This article is based on the episode, Tuline Kinaci: Tantra, authenticity, and eye contact
Tuline Kinaci is an all-around mover, a dancer, rock climber, traceusse and earned her degree in athletic training. In addition to her movement practices, Tuline is a certified authentic Tantra instructor, teaching holistic healing of body, mind, spirit and sex. Tuline considers herself a sex activist and is the founder of LoveCraft, a sexual coaching and empowerment collective.
Tantra was the obvious place to begin since we were surely going to end up talking about tantric sex. My fear was that most people’s—myself included—knowledge of Tantra would be something to do with the artist, Sting. We immediately agreed that leaving the world only knowing about “men in linen pants” would be a disservice.
Tantra means, literally, to weave light and sound with form, the light being visualizations of your chakras in your body, sound being chants that you’re making, and then the form being your body, your physical body. That’s it, in a nutshell. The way that often looks is meditating. The way a lot of people do that is they’ll meditate and then have sex; they’ll meditate during sex; they’ll meditate on their own without any sex. Yeah, that’s kind of that, which means nothing, right? It’s like a, ‘Cool, and then what?’ which is what got me into having a coach.~ Tuline Kinaci from, ~4’40”
But, what drew Tuline to Tantra, and how does she use Tantra as part of her work with others?
Tuline Kinaci: In the introduction to Lovecraft Collective, we say, in addition to the movement practice, I practice Tantra, as well. And movement is inherently part of everything humans do, for the most part, so there’s a movement aspect of Tantra, as well.
I got into Tantra when I was 18 because I wasn’t having what I considered orgasms despite a pretty full sex life from a rather young age, what most people would probably consider a young age. My mom had this book called Urban Tantra by Barbara Carrellas, amazing. I later learned she wrote this book during the AIDS crisis and was trying to find ways that were sexy for people to connect that wouldn’t transmit the virus, and it was like, “We don’t have time to hang out on this mountain and get enlightened, but, what’s hot? What’s not, and how do we practice connection using these methods?”
That was around 18. I read some of the book and then, on and off, had partners that were more or less — mostly less — interested in practicing it with me, and, finally met someone who was like my Tantra teacher. We were playing music together and he mentioned his Tantra coach. I’m like, “Wait, there’s coaches?” I had just been reading books and trying to find drawings. I’m like, “What is here, there?” Turns out there was a coach, and I met her. She had a coaching program, and I found the website and I started crying. I was like, “This is what I want to do.” I had read this article, I guess a couple years before about how to find your passion, and the article was basically saying, “You know your passion. It’s what you think about all the time. Whether or not you get paid for it …”
I was like, “Oh, I want to help people with sex and I want to heal sex.” One of my friends when I was really young had made her sexual debut through the form of being raped, and that made me really sad for her because I was having really great sex in high school and really loving it and feeling really empowered in it. We couldn’t share that experience, so I had known then.
Then, it kind of kept popping up in all these different ways of, “Oh, now I can have orgasms. Oh, I’m not broken. Oh, how do I show other people that they’re not broken?” The way it looks now is integrated into a life where it’s not just about sex and orgasm. Although, that’s a huge driver because sexuality is a huge component of being a human, but it’s integrated into fully embodied experiences.
That’s the way that’s looked. It continues to ebb and flow and transform as I imagine it to. That’s the lifework, right?
I’m always curious to know how someone turns a passion from something they simply find themselves doing, into something organized or purposeful. Organizing one’s ideas, vision, and mission into a clear structure multiples the effect one can have on the world. What do Tuline’s efforts look like today?
Tuline: The reason why I called LoveCraft Collective… LoveCraft Collective is because I have this idea that once I teach or coach or work with somebody, that they’re a part of the collective. Not that, then, they will be able to offer services under the name, but that, if we’re bringing this healing to people, then they’re a part of the mission. I want to create more harmony and people that are embodied and loving themselves, and so, I do it for money. That makes me a professional although I feel rather amateur most of the time.
For too many people, the topics of sex, pleasure, and intimacy make for awkward conversations. But it’s my opinion that those topics shouldn’t be treated exceptionally. It’s one thing to have an intimate conversation—as Tuline and I had—but it’s another to figure out how to share with people, so they are then enabled to have those conversations with others.
Tuline: Couples are my favorite because they are with a friend, and I get to coach them through practices with each other. I also take individuals: male, female, womxn, any gender, trans, vagina owners, penis owners, whatever they call themselves.
Craig Constantine: My first reaction is, “Okay, that’s pretty progressive.” But then, I’m thinking: Well, suppose one was transgendered, or one had recently realized that you were trying to live the gender that didn’t fit who you really felt that you were. Where’s the manual for that? How do I make the transition? Being able to go talk to someone, to spend time with someone, to interact with someone, to be sexual with someone who maybe understands, “Oh, here’s the role that you’re missing.” It seems like it’s really not just about sex. It’s about helping them understand who they are or could be?
Tuline: Yeah, and just about being embodied like, “Here, sit with this and develop a pleasure practice.” I don’t know if you’re intending this, but I don’t ever claim to know left or right, female or masculine or anything like that. Tantra is about balancing those energies. However they show up for people is how they show up for people, but I just think it’s important to … we call it yoni massage and Lingam massage. I still like the word pussy. Nothing is sacred; everything is sacred.
I find the more interested I become in conversation, the more interested I become with etymology. Initially, we each simply use language as we attempt to convey our ideas to others. Some people get good at that. But some people experiment with language, and then go farther to use language very intentionally. Tuline struck me as such a person.
Craig: There are certain words in English that have a visceral energy to them, and that, if the word is overused, then it would lose that. But, being able to trot a word out intentionally— “I really mean to convey this energy to this other person.”
Tuline: Totally, yeah. And, vagina means sheath for a sword, which is very male-centric, whereas yoni means sacred space. Some people are really drawn to that language. I’m a real straight shooter. I love the idea of Tantra and buddhism that it stems from. And the lineage, the Shangpa Kagyu lineage that authentic Tantra taught me from. And I’m into kink and I’m into BDSM, and I enjoy the whole range of — is it phenomenological — what’s actually happening here and now, and our brains doing things. Metabolites are happening. Neurons are firing. You can call it energy. As woo-woo as you like, however you want to go.
Craig: Energy can just be a shorthand for all this stuff we discovered, actually makes it real.
Tuline: Speaking of working with people of all different gender identities, the idea is really to work with people to develop a pleasure practice because our lives are so full of shit, all of us. The human experience is this shitty ball of burning gas and also this beautiful sunset.
I like the blueberry analogy: If you’re eating a bowl of blueberries, they’re next to you and you’re not looking at them. And you’re going: blueberries in your mouth, blueberries in your mouth. All of a sudden, you pick a roach up and you put it in your mouth. Next time you go to the blueberry bowl, you’re like, “Holy fuck, I don’t know what it’s going to be!” There might only be one roach in the whole bowl, but what does your brain go to every time now when you think blueberries? It’s terrifying.
That’s kind of the way we treat all our negative experiences. The idea of Tantra, in the weaving light and sound with form, is to develop this blissful counterbalance.
The glorious sunset we were experiencing as we were recording, led me to take a detour to movie-land. Such detours happen a lot, if you have a long conversation with me. But the dance of distraction, humor, delight and serendipity is always worth the effort. That’s a major part of what makes us Human. We joking started discussing magic powers, before I got specific and asked what her friends would say her super-power is.
I guess if I were to list the thing that I like the most about myself: I bring a sort of comfort to the room as being rather authentically expressed and unafraid to share things about myself that I hope inspires other people to do the same thing, and I consider that a societal superpower.~ Tuline Kinaci from, ~18′
When recording conversations for podcasts, there’s a balance to be searched for: How much of oneself should be present? If there’s too little of me—if I’m too quiet, if I don’t share stories and be vulnerable—then the guest is left hung-out on the stage with a spot light on them. On the other hand, if there’s too much of me— well, then you get what we have here in the recording with Tuline. I broke into a series of stories as Tuline and I played with the conversation. If you want to get that experience, you’ll have to go listen.
Here, I’m going to try to present the stories that Tuline shared. Just remember that there’s a lot that’s been edited out in the following stories which came from Tuline generously rolling with what I was interjecting. I’ve added […] where I’ve made large elisions.
Craig: What’s the most interesting story that comes to mind when I ask you about eye contact?
Tuline: I was at what I jokingly and lovingly call Tantra Camp, which was our first retreat while I was in the authentic Tantra certification program, and I was meditating with my teacher. We were practicing this thing called microcosmic orbit, and I get lost. Some people call it the void, but it just felt like swirling dark colors making eye contact with this person kind of in this forever place of being and being okay both simultaneously of like, everything is perfect and everything is right and I am right here and you are there, but also, where are we? What’s even happening? And, beyond the story, my theory around it is that human beings experience themselves through experiencing others relativity. Thanks, Einstein, or maybe Einstein’s late wife … unclear who actually … women rolling their eyes.
And so, there’s something kind of magical that happens when you … we’re making eye contact right now, and it’s kind of silly, but if we allowed ourselves to continue to make eye contact-
Craig: Well, yeah, there’s definitely an awkward zone here, people. We’re now at about six or seven seconds and it’s like, “I really need to look away, now.”
Tuline: Right, right, right, and like, why is that?
Craig: Well, because eye contact is extremely intimate, like the old … The metaphor of the eyes being windows to the soul— I think that … humans are really good at detecting eye contact.
Tuline: It continues to be all about eye contact in my experience.
Craig: Anyway, off on a tangent, Craig. Eye contact: so, I think that because we are so good at detecting eye contact, and compared to other senses, we’re not nearly as sensitive. Even just eye contact is a thing. So, when you spot that eye contact, it’s inherently electrifying in your deep brain. So, I don’t know, that’s just, how could you ignore a sense that was that hooked up?
Tuline: That actually reminds me of a different story about eye contact. This weekend, I was at the Folsom Street Fair down in San Francisco, and there’s a lot of leather, sex and kinky activities and people doing them in public and people watching. There was a moment I was partaking in a scene with someone and I looked up and made eye contact with somebody else in the crowd and immediately lightened the mood. It was like I was in this kind of intense space and feeling somewhat humiliated, which is fine, because that’s what we go for, sometimes. That’s okay.
And, they looked at me and they kind of giggled. And then, all of a sudden, it was this goofy not-so-serious thing that was happening, anymore. They saw through what I might have been experiencing as shame and it became: when I’m being seen in something that I think is shameful and this person isn’t turning away but is celebrating it and enjoying it, it allows me to then fall into more of a, “Oh, this is okay.” And, I think that being seen by people creates a lot of that for-
Our conversation danced over a number of topics as Tuline and I simply followed whatever thoughts bubbled up. We flirted briefly with discussing radical honesty as it feels nearby to eye contact and intimacy.
Craig: I was just talking to someone who was talking about radical honesty. What would happen if, when someone asked you for money on the street, instead of saying, “Sorry,” and moving on— What if you said, “I’m choosing not to give you money.” What would you have to do to be able to be that radically honest to them. That might be the right thing to say to them. They might be like, “Well, thank you for being honest.” I don’t know. I’ve never tried that.
Maybe part of what is uncomfortable about the interaction with somebody who asks you something, which would really be a small task for you to do, is you literally don’t want to see them. You’re like, “I don’t want to be seen by you, so I’m going to turn my head and say I’m sorry.” I’m not suggesting everybody give every dollar they have to every person who asks…
Tuline: …but, sometimes, it’s just about making eye contact with them and saying, “Hey, I see that you’re living on the street. You’re not totally invisible to me. I don’t think giving you money will solve the problem, but also, I see you as a human.”
That’s one of the other things inside of Tantra, inside of movement, inside of … right, why do we go move our bodies? Why do we sit with our bodies? Why do we intentionally breathe? And, so much of it comes down to stress relief, relief from — I’m looking around the room — all this shit.~ Tuline Kinaci from, ~28’30”
Mindful of the time, it occurred to me to return to the main avenue of our conversation. We’d had a terrific conversation exploring Tantra and intimacy, and I thought we might next turn to talking about movement. Tuline, ever the good sport, started to follow that lead, before I interrupted here to launch us into a huge nerd-gasm about rock climbing. She got exactly this far:
Craig: This is nice. Have a bite of chocolate while I look at the time. We haven’t really touched your movement background. I’m not sure if you think, at this point, that would rise to a level of even being interesting, but if you do, we could talk about maybe how you got into Parkour and what your thoughts are on that.
Tuline: Parkour is a shorter story than my movement practice in general. I had been interested in parkour for a while and was really scared to go into Parkour Visions. Then, by the time I looked it up, I saw that the gym had closed, unfortunately. And then, I am a climber. I’ve been climbing for … God, that’s a hard thing to say, I’m a climber.
Craig: Oh my God, I fancy myself a climber…
…and then followed a long segment with me geeking out about climbing. Tuline was super into it, but I think she was mostly having fun watching me geek out about climbing. It became a two person show with her adding color, jokes, and little digs. Super fun—I thought anyway—but not something that makes much sense in a written transcript.
But some of our exchanges gave a sublime insight into Tuline’s style and sense of humor. This section in particular, conveys the warmth and playfulness of an intimate conversation with Tuline:
Tuline: Well, I climb at Index, Washington, which, don’t publish that because nobody go there; it’s horrible. It sucks. Don’t go. Index sucks, now.
Craig: Why does it suck?
Tuline: …so that people don’t go, mostly.
Craig: Oh, okay. So, basically, gear blows out. It’s all sandstone.
Tuline: It’s just choss. It’s horrible. The rock falls apart in your hands.
This summer, I went out to Washington Pass, which isn’t far from here, a bunch of alpine climbing with my sweetie. We did the South Arete of South Early Winters Spire. It’s a 5.6. It’s super mellow. We pitched out the first couple pitches and then just soloed the rest, and it was such a good time, just movement over rocks. I don’t tell people I solo often because they usually say-
Craig: …people freak out…
Tuline: Like Alex Honnold. Yeah, “Climbing without a rope?”
Craig: Like that?
Tuline: Yes, free solo.
Craig: …exactly like that?
Tuline: Not at all like that. It’s mostly scrambling over pretty chill rocks, but you don’t have to deal with the rope and all the gear. I brought up climbing because I was talking about my movement practice. I’ve been climbing for four-and-a-half years. I said I was a climber and then I got sheepish because, like it’s hard for me to say I’m a singer, I also still have imposter syndrome about climbing.
Eventually, I stopped talking long enough for her to get to her climbing origins.
Tuline: When I first got taken out climbing, I didn’t realize that the people I was climbing with were very, very strong climbers because, as a total Gumby, right, you just don’t know what’s going on. They’re telling you to do these things and you’re like, “This is normal,” because you don’t know any better. Within my first year of climbing, I was climbing trad with folks, mostly following. I was climbing at an ability level that I could do on top rope that I still have a hard time leading.
This year, I was putting the ego aside and really wanting to do the thing, to know that I could do the thing. A lot of 5.8 and 5.7 and 5.9 and a lot of crying and being scared and allowing that to happen. Inside of dating somebody, I was surprised how many emotions came out in ways that didn’t when I climb with other people because it’s a whole ‘nother level of being vulnerable and intimate with somebody.
Large scale, outdoor rock climbing is spectacular and can be—it should be, but sometimes things go sideways—a wonderful experience. I’ve found rock climbers earlier in their journey start to pick apart the different aspects of climbing as they learn what calls most to them. Some pursue the huge, heady experiences outdoors, and some look inward searching for small problems that they can learn through solving. There’s a type of climbing called bouldering, named for climbing on boulders. Done generally low to the ground so that falling off is low consequence, it brings the same mental aspect as with the large scale challenges of other types of outdoor climbing. But since bouldering is done without any safety equipment, (often with just a small crash pad tossed on the ground below the climber,) reality and danger can set in very quickly.
Our conversation about outdoor, large-scale climbing transitioned to small-scale, but very mental, bouldering:
Tuline: And bouldering — you mentioned bouldering earlier — I feel like is the most similar to parkour in the realm of the fear about falling off of stuff and the zero margin for error at a certain point, at a certain height.
It’s a totally different story. I don’t like bouldering outside so much because of that, and it’s been a heady thing for me to develop. It hasn’t been something that I’ve been that interested in, partially because the go game, and I see some people that are really good at capturing that mind space, doing these big descents. It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful, and I have done my best this year, too, as being on the sharp end of just trying to enjoy the movement, just wanting to enjoy moving on rocks. I mentioned kink, earlier. I think rock climbing fits in some of the same realms of masochism of, “I’m going to jam my hand in this crack and I’m going to crank on it and it’s going to fuckin’ hurt, and then I’m going to cram a crank on and stick my other hand in this crack, and then I’m going to shove my ankle in there and twist on it and stand up and just … I’ve done a lot of climbing shirtless and naked because I love the way my body feels on the rocks and the movements of being outdoors and-
Craig: Rocks are so tactile, yeah. There’s definitely a … I’m not going to say it’s erotic, but I guess, okay, if you want to go there.
Tuline: Yeah, it could be. But, feeling rock on skin, it’s like being out in nature. I know there’s this whole group of people called eco-sexuals. They really get off on being out in nature. I wouldn’t identify as an eco-sexual, I think, mostly because I have a hard time with labels, a lot of labels, but yeah, just getting your … I think men have an easier time with being shirtless in public in our world in general.
Craig: Just because of how it’s socially constructed?
Tuline: Yeah, but being wedged between rocks or climbing trees and feeling … I think it’s another level of Tantra, another part of Tantra […]
The guests on the Movers Mindset podcast are mostly chosen simply because I want to have a conversation with them. But some people, Tuline for example, are mentioned by my friends. Tuline’s passion for movement also includes parkour. Our shared interest in rock climbing was a surprise, but it was some parkour friends who said, “You should talk to Tuline.”
Here again, I had the distinct pleasure of being led by the guest to the next interesting thread.
Craig: Okay, honestly, you’re really good at pulling us all the way back to there.
Tuline: Thank you.
We were hanging out at the bar in West Wall Café [ed. inside the Seattle Bouldering Project’s facility], and a friend was like, “You should meet this person. She’s really cool.” We became friends, and then I met Brandee Laird. What was really cool, I think, about developing those friendships, is that I didn’t know who they were in the parkour community, and they said, “Come out and play with us.”
Just like my climbing experience, I started climbing with these people that were developing at Index and climbing really fucking hard, like 5.12+ climbers, and I just didn’t realize because how would I know? It wasn’t until … I think it was Art of Retreat maybe by the time that Brandi was teaching at American Rendezvous or something, and I saw some internet stuff and I was like, “Holy shit, this person is a very respected, well-known, world-renowned coach, and she’s my friend and I know her as a friend before coach.” I think if I had stepped into [Parkour Visions] before that, our relationships would have been different, which is just an aside about friendships and how they develop and what you know about people or what you think you know about people and the way we treat folks that are at certain levels of pedestal or no pedestal or-
Just to be sure the level of respect she’s conveying for Caitlin and Brandee is clear, I’ll unpack her climbing jargon: “developing at Index” — Index is a place to rock climb, which we discussed it earlier. “like 5.12+ climbers” — that’s world-class level climbing, few ever achieve 5.13.
Tuline: That was really cool, seeing that side of people that I had become to know as friends and not as coaches, but as peers. Now, I do parkour, and I see the world very, very differently in terms of what I can play on or how I can … I think parkour changed my life in the greatest way.
I have two nieces and a nephew. My niece last year had bacterial meningitis. I know she almost died at three weeks old … five weeks old? Three or five weeks old. And, I went down after she got out of the hospital. My sister had to go back for some followup appointment, and my sister left me outside of the hospital in the parking lot with a four-and-a-half-year-old and a three-year-old and I was like, “Oh, fuck.” We were talking about kids earlier and I was like, “Shit, I don’t know what to do with these. How am I supposed to entertain the little people in a fucking parking lot?”
Craig: I think if you stand on them, then they don’t run away…
Tuline: And, that would have been my answer, before, but I had just been learning about parkour, and there were rails and there were benches, and I was like, “Okay, it’s superhero practice time. Do y’all want to be ninjas or what?” I was able to Auntie Tuline my way into entertaining them for almost as long as it took for my sister to come back outside, almost an hour.
Craig: And now, of course, she hates you because her kids want to know where they can go learn parkour. Way to go, Tuline.
Tuline: Oh, no. And, I think that’s some of the magic of parkour and movement and changing the mindset.
From parkour, our discussion meandered touching on the intimacy of audio with headphones on, audio exhibitionists and conversations, free-styling vocal improv…
Craig: I always like to say I turn my ADD into Art du Déplacement— my Attention Deficit Disorder into Art du Déplacement. I wasn’t diagnosed as a kid, because I’m old enough to be before they invented the cool thing— what is it, the DSM thing. We were probably on DSM [version] negative 2 at that time.
Tuline: I have a thing about that.
Craig: Go ahead, go. Go, go, go.
Tuline: Well, just coping mechanisms. We talk about the DSM and that it’s disorder, disorder, disorder, disorder. It’s a potentially useful discourse, I suppose, for talking about a wide array of symptoms that people maybe share. Like all the people that have, air quote, “ADD,” share this kind of, “This happens in my brain when I’m doing this X thing.” But it’s potentially just a coping mechanism you developed when you were young to survive in the world.
My personal experience, the coping mechanisms that I’ve developed that people maybe have names for in the DSM is more about discovering the awareness of, and not being a victim to. So, when I turn disorder into coping mechanism, I am able then to have agency and power around it. So, you were talking about your hand thing. You turned your ADD into ADD, and that’s your power. That’s your art, yeah.
I’m continuously fascinated by the unique aspects of experiencing conversations in audio-only. I regularly find I’m drawing my guests down this side street.
Craig: People who are listening with headphones, you get a certain kind of experience. I’m hoping if you’re listening on headphones, you’ve noticed that podcasts in general suck you in, and it’s because, I think that your ears work … because they’re connected to an older part of your brain, so when you hear something, it draws your attention, and when you hear people talk to you and they’re in your ears as opposed to hearing it across the room, it’s like you can’t help but be drawn to that.
So, I think part of my the reason why podcasting works so sell is that humans are really fixated, are really interested in audio. There’s one experience, people who are listening. And then, there’s another experience for people who are listening to each other and making awkward eye contact again.
Tuline: It’s only awkward if you make it that way.
Craig: I think you would kill me in a staring contest every time. Please, I’m just going to close my eyes, now. I’m not challenging you to a staring contest. But, there’s something about …
If we were any closer together, it would be awkward. So, the headphones bring us closer together. You are literally in my head and I’m literally-
Here we drifted off into having more fun. My interest in any particular topic, doesn’t necessarily mean I can stay on that topic for long. But as I’d learned, give Tuline enough time and space and she’ll bring us back. We drifted back to talking about headphones and then about creating spaces.
Tuline: I think it’s similar to the way I feel bed is sacred space, being in bed with somebody else. I guess I call it pillow talk, and it sounds so cliché to me, but having this space with someone else like I wake up in the morning and, “Let’s share some coffee together,” and then it’s kind of talk and giggle and be silly and, “Please pet my head and we’ll feel really close in this way that, once we’re out of bed, we don’t feel this way anymore because it’s time to go back to real life and I have to go to work, now, and you’re going to go do this thing.” I think that creating space … headphones create a space.
Craig: Yeah, a new space. It actually takes away a lot of space and creates…
Tuline: Right, totally arranges a bubble in the same way that maybe a bed arranges a bubble, or, if you’re meditating with somebody and you’re making this eye contact with them, you’re arranging this bubble, right, of, “It’s just me and you and we’re right here and the outside world can get kind of squirrelly and you’re not focused on it.”
There’s the four-minute thing. It was a questionnaire. It was 36 Questions to Make Anyone Fall In Love. I don’t know if you saw that. It was going around the internet for a while. I did the questions with somebody. We dated for three months.
Craig: It’s total BS.
Tuline: Sure. I mean, they were great and I love them, but it wasn’t going to last. Then, there’s a four minutes of eye contact thing you’re supposed to do at the end of it, and I think, fuck all the questions. Maybe it’s just the eye contact.
Craig: Just four minutes of eye contact, right.
Tuline: We were doing it via video chat, but, maybe it’s just about sitting down with someone and being seen. I find eye contact, to go back to eye contact, as … you know you’re talking to somebody and they’re kind of looking all around and they won’t look at you or settle down and they seem highly anxious and you’re just like, “Whoa, can you chill and be here with me? It’s okay. I’m safe.”
And, a lot of that, I know, comes from trauma, so that’s not to dis anybody who has a hard time making eye contact with people, because I can also understand that neuro-atypical people … eye contact can actually feel physically painful. To the degree that eye contact creates connection for neuro-typical people, it can create disconnection for atypical people.
So, that’s something, when I first started practicing Tantra, I came across this article written by a woman who was autistic. And I was very, very grateful for finding it because I was like, “Eye contact,” right, just fresh out the gate. I’m like, “Eye contact is a thing.” And then, you can’t just stare … that’s why you’re like, “You’re staring at me.” I’m like, “Wait, no, I’m actually seeing you and trying to be here with you,” and I try to make a distinction, there because I have played from the ego place before of, “I’m big and strong and, yeah, you’re going to look away from me,” and that’s not a place of compassion and connection. So, having played in the realm of darkness, as you called it earlier, I think it’s an important distinction to make.
By this point, we were well over an hour into our conversation. The sun had set, and the room had grown dark leaving us with just a single light over our table. The energy of the entire conversation had been very different from others, and apparently I wanted to be sure that was recognized as a good thing.
Craig: Maybe, this is like, every hundred episodes or so we have to do one [of] these [to] blow-off-steam. I know this is weird.
Tuline: That’s good. Are we blowing off steam, right now?
Craig: I may be. So, I came from Art of Retreat before this, and I did something like 24, 45-minute interviews in two days.
Craig: Whoa, that may have been a mistake.
It was good because it’s really … it forces me to hone my skills to be able to read [people] as fast as I can and figure out whether they want to talk about it. And, there’re different kinds of interviews. Maybe this would be fun to unpack…
So, this interview that we’re doing, sometimes I just say I let the guest off-leash and I try to keep up. I don’t mean in a derogatory way, although maybe you would really enjoy that.
But, when we let the guest off-leash and let them run, then it’s up to me to just try and not mess up what you’re doing, and it can be really fun, but it can also go really weird like if the guest is expecting a certain role from me and then I’m just like, “Let’s go have fun,” and they’re like, “I thought you were going to ask questions.” Or, if I ask a question, it’s [too] open-ended. They’re like, “I thought you were going to give me some context.”
Tuline: Okay, well, off-leash, I was at Folsom this past weekend. I grew up in San Francisco and left when I was 17. Growing up with such an open, I mean, really gay environment, topless people in parades waving at me from a young age and seeing my teachers in elementary school were gay and married couples and it was just part of life. It wasn’t something I thought so much about until I moved to Montana where people were meeting their first gay person in college.
So, coming back to Folsom as an adult, my first time going to the fair as an adult and participating and being … it was almost like a homecoming where, having grown up in such an open place, I took it for granted, and then have been out in the world in different places and kind of forgot. So, coming back and being able to experience this whole thing that feels like it’s been an inherent part of me for so long that yet maybe hasn’t been expressed to its full capacity as I had appreciate was really, really cool.
And, what I find really interesting about … so I performed at something called Twisted Windows, which is put on by a lovely person named Shay Tiziano, and it is a subversive performance art on Friday night. It’s all night long. There’s bondage performances and… wow, a plethora. There’s someone on trapeze and just all kinds of cool shit, people self-suspending and puppy play. That’s where people dress up like pups and play with stuffed animals and bark at each other. It’s fucking the cutest thing. It’s just great. Yeah, yeah. Two thoughts: the performance we did, I was holding something heavy over my head for half an hour while taking on a lot of impact, whips, heavy floggers, bites, this whole realm of sexual-
Craig: Things that would make you want to use your arms to defend yourself, right?
Tuline: Right, and, well, by choice as a sensual experience. I am a masochist. I think that climbing plays into that very well. And, holding something heavy overhead for half an hour straight is really intense.
Craig: Just that.
Tuline: Yeah, right, just like, can you imagine holding 20 pounds over your head for half an hour? I was just pouring sweat. So, meditation and Tantra bring on this space of presence and can get you really high, especially and more so, generally, in my experience, with somebody else. And, what I’ve found really cool about kink and why I’m open to talking about it here, I have this idea that Tantra is supposed to be spiritual and it’s serious, and it’s the right way to do things. Then, having some more experience in kink and realizing that there’s this level of connection and negotiation and all these things that need to be present, trust, in order to let somebody, to ask somebody to please hit you-
Craig: Yeah, play this role.
Tuline: Yeah. And then, they’re trusting you that you really want that and that they’re not hurting you, and that they’re doing something that might be seen from the outside as awful is a beautiful expression of something that I had been experiencing inside of Tantra. And then, I brought up Barbara Carrellas, earlier. She talks about that inside of Urban Tantra. I think some people call it dark Tantra where they interplay the two things, and the integration of that just into life.
It’s not just like, “I’m going to sit here and meditate and breathe.” It’s like, “I’m going to hold this heavy weight over my head and meditate and breathe and get into this space while getting hit,” and that can also bring me to this level of heightened … but, there’s something about the movement. That’s why I want to talk about it. I’m watching this person move around me. I’m unable to move. What happens when I shift my weight to this side or I get hit here versus there, and how can I breathe and move the energy to become something that feels really good instead of, “Ow, that was sharp.” Or, you’re trying to knock me off balance. How do I reel it in to be present? It was just fascinating.
When recording conversations I sometimes find I drift up from the depth of the conversation and remember that there will eventually be people listening. I have a sudden urge to see if there’s some kernel of wisdom, or constructive take-away, that I can find with just the right question.
Craig: I’ll just close my eyes. What I was thinking was there’s something that we can, I’m going to say challenge, something that we can challenge people to think about that might help them find places or ideas or spaces where they have an unknown bias. […] I’m wondering if there are places where people might have biases that they aren’t aware of, and if there’s any thoughts you have on how to help people find those. I’m really reaching here for like an, “Ooh.” What if we went meta meta?
Tuline: That’s a hard one to dig up. I think so much of … here’s a great one. So, when you watch somebody … how many times have you practiced something, or you’re telling someone about what you do, and they say, “I could never do that.”
Craig: All the time.
Tuline: All the time. Climbing, “I could never do that.” “Oh, what do you do? I could never do that.” For some people, I don’t want to say everyone, because all movement is valuable. Sometimes, it’s a small jump and something that people that I look up to, I would think, “Oh, this is nothing and cake for them. It’s big for me.” And then, somebody else is like, “Wow, that’s amazing. I could never do that.” And, I think, “Just try it. Just go try it.”
You asked what my superpower was, earlier, and I mentioned being inspiring and wanting people to go past what they think is possible or break down barriers, and that’s why I consider myself a sex activist because I’m into the idea that sexuality is a part of everything we do, including movement. And, I find it a really interesting line that we choose to draw. We say, “Sex is this,” and it’s an incredibly transgressive idea to say, “Sex is everything,” right, because then it’s like, “Oh, I’m hanging out with my friends, and I love them. Is that sexual? Oh my God, I’m gay.” Whatever that brings up for people, it’s a huge world of triggers. I’m eating this apple or this peach and it’s so good, and it’s dripping down my face.
Craig: Sensual, right?
Tuline: It’s so sensual, and sensual is a bad word, right? All of a sudden, sensual is like, “Don’t.”
Craig: It describes that it has senses involved.
Tuline: Exactly. And then, so, what degree do we sexualize that? I don’t have answers for any of that. I just find it fascinating to ruminate on, and I think that the answer, to a degree, is to just go try it. So, BDSM or kink is a lot harder to watch than it is to partake in. To watch somebody get hit for half an hour is a lot harder than being the person getting hit for half an hour because something else is happening. And, I think in the same way that watching … I don’t know a ton of parkour athletes, but Bryan Riggins is a friend of mine, and we’ve had some conversations about performance and mindset.
Then, I’ll watch some of his stuff and I’m just like, “Holy shit, dude, how do you do that? How do you keep it together? I could never do that.” I find myself in the same space, and so it’s like, “Okay, where do I start? How do I break that down and how do I know that I feel a certain way about it until I go try and do it?” and I think that’s the best way to find your unknown biases, is to try things that interest you or try things that don’t interest you because maybe they will or maybe the thing you thought you were going to be into isn’t the thing you’re into, and that’s how you meet people that expose you to new things that will then get you to discover you had a bias.
On the other hand, sometimes one finds the right question by not trying too hard to find the right question. After some more random thinking, out loud, I arrived at:
Craig: There’s a ratchet involved that we’ve been ratcheting up the conversation to a point where it’s like, “Well, we only have a limited amount of time to do this on mic,” and I’m like, “Well, I probably have one or two more questions, so what should I ask?” I just wasted 30 seconds.
What I wanted to say first was: what’s a story that you can tell me about somebody that you admire?
Tuline: Wow. Whoa. My first thought is my mom, and then I’m like, “What story is there to tell?” I could even relate one to movement. My grandfather passed away in February, and my grandma and him lived together. They were married, basically married for 50 years. They lived in Edmonds, which isn’t that far north of where we are right now. And, I live here in Washington, Seattle area, and I work here. My mom came up from San Francisco, where she lives, to handle stuff. Some of her siblings came out, but were the East Coast people … we’re the West Coast [people]. West Coast, best coast. I can’t say that to you, can I? We’re the West Coast people, and so there’s all these expectations about, “Who should be taking care of things?” and all the kind of shit that happens, and you realize that we-
Tuline: This is an aside: I didn’t realize how dysfunctional our family was until that happened. And then, the coping mechanisms my grandfather had developed and his neuroses is evident because you’re going through all their shit because they no longer can.
My mom came in and, at first, wanted all this help because it’s hard to be the person to take things on. But then, at a certain point, when you know that you’re the one that’s going to be doing it and you seem to have the way figured out and it’s just too much anxiety for anyone else to help out, then she just stepped into this role. We moved my grandma down to Sacramento. She’s in assisted living, now. She broke her ankle earlier this week.
Tuline: I know. There’s just shit on shit, but my mom has been … she’s the one. She stepped into the role and has put her life … she’s not serving on my grandma hand and foot, and she’s going up to check on her at the expense of her own movement practice. That really was like when my mom was in Edmonds emptying out the condo and going through 50 years of photos, all this stuff that life puts on people.
I’m like, “Ma, I got to go to the gym. I’m not helping you with this, I got to go climb or I got to go work out.” I got to go move or I go crazy because I need … my movement practice is whatever. I’ll go dance at the gym or I’ll go twerk. Whatever I need to shake the shit out of my body, and she didn’t have that ability. She had a timeline. She had to get the thing done, and I admire the shit out of her for it for putting her mother’s wellbeing in her hands and choosing to be that rock for her. I think it’s incredibly admirable. Love you, mom.
Craig: Thank you for sharing.
And sometimes my conversation partners do all of the work themselves:
Tuline: Oh, you commented on everything is sexual, now, and I had a bit about that. Do you remember saying that?
Craig: I do remember saying that.
Tuline: Cool, I couldn’t tell from your eyes.
Craig: I’m wondering whether I should be regretting saying that, but go ahead.
Tuline: I don’t think so. I’m poly. Do you know what that means?
Tuline: I date more than one person at a time.
There’s a lot of ideas I have that I think, to a degree, are dangerous because ideas can be really dangerous. I think if we were all just more open about everything being sexual all the time.
I think that, in schools, we need a consent and boundaries class of how to set … and, I think that’s part of what parkour and mixed martial arts teaches people. I used to box, right, of tapping out, or, “This is my limit.” I think if we equipped people with the ability to say, “You know what, it’s this point I’m going to remove myself from the room,” or, “Please don’t say that to me, again,” or, “I really don’t appreciate that kind of language in X, Y context.”
I realize it’s a big, complicated world and it’s not as easy to just say, “Yeah, give people the tools and they’ll use them,” but, I think for the most part if we’re able to just talk about it and say … yeah, I fall in love with my friends. This is personal. I fall in love with my friends all the time, and, being poly, it’s kind of problematic. You’re like, “Wait, I could actually date all of you. I mean, you don’t necessarily want to date me, but like, that’s part of my personal way of living.”
Because love is so big, and when I’ve had conversations with people that are like, “Hey, I’m attracted to you. I don’t necessarily want to date you. I just kind of need to get this off my chest because it would make hanging out with you easier for me to just share with you this.” It’s like intimacy and vulnerability of, “I have this thing happening that every time I see you, these chemicals are going on in my body,” and if I don’t address it as a disorder, and it’s just like, “This is what arises in this context, and now let’s deal with it.”
I think if we were all equipped with a little bit more of that, however we would learn that — I’m not entirely sure how we would spread that to the people — I think that could go a long, long way. I think that’s interesting.
The end of every conversation is bitter-sweet. There’s always the moment, in any conversation, when we know it’s time to drift toward the door; Things are as good as they’re going to get. But the moment is more jarring when recording. At some point, we have to stop. At some point, I have to take the lead and say, “thank you, that was awesome.”
Craig: I don’t know if you’ve listened to the podcast at all, but there’s this thing that I always ask at the end.
Tuline: Is it about a word?
Craig: It’s about three words.
Tuline: Three words…
Craig: So, I’ll just throw it at you and see what you do with it. It’s…
And of course, the final question: three words to describe your practice.
Tuline: Inconsistent yet persistent.
Craig: That’s a terrific answer.
Well, thank you very much, Tuline. It has been … to say it’s been a pleasure is not quite the right … it’s been pleasurable and fun and energizing and exhausting. I mean, exhausting is good.
Craig: It’s been a wild ride, a fun ride, a very different chance to get to talk to someone who challenges me and pushes me in different ways during an interview. Thank you for that. It’s been a pleasure.
Tuline: Thanks so much for having me.
This written-to-be-read article is based on a transcript, my recollection and my opinions. Any mistakes or mis-representations are my own—but I’d love to have them pointed out so I can correct them. All of the quotations here are edited lightly for readability and clarity. Delivering insight in realtime, while being recorded in a single take is difficult, so I’ve edited only with the intention of highlighting the awesome parts.