Whether you are currently in a relationship or single, you will likely recognize the following if you’ve ever been in a relationship. And even if you are single, understanding this will help prepare you for your next relationship.
It has happened to the best of us. We get into a new relationship. We are excited, thinking we have found “The One”. Things are going great. And then one day, we wake up and realize that our life and relationship has become a little bit boring. Maybe routine.
We seem to have created routines. Maybe the sex life isn’t as active as it used to be. Maybe we’ve even put on a few pounds.
Certainly there are different versions of “routine”, but you get the idea right?
Sometimes people even mistakenly wonder if they are losing their spark, or falling out of love. You also may realize you still love this person, but you are just confused, thinking “Things use to be so exciting. And now, we just watch TV and eat dinner. What happened?”
How it happens
Now, let’s step back to the beginning of the relationship. If you are like most couples, that “New Love” stage is pretty exciting. You are discovering new things about each other. You are excited to better understand your new found soulmate. You want to know about their passions, their interests and their philosophies on life.
You are attracted to them, and desire the joy of physical connection, pleasure and passion.
You are also inwardly projecting your future together. Imagining your “happily ever after”.
Everything is new, and exciting and you are so high on love.. You feel indestructible and on top of the world.
And then, as time goes on, you better know the other person. You don’t need to hear again about the time your partner won a basketball game, or got drunk at prom.
In the beginning, there was so much undiscovered. And now, there is an inner mental file system labelled “All the things I know about my partner”. It has key memories they have shared. It includes what to expect when you make love. And there is also a slowly building special list of the things your partner does that irritates you.
And as you begin to feel more and more that you “know your partner”, you become less curious. And you begin to operate off of what you already know.
And as you do this, the level of excitement and the spark begins to lessen. And one day, you find yourself living in a routine where it’s rare that anything new and exciting is discovered or experienced.
But the routine becomes comfortable. So, at first it feels like stability and safety. Until the day it starts to feel restrictive. Until the day you start to wonder if something is wrong. Until the day some impulse inside you wants to find excitement again, and you struggle to figure out how to make it happen without upsetting the stability of the relationship.
The Key to Exciting Relationships is not intuitive.
What has frequently happened below the surface, is we have learned that the other person is a certain way. And they have learned we are a certain way. And we become acutely aware of trying to remain the person that our partner loves.
One common fear is that “if I change, he or she won’t love me anymore.” It’s not rational. And it may not even be conscious. But, there comes an unspoken agreement that “we need to keep things and ourselves the same so we are stable. I may lose you if I change.”
And this is where the trouble begins.
The nature of life is to grow, evolve and change. When we conspire against the natural order and try to keep things too consistent then we stagnate. And we also become afraid of anything that is unexpected or too far from our comfort zone. In this way of experiencing things, change brings fear. And in order to avoid fear, we cling to routine and the expected. Because change is threatening to “safe and comfortable”.
But when we do this, our Soul suffers. In order to not grow and change, we must pretend that our desires, passions, hopes, dreams and basic unmet needs don’t exist. We have to ignore our disappointments, not feel our inner sadness, or anger or frustration. We must disconnect from our own Inner Truth in order to keep things “safe”.
This is a problem for two reasons.
For one, you suffer. Life loses its passion. You sacrifice excitement for safety.
And two, your partner also suffers. Life loses its passion for your partner as well and he or she sacrifices excitement for safety.
So what is the path out? What’s the path back to excitement in a relationship that also honors the needs of both people to create some stability in the relationship?
Let’s go back to the early stage of relationship for a clue. You were both excited to discover new things about the other, and to learn everything you can about the other. You were both excited to experience the “newness” of what is undiscovered and possible in the new relationship.
What would happen if you were excited to discover new things about your partner again? What would happen if within the familiarity, trust and stability of a loving relationship, you both also focused on growing, evolving and experiencing new things?
What if you set aside that fear of change, and decided to follow your heart’s desire towards a new adventure, new career, new hobby, or new course of study?
What if you risked stability and shared your inner fears instead of ignoring them? What if you uprooted the limiting beliefs that had kept you feeling small, afraid and insecure and replaced them with confidence, radiant self-love and passion for life?
And what if your partner also did the same?
As you allow yourself to grow, to evolve and to connect with your Soul’s inner truth, life reawakens. Vibrancy and excitement returns to you. Clarity dawns and you find yourself enthusiastically in the flow of life again. Life IS Change, Growth and Transformation.
And as your partner also chooses to grow and evolve, the same happens for him or her.
And here’s the bonus: As your partner is growing and evolving, he or she is discovering new passions, new potentials, new experiences, new levels of success and new capacities for love, excitement, joy and aliveness. This means that as your partner grows and changes, you get to re-discover new things about your partner on an ongoing basis. Instead of thinking “I know everything about my partner”, you welcome discovering new things about them as they share their inner world and new adventures with you. Just like in the earlier, exciting stage of relationship you get to discover new things about your partner on a regular basis again.
And of course, your partner gets the excitement of rediscovering the new versions of you that evolve over time as well.
You get to support each other through the process. You get to share in the excitement of new levels of joy, freedom and success that you partner achieves. You get to watch the person you love blossom and flower into an even happier, more vibrant person.
The experience of life and relationship becomes exciting again. If you are both evolving and enjoying life, you infuse your relationship with the excitement and aliveness that it brings.
Here is the nutshell overview: By committing to a process of growth, healing and self discovery, you will bring passion back into your life. If you commit to this with your partner, you both reawaken passion for life. And that passion for life is brought into the relationship, which feeds the relationship. Plus you also get the excitement of experience both life and your partner as something which is evolving and transforming, rather than “static”. All within the safety and trust of a loving relationship.
So the unintuitive way to keep your relationship exciting, is actually for both partners to give attention to their own individual growth. To keep allowing yourself to imagine even higher potentials of success, love, adventure, purpose, abundance and joy, and then using the methods and healing practices that will help you keep evolving.
As you do this, you get your own exciting individual journey, and you also get to share the excitement of watching your partner grow as you offer support.
Of course, as the passion returns, you will find some common experiences to share together also. It will feed the relationship one way or another.
So, how do you go about the process of growth, healing and self discovery?
If you are interested in exploring a path of transformation, growth and evolution that weaves Spirituality, Sexual Wholeness and Conscious Relationship together, then I will be teaching a 5 Week Tantric Transformation Foundations Online Class series that will get you started on a path of personal evolution. It will give you a whole new way to understand your Self, you Relationships and your Sexuality that will take you towards greater joy, vibrancy, love and abundance.
To Get more information about this Upcoming classes Series, including class topic previews and free gifts, Click Here.
This Video is in reply to a student who asked me “Why do so many people think Tantra is about Sex?”….
Sex, Money and Spirituality: Past and Present
Is “Sex a sin”? Were you told in subtle or not so subtle ways that “money is the root of all evil”? Can you be “sexual” and also “Spiritual”? Can you be wealthy and also Spiritual?
These messages, in various forms, have been a part of our culture for a long time. I have heard it suggested that these messages were intentional attempts by the Church to ensure that money would continue to come into the Churches. The concept of this argument is simple: convincing you that you are a “sinner” ensures that you will seek out the remedy which is the “church”, and attendance equals donations.
I tend to have a more optimistic view of these things. I do believe that the concept of needing to be saved from sin probably did improve church attendance. But, I also believe that the priests and religious leaders actually believed in the message and, for the most part, were simply serving the best they knew how. Sure, there has probably always been a little corruption here and there. But I think it may be more helpful to examine the concepts and understand why they came about to begin with.
It is easy to dismiss “sex is a sin” and “money is the root of all evil” as ridiculous statements. In their simplest essence, they are lies. And even as we know that, these concepts are so ingrained in our culture and our history, that they linger in the background of our collective subconscious minds creating inner conflicts.
And it can still be seen today, especially in Spiritual communities, that these types of debates continue. It doesn’t matter what religion, be it Christianity, Hinduism or any others. Even in spiritual communities connected to Yoga and Buddhism, you will find variations taught.
I know several yoga teachers and spiritual healers who are plagued by guilt, thinking that it is wrong to take money for what they see as a spiritual service. And I know plenty of Yoga teachers who will still tell you that the Yama of “Brahmacharya” declares that Yogis should be celibate.
These are modern examples of how these messages still interfere with our happiness and our pursuit of spiritual truth.
Rethinking the Past: A Shift in Perspective
If we are able to avoid the “knee-jerk reaction” of declaring these concepts “ridiculous” or accepting them at face value and look to what they are pointing to, then we can consider that the original intention of the advice was well meaning. That it actually points to principles of non-attachment. It reminds us that obsession with anything can send the mind into a downward spiral. We have all likely seen movies about the downfall of a greedy businessman, or the “bottoming out” of an alcoholic, or the destruction of marriage because of sex addiction.
And from the perspective of a Spiritual Path, becoming too obsessed or attached to wealth and pleasure will cause you to focus away from your Spiritual path. It’s kind of like a parent encouraging their child to focus on school studies and be responsible by asking them to be home by 10pm.
They were just warning us about these distractions from a deeper truth. They meant well. It’s just that over a period of time, people forgot WHY it was said, and began to take it as a “rule” that SHOULD be followed. The biggest problem is that these “rules” don’t match out own experiences of being human. Because most everyone will desire pleasure and enjoyment. Most everyone will have sexual desire. And we need money to provide for ourselves and our families.
And when we are being told that our very nature is wrong or that the thing that makes us happy is wrong, that creates a BIG problem. But I don’t think that is what was originally meant by these concepts. We SHOULD heed the warning of being aware of our attachments in general, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our lives, and our bodies and have some money too.
We really CAN have our cake, eat it too and wear a gold watch while eating it, and STILL be properly following a Spiritual Path. Its TRUE. I PROMISE! (Although, I don’t personally wear a watch.)
Clarity through The Four Goals of Life
Fortunately for us, there is a clear teaching around this in the Yogic Traditions. It is called the “4 Purusharthas”. This is a compound word combining “Purusha” and “Artha”. “Purusha” is a reference to the deeper Divine Spark which is your nature. Some would call it the “Soul”. And “Artha” is usually translated as “wealth”.
So the 4 Purusharthas are things that bring wealth and value to the Soul. In English, we commonly refer to this as “The Four Goals of Life”. They are the Four areas of life that are legitimate goals to pursue in order for the Individual Soul to find balance and happiness in life.
The Four Goal are as follows:
1. Dharma (Purpose, Truth)
2. Artha (Wealth, Material Possessions)
3. Kama (Pleasure, Enjoyment)
4. Moksha (Knowledge of Self, Spiritual Liberation)
You will notice that “Wealth” and “Pleasure” (including sex) are included within them. So, there is a clear Yogic teaching that says “It’s all good man…” But, don’t run off to the wild orgy on a money covered floor just yet! We still need to understand that context!
So how is it that there is this clear teaching telling us that wealth and pleasure of legitimate goals for the individual to pursuit, and yet what we have heard most is “Sex is a sin” and “money” is evil and opposed to authentic spirituality?
Well, as I said earlier. The warning was to find balance. And we must understand these Four Goals in balance also. So let’s examine each one separately.
Dharma is usually thought of in connection to “career” in this context. But at its deepest level, it means that the work and the actions that we take in life should be aligned with a deeper sense of purpose and meaning. The individual will feel greater peace and happiness if what he or she does in the world feels like it is benefiting others or humanity, or is at least serving some purpose beyond “getting up, going to work, and then going to bed”.
Please note, that “dharma” doesn’t tell us WHAT we should be doing. There is no insistence that we all become monks, or that we all operate a charity, or anything like that. Because these rules understand that the diversity of Karma will create a wide variety of different “dharmas” for different people. It is perfectly fine if your dharma is to be an artist, run a business, serve the elderly, become a chef or anything else in the world. So long as what you are doing feels satisfying and provides YOU with a sense of purpose that truly feels good to you, then you are golden, no matter what anyone else thinks about it.
Having the Material resources that we need to feel safe, comfortable and happy is a worthwhile goal for the individual. But again, because of Karma, we can’t assume this means that everyone is supposed to be Millionaires. What it means instead, is that it is ok to have more than enough. For some that will be a small house, food and clothing. For others it will be a large house, a nice car and the latest iPhone. And for others, it will be millions or billions of dollars and a truly opulent lifestyle.
The larger point is that it is fine to have money and material resources so that your needs are met. It acknowledges that the individual soul will feel more at peace if it feels materially and financially supported.
This Goal of life declares that the individual Soul will find greater peace if it is allowed to enjoy the pleasures of life. That enjoying the pleasures of the body, food, entertainment, time with friends and other experiences will actually bring greater happiness to the individual. And because of this, it is worth pursuing.
Again, it doesn’t define what the pleasure should be. There is no rule that says “in order to be happy, one must eat at least one dessert per day, and engage in sexual activity a minimum of 3 times per week”. It doesn’t state these rules, because again, it knows that the Karma of each individual is different. Instead it says “It’s ok to enjoy life and find pleasure in the world around you”. How each individual experiences that will be unique.
Now we come to the Goal that is most commonly associated with Traditional Yoga. Moksha is the pursuit of Spiritual Liberation. The most valued form of this would be “Enlightenment”. But we could also say that Moksha is the seeking of greater knowledge and wisdom. And that seeking will eventually evolve into the search for Enlightenment.
But at the very least, the individual Soul thrives when it is evolving. When it is learning more about its nature and its relationship to life so that it can refine the choices that it makes and develop a more enlightened perspective on the whole experience.
While the final stage of Spiritual Enlightenment is fairly well defined, the goal of Moksha is still understood to be a different path for each individual because each Soul has different Karma, and therefore needs different lessons and experiences to evolve.
Are All 4 Goals of Life Equal?
According to the teachings on the Four Goals of life, it is made clear that the highest and most important goal is Moksha. And because of this, some people have dismissed the other goals and focused only on Moksha. That approach may work for an individual who is already very evolved. But it isn’t likely to help most people.
But the teaching still emphasizes that Moksha is the most important of these goals in the end, and encourages us to pursuit the first Three Goals with the intention of supporting the Soul’s pursuit of Moksha. This is a very Tantric approach to Spiritual evolution, in that we learn to embrace and enjoy life in the world and use it as a part of our spiritual practice.
There is a quote that is attributed to Buddha that states “You cannot teach a starving man to meditate.” The implication is that if the basic needs of life are not met, that the mind will be so restless and focused on meeting those needs, that it will be unable to find the focus and peace needed to attain a meditative state. In essence, it points to the need to create balance in our outer life first, before we can pursue Spirituality in a more balanced way.
The First Three Goals point to the remedy for this. By embracing that a sense of purpose, material resources and pleasure are needs of the Soul, we can remove the restlessness from the individual by ensuring that these needs are met. If you are doing something purposeful, that is aligned with the Soul’s desires, then you feel more content and happy with your pursuits in the world. You feel fulfilled with what you are doing, creating and/or contributing to your business or to the world.
From that deeper sense of fulfillment in your work, you are then invited to receive the financial rewards. This money, if respected and managed properly, will allow you to have a safe, comfortable place to live, to provide food and clothing for yourself and your family, and also to have enough money in savings so that when the unexpected happens you are able to handle that without worrying about where the money will come from.
With contentment of purpose, and adequate financial resources, you are then free to enjoy life. You are free to buy things that are enjoyable, and also give yourself pleasure through various activities.
When these three goals are embraced and brought into the experience of the Individual soul, then it is able to relax. Its needs are met. It isn’t worrying about where its next meal will come from, or how it is going to pay the bills. Instead, it is happy, peaceful, safe and supported. This removes much restlessness from the mind and from life, and allows a supportive and safe environment for the Individual to be able to pursuit a Spiritual Path.
So, in this way, the pursuit of Purpose (Dharma), Wealth (Artha) and Pleasure (Kama) are understood to be secondary goals which actually support the pursuit of the Primary Goal of Spiritual Liberation (Moksha).
And the original “warnings” that have continued in our culture out of context serve to remind us to not become attached to Status, Money or Pleasure as a primary goal. They serve our evolution, but they are not the most important goals. And therefore they should be approached with a balanced perspective, keeping the Final Goal of Moksha in mind.
Tantra teaches us that everything in life can be used as a Spiritual Practice when properly understood. And we start by embracing the abundance and pleasures that life has to offer as we seek to align with our Soul’s purpose in the world. And from that place of joy, we can bridge our awareness into the deeper Joy of our Liberated Self.
Let me know your thoughts and questions below!
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Tantra is steeped in deep mystery. The things that are known or heard about it in day to day life are often spoken of out of context, with little understanding of what the practice or philosophy is really designed to do.
Over hundreds and likely even thousands of years, Tantra has become associated with Black magic, sexual deviance, group sex, sensual indulgence, ecstasy, orgasmic bliss among other things. People speak of Kundalini, magical powers, chakras, spells being cast, and many other concepts and acts as being part of Tantra.
There are debates as to whether it is about sexuality or spirituality along with talk of White Tantra, Red Tantra, Pink Tantra, Left-handed Tantra, and Right-Handed Tantra. And the unfortunate modern confusion where some people think it is only for better orgasms, which creates further confusion for people who imagine that they “must have a sexual partner” to learn and benefit from Tantra. (Not true.)
Why Is Tantra So Controversial?
Tantra is one of the most controversial of Yogic practices, and much of that controversy comes purely from lack of understanding. The controversy and confusion is fueled by false imaginings, anecdotal stories and modern packaging designed to entice the “sex sells” culture that we live in. Additionally, there are modern Tantric teachers using sexually indulgent teachings for their own desires, celebrities talking about 7 hour “tantric” orgasms and even students of Tantra misunderstanding the process and speaking about it out of context.
Certainly, Tantric practitioners or those associated with Tantra have been involved in a variety of activities. Everything listed above has, I am sure, been experienced or practiced in the name of “Tantra”. And I am sure there has been a wide range of motivations for how to use Tantra. But for a moment let’s step outside of these “behaviors” and “reported experiences”, and take a broader perspective of what the Tantric Practitioner is really learning in order for these other things to happen.
How can someone “cast a spell” (for good or evil?), for instance. Or create high states of orgasmic bliss? Or awaken magical powers? Because quite frankly, these are not “ordinary” parts of most people’s lives. And many might even dismiss them as being superstition or fantasy… How would these things even be possible?
The Goal of Tantra and the Tantric Approach
First, let’s understand something clearly: The system of Tantra in it’s deepest understanding is a path towards Wholeness and a return to Divinity that teaches that the experience of Life is Sacred and SO ARE YOU. We could call the culmination of sustained Tantric Wholeness as “Enlightenment”, “Self-Realization”, or “Moksha”. THIS is what the FINAL goal of Tantra really is. (See The Tantric Path: A Simple Perspective that Every Tantric Student and Practitioner Needs to Know for more information)
And Tantra also knows that we must start right here in the world, right where we are with the life we are currently living. To support our life in the world, Tantra teaches us a spiritual path that allows us to use our daily life and responsiblities in the world as PART of the path itself. Thus, Tantric practices can cover any and every part of our experience, including sex, money, career, body, mind, spirit, health, etc. In Tantra, every moment is an opportunity to find greater peace and open to the Love that is all around us, and most especially, the Love that IS our True Nature.
But how do they do it? Forget casting spells, orgasmic bliss, and magical powers, etc for a moment. That is not ultimately what a sincere Tantric Practitioner is really learning, even though any of those abilities or experiences are possible and might well be a part of the Tantric path. Much like the “Feed a man vs. teaching him how to fish” concept, the real learning isn’t in just being able to cast a “spell” for healing, or to have the orgasmic bliss. No. The real lesson is in understanding how it would be possible to do this at all.
What the Tantric Practitioner is REALLY learning
So what is the common THREAD among all these things? What is the ONE THING being learned that allows all of these things to be experienced and created? What a Tantric practitioner is REALLY learning is how to connect with, harness and direct the Life Force energy and the forces of Creation that exist within his or her own body and Consciousness, as well as the external world.
If you learn how to cast a spell, well, you can cast a spell. But if you learn how to harness the Forces of Creation and the Life Force Energy, and to bridge that through your own body and consciousness… Well, now you have a whole toolbox to work with. You can do many things, including completely Transforming your entire experience of Self and Life towards greater joy, vibrancy and peace in order to reach Enlightenment.
But, for the wise Tantric Practitioner, each new ability or practice learned is an “Experiment” which creates an experience that leads towards a deeper understanding of what is possible and what the True Nature of Self really is. Learning how to master this Life Force Energy leads to understanding how it is possible to begin with. Which leads to “Who I AM” to be able to “Master it” at all.
Do Not Confuse Authentic Tantric Practice with Outer Appearances
Most of the stories that have popularize Tantra come about from experiences or practices of Practitioners who are “on the path” towards their goal. They are describing a place in their practice BEFORE reaching the Final Goal. Or perhaps they have lost sight of the most meaningful goal, and fallen into using the powers for selfish ends. Either way, when we take their behavior and their experiences and mistake them for “Tantra”, then we just wind up confused.
It would be a bit like hearing that doctors in training dissect human cadavers and drawing the conclusion that “Doctors cut up dead people” without any context for that statement. And then the rumor spreads “Oh no! Did you hear about the people called doctors? They CUT UP DEAD BODIES, MAN! That’s so wrong! (or so cool. I want to be a doctor too!!)”. Doctors in training dissect bodies to learn how the body functions so that can understand how to work with it for healing the sick. But the final goal of medicine is not just to “cut up dead bodies”. (Or live ones either)
In the same way, in Tantra the outer appearance of various practices do not really convey the Deeper motivation or lesson of the practice itself. To say that a Tantric practitioner practices magic, or engages in sex, or sits on dead bodies in the burial ground does NOT convey the purpose of their behavior. And without that understanding, society will place its own judgments upon it and fail to see what is really being learned or accomplished.
Tantric practitioners engage the Forces of Creation and the Life Force energy within Consciousness through a variety of “experiments” that we call “practices” so they can learn how these energies function. And this “training” is just a step along the way to ultimately bring about the greatest possible healing of Self through what is learned by direct experience: The Return to Wholeness.
Tantra as Self-Mastery of Life Force Energy and the Forces of Creation
There are Tantric practioners who have practiced black magic, I am sure. But Tantra is not about black magic. There are Tantric Practitioners who have investigated or even obsessed about the sexual energy in some pretty “outlandish” ways. But Tantra is not about sex. There are Tantric practitioners who have awakened magical ability and psychic powers. But Tantra is not about magical abilities and psychic powers.
At the core, Tantra is about learning to interface with the Powers of The Universe as a function of Pure Consciousness in order to Understand the Nature of Reality and Self. And in this process, we cultivate the Qualities of the True Self, which are Ecstatic Love, Joy, and Peace. To make it even simpler, Tantra is a path to re-discover who and what you really are.
Through Tantric practices, you harmonize and balance your life as a necessary part of the path. This can mean more loving relationships, greater self-acceptance, and freedom from shame. It can mean increased clarity around your soul’s purpose and greater passion operating in the world. It can mean greater connection to your own Intuition, inner Wisdom, and even perhaps psychic powers. And, yes, it can even mean more satisfaction and meaning in your sex life.
Perhaps you will even become motivated to use what you learn to assist in the healing of others, and not only yourself. All of these things are possible and most are likely. They are “gifts” along the path for doing the work towards wholeness. They are manifestations of the awakening Wholeness itself. And they are still not the “goal” of Tantra, but they are an interesting and enjoyable part of the journey. They are experiences that deepen your understanding of life force and Creation, and what is possible, and your relationship to The Universe. And it is all made possible by harnessing and directing the Forces of Creation and the Life Force energy within the practitioner.
How to Properly Learn Tantra Yoga
So what needs to happen to walk this Tantric Path? How can YOU begin to explore this for yourself and engage these fascinating practices? That’s where a Tantric Teacher comes in.
In addition to learning HOW to harness and direct the Forces of Creation and the Life Force energies within the body and consciousness, there needs to be guidance from a Tantric Teacher. There needs to be ethical training for how to use this wisdom and Power for your own maximum benefit while avoiding trouble for Self and others. There needs to be someone who can help you create the practices and experiences that will reveal what is possible and what the Nature of Reality really is.
There needs to be someone to help you navigate the challenges, frustrations and confusions that will arise on the path. Someone to assist you in destroying any obstacles that have limited your Wholeness in the past or that are causing resistance now. And there needs to be someone to remind you of the Truth and the Final Goal when you may get lost. These are just some of the ways that the Tantric Teacher offers support and enables you to accelerate your growth and practice. In the end, the Teacher’s primary role is to empower you to connect to your own Inner Wisdom and discover the Truth and Power of your own Self.
After over 25 years on my own Path, I have integrated all of my studies and practices along with the needed guidance and support into a comprehensive approach to Tantric Practice that I call Ecstatic Union®. It brings everything needed together in one system and one path. And it addresses every stage of practice from beginner to advanced.
But like all journeys, it begins with the First Step: Look for Ecstatic Union® Foundational Training announcements beginning in January 2015!
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The definition of “Yoga” is “Union”. In a traditional sense, it is the seeking of the “re-unification of the individual self with the One Universal Supreme Self”. Yoga is a path of Self-Discovery and self-improvement. There are a wide variety of practices that can benefit us in most any area of our lives when we know what they are and how to apply them.
In another sense, Yoga is really an exploration of our relationship to Self, to others, and to the world. We can come to see our limitations and strengths. We can use it to experience the fruits and rewards of self-discipline. We can observe and celebrate our own progress and growth.
The concept of “Union” also implies that something is being joined together, or “re-joined”. While the ultimate “Union” of Yoga is thought to be the final “union of the individual self with the Supreme Self”, the process of Yoga proceeds along a path of many smaller “union” points along the way.
In Tantra we talk about the re-unification of “Shiva” and “Shakti”. The Masculine and Feminine aspects of the unfolding universe. They are said to live within our own Self also. This isn’t really about gender, so much as it is about a set of principles. Like “yin and yang” from the Chinese philosophy, it points to a set of principles that can seem in opposition to eachother that must be understood, reconciled and re-integrated into an experience of wholeness.
While the final philosophical intention relates to the workings of the Self as “Consciousness”, this principle of Shiva and Shakti, or apparent opposites shows up everywhere in our life. We can understand it to be a metaphor for the Dualistic nature of life with all of its many sets of opposites: hot/cold, light/dark, good/bad, etc.
There is also a set of opposites that becomes quite important in our search. That is the notion of “self and other”. According to Yoga, all of our conflicts, challenges and suffering arise out of this dualistic experience, and especially that of “self and other”. It is our relationships with other aspects of life and other people that create the greatest sources of frustration, heart ache and conflict for most people. Yoga is an invitation to resolve those conflicts within our own Self.
From a young age, our interactions with others begin to teach us by conditioning and habit from our own experience what is “safe” within relationship to others. We may learn that discussing certain topics within our family or community is not acceptable, and thus we learn to avoid those topics, even if they are dear to our hearts. We may learn that it is not safe to express our emotions. We may try to tell someone about our hopes and dreams only to have them mocked, and so we decide they are not worthy of pursuing.
Over time, without even realizing it, we create an internal “monitoring system” that hides parts of us away from being seen by others. Hidden because past experience has shown these parts could be rejected, mocked, or misunderstood. And along with this “locking away” often comes an unconscious feeling that these parts of ourselves are not “good enough” or worthy of being honored. If they were rejected by others, then they must be “bad”.
Clearly everyone’s story is different, but life experience will show that even the most successful and confident people in the world will usually, at least at some point in their lives have some inner places that have been rejected based upon how they imagine others will react.
Because of these common life experiences, many people guard themselves in relationships. Sometimes we become so guarded that even in our closest relationships we can feel that sharing our feelings, hopes, dreams, desires, fantasies, etc is not safe in some or many areas of our inner world. For instance, we may tell others what we think they want to hear instead of being honest about our own thoughts and feelings. We may fail to share some dream we have because we assume it won’t be supported.
Certainly, the guarding makes sense. It was learned at a time when it was truly not safe. It was a proper defense mechanism then. And certainly there are still situations today that it would not be wise to share certain aspects of ourselves with specific people or groups or in specific situations. But sometimes we still feel that we can’t safely be ourselves in any situation. The result is that we aren’t even able to be truly comfortable with our own Self.
Because of this, some people never really know what a truly intimate supportive friendship or relationship can feel like. We become so used to living with things “unsaid”, that we can’t imagine what the freedom of a different type of relationship could offer. When we can find a safe, supportive friend or community, and we can begin to slowly and consciously share our hopes, dreams, fears, self-judgment, past experiences, etc with others and have them be seen, heard, supported and embraced as a part of who we are, a dramatic healing can take place. A renewed sense of self acceptance, confidence and joy can arise.
There is a notion in Yoga called “Sangha”. It originally was a term in Buddhism that referred to a community of Monks or spiritual seekers. A more modern interpretation, however, is a community of people who share any common vision and goal. That goal may simply be “to allow each person to discover and express their deepest Self, and to support and honor each person’s individual desires and needs for happiness and wholeness.”
There is true power in shared experience within a supportive Community, whether it is sharing the practices on the Yoga Mat, sharing discussions of how yoga benefits your life, or sharing of the deepest parts of our once hidden Self. For a practical purpose, it is also the ability to share with other like-minded people a set of philosophies, practices and goals that other circles of friends and relationships may not fully understand. However it shows up, “Sangha” is the sharing of a journey together within community which both honors and celebrates each individual’s unique expressions and personal goals, while also supporting a greater vision of consciously seeking and supporting the growth and wholeness of the community itself, however that may look for each person.
The “Sangha” by definition is usually a Conscious community where the rules and experience within it often run counter to common culture. It supports the undoing of our fears and allows each person to bring themselves into the light of self-accepting awareness. It allows a supportive environment to practice and explore the principles of more conscious living, healing and personal growth. It allows each person to have others who can celebrate their successes and growth with them. It allows a safe place to have our inner thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams heard and honored. It allows a conscious community support of learning how to be in healthy, supportive intimate relationships. It gives us the safe space to work through the fears of revealing ourselves more fully. We learn about true intimacy with Self and others, and how to set safe boundaries both within the acceptance of the Community and in the world outside that community.
We learn that our voice does matter. And that there are safe places to be ourselves. That when we share what is going on in us, that others are given a chance to respond in a way that can support us or bring clarification for our confusion. Without your voice being heard others don’t have the information to know what you need or simply to celebrate it with you. We learn that our opinion can matter. We learn that others often can relate to the experiences, thoughts and feelings that we are most afraid to share. We learn we are not alone. We learn that while there are unique things about us, that in many ways we are more similar to others than we realized. And when that happens, everyone can set aside the old game, and just celebrate the unfolding journey together.
Tantra is really much more about creating loving, honoring relationships with Self, others and the world than about “sex”. When we learn to experience the freedom of self-love, and self-acceptance, and have that reflected back to us my a lover, a friend or a community, then the protected places hidden within are given the freedom to come to the surface. When they are finally seen and acknowledged, the fear and the self-judgment can melt away, giving this part of ourselves freedom to open, to move and to express itself. This new movement is then reflected within the energy that we are seeking to cultivate and understand through the Tantric Kundalini practices.
I know for myself, finally having the chance to explore this kind of Conscious community support, where I could literally share anything I was thinking, feeling or had done, where I could safely ask any question that I thought would help me know myself better, and where many of the “superficial” ways of interacting could be set aside allowing for a deeper knowing of others, was an incredibly powerful part of my own healing journey. I learned that more often that not, what I was afraid to share, or the question I was afraid to ask was really about my own self-judgement. To reveal it and see that it was accepted, to feel that I was still honored gave me a reflected experience of the Love I deserved and should be giving my own Self. It was cleansing. And now that I understand the power of Conscious Community, my life is richer for it.
Like much of Yoga, the introduction to being in Conscious community can feel at first like a “practice”. We have to learn by doing it how to open into and navigate within it. But the more we practice, the more natural it becomes. The more it simply becomes reflected as an inner support of Self-Love and Self-acceptance that goes with you everywhere. You know that you are worthy of love, and that who you are is beautiful and should be seen by the world.
It is true that when we first begin to share in this way, that in can feel unsafe. But within a Conscious Community, there is an invitation to begin to push past the fear and, however slowly you need to go, intentionally share your “unedited” Self within the community. It is a healing experience for all involved.
Sometimes when we don’t have a reference for something by our own experience it can be hard to see or understand the value of the benefits, or the “risk to reward” ratio. Instead we just think “I don’t need that”, or “it doesn’t feel safe” or “it’s not for me.” I speak from direct experience to say “It is worth it.”
There is a quote I ran across that I think is true to my experience as well. “Anything I’ve ever done that ultimately was worthwhile… initially scared me to death.” – Betty Bender
I found that quote while trying to remember another quote that came to my mind, but I couldn’t remember the exact phrasing. I will leave you with the original quote that came to mind:
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin
(Written October 20th, 2011)
Yesterday, for the first time in my life (that I am at least consciously aware of) I spent an entire day from waking to bedtime, without uttering a single word. This was part of a day of silence in the Ashram, so almost everyone participated. Although, most people began speaking again after dinner, I continued with the practice.
The practice of silence has been part of yogic traditions for probably as long as there has been yoga. I will admit, even in my daily life, I prefer as much silence around me as possible. I would rather sit in a silent room than watch TV on most occasions. I would rather not speak at all than to force a conversation of pleasantries. And I have even become pretty sensitive to the types of music I listen to on a regular basis. (Spending hours a day with massage and new age music played at low volumes will probably do that to most people.)
So, I welcomed the practice. I went to bed the previous evening, having already turned my “silence” practice on, and when I awoke, I was already in the mode. The first thing I noticed, was that it was very comfortable for me. During the morning meditation, having already turned my awareness away from speech, I became aware of the inner realm of thought very easily, and it was also easy on this particular morning to direct my awareness into the silence within as well.
I also noticed I become more sensitive to other sounds. The sounds of birds chirping, or any little bit of racket that may have been in the outside environment. I was present to new things. Within the meditation, there were times when something in my mind let go just enough, that it felt like the outer world merged into my mind, and the sounds of birds and the wind blowing were like thoughts arising within my own mind.
After morning asana practice, I spent some time outside connecting with nature. I discussed this in a previous post called “My Tantric Nature.” And then the flow of the day began. People going about walking from place to place, without speaking. And I began to notice something very odd. People, having adopted a practice of silence, seemed to enter their own private world. People were looking at the sidewalk instead of saying hello. It seemed that without words, most people didn’t know how to connect, or perhaps thought it was inappropriate to do so. No eye contact. No smiles. No winks of joy shared. Just blank faces, looking any where but an another person.
In Tantra, there is a practice called Eye Gazing, or Soul Gazing. It is sitting in silence, sending your awareness deep into the Soul Essence of another person, and allowing yourself to feel, to connect, to experience another Being without words, as they also connect into your deepest Self. This practice, at least in the beginning, is often met with discomfort. It is normal for people to laugh or giggle, or to close their eyes. It is normal for obvious discomfort to come across their face and body, and to see them squirming. I explain over an over to new groups of people, that these reactions are a part of our conditioning. It is rare in our culture for us to be so intimate with another. Even with the ones that we love such as friends, family and significant others.
Most of us say we want love, to feel it, to know it, to give it. But when given the chance to sit, and honor the Essence of the other people with love and reverence, something stirs within us that pulls us out of it, that causes us discomfort. The reality, is that for most of us, this fear of deeper connection is always there, just below the surface, but we don’t feel it because we distract ourselves with thoughts, with TV, with activity, and of course, with words. We don’t allow there to be enough silence, enough stillness to acknowledge it.
The same is true for many people with regards to their own thoughts and feelings. We find ways to distract ourselves, and never get still enough to feel or connect consciously to our own inner world. The moment silence is imminent, most people will jump up, turn on the TV, grab a book, begin to talk about anything that comes to mind: anything to not have to feel what is happening in our deeper experience.
As I watched the blank faces parading through the ashram, and the gazes away from each other, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of sadness. Sadness for not having an opportunity to connect, and sadness to see so many unable to make the connection without words. Without words, they seemed to have nothing to share. It never occurred to share their silent Essence. That same silence which pulses beneath Creation lives within our own Beings, ready to be tasted, touched and felt. That silence contains the Love we are seeking. It is not the words that convey love, but the Essence of a Pure Heart.
As I continued my day, I enjoyed the silence. I watched for moments when I might ordinarily speak, and then questioned whether speaking was necessary. In most cases I found the answer to be no. When a desire to speak would arise, I would watch as I reminded myself there was no talking today. And I witnessed the desire for whatever pass through, unspoken, and not responded to. And after the moment passed, I realized I was no worse off. I was still content, even joyful in my silence, and the thing I thought I wanted to communicate, or thought I wanted to ask made me no less joyful for not being shared. I was content to experience what was around me, without commenting, or feeling a need to inquire deeper into it with words. I was content without feeling the need to request something else to make it more or less “satisfying”.
What are these words we speak? And why do we speak them at all? How much of what is said is really useful to our deeper happiness, and how much is just habit and social convention and expectation?
The Tantric traditions describe three primary stages of speech. There is the gross speech of our everyday lives. This is the speech we use to share ideas from person to person, and vibrates at the most dense level. We then have a more subtle form of speech that we call thought. This is the speech that continues the dialogue in our own inner world. And beyond that is the most subtle form of speech, which exists as the arising impulse of vibration, that eventually becomes the thought, which then becomes the words spoken.
The normal world conditions us to focus on Gross speech. And over time, we come to identify with and give great importance to the Reality of this outer form of speech. Most of us also give, even without realizing it, great importance to our thoughts.
When one takes up the practice of silence, the outer speech is given up. This initially leaves us with our thoughts, and the opportunity to contemplate our relationship with gross speech. It gives us the opportunity to experience life without outer words, so that we might see how we have come to identify with them in a way that keeps us looking into the outer world. It gives us a chance to see how the words themselves are associated with our desires, attachments and aversions, and the way that words reinforce the same as “reality”.
When the inner thoughts become the primary world, and outer speech is stopped, then the next step is to get beyond even the thoughts themselves, and into the arising vibrations which are pre-thought. A realm of feelings, and intuitions, and knowledge that really has no “word” as we call it, just vibrations. And dissolving even those vibrations, we are taken into the realm of the practice of silence: inner silence itself. This Silence is the Holy Grail of meditation, but it is not just emptiness and nothingness, but is great peace, joy and love.
This is the basic general idea of meditation, and practicing silence gives you an opportunity to explore these levels of meditation in your daily living. To discover this peace and silence within the world around you is a goal of Tantra. We practice meditation so that we can transfer the depth of experience into our daily lives, not just to escape for a few minutes of peace.
Throughout the whole day, my voice only made one sound: the sound of laughter. After dinner, there were a few people speaking around me, and a story someone told made me laugh. So even Gross speech has its place. It caused me to laugh.
It is not that gross speech is “wrong” or bad. It is not that it should be given up entirely forever by everyone, but practicing silence should hopefully help us put it in perspective, so we don’t make it the “great reality”, and so that we see its limitations. So that we see the ways it can distract us, and become mindful so we don’t use words in this way. To become mindful of the ways words can harm, so we don’t use speech for negative purposes. So we learn to harness what, when and why we speak into conscious choices which enrich our lives, rather than just allowing mindless chatter to fill the silent space around us. So that we connect the words “I love you” with the deep love that arises within the Heart of our deepest Essence upon recognizing the Sacredness of the Being in front of us. And so we can learn to connect with others is this heart felt way even without words. So that silence gives us more presence to connect with others through smiles, honoring and love.
As I flowed through my day of silence, many moments of deeper love, gratitude and joy arose, as I touched into spaces of deeper silence within my own Being. This brought me to one other point of sadness: I will never be able to convey the experience of that Love and Joy with words.
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
There is a lot of talk these days about Kundalini. What is it?
Sometimes labeled “Sexual Energy”, Kundalini is in fact much more than this. Kundalini is the Full Creative power which resides within each one of us as Unlimited Potential. When awakened, it begins a new phase of transformation for the spiritual aspirant. The Tantric traditions declare that one cannot realize the final goal of Spiritual practice without the awakening of this Kundalini energy.
Prior to beginning any formal Tantric practices, for most people, the Kundalini remains dormant. It exists only as Potential, but not as direct experience.
Through the Tantric practices, one begins to prepare the body and nervous system for the Kundalini awakening. In the beginning, Tantric practitioners utilize the energy that is available to them, which is the Life Force, or Prana that is active within each living thing. There are even specific practices which seek to awaken and harness sexual energy.
The spiritual development and the awakening of Kundalini can be understood through an analogy of the development of the butterfly.
When the butterfly starts its life, it emerges in its larval stage as a caterpillar. It is destined to be a butterfly, but it does not yet know that. It lives its caterpillar life, eating leaves and searching to satiate its hunger. It goes through cycles of maturing, growing and shedding it’s cuticle or skin and moulting into a larger stage.
After many cycles of growth when the caterpillar is fully developed, hormones begin to be released, signifying the transformation is ready to begin. They go in search of a safe place and molt for the last time, creating a chrysalis as a hard protective layer made from its old body structure. Within the chrysalis, it begins to transform itself into a butterfly.
At the end of the transformation, it breaks out of its protective casing, and emerges as its fully developed potential: a butterfly. After a period of time to let the wings dry, it is ready to take flight and experience its new full expression and freedom.
The spiritual development of the human being is much like this. In our spiritual infancy, we are like the caterpillar. We roam about focused on fulfilling our innate desires, such as hunger, pleasure, and procreation. Through lifetimes of growth, change and development, we will even develop new desires and interests, desire for power and fame, addictions and aversions. All the while, we are destined to become a Spiritual “butterfly”, to fulfill our natural development, but we are not yet aware of it. We simply go from desire to desire, always seeking, completely identified with our experience of Spiritual infancy.
As we get to be more mature as a “caterpillar”, we may start to question the life we have been living, and wonder if there isn’t more to Who We Are. We begin to suspect there is a larger experience or greater potential to this experience, at which point, we may seek out some guidance. We start to learn a more conscious or spiritually aware way of living, thinking and experiencing. We begin to “shed” the old behaviors and beliefs that do not serve our further development.
It is during this phase that we will likely be drawn to various types of personal growth, healing work, and spiritual practices. They work in our growth to help release the limitations and prepare us for our final transformation. For Tantric development, this phase will also include consciously working with the Life Force or Prana energy. This includes the sexual energy, but is really more than that. It is all energy that is within us, and that energy is neutral in and of itself, yet very powerful.
As we work with the Tantric practices, we are making final preparations within the body, mind and awareness for the final transformation. We free up the energy from the places it had been previously limited or trapped. We develop the capacity of the energy channels in the body to flow freely, and to hold and circulate increasing amounts of Life Force energy. We begin to get glimpses and experiences which reveal the deeper truth of our True Nature. This is a necessary, and powerful time of development, but the truth is, even though major transformation happens, this is still the later phase of the “caterpillar”. The deeper transformation has not yet begun.
When the individual has developed enough maturity, the “spiritual hormones” are triggered, signaling the time to stop seeking and prepare for the upcoming metamorphosis. There is a different relationship with life. The adult caterpillar goes in search of a safe place to undergo the transformation, in the same way that the more matured spiritual seeker will now find “safety” within a spiritual teacher and/or a deep spiritual connection. This Teacher often appears in human form as someone who either is further along the Path or already knows their True Nature. In rare situations, the Teacher may not be in a physical body. This Spiritual energetic connection with this Teacher or Guide will provide the safe space for the final development to happen.
This Teacher, in whatever form He or She appears, will reveal to the seeker the deeper truth of their True Nature. “You have thought you were a caterpillar, but you are really a butterfly. Now I will help you awaken the butterfly nature that has always been in you.”
This begins the Chrysalis phase of spiritual development. A spiritually protected and inwardly directed phase of transformation. It is at some point during this phase, anywhere from beginning to end, that the Kundalini energy is finally awakened. Up until this point, all of the transformation and energetic experience has been Prana or Life force energy. Not until the full preparation and development is complete can the Kundalini be awakened.
Kundalini is awakened by the Grace of the Teacher, or the Grace of God. It is not accomplished through the individual will of the student. It cannot be imagined or “visualized” into awakening. It is through Grace and Surrender alone. The Kundalini, once awakened, begins a relatively rapid transformation of the individual, removing all notions of being a “caterpillar”, and awakening the Being into its Full Potential as a “butterfly”.
The caterpillar, not knowing it, has had tiny little “wing discs” just under the surface of its skin the whole time. These “wing discs” are like the dormant Kundalini which resides in each one of us at the base of the spine. They are potentially “wings”, but have not yet begun to develop, just as the dormant Kundalini is our Spiritual potential, yet to be awakened and developed.
Inside the Chrysalis, at the direction of the awakened Kundalini, the “wings” begin to develop. All old structures are transformed and released, and the fully developed “butterfly” takes form under the Spiritually protected watch of the Teacher or Inner Spiritual Connection.
As the butterfly reaches full development, it prepares to break through the protective casing, which now serves as a final limitation to be released. The butterfly frees itself, and then stabilizes itself as the wings dry. Once the wings are dried, the Butterfly is ready for its freedom of flight. It has awakened to its full potential and discovered its Truest Expression.
In the case of the “Spiritual butterfly”, or the human being, this True Self is Pure Consciousness with the nature of Unconditional Love, freed from all limitations. Enlightenment, or Self-Realization, as discovering your own True Self, is not so much a “becoming” of something, but is instead the letting go of all you are not. You do not become something different, but instead discover what you were all along. You were always the “butterfly”, you just didn’t realize it because you thought of yourself as a “caterpillar”.
You are not the “caterpillar”, not the limited human form you now experience and think yourself to be. You are the “butterfly”, the unconditioned Self, free of all form and limitation. Your very nature is Freedom, Joy, Bliss and Love. This is the Nature of the Self.
Each of these phases can potentially take lifetimes, although the final phases of spiritual development are usually relatively quick, compared to the many lifetimes spent in the “caterpillar” stage. It is important to note that the true Transformation or metamorphosis actually begins to take place from birth. There is a total cycle of development that starts from the first lifetime and ends in Spiritual Awakening. Even those that only think they are a “caterpillar”, with no thoughts of anything else, are in fact growing and transforming. Once day, when they are mature enough, they too will undergo a deeper transformation and realize their True Self.
With this in mind, it is important to understand that each individual is at the stage of development where they are. Just as a caterpillar cannot become a butterfly on day 2 of life, neither can we rush our development. We must honor the process and be patient, and understand that it will happen in its own organic time. We cannot “awaken Kundalini” before the pre-destined time in our own natural developmental cycle, so before that phase of development, we must learn to be content in whatever phase we are in. This could be the use of Life Force energy and the various healing and Tantric Practices that help prepare the body, mind and awareness for the final Transformation, or it could be a little before or after that.
Each phase of development has its own mystery, power and beauty. The more present and accepting of the phase of development you are actually in, the easier and smoother the process will become. Honor where you are on the Path, and continue to savor the experiences and awareness that are available to you in the Here and Now. This will do much more for you than wishing you were more advanced. Embrace this moment and it will gently lead you into your True Nature.
As they say “When the student is ready, the Teacher will appear.” This is true of ALL phases of development. We will encounter the teacher(s), healer(s), healing methods and spiritual lessons that we need at each phase of our development. Be present to what you are experiencing and learning now, and set the intention to continue to grow and awaken. Set your goal to awaken to your True Self, if that feels like a genuine desire within you. And then keep taking one step at a time, and see what shows up, what changes, and what direction the Path takes you.
When the time is right, the conditions for Kundalini awakening will be ripe, and you will find yourself under the watchful guidance of a Teacher who can assist you in the final phases of awakening. Be mindful of false teachers. Be patient, and keep your eye on your personal spiritual Goal. Desire to be the “spiritual butterfly”, the Awakened Self. Be determined to know your True Self, and then keep taking one step at a time until your transformation is complete.
And above all, Trust that you will one day awaken. Whether it is this lifetime or a future one, you cannot help but to discover your deepest Truth eventually, just as the butterfly cannot stop its own transformation. You already are the Highest Self. You just can’t see it yet. And the Path of Tantra Yoga helps you discover Who You Really Are.