Formless Tantra

How to prepare for a magical relationship
By Christopher Michaels

All relationships are Tantric, in a sense, or at least can be. ‘Formless Tantra’ was coined by a friend to describe the way I approach facilitating the experience of Tantra using everyday relationships and life. When she came to me she expected training in various rituals, techniques and exercises pointing to sexual ecstasy and from there to spiritual bliss or vice versa. She expected various intense multi-sensory meditations, the invocation of Goddesses and Gods might be involved, setting the space, possibly various magical tools might also be used and maybe initiation into secret knowledge. And maybe sex. All of which she was already an expert at, it seemed repetitive to go over what she already knew. i wanted to take her somewhere new and towards the essence.

Instead I listened and we talked about her life, we exchanged energy and power and explored its dynamics in our relationship as we lived it in our gatherings together. That relationship came to an end some time ago but lasted eight years. For a long time I didn’t use this term or another term we played with the “Zen of Tantra” because well I thought it was a little cliché and seeking undeserved authority from going along for the ride as so many do. But recently I did a series of mini-workshops under the name Formless Tantra and it made sense.

The essence of Tantra is what I’m trying to get at. There is secret knowledge but it is that Tantra, its energy and power, are not exotic and occult, it is here and now in everyday ecstasies. It is in the simple realisations that whether we experience the spirit in everyday life is a matter of point of view. Like so many insights it is secret because it is too obvious. Tantra is how we are made up of our relationships both internally and externally. Its rituals, the breathing, spiritual and physical awareness and control are great and useful, I teach them, but it is the mindfulness shared in relationship that is the core. It is the centre in the sense that all the other games we play are given meaning by it.

The ecstatic sexual and spiritual experiences of Tantra, so many people focus on, are natural outgrowths of profound honest deep connections when you share your spiritual journey with your partners. Those partners maybe lovers, friends, mentors, gurus and even workmates.

When people teach mindfulness they usually teach it as an individual practice, not a shared one. Tantra at its core is about shared mindfulness where each partner undertakes to acknowledge the prominent role they play in each other’s life, both inner and outer. They accept and experience each other as real, not just teachers, not just reflections but real partners living both inside you and outside.

Many people will have values, often expressed in the form of emotional reactions, that decide this or that response and/or event is negative or positive. Mindfulness is a process of intentional awareness of the sensations, emotions, thoughts and feelings and their affects on your experiences and actions as an act of loving acceptance, respect and care. It is greater than tolerance because that can mean just putting up with the bits of you that are uncomfortable for you rather than truly embracing all of who you are.

All the traditions, with a few exceptions, start the great journey from the earth plane of our existence. The earth plane is the here-and-now daily life, not just the simple sensations but also the emotional connections. If you are to be trusted with a direct relationship with yours and/or other people’s spirits, their whole point of view on the world, then how you conduct yourself in the mundane ordinary world is the test, and training ground. How you love your romantic partners in everyday ordinary life points to how you love yourself internally. How you negotiate, share and create energy and power at work, with friendships and in your intimate relationships points to the way you’ll relate to the spirit, to the Goddesses and Gods, to other kinds of power.

So how do we go about this? First we explore the power of the senses, and develop awareness of our experience of the moment and our relationships with games that come from many different traditions. Though I call it “formless” we still use the Chakras as a structure because they allow us to be sure we explore all the dimensions of who we are. For example, we start by exploring the very fact that we are strangers rather than try to artificially creating trust and intimacy. This is the first chakra. How are you with strange situations and setting, with people you don’t know? We exaggerate those feelings so as to clarify and demonstrate what mindfulness is by using the real experience of the moment we are all living. We help you be aware of the way you draw your boundaries, and your changing experiences moment to moment. This helps you develop choice in the way you attract and push people away in drawing those boundaries. By the end of this very first exercise, paradoxically, you are actually really close to everyone.

We use psychodrama and ritual, shamanic dance, multi-sensory imagination, sensitivity games and experiences from yoga and esoteric (inner) martial arts, and discussion circles in an atmosphere of growing trust. As we get to know each other we track our changing feelings and the whole experience we are sharing. The aim is to have a direct experience of the transformative power of loving mindfulness. Through these we reframe your experience of your relationship with yourself and through this all your other relationships.

Just a reminder on the upcoming workshop on the 5th of February, 2011.