When you think of Tantra, what comes to mind? Most people may not have the foggiest idea what it is, and those who have heard the term before more often than not have images of wild sex orgies bubbling up in their minds. And YES: this can be part of it, but it’s by no means the most important thing. If you have had a chance to watch my short YouTube series on Tantric massage, you will have heard me talk at length on the subject of physical touch, sensuality, sexual energy, visualisation and energy work.
Tantra involves such a wide range of elements that it can be hard to make sense of it all: receiving a lingam massage can feel like arousal that will lead to sex, but the intention is very different – raising energy and shifting it with broad massage strokes over the torso, arms and legs is very different from giving a hand job. Similarly, a lot of practices may seem odd at first, until it becomes apparent that they serve a similar purpose: raising energy, shifting it, generally helping with the focus on specific parts of the body or mind.
So if you see people flailing their arms or screaming like banshees during a workshop, don’t think of it as a purely physical exercise, but rather a means to an end. It’s all about energy and its flow in particular directions.
Speaking of energy, have you heard the expression “energy follows thought”? Never forget how much our mind plays a role in the shifting of energies in our bodies: visualisation and meditation are as important as the physical side. If yoga exercises are combined with intention and conscious meditation or visualisation, energy flows in that direction. This is why tantra has such a varied number of practices: from sitting quietly in meditation, through yoga, dance, touch, music, rhythm, touch and play to full on sexual activity – all of them serve a single purpose: raising and shifting energy.
Why create and shift energy at all? What is the ultimate goal? It’s bliss and enlightenment, of course!
All those exercises are meant to change how our mind perceives our surroundings and how we see ourselves in them. This brings us back to the question if sex is just a distraction from something else. The answer is ‘yes and no’: it all depends on the intention and what you do with the sexual energy. If the goal of your engagement with someone else is orgasm and all you do together is meant to reach that point, sex is a distraction! If, however, you use that sexual tension with your partner in order to create a shift in both your perceptions of yourself, your mind and the universe at large, it becomes a beautiful tool after all.
You probably start to see why tantric teachings are big on stopping short of a physical orgasm: the worry is that with the orgasm you’ll expend all that juicy energy that could be used much better on your spiritual path…
Find your intention and stick with it
This is the eternal question to anything related to the spiritual plane: what is the ultimate goal of the rituals and actions, and why bother?
When it comes to tantra, the ultimate goal is simple: feeling at one with what surrounds you. If this sounds too trivial, try this on for size: “being one with all” or “being one with the universe”. For the sake of not putting off those of a less oogie-woogie persuasion, let’s stick with “feeling at one with what surrounds you”.
Tantra is based – amongst other things – on the belief that the person you call ‘I’ does not really exist, but is just an expression of something much bigger, something that includes everything. It is rather difficult to keep both those concepts in the mind at the same time: being a person, distinctly different from other people and the universe (distinguishing between “me” and “not-me”), and being a small part of a unit that is represented by ‘everything’ (not distinguishing between “me” and not me”). Tantra tries to open your eyes to the possibility that both of those can be true at once, leading to a spiritual advancement and a sense of connection with everything.
In order to get there, many different techniques can be used, including meditation, yoga, singing mantras, sharing yourself with others in an attempt to experience communion with other perceived as ‘not me’, dancing, raising energies, rituals, … and many others. Some tantra lineages focus on one or several of those. When it comes to physical touch as a means of connection, this can include sensual and sexual practices (example: Kamasutra), which can lead to certain misunderstandings.
Sensual and sexual engagement with others is not perceived as a sexual act per se. These practices involve the raising of sexual energies/Kundalini energy, including erotic touch, massage, used to induce heightened sensitivity, relaxation and receptivity. Energy flow and distribution is often encouraged through massage and bodily contact, but with the sole goal to heighten the receiver’s experience.
Once the sexual energy has been absorbed and accepted, things can move into further spiritual practices, or you and your partner(s) can move into a sexual experience, or it could simply end there, with the receiver processing their experience on their own. As you can see, even if you end up having a sexual encounter, there is a huge element of energy work and philosophy behind the practice.
Live your experience fully and you will learn from it
These are my own thoughts on aspects of my work I feel strongly about.