Vision quests have induced altered states throughout the ages as a way to liberate consciousness. Fasting, sweating, piercing the body, and psychoactive plants are common paths around the world, but according to tantra we can attain these states through the experience of ecstasy in the body. Though the principle of tantra is most often thought of in relation to sexuality, it is mainly about building and sustaining energy which is applicable to all areas of life. Let’s look at this ancient art form and how it can be used in your life for liberation in and beyond the bedroom.
Tantra is a Sanskrit word of two parts. The prefix, tan, means “to expand, join or weave.” The latter part, tra, means “tool.” Therefore, the definition of the term Tantra has a two-fold meaning – “a tool to expand, liberate, and bring together.” What is known about Tantra is that the most common form is preserved through such writings as the Kama Sutra (probably written around the time of Christ) and the Ananga Ranga (a collection of erotic works from around 1100 A.D.) The purest form of Tantra was not passed down in writing, but only by way of initiations and personal instruction.
– Spiritual Tantra
Yoga and Tantra
Though the history of tantra is obscure, many of the physical postures appear to have roots in yoga. In this way it is often considered sexual yoga for liberation, or sacred sexuality. Imagine acro-yoga naked with the intention of achieving pure ecstasy through erotic touch, the breath, shared physical poses and creative sexual positions. Sounds fun doesn’t it?
Our biological body itself is a form of hardware that needs re-programming through tantra like a new spiritual software which can release or unblock its potential.
– Slavoj Žižek
The Kama Sutra
Kama Sutra is the central text for the teachings of tantra. In Sanskrit Kama is one of the four goals of Hindu life and it means desire, or sexual desire. Sutra means the connecting thread, that which holds things together. Though westerners often associate Kama Sutra specifically with sex, it is meant as more of a guide to living graciously within family, as well as in love, and relationships. Just buying a copy of the book and practicing sexual positions is only a superficial way to approach this deeper set of principles and tools for personal transformation.
Even if you don’t have a partner, Kama Sutra will be enjoyable to read. If you come from a predominantly Christian background that often shames lust, attraction, and sexuality, the Kama Sutra offers a fresh cultural perspective on the art of sexuality. Also, coming from a patriarchal society where men’s pleasure has been the focus of love-making, the Kama Sutra emphasizes the importance of paying close attention to the needs and pleasure of the female. It even suggests mock battles, like scratching and biting to enhance passion.
Kama is the enjoyment of appropriate objects by the five senses of hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting and smelling, assisted by the mind together with the soul. The ingredient in this is a peculiar contact between the organ of sense and its object, and the consciousness of pleasure which arises from that contact is called Kama.
– Mallanaga Vātsyāyana,
The potent power of sexuality
There is Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu and other approaches to Tantra and sacred sexuality, but there are commonalties between them all. The core belief is that sexual desire is one of the most potent human urges, literally with the power to create life. By harnessing this energy of arousal, making it conscious, and directing it to different parts of the body, it can be used as “fuel” for healing and spiritual liberation.
Vatsyayana says, that as variety is necessary in love, so love is to be produced by means of variety.
– Kama Sutra
This involves slowing down the arousal process while letting the energy build and sustaining the heightened awareness it creates. Some practices encourage both the male and female to abstain from orgasm, believing that it is better to raise sexual energy without “spending” it. Rather than rushing to the finish line, practitioners are invited to expand their awareness of all sensations within the body and emotions. This can include synchronized breathing, long pauses, along with sustained eye-contact while creating a sacred container for love-making to become intentional and conscious.
In short, nothing tends to increase love so much as the effects of marking with the nails, and biting.
– Kama Sutra
Enhancing quality of life
By “stopping to smell the roses” we enhance the quality of our experiences in life. Awakening the senses in this manner allows us to live life in a sensual, passionate way with more meaning and intention on our spiritual path. This always cultivates health, joy, and a sense of living in blissful wonder; when we are consciously connected to the life-force within and around us. This is a tantric lifestyle.
A man should gather from the actions of the woman of what disposition she is, and in what way she likes to be enjoyed.
– Kama Sutra
The Tantric Path to Ecstasy
A love affair with life itself requires us to flirt with possibilities, feel openly, and allow for intimacy. This means that any practice that reminds us to feel safe within vulnerability, observe without judging, and explore without fear. This lust for life can include the delightful taste of food or drink; feeling textures like internal emotions as well as external things; listening with your whole being to music; or getting lost in the beauty of art or nature.
Arousal, inspiration, and connection are central to vibrancy. This leads to a deeper experience of love, while physical sensuality also brings great stress relief. Explore the many creative sexual poses offered within the Kama Sutra and release yourself from entrenched patterns and routines to awaken all of your senses. Release any sense of shame around your body and sexuality by allowing yourself to be present and vulnerable in a safe container and you will be on your way to attaining higher consciousness through tantric ecstasy!
Feature image by Andrew Gonzalez