Practical Tantra: Intro to the Rasas and Anuttara – Tasting the Emotions: Working with Desire

Tantric practices often work with emotions or situations that tend to be overwhelming, helping us to gain the stability to be awake and present in the experience without getting lost in it.  Every experience and emotion has something to teach us, and when we can stay aware in it, we are more likely to learn the lesson sooner, without having to repeat the lesson as many times to begin to receive the teaching.

One of my teachers, Parvathi Nanda Nath Saraswati, offers the practices of the rasas, or tastes, as a way to practice being able to taste the experience of different emotions in a liberated state, so that when we encounter these emotions in real time, we have experience with being able to go through them without blocking them or getting stuck in them.  We can recall the liberated qualities evoked in the meditation right in the moment when we need it, when these emotions come up in our day to day lives.  The meditations are also really potent when struggling with one of these emotions, to breathe in the liberated qualities while sitting or lying down to help re-balance ourselves.

From this standpoint, there is no inherent good or bad per se, yet different qualities can be in a liberated or obstructed form.  When aspects of ourselves are obstructed, we can become aware of this and try to set up the conditions so that they can shift to a more liberated state.

One meditation that is particularly useful for me is for dealing with desire.  This can be desire for anything that you really want, where you, and maybe even those around you, are suffering because of your attachment to the desire.  Whether you are able to fulfill it currently or not.

Starting with the anuttara pranayam, a breathing exercise where you don’t actively breathe the breath, yet let the breath breathe you automatically.  Which is interesting in itself – it can be challenging to pay attention to the breath – or anything – without controlling it.  I have come to experience it as that the action is getting out of the way of the flow of the breath and letting it breathe me deeply.  Like I am removing the dams from the tidal river of the breath and allowing it to flow in and out at will.  You may still be controlling it some.  Just do your best.  To do as little as possible.  And remove the resistance.  At least part of the experiential metaphor here that you are not the do-er of your actions, allowing things to come to you.  Setting up the conditions to be open and ready, and then just receive.  Paying attention all the while.

Each emotion has different qualities that evoke the taste of that emotion in a liberated state.  For desire, they are trust, detachment and respect as a form of adoration.  Just let that sit with you for a moment.

Desire can be grasping, trusting you will be ok.  Whether you get it or not.  That how things play out is how they play out and that you will be able to work with it much better if you don’t fight the inevitable but work with what you are given.  Not giving up, but utilizing what is in front of you instead of wishing it was different.  Desire as the inspiration, some detachment from the results.  Or perhaps non-attachment – not numbing yourself to the desire yet moving back from the drama a little bit to get some perspective.  I experience it like I am coming back into myself, back into my body, after losing my grounding by grasping outside of myself.   As Parvathi has suggested, moving forward to toward the desire, moving back away from the object of desire.

And respect as a form of adoration.  Key.  We adore what we desire, except of course when we hate it when it eludes us.   Respecting that which we desire, rather than dishonoring or even abusing it by grasping for it to fulfill our wants or perceived needs.  Even if we think we trying to be nice, forcing something is not respect.  When we can trust and let go of our attachment to the object of desire, perhaps we can respect it.  Adoration through respect.  This can really shift things for me.

You can just think these qualities, or let them breathe in and out of you on the anuttara breath.  If you are in a state of desire, let the qualities come in see what that feels like.  If you are experimenting with the meditation, you can flash the memory of the sensation of desire to feel it for a moment, without getting to caught up in the story around it, just feeling the sensation.  The experiential metaphor is this – you allow these qualities to come into you on the in-breath, they mix with your own trust, detachment and respect as a form of adoration, and then they pour out of you on the exhalation and mix with the collective trust, detachment and respect of the universe around you, and then the collective pours back into you, mixes with you…  With each breath the collective become stronger.  You don’t have to fight for it, grasp for it, what you need to liberate desire will come to you if you let it.  When you are open to receive it.

Try it.  It can be pretty profound.  You can do it while sitting or lying down, in yoga postures, driving your car, anywhere really.  If there are different qualities that come to you that are useful, experiment with them too.  These practices are not static, they evolve through us.  Paying attention to what is really useful, we find what works for us.

Practicing in a special defined ceremony of meditation or yoga can help instill the liberated qualities of desire inside of you so when it consumes you in the moment you will maybe remember to stay steady and have some tools to navigate the intensity.  Maybe.  Or maybe you just watch yourself be consumed and learn to do better next time.  We learn as we go, trying to get burnt by our grasping as little as possible along the way.

There are other rasas to play with, I’ll add more later.

Love

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