You might be drawn to Tantra because you want to improve your sex life, or you might already have a juicy sex life but want to experience deeper connection with your partner, and to join up your spiritual life with your sex life. Maybe you’re just curious to find out more. You can practice Tantra without a partner: whatever your situation, practicing a Tantric visualization or meditation can bring you to feelings of oneness with all humanity and with the essence of yourself. The aim of Tantric meditation is to undo your limited thinking – the conditioning of your mind that has happened throughout your life – and to experience the freedom that lies underneath that.
Practicing Tantra with a partner means bringing an attitude of reverence into your relationship both in the bedroom and out. In a classic tantric sex ritual, the participants worship each other as physical manifestations of gods and goddesses. Tantric lovemaking is all about being conscious. It involves setting up a beautiful sacred space with flowers, scents and lush fabrics, using breathing techniques, and enhancing all the senses through, for example, eye-gazing and massage. This creates a sense of the sacred and increases intimacy and spiritual connection with your partner – and the spirit within you. And pleasure-enhancing is a nice side effect too. While you don’t have to be a marathon love-maker like Sting professed to be in his notorious comment 20 years ago, delaying orgasm so that you channel your sexual energy – creating a lasting glow – is a big part of Tantra.
To learn more about Tantra and practice Tantric meditations with a tantric group, There are day long and weekend Tantra courses which you can attend on your own or with a partner. The beginner ones do not involve any direct sexual exercises (though there is partner work) and are simply a way to experience some of the heart connection and bliss that Tantra offers. Make sure you check out the school thoroughly first to make sure it’s one of integrity. These can be expensive though, so if that’s an issue, you can start with Margot Anand’s ‘The Art of Sexual Ecstacy: The path of Sacred Sexuality for Western Lovers’, which offers a systematic ‘course’ of exercises for you to try that will help you to find greater fulfilment and bliss in your sexuality. Anand also has suggestions for practice on your own. Al Link and Pala Copeland’s Sexual Mastery Course and Kerry and Diane Riley’s Ultimate Home Tantra Course. are other well recommended resources. If you don’t have a regular Tantra partner, this article has some suggestions on how to find one.
What makes Tantra stand out from most other spiritual traditions is that it doesn’t try to ‘transcend’ our worldy and bodily desires as human beings. In most spiritual philosophies, the world is seen as an illusion – in Tantra, it’s accepted as real. So there’s no need to go and meditate on a mountaintop, leaving your life of work and relationships: you can find freedom and spiritual connection even as a person with a busy life. This is because in Tantra, you use your everyday life, including your sexuality, as part of your spiritual growth. The idea is that ‘nothing exists that is not divine’. Tantra isn’t one coherent system: it consists of a huge range of practices and ideas.Tantra means ‘to weave, to expand, and to spread’. The idea is that Tantric practice helps us untangle the threads of negativity, such as fear and wrong ideas about ourselves and others. Then we can re-weave the pattern of life in a way that is natural and helpful to us.
Tantra aims to awaken the ‘Kundalini’ energy at the base of the spine: the energy that allows us to experience our full potential as human beings. In Tantra practice, you learn to use prana (life force energy, which is also found in your body), to achieve what you want in life – and this can be spiritual, material, or both. Tantra practices include breathwork (pranayama), mantras, yoga, visualizing deities, ayurveda (a holistic traditional Hindu system of medicine) and other esoteric practices. White Tantra is a practice within Kundalini Yoga that involves intensive, non-sexual partner meditations and a lot of eye-gazing. It aims to clear old patterns from the subconscious so that you can be more aware and free in your thoughts and emotions. Kundalini Yogis regard the sexual side of Tantra as ‘Red Tantra’.
Tantra practice dates back to the 5th to 9th century AD and is a branch of the Vedic tradition from India. It involves revering the Goddess Shakti and Lord Shiva. From the start, Tantra has been a radical teaching that presented a challenge to the religious traditions of the time. There are three different Tantrik traditions: Dakshina, Vama, and Madhyama, which represent the three powers of the God Shiva. Tantra has influenced the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions among others. In fact, Tantra has given rise to most of what we now know as Hatha Yoga.There is a distinction between Indian Tantra and ‘Neotantra’. Neotantra (used in the West) puts less emphasis on the guidance of a guru, and focuses on sexuality and intimate relationships. Tantra has become more and more popular in the West since the 1970’s. While some have criticized this development, others see it as a positive one.One of the first Western teachers of Tantra was Charles Muir, a yoga teacher who became initiated into Tantra two decades ago. He and his wife Caroline are still probably the best known teachers of Western Tantra.