My spiritual practice started with Tibetan Buddhist meditation. The deepest experiences I have had are in silent self-enquiry. This single-minded, and some might say ‘masculine’, approach to spirituality has great benefits. But as I live in the world, and am not inclined to disappear to a cave any time soon, I started to explore spiritual practice in terms of relating to the other. This is Tantra in a nutshell. I enjoyed my first forays into the world of conscious relating and practice.
It seems, though, that the world of Tantra is missing out on men. Maybe I should rephrase that, men are missing out on the world of Tantra!
After speaking to Tantra teacher Jan Day, it became clear that one difficulty that she finds, in setting up her workshops, is finding a balance between male and female participants. In this work it is particularly helpful if the energy in the room is matched between the masculine and feminine, as the energy balance is an important aspect in some of the activities and exercises that take place.
Workshops, such as Jan's Passion Power and Love, that is held over the new year, are part therapeutic exploration and part deep dive into spiritual connection. Tantra is a broad term and covers a vast array of different techniques and practices, but fundamentally, it is about coming into connection with the body and with the other. By dropping away from the mind, and allowing the senses to lead to a centred place, where you can recognise your deep individual desires but also the strong bond and connection you have with the universe, there is an immense potential for growth.
How would men benefit from this work?
Getting in touch with emotions leads to a reduction in stress
This work helps men to understand that a stress response is natural in situations where they are challenged. Having strong emotional intelligence can help them to control stress by recognising what their reaction is, and what it is caused by. I have found myself much more relaxed, and able to cope with periods of increased pressure in my work situation, since doing this work. Studies show that emotional intelligence is responsible for 58% of performance at work and that 90% of top performers rank high in this measure.
Connection with others leads to a sense of community often lacking in men over a certain age.
A recent YouGov survey found that 19% of over 55s felt they had no-one with whom to discuss serious topics. Apart from the connections they make with women, this work will bring better authentic relationships with other men who can then become a support network of friends. There is a real sense of deep community within the groups that participate in this work. I have made a lot of very beautiful friendships.
Understanding their bodies, and what feels good for them, with acceptance of their own pleasure, without any judgement or filters, can allow for a much deeper sense of completion in men, and a far deeper intimacy with a partner. When you learn how to communicate these discoveries to women, in bed, they will melt and blossom!
Dance into a sense of playfulness and find ways to enjoy time without resorting to alcohol, drugs or other addictions. If you had told me five years ago I'd be dancing in a room to ‘hippy music’ with no external stimulants I would have laughed at you.
Find your purpose by connecting to your true feelings.
The Passion, Power, and Love workshop, for example, focuses on allowing participants to access their deep desires and needs, then find positive steps in order to take actions required to make this vision become a reality. I already feel like this year is evolving in a way that is fully in tune with the ideal I am looking for and I feel that the sense of permission from the workshop, has allowed this.
So why are men not attracted to this work, which is, after all, in a large part, about sexuality and connecting with the opposite sex?
Maybe it's a cultural thing, which keeps men stuck in an easy-to-digest world of sport, politics and work. The majority of men connect with the body only in as much as they can be competitive on a football pitch, rather than listening to what is going on, somewhere other than their mind. Learning to stop and ‘check-in’ with my body, has been a revelation for me.
Taking tantra courses can seem financially expensive, but I believe that the benefits are well worth the investment. It is worth noting that partial scholarships can sometimes be available for participants on a low income or who are unemployed. There are also payment plans to help spread the cost.
Men are taught that being sexual, being attracted to women in an open way, is somehow associated with guilt and shame. It is not so easy for me to express a sense of attraction to someone, but I'm certainly getting better!
This work allows openness and truth between people, and enables them to connect in a conscious way, with great aliveness.
—Photo Credit: Flickr/Konrad Prinz