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Living Tantra!

Two tigers - tantric meditation, tantric techniques

Tantric meditation – Tantric techniques

One of my favourite teaching topics is differentiating between tantra as a periodic leisure experience, and living tantra. Attending workshops and one to one sessions can be an enriching activity; there is nothing wrong with approaching tantra in this way. However many people making this investment do so with the intention to create profound and lasting change. To achieve this it is essential to move from workshopping tantra to living tantra, this evolution occurs through an understanding of the nature of practice – in this case the practice of tantric meditation, and tantric techniques.

For example: having attended a dance performance we really enjoyed, we may feel uplifted and inspired, reflecting upon memories of this single event for some time. But if we were to take up dance as a practice we would expect to attend regular classes cumulatively layering experience. Eventually we find our movement, posture, expression and very being has radically changed. It is the same if we wish to reform ourselves tantrically!

So here is the crunch, many leisure activities purchased are based on relatively passive consumption. Tantra is often relegated to “leisure time” so we may subtly carry expectations of our purchase ‘delivering for us’. Living tantra calls for active commitment extending throughout the whole of life. Many people who come to see me for sessions would really like to approach tantra in this way, but are unsure how to do so. They have been to a handful of different workshops and practitioners, read a few books, but still are no clearer how to translate this into lasting practice.

Neotantra

Some teachers offer precise homework instructions. More often students visit many different neotantra resources weaving together a practice from this. A “pick and mix” approach is sometimes derided as the antithesis of tantra as a science, requiring surrender to a single guru and prescribed practices of an authentic lineage. Experience has taught me the spiritual supermarket approach is not merely the expression of an ego bound western pathology (though it can be!). All paths are emergent within a particular context of collective consciousness evolution: it is the enlightenment uncovered that is eternal, not the paths that lead there. Neotantra is simply a path for our time, appropriate to the context, concerns, limitations and potential of the western seeker.

As a visual arts practitioner, I have found fruitful parallels through an in-depth experiential understanding of creativity, and my tantra and creative practices now weave seamlessly together. In another era artists would surrender individual expression to lengthy imitation in the studio of a master, reminiscent of the Guru disciple relationship. Things such as composition might be governed by mathematical formulae. Nowadays artists commonly will develop a broad understanding extending from science through to the arts – e.g. appreciation of materials, chemistry, techniques, history, philosophy etc.

But only Picasso can paint a Picasso! Ultimately all external reference points and learning must be surrendered to something else. Art that is enduring in its appeal is so because it has touched inwardly, through individual effort and inspiration, to the soul of the world. The finite frame of mortality is transcended inwardly to touch that which is infinite and eternal, we return to express this through our being.

This is the essence of enlightenment: and the way in which art transcends an individual maker.

It is a great challenge to embark on a path of awakening in this way. No definitively prescribed daily activity, no Guru to defer all our questions to, no bells telling us what time to arise. The contemporary seeker has to be disciplined enough to undertake daily practice alone. To look within for answers simultaneous to having the humility to receive mirrors from teachers. ‘Teachers’ are your own experience, as well as a one to one practitioner or workshop leader. Additionally the tantric seeker has to grapple with a multiplicity of practices from kundilini shaking through to pelvic bouncing!

It is precisely these challenges that make tantra a uniquely rich and rewarding path. To help begin integrate experiences of tantra workshops and sessions, here is a ‘how to’ guide for embarking on the path of living tantra.

  • Underlying the surface complexity of tantra is an essential simplicity, the dance of energy and consciousness. This is the true essence of tantra.
  • The cultivation of energy (shakti) is what distinguishes tantra from other paths focusing more exclusively on consciousness (shiva). Evolving a deep experiential knowing of this dance will inform a balanced practice.
  • Assume workshop material is intended to be repeated at home! Take a notebook, make notes about the practices jointly with others to aid a complete remembering.
  • Practice is aided by the presence of Sangha, or community. Seek out existing peer groups or online tantra meetup groups. Become more deliberate about staying in touch with fellow workshop participants, create a practice peer group with friends.
  • Workshop participants are carried by group energy. When you try practices at home the experience may at first feel ‘flat’. Take this as being normal, in time it will pass.
  • Repetition is essential, on the 3rd or 4th attempt you may ‘get it’ where at first you didn’t. You will drop into ever subtler layers of experience that at first you missed.
  • All tantra practice begins with YOU! Single people visiting me for sessions often say “I’ll start when I have a partner”. Individuals in a couple say, “I’d do more tantra but my partner doesn’t want to.” It is all a smoke screen; tantra begins with YOU!
  • Make a foundation of solo practices, even in a couple. To begin pick any tantra practice from a book or workshop, set a number of times to do it in the following week or month. Observe and journal how your experience changes. Repeat, building up your lexicon of practice.
  • I like to think of individual exercises as “tubes of colour” we paint with. And the way we string these together as the composition of the painting. Individual exercises weave together into a composition, this is how we build energy in our practice.
  • For couples practice, set a regular time such as a weekly 2-hour slot. For the first session it may be that you don’t do any tantra! Expect to look at books or notes to plan the next few sessions.
  • Whatever you do in your 2-hours you can spend 10 minutes sitting, breathing, eyegazing, stroking or playing some music and dancing! Simple things often touch us most deeply.
  • Living tantra spills out to eating, queuing, sitting on a train. The Book of Secrets by Osho is a fantastic resource for a lifetime of living tantra practice.
  • Infuse your practice with self-love, noticing “I did this…” or “I didn’t do this practice I set myself…” with equanimity. Beating yourself up for “getting it wrong” only divides you against yourself: all things eventually flourish in a loving environment!
  • As confidence grows experiment and become more creative. Weave together things from different teachers, create new meditations, introduce sensual delights and toys… use your imagination!
  • Many things support a tantra practice. 5 rhythms cultivates energy and freedom of expression. Tango or salsa develop subtlety of interaction. Biodanza or contact improvisation help drop inhibitions. Conscious swinging or BDSM can be very left hand path taboo breaking. Any kind of meditation cultivates witnessing presence. Yoga is good all round. Personally I love Bikram yoga, it has evolved my capacity to find stillness in the eye of an orgasmic storm!
  • As you continue this process, interspersed with reflection from teachers and peers, your self-awareness will naturally deepen and confidence in tantra grow.

And one day you will find you are experientially living tantra, with your whole being!

Namaste,

Cathryn x

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