Tantra has a reputation in the West of being a sexual practice, of 8-hour sexcapades (thanks Sting), orgies, and genital massage. In reality, these can all be a part of one’s tantra practice, but tantra runs much deeper than the sexual. Sex actually only makes up about 5% of Tantra. Really. I was personally shocked at this discovery when I began my tantra studies and practice because I thought that tantra was, for sure, a sex practice.
It’s not a sex practice?
The thing about tantra is that it simply does not exclude sexuality. Most religions and spiritual traditions are strict with moralizing sexual practices and pleasure, but tantra not only doesn’t exclude sex, it sanctifies it. Pleasure is of the utmost sovereign of rituals and the lifestyle of tantra fully embraces pleasure.
So what is tantra?
Tantra at its core is about self-knowledge and self-awareness. Tantra weaves the energy that exists all around and all within to help expand consciousness, ultimately transforming anyone who practices. With me so far? It gets really good, I swear!
Tantra is an ancient practice that focuses on the connection to the Divine within and all around us. This is one of the coolest aspects of Tantra. Tantra does not believe we need to worship anything outside of ourselves to gain enlightenment or forgiveness, rather Tantra emphasizes the innate nature we all have as Divine beings
Totally cool, right?? Just for being you, you are divine (and exhale).
What Tantra Means
Tantra literally translates as “to weave.” This weaving is found in ancient tantric texts between the god and the goddess, or the feminine and the masculine. The weaving occurs between Shiva and Shakti (tantric god and goddess). It is here that we learn how to experience the fullness of life, in this life, in this body, without focusing on transcendence above ourselves. Enlightenment happens in this body, not outside of it. We descend into our bodies to fully inhabit the experience of our humanity.
With Tantra, the body is to be fully embraced and beheld as Divine. We do not need to seek retribution or forgiveness from anyone outside of ourselves. We are wholly holy unto ourselves. There is nothing outside of the body that must be explored. In tantra, the body holds limitless possibilities for the most rapturous pleasure and the most sovereign of worship.
With Tantra, you don’t have to go to a church, temple, cathedral, mosque, or any other place deemed sacred. In Tantra, you are sacred. Just as you are. Your body is unapologetically and unashamedly revered. The world around you is an extension of the god and goddess, just as it is. The chair you’re sitting on is holy, the water you drink is divine. Are you completely enraptured right now or what?
You see, the wonderful thing about tantra is it requires simple presence. It asks for nothing but for you to come into relationship with your Self and through this connection, you are in relationship to the Divine because you are Divine.
If tantra was a church, it would teach yoga, meditation, breathwork, and how to expand sexual energy throughout the body. If there was a temple that offered these practices and did not require me to shun my body or hide my sexuality, then I would attend in a heartbeat. But it requires nothing. With tantra, you can take a pilgrimage within the depths of your very soul. You can traverse the tundra of your sexuality through expanding your sexual energy. You can consume a cup of water with the most sovereignty of presence. You can learn to breathe in a way that allows you to experience alternative realities. You can move your body so fluidly, you feel as if you are one with the air around you. This is tantra.
When I first dived into the teachings of Tantra, I felt at home. No need for worshiping a god? (though Tantra has a very special and unique relationship with the Goddess, but more on that later). No need to ask anyone outside of myself for forgiveness? Better yet, anything I do can be sacred? That knowledge felt like a while awakening, all on its own.
Yoga, breathwork, sex, food, all of the pleasures of life can be tantric practices. Anything done with conscious intention and clarity is tantra. We weave together the action with our intention of doing. The belief with the behavior. The inhale and the exhale. Every single breath, every movement of our bodies, every pleasure that reverberates in our being is a weaving of tantra.
In its foundation, Tantra offers tender practices to guide oneself to the realization that coming home to oneself is, in and of itself, a divine act. Seeing with the eyes of the heart is sacred. Pleasure, in all forms is holy. And yes, sex can be incredibly divine. I’ll be sharing more on how Tantra works and specific practices to use for practical living from a conscious and pleasurable life. For tantric sex practices, stick around, there’s so much more juiciness to come (pun intended)!
Types of Tantra
There are many different types and paths of tantra, but there are two main paths that are quite distinct from one another and hold specific rituals for followers. One is referred to as the right-hand path and the other is the left-hand path.
Left-Hand vs Right-Hand Path
In tantra, there is a right-handed path and a left-handed path. The path of right-handed tantra is very traditional and often strict with devotion. It includes specific lifestyle restrictions (meat, alcohol, fish and sex). Engaging with certain practices is seen as devolving from the path of tantra and as such this path requires intense dedication and is known as a truly devotional path.
The left-handed path is often more user friendly in the world we live in. This is the path that embraces all things. Nothing is bad or wrong with this path, the intention behind the action is more important. If the intention is to bring you close to the Divine and to the present moment and you are fully conscious in the action, then it is considered sacred. Whether it is eating meat, consuming alcohol, or having sex.
Like I mentioned earlier, the left-handed path of tantra does not exclude sex. In reality, it reveres sex as one of the quickest paths to the Divine and to enlightenment in this body. It is for this reason that many followers of the left-handed path are often seen as immoral, as there is no such thing as “purity,” which is the main focus in the right-hand path. Tantric sex practices are only included in the left-handed path.
EasyTantric Rituals to practice
- Tantra is perhaps one of the simplest of lifestyles to follow, though it can also be one of the most challenging. With the fast paced world around us, true presence is often the hardest to achieve.
Tip: Use senses to become aware of each moment. Present awareness is a key in tantra, as it allows us to fully embody pleasure and divinity in everyone, everywhere, but can often be the most overlooked of practices and the most challenging, especially in a goal-oriented world. SImply being with the moment can be a challenge, so here are some tips to help you move into the present moment using nothing but you and the space you are in right now.
- Tap into your sense of sight and notice the colors all around you. Try going through the rainbow, first noticing everything red, then orange, then yellow, then green, then blue then purple. Now ask yourself, what were you focused on during that practice? Often, many are simply focused on the colors around you and not anything else.
- Become aware of your sense of hearing as you notice the sounds in the room you are in. Close your eyes and invite your awareness into your ears and hear every little sound. Then see if you can tune those sounds out and notice the sounds outside the room. Experiment, have fun. It is about being perfect, its about moving your awareness into the present moment, as it is, and often this is the easiest when we move outside of our bodies to the space around us. This feels tangible.
- Next, allow your sense of smell to become alive through the invitation to breathe in the scent around you. Perhaps you use essential oil or a hot beverage in your hands to inhale the fragrance. Allow the scent to take over your entire awareness in that moment as you breathe it in fully.
- As you flow your awareness into your mouth, your taste buds can become alive with even the simplest of tastes. First, notice your mouth. How does your tongue feel? How does it taste? Then use something simple, perhaps a small piece of chocolate or fruit and take your delicious time to fully inhabit the experience of savoring the taste of this chocolate. Taste can be experienced with other senses as well. You can notice the smell that arises and the urge to bring the chocolate to your mouth.
- Finally, drop into your body, specifically into your skin to notice your sense of touch. What is your body connected to? What are you sitting on and how does it feel? Can you tune into the connection of the air around you and where your physical body ends and the world around you begins? Again, experiment with this, have fun. Play with different parts of your body and
- Breath is perhaps one of the most important aspects of tantra. Breathing is constantly happening, without much personal effort. The problem is that most of us are actually breathing wrong. We have been programmed to breathe shallow and quick, without allowing the expansion of this life force to move through us. Here are some ways to use breath to weave together the inhale and exhale for a union of rhythmic life force pulsating through your body.
Tip: Breathe deep into the body using 3 steps.
- If this is difficult, try this practice lying down, as that is often easier to allow the breath to move deep into the body from this position.
- As you inhale, breathe first into your belly, filling it up, allowing it to expand pushing the belly out (and creating space for the womb within). 2. With the same breath, now extend the breath to your rib cage, inviting it to expand.
- Finally, with the same breath, fill your lungs. This is breathing from the bottom up, instead of simply filling up the top half of your lungs, this allows the breath to move fully through your body, expanding the energy and life force deep within, not simply staying on the surface.
- As you exhale, release the air from your lungs first, then your rib cage, then your belly. The exhale is a top down release.
- You can move your body as you breathe in this way. You might notice a natural flow of movement in your torso. Allow it.
- The final practice I will suggest for you to begin a simple tantric path is perhaps one of the most challenging. This is the practice of eye gazing. Often, we think of eye gazing with a partner (which can be amazing and I highly suggest you to incorporate this practice with another), but first I suggest practicing this ritual with yourself.
Tip: Self-eye gazing practice:
- Sit in front of a mirror.
- Set a timer for at least 5 minutes.
- Start by placing one or both hands on your heart with your eyes closed to settle into the space.
- When you’re ready, open your eyes (you can leave your hands on your heart if you’d like, with the intention of maintaining tenderness), gaze softly into your eyes in the mirror.
- The gaze should be gentle and tender, without aggression or harshness. Gaze as if you were gazing at a candle flame.
- Try to first gaze into the left eye (the left side of the body represents feminine energy and the left eye is often considered to be the easiest to gaze into, as it is more welcoming and viewed as the gateway to the soul).
- Allow any emotion or feelings to arise without attaching to them. Allow thoughts to rise and pass like clouds in the sky.
- If you’d like, experiment with the right eye. Some people find this to be too intense, but you may find peace here. See how it feels.
- This practice is best done daily to develop and maintain a relationship with your Self rooted in presence.
As you begin applying these practices to your day, remember that you are Divine. Everything around you is Divine. That water glass is sacred. The water in it, holy. The person who sits in front of you is an extension of god or goddess, as are you. Your body is meant to be fully inhabited, experiencing deep pleasure.