Tantra has become quite a loaded word, largely due to the extremity of practices utilized by the so-called left handed path of tantra as ways of challenging practitioners to be able to stay awake and steady in the midst of the most overpowering of situations and emotions. Which can be quite potent, even if just looked at as metaphor. And tantra IS this – practicing awareness and stability through the trials of life without getting lost in that which overwhelms us. Staying awake so we can navigate as best as possible, whatever comes our way.
Tantra is not hedonism; its potential is quite the opposite. Utilizing the guise of tantra to engage in risky behaviors in order to test ourselves before we are ready – or at all – will most likely not lead to enlightenment. More likely it will end up causing us to get even more stuck in self serving greed and grasping for what we can never get enough of. We all know this trap. It usually is too good to be true.
Physical hatha yoga, for example, which is a form of tantra, helps us to bump up against both what is uncomfortable and what is ecstatic and gives us the opportunity to touch these sensations while steadying our nervous system with the breath and rhythmic movements. Facilitating calm presence and awareness so we can go through whatever experience we are having. Cultivating the strength and awareness to sensitize to the subtleties. So that we can experience intensity – and boredom, which can be even more overwhelming – without losing our grounding or having to react. Potentially. Sometimes. With practice. And when we practice this, we are more likely to find this presence in the moment as we need it.
We don’t have to cover ourselves in the ashes of the dead and meditate in the cremation grounds or practice the 5 M’s of the ritual consumption of meat, alcohol and sex in order to be able to help ourselves become strong and sensitive in the face of that which has potential power over us. Such practices can be seen as metaphor, and we can bring the potential of them into our every encounter – grounding ourselves and staying present in whatever we do in our lives, experiencing the fullness of every moment.
Although, as it is said, nothing is forbidden, nothing is advised. There is no one stock way to behave that fits everyone and every circumstance, it is very subjective. It is up to us to learn what is useful for us and those around us, and what causes harm. And be really honest with ourselves about this. We suffer when we won’t learn. Our karmas are the lessons we need to learn to evolve, and if we refuse to learn them and keep trying the same things that aren’t working, we have to learn the same hard lessons over and over again. Tantra teaches us to notice our intentions and experience the results, and as much as possible, learn to move from a place of respect and love over greed. Liberating what is obstructed in ourselves.