Tantra is an ancient Eastern spiritual path. It utilizes the Chakra System and the merging of the feminine and masculine energies for awakening. The basic understanding is that sexual energy is sacred, that it is the seed of spiritual energy. The word "Tantra" in Sanskrit means "Expansion" or "Weaving." It invites us to include everything, not to reject anything. The Tantric path is about saying "yes" to life.
SAYING YES TO LIFE
A Tantric Approach
The word Tantra means expansion or weaving. It is a Sanskrit word, connected to an Eastern Indian spiritual path, Tantra Yoga. The ultimate goal of Tantra Yoga is the Divine Union between the goddess Shakti and god Shiva. Shakti, also called Kundalini, is in the base of the spine. In her form as Kundalini she is seen as a cobra, coiled 3 1 / 2 times, asleep. As Shakti, she is the divine feminine, passionate, strong, an incredibly creative force to be reckoned with.
The Divine Union takes place as the Kundalini snake starts waking up at the base of the spine, gradually uncoiling herself as she rises up the spine. She pierces each chakra in her undulating movement upward, and meets god Shiva, seen as pure consciousness, at the top of the head. Their merging ends the longing for wholeness.
The dance of Shakti and Shiva symbolizes the coming together of the feminine and masculine energies inside a person, as well as the creation of the world.
In Tantric teachings the sexual energy at the base of the spine is seen as the seed of our spirituality. As we fully say yes to our sexual energy, we give it a chance to expand into ecstasy. Having our permission to exist, this energy starts moving up the spine, longing to be met, connecting with the energies in each chakra, creating a rainbow inside and all around us. Finally, it reaches the crown, having grown and matured, to meet its spiritual counterpart, pure consciousness. Form dissolves into formlessness, ecstasy expands into silence. Because we have physical bodies, at some point Shakti must return to the base of the spine to create. Shiva, as pure consciousness, doesn't know action, yet carries the potential for all action. Shakti is the one who takes this potential, and gives it form in her journey down the spine.
In 1981 1 spent 2,5 months in an ashram in India. awakening to a life beyond my wildest imaginations. Being born and mostly raised in Istanbul, Turkey, my hopes and desires included finishing high school, going to College, hopefully finding a husband, having 2 kids, not much else. Even the fact that girls could go to College was fairly new in my generation. My mother's parents did not allow her to go because she was a girl.
So, sitting in the meditation hall every morning, listening to Osho's discourses, I was totally amazed at the realization that I did have a choice in life. Even asking myself questions like "whether I did want a husband or not, whether I did want children or not," was so new. What kind of a life did I want? What options did I have?
Another opening that was happening during this time was within the body. For the first time I could feel energy inside, a sense of expansion, a deep sense of well-being. It was in this ashram that I have heard the word "Tantra" for the first time.
A lot of people think of a tantric. experience as connected with having sex. It is not always the case. A tantric experience can include sex, but is not limited by it; it is a full body ecstatic experience that is created through the alignment of all the chakras (earth, water, fire, air, and ether elements), whereas sex often is connected to the genitals only.
It was a beautiful, warm evening, and I was sitting in the meditation hall with several thousand others, celebrating, dancing to ecstatic spiritual music. Osho was sitting, eyes closed, totally quiet. I was fully clothed, not touching anybody. All of a sudden, a deep inner joy opened up in my body, spreading all the way up. (This was my first tantric experience.) I sat there, for a long time, smiling, feeling waves of ecstasy rocking my body from inside out. I felt so deeply alive.
From that moment on I knew that there was a lot more to Tantra than it being classified as a sexual experience. It is a spiritual experience that includes the sexual energy.
A Practical Approach
My approach to Tantra is a practical one; what good does a spiritual path do if it can't be applied to daily life? I want the spiritual path I choose to enrich the quality of my life.
The tantric path is an all-inclusive path, it includes everything that is happening. It is about saying "yes" to what is happening, rather than denying it, judging it, rationalizing it, excusing it. If there is a feeling of anger, I say "yes" to its existence and create a ritual around it. Saying "yes" to anger does not necessarily mean expressing it. Only after I acknowledge that there is anger, the next step reveals itself to me. The acceptance of what is brings us deeper to ourselves. The denial of it creates separation.
If I'm having a bad day, and I accept it, the acceptance of it opens the possibility for the experience to shift if it needs to. The full acceptance of a good experience deepens the experience. Sometimes, saying "yes" to a positive feeling and the deepening of it gives room to an underlying old emotion and/or traumatic memory. Because in our culture unpleasant emotions are labeled as "unacceptable" and "undesirable", we tend to not see this as a good thing.
Ecstasy is the substance of life. If we had eyes to see, we would perceive the very air that is all around us as a fine, luminous web, made of ecstasy. So, when an "undesirable" emotion comes up in us, we have a choice: either to deny it, try to push it down, pretend it is not there, or to let it come up and be fully felt, knowing that this emotion is surrounded and held by ecstasy. When I accept the emotion and feel it fully, it dissolves back into its original state, which is ecstasy. Imagine yourself leaning back into the emotion, which will intensify it for a short while. If you keep leaning back into it, you will go through the emotion into the experience of ecstasy.
Feeling and emotion is not the same as expressing it. When you are feeling, you are looking in, becoming aware of what is inside, and allowing it to be there. When you are expressing, you are going out into action. Many times, we don't realize that we have a choice, that we could choose to feel an emotion without immediately expressing it. One of the most important steps in everyday Tantra is to let go of our fear of feeling emotion.
Fear of Feeling
What we allow ourselves to feel is based on our religion, culture, and family. In different cultures the "undesirable" feelings can be different. When we grow up in a culture where feeling anger is not okay, we either repress it or feel guilty each time we express it. Often we make a decision to not express anger, because we have seen how much damage it can cause in the world. Because we don't know that expressing and feeling anger are not the same, we don't allow ourselves to feel it, either. When we repress anger, we also repress our fire energy, our spark in life, because that is what is underneath anger. Ultimately, we repress our ecstatic nature. So, by expressing anger we potentially harm others, and by repressing it we potentially harm ourselves. If we see expressing anger and repressing anger as two opposites, we also understand that there is a middle way: to let ourselves feel the anger fully and lean back into and through it until we are in ecstasy. As an intermediary step we can find healthy, non-destructive ways to express it, until we are ready to fully feel it without any need for expression.
Some non-destructive ways are: writing an angry letter that you burn afterwards; imagining that the person or situation you are angry about is the pillow in front of you, and you express the anger to the pillow; stomping your feet while you make faces and sounds, beating a punch bag. The middle way is the tantric way; I accept the emotion of anger inside, and I accept my desire to not harm. I say "yes" to the situation, including everything, and I create a ritual around it. I allow it to be a process of self-discovery, rather than an expression of blame.
We can respond to life this way when we are not afraid of our feelings any more. When we feel what is there, we stop harming ourselves. When we realize that we can feel an emotion without expressing it in hurtful ways, we stop harming others. The feelings, then, become like waves in the ocean or clouds in the sky; they come and they go. If we don't "do" anything with them, if we just let them be, the energy in the emotion reverts back to its original state, to ecstasy.
Inner Feminine, Inner Masculine
The tantric principle is about giving and receiving energy. The giving, outgoing energy is the masculine principle; the receptive, inward oriented energy is the feminine principle. Because in our culture the outgoing, active energy is connected with men, and the receptive energy with women, we tend to believe that these energies are specific to men and women. This is not so. Both genders have the feminine and masculine principles in them. To live in balance, we need both of these energies to be expressed equally. And this, is the dance of Shakti and Shiva; the Inner Masculine and the Inner Feminine meeting each other on equal terms, after having let go of old, limiting belief systems. The dance of ecstasy cannot happen if one of these energies is seen as better than the other.
The receptive cycle of ecstasy happens when the Inner Woman is receiving Inner Man's sexual energy into the second chakra, moves it up to her heart, and gives it to Inner Man's heart.
The active cycle of ecstasy happens when the Inner Man gives energy to Inner Woman from his genitals, and receives her heart energy into his heart.
In the Divine Union, these two cycles happen inside of us, simultaneously. If we are with an outer partner, we can change roles; the woman can be receptive with the man active at times, then reverse the roles at other times.
For ultimate fulfillment, both women and men need to be comfortable with both cycles.
Vulnerability and Trust
One of the essential qualities in tantric ecstasy is the ability to be vulnerable. Many times, when we think of being vulnerable, we think of being hurt. Our experiences of vulnerability come from infancy, when we also were helpless. It wasn't a choice. Anyone could do whatever they wanted. When we hear the word "vulnerable" today, we are reminded of those early childhood experiences of helplessness and dependency.
A child's vulnerability is very different than an adult's vulnerability. Ours is a choice, coming from a place of inner strength. Because I am trusting myself, I am choosing to be vulnerable and receptive, knowing that at any given moment choose otherwise.
"I don't trust you!" is a frequently used statement. The truth is, that as adults trusting or not trusting others is irrelevant. It is me whom I need to trust. When I have full trust in me, I can choose to be vulnerable from a place of deep inner strength.
The tantric approach to life brings a deep sense of respect to the feminine and masculine energies. Both are honored for their uniquenesses, the way they compliment each other, and for their equal yet different kinds of power. They are called "Goddess" and "God", to remind us of the divine, deeply spiritual nature of these two energies inside of us.
This deep respect of our Inner Feminine and Inner Masculine can then extend itself to "the Other" in the outer world. The desire to control and manipulate the opposite sex dissolves, because we know that our partner also has these two energies inside. Being together from a place of respect opens us to ecstasy; giving and receiving become two sides of the same corn, passion and compassion merge, and we experience a glow from deep within ourselves spreading. Every pore in our body breathes in the nectar of life, and we smile...
The tantric approach to life if through the senses. When we are aware of our senses and what we are perceiving through them, our daily life transforms. Let's say you need to go to Safeway to do some shopping. The habitual way would be that you drive or walk, enter the store, find the aisles where the items you want are, possibly wait in line to pay, pay, and leave.
The tantric way would be that if you're walking, you are aware of your steps, the ground underneath your feet, you feel the air on your cheek, the movement of your hair with each step, you see what is around you, you hear any sounds around you, smell the air; or if you're driving, you are aware of your hands touching the wheel, the movement of your feet, your back against the seat, you are aware of the turns you make to drive into the parking lot, as your eyes are searching for a parking space. As you parks, you sense the wheels coming to a full stop, you are aware of the sensation of opening the door, the moment your foot touches the ground. When you enter the store, you notice the temperature change, you see all the colors around you, you take in the sounds, you are aware of your breath, you feel the difference of this floor under your feet. As you look for the items you want, you are aware of the textures of their packaging, how it feels to your touch as you take it out of the shelf into your cart, the sound it makes when it hits the cart. When you are standing in line you are aware of your body, the way it stands, what is around you. While you are paying you feel the money, or the check book, or the credit card with your fingers, you are aware of the moves you make to pay.
When we live life like this, every little thing has meaning, we get nurtured by our daily activities. The things we "have" to do stop being a chore. When tantric energy, which is ecstasy, spreads into an action we call a chore, the mundaneness of it disappears. It has regained its spark, and we find ourselves smiling at the vacuum cleaner. It is fun to do the dishes.
The Orgasmic State
The definition of an orgasm in our culture is a very limited one: when two people engage in the sex act, the ejaculation at the end for men, and the release for women has been defined as an orgasm. This means that we have goal in sex; to do whatever it takes to reach "an orgasm".
Sex with a goal does not lead to ecstasy and a tantric union. Sex with a goal can be very pleasurable, yet it is mechanical. We access the ability of the second chakra to experience pleasure. Because the experience is limited to one or two chakras, the pleasure will be temporary. This means that after a short time, like a day or two, we want sex, so that we can experience pleasure again.
Another byproduct of goal-oriented sex is that our focus is outward oriented; we believe that we need our partner to be and act a certain way for us to have an orgasm. This belief leads to expectations, frustrations, resentments, etc.
Tantric Union is a whole body experience. In Tantra, orgasm is not only an outcome of sex, it is a state of consciousness. The orgasmic energy starts in the first and second chakra, and if we let it, moves up to the rest of the body and head, encompassing all the qualities of the chakras. It is a safe, sexual, sensual creative, alive, powerful, passionate, loving, soft, joyful, silent, loud, spacious, spiritual, melting, uniting experience. And it is not limited to having sex. It can spread-if we let it-into all of our life, allowing a deep sense of joy to permeate every experience we have. Even if we are grieving the loss of a loved one, we can still be in touch with the orgasmic state, which is deeper than any emotion.
In other words, no matter what happens in the outer world, your deep sense of well-being in the inner world does not need to be effected by it.
The orgasmic state, as a state of consciousness, is always available to us; it is inside of us, it is our essence, our core energy; and it is all around us, in every particle of air we breathe. We can get in touch with it through our senses.
Imagine the very air you are breathing is alive, vibrating with ecstasy. Each breath brings more ecstasy into you, to rejuvenate and nurture the body. As you breathe in this ecstatic air, it meets the ecstasy in your inner core. The merging of these two orgasmic energies is the Tantric Union.
All we need to do is to get out of the way.
The Energy Systems
In the tantric approach, there are three energy systems we need to understand: The Chakra System, The Nervous System, and The Physical Body.
The Chakra System is the subtlest, and the Body the densest energy system. The Nervous System is the bridge. The tantric energy starts in the chakras, spreads into the Nervous System, then reaches the body. If we have old trauma-physical or emotional-in any of these three, the energy cannot move freely. Depending on the blockages, it either has to make detours, or can't move at all, in which case we cannot experience orgasm.
The Nervous System
The tantric energy needs to be able to move through the chakras, the Nervous System, and the body for us to feel ecstasy. The Nervous System carries a certain expectation about how much positive, ecstatic energy it can let through before it overloads. This "upper limit" is determined by our experiences in the past. Once this "lid" is on the Nervous System, it automatically deflects excess positive energy coming towards us, unless we consciously remove the lid.
This mechanism is one of the main stumbling blocks on the tantric path, because even though we may want to experience more ecstasy in our lives, we won't be able to unless we expand the Nervous System.
If you thought of your Nervous System as 1/2 inch in diameter, you start imagining it as 1 inch in diameter. More energy can flow through, which means that you can allow more energy into your life.
The Chakra System
In the original Hindu teachings, there are 7 chakras (chakra means wheel) in the body. Chakras are energy centers inside the body, in front of the spine. They are energy vortexes, they spin clockwise or counterclockwise. Each chakra includes certain organs, glands, and body parts.