What Is Tantra?

What is Tantra? Could be answered with a question…. What isn’t Tantra?

Ultimately Tantra as I know it, is a path that leads us to embracing Totality, it leaves nothing out. It teaches us how to relate to ourselves and all of life in a way that can return us to our most natural state which is love. It helps us understand how Form and The Formless weave together to create the Cosmos. The love story of Shakti (Life Force Energy) and Shiva (Consciousness) uniting in the creation of love (Existence).

I stumbled onto the Tantric path at a time when I was craving a deeper intimacy with my partner.  We had been together for 5 years and while we were still in love, I was not always feeling that love present in our lovemaking.  We had fallen into patterns and ways of connecting that allowed us to do life together, but left me with a longing I couldn’t name. It would be many more years before I understood this longing was to experience something Divine . Both in myself, in him, and in the act of making love.

Tantra was the first spiritual path that gave me an orientation where my sexuality and desire where not things separate from my spirituality. Most religions I had come across spoke about sex and desire in a way that either condemned it, or wanted me to transcend it. But Tantra offered me a new understanding that my sexuality and my body could be one of my greatest teachers, and show me the places I had closed to love. What I was looking for in lovemaking and in my connection with my partner, was what I was looking for in life. I wanted to be touched deeply, to feel connected, to feel embraced for all that I am. 

I did not know that to receive these things, there were many things I would have to see, touch, know, & let go of. Stepping onto the Tantric path has meant coming into deeper relationship with myself and subsequently the rest of life. It is a day to day practice. And here's what's come home for me through practice. There was nothing to fix about me or the people I love. Nothing was broken. There was only the challenge of staying in relationship to everything. When someone or something in life shows up in a way that triggers me, how do I still embrace them and my anger, my fear, my sadness, etc. How do I let the intensity of life, whether it is great joy or great pain, move through me without abandoning my body or running away. When my relationship ended after 9 years, I got to learn how good of a student I had been. I stayed present with my pain, my anger, my fear, and all of the sensations those things created in my body. I let it burn, I let it feel hopeless, I let myself be numb, I let the tears come whenever and wherever they needed to. And I experienced my new found capacity to meet a level of intensity that I could not before Tantra. In the past I would have coped with drugs or alcohol, seeking affection from other men, and shutting down my heart. But by being able to stay present with the intensity life was bringing my way, that intensity delivered me to more love, and more of myself. 

To stay in relationship with whatever life is dishing up, has meant developing what I now consider to be super powers…. 

These superpowers have gone too long with negative stigmas attached to them… I’ve always known I was sensitive, but it always seemed like a burden or a problem for the people around me. The attitude I often got was that the world was going to eat me up if I didn’t toughen up.  I think this happens to all of us in some way. Just look at how sensitive babies are, to light, sound, touch…. they are open, automatically taking in and responding to life.  It's what nature does...  taking in information from the environment and then responding accordingly. Without making it mean something or creating a story around how inconsiderate the clouds are for blocking the sun today :)  Tantra gave me a new orientation for my Sensitivity as a super power that allows me to really listen to the world around me and how its impacting my body. It allows me to feel the people I’m in relationship with and sense what might be going on with them. Embracing my sensitivity has allowed me to get OK with having feelings and expressing them. No matter how unpleasant those feelings may be. Its all information to me now, and knowledge is power.

Sensitivity I learned goes hand in hand with Vulnerability. Vulnerability is what I’ve learned from taking chances. Chances like letting people get close to my messy parts. Letting myself be seen in my sadness, my anger, my silliness, my nakedness. Its meant being OK with anything I might think makes me ‘look bad’, like making mistakes, or not having the answers. The more sensitive I’ve become, the scarier it can be to remain open in these spaces. Nothing can hurt more than sharing myself and having that rejected or turned against me.  But I’ve learned that there is a kind of strength required to really be vulnerable. I have had to trust that my safety lies in something bigger than me controlling myself, or a person, or the situation.  Learning how to speak up for myself when I’m hurt or need something to be different, and being met by people who have the capacity to hear me and respond, has helped me grow this super power. The other thing that has helped me be vulnerable, is learning how to create boundaries.  Which has to be a section unto itself because it is so important.  In a nutshell the vulnerability I have learned from Tantra has made it OK to be more of who I really am in all situations.  And that has brought me more love than anything else.

The other super important piece that Tantra has given me is a deeper understanding of boundaries. Instead of boundaries being these immovable stances I make about myself and what works for me, as they once felt. Now I understand that boundaries are not fixed, they are even permeable. And they are a part of nature. Boundaries are what allow for relationship to happen at all. In the world of duality there is an ‘I' and an other (even if we really are all one). There is a place that can be defined as one thing ending and another thing beginning. In the space between these two things there is a boundary and the quality of that boundary affects they way these things meet and relate. There are boundaries on many levels of existence, and as humans there are not just physical boundaries but emotional and energetic ones as well.  Learning my boundaries has been an on-going process because as I change, my boundaries change. But what has been so empowering about Tantra has been discovering my inner ‘Yes’ and my ‘No’ and the power they hold to free me. I’ve been a bit of a people-pleaser all my life, afraid to upset people, which made me a bit of a ‘yes' woman. But as I learned to listen to my body and listen to what a YES really feels like in my body. I saw all the ways I was saying ‘yes' when it was not true for me.  All the ways I had betrayed what my body and my spirit truly desired, in order to make myself more acceptable or lovable to another. There was something about ‘No’ that used to feel unkind or unloving, mostly because I hated the way No felt when I received it. But after seeing ways for two people to honor what is true for them and still stay connected, still stay in relationship, all of that began to shift for me.

Surrender is a bigger on-going exploration. To me its the big ’S’ like the one in Self and Spirit. When I feel into what surrender is for me, I think not of defeat but of orgasm. That moment where I am not in control, rather I’m being moved by a force larger than my individual self. A moment where my body and my being are a conduit for electricity, impulse, and sensation beyond what my mind could conceive of. Where I’m touched not because I’m grasping for something, but because something takes hold of me and I let go into it. To me surrender is one of the sweetest things Tantra has given me a direct experience of. A chance to be in this body and let it be moved and touched by something majestic. A chance to be in the present moment instead of the machinations of my mind…. sweet sweet surrender.

These superpowers not only allow me to be open to more of life. They make sex more awesome! They make it possible for sex to actually be an act of making love. My sensitivity allows me to feel my body and my partner. My vulnerability lets me be naked and be seen and loved. It gives me courage to enter unknown spaces with my lover.  Boundaries give me the power of my ‘yes’ and ‘no’, allowing me to be clear with myself and my lover about what works. And surrender makes it possible for my whole body to light up with orgasm, and to touch something profound beyond this physical world through my connection with my lover and the moment. 

Tantra is a path that has empowered me as a human being. It has given me access to a relationship with myself, my lover, this world, and God, and didn’t even know was possible. It has helped heal my life-long yearning for connection, tenderness, touch, love, and bliss. It has taught me how to fill my own cup so I don’t have to lean on another person to do it.  It has taught me how to tap an inner power that allows me to be more courageous in my actions and my expression. In short it is a path that keeps leading me to more Freedom and Love.