Tantra: the Science of Self-exploration
Oct 9th, 2010 by Aldouspi

Tantra: the Science of Self-exploration

What Is Tantra? The word Tantra is becoming increasingly familiar, as a practice embraced by celebrities such as Sting, Woody Harrelson and Scarlett Johanssen, to name a few, and as an exotic, somewhat laughable approach to sex, as depicted in movies and on television - from ''American Pie'' to ''Meet the Fokkers'' to ''Sex and the City.'' Sting's famous assertion that he and his wife, Trudy, make love for seven hours at a stretch created a stir, but his subsequent explanation that this included dinner and a movie, and his more recent statement that Tantra is about experiencing the sacred through relationship, attracted far less attention.

The general public seems to have a vague sense that Tantra has something to do with sex, while those with a bit more knowledge are likely to think of it as a form of sexual Yoga. The former impression, however limited, is far closer to the truth, but Tantra is a vast subject and not an easy term to define. We hope this overview will both provide some insight into and debunk many of the misconceptions that have developed about this remarkable spiritual path.

Many people who attend our introductory workshops give voice to the popular stereotypes and answer that it is something celebrities do, that it is about better sex and marathon lovemaking sessions. Others suggest that it is a way of bringing spirituality into sex, as if the two were ever separate. As Westerners and products of our culture, we cannot avoid the influence of this popular mythology, but in our practice and study, we strive to arrive at a deeper and, we hope, a more authentic understanding.

The myth that Tantra is primarily sexual originated in either scandalous or scandalizing 19th-century accounts of Tantric rituals. In the early 20th-century, Sir John Woodroffe, also known as Arthur Avalon, a British judge serving in India and a Tantric initiate himself, attempted to legitimize the tradition as part of a pro-Independence effort to celebrate Indian civilization; Avalon was one of the few Westerners involved in this effort, which included a number of influential upper-class Indians. Avalon and his circle de-emphasized the sexual aspects of Tantra, since these aspects remained scandalous to much of the general public and perhaps to Avalon himself, even though there is some evidence that he and his wife practiced Tantric sex together.

Today, most ''New Age'' Tantrists have taken the opposite approach and focus on sexuality almost to the exclusion of everything else; we have even heard Tantra defined as ''sacred sexuality''. In many instances, New Age practitioners blend together aspects of Hindu Tantra, Tibetan Buddhist Tantra, Taoism and Western psychotherapy - among other things - and invent something that has virtually no relationship to the original tradition. As a result, most people who contact us think that Tantra and Tantric Sex are synonymous, and that Tantric Sex is synonymous with extraordinary lovemaking abilities, with some ''emotional clearing work'' thrown in for good measure, and that it must last for hours.

We feel it is unfortunate that such a rich and complex tradition has been reduced to such a banal and simple stereotype. At the same time, we were drawn to Tantra because of its sexual aspects, and we are convinced that consciously exploring sexuality is a rich and meaningful path. It can function as a gateway into an experience or way of being in the world that may be more truly described as Tantric. Thus, we hope to strike a balance between the rigorous and uncompromising view of the many modern scholars and traditionalists who dismiss ''New Age'' Tantrism with scorn, and popularizers, who preach the gospel of Tantric Sex, yet have virtually no familiarity with its history and, moreover, have not been initiated into a traditional lineage.

It may be clear by now that Tantra is a confusing and even paradoxical subject, and with that in mind, we offer the following, in hopes that it will give you some new ways of thinking about the meaning of the word Tantra.

Tantra is an ancient tradition that recognizes sexual energy as a source of personal and spiritual empowerment. This sets it apart from most Western traditions and helps explain why most Westerners have reduced it to its sexual elements alone.

Tantra is the magic of transforming one's consciousness and thereby transforming one's entire being. Your body is the most powerful tool for bringing about this transformation.

Tantra is a spiritual science. Tantric techniques have been tested and have proven effective for many centuries. If you practice diligently, you will experience results.

Tantra can be quite simple. Everyone has had Tantric experiences; it is not always so simple to notice them.

Tantra can be embraced in whole or in part. A few simple practices can often produce profound results.

Tantra is goalless, unless exploring and expanding consciousness can be called a goal. Goal orientation is one of the biggest obstacles faced by the aspiring Tantrika; abandoning specific goals and focusing on what you are doing in the moment, with as much awareness as you can muster, are the keys to effective practice.

Tantra is a way of life. The Tantric approach to exploring your own consciousness is an ever-evolving process of discovery that emerges from daily practice.

Tantra can provide you with the means to deepen your sense of connection to yourself, to your partner, to all that is.

Tantra includes practices, which, while often simple, can lead to the experience of extraordinary ecstasy.

Tantra is a technology of mind and body that will lead you to know yourself deeply.

Tantra is for people of ''heroic'' temperament, already presumably healthy. Anyone interested in practicing Tantra should have done considerable work on him/herself before beginning on the path. Traditionally, this type of work often included many years of yogic study and practice; for Westerners, psychotherapy may be the best form of preparation for serious Tantric study, since it provides the student with many of the necessary tools for the self-exploration that is such a central part of Tantra. Our teacher, Dr. Jonn Mumford has written: ''In the West, we have a particular type of Yoga called psychotherapy; it is one of the most valuable heritages that Western civilization has produced.'' He goes on to observe that anyone with a serious interest in Yoga must experience psychotherapy. The same applies to Tantra, but we feel it is important not to blend the two, since the approaches are so radically different.

Tantra is a pragmatic way to loosen the bonds of unconscious, habitual behavior and thereby start to live more freely and fully.

Tantra is a discipline of becoming yourself completely. In the end, there is nothing at all to do. Tantra is pragmatic and non-moralistic. You can utilize whatever tools are at hand for the purpose of expanding consciousness.

To sum it up, one way to define Tantra is to say it is: the science of self-exploration.

Authors

Mark Michaels (Swami Umeshanand Saraswati) and Patricia Johnson (Devi Veenanand) are a devoted married couple who have been teaching Tantra and Kriya Yoga together since 1999. Their popular workshops have been featured in several publications, including the Village Voice, NOW magazine, and Breathe magazine.

The two seek to combine a traditional, lineage-based approach with the best contemporary, Neo-Tantric methods. Their approach includes breath work, meditation, chanting, and puja (a type of Hindu devotional ritual), and their "initiated Kriya yoga" practices aim to lay a spiritual foundation for bringing the heightened awareness and pleasure of sex into everyday life.

The authors are senior students of Dr. John Mumford (Swami Anandakapila Saraswati) and have been named lineage holders of the OM-Kara Kriya® system for the Americas and Europe. Sunyata, coauthor of The Jewel in the Lotus, named Michaels his lineage holder in 2001. Michaels and Johnson have studied Bhakti Yoga with Bhagavan Das and Tantra with Dr. Rudy Ballentine, and they have been featured in Dr. Judy Kuriansky's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Tantric Sex.

www.tantrapm.com

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Tantra: Discovering the Divine Union of Man & Woman
Jun 16th, 2010 by Aldouspi

Tantra Meditation

yab yum

Tantra: Divine Union of Man & Woman

The meaning of the word Tantra, derived from Sanskrit, is “to weave”. In the tantric lifestyle, we weave together all aspects of our lives into one harmonious whole. Work becomes a meditation, making love becomes our spiritual practice, the lover and the beloved melt into one.

In the Tantric cosmology, the whole universe was created and continues to evolve through two fundamental forces, which together, form one indestructible divine union. These are the male and the female aspects, and in Tantra they are represented by the goddess Shakti and the god Shiva.

Shakti represents the female principle of pure energy and dynamic potential, whereas Shiva who embodies the male principle, emanates creation and power. Together, Shiva and Shakti are the divine couple. Their erotic interplay, their cosmic dance, is how the world was created, according to the Tantric belief.

You may have seen Indian art depicting a man (often a Buddha-like figure) sitting with his legs crossed on a lotus flower and across his lap sits a woman, often depicted nude. This is the classic tantric position also known as Yab Yum, and those pictures are known as Yab Yum Deities.

In Tibetan, yab yum stands for “mother father”, and it describes the divine union – energetic and sexual - of mother and father, the female and male principles, Shiva and Shakti. In Tantric practice, the woman is honored as Shakti, and the man as Shiva.

There are many tantric rituals in which these essences are visualized and embodied.

There is one tantric practice in which the woman straddles the man and together they visualize the divine powers of a Yab Yum Deity above their heads, and eventually allowing these powers to enter their energy system at the 7th Chakra, the crown of our head.

This sounds very interesting indeed, however, how does this apply to our everyday life? Tantra acknowledges that every man has some feminine aspects and every woman has some male aspects. And to live most harmoniously, all aspects are consciously woven into a fabric of balance and understanding.

Let’s look at it from the perspective of the Chinese Yin and Yang philosophy. Yin is the female principle – receptive, soft, flowing - and Yang is the male principle – outgoing, full of initiative, strong. We all carry Yin and Yang inside of us and our actions throughout the day reflect the Yin and Yang aspects.

A simple and fun tantric practice is to become aware of our Yin and Yang aspects. Not only is the practice itself entertaining, but it can dramatically change the way we relate to our beloved, the world around us and our attitudes at large. Yin and Yang is represented in us in many ways, just as the male and female principles have many colors. For example, we consider that the act of giving is a yang action, while receiving is considered to be yin.

Once you have mastered the delicate art of observing yin and yang in your love life, you can apply the same attitude towards other actions in your life. You can consciously switch roles for the day.

Let’s say your partner tends to be very directive (nothing wrong with that) and you are the one who always does things the way he wants (nothing wrong with that either). But just for the experiment, decide one day that you are going to be the directive one and your partner will surrender to the way you want things done.

It will give both of you an understanding about the other person, and deepen the intimacy, clarity and harmony of your relationship.

The Yin Yang symbol describes a harmonious circle divided into two areas – the black (Yang) and the white (Yin), with a circle of white in the black part and a circle of black in the white part. In Tantra, this symbol represents complete balance of male and female principles.

Want to learn more about having tantra in your life? Get the Ultimate Tantra Home Course.

About the Authors: Steve & Lokita Carter are the directors of the USA SkyDancing Tantra Institute. They have been devoted as tantra teachers since 1999, and have been practicing it for many years beyond that. Visit http://www.skydancingtantra.org to learn more about Tantra, Tantra Workshops.



A Tantric Meditation/Om Ah Hum

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