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What is Tantra?
Translated from Sanskrit, the word ‘tantra’ means ‘to weave’ and also ‘tools for expansion’. In Tantra we weave together the seeming opposites of our lives into a harmonious whole and we accept every moment, every encounter, as a tool for our expansion. What does that mean, exactly?
The Peaks & the Valleys
Life is not a linear experience. There are highs and lows, peaks and valleys. Some days we feel successful, beautiful, invincible, and other days we believe to be complete failures, our bodies leave much to be desired and we are moody. One day we make love and see God, another day we make love and nothing happens. One day it’s Niagara Falls, another day the Gobi Desert. Can you be ecstatic in the peaks and on the valleys? That is what Tantra is—living in equilibrium and balance.
There is only One Life
Right now all we know for sure is that we have this one life. We tend to organize our lives into compartments—our private life, our love life, our professional life, our family life. We speak about what will happen when we return from vacation to our real life. What is this real life? In Tantra we understand that our life is one life. We might as well live as fully and truthfully and ecstatically as we can in all aspects of our lives—from work to private, from vacation to everyday.
Tantra is a spiritual path that accepts, indeed celebrates, our body as our temple. When we examine religion and spirituality at large we find that most paths have placed some restriction on the body and its expressions of aliveness, particularly on sexuality.
Our life force energy is our sexual energy. In Tantra we believe that its source is at the base of our spine. Tantric practices are used to awaken this energy and to channel it through our chakras, or energy centers.
Tantra & Sexuality
Sex is a doorway to create deep spiritual experiences, to open the door to God and to be more ecstatic every moment. For many of us, sex is a much easier way to meet God or enter into a blissful state of being than walking the dog. That’s why so much emphasis is placed in the popular media on the sexual practices of Tantra. Most of us can all relate to them a lot easier than to some complex technique for clearing the mind and altered states of consciousness.
The 7 Chakras: Our Tantric Energy Map
The tantric energy map is based on seven chakras, located along the central column of the body, the spine. The first Chakras, bur root, is located in between the genitals and the anus and the seventh is the crown at the top of our head.
Each of these chakras as its own meaning, and although the concept might sound a little strange at first, let’s take a look at how they reveal themselves in our everyday life. Have you ever had to have a difficult conversation with someone you much rather would avoid? And did you notice then that you had what is generally called ‘a frog in your throat’? This is the fifth chakra, the one concerned with communication and expression of our truth. Since there was that frog, that energy center was closed.
Or how about right before an important exam, or a job interview—have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach? That is the third chakra, the solar plexus that signifies personal power. Opening that chakra would make the butterflies disappear and bring about more confidence and assuredness.
So, in Tantra we circulate our energy through these chakras, to enliven our body, open ourselves fully to the experience of life, and become the master of our ship. In terms of sexuality, once we know how to move our energy within our body rather than expelling it through a genital orgasm, we can transform sexual energy into spiritual ecstasy. And that is what Tantra is all about.
The Journey is the Destination
Recently a male friend said that he thought Tantra was all about strategies for ‘not coming’. This is not exactly how we see it. In tantric lovemaking we dedicate ourselves to enjoy the journey without being goal oriented. We stop to smell the roses, rather than rushing by in an attempt to reach the end of the road.
Tantric practices help us to be more in tune with our body, its sensual and energetic responses and how we can be relaxed in high states of arousal. When we have mastered the 4 Keys to Orgasmic Bliss we can be orgasmic on the peaks and in the valleys. We can choose if we want to release our energy in a genital orgasm or ride the waves of ecstatic energy. The latter is the kind of experience people like Sting or Woody Harrelson have spoken about so publicly—the seven hour orgasm.
We do not have to limit ourselves to one orgasm—we can be multi-orgasmic, we can experience orgasm in our whole body, and we can let it all go and forget about orgasm altogether.
But once we are the masters of our ship, we can choose where we want to sail—fast, close to the wind, out into the open sea of bliss or simply watching the sunrise. Tantra gives us that choice, and as such it is not a strategy but a learning tool.
Everything is Perfect
One of Tantra’s precepts it that everything is perfect exactly the way it is. By accepting our circumstances as they are and not fight with them, we are open to the flow of life. For example when we are facing a challenge such as a difficulty in our relationship, we can try hard to change the challenge into something more pleasant and easy, but if we just accept the way things are, the doors to change can open by themselves and bring forth viewpoints and solutions that we could not have seen before.For us, Tantra is the ‘back door approach’ rather than the full frontal confrontation.
As a spiritual path Tantra is concerned with “awakening” from the dream of illusion. One morning the great Taoist master Chuang Tzu woke up from his night’s rest and wondered, ‘Am I a man dreaming to be a butterfly or am I a butterfly dreaming to be a man?’ Do we really know who we are?
A workshop participant mentioned the other day that he is so ready to find himself, he is 51 now and still looking! How long do we have to look? We may find ourselves when we breathe our last breath. In our teachings we give the opportunity to find ourselves in each small moment, to find the truth of who we are and reality in a simple moment like a breath, or a glance into another’s eyes, or a small stirring of energy in our belly. It’s really as simple as that!