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Being a Placeholder, or How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes

by Liia Navrotskaia, Bangkok March 2019


Once I won a literary contest by creating an essay that began with the phrase, “You never know where you can be lucky…”


This story began six months ago when I lived in Bangkok. The city is an interesting metropolis with multiple beautiful faces and bodies of all possible colors and nations, with a peculiar aroma of sexuality, which was best captured in the movie “Emmanuelle” at the end of the 1970s.


I am Russian, a ballet dancer, a beauty with curly hair and an impeccable body. Back then, I was a nude model, an art model, a dancer, a stretching and flexibility instructor, Keanu Reeves’s dream, according to a friend of mine who was a stylist. That was it; life was beautiful… or did I simply learn how to hide my longing behind the facade of a beautiful life?


My childhood was marked by a poignant relationship with my father… my insecurity, fear, and estrangement from life… and sincere hatred towards myself for the fact that I was born a girl…


That is how I remember myself in my early age. My father developed in me a vast feeling of guilt for the fact that I was born, so unconsciously I was seeking death every single moment—I was doing everything, but it was only destroying me mentally and physically: I tried drugs, got involved in a sick relationship, and lived with no goal or direction. I believed that life was no longer for me.


My first boyfriend was very good... sexually, but he was terrible in all other aspects. Oh, men, if you only knew how it changes women when you skillfully pleasure them sexually. You simply become God in their eyes. I don’t exaggerate. However, I don’t mean those simple movements in and out, which the majority of us do in bed... it is the truth…


He was a gambler. An addict! Adrenaline and risk, easy money, nothing stable. For me, it was unbearable, but I kept forgiving him everything for his great ability to pleasure me. Oh, yeah, between us there was very strong physical compatibility—some chemistry. Through smell, look, skin, and tongue. It turned me on as well as my animal self and an ability to enjoy sex.


After four years in sexual paradise and adrenaline hell, one day I forced myself to leave the man, the town, and Russia. I began to travel, live my life with a new beginning, and look forward to working in other countries.


That sexual experience gave me an impulse to study myself, understanding that sexuality is the base. Through experience, this is my explanation. I began to investigate my sensitive nature and watch other people to see how it reveals in them. It turns out that it doesn’t reveal. People neither study nor illuminate sexuality. The majority believe that sex is a natural and dumb action, that it is not necessary to be studied because it is clear what to do and where to put in. Unfortunately, often people cannot even touch each other. Especially, men.


I had no idea what to do with my hypersensitivity. It brought more disappointment, and after a while, I lost my interest towards sex and blamed myself for not being pleased. Everything seemed okay, but I don’t remember how I spent the last 20 years. Traveling, men, dance, money—it was all beautiful, but as if it was not all about me. It’s like a movie that you watch and don’t participate in.


Summer 2018. Michael.


This is a dictaphone record of one of my conversations with Michael:


- You told me to develop my sexuality.

- Yes.

- How?

- By feeling and trusting what you feel. If you talk to people, you feel something here (pointing to his stomach) or in the vagina, the uterus.... Try to listen ... Like a song... What does the feeling tell you?…

- You mean, to feel the person with my vagina?!

- Yes. You are very good. You just have to.... believe in yourself.


Well, I am coming back to the time of the events described above. End of summer 2019, Bangkok. A friend of mine introduced me to Michael by saying that I would be an ideal model for his photography and video shoot. A ritual from Tantra—"Trataka to a vagina" in the interiors of Chinatown. I refused at first. I always avoided such weird people of so-called spirituality who try to hug you all the time and contemplate chakras and Kundalini with a snobby look. I doubted that in these circles there was something worthy of my attention or study.


However, with Michael things turned out differently. Very rarely did he use esoteric terms while telling me about his projects and experiences. He did not have the ostentatious mysterious fog of some secret knowledge or promise of enlightenment, which is sold well at the esoteric market.


On the contrary, everything that he said was extremely clear and extremely dark. Literally, and it had the “smell of life”.


One of the foundations of his tradition is the Darkness, or the Darkness Meditation, to be more exact. Darkness Trataka is very sexual, but let’s talk about that later. Furthermore, I began to get interested in the sources of his inexplicable charm and the depth of his knowledge. I followed him with no hesitation. Like Alice followed the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.


I became a model—a placeholder—in some of his sensual liberation retreats.


Frankly speaking, the purpose of this essay is to tell the reader about such retreats from the insider’s perspective. I can share my personal experience and view on what happened there because I have been impressed with my and other participants’ transformation. I will only describe one retreat as each of them is unique because they are built up based on clients’ characters and according to clients’ wishes for whom the retreats are created; even though the structure remains the same: one client regardless of gender and sexual orientation, several models chosen according to the client’s taste, character, issues, etc., a beautiful location, and lively natural surroundings. Nature plays a special role in what is going to happen. In other words, it is a luxury retreat.


Why a sensual liberation retreat? From my experience, a majority of people are not free from themselves to a certain degree, and they are preconditioned by their past experiences. You live, earn lots of money, everyone applauds you and says how great you are, whereas you just want to puke at your achievements (certainly, not literally). You have no erection at all, although you are healthy and full of energy. Something like that had happened to our client. He had all that could be wished and bought, but...


Michael often told me, “Life is outside”, that is, it is in our desire and ability to interact with the outer world. We have 5 senses of perception (experience) and 5 senses of action, but often, especially in childhood, it takes one shocking event to scar our life, leaves scars in our perception, and then, in the future, affects the connection between our perception and our actions. As a result, even if we wanted to act differently, we cannot change our reactions. We live in the prison of our habits and reactions to the world.


I was very influenced and struck by the way Michael worked. Actually, there is a deep philosophy behind the concept of the sensual liberation retreat. It is a very effective instrument of transformation as life proves. Our 5 senses and 5 elements of the world are the essence of one phenomenon. At the retreat, we combine our senses with an ability to express ourselves and with the elements of the world: fire, water, earth, air, and ether. The way a person reveals themselves (acts) through the senses defines their worldview, harmony, and consequently freedom.


Perhaps, the main and most effective thing was the fact that all the time we did practices. We did not talk about what bothers us or what we experienced in the past; we did not discuss either our problems or the client’s. We were doing certain tantric practices and rituals. Moreover, Michael didn’t bother to explain to us anything. “Just do it,” like the Nike slogan sounds. And it worked for all of us!


It was as if we came through our childhood again and learned to feel and perceive the world in a new way, and express ourselves freely. After going through the sensual liberation retreat, I understood what Jesus Christ said, “Become like children” to acquire freedom of expressing ourselves with no shame, fear, doubt, and guilt, without thinking, “How will she or he react if I do that?” I have made many mistakes in my life and my relationships because I could not express myself freely and depended on my partner’s opinions, circumstances, and people in general.


In the sensual liberation retreat, the first thing I learned was to trust myself. Trusting myself became the key to my personal liberation. By analyzing deeply, I understood that happiness, or satisfaction with life, to be more complex, is a direct consequence of having this freedom. When you have it, you can get all you wish. All fear, inferiority complexes, guilt, low self-esteem, poverty and in general, all suffering or bad thoughts come from your delusions of your own nature. The purity of perception liberates you. The secret of transformation is in it.


Each participant of the sensual liberation retreat experienced it in their own way and at a definite time. There were five of us: four models and one client. Beyond the retreat, he was a successful businessman of about 50 years old (I will name him Jason). A mature and very serious man: lots of money, personal rules and limitations, boring, but unpretentious.


So we are in Bali. A luxury villa and nature, 4 beautiful women and real Tantra. Simply a paradise.


We practiced all together, changing pairs, sometimes individually when necessary. We woke up


at 5 a.m., practiced, ate, practiced; at lunch, we rested (hot), and did rituals in the evening and at night. We kept diaries, laughed a lot;


No participant knew what practice would be next, why we did this or that, and what was the purpose of all the happenings as well as what results would come out. As I said earlier, Michael didn’t explain anything to us, which is in the tradition of non-duality, but everything that we did was very beautiful.


The girls had makeup and were dressed impeccably. We even wore heels. It was very unusual because in my mind, so-called spiritual practices were associated with untidy and tastelessly dressed people who send namaste to each other, smile, and are so good that I always wished to kick them off. I am joking.


For Michael, aesthetics was number one. Oh, yeah, “Everything is about aesthetics”. In the past, he was in the fashion industry and design. Therefore, visual beauty as one of the ways of interaction with reality had a special place at his retreats. Now I understand what is behind Dostoyevsky’s phrase “Beauty will save the world”. From a visual perspective, all happenings in the sensual liberation retreats looked like a phenomenal performance in a Museum of Arts.


For example, there was a practice called “human sculpture”. The client needed to create a living statue from us, models (placeholders). Imagine three gorgeous female bodies frozen like a movie scene while they are wordlessly interacting with each other according to Jason’s fantasy. Behind this practice, there is the idea of “I am a creator”. Jason used our bodies, like a sculptor works with clay, by moving us, changing our locations and postures, expressing his emotions through our postures and facial expressions. In the process of “sculpting”, he was changing the location and interaction of the bodies as he wished until he reached a final version and was satisfied with his sculpture.


Then, Michael asked Jason to tell us about what he had created. By looking at the sculpture, touching it, using his sense of smell and even taste. Jason could lick some part of a model’s body and tell us what it evoked in him... In general, it was fun. At that very moment, a funny game turned into psychotherapy. Through the wordy expression of his experience, Jason was overwhelmed with a wave of memories, associations, and his personal stories. He was very surprised how the opportunity to create and express himself given in the practice reflected himself.


The practice lasted for a few hours. Michael listened to him attentively and kept bringing his focus back to the statue when Jason went too far away in his stories. The point is the living sculpture was a trigger, a key to the client’s subconscious. By smelling, touching, or observing the placeholders’ bodies, he was receiving answers to all the questions about himself, and he was changing his usual reactions to what used to be poignant.


I think I will describe the rituals in detail in my next essay. It is very intimate and requires a close look.


Psychological barriers were disappearing between us as if we were all dissolving in each other. Such rituals are done while all are naked and in darkness, thus, in the aura of night, candles, and music. The brain did not understand what was happening because for it, the close bodies and darkness mean a signal for sex but it did not occur. As rituals took several hours, after a while the brain turned off, and the human being stopped thinking and analyzing the situation, and was able to see what he feels, how he feels and how his sensory organs perceive what was happening around. For example, it is possible to see through touching or hear colors, feel sounds with the skin, and emotions through smells. It was real magic, Tantra, because it was revealing access to a direct perception of life without any explanation, which the mind always provides.


All that we did during the rituals was like a performance to God, where we, placeholders, were a chain between the mind and a sensual perception. Moreover, we personified sensual aspects of the world: sound, touch, color, taste, and smell.


Instead of statues and images, which people use in their regular life when they address God, for Jason placeholders were a connection to the divine. This is a much more advanced level of Tantric practices about which the majority of people have no idea.


Everything that I understood by myself at that time was the fact that Michael possesses an enormous knowledge of ancient practices and psycho technologies, and applies them in his work with humans in a wonderful way.


In his words, this knowledge is related to a definite Tantra tradition that comes from a time prior to the Vedas, Dravidian and shamanistic Indian tradition from Orissa, some families kept this knowledge. Nowadays, it is almost forgotten because of a small circle of devotees.


These rituals are impossible to describe logically. They can only be experienced.


“Well, yes, we sell experiences”:))


I should mention that the result doesn’t come during the time you do the practices. It comes when you almost forgot what was at the retreat. You don’t even notice any changes. You think that it was always like that and that you were always like that (cool), but your surroundings, the people that used to know you before, suddenly begin to say, “Oh, what happened to you?” because of the way I behave and feel confidently good about myself and they too want to live easily and freely in their skin.


Several months after the retreat, Jason called me from another continent and said excitedly, “Something has changed, I have no idea what happened and how to explain it. But it’s so amazingly refreshing! I’ve never been that successful in business before as I am right now. Everything I need comes to me by itself, as well as girls!”


It is how Michael’s practices result without realizing until after some time you seem to notice differences and how it's working. The same amazing outcome I faced in my life’s perspective.





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