I’ll admit it: I was first drawn to tantra because of the sexy.
In fact, it took me several years to really put together the connection between what I knew as “yoga” and what I learned about as “tantra” in a new age world.
I was 14 years old and in high school when I first took an interest in yoga as a physical activity. I’m honestly not sure what first sparked the intention to learn, but I made it a massive project of mine, even led a short yoga class one day during gym. And my pagan spiritual practice, along with my sex-positive feminist leanings, led me to explore the realms of neo-tantra in my very early twenties.
By the time I arrived at the Hridaya Yoga center in Mazunte, I had ghostwritten several books about yoga, neo-tantra, the kama sutra and many similar topics for couples. It didn’t take long to really discover that my understanding of tantra had been unfairly restricted to its most intensely sexual activities.
And oh, there is so much more to tantra.
The difference can be seen in how the word sensual is perceived in modern conversation—someone might even say that it isn’t a word for mixed company, which is ridiculous, when you think about it! The sensual world is everything that can be perceived by the senses: delightful sights, sounds and smells, delectable tastes and touches.
The sensual world is all beautiful music and gorgeous views and kitten cuddles and breakfast in bed. So okay, maybe nuzzling your furrball while eating bacon and eggs isn’t the most enlightened way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but who’s to say it isn’t?
Part of living yoga is being totally present in the life we are here to experience. Tantra teaches that the sensual world is part of and produces consequences in the other realms of the subtle energy bodies. Shakti, divine manifested in the goddess, meets Shiva, divine unmanifest in the god. The two are forever entwined in a sensual, even erotic embrace.
On one hand, we live in a sex-shamed culture where it can be incredibly powerful to say, “Yes, sex can be beautiful, sex can be empowering, sex can be spiritual!” On the other hand, we live in such a sex-obsessed culture that sometimes we need to be reminded that it isn’t everything to everyone.
Yes, sex often feels really good, but it isn’t the be all and end all of sensual experience! In fact, if you are cut off from your ability to enjoy sensual experience alone out in the world, you are most certainly blocking your ability to really feel and be present in your sexual experiences with others.
If you are detached from your body in a way that is neglectful or abusive, ignoring your body’s signals and acting in unhealthy ways, how can you show up fully present and supportive for any sexual partner?
At it’s root, my practice in tantra has been about coming home to my body, even if I didn’t realize it when this journey began.
It’s strange to think that a spiritual practice dedicated to allowing me to experiences the spaces beyond my body really required me to get absolutely grounded in my flesh first. It may seem paradoxical to those dedicated to a more restrictive, ascetic path.
But that is what this tantric experience has been, at its core. A flowering of my divine self through feeding and watering my physical roots.
Instead of the expected path of free love and wild abandon, I found a lesson in becoming even more myself in every possible way. I found an opportunity to choose greater strength, flexibility and presence in mind and body and soul.
And I’ll tell you one thing…my sex life has never been better!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Alice Popkorn at Flickr