Tantra originated in India thousands of years ago as an esoteric system incorporating practices and meditations. Tantra is a Sanskrit word which has various meanings, it relates to the “Web” or “Woof” the vertical and horizontal threads on a loom. The interweaving of threads produces an integration of opposites and an expansion from the original threads. Tantra means integration, union of opposites, wisdom, knowledge, and can also mean system or ritual. Today Tantra is becoming popular in contemporary healing and therapy groups. The term Tantra may be used to describe a range of varying practices and beliefs and also depends on the particular teacher’s approach. There is often a focus on the aspect of sexuality in contemporary Tantra. Traditional Tantra was certainly inclusive of sexuality, however this was by non means the sole focus. Tantra was traditionally practiced as a system which included sex, heart, spirit, via complex meditations and rituals. The ultimate aim was to expand consciousness.

Some of the key aspects of Tantra

Shiva and Shakti are two major Hindu deities and archetypes representing the whole. Shiva is associated will the masculine aspect related to consciousness; the witness, ultimate freedom. Shakti represents the feminine and life force; the body; physical and emotional energy. Together Shiva and Shakti merge as lovers in divine union. Shiva and Shakti are beautiful metaphors describing the polarity inherent in life. We can learn to discover and be more accepting and playful with these apparent differences within men and women. When there is greater love and compassion in relationship the personal identities can relax and expand into blissful togetherness, and ultimately into unity with the divine.

The Chakra system was first mentioned in the ancient Hindu text the Vedas. Chakra means “spinning wheel”, these are concentrated vortexes of energy situated along the vertical centre of the body. There are seven chakras related to the physical body. Each of these relates partly to the local physical anatomy and the endocrine system, and to psychological energetics, and also to the energy bodies (various subtle auric layers). The chakras become more refined as they ascend the body; the crown chakra relating at a energetic level to unified consciousness with existence. The chakras can be viewed as energetic gateways into greater sensation, feeling and ultimately health within these areas of the body and their impact on our whole system. Through the network of the chakra system, there is a possibility for energy to flow vertically through the body. The energy which rises here is called Kundalini, or sex energy.

Massage and touch are important activities in Tantra. Through conscious touch it is possible to develop our sensitivity so that we can feel more, and be more sensitive to subtle sensation. Massage and touch are used to develop more connection with ones own body, to become more healthy and to feel good about he body we inhabit! Massage is a way to connect with another body, non-verbally we can feel and communicate through our loving touch and sensuality. Through Tantric massage techniques we can learn to feel the the whole body in a more pleasurable, or erotic way.

The Senses are used in Tantric meditations for pleasure and learning. Its been discovered that different people relate to their senses in particular ways. Sometimes we can even carry a trauma in a sense organ. For example if I was sexually abused in childhood by a man who smelt strongly of alcohol, or a certain aftershave, its likely I would feel blocked in feeling safe and intimate with a man in later life carried the same smell. In Tantra we use smell as a doorway of perception to go deeper, into both healing and enjoyment. Taste is another doorway of the senses. The experience of fully experiencing a taste without any visual stimulus or any expectation of how it should taste can be an exhilarating experience!

Meditations and rituals can be done alone, with a partner, and with others in a group context. There are a specific meditations within Tantra which have a particular focus, such as to bring awareness, healing and expand consciousness. By taking our focus deeply into a certain area of our body, or aspect of our relationship and allowing associated feelings and sometimes vulnerability, we can learn to overcome old patterns of behaviour, bringing release, and a new, more fulfilling way of being. Sometimes Tantric ritual is used within a group context and this can be a very sacred and profound experience. Within the context of group ritual Mantra is sometimes used. A Mantra is a Sanskrit word or phrase which has from ancient time been considered as a link to the divine, and able to create transformation. Sound is a powerful tool, this together with an intention, group, and sacred meaning can be very potent in affecting the individual and the group. There are a variety of meditations available within Tantra which can enable healing and positive transformation.

Sacred context is an important focus within Tantra to uplift our perception and relationship with our reality. We can change the energy of a room by bringing candles, incense, flowers and a good feeling of intention from our heart, creating a more beautiful and divine space. Poetic language is used to describe the genitals. Lingam means pillar of light, and is a Sanskrit word describing a phallus, and the exalted masculine principle. Yoni means sacred place, and is seen as the custodian of the mystery of existence. The word vagina comes from the Latin meaning sheath, something a sword can go into; a little harsh for such a delicate area. By changing the context we can create more positive relationship with our bodies and our surroundings.

Tantra retreats have become popular alternative breaks where daily responsibilities can put aside for a while and time with oneself or a partner can be spent to relaxing, enjoying and discovering greater pleasure and intimacy within a spiritual environment. Retreats can be times of profound healing and awakening to our true identity and what is important in life.

Tantra says YES to life, inviting an attitude of curiosity and adventure towards all life experience. This can be very liberating in letting go of any expectations or pressures, especially around sexuality where there has been so much repression and distortion historically. As we embrace all of our experience as much as possible we open up to more of who we really are, relaxing and tasting all of what is available to our sensory experience in life, and expanding into our full capacity as love.

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