By Nick Hudis
On our recent New Year retreat, the subject of Tantra came up in conversation.
It always does. Kalyani and I have made a clear decision not to use the word “tantra” in our writing and publicity, but somehow, the subject always comes up.
So, here is a story for you.
It is 2013. I am in California. I am sitting in a circle with a group, most of whom are part of the hedonistic Californian polyamorous, sex-positive, free love scene.
For the most part they are lovely people, warm hearted and playful. There is a child-like sense of wonder and naivety in many of them. But I sense that below the surface, the shadow side of the inner child is lurking as neediness and emotional fragility.
To them, my English reserve and self-deprecating sense of humour is a source of much well-intentioned laughter.
“What is the essence of Tantra?”
So, we are sitting in circle together at the end of a ten-day retreat and someone asks the question, “What is the essence of Tantra?”
The teacher, the late Dr Shakti Malan, responds in her crisp South African accent which could cut like a samurai sword when she emphasised a point.
“The essence of tantra,” She pauses, everyone is attentive, expectant of some insight into cosmic sex…
“Is not sex but relationship.”
It is about staying in the fire of relationship
The emotional temperature in the room falls several degrees. This was not what they want to hear. Shakti Malan continues,
“It is not about peak states, or levels of orgasm. It is not about pleasure seeking. It is about staying in the fire of relationship, even when it hurts, even when it burns. It is about letting the fire of relationship burn away everything that stops you from being real, from being awake.”
There is confusion and fear in the room now. My, companions have come here looking for insight into “sacred sexuality”, and instead they are hearing what sounds a bit like a sermon on monogamy from a Baptist pastor!
Relationship, yes, but with whom?
With that special “other” in your life? Yes, maybe. I suspect that deep down even my libertine Californian friends also long for that special someone.
To Kalyani and I, as practitioners of committed, conscious relationship as the foundation of our spiritual life, the relationship with outer beloved is vitally important, but it is a mirror of something deeper…
…. the inner relationship we have with ourselves.
The work of tantra is here, inside us.
The Divine Feminine and Sacred Masculine, Shakti and Shiva, that tantra talks of are not women and men, but the two complementary aspects of our own soul. Two aspects that are so often in conflict or separation. Two aspects that are so often submerged in a swamp of unconscious patterning. Two aspects that long for union. The work of tantra is here, inside us.
And it does not stop there.
Our inner union, the relationship we have with ourselves, is just a mirror of the relationship we have with life itself, with God, the Universe, the Tao, the ultimate… call it what you may. The true union of tantra is the union of non-duality.
But what about the sex?
“But what about the sex?” you say. Yes, it is important. Everything around sex is supercharged energetically and emotionally so it is a fertile field in which to cultivate inner union. It is also a minefield. If you confuse peak orgasmic states with spiritual enlightenment, if you confuse spiritual liberation with libertinism, if you dress up your unconscious obsessions and fantasies in the clothes of pseudo-spirituality and call it tantra… if you do these things you may at best find yourself cultivating barren ground, and at worst you may get blown up!
Yes, sex is sacred, but so is housework, so is filing your tax return….
I’ll give the last word on sex to my Zen teacher, a married zen monk. He says that from a spiritual point of view, what matters with sex is simply to let go of shame and guilt.
It is from this perspective, that we invite you to our next retreat, Meeting the inner beloved: bring more love into your life, April 3-5.
On this retreat, we will focus on that inner union between your inner masculine and inner feminine aspect and how that is the foundation of your outer relationships. It is for anyone seeking to bring more love into their life – starting with self-love.
Is this a tantric retreat? Yes, no, maybe… We choose not to use that word. Perhaps you should come along and decide for yourself? Will you have to get naked in a room full of strangers and experience “intimate” touch? Absolutely not! Will we invite you to really meet yourself intimately for the first time in loving acceptance? Yes indeed.