Sunyata, What is Tantra about, what is its purpose?
“Tantra” has an ancient lineage and has undergone many alterations and refinements over the centuries which have produced many different forms of this esoteric science. For many that practice Tantra, its essence is: self-knowledge and spiritual-expansion of the individual through intimate connection with the beloved.
Through the mirror of the beloved, the Tantrika (aka Sadhaka = “one who follows a spiritual path”) experiences divinity and is shown everything that is obscuring his/her ability to experience it. Just as when peering into a mirror that is covered with dust and spots preventing clear viewing—so do one’s personal “issues” prevent a clear awareness of the divinity present within the Tantrika and the beloved.
Tantra has always included sexual energy as its core tenet of awareness and tool for transformation. Some “White” or “Right Hand” Tantra schools taught an austere version of working with sexual energy within oneself—only venturing into corporeal sexual engagement after many years of internal refinement. “Red” or “Left Hand” Tantra schools included the physical enactment of sexual ritual as part of their Sadhana (spiritual practice).
While originating in the “East” millennia ago, in modern times, Tantra has seen a great resurgence—especially in “Western” culture. Western Tantra often gets a bad rap for being superficial and hedonistically focused. The criticism centers on the preoccupation by many “California Tantra” groups on sexual union and orgasm attached to a loose definition of “spirituality” in an attempt to legitimize, or make spiritual what would otherwise be perceived as merely a promiscuous lifestyle in pursuit of Egoic self-gratification. Interestingly, at its beginnings, similar criticisms were aimed at Tantra by its competition (Hindus, Jainists or Buddhists) —however, are now often made by Tantric “traditionalists” and purists. Just as major religions like Christianity and Islam have spawned many denominations and cults, so has Tantra. It’s no wonder, therefore, that the dharma (right living) of Tantra takes on as many different forms as there are “schools” teaching it.
At the essence of Tantra however, is an enhanced and elevated understanding, and integration of three fundamental aspects:
Embodiment, Presence, and “Potentiality/Actuality.“
Obtaining the necessary level of enhanced experience and elevated understanding of these aspects involves:
- A process of “inner-work” to “clean your mirror” and remove what is blocking you from full experience and realization.
- Developing the ability to work with, and interact using, sexual energy as a catalyst, power source, and uniting agent, in concert with your beloved.
Accomplishing these two steps produces a numinous experience that elevates and evolves each Tantrika on all levels of consciousness.
What is “embodiment?”
Embodiment is most often used to describe some idea, principle, or quality that a person represents by their life expression, attitude, or behavior (e.g. “Mother Theresa was often regarded as the embodiment of selfless devotion to others.”) With Tantra, embodiment refers to the ability to present through one’s awareness, presence, and interactions the manifestation of erotic energy and spiritual communion with “the Beloved” (having aspects of both an internal relationship with the Divine Lover archetype, and an external relationship with one’s partner as the physical representation of the Beloved).
With Tantra, embodiment also refers to the condition of a person’s energetic capacity and ability to flow “shakti” erotic energy. Embodiment produces a clear channel for the flow of erotic energy. To be embodied means you not only feel sexually “turned on”—but your body is enlivened by the sexual energy pervading your senses, organs and tissues without hindrance or contraction. Embodiment is achieved by clearing away what blocks you from feeling your sexual energy.
The emotional and energetic blocks or contractions that prevent full embodiment come from beliefs, patterns, and experiences that attenuate the flow of your sexual energy. Clearing these blocks takes “inner-work” to increase self-awareness and understanding of yourself at a deeper level. Tantra provides energy exercises that help clear emotional and energetic blocks and restore the flow of sexual energy. Tantric principles teach a whole new way to perceive and interact that places awareness in the body and not dominated by the mind.
Two energy tools you can use to help identify energetic blocks and to increase your awareness of subtle energy are:
- The Inner Smile meditation
- The Microcosmic Orbit meditation
There are explanations about these meditations on the internet, I have developed my own version of these to refine their effectiveness in relation to learning and practicing Tantra. Contact me for a session if you would like me to share them with you.
What is Tantric Presence?
More than just physically existing, presence refers to being present (conscious to) what is happening around you, in the moment. Where your mind is at (in the past, present, or future) is very important for you to be present. Most people are often in the past—thinking about things that have happened, or they are off into the future—worrying about what might happen. Tantric presence is a mindfulness mode of awareness which is embedded in “the Now”—staying present and not diverting attention into fantasy or fear.
Presence also has to do with where one’s focus is located, especially with erotic energy and sensual stimulation. Being present to what your body feels and what that does to your sexual energy and what your energy does, or wants to do, as a result opens the door to expanded experiences and transcendent consciousness.
Presence in this context is a mixture of witnessing and stewarding a balance between “doing” and “being.” For the tantrika, getting one’s intellect out of the way and allowing a sensorial, or body-centered awareness to take over is key. Mental chatter can distract a Tantrika from what is happening in the present moment and derail the flow of sexual energy and derail a Tantric experience. An adept balance of witness awareness without succumbing to discursive thoughts or acting out fantasy or unconscious patterns is essential.
Potentiality is the acknowledgement of a possibility to occur. A tantrika seeks to experience potentiality without being influenced, pressured or directed by an agenda or the expectation of certain results.
The organic enactment of potentiality is “Actuality.”
“Actuality, in contrast to potentiality, is the motion, change or activity that represents an exercise or fulfillment of a possibility, when a possibility becomes real in the fullest sense.”
“Actuality” is the organic unfoldment of an activated potentiality, or, in other words: authentic movement.
Potentiality/Actuality = “Being/Doing.” When Tantrikas are able to “rest” in a potentiality of “being”—moved by erotic energy into an organic “stirring” of motion or doing (actuality) it elevates spiritual-sex practice to a higher level of attunement with each other and with the spiritual resonance of nirvana and ecstatic bliss.
Tantra Sangha meditation & movement
To help Tantrikas understand and have a personal experience of Embodiment, Presence, and Potentiality/Actuality I’ve begun teaching a class of meditation and movement. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, I teach “Tantra Sangha” classes in Sebastopol, CA. at LoveJourney Temple (* I’ve recently discontinued this class—use the contact form below to arrange for personal instruction). There is no sexual activity or nudity—this is an energetic experience centering on meditation and authentic movement that gives participants an opportunity to feel their erotic energy more clearly in their body and begin to discover what blocks are preventing a fuller experience of Tantra.
If you would like personal coaching with learning about Tantra and its secrets contact me to set up your program of Skype sessions: