Should practice what is to be practiced.
To renounce the sense objects
Is to torture oneself by asceticism—don’t do it!
When you see form, look!
Similarly, listen to sounds,
Taste delicious flavours,
Use the objects of the five senses--
You will quickly attain supreme Buddhahood!
Take refuge in the vulva of an esteemed woman
To attain the rank of Candamaharosana.”
Taken from Miranda Shaw’s Passionate Enlightenment)
Reclaiming our sacred sexuality is one of the most inspiring and exciting adventures of our times. Sexuality is perhaps the most spiritual aspect of our being--it is the most intimate urge for oneness and oneness with another can be likened to oneness with God when set in a sacred context. Unfortunately, sexuality has been bereft of this for millennia it seems. The reasons are legion and tell a story of control of humanity through limiting this very powerful, healing, creative and divine urge by corrupt governments, often in partnership with so-called religious powers. However, the threads are there throughout history as well of deep and ancient traditions that honoured sexuality as spiritual practice par excellence and today they’re surfacing in magnificent abundance.
Sexual topics necessitate the creation of fire and fiery emotions because it is connected to the raw, creative fire energy which is at the root of our beingness. And this is the awakening: sexual energy is actually spiritual energy. As one teacher put it to me, the universe is wholly erotic. When we consider on a quantum and atomic level how everything is flowing in a dance of coming together and falling apart, over and over again, we witness the sexual/creative energy in a different expression, but nonetheless exemplified by constant commingling toward every higher forms and expressions of harmony. Even when pendulums are swung in a room they all begin to entrain and move together in resonance. The universe has an inherent bias toward harmony and love and eroticism and sexuality need not simply connote the act of genital play. When the definition is expanded it liberates tremendous understanding of just how vast and powerful sexuality is and how it flows in almost every aspect of reality.
Ridding oneself of desire is an ascetic path of spirituality and yet it is not the ultimate path. None really are. All paths are meant to work for the diversity of all people. However, in our present times of great synthesis of ideas, I find that integrative practices are becoming the most effective and popular because we have so many traditions and tools in our awareness and live in a free country for the most part where we can flow from one to another without persecution as it was largely in the past and still is in some places. These playful explorations are yet another form of sexual energy: traditions are literally making love to each other and giving birth to new spiritual-idea-offspring! And these new ideas are shining with profound wisdom from these powerful cross-pollinations, strengthening strands of knowledge like never before.
Tantra is about weaving with all things in life, light and dark, and about handling the immense power that comes with living so ecstatically connected to all things in the effulgent oneness at the essence of the universe. Tantra steps away from the friction and fractious energy of dualistic thought, observing the detrimental tensions and blocks to synthesis that are created in such forms of being. Its increasing popularity speaks to the need among the masses for relief for what has been aeons of wars fought primarily on the level of belief, materializing into unspeakably heinous conflicts in the world. Tantra seeks to assuage this most hidden inner-pain at the root of so much human suffering and, thus, offers a kind of universal panacea.
Asceticism is part of it too as everything has its place in Tantra. After all, if we are to guide the sexual energy to a higher spiritual goal, it entails that we diminish and arrest practices that keep our sexual energy attached to anything that would block, delay or stagnate this transit. I find the key insight of Tantra is that when we wish to transform in such fashion it is more important to put the majority of our attention on the goal, rather than the block we wish to overcome. For example, if we wish to spiritualize our sexual energy, we should constantly attend to sexuality as a spiritual practice, either through thoughts/affirmations/prayers, actual practice with another, even treating such things as masturbation as a spiritual practice, focusing on being meditative during with conscious breathing. We should keep our heart-mind engaged on this positive work rather than getting wrapped up in habits we wish to leave behind, falling into self-shamings, 'negatives' VS. positives (here rather negative and positive inspiring each other).
In this way, the essential power of awareness, aimed through the power of attention, is kept on the good patterns we wish to create rather than obsessing over how destructive we’re being. Moreover, my experience has been that this again exemplifies the beneficial relief factor of Tantra: I find more ease in my life as my obsessive, self-flagellations are curbed by more increasing attention on the beautiful things to do and create. Gradually, such ease allows me to engage my ‘destructive patterns’ with a more transcendent observatory sense, a cooler mind, and I actually begin to understand them better; their source, their nuances, their reasons and, eventually, coax them to devote themselves as sheer energetic potential to the beauty party over here in the good work realm.
It’s profound to discover how much suffering is self-created by these inner-battles with ourselves and how easy it is to end war when we merely begin to love, again and again. It’s simple physics, really :) Ultimately, my experience has been to concentrate more on feeding myself the good things, rather than focusing on starving what is deemed bad. They can work in tandem, but the positive work gets more of my energy as it creates more mojo. It doesn't necessarily mean it's easier but I find there is less tension and I’m more optimistic and resilient when inevitable stumbles happen on the path as I'm quicker to get up because the goal is more clear and captivating. When I’m primarily concentrating on fighting my shadow, I’m usually more downcast and less likely to want to get up when I fall.
Tantra is a radical way for sure but one in my experience that is most excellent. That same teacher also advised me that Tantra was the spirituality for our current age because it embraces all perspectives, leaving nothing behind, creating a religion of united humanity rather than based on divisive denominations, which is so vital for our growing global culture and the planetary challenges we face. Our unity is now more than ever vital for the survival of our species. It’s not that religious diversity need be shunned but that the undifferentiated ground from which they all grow be honoured as the essence of it all and paid due homage and devotion. Tantra is a name for such a kind of honouring but really names are considered playfully in the end. It’s that deep feeling of union which is honoured as the true capacity to be tantric; to be so ultimate. And that is, ultimately, the power of Love with a capital L :)