Padmasambhava – Ascend with conduct, descend with the view
Tantra is all about energy. It is usually associated with sex and this isn’t entirely unfair since the most powerful driving force we have within us is sexual energy. The power to create new life resides within us all and it is that seed which we can sense in our bodies when we desire. Tantra is recognising we can transform that energy and channel it rather than being left frustrated or drained by its release.
I come to tantra from a background of Buddhist philosophy and non-dual teachings which makes it interesting for me. I see the universe from the perspective of a unifying energy which we are all a part of. Our individual consciousness is just a wave in the ocean and we are not separate from or different to the rest of the water, we just don’t realise it. This brings a detached, witnessing, view of the world where the interplay of people becomes simply a drama of illusion. This can sound dry, unempathetic and not a lot of fun but I’m working at allowing it to be the absolute opposite. When the restriction of individual “ego” consciousness is dropped we can get a glimpse at the possibility of connection with our other “waves”, not just from a grasping, attachment and fear-based place but from a deeper, free and compassionate space. When we aren’t looking for our own attainment, release or satisfaction we can be truly present with the “other” to see them for what they really are.
Of course, all of this is a process, for me certainly my presence comes and goes, my ability to view the world from this witness consciousness is aligned with my practice and my competence varies from day to day. Relating this to tantra seems to be the next logical step to me, though, because while I can experience blissful states in meditation and have come to feel much more aligned in myself, it is in interactions with the outside world that I am challenged.
Relationship has not always been easy for me and I recognise a need to improve the way I interact and use my energy. While the dualistic, material world may indeed be an illusion on the deeper level, we are inhabiting these bodies and need to operate with them rather than trying to disown them.
The choice I make is to follow the path of bliss, to allow myself to be full from experience. Full to the brim so that energy is flowing over and I can barely contain it. In this space there is expansion, I attract other energy vibrating at this frequency and growth is a natural progression without pushing for any achievement.
I felt this way following my participation in a recent Tantra workshop. It was a deep dive into the world of tantra in an experiential, yet softly held setting where the work was of a deeply personal nature that left me floating.
The leader made the point early on that it can be a tendency to rise up into a spiritual place with this work but recognising and owning the physical urges is vital. The strong instinctual desire that resides within us, should not be ignored and is, in fact, a juicy part of the journey which we would be cheating ourselves out of if we got too ethereal too quickly.
A week of working with this energy in a beautiful group, sharing vulnerability and gently opening into and out of our comfort zones was a real affirmation of the path that I find myself on.
What I found interesting is that there wasn’t much in the way of theory included in the workshop, we dived into exercises without philosophical discussion or reference to ancient texts. This seems to be a trend amongst those who go for an experiential path, allowing the learning to come from within us because it is all there if we can connect to it. I honour this approach and think that I have a lot to learn from it since my journey has often been steeped in philosophical discussion and a more mental approach. Having said that, I feel this grounding in understanding leaves me in a good place to recognise all these beautiful experiences for what they are. I spent one evening of this workshop so high I felt like I was on drugs, fully loved-up and glowing, and it was such a release. It would be easy to get attached to this kind of feeling, to need it again and again and to get caught in a game of grasping for a beautiful tantric experience.
Tantra is about all of it, the good and the bad, not ignoring the shadow but processing the negative emotions whether that be despair, loneliness, anger or whatever. In Buddhism, so-called “negative emotions” are all said to come from a root ignorance, a misunderstanding of the truth of reality and a belief that we are independent and exist separately from everything else. Personally, I find this undercutting of “experience” to be a wonderfully grounding viewpoint which helps me to avoid either getting too high in the peak moments or too low in the challenging times. I sometimes wonder if it is entirely compatible with Tantra which seems to honour the experience above all but it makes sense to me.
The Padmasambhava quote I began with is shared often at my yoga school, Hridaya, and for me it is recognising this dilemma. We approach from two sides, from the material realm we look upwards and can only act in a certain way but we also need to have a wider view and understanding. When these two meet then we’re really getting somewhere!
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