You're not the only one with a dirty mind. If you’re living in the western world and you hear the word Tantra, you probably think it means sex. So is it true? When we talk about Tantra, are we really just using a foreign word to talk about sex? Well, yes and no.
Picture a colorful and intricate tapestry.
An array of materials are woven together, combined in different ways using various methods. Darker colored threads allow you to see the lines and shapes of the lighter colored yarn. More complex parts of the tapestry enrich your vision with patterns and textures, while the simpler parts of the weaving give your eyes a chance to rest. Woven as one object, it is the diversity and contrasting nature that makes the tapestry beautiful.
But what defines the most beautiful tapestry?
To answer this subjective question, humans have developed a multitude of objective philosophies and religions, attempting to define the path towards a life of peace and fulfillment.
Classical Yoga was designed to transcend the human suffering and to help practitioners attain peace within the ultimate reality of consciousness. Traditionally, most students of this tradition were sages and monks who followed strict guidelines on how to live in order to escape suffering. They secluded themselves from society and denied their physical and sexual desires. They fasted and meditated for long periods of time, ultimately aiming to detach themselves completely from their bodily existence.
Essentially, the Classical Yogi is a renunciate who denies himself all the pleasures of the physical world in order to avoid the associated pain. But I’m not a renunciate, and I don’t want to be. Correct me if I’m wrong, but my guess is neither do you. So, another path is necessary for people like us, one that doesn’t abandon the world in which we desire to live.
Tantra Yoga was born.
In response to Classical Yoga’s generally dissociative approach, Tantra Yoga guides individuals to engage more deeply with bodily experiences in order to transform suffering.
Think of it this way, what is the first thing you do when you accidentally cut your skin and start bleeding? Do you ignore the pain, close your eyes, look away, and pretend with all your might that you are not losing blood? Probably not. Most likely, you hold the wound. You look deeply at the measure of the cut, and you apply the right amount of pressure, because you know that engaging with the pain is the only way to stop the bleeding.
Dating back over 2500 years ago, originating in modern-day Tibet and India, Tantra was developed as a way to transform (instead of transcend) the endless cycles of suffering. Unlike many dogmatic traditions that perpetuate feelings of shame by teaching people to deny their desires, Tantra takes another route.
In the Yoga & Tibetan Buddhist traditions, there are two different paths.
1] Sutrayana (Classical Yoga), for people who want to move a little slower and dig through the trenches to reach their goals. 2] Tantrayana (Tantra Yoga), for people who want to reap the fruits of their labor and reach their personal goals, like right now.
The first, classical approach takes more time because you are slowly, yet fully, detaching yourself from the world in which you already exist. By aiming to transcend suffering, you are transcending life as a human itself. Disconnecting from our bodily experience is actually easier than it sounds - just try having a conversation with a small child who is glued to the television.
The second, slightly radical path of Yoga causes a more rapid transformation because it invites you to consciously engage with the world you are already inhabiting. By viewing suffering as something that can be transformed versus something that needs to be transcended, we can more effectively enhance our lives. While the Tantric approach might aid in a faster transformation, that doesn’t mean it comes easy or involves fewer steps. Mastering the practice of non-attachment is the first requirement in this approach, but after that Tantra teaches us how integrate that detachment into daily life and engage more deeply with the human desire. Perhaps the real challenge and greatest rewards can be found when we connect to the experience of living inside a physical body.
The Tantric approach is one of embrace.
Tantra practitioners use the energetic momentum of their fears, their desires, and their emotions in order to feed their personal transformation.
The word Tantra means “to weave” or “technique,” referring to a vast spectrum of methods, all serving as gateways to a more desireable life and a more beautiful tapestry. By embracing our fears, desires, and emotions (versus denying our instincts), we can learn to experience more pleasure, more compassion, and an integrated understanding of our world. In essence, Tantra helps people create relationships. Tantric practices consist of movement, breathing, visualization, meditation, chanting, textual study, nutritional and detoxification practices, daily integration, and more. When completed with the intention of shifting towards a more positive state of being, all of these techniques can serve as gateways to a life full of love, wonder, and wisdom.
As a philosophy designed for modern people like you and me, Tantric Yoga and meditation is for anyone who wants to live in the real world and engage in normal, daily life. People who want to read articles online, have a family, go on vacation, and have mind-blowing sex! People who have to pay the bills but still want to experience as much freedom and pleasure as humanly possible. Maybe the tapestry is more beautiful with it’s contrasting colors and interwoven complexities.
It is essential that Tantric practitioners have an altruistic aim. Not only is Tantra an expedited process of personal transformation, it can be dangerous (and misaligned) if someone uses Tantric techniques with the intention of negative influence. Therefore, students are often advised to study under an experienced teacher and move at their own pace. But how does Tantra actually work?
The human Nervous System is the intersection of our mind and body.
Tantra methods teach us how to manage our Nervous System, and therefore, how to control our mind and body so that we can purposefully materialize a desired change in our life. We can transform our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies by strengthening our body-mind connection, practicing intentional neuroplasticity, and harnessing our vital energy. When we experience and embrace the ever-changing life force that moves through us and around us at all times, we realize that we are in full authority of our present, energetic state.
Ultimately, Tantra helps you reach your personal goals by cultivating mindfulness, generating positive energy, and infusing your actions with love.
My goal as a Tantra teacher is to help my students awaken to the wisdom and power that lies within them so they can create the life they desire. From my experience, I have found it most helpful to supplement the esoteric practices and theories of Tantra with modern, scientific studies. This is why my teaching incorporates physical anatomy and healthy body mechanics, modern neuroscience and psychology, as well as various traditions of bioenergetics. My methods include meditation and breathing techniques, creative visualization, reflective storytelling, and somatic drawing.
But to be honest, it’s really all about Love.
"If you want to know the universe, Dare to love one person." - The Radiance Sutras
Rather than suggesting we should only love one person, this quote encapsulates the immense challenge associated with the act of love. Although it takes an incredible amount of courage, loving yourself or someone else also comes with a great reward. When we dare to love someone, we are exploring the depths of the universe where the discoveries are limitless, and our individual potential is infinite.
Again, the Tantric approach is one of embrace. Tantra encourages us to exercise empathy and practice radical love. It guides us to acknowledge, accept, and love the parts of ourselves (and the aspects of other people) that we have been conditioned to reject, fear, and hate. These tendencies ultimately lead to separation, isolation, and misery, and we can remedy them by embracing the people, things, and experiences that normally create internal friction. When we learn to accept and love the things that typically ignite fear or negativity within us, then we begin to “know the universe,” which makes us infinitely powerful.
Perhaps it is our society’s distorted relationship with human sexuality, resulting in patterns of sexual repression, that cause many people to fixate solely on this aspect of Tantra. But if you have read this far, you obviously know that Tantra entails much more than the physical contact of human genitals. Yet, as paradox exists in everything, sex can also be a Tantric practice because it is one way that we can embrace and positively engage with the world around us. Is it the only way? Of course not. But is it important and also really fun?? I think so.
Tantra Yoga practices can include prayer, meditation, textual study, community service projects, breathing and physical exercises, mindful eating, and yes, sex. Lorin Roche, author of The Radiance Sutras, describes the single most important element of any Tantric practice when he writes:
"What matters is you love it so much you want to dissolve into it... let go, lose yourself, and then return, refreshed, with a deeper sense of self."
It’s glamorous to dissolve into things that immediately provide pleasure. But the real transformation takes places when we dissolve into things that challenge our beliefs and perceived identities, such as gender roles, sexuality, racial and economic divides, roles of authority, etc. So what’s your thing? What gets under your skin?
What makes you uncontrollably irritated and uncomfortable?
Because, here’s the truth about Tantra:
The thing that incites a strong, negative emotional response - it is controlling you and it needs your love.
Perhaps if we want to weave the most beautiful tapestry possible for ourselves, we need to embrace discomfort more readily. By leaning into the parts of our that we want to run away from, we weave fabric that both aesthetically rich and emotionally diverse. How would your life change if you genuinely smiled at the guy who cuts you off in traffic? Or if you giggled when you drop your plate of breakfast on the kitchen floor? How would your life become better if you responded to threatening or unpredictable situations with a sense of ease and confidence?
By reclaiming control of your body and mind, you can actually embrace the thing that your conscious mind thinks that you hate.
I promise, your life will change. It will become measurably easier and more beautiful, and you will become magnetic and effortlessly powerful.
Who doesn’t want that?