In the twenty-five years I've been practicing tantra, I've seen the
public perception change from a little known esoteric spiritual path
to the most fashionable lovemaking style in America. Now there's even
a hit song playing on the radio which refers to tantra. Despite its
popularity, many people - even some who have attended tantra workshops
- are mystified about what tantra really is. This confusion isn't surprising
because as I always tell my students, ask twenty tantra teachers "what
is tantra?" and you'll get twenty different answers. Furthermore, while
tantra ultimately addresses All and Everything and is intended to lead
to an indescribable peak experience, most Americans are primarily interested
in the sexual aspects of tantra. In light of this discrepancy, it's
most illuminating to focus on tantra as an attitude toward life in general
and toward sex in particular. I've adapted the following expression
of the tantric attitude specifically for contemporary Westerners.
Sex is for bonding. Sex is for communing with spirit and with each
other and sensing our place in the whole of creation. Our social fabric
and our spiritual understanding are unraveling because we have -- through
2000 years of teaching that sex is sinful and good girls don't do it--
all but destroyed this powerful force whose purpose is to link us together.
Sexual union, sometimes in a ritual context, is meant to bond the society,
not just the mating pair, together. It becomes a divisive force only
when we impose artificial limits on its expression, particularly for
women, and turn sex into a scarce commodity.
The sex negative approach many of us were raised with says: "Don't
do it! It's nasty, it's sinful, it's disgusting." The sexual liberation
movement of the sixties said, "Do it as much as you can! It's harmless,
it's fun, it's good for you." This is much healthier than the sex negative
approach because it promotes self-acceptance, but it still does not
completely heal the split between sex and spirit.
The reunion of sex and spirit comes about when we go one step further
by saying, "Sex is sacred, it's powerful, it's lasting, and we should
approach it with love, with reverence, and with caring. Sexualoving
relationships are a tool for spiritual development." We must realize
that when we join with another sexually and spiritually we create an
enduring linkage which lasts till the end of time. But what are the
implications of this knowledge?
Best-selling author Riane Eisler points out that throughout Judeo-Christian
history the absolute authority of the husband over his wife has been
taken for granted, and male violence against "disobedient" wives has
been considered natural and right. Eisler refers to this type of culture
which legally and socially favors males, relies upon fear and violence
to enforce its values, and makes it easy for men to control women as
As the 20th Century draws to a close, both men and women realize we
need to find another way to relate. The Sexual Revolution has long since
faded leaving us with monumental sexual malaise. As Erica Jong's fictional
heroine Leila Sand says in Any Women's Blues, "All my life I've wanted
nothing but to bring sex and friendship together - and I seem to be
farther away from it than ever." Leila speaks for millions of women
and men who dimly sense the need to make a deep shift in the way we
view sex, love, and intimacy. Tantra implies a shift to a more intuitive,
mutually supportive, life affirming way of expressing our sexuality
and structuring our loving relationships. While all genders contain
both masculine and feminine elements, women tend to be more naturally
tantric. As women overcome their residual fears and get back in touch
with their natural, loving, feminine spirit, they pave the way for a
renaissance of sexualove. As men release their fear-based need to control,
and learn to surrender, they can join with women to create genuine partnership.
The new paradigm for love is sometimes referred to as "conscious relationship"
because it is an outgrowth of the world's great spiritual traditions
and the modern consciousness movement. Its basic premise is that while
traditional marriage is survival-oriented and requires a zombie-like
trance in order to endure, new paradigm relationships thrive when we
make a commitment to help each other wake-up or become more conscious
of letting go of dysfunctional patterns and buried feelings. Historically
most spiritual paths have emphasized a celibate, monastic lifestyle
for serious aspirants. But tantra offers us a way of utilizing the challenges
presented by intimate sexual relationships to hasten the process of
spiritual evolution. This process begins with a desire to see through
the illusions of our belief systems and come into direct contact with
reality. Tantra is consistent with a more conscious approach to relationship
in which men and women embrace sexualoving as the leading edge of their
healing and growth.
Humans crave erotic love and ecstatic sexuality, but we also fear them
knowing how powerless we are in their path. Isn't it safer to create
rigid social institutions to contain them, even if we end up strangling
the life out of them in the process? Similarly, there have been parts
of us that hate and fear the earth, nature, the wilderness because they
are scary, dangerous, and hard to control. Dominators say, if we kill
all the wild beasts, dam the rivers, cut down the forests, pave over
the marshes; then maybe we will be safe.
Our ambivalence toward the planet has led us to the edge of irreparable
destruction of our natural environment. Hopefully, the Ecology Movement
has awakened us to that danger in time to reverse the process. Similarly,
our ambivalence toward sex, love, and the whole ecology of human relatedness
has led us the point of destroying the very things which make us human.
Tantra can teach us how to honor both sex and spirit and come into right
relationship with all of life.
For further info or to register for Dr. Anapol's Portland workshop,
September 10-12, call tollfree 888-770-0046, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit the website at http://www.lovewithoutlimits.com