Tantra as described by Isabel Allende in Aphrodite

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Tantra as described by Isabel Allende in Aphrodite

I have been reading Isabel Allende’s Aphrodite – The food of love and the love of food. Much of the book is an exploration of aphrodisiacs – tantalizing and amusing reading. I was particularly touched by what this charming lady had to say about Tantra, and quote the paragraphs here as they deserve some discussion:

“In Tantric rites in India they use a mixture of hashish, honey and ambergris. This cult, whose followers have been persecuted for more than two thousand years, predates Hinduism and is related to yoga in that both place an emphasis on breathing and asanas, but Tantra also explores the possibilities of eroticism as a path of illumination. The idea is to transform the libido into spiritual energy. From the point of view of a grandmother who still has not renounced the sins of lust and fantasy, one of the more interesting aspects of the practice is the variety of Tantric exercises intended to prolong the tension before the man reaches climax, thus guaranteeing the woman’s pleasure and unified orgasm. Sad that there is such a sparse number of Tantric initiates on these shores… Oh, well, nothing to be gained in regrets, better to do as Aesop’s fox did when he couldn’t reach the grapes, and say that since they were green he wasn’t interested in them anyway.

My experience with this mode of sensuality is limited to an incident involving a pair of gloves. Once, many years ago, I needed to buy gloves because it was such a cold autumn in Venice. I went into a shop about as wide as a closet where in a glass showcase there was a display of the most beautifully made gloves. The clerk – or maybe he was the owner – was a prim little man who affected the magician’s moustache and a dark three-piece suit. He took my hands in his as if he were holding a wounded dove and with such amorous care that I felt a shiver run down my spine and all my body hair stand on end. A wave of sweetish cologne wafted into my nostrils as he bent over my hands. I thought he was going ot kiss them and had an instant’s panic, but instead he limited himself to inspecting them closely, for a long time, as if he were studying a diamond. Then he turned my hands over so that the backs rested on his palms, which were dry and very warm, like fresh baked loaves of bread. With unbearable lightness and deliberation, his index finger followed the lines of my destiny, burshed the tips of my fingers, traced circles of fire around my wrists. Blood was pounding in my temples, and he obviously knew that, becasue he could feel it pulsing in the veigns of my wrists. He raised his eyes and looked at me without smiling. We both knew; I think we stopped breathing for an eternal moment, until I couldn’t stand it any longer and turned my face away, embarrassed. He murmured something in Italian that to my ears sounded like a declaration of love, but it may have been the price of the gloves. Fiinally, reluctantly, he released my hands to go ot the drawer and pull out a pair of sepia-coloured chamois gloves as soft as a squirrel’s belly. And then, with infinite concentration, he began to fit them on my hand, finger by finger, looking into my eyes, pausing at each point, panting, his lips moist. I was twenty-three years old, and that man must haave been at least sixty, but our ages were erased and we both entered the eternal limbo of illusory lovers.

That happened thirty hears ago, yet I still remember with absolute precision the feelings I lived in those moments. I have never forgotten either the extact hue of the gloves, the floral scent of his cologne, or the perverse softness of his hands caressing mine – least of all, my terrible excitement. Ever since that time I have regarded my hands with affection because I see them through the eyes of that Italian glove salesman. That, I believe, is Tantra.”

Isn’t that an exquisite description of a moment fully lived and felt? With her sensitivity as an artist, Allende has touched some thing of the essence of Tantra here: Tantra is a practice of presence, and encouragement towards total immersion in the moment.

I would just make one slight but significant shift in emphasis: Imagine the same scene taking place, but this time, the glove salesman devotes himself to a full appreciation of the young lady’s hands without any of the emotional intensity of a potentially anguished lover. Tantra is an experience of overflow: We love, we devote ourselves to the moment, because it flows from us. As we give, we release. There is none of the fame of “mon ami – maybe you’ll be mine” in Tantric gesture. And sure, and intense love for, or attraction to someone can be what draws or inspires us to that quality of presence. But let it be stated clearly that Tantra is not a device for turning you into a better seductress or even a better lover. Those happen as a consequence, but our aim is elsewhere. We are interested in love without limits. in meeting every moment, and every person, as the beloved.

Tantra is a movement towards the natural of sexuality. When we open to the full potential of our sexuality, it becomes a huge force for awakening. Whereas in past ages of Tantric practice, gurus would get their students into all manner of complex asanas, today our direction is more feminine, receptive, and intuitive. We teach you to feel in your own body what the ancient gurus were trying to convey through putting their students in those asanas.

And yes, through Tantric practice your energy will open up so much eventually that you will feel no need any more to end a lovemaking session with ejaculation. The skill we teach is receptivity, openness, responsiveness to what is.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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