After more than 15 years in the field of Tantra, I am in awe.
In awe of the depth and breadth of this ancient path. In awe of the cracking open I have been though, and seen in others. In awe of how this path has empowered me to live authentically, free to express each moment unhindered and uncensored.
I have found myself able to peel off layers over my true self and I have seen others reveal their inner diamonds over and over again. But what is it that Tantra gives us and how does it help people to open up again and again?
When I first heard of Tantra, I was staying in a progressive ashram in India where I was learning different forms of meditation, dance and expression. Like many others, I heard about these Tantra workshops in which people apparently did all kinds of things in front of the whole group, revealing things that would put most people in state of horrifying shame. (I’d even heard about one group in which they’d asked “what would you least like to do in front of the whole group?” and then giving them the opportunity to do it, then and there.)
We shared horror stories of what may have gone on in those workshops, though the groups had a vow of confidentiality about them, so all our stories were hearsay. I remember hearing about people getting to lie down and have all the others in the group stroke their body. At the time, being a 22-year-old English girl, such attention upon my body seemed like a living nightmare. I couldn’t understand why people would join such groups…and even pay to do so.
But slowly I began to realize that under my layers of initial shock and horror lay deeper layers that longed for such freedom.
Having been brought up in a country where you learn a million ways to hide your body with a towel in the pool changing rooms for fear of being seen, the idea of being free enough to dance naked (yes, this was one of the stories we heard of!) sent not only a shot of pure terror, but a thrill of pure yearning too. What would it be like to be that free?
After some resistance, I finally I gave in and tiptoed over to the other side. After all, I was seeing so many people looking radiant and alive, and seeming to be radiant, alive and seemingly untraumatized by their experiences. I began to wonder what happened behind those walls, and if I too might have the guts to do it.
And so my rollercoaster ride began—a journey into revealing all the parts of myself that I had spent great efforts to conceal from the world for fear of rejection.
There are so many parts of myself that I have brought out of the closet and aired that I cannot even begin to list them here, but it includes: expressing my anger and rage through my voice and my body, dancing erotically and being witnessed in my sexuality, speaking my deepest longing for intimacy in front of a whole group of people and then having the facilitator encourage me to act it out.
That was one of the moments I will never forget. It was only a desire to be held by a guy in the group, but asking him in front of 40 people was truly one of the most terrifying and courageous three minutes of my life. When he said yes, I had to walk across the whole room and climb into his arms, and I was shaking life a leaf and I felt like crying like a baby. They were tears of relief.
It’s amazing how much we suppress our true desires for fear of being rejected by expressing them. But in real life, many of these experiences run the risk of retraumatizing us. If we were rejected once as a teenager, we may shut down from taking that risk again. What if we try again only to be rejected a second time? Then we run the risk to shut down for the rest of our lives. It is safer that way. But the only trouble is, we all long to be alive and free.
Tantra offers us a great gift; the one that I am most most grateful to this path for—the gift of holding space.
Tantra aims to open us up.
There are many methods and opportunities to open ourselves. But opening is not enough. If we open up a part of ourselves and it does not feel safe, then we may feel upset, shamed or even traumatized. Tantra brings us the gift of understanding that opening up is only half of the game; the other half is creating a sacred space for that experience so that we feel safe and held.
It’s the same as with anything. If you go to experience bungee jumping, but the company is not reputable and the staff seem inattentive, the equipment looks old and rusty and you don’t feel they are giving you adequate support, there is a chance you will be contracted as you jump, which could cause damage or trauma. If, on the other hand you, end up with a highly professional company that takescare of your needs, gives you excellent preparation and shows you certificates of the safety of their equipment, you are much more likely to leap without fear and have an a life-changing experience.
A bungee jump is a bungee jump, but the whole experience around it can determine if you open up or shut down.
This is exactly the same with Tantra workshops. The difference is how the space was held.
They are safely held situations in which you get to play at your edge, but knowing you are in a container that holds you. Knowing that the facilitator holds you, a team of assistants hold you, and a whole workshop of people who are on your side also sharing the desire to open up. In such a container you can play with some of the scariest parts of life: intimacy, sexuality, love, touch and surrender.
We open up by going where we feel vulnerable. The greatest gift Tantra gives us is the spaces that make us feel safe enough to go there.
And so, Tantra workshops are a whole lot of doing what scares you most. But they are designed to hold you in that so that you can feel more open and free. We are given the opportunity to face our deepest fears, whilst being held. It creates a safe space where you can finally pull those skeletons out of the closet and let them be seen. Where you can finally speak the words you’ve feared to speak, and simply be heard. Where you can express those desires you long ago buried, and find yourself accepted.
We all long for this freedom.
It’s not the freedom that needs to rebel against anything, but a freedom to simply be yourself—uncensored and unashamed.
Author: Shashi Solluna
Editor: Katarina Tavčar