Why tantra?

Do you remember sex education lessons at school? There were certainly lots of biological details about the birds and the bees, dire warnings about unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, and possibly some indication of the emotional problems that await the inexperienced. But probably not a word about pleasure. No pacing of the powerful energies and sometimes overwhelming body sensations that we can expect to experience, especially as teenagers, as we begin to open to our sexuality. It is pleasure that is taboo in our society. We swoon and the earth moves in romantic novels, but in everyday reality there is often fumbling, lack of communication, and `was I alright?´.

The dominant culture sees sex as the meeting of two bodies. Tantra understands sex as the meeting of two energies, through the medium of the body. As sexual experience has become more common and more frequent for  most people since the `sexual revolution´of the sixties our bodies need more and more stimulation to awaken our sensuousness and to arouse our excitement. On a purely physical level our bodies become more and more jaded, and ever stronger stimuli are needed to reach us. We´ve seen it all before – at least second-hand in the media – and the newness and freshness that bring excitement have been lost. In our heads we compare ourselves unfavourably with film star bodies and settle for second best.

On an energetic level we are formless and unlimited in our potential. Tantra teaches that we are each a unique incarnation of the god or the goddess. If we can learn to make love as the god or the goddess we can enjoy our human bodies and the beauties of the senses while meeting on the energetic and spiritual level as divine beings. Tantra teaches that we do not have to become divine, but that we need to wake up to the divine being – the buddha within – that we already are. The key that tantra offers to this realization is the healing of the ancient rift between body and spirit which sees the flesh and the feminine as the enemies of the spirit, dragging us down from higher things to the pollution of the earth. Tantra sees the body as the temple of the spirit. As we learn to honour the body as our temple we learn the wisdom of the body in bringing us into the innocense we have lost and wish to return to. Innocense is the being in the moment, the meditative state of here and now, which is the nature of the body experience. The mind takes us all too often into memories of the past or plans for the future, away from the oneness of being now. On the body level, the past exists as tension, the energetic imprint of past negative experiences held in the muscles and connective tissue, held in our posture. As we clean our temple of the negative energy of the past, of tension, we become able to open to the flow of energy in our body and between us and our partner which is of the moment, which is always sacred and true.

So the body becomes sacred and innocent through the release of tension, relaxing into the meditative, non-controlling state of innocense. But we have learned to experience sexual excitement in the form of tension, desire as striving, the muscles getting ready for the sexual act. This brings us immediately into a state of doing, not of being.  Innocense is then lost, and all the demons of performance, getting it right, seduction, manipulation, and playing hard to get  enter the fray, bringing the mind in with them. Moreover, tension as an energetic contraction carries the emotional association of fear, in contrast to energetic expansion, which carries the feeling of pleasure.

Sexual excitement in the form of tension always remains a stimulation rather than a pleasure. So pleasure remains for many men the chalking up of achievement – getting laid, making a conquest, reaching orgasm – which remains in the mind and boosts the ego rather than being relished with delight as the experience of love and sexual pleasure in the body. Tantra explores how to enjoy excitement without tension, by relaxing into the energy, allowing it to expand. Instead of a rising spiral of more and more tense excitement pushing our minds to the brink of daring to let go of control over the body for a few brief seconds of orgasm, we can feel the excitement rising to the heights of the spirit while the relaxation deepens the experience to touch our souls.

Wilhelm Reich´s orgasm theory postulated the necessary discharge of energy from the body in order to enjoy energetic health. Life energy must flow in order to stay healthy, and flow is seen as the orgasmic sequence of charge and discharge. This can lead to a fear that if we hold the energy within us it can become life-destructive – and once again the fear of our own life force and our own sexual excitement has crept in through the back door. In tantric practice we learn to relax into the excitement, especially with the critical pelvic floor muscle (love muscle or fire muscle) to allow the sexual excitement to spread, first of all from the genitals into the whole body, then beyond the limitations of the physical body into an expanded energy body, bringing us into connection and melting with our partner as the Other, and through them melting with the whole universe. By consciously breathing the sexual energy into the higher chakras, we can make love with our hearts or with our spirits, celebrating sexual union as an all-embracing conscious experience of transcending aloneness into All Oneness. On the level of pure energy sexuality and spirituality become mutually completing aspects of our being.

As we place our erotic meeting in sacred ritual space, greeting each other consciously as incarnations of the god and the goddess and looking at each other as mirrors of ourselves, we call in the support of higher energies to transform our meeting into a celebration, into an experience of our potential and our limitlessness. By blessing and consecrating our bodies and our sexuality we confirm that god is not separate from creation but is within creation, within our bodies and within our selves.  As man and woman meet as Shiva and Shakti this is not a metaphor but a manifestation of the divine already within us.

John Hawken, UK