Originally published here by me…
Tantra is an insight, a reality, a mythic metaphor and a collection of practices. Even the practices are both metaphors and emotional and physical realities. They are all based on the insight that all of reality is relationships. Right now you are reading this through eyes that are relating to light and to the whole history of a language and culture through your unique relationship with it. The mythic metaphor is the Way of the Lovers for which Sex and Love are the central practices and proof. It answers the questions: How do you love yourself and others in away that expresses the deep connections that are the reality we are often too busy and self-involved to notice.
For me it comes down to energy sensitivity practiced in everyday life and also in our most intimate relationships, sex and love. It is cooking for and massaging lovers and friends, listening to people and holding back on reflex reactions based on your history/ego in order to allow something new and spontaneous to happen. The sensitivities I use in the daily life of work, friendship and dealing with strangers helps me to bring my whole self to my lovers.It is still something I practice rather than do reflexively.
For me all relationships are part of the practice and reality of Tantra to limit it to the bedroom is to get caught in the metaphors and practices rather than focussing on the reality of the psychological insights that are at its core. This is not to say that the sexual practices of Western Tantra aren’t important, they are important to our relationship with our body and lovers. But it is to say they are deepened by understanding that their spiritual meanings are applied to everyday life. I have a different point of view than the Indian and Buddhist traditions where it is usually isolated into monasteries, forests and temples. And different to the new West traditions where it is also isolated but into the sensual rituals of bedroom as temple and sensual body within.
All of these are useful and important parts of the whole of Tantra. The part of it that is often missing is the use of what they call in India Kama, the sensual everyday world of work, family and friends, as the test and practice of your spirituality. Many say the platitude that love must start with loving yourself, but how do you do that? How do help others to do thats if you are a teacher/therapist?
You do it through your relationships, that is the dynamics underlying what is said and achieved, the quality of attention you give your partners and yourself, the way you handle internal and external conflicts about your desires and fears. Love of self is a catch-22 because we have to learn it through relationships, but you need the self-esteem filter them in order to choose partners who will help you learn. This lesson is best leant through relationships which leave us less vulnerability such as friendship and work relationships, and maybe therapists and other knowledgeable leaders like teachers who can model for us the respect and dignity we need to feel good about ourselves.
On your lonesome you challenge attitudes expressed through self talk and feelings that are reflective of your past when people close to you didn’t respect you and your choices and needs. When you feel fear of things that don’t logically deserve it like pictures of frogs for instance, I actually know someone who has this issue, or social gathering (more common) say choose to gently and lovingly build your strength. For example, lets take the frogs, spiders or sharks. Start by thinking, visualising and remembering the good feelings you have about something you really love, an activity or pet, a friend. Then keeping the good feeling in mind look at a cartoons something funny and friendly, look at the picture and simply breath whilst observing the feelings and how they change over time, then move to photos onto movies then finally go to a zoo or park where they are on display, maybe buy a pet one. You don’t have to like or love the activity and thing that used to cause the overreaction, you just have to be able to stand it. This is easy to write but hard to do. But the results are very good for your self-esteem and self-knowledge, and therefore self love.
Love is about all of who we are. It is first about feelings, but those feelings are just the beginning because they sometimes trap people in relationships that are disrespectful, that undermine your power to choose your lifestyle, your choices in general. Some people don’t do relationships based on shared power, on power exchange which brings co-creation of destinies and lives. Tantra is definitely about sexy passionate relationships with your body, yourself and your partners and it is also about mutually created destinies, deep listening and everyday moments of ecstasy and bliss from doing everyday things alone and with partners, friends, workmates and family.