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Tantra defined

Path To Enlightenment or Sexual Freedom?

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Tantra for most people is seen as something vague and mysterious from the East, so what are the origins of Tantra?

No one is sure exactly when tantra first appeared on the world stage. It seems probable that it was introduced about the same time as the first yoga teachings were given some 15,000 years ago.

The primary purpose of tantra was to further the process of self-realisation and what self-realisation means is that as an individual you have turned to look inside yourself and realised your human nature and potential.

One of the teachings of Jesus Christ that has been overlooked is the verse from the Gospel of Thomas which reads "become as I am." In other words rather than simply believe in the man, the idea was to become as he was in taking on his qualities. There have been countless enlightened men and women, and tantra is a piece of technology that was developed to facilitate us 'becoming' fully human.

This technology is in widespread use throughout the world within Buddhist and Hindu cultures. But the heart of tantra lies in our natural impulse of wanting to be like those people we admire the most.

The technique of self-mastery

In effect this is a creative visualisation process done in meditation. Sit quietly and calmly, visualise the person you want to become more like be it Buddha or other noble character. As well as Buddha as a person, also visualise the positive characteristics of kindness, compassion and all-encompassing wisdom. You can sit and see the Buddha sitting in front of you and when the visualisation of the deity is clear in your mind and you have also generated a strong intent to become more Buddha like in your nature, merge the Buddha image inside of yourself. When done properly, this technology will help to reprogram your mind and awaken those capacities within yourself that have been associated with the Buddha.

"Tantra is the hot blood of spiritual practice. It smashes the taboo against unreasonable happiness; a thunderbolt path, swift, joyful, and fierce.  Authentic Tantra requires profound commitment, discipline, courage and a sense of wild, foolhardy, fearless abandon.” – Chögyam Trungpa

Tantra and the new age

As well as finding tantra within classical yoga and Buddhism, there is tantra for couples, tantra massage and even tantra merchandise. Using tantra in relationships has been going on for thousands of years however it has made a strong appearance in the West, But this is tantra with a twist.

Tantra like yoga means unity, but due to the inadequacy of language, this process has always been described in sexual terms which gave rise to what is referred to as the 'left-hand path' where typically men and women attempt to merge their energies through sex.

However, man or woman, we are what we are and there is no way that two can ever become one. As much as this is a sweet romantic expression, the idea of using tantra in relationships between people seems totally off the wall. However it should not be dismissed because what has happened is that the sincere desire to improve communication and understanding has resulted in Tantric ideology working to enhance people's relationships.

Using tantra in relationships

Any exploration into tantra requires brutal honesty and total transparency. As such, when two people attempt Tantric communication or Tantric sex, for anything to happen they must let go of all their ideas about who they are and become real individuals.

Tantric practice for couples involves finding a mutual understanding about tantra and spirituality, it means coming to a mutual understanding and working towards having a constructive and joyful relationship.

As such, this is an exercise in honesty and clear communication. Sex does not have to take place, however within what is loosely termed as Tantric exploration, when two minds aligned with each other then the sex becomes more pleasurable and meaningful.

Simple exercises for couples

All these exercises begin by sitting or lying quietly and meditatively with the participants naked.

1: Spend a few minutes with eyes closed watching the breath come and go. With practice you may notice that your breath changes in depth and speed in relationship with your thoughts. If you keep your breath soft, smooth and deep it will help to quiet your thoughts and enhance your receptivity.

2: Eye gazing: do your best to retain the awareness of your breathing as you open your eyes and look into the eyes of your partner. Do your best to remain absolutely calm but also avoid staring. Make your gaze as neutral as you can. When you can sit looking into each others eyes for some time without losing it, (laughter is a common by-product), take turns telling each other what you like about them.

3: Sitting back to back, this is a nice meditative exercise, when settled in to position take turns at allowing your energy or consciousness to sink back into your partner's body. After 15 to 30 seconds, reverse the exercise.

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image courtesy of Hegre Art

4: Combine the eye gazing with connected breathing. Sit facing your partner and coordinate your breathing. When you are both comfortable take turns as you breathe in to feel your inhalation is coming from your partner's heart and as you breathe out, return your breath to your partner's heart so in effect you are breathing from heart to heart.  Both of you must do this visualisation and coordinate so that as one breathes in, the other breathes out.  If this exercise is too difficult or if either of you are having trouble with the visualisation, you can place your right hand over your partner's heart and they place their right hand on yours. Then you both hold each other's hand in place with your left hand and work towards achieving the visualisation.

5: Combine the eye gazing with connected breathing as in 4 above. Sit facing your partner and coordinate your breathing. When you are both comfortable take turns as you breathe in to feel as though your inhalation is coming from your partner's heart and then you take the energy down to your second chakra and visualise the energy flying across to your partner's second chakra. Do this for an agreed period of time and then reverse the energy flow for the same length of period.  Both of you must do this visualisation and coordinate so that as one breathes in, the other breathes out.

Above all, in these exercises you must not have any expectations. You must be totally prepared to take each moment as it comes including the fact that your partner might not be able to meet your own depth of understanding, or you may not be able to meet theirs..

The exercises can lead into tantra massage and remember, relationships can be whatever we want them to be however they are usually a social/political and economic arrangements that we make for our mutual well-being including the raising of children.

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