What is Tantra?
Much of the work I do comes under the umbrella of Tantra. These days the word tantra can be (and is) slapped on almost anything to make it sound more sexy, so there is much confusion surrounds what it actually means. Because of this I feel to give a little introduction to it all to help clear up confusion and put some potential fears to rest.
Tantra is a path for people wanting to know themselves, deepen awareness within themselves and celebrate all aspects of life. The word has been used to describe a wide range of practises and traditions but translates as “method” or “technique”. The essence of the path is that it is not so concerned with philosophies about life as the direct experience of it, itself. It gives us methods to directly experience ourselves and actualise our potential. It is not a believer’s world but one of alchemy and a knowing that comes from living.
The interplay between the masculine and feminine is actually a good thing and gives the passion to life. By skilfully playing out these poles we can energise our practise with enough juice to transcend duality (our own limited point of view). If the polarity is neutralised then its like living with a dead battery. This is relevant as there are many spiritual systems which have actually encouraged us to dampen down our natural polarity, instincts and desires in order to find peace. It is very peaceful being a corpse! These polarities are sometimes represented by Deity’s such as Shiva and Shakti.
Tantra is inclusive
It uses all at it’s disposal in order for us to deepen into our nature. The key word is acceptance – in accepting yourself, your desires and your quirks there is an opportunity to deepen. Unlike other systems which attempt to shape you through control and effort, Tantra allows you to indulge your desires but with awareness so they deepen beyond surface wants and needs towards the ultimate desire for love and awakening.
Not necessarily, some of the techniques can be quite physical, or involve facing fears and becoming more present. It’s not always easy, but they all point you towards your natural self. Rather than trying to add something to you in order to make you “enlightened”, these methods strip away the false ways of being with which we have imprisoned ourselves. Sometimes this can leave us a little shaky as we are accustomed to the comfort of our beliefs – ultimately, however, they leads to a more deeply satisfying and engage way of living.
But let’s face it, it’s really all about sex isn’t it?
Because of the social repression of sex in most culture, the popular view of tantra is it all about sex e.g “I heard sting did it, and it lasted 8 hours…”.
The act of lovemaking in all its facets (quiet breathing and passionate ravishing of the other) is included in tantra but it is certainly not limited to that! In the classic text the Vigayn Birav Tantra there are 112 methods for awakening, and only 6 of these are directly related to the sexual act.
Having said all that, life is deeply sexual. The whole energy of life can be seen as sexual energy, of creativity, as the interplay of consciouness and love, the dance of masculine and feminine energies. When we expand the limited concepts of sexuality to include all of the interplay of life within that, then we can state that tantra is about “awakening through sexuality”.