In a recent survey I offered, I was asked this question. “Why is Tantra So Complex?”
Have you ever wondered this? Or perhaps just noticed there is a lot of information about Tantra available, and perhaps don’t quite know what to make of it? Well, Tantra CAN appear complex. So many practices. So many dieties. So much controversy and conflicting information on the Internet.
And in fairness, while I never thought about it as “complex”, I DID experience confusion earlier on in my practice because of the vast information that was available about Tantra. After 25 years of study and practice, I am able to see past the complexity and understand the simplicity and beauty of Tantra. And it wasn’t until I gained clarity that I was able to look back and realize I was confused prior.
Here’s the truth: it is really our own mind attempting to process a large quantity of ideas and concepts that makes it seem complex. It is the belief that each of the statements about Tantra and all the diversities out there are each “some separate and new concept” where one contradicts the other, or multiple practices that feel overwhelming like “I don’t know which direction to go?!?” The mind confuses us. And when we are confused, our practice is confused. And this prevents genuine progress on the Path, because we don’t truly know which direction to face or where we are really headed.
Tantra Yoga teaches us that the Truth cannot be found within the mind, or by the mind. And the confusion that arises from the apparent complexity shows we are searching with and within the mind for an answer to a deeper question that the mind will never comprehend.
Turning Towards Unity to Understand Tantra
There is an analogy that is often used in Yoga to describe the nature of the Self as Consciousness. It states that the nature of the Self (Consciousness) is like the Ocean. The Ocean is all one body of Water. But on the surface, there are waves. And each wave appears as a separately arising thing or event. But it is all water, connected to the single Ocean. When we dive deep, we experience “vast water and stillness”. When we are on the surface, we experience lots of individual waves and activity that causes us to forget that it is all water. Instead, we focus on the waves.
These individual waves are like the individual beings and forms in life: Appearing separate but all connected by the same nature of a single Consciousness. There is One Consciousness, like the one ocean, and that One Consciousness dwells within all Beings and experiences. It is not separate from the waves. And the water or consciousness is the true reality and nature of experience.
At the experience of the Individual, this same ocean metaphor can be used, where our deeper nature is still the full Ocean of Consciousness, and the waves are the movement of Consciousness that appear as separate experiences, thoughts and feelings. That what we experience as the ups and downs of life, are in fact waves and ripples arising in the One Consciousness appearing as the world. But the nature of the Individual remains as Pure Consciousness (or the Ocean/Water).
I invite you to consider this same metaphor in relationship to Tantra. The Goal and Source of Tantra are like the One Ocean. It is a singular thing that is equal to Consciousness. And each of the practices, deities and contradictory statements about Tantra are the waves at the surface. If you continue to look only at the waves on the surface, and try to understand the whole ocean, you never will. And if you look only at the outer practices and expressions of Tantra, you will also never understand Tantra (even though your mind may convince you that you do).
In order to really understand Tantra, you must dive into the Ocean and into the depths where you will be able to experience the Wholeness that is the Essence of Tantra. And from that place, you can understand that all of the “complexity” of practices, deities, and apparent contradictions all arise from a single place and a single process. Until you are able to see the SINGLE process, then the diversity will continue to confuse you.
The reality is that Tantra Yoga is wanting to take us to a place of Simplicity and Unity. We will not find the Truth by creating complexity of thought. The Truth is simple. SO SIMPLE that the mind cannot grasp it. It can only be EXPERIENCED, which is what Tantra yoga is designed to create.
Creating a Simple Understanding of Tantra
Instead of focusing on the vast number of practices and ideas, let’s simplify the SINGLE PROCESS that Tantra is accomplishing. For now, forget about Tantric concepts like Mantra, Kundalini, Chakras, Energy, Asana, Pranayama. Forget about notions of Sacred Sexuality, lingams and yonis. Forget about whether you are single or in a relationship or whether you need a partner to practice Tantra (you do not). Forget about all the fantastical things you may have heard about Tantra such as orgasmic bliss, full body orgasms and awakening psychic powers. Forget it all, and let’s look at the “Wholeness” or “Ocean” of the Unifying Single Process that Tantra is creating.
First, let’s remember that the Tantric PATH was offered to us for a single primary purpose. And the term “PATH” also implies there is a “Destination”. After all, we walk along a path because it is supposed to lead us somewhere, right?
So, on this Path, we have THE DESTINATION and we also have “The starting place”, which is wherever you are in this moment.
The Purpose of the PATH is to lead from where you are now to the Final Destination. The Final Destination in Tantra is called by many names: Non-Duality, Wholeness, Enlightenment, Self-Realization and Moksha to name a few. These all essentially mean that you will have a sustained experience of your True Self as Pure Consciousness. You will know yourself, by direct experience, to be “The Ocean and not just the waves”.
According to Tantra, the reason that we suffer and the reason that we do not already know we are “The Ocean” come from a single Cause: “Ignorance of our True Nature”. (With a reminder that ignorance doesn’t mean you are “stupid”. It simply means that you are not aware.)
So we now have a single Purpose: The Destination of Self-Realization
and a single obstacle to eliminate: Ignorance of our True Nature.
To that, Tantra offers a SINGLE PROCESS, whereby we eliminate Ignorance of our True Nature in order to reach the final destination of Self-Realization.
All of the practices and philosophies that are connected to an Authentic Tantric Path are a part of the Single Process of eliminating Ignorance and revealing the True Self. There are, to be fair, multiple forms of ignorance, which is why there are many different practices: each practice addresses different forms of ignorance with the needed approach. But the SINGLE FUNCTION of each and every practice and philosophical concept is to eliminate the SINGLE OBSTACLE of Ignorance.
A Simplified Understanding of the Spiritual Path
To simplify the SINGLE Process of an Authentic Spiritual Path, let’s break it down into two general components:
- The Action/Implementation: These are the practices/tools/philosophies that help eliminate the obstacle of Ignorance and teach us how to Awaken to our True Nature as Consciousness. (Including what we are doing and why we are doing it.)
- The Effect/Results : These are the responses/reactions/experiences that we have while following the path on our journey towards the Truth, and how we manage and use those experiences as part of the journey itself.
The reality being that this creates a cyclical spiraling effect of a SINGLE PROCESS, where they flow into each other. Practice something. Get a response. Take that into practice. Get a response. etc. When Done properly, there is a Spiraling inwards towards the True Self.
And we can break the Effect/Result/Experience into one of two things:
- An opening (however slow or fast) which reveals to us greater freedom/love/peace/wisdom/clarity as we touch into True Self more fully.
- An arising experience of a limitation or obstacle which reveals a place where we need to heal and transform our Karma in order to move deeper into Freedom/love/peace. This will often come in the form of judgment/resistance/sadness/fear/anxiety/anger. etc in a variety of expressions and forms. In other words, we discover a layer of Ignorance that needs to be removed.
Putting it all together, this is a simple way to understand Tantra:
Tantra is a Spiritual Path that implements a SINGLE PROCESS designed to eliminate a SINGLE OBSTACLE (Ignorance of your True Nature) in order to reach a SINGLE DESTINATION (Self-Realization of your True Nature).
To Engage this Single Process of the Tantric Path in the simplest terms we need:
- The proper practices
- The proper way to manage the responses that are created through that practice
- The proper context and understanding of the Path to work with #1 and #2 in an effective manner.
If we forget this simple perspective as we navigate the Tantric Path, then the illusion of diversity will confuse the mind. A confused mind will lead to confused results because our “Spiritual Compass” will have us turning in lots of different directions, instead of clearly walking down the Path in the proper direction.
Light Destroys Darkness. Truth Destroys Ignorance.
The Implementation of Practices or Philosophy allows us to access the Light of Truth within the Self. As that Light is shown into the Darkness of Ignorance, we will either experience the Light directly and touch into the True Self. Or, The light will shine upon a limitation and bring it into awareness. Further activation of the Light eventually destroys the Ignorance that is revealed. Light (Truth) destroys Darkness (ignorance), and repeatedly activating the Light of Truth through the SINGLE PROCESS is the Path.
Tantra contains both the Destination (The light of Truth) and the Process (Revealing the Light of Truth) to get there within its own Wholeness. And while it is a Single path to a single destination, we must also keep in mind that each step towards the final destination on our journey will potentially change the scenery we are experiencing. It is a DYNAMIC SINGLE PROCESS. But, the Underlying process doesn’t change, even if the scenery changes. We just continue to remove the arising Ignorance in its new form until we reach the SINGLE DESTINATION.
(You can learn more about the process of Light/Truth destroying Darkness/Ignorance in my blog post about Ego Purification)
The Guru or Spiritual Teacher Destroys Ignorance and Darkness
Interestingly, the word “Guru” used in the Tantric Traditions to refer to a “Spiritual Teacher” also points to this Single Process. Guru is a compound word with means “Light” and “Darkness”. Thus, the Spiritual Teacher, or Guru, is the one who activates the “Light” within the “Darkness” of the student in order to destroy Ignorance and awaken Knowledge of the True Self.
All of the practices and philosophies that are taught by the Teacher are different tools to accomplish the task and support the activation of Light. Just as it takes different tools to build a house (hammer, saw, drill, paint brush, etc), it will also take different tools to reach the Final Destination of Tantra. But in both cases, ALL of the tools are being used to create a SINGLE result through a Single Process.
Therefore, a good Teacher understands the Single Process and the Single Destination, and how to introduce appropriate tools, concepts and practices within the context of that Single Process that will effectively remove the Single Obstacle. Everything taught should support and further the Single Process of removing the Single Obstacle as we move towards the Single Destination.
If we stay focused on this Single Process of Tantra following a clear and consistent set of Good Tantric Teachings, then the mind remains focused and the Practice of Tantra remains Simple. Otherwise, we become distracted. Best to keep it simple.
Ecstatic Union® is a Tantric approach to the Spiritual Path that has this Single Process build into the very core of its teachings and practices. It starts with the development of a strong foundation, and then leads the practitioner step by step along the path in a clear and focused manner. It integrates and layers Tantric Wisdom and Transformational Practices in context to the Single Process designed to eliminate a Single Obstacle in order to reach a Single Destination, while teaching you how to navigate and manage your current life experiences as part of the Single Process in order to use them as fuel for the Tantric Path.
Ready to take your Tantric journey deeper?
Ecstatic Union® Tantric Counseling and Healing Appointments available by phone, Internet chat and in person.
In Vedic Astrology, the Sun, or Surya, is the source of our Inner Light. The Soul Essence seeking to shine through into the world. It is the power which illumines our experiences and the source from which we survive, thrive and grow.
The Sun is the Great “I am”, the “One Without a Second”, and as this great force of Divine Power, it is also where our personal sense of Self Identity is formed. The question is, where do we Identify? Does our “sense of Self” come from the outer story of our lives, such as our profession and other roles in life such as parent, spouse, child? Does the sense of Self arise from various labels that we have accepted as true, such as “The one who is good at details”, “the Black Sheep” or “The class clown”?
Or do we follow the wisdom of the Vedic teachings and turn within to explore our Self as the Radiance light of the Sun?
The Sun is not just the “Soul”, but is also the Inner Fire of Truth which burns away and purifies the False Sense of Self. It burns away the attachments we have formed through various lifetimes, and the Vedic Astrology Birth Chart reveals the Karmic patterning that is being purified in this lifetime. But, it helps if we participate in the process. To do so, we must understand both what our True Nature is, as well as what forms and creates the Limited, False Sense of Self.
Karmic Attachments are the primary source of False Sense of Self. Those Karmic attachments form what is referred to as “The Ahamkara”, or “The Ego”. Is is the False sense of Separate Self.
How can we notice our Attachments?
The most obvious identity attachments are the ones we cling to for our happiness and our sense of Self. Sometimes it is easier for others to see our attachments that it is for us. It is the labels we hold dear, the ones that we wish to be seen as and take great pride in. To be “the intellectual”, or “the sexy one”, for instance. To be “rich” or “well traveled” or “very spiritual”. It is whatever we want others to think about us and that would cause us to feel “less than” if we did not appear that way.
I would also like for you to expand your understanding of “attachment”. Sometimes, people think attachments are only what we DESIRE and WANT. If there is something we don’t want, then we might think “I am not attached to that, I don’t want it”. And you might interpret, for your self, that NOT wanting it means you are “not attached”.
It is possible that you are not attached, but you must look at it honestly. In many cases “not wanting it” is actually proof that you ARE attached. You are attached to a Self Identity that is NOT that label or thing. You are attached to some different definition of personality or Identity that you want others to see you as instead.. You are attached to the idea that being and expressing and being seen as “what you don’t want” is not compatible with who you imagine or wish yourself to be.
RESISTANT TO is just another form of attachment. It is attachment to what you think “should be” instead.
The True test of “Attachment” is whether or not there is an emotional charge around it. If someone were to suggest that you had the qualities or expression of “that which you don’t want” and it made you angry or was perceived as an insult: Well, then you are attached.
And if you are wanting to be seen as something, and there is a threat that someone doesn’t see you as that, or that you may lose that status of identity, and you get upset, angry, defensive, etc. Well, then you are attached.
The Sun illuminates attachments and Purifies them through Fire
It is the POWER of the SUN which illumines these attachments. The Great Light of our Inner Awareness which allows us to see into the dark corners of our own minds and finally see what is True. It is our striving after a sense of Self and our resistance to another one that shows where and how the Sun is Purifying our False Sense of Self. The emotional charge, the defensiveness, the feeling of defeat, the lack of confidence, the intense striving to “prove its true”, the resistance, and the chasing after are all signs that Purification is taking place. In short, if you are experiencing craving, discomfort or even the most subtle taste of “suffering”, then Purification is taking place.
The SUN creates PURIFICATION as it tries to reveal to you the TRUE Source of Power Within. This process can be uncomfortable. What makes it most “unfun” is resisting. We suffer when we struggle against what is. If we are able to understand, grasp and embrace it, then the Sun’s purification creates growth that we can surrender to, that expands our sense of Self and dissolves the limited sense that we are either attached to or resistant to. As limitation are removed, we begin to taste more clearly our True Self (Sun) as beyond any limited expression. If we resist, we potentially stifle growth and stay stuck and/or the growth happens anyway, but it is filled with “growing pains”.
ATTACHMENT to a sense of identity is being purified by the placement of the Sun in the chart, and we may discover at some point that we are struggling against the process (which is pretty normal). The Karma is there for you to express a certain set of traits and to be seen that way. These are the Karmic energies at play in your life. And part of the “Purification” process is to find a way to make peace with them. That could look any number of ways. Acceptance. Surrendering to these expressions, but letting go of the Identification with them.
These are all things related to the Sun. And as the evolutionary process happens within each of us, if we are able to more fully connect to the Sun in a health way, then the purification process brings about the changes needed to step into the Full POWER of our inner Soul and align with Atman. Resistance melts. Attachments are burned away, and we begin to Radiate the energy of our Soul.
This process is usually at least a little uncomfortable, but it is designed to bring into awareness the attachments and resistances that you must purify in order to become Free and awaken to your Inner Sun/Power.
The Process of Ego Purification and the Evolution of the Sun
So, now let’s look a little more closely at The Sun in relationship to the Ego and the purification process:
EGO is known as Ahamkara in the Samkhya Chart of the Tattvas. It is another layer of “Mind”, technically. Ahamkara translates to “Little I-maker”. It is a function that happens within creation that causes the larger True Self (Sun) to identify itself as a limited separate being, or the Jiva. Ego/Ahamkara forms the outer personality of the individual expression and is composed of Karma.
The Sun is the Self, and its true Sattvic essence is a Universal Consciousness/Oneness. When the Sun identifies itself with the Ego instead, a limited experience of identity is created and the natural true Power of the Sun is falsely thought to be come from the Ahamkara/ego instead. This false identification of the Source of Power can then lead to various issues around power, confidence, etc (either lack of, overly, or chasing after, etc)
The Purification process is the Authentic Power of the Sun to burn away the false attachments and false identities with the Ego/Ahamkara, and to connect Self with Authentic Power based upon Universal Oneness and dissolve the illusion of separation and competition.
If the individual is disconnected from the Sun, then he may feel even the Ego has no power, and would remain uninspired and feel he lacks direction in life. Here, the purification of the Sun will cause suffering until the individual is finally motivated to change his circumstances, and Karmic circumstances bring about the experience of connecting with some sense of Personal Power.
For those who do have a sense of Personal Power that is identified primarily with the Ego, they will be attached to their own sense of individual power and may appear as overly prideful, egotistical, domineering. Their power is primarily directed towards selfish gains and self gratification. Here, the Purification process of the Sun will eventually reveal to them that their individual sense of Power is limited. It may happen in a way where the tide will turn and they will suffer when all they have been attached to is taken from them. Or, they may be shown by direct experience that serving only the Ego isn’t fulfilling, and thus they become inspired to use their power for the benefit of others.
As the Purification of the Sun continues, the experience of the Universal Self begins to expand. This brings about a feeling of inspiration and a willingness to sacrifice for the good of others. The Purification process here helps to remove the final attachments. It can at times be still be uncomfortable, yes, but there is usually an understanding of the process which makes it clear that the discomfort serves a positive purpose, and thus there is less resistance to the process.
Spiritual practices over a long time are concerned in various ways with refining the ego so that it becomes a servant to the Universal Power of Self (Sun), instead of thinking it is an independent force that operates in the world for its own limited, personal gain. As part of our spiritual sadhana, we also are connecting to the Deeper Universal Self and releasing attachment to the Ego as “self”.
The Ego is not “Bad”
Let’s also be clear about this point: the Ego is not “bad”. It serves a function to allow the appearance of a “personality” here in this world. But suffering arises when we believe it is our source of Power, and that its needs must be served, rather than serving the Universal Self instead.
Even Saints or Enlightened Beings have a thin veil of an ego in order to operate in this world. The difference is that they have no identification with it, and it has been purified to operate for and as Universal Self (Atman, Sun). It operates out of knowledge of Oneness, and not separation.
This ego of a Realized being is said in yogic texts to be like an “ashen rope”, which describes the Purification process of the Sun’s Fire. A rope when it is burned will keep the shape and appearance of the original rope, but it is delicate and fragile with no true substance. A touch or a breeze will collapse the ashen rope, revealing it as hollow and empty. Yet it appears as a rope even after it has been burned up.
The same is for the Purified Ego of a Saint. It appears in the world as “personality” but it is light (sattvic) and empty. The Ego really no longer exists, even though it appears to operate in the world. Instead, the Self-Realized or Enlightened Being experiences the Oneness (Sun) of all creation and beings.
Understanding the Power of the Sun through Jyotish leads to Yoga and Enlightenment
The Vedic Traditions of Yoga reveal to use this deeper Potential of Self and the deeper Reality with which we are connected. And Jyotish or Vedic Astrology teaches us about the Nature of Self through the operations and the Nature of the Sun. When we look look at a birth chart, we can not only see how the Sun may show aspects of the personality and its expression in the world, but it also shows us the Karma which is being expressed and Purified in this lifetime for the native. The area of life being most strongly purified is also revealed through the House which is ruled by the Sun, or where Leo is.
Even though these placements in the chart show highly Karmic themes, also note that the Transit of the Sun through the full Zodiac each year shows the spiraling nature of the Sun to steadily burn attachments within each area of our life in a cyclical nature. And various Dasha cycles will also show times of greater intensity for the purification process as well. There is no part of our life that the Sun will not eventually touch.
This Purification Process is the core of Tantra Yoga and the Kundalini Yoga Traditions. Activating the Inner Fires of Awareness to purify the Ego. Vedic Astrology helps us to more clearly understand this process, as well as more clearly understand the way the Sun operates in the world. By following the Dasha cycles and transits we are given much insight into the perfection and beauty of this evolutionary process which is designed to evolve the Jiva into the Supreme Self.
What has your experience of Purification been?
What attachments in the Sun revealing to you right now in your life?
How can you better participate in this process?
Jeff Craft (Kali Das) is a certified Vedic astrologer through the American Academy of Vedic Arts and Sciences (AAVAS), and was selected by Sam Geppi to be an Assistant Teacher for his Astrology Certification Courses. Outside of his work with Sam, Jeff is the Founder and Director of the Atlanta School of Tantra Yoga.
His 23+ years of study and personal practice include multiple certification in the fields of Advanced Yogic methods, Vedic Astrology, Ayurveda, Energy Healing and bodywork. Through his many years of personal and professional experience with healing and spiritual transformation, he has developed the Ecstatic Union® Vibrational Healing system. He offers Vedic Astrology Consultations as an integral part of the Ecstatic Union® approach to healing.
Tantra removes the limitations and conditioning that prevent us from seeing our True Self. We learn to activate Sexual, Life Force and Creational energy in Tantra as a means to evolve the Awareness into higher states of Consciousness and Higher Connection to Self.
In the process, we expanding awareness to dissolve the layers of illusion and Discover the Joy of your True Self beyond the limitations of body and mind.
Where can you find permanent joy? In Tantra you start by learning to surrender through activation of the movement of energy and vibration.
This is Part 6 of a 6 part video series on Tantra as a Spiritual Path
(Written October 19th, 2011)
I took some time to sit in nature this morning, which conveniently is the grounds of the Ashram itself. Today is also a day of silence, where only a few people running the Ashram are speaking. In my own silence, I witnessed Nature all around me, expanding my awareness into it, smiling into it, and welcoming it.
Birds chirping and flying about. A small field where yellow butterflies dance across blades of grass. Various trees, standing strong, silent and still. The sun in the sky and a light mist of fog still blanketing the mountains which are not too far away.
Again, I am reminded of the power of nature, even in its peaceful play. I reflect on the stillness and the silence which lays beneath Creation, supporting it like the ground where seeds are planted, only this stillness is the ground of Consciousness itself, and the seeds are the Divine thoughts which have arisen within it to bring about the current experience.
I feel into the pulsations of Creation, and am again reminded that nothing in nature is rushing. Nothing in nature is forcing or pushing. The grass is not trying to grow any faster or slower, it just grows. The sun is not racing to get through its day.
Nothing in nature is wanting to be anything other than what it is. The tree is not wishing it was a bush, or a flower. The birds do not aspire to be anything other than birds.
Nature is the ultimate example of WYSIWYG (“What you see is what you get”). Even the creatures which camouflage themselves are simply expressing as their nature, exactly as they are. The challenge is to be still long enough to see it.
Everything in nature is peaceful, accepting of its nature, and spontaneously expressing that nature, without any hesitancy or desire to change.
Nature can teach us a lot about our own selves. We are a part of nature, yet our minds pull us out of sync and cause us to rush, to force, to resist, to chase after and to hesitate. When we become still as Tantra Yoga teaches us to do, and connect into the Nature of all Creation, and seek to discover that same Nature within our own being, then we too learn to accept life as it is. We too learn to acknowledge our own nature, and express it without apology. We too learn that there is no need to force. There is no where else to be other than where you are right now.
We learn to separate our Authentic Expression from the conditioned mind which pulls us away from it, rejects it, or puts a spin of expectation and attachment into it. And then we gracefully embrace our Authentic Nature, allowing it to express, and accepting it. If we are a squirrel, we will store nuts for the winter. If we are a bird, we will fly and eat seeds and insects. If we are a musician, then the very core of us drives us to play, to write music, to sing and to feel the music as life itself. If we are a dancer, then we must allow our bodies to move and express what words cannot say. If we are a linguist, then we must explore the nature of language and communication through words. If we are a mother or a father, then we must be the fullest expression of love and nurturing to a child. The list goes on and on.
Everyone has a Nature which should be uncovered, refined and expressed. If we can look past the mind stuff which distracts us and carries us away from it. If we can look past the mind stuff which judges our innate expressions and pushes it into submission. If we can look past the mind stuff which tries to twist and control our Authentic Nature for its own purposes and agenda. Then can we fall into the rhythm of Nature and Creation. Then can we just be, and not resist or be attached.
And when we surrender into that level of freedom, the ground on which Creation rests becomes more obvious, more apparent. And then, we discover the stillness, the silence and the peace that has always been supporting life, and we discover that this peace and stillness and the freedom, joy and bliss which arise within it are our very Nature. Always shining and pulsing beneath the surface of experience. Ever present, even when the external world fades away. It is the ground of all experience. It is Consciousness Itself. God. The Divine Essence. This is the real “Nature”. Not the birds, oceans and trees, but the cause of all of life, which is Consciousness Itself.
Like waves arising on the ocean, various forms and experiences arise within Consciousness. And then they return to Consciousness, like the waves which crash and return to the sea. No matter how big or small the wave, the nature of the ocean itself does not change. Just so, the nature of Consciousness, from which all experience arises, never changes.
Authentic, spontaneous expressions arising and dissolving over and over again within this Ground of Consciousness create the flow and rhythm of life. This is the experience of Tantric Nature. Awakening yourself to this experience and aligning yourself with this Reality is the work of Tantra Yoga.
(Written October 17th, 2011)
In an Ashram setting, certain rules and regulations are expected. In Part 1, we talked about the ways this experience can show you your attachments, your expectations and your habits.
Following the Ashram lifestyle will likely follow in a few different paths. You may find yourself getting into the routine, and allowing the new lifestyle to simply become your “norm”, adapting your expectations to the meet what will happen. A level of adaptability is a good quality, and shows flexibility and a less attached mind.
You might also adapt in a way where you “try to fit in”, and thus are really more forcing a match, perhaps even becoming attached to it, or using the lifestyle as a way to shift your awareness away from dealing with the life you have or had outside of it.
You may also adopt this new lifestyle, and have a genuine epiphany of the value that it brings to your life, your happiness and your spiritual growth, in which case you may stay in it or continue to return because it feeds you so deeply.
You may also rebel against the structure of it, and revolt or simply get out of it as quickly as possible. This could be a way of avoiding developing a deeper awareness of yourself, or perhaps it just feels too restrictive.
Any number of situations could happen, but a common theme in a conscious experience will be that is takes you out of your normal experience, and it churns your heart and mind. Like the churning of butter, the Ashram experience has the potential to separate out that which is important to your from that which is not, and taking what was into an entirely new form. To allow your deeper longings, desires and values to float to the top to be savored for their richness.
A traditional Ashram is designed to remove temptations from sensuality in all forms. Simple food, conservative dress to prevent body parts being exposed, and many activities focused on daily living and spiritual practices. Reduce temptation and occupy your mind so it won’t wander. This approach comes from the notion in Yoga that we need to reduce our desires and cravings, because they are distractions from our spiritual life.
The basic idea of them being distractions to our Spiritual Nature is fair enough, but Tantra also says that we should not repress our desires. We must acknowledge them and make peace with them in some way or another. In the Ashram, this may mean witnessing and contemplating our desires without being able to act on them. Allowing ourselves to witness what happens within our bodies, minds, awareness and our energy when we are not able to directly touch into the object of our desire, be that a big juicy steak, a beer, the smell of our favorite perfume, or an erotic encounter. It gives us a chance to explore the nature of desire itself as an energy that arises within us, and to make peace with it. To see it for what it is. To see that even the most urgent of cravings can be witnessed and moved through. We will not die if we don’t get what we are desiring.
But something else can also happen in this isolation and simple life. We may also have a longing arise which is new to us. We may connect with a new way to appreciate the ways we naturally wish to enjoy life. We may realize the value of having private time alone. We may come to appreciate a simple moment to be naked without having to quickly change so as not to offend roommates. We may learn to appreciate the freedom to speak to a loved one on the phone without having to keep our voice quiet, or feeling we have to censor our conversations.
We may also, in the restricted living, have a deep longing arise which connects us to a deeper sense of purpose. Some part of us that finally is ready to scream to be heard, that wants to live with greater purpose, joy and fulfillment than before. To live in a way that the Ashram life itself will not allow, because it has to express itself in the world. But it could not find its voice in the noise of worldly living. It needed the silent, contemplative space of the Ashram to direct your awareness in deeply enough to see it.
No matter what you come away with, a conscious Ashram experience should reveal deeper layers of yourself as both a human being and a spiritual being. It should churn up your values, showing you what is most important to you. It should help you better understand what you need to feel fulfilled and joyful. And perhaps, it will reveal ways you can more deeply align with a a joyful sense of purpose in your life.
Our desires are not wrong. Some are distractions, and can truly lead us away from the fulfillment that Tantra yoga promises. Many sensual desires run this risk, which is why they are discouraged in Traditional Yoga. But other desires are meant to be savored and joyfully unleashed, especially when it means expressing the core of our Being in a non-attached way. Especially when it leads us into purposeful, fulfilling living.
Most of us are full of desires that do not serve our greater happiness. But often, we also have suppressed longings and desires that reveal our greatness, our talents, our gifts and our abilities. These are the desires that fuel our life with passion and purpose. These are the desires that make us wake up in the morning excited to be alive.
Tantra teaches us to suppress nothing. Acknowledge all desires, from the darkest to the most bright. The secret is to make friends with them all. To see that they do not define the deeper Truth of who you are, and then with non-attached discrimination choose to fulfill the desires that will best serve your deepest fulfillment, and your spiritual growth.
When entering an Ashram, or consciously walking on a Tantric path, we must make room or the unexpected to arise. A lifestyle which intentionally reduces desires may actually awaken you to your deepest desires of purpose and fulfillment. It may even awaken you to the secret desire everyone has: To know your True Self and to live joyfully from that Knowledge of Self.
Written October 6th, 2011
This morning, I set out from Mumbai by train to Nashik, which is the main city near the Ashram where I will be staying for my Yoga Therapy Program. My train, leaving at 8:20am, required me to be up and walking to the station around 7:10am. The previous evening when I checked in at my hotel, I asked the front desk to help me confirm my ticket and see if my seat had been assigned. They told me it was confirmed, but no seat was posted yet, and suggested I arrive a bit early in order to check my seat.
It is amazing to me how something so simple as checking for a seat number can become a potential challenge if you are not familiar with the way in which the locals do it. I found my way easily to the train station. I found the platform from which it was leaving. I even found the posted lists of passengers, but despite my confirmed status, there was no mention of my name or a seat number anywhere to be seen. Seeing my confusion, and overhearing a local man who didn’t speak english likely trying to tell me I was looking in the wrong place, a kind stranger offered to assist me.
He looked over my printed ticket and announced what I already knew: “You are confirmed but there is no seat number.” This is the same thing I know the non-english speaking man was telling me as well. Yes, I know, I thought. That is indeed my entire reason for staring at long lists of names.
The man assisting me then proceeded to reach into his pocket, pull out a mobile phone, load an app, plug in my confirmation number, and within 30 seconds had received a text message which stated my confirmation, along with seat number. He then pointed me to the correct end of the train, and voila, I was in my correct seat.
Moments like these always make me smile. Not only is it wonderful that technology exists, but situations like this remind me again and again that the flow of the universe is always moving towards something positive. It reminds me that a solution always exists to any given circumstance. It reminds me that in moments of confusion, grief, pain, frustration or fear, that if I can simply be still, be present and patient, that the moment will pass, flowing into a resolution.
This same principle applies to anything. The present moment, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant will always flow into another. The experience you are having will inevitably come to end. This principle teaches us to keep our awareness in the present moment, and to embrace and accept whatever is happening. Knowing that the experience will come to an end reveals that the true pain or suffering in the moment is resistance to it. Our pain comes not from what is happening, but from a desire for it to be different. An attachment to a different expectation.
There is an order to the universe. If we resist it, we suffer. If we let go, embrace what is, and find gratitude for each moment, then we learn to flow with the grace of the universe’s unfolding. We must learn to train our awareness to focus away from suffering, disappointment, pain and frustration, while at the same time accepting what it is, but looking beyond it.
Focusing our awareness into the infinite possibilities, and the deeper stillness and peace that are always beneath this moment’s experience. Learning to tap into the pulsing energy of Consciousness which permeates everything. These yogic and Tantric practices, assisted by various methods and techniques, help us to connect with a deeper intelligence and the grace of the Divine Universe. They help us learn to find a spiritually beneficial joy and detachment to outer experience and expectations, and help us to align our awareness with a deeper reality.
By connecting to these underlying energies and states of awareness, a natural freedom and joy arises, which is independent from and beyond any happiness based upon worldly fulfillment. It is moving closer into your true Nature, which Tantra declares to be Pure Consciousness, Being and Bliss Love. Or Satchitananda in Sanskrit.
This deeper awareness allows us to learn to trust the unfolding experience of life, and experience joy from our Inner Being, no matter whether the outer experience is seen as pain or joy.
When I finally made it to my seating area, after a few people shuffled around, a young woman from Japan joined me in my train berth which seated only 4 people. With a fairly certain and amused thought, I confirmed that she too was headed to the same Ashram. Small world as they say. After we talked for a few minutes, just as the train began to move, two other young women joined us. From Turkey, and both headed to the Ashram.
What are the chances? Yes. This is the final day to go to the Ashram. Yes. This is a likely train to take to get there. Yes, it is likely that we would be more inclined to book a train car with AC. But we all could have just as easily ended up in separate train berths, never knowing of each others existence until we got to the ashram.
Our “chance” meeting provided everyone a sense of safety and relief. Hearing of my previous positive experience at the Ashram, I could see a part of them relax. They were no longer alone to find a taxi to the station. Life once again found a resolution, with no effort on anyone’s part.
There was a time, maybe ten years ago, when I used to think of synchronistic moments like these as magical. That some how the universe was reaching out to me, showing my special relationship to the Divine.
Now I see them as ordinary proof that an intelligence beyond our individual capacity is operating behind the scenes of the unfolding universe. They remind me to surrender, that all is fine, and everything is as is should be. They remind me to continue to be grateful and flow with the Grace of the Divine as it moves through me and the life experience that I am witnessing.
It is not, perhaps, that it isn’t magical is some sense. But perhaps that which many define as magical is really more ordinary that most realize. It only seems magical because we expect life is a different, more limited, way. By opening to the infinite possibilities, by being willing to live in non-ordinary states of consciousness, all that previously seemed impossible becomes possible. Then “miracles” and “sychronicities” become the norm.
The world of miracles IS a part of our natural state. We do not need to do something to bring it about, but rather we need to cultivate a perspective on life which is free from expectations and open to all possibilities. Then the Divine consciousness that is the True Self can reveal Itself to you. Stop believing miracles are rare or even special, and stop believing you are disconnected from the Infinite Intelligence of the Divine. That Intelligence is flowing through you as your own True Self. Then smile into life, and watch as reality begins to reveal Itself.
If you stop and pay attention, what ways is the universe showing you a greater set of possibilities than you are currently experiencing? What ways does the universe try to teach you to trust the flow of life, to surrender and be grateful?
The first time I came to India, back in the Summer of 2007, I came with great expectations of India being a land of great spirituality. A place where everyone would be connected to their spiritual history and a deeper path of spirituality through yoga.
This, of course, was naive. What I quickly discovered, initially a shock and disappointment, was that the majority of the Indian people were connected to their cultural norm of religion, but, much like in the US, their true connection and devotion varied. Just like the many Christians who show up to churches only for Christmas and Easter, there are Indians who only observe major festivals. And their connection to the deeper meanings varies as well.
I was excited to go to the Temples and share in the spiritual connection that has become so important to my own personal path of Yoga. But instead of hundreds of contemplative people, savoring the bliss of the Divine, it was more like a cattle call of hundreds of people, quickly rushing through to offer something to the temple Priest, see the temple Idol, and then rush back to life.
While I can not say that it does not have meaning to them, I feel certain the level of connection it offers varies from person to person. Some doing the “cultural” norm, and others getting a greater connection from it. Just as in our own country we can meet people who have varying levels of faith, from “obligated” to go to church all the way to those who truly feel “spiritually fed” by their church.
It has since amazed me that many Indians I have meet in the US, born and raised in India, have no true knowledge of Yoga, Tantra or Ayurveda. It has been a surprise, but another place where my expectations have been revealed as false.
It has all been a process of acknowledging the reality of the diversity of our world, and also seeing the commonalities among people. Just growing up in India doesn’t automatically make you a great seeker of Self-Realization, although their culture does arguably have at least different, if not more, notions of magical and spiritual possibilities.
During this current trip to India, I have had the pleasure of meeting with a Tantric and Kashmiri Shaivism Scholar who has lived and worked in Varanasi for over 40 years. He has authored many well respected books on Kashmiri Shaivism, and translated many texts from Sanskrit into English. While his professional work is scholarly, he himself is also a devotee to a Kashmiri Shaivite Guru, and considers his personal spiritual path to be most important to him. I do not know without knowing the meaning, how many times I was asked direkt in Sweden on a travel trip.
In speaking with him, he helps reveal many of the other false thinkings we may have in the west about different Tantric and Yogic practices.
The Traditional approach to Tantra Yoga, which is deeply connected to Kashmiri Shaivism, is about developing the spiritual Self. It is about discovering the deep peace of the Self as Consciousness beyond the impermanent experience of the body and life, while at the same time honoring the Sacredness of the experience of Life.
It is a tradition which emphasizes the development of awareness and consciousness to discover the non-dual reality, the inner silence out of which all life experience arises.
In discussing Tantras history of Sexual practices, he said it is really hard to know how prevalent these practices really were. That they were done is most probable, but how many practitioners, we can’t say. Even the famous erotic temples, he says, have to be questioned as to whether the culture they were created in was simply a highly sexually permissive society, or whether there was a deeper spiritual intention behind it. There is much we do not know.
When I asked him how prevalent the erotic practices are in modern India, his response was “almost non-existent”, and then went on to say, “but most people don’t usually talk about their sex lives.” From other things I have read, I suspect that there are still some who practice, but they are more rare than not, and it is rather secretive.
He did, however convey one story of a friend of his who uses some of the Tantric erotic rituals. This friend had a female consort for ten years, and his sole reason for keeping her was to obtain a single drop of menstrual blood once a month for a Tantric ritual. Interestingly, she finally left him because she was unfulfilled in the relationship, thinking the he only wanted her for her menstrual blood.
The topic of the Kama Sutra also came up. This is often pointed to by many Western Tantric practitioners as a Tantric text, showing the value and power of the sexual practices historically. He says that the Kama Sutra was really just an ancient sex manual, that was primarily used by courtesans to become more refined. It was used to become a more pleasing partner, and to better fit into higher class society, which was their targeted clientele. Because of this, he says, many of the courtesans of that time were actually quite talented artists, musicians and the like, well educated in many aspects of life.
Despite many of the modern western teachings around Tantra as erotic practice, the history of Tantra uses/used the erotic practices in a highly ritualized context for very specific purposes. These purposes were/are to expand Consciousness and connect with the Divine.
To his way of seeing things, the Modern western Tantra has become a type of “sex therapy”. While he does not dismiss the possible benefits of this type of work, he does say that you will not find the current western practices described in the Tantric texts.
We also discussed the fascinating evolution of Yoga and Tantra, which is that all of these types of practices have evolved over time to meet the needs of the people. Places, such as the west, have taken pieces such as Asana (yoga postures), and called it “yoga”. The emphasis is on physical fitness rather than the original spiritual development that Traditional Yoga speaks of, but it meets the needs of the people.
The same has happened with Tantra in the West, with many variations from “spiritually veneered” sex to deeply healing and transformative practices. There are also, of course, other teachers and practitioners of Tantra in the West that focus more on the Traditional Tantric approaches of Kundalini Yoga, Meditation, etc.
He says these types of Hybrid modern yogas are also showing up in India, because of the popularity in the west. Many more indians are learning of Yoga as a physical fitness system along with basic Ayurveda for a healthy lifestyle.
It is interesting to note that while in the West, most people associate Tantra with eroticism and sex, in India Tantra is thought of as “magic”. It is based upon their cultural history with the subject, which traditionally emphasized understanding the workings of the energies of Creation in order to control or gain power over or through them. This led to practices of Mantras and various other remedies to heal illnesses, and to help fulfill worldly desires.
This type of thinking is still present in India today, and the cultural relationship with the Deities also reflects this. Most average Indian Hindus relate to various aspects of the Divine to help them get the things in life they want for worldly fulfillment. Examples would be Ganesha to help remove obstacles when starting a business, or Laxshmi to bring wealth and abundance. This is similar to the way many other cultures might relate to God through prayer as a request for desires to be fulfilled.
It is the lesser of the population that truly engages these forces for a more spiritually growth oriented purpose. Even the term “good Karma” has been used towards me on several occasions by self appointed guides and rickshaw drivers as a way of trying to get a larger tip or payments for their services. The implication, of course, being that the more I pay them, the more I will be blessed with good Karma. An interesting way to use this, from my perspective.
It is not my intention to diminish the importance of these things culturally in India. No matter the relationship to religion, be it “cultural obligation”, “superstition”, or “deeply spiritual”, I would imagine most people here would feel very strongly about their beliefs in whatever way they are engaging them. My intention is more to reveal the diversity of the Indian religious landscape and culture, in contrast with my preconceived notions, and perhaps similar notions by other non-Indian people, as well as the common desire for most people to seek their own version of happiness.
No matter how it is engaged, the culture of India has generated a primarily peaceful, friendly, and curious people, most of whom will go out of their way to help you, sometimes for a tip and often just because it is their nature. They generally value family, and treat their neighbors with respect. Their religious culture gives them a different perspective on death than in the west. And, most are happy with a more simple lifestyle than what the average westerner may be accustomed to. They celebrate life, and even the crowded, noisy and seemingly chaotic streets are like the lifeblood of their culture, reflecting their passion and their embracing of life.
While there are some cultural changes happening based upon Western influence, there is still a richness here that is wonderful to savor. In Varanasi, where I am now, one can experience the surprisingly gentle noise and madness of the city, and yet just a few kilometers away, on the banks of the Ganges, I am in a guest house which is so peaceful and relaxed. Even in the “rush” of the city, many people are just peacefully going about their day.
What fascinates me most about this, and the conversation with my new Tantra Scholar friend, is the confirmation of what I have also come to recognize, which is that the teachings of Yoga and Tantra, while rooted in scripture, have evolved over time to meet the needs of the people. Even the history of Yoginis evolving into Goddesses shares this flavor. Thousands of years ago, each village had their own Yogini that they honored and worshipped. As the news of a powerful Yogini would spread to neighboring villages, they too would come to worship her. If they had a powerful experience, they would tell another village. Over a course of hundreds and thousands of years, what started at literally hundreds of thousands of yoginis where narrowed down to a collection Goddesses which became commonly known throughout the country and the region. Today, we have Paravati, Kali, Durga, Laxshmi, Saraswati and several others which have become national and even internationally known, but it was not always this way.
This same type of thing has happened with Various Yoga and Tantric practices. Different practices would arise to meet a certain need. When the cultural needs changed, or when something more beneficial came along, things would fall away and something new would arise in its place. Systems were formed from various perspectives, all because they meet the needs of certain groups, or because a certain teacher saw it in that way. And the evolution of the Yogas and Tantras continues into Modern times. It arises to meet certain needs. And the core, deeper spiritual truths are there as a living, breathing reminder of where these practices came from historically and where they can take us if the Heart longs for a deeper spiritual experience.
Despite my previous great expectations, the larger reality is that all along this historical time line, there were probably only a relatively small group of people truly interested in “enlightenment”. The majority of people, much like today, were more interested in worldly happiness, success, family and good health.
In fact, the Vedic and Yogic teachings address these aspects of “Purpose” (Dharma), “Material Wealth” (Artha), and “Pleasure” (Kama) as being legitimate goals of life. So they should be celebrated and honored as the foundation of happiness. To this, the great Yogis also offered “Moksha” (Self-knowledge or Liberation), as the most important Goal in life. But they also acknowledged that for most, the foundations of happiness through the previous three goals would be needed to tread the path of Liberation.
As a living practice, I feel it is important for us to honor the past traditions, and take from them the deeper principles to help us attain the goals we want in life. I also think it is important to allow their deeper intentions to drive the practices, allowing them to evolve to meet the needs of modern day practitioners. The Practice of Yoga and Tantra is a flowing process of using the practices needed to achieve the growth needed at a particular stage of development. It was not designed, necessarily, to be rigid. Disciplined, yes, but not rigid.
Traditionally, a Yoga teacher would give a student only the practices he or she needed to get to the next stage of spiritual development. Once it served its purpose, a new practice would be introduced. Keeping that in mind, we can also allow our modern practices to evolve with our changing needs as we grow. And when we are ready for the next step, there is a rich history of practices to help us on our path. Whether it is for better health, aligning with life purpose, experience more joy and pleasure in life, or even spiritual growth, the challenge is choosing the right practice and approach for your personal needs, and this is where a Teacher can become indispensable.
I am excited to be part of this modern evolution of Yoga, and to continue to watch as it changes and grows over the remainder of my life. In order to allow it room to grow, we cannot be attached to the past, but I do strongly feel a firm foundation in the intentions of practice is important. If the intentions are understood, then most anything can become Yoga or Tantric Practice, and the personal practice can grow in any number of ways. Without understanding the intentions, you are not really able to direct your practice to a particular goal.
There is no need to re-invent the Yogic or Tantric wheel, so to speak. There are so many beneficial practices already laid out for us. At the same time, modern practitioners need to understand it is not a cookbook approach either. Each person is individual, and will have different experiences from the same practices, and different practices which are needed to progress.
If the birth place of Tantra and Yoga has evolved through many stages and different relationships with this great wisdom, then we can only expect our contact with this wisdom will evolve as well. As yoga and Tantra become more popular in the west, I hope more people will seek to understand the deeper traditions they come from. But we must remember as we explore them, that the scriptures, while full of wisdom, were created by those living the results of their practice. The great wisdom of yoga and Tantra in not locked in the past, but intended to be lived in the here and now. We must awaken the teachings now, through proper practice.
What are you thoughts on spiritual expectations of India, or on Modern day practices of Yoga and Tantra?
Discover the ways that Karma pulls our attention into the world, distracting us from our deeper Spiritual Nature and thus how Karma keeps us search for happiness outside of our own Self. Explore the need to turn our awareness within, so we can directly experience our True Nature and the innate Joy and Bliss which is contained within the True Self.
Learn about the deeper meaning of Balancing Shiva and Shakti (Masculine and Feminine), developing awareness of the Witnessing aspect of Consciousness, and the Power of Consciousness. Also discover the deeper meaning of Goddess worship within Tantric context.
This is Part 4 of a 6 part video series on Tantra as a Spiritual Path.
I suspect today’s blog post may be controversial, but perhaps the collective consciousness will welcome it. It has all the great qualities of any good drama. We have the antagonist of Patriarchy, and the protagonist of the Feminine Essence. We have battles of power, suppression, and the counter attack. We also have some metaphysical twists thrown in, such as Karma, reincarnation, and the power of Spirit to create miraculous healing, bringing a bright hope for the future.
In my own personal healing journey as a man, I somehow found myself in spiritual and healing groups of women. In most cases, I was the only man in the group. And sometimes, maybe one of two. In many of those groups, there were discussions of the re-emergence of the Feminine Essence. Historical recounts of witch burnings and the uprising of a male dominated religion, with “The Church” casting out women, silencing them, even killing them to ensure that their deep Wisdom and connection to spirit would never be heard. In this way “The Church” could dominate the culture, indoctrinate its message into the masses, and separate the masses from their true Spiritual Essence.
What did the Feminine essence have that frightened “The Church” so much? The Feminine knew that it could connect directly to God by turning within and that it could experience the Divine through Nature and every pulsating atom within Creation. The Church was perhaps frightened by this awareness and power, not understanding it, and assuming it to be some sort of demonic possession. Perhaps they were threatened because they simply realized that the Feminine’s experience was much more powerful than what they could offer, and thus they wanted to “silence the competition”. It just wasn’t good for business, if you will. If people learn they can connect directly to the Divine within their own Being, then there would be no need for the Church and its priests as go betweens to bring the masses to God. The Church needed you one step away from God in order for you to need their “services”. And if they were not “in demand”, then they could not get your financial offerings. So they silenced the woman, and created a teaching that required their services in order to get into “Heaven”, otherwise, eternal damnation would be your punishment. (Now, that’s pretty scary stuff! People these days are willing to pay to avoid allergies and headaches, so you know avoiding eternal damnation was a good marketing tool! Especially when you are the only game in town offering a solution.)
Now, I will leave it to you to decide if the above version of the story is fair or not, but I can report that these types of ideas were commonly offered within the spiritual woman’s groups I found myself in. And there are historical threads that can and do support these types of activities, even if the motivations may be a little different (or not).
Being often the only male in the room in many ways gave me a “fly on the wall” type experience. I learned about these theories, and was quite honestly a little shocked at first. Once these things were pointed out to me, quite frankly it seemed hard to ignore that there is likely at least some, if not a lot of truth to it.
Within these groups, I also was invited to explore a spirituality that encouraged me to open to “Feminine wisdom.” To find my spiritual connection within, to experience it through nature, to awaken and own the Power that dwelled within me and could be experienced all around me. In this way, I learned to become my own bridge to Spirit, or a “Priest” in my own rite. Worlds cannot convey what a powerful impact these experiences had on my healing journey and spiritual transformation. It forever changed how I looked at the healing process, the world, my own Self, and God. And, also the Power of the Feminine Essence.
One of the things I did begin to notice among many of the woman, was that their “re-claiming the Feminine essence” sometimes came with anger and outrage at the Masculine Patriarchy who has suppressed them and in some ways is even doing so in the modern age. But I did realize that the pain that it caused was legitimate, and they were honoring their healing path to allow the pain, the anger and the rage to come up to be cleared and healed. The energetic “imprints” or the Karma that surrounded it needed to be released in order to step beyond the previous limitations.
At the same time, this stage of healing can also lead us into a place of feeling like a “victim”. A feeling that another had “done something to you”, and that you have no power in the situation. An often unconscious assumption that you are somehow completely innocent. The healing journey requires us to move past this as well. To acknowledge the pain, remove the source of the pain, accept any responsibility that may be yours and reclaim your own wholeness and power in the situation. Remaining a victim keeps you in a position of weakness and allows the power over the situation to remain in the hands of the other party.
If we look at the way Karma works, there are really “no victims”. Karma is 100% fair. It simply brings back the energy that you created from a past action. So, as a general analogy, we could say that a woman who is heavily suppressed in this lifetime may have been a male suppressor in a past life, and the Karmic energy is just being recycled to experience the energy that was created. (Although it may often be more complex than this.)
It is said that we are all interconnected, and all One, and that literally what we do to another, we are doing to own own Self. This is where to Golden Rule comes in. The actions that you take will energetically affect you in some way. Part of the Tantric healing cycle is to understand this energetic potential, and find ways to resolve the Karma so you are freed from its effects.
So we have “no victims”. But I can remember in all of this, that the stories focused on the suppression of the Feminine. And while it was important to bring the energy up to be cleared, there was a subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, anger towards the “masculine” or the “patriarchy”. While I cannot speak for the woman of the group, the repeated hearing of the story began to make me think of the woman as “victims”. “Oh how awful it must be to be treated in that way, powerless, defenseless. Why, we the men are the most awful of human beings!”
I began to feel that I owed all women everywhere a huge apology. That I needed to grovel at their feet and beg for forgiveness for all that I had done to wrong them…
(Who is the victim now?)
There was an energetic reason for the Masculine to acknowledge and apologize for the pain it had caused, but there are always multiple sides to every story, and there are a few angles we are leaving out.
What would someone do who was being suppressed or controlled? Especially if they were afraid to reveal their true essence for fear of being killed? Might they resent the oppressor? Darn skippy! And don’t you think they might, in their feeling of powerlessness seek some way to have power, or to get revenge? Well, of course, and it wouldn’t be a good drama story without it!
As my exploration of this dynamic continued, it came to light that the response that “the Feminine” had to this situation was really not any more respectful than the original suppression by the Masculine. While many may have suffered a disconnect from their Feminine power, it karmically set up retaliation. And in many cases, this came in the form of subtle manipulation, resentment, passive aggressive behavior, etc. In other cases, it has been more blatant and long lasting: entraping men by getting pregnant, manipulating the court system for greater financial gain during divorce, etc.
(For the record, what I just shared is not my projection, but actually the uncovered “truth” from some of these woman during their own healing process. A realization by some of them, that they actually owed the Masculine an apology too. If you are brave, and willing to explore this deeper, please click on and read the Manifesto for the Conscious Woman, which was the inspiration for sharing this part of my own healing journey through this blog post. I am not suggesting I agree with everything written in it. There is a lot that, to me, is quite harsh and distorted, or at least “not true” more often than true, but I offer it more as a “makes you think” piece. It will likely enlighten you about some things, offend you and perhaps piss you off. But that is often true of things which bring to awareness that which we have not wanted to see or that we find unfathomable. Save it for the end, or at least make sure you come back and finish this post.)
During one of the Healing circles I was a part of, this issue came up. I felt moved to apologize to the Feminine in a Sacred healing space, which was deeply moving for not only myself, but many of the Women in the room. And to my great surprise, one of the women felt the need to stand up, and apologize for the ways the Feminine had hurt, manipulated and dishonored the Masculine. Some deep part of my soul so needed to hear that, and intense emotion, self-forgiveness and relief flooded through every part of my Being. A weight was lifted. “It was NOT just me! I am (Men are) not the only one’s in the wrong!” It has been a mutual dance. And forgiveness can happen.
I have heard some people speaking about the “suppression of the Feminine”, in such a way where one can almost imagine or get the impression that there was this time in the past when women were pure, and enlightened, deeply connected to Spirit, loving nature and dancing in the forest with a radiance of inner light around them (and I imagine this was actually true for at least a few of them), and then suddenly, with no known cause or reason, the Patriarchy rose up like an unexpected black cloud and lightening came from the sky silencing them and forcing them to disown their greatest Secrets and Divine Powers… If you have been paying attention, you will immediately recognize this version of the story as coming from a place of “victim”.
The greater reality is that there has been conflict between people, and between genders probably since the dawn of time. And while there could easily be Truth in the Patriarchy and the Church simply making a “power move”, that does not discount that the woman from that time and before may have likely been seeking power in their own way. No matter what the truth is of the unfolding story, there is a Karmic thread that started long before the suppression of Feminine energy. The Patriarchy and “The church” did not arise out of a vacuum, but instead it was a result of Karma from previous times. No victims.
There is also another layer to this story that needs to be brought into the light. According to Tantra and many other wisdom traditions, each individual, whether male or female, is a unique balance of both Masculine and Feminine essences. By suppressing the Feminine Essence, the males also suppressed the Feminine Essence within their own Selves. They literally forced a part of their own Being and awareness into submission. They lost the chance to find their own wholeness, because they could not honor the Feminine. So, a deeper layer of truth, at least from the perspective of Wholeness and Spiritual evolution, is that the men also suffered under their own regime, although likely without realizing the harm they had done.
There was an increase in the polarization of opposites. We can still see this today through our cultural notions of gender roles: Men don’t cry (express feminine quality of emotions). An aggressive male in business is “good at his job” and a woman who runs the same level of aggression is usually given a more derogatory label. A friend of mine recently told me of a couple from Little Rock, AK who are in the antique business. They were traveling in Atlanta, looking to purchase things they could take back and sell in Little Rock. My friend showed them several stone bookends, all of which they liked except for one. When he asked what was wrong with that one, the woman replied: “It would never sell because it’s pink. We don’t even use the word pink in Little Rock. If something is pink, we have to call it ‘beige’.” The local sense of “manliness” will not allow for the feminine quality of pink.
So even today, this struggle between masculine and feminine carries on. The reality is that we don’t know when or how all this started. To isolate a point in history as “its cause” is to ignore the Karmic thread from which it sprung and potentially cry “victim”. And while the stories of the Patriarchy can be helpful to help us understand what has happened and how it may be effecting us now so we can heal the Karma, there is a point where it is no longer beneficial to reference the past. We must learn to look at our current situation. We are creating power struggles right now, not in the past. What can we do NOW that will change this and restore balance?
If two countries are at war, our common assumption is that one country must “win” and that the battle will continue until someone is declared the winner. There is, however, another option that is almost never taken. It is so easy that no one seems to acknowledge it, but no one ever uses it because they believe it is important to “win”. The simplest way to end a war is simply for both sides to set down their weapons, say “Sorry about that” and honor both their commonalities and their uniquenesses.
This is the same for the conflict between “Masculine and Feminine”, lovers of any gender, family members, friends, co-workers, etc. We must set down the weapons, and call a truce. When we push to be a winner in these situations, no one can ever win. History has already shown us that. Attempting to “win” and fighting the fight is ultimately a rejection of a part of our own Self. We all need both the Feminine and the Masculine to be out of conflict and in perfect balance in order to find true peace.
Continuing to “battle” is simply the Karma recycling itself over and over again. Left as is, it will go on and on, like a perpetual motion machine. Stopping the battle ends the cycles of Karma. The explanation is simple: “just stop”. The reality is more complex, because the Karma keeps driving us. But Tantric Healing and the Tantric Path encourages us to find ways to end these Karmically conditioned cycles of harming our own Self and others. To honor all parts of our own Self, both Masculine and Feminine. To honor both aspects of others as well. We will likely need to “stop the battle” one area at a time, but eventually we can become free.
My own healing journey to explore the Feminine Essence was a part of my preparation for Tantra, which I did not encounter formally until a few years after beginning my work with a more Feminine Essence based spiritual approach. Through my progression of the Tantric Path, each piece that I learned through that initial exploration has been re-affirmed, and woven even deeper into a tapestry of spiritual awakening and understanding.
Tantra is sometimes referred to as “The Cult of the Feminine” or “Goddess Worship”. This is because it works with the Feminine Essence of the Divine. In most Tantric paths, the Feminine aspect of the Divine is approached and worked with and is thought to be the “Power” of the Divine. There are many practices that involve honoring the Feminine’s Sacredness, including a practice which involves worship of the genitals (the yoni) of a human female consort. I have occasionally heard someone make a comment that seems to imply that their understanding is that the Feminine is actually superior to the Masculine. And from that, that women are superior to men.
There is a beauty and power in restoring the balance to honoring the Feminine through ritual. There is a beauty to giving woman the respect that they are due. But honoring the Feminine does not need to be done at the expense of less honor for the Masculine. We must remember that Tantric practices teach us to restore the balance between Masculine and Feminine within our own Self, not to assume Feminine superiority. It teaches us to learn to honor all aspects of creation, and discover the Sacredness within our own Being. It teach us that we can also experience our own deeper Self though conscious connection to another and how we can balance our relationship with others and end conflict. It gives us tools to clear out Karma, and end the cycles of pain and suffering. It teaches us to release the past, and live in the here and now.
The final goal is to re-unify the Masculine and the Feminine. In fact, it says they were never separated, but our own mistaken polarization and Karmic war has prevented us from seeing the deeper Truth. Once the Masculine and Feminine put down their weapons, end the war and begin to peacefully relate to each other, they will recognize their own essence within the other and merge into the non-dual state of Consciousness.
In the mean time, whether you practice Tantra or not, what can you do to put your weapons down? (One at a time is fine.) How can you begin to consciously end the current power struggles which exist. even if they are very subtle? Where might you do best to simply say “I am sorry.”? Where might you find that you can substitute a more honoring and supportive action or kind word? The war may not end all at once, but one by one we can learn to recall the “inner troupes” and restore peace and balance. We are not victims. We must discover how we contribute to this cycle, and consciously choose a different way.
At different stages of healing, we have different persectives. My intention in sharing this story was to share MY VERSION of my own healing experience and spiritual path, and the way it has woven into Tantric Wisdom for me, with the hopes that it will provide some source of healing or insight for you. I have also learned that everyone’s path to wholeness is unique, and must also be honored.
What have your experiences been around healing Masculine and Feminine balance? Or around reclaiming your own Feminine Power or Masculine Power?
And in conclusion, this topic reminds me of a poem I love:
From “The Subject Tonight Is Love” by Hafiz:
It Happens All The Time In Heaven
It happens all the time in heaven,
And some day
It will begin to happen
Again on earth-
That men and women who are married,
And men and men who are
And women and women
Who give each other
Often will get down on their knees
And while so tenderly
Holding their lover’s hand,
With tears in their eyes,
Will sincerely speak, saying,
How can I be more loving to you;
How can I be more