to his frank, and enthusiastic, way of speaking about the work. "We are going to share a happy and joyful erotic experience with our session partners," he might tell the men in the room, "giving and receiving pleasure, exploring our bodies and our feelings. But it will be without ejaculation!"

That's one hard and fast rule of the workshops, even when they last for several days. By generating arousal and erotic energy and then circulating that energy through the body using massage techniques, participants learn to move past the immediate urge for release and into a deeper, more satisfying realm of connection. Thus does Desire move into Ecstasy - and then into Bliss.

That was the name of the weekend workshop I attended recently at Frog Meadow: Desire-Ecstasy-Bliss. The experience began on a Friday evening and ended on Sunday morning, and the Saturday in between started at 7:30 a.m. and continued until 10:00 that night (though with many breaks in between).

The initial segments were all about building trust and breaking down fear and inhibition; vigorous breath work combined with exercises like jumping and shouting (while blindfolded or with eyes closed, to create a sense of a safe and non-judgmental space) in order to access and release tension, anger, and other emotions that block our ability to engage in trust and forge connections.

As the day continued, we moved into the clothing-free segments, where erotic bodywork was the focus. (Couples could choose to stick strictly with each other, or opt to explore with other practice partners; people there by themselves were encouraged to be "free floaters" and not stick to a single session partner.)

Armin taught three different techniques for interrupting imminent ejaculation and diffusing erotic energy; the result, contrary to intuitive expectation was not frustration, but a sense of deeper relaxation and engagement. Letting go of physical release as a goal opened the door to a place of ongoing connection and sustaining touch. By the end of Sunday morning's closing segment, everyone was pleasantly exhausted but satisfied, and a sense of camaraderie and fellowship had bonded the group.

Frog Meadow - which is run by married couple Scott and Dave, who have been together for 27 years - is situated on 63 acres of peaceful wooded and open land. Trails offer easy walks; an expansive garden and orchard offers peaceful respite; a wood-fired hot tub and a cooling pond offer contrasting delights. Dave is a gourmet chef (his meals are hearty and delicious), and also a professional massage therapist who offers visitors relaxation in the property's purpose-built studio. Scott is a warm and sociable presence, always inquiring after guests' happiness and sharing easygoing conversation. Their centered happiness as a couple, and as individuals, suffuses the property. It was the perfect setting for an intensive weekend devoted to pushing past habits and comfort zones to discover new insights and simple truths forgotten in life's hectic routines.

Other men's retreats around the U.S. this summer and fall:

SpiritQuest retreats in Sedona, Arizona, such as the "Healing Group Retreat," a "spiritual and emotional healing" retreat to "break patterns and step forward with freedman joy," Oct. 26 - 28; and Shamanic Group Retreat, an experience of "self-love through nature" focused on "wholeness and empowerment," Sept. 21 - 23;

Easton Mountain's Tantra Love Festival, focusing on "love, exploration, connection, and shared ecstatic experiences," Aug. 7 - 12;

Esalen's A Call for Gay Heroes", which invites participants to rise to the challenges of the day and to "Identify and release whatever obstacles may have been holding you back from stepping fully into your power," Aug. 3 - 5;

and Frog Meadow's Heart Centered Touch with Adam Brown, a massage retreat built around "touch, taoism, and tantra," Oct. 19 - 22.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.