Talking About Tantra
Most of us have heard of it, and on hearing the term ‘Tantra’ make two associations – Eastern spirituality and sex. While both associations are correct, they are only two parts of the whole. And while both are important, it’s surprising as to why they are so, especially when all component parts are fused harmoniously.
“Tantra is the only science which teaches you expression of sex – not as an indulgence, but as a spiritual discipline…transformation of a biological phenomenon into spirituality.”
The concept of the divine union of masculine and feminine principles is common to most ancient cultures. The practices and teachings of what Tantra first appeared around 400 – 300 BC in India although they had existed as an oral tradition for centuries before. From India the practices spread and three core Tantric modalities emerged – Hindu, Tibetan and Taoist.
The word ‘Tantra’ comes from the ancient Sanskrit language and is most commonly associated with ‘to weave’. The Sanskrit language is one of the oldest on earth and the language in which many of the earliest Hindu and Buddhist texts were written. Sanskrit words are simple by modern terms but convey depth and meaning beyond the syllables and literal meaning. Those familiar with Yoga will recognise that a ‘Namaste’ or a ‘Sat Nam’ are not just literal words but instead, when used in the appropriate context and spoken from a deeper part than the larynx, can convey a far wider range of meaning, emotion and intent beyond the word itself.
Similarly, the word ‘Tantra’ has the literal meaning of a loom (framework) or to weave. The higher meaning derived from the root words tan (to expand) and tra (a tool) is an instrument for expansion, weaving together an array of practices, knowledge and wisdom for the purpose of expansion of self. This may be interesting and academic, but why is it important? Quantum Physics has proven that we create our own reality.
Our inner state creates our outer experience, whether purely perceptual or through bringing about a physical change, for example by eliciting a reaction in another. The universe is firstly an energetic realm and we are an integral part of this vast energetic field. Every action we take, every thought we have and every word we speak ripples through the field and brings back to us what matches the vibrational signal we send.
And so it is with Tantra and all things Tantric. It is not only about spirituality and sex. It is about everything and how we can experience and unveil our entirety into direct contact with to experience this wholeness of everything. Sex is important because it is our most accessible route to contacting our core vital energy. It is our most reliable route to bliss. It is what we do with that energy that is important in a Tantric context.
Sex as a literal word denotes close physical contact and genital contact with a partner for the purpose of procreation or pleasure. The definition can be expanded to encompass love, deep connection, bliss, an ecstatic merging with another and ultimately enlightenment through the ecstatic merging with everything and a glimpse of the divine at the blissful crescendo of orgasm. It depends on the intent one brings to the word or act. And what you bring to it dictates what you get out of it.
There’s still lots of sex involved, right?
Not necessarily, and probably not as you have previously experienced sex. Tantra multiple strands are woven together to create an expanded whole. If one’s focus is on the sexual aspect then how limiting, how driven by primitive, unrefined energy is that? However, the conscious cultivation and sensitive application of your blissful, orgasmic energies is a vital component.
Analogies between good sex and Tantra
Think of your favourite fruit. Imagine yourself eating a perfectly ripe and juicy piece of that fruit. Feel the anticipation of the eating as you put it to your mouth, feel the texture of that fruit in you mouth, recall the taste on your tongue, feel the exquisite juice burst forth – the sensation of it running cool and sweet in your mouth. Think of that as good sex.
Now recall the best dish you have ever eaten. Remember the ambience of the eating, the visual presentation of the dish, the aroma caressing your nose, the interplay of the different textures and tastes in your mouth, the subtle spicing exciting your senses, the lingering contentment of the meal. How many ingredients went into that dish? The skillful the execution of the preparation, how mindful the spicing, how loving the assembly on the plate? That is Tantra.
Tantra is a lifestyle. It is a way of being in relation to the world. It is opening your heart, being in your body and welcoming more intimacy and connection into your life. It is reconnecting to your true self, finding your joy, opening to pleasure and allowing more in. It is the making of the everyday sacred.
In conclusion, sex (or more accurately your sexual energy, prana, chi, kundalini or whatever you know it as) is a hugely important part of the Tantric journey but it is not the sole instrument for the expansion and transformation into your full potential as an authentic, connected and enlightened being (whatever that is for you).
What does a Tantric practice entail, then?
It is difficult to define Tantric practice as a prescriptive set of steps or outcomes. The weaving of an expanded, realized you takes place at multiple levels utilizing practices and beliefs that resonate with you as an individual. You are unique, and therefore your journey will be unique too.
A Tantric practice should honour your uniqueness, who you authentically are and then weave the gift of an expanded and enlightened you into the fabric of the world around you. It is therefore not limited by your beliefs, your circumstances or your ‘status’. Whether your beliefs are grounded in whatever tradition, whether you are rich or poor, single or in relationship, hetero, bi, gay or fluid matters not – show up, commit to an expanded you with pure intention. This makes you Tantric.
As an example, the Tantric path I am on is rooted in Tibetan Tantra and has been passed orally from master to student for the last 2,600 years. It is a healing modality https://youtube/LtZwmNPM600
Four pillars of Tibetan Tantra
Meditation. With today’s hectic lifestyles we continually focus externally and our mind races to keep with an ever-increasing assault of deadlines, distractions, data. Meditation centres us, brings us within and reconnects us to our core being.
Movement. We are constantly in motion. Our body moves through physical reality. Our breath moves in and out. Our internal energies flows through our being. By bringing awareness and focus to these movements we can choose to move in certain ways, synchronising the breath with movement to direct awareness and energy in particular ways. It’s possible to direct energy in ways that benefit – be it healing the physical body or expanding consciousness.
Connection. Movement and meditation connects us powerfully with ourselves. With this inner connection restored we can more powerfully and authentically with others. When connected within we naturally become more aware of our relationship to everything else. When we bring conscious awareness and intention to this correlation then intimacy is enriched and we can then influence and utilize this bond for the benefit of ourselves, others and the world overall.
Pleasure. Our natural state, the one the universe intended for us, is one of joy, happiness and contentment. At birth, so long as our basic needs are met, we exist in that state. However, our physical body is configured with a nervous system governing physical and emotional / energetic functioning. As we are physical beings in a physical reality to exist we need to survive. In order to survive we need to avoid what is dangerous or harmful. Our system meets its need to survive by creating a database of harm to avoid – aka trauma. Being physical, the system has limited storage capacity. As the storage fills up with trauma there is less and less capacity for pleasure. Life becomes dull, the music no longer moves us to dance, the juice loses its sweetness.
This happens at a subconscious level. The good news is that we can reverse this – we can delete those pain files and trauma apps that no longer serve and create space for the pleasure to return. We can also consciously bring more pleasure to the system and crowd out or release the pain.
Through this process we allow the joy back in. Initially through specific actions or thoughts, the joy becomes bliss. The bliss expands beyond the action itself and permeating our system. As the system enters this state of bliss more often and for longer periods it becomes our default state. As this is the natural and intended universal state we are then in a state of harmony with everything. I could go on, but you can imagine the unfolding possibilities for life from that state of being.
“Pleasure and trauma cannot coexist in the nervous system; neurologically they contradict each other.” Dr. Peter Levine, creator of Somatic Experiencing. So there you have it. Tantra in a nutshell as viewed from my perspective. I hope that this article has provided you with an expanded perspective the next time you encounter that simple word – Tantra. For those sufficiently intrigued by this introduction, walk along the path with me. In coming blogs we investigate some of these themes and specific practices further. My path continues to unfold and revel itself and I would love your company on this journey as far as you wish to walk with me, until your own path reveals itself along the way.
Take some quiet time for yourself, in a calming setting where you will not be disturbed. Follow your breath as it enters and leaves your body. Allow your awareness to turn inwards, to the sensate feeling of being in your body.
Consider the statement that pleasure and joy is your birthright and natural state
How did you feel making that statement? Did your being soar? Did it ring true for you? Did you feel resistance? Did your body react in any way, no matter how subtle – a tingle, a flush, a twitch?
There is no right or wrong answer to this. Just notice your reaction and be curious about that. Take 30 seconds to write down 3 things that you appreciate about your life followed by 3 things that you appreciate about your life. Again, observe your reaction to doing this. Don’t judge, just observe with curiosity and openness.
Take stock. Is your life dominated by pleasure and joy, or are there gaps? Is there room for more pleasure and joy? If so, can you strategise how to bring more into your life?
Begin to cultivate a pleasure mindset – assess the moment regularly through your day. What can I do right now to make this more pleasurable?
Browse https://www.wellnessworld.blog/ for tips and inspiration, and watch for more articles in this series!