How You can Access the Bliss of Tantric Practice
I‘m in an ashram in India, gratefully sipping papaya lassi from a straw. Friends told me that in India, you eat curry all the time – and so in my great enthusiasm about finally being in this mystical country, I had curry for breakfast and lunch the previous day… And vomited all night. My body refused to eat again… Until I discovered papaya lassi.
The sweetness of the papaya settles like rose petals on my tongue. And the sour of the lassi – a yogurt-like drink – carries the papaya down my gut like liquid honey.
I’m on a mission in India to connect with the Tantric tradition of this country. Tantra means “weave” – and it refers to the practice of integrating – or weaving together – transcendent realization with life in the body on earth. Tantric masters over the ages have paid much attention to the way consciousness moves in our sexuality, and elaborate practices have been developed to access the spiritual essence of our sexuality – both in solo and couple’s practice.
As grace would have it, I find myself in my first stop immersed in deep Tantric practice. The effect of the practice is rippling through my being. As I’m siting here savoring my papaya lassi, there is an intimate awareness of life flowing through my body. Even the slightest breath becomes so pleasurable that I can hardly contain my delight. People walking by look exquisitely beautiful. I see the light surrounding them – and I’m in love with them all. Most of all, I’m in love with myself. Life moves in slow motion. My body feels languid like a cat.
The Tantric practice I have been learning has a steady rhythm with many different forms. A group of strangers are coming together to practice. We are paired up and come to sit opposite each other, fully clothed. Following the instruction, we enter into a meditation practice focused on breath, sound or subtle movement.
After a while, we are instructed to come together with our partner. The classic position for the partner practice is Yub Yum – woman sitting on the man’s lap with legs wrapped around him. Same sex partners can choose who’s on top. There are a number of other possible positions. We get comfortable and continue the practice we were doing on our own. Bodies are communing in the subtlest flow as breaths merge, sounds fuse, movement becomes a river. After a while, we are instructed to separate again, sit opposite each other and continue the practice on our own.
Often times after a practice, I find myself meeting my practice partner in great wonder. In the inner inquiry, we see and feel each other’s beauty so clearly – even though each time it is apparent that this one with me – the body of the great Beloved expressed as this one in front of me now – is not the one my being chooses to share her bed with. Some tentative explorations make this more clear. I’m wondering how it would be to do these practices with a lover.
And thus, a seed gets planted. For the rest of my time in India, traveling to ancient Tantric temples and meeting practitioners of the original Tantric temple dance, my being is awash with the bliss of what I experienced through these Tantric meditations. Nothing else compares. There is a fire of desire burning in me to share these practices back home. As I open to this desire, the way starts to take shape through me. The touch of silk on my skin, the smell of rotting vegetables and incense, the shape of clouds between prayer flags, the texture of fruits – everything reveals more of the hidden mysteries of these Tantric practices. And it’s coming through my body, as if guided by some inner guru reminding me of an ancient mystery.
The meditation practices that we did in the ashram were based on a Tantric text called the Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra. This book of instruction is framed as a conversation between the divine masculine (Shiva) and his beloved Devi (the feminine divine). The Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra is introduced like this:
O Shiva, what is your reality?
What is this wonder-filled universe?
What constitutes seed?
Who centres the universal wheel?
What is this life beyond form pervading forms?
How may we enter it fully,
above space and time,
names and descriptions?
Let my doubts be cleared!
[Devi, though already enlightened, has asked the foregoing questions so others through the universe might receive Shiva’s instructions. Now follow Shiva’s reply, giving the 112 ways.]1
1 Paul Reps. 1972. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. Penguin Books, Middlesex England: p153. 4
What follows this introduction is a description of 112 Tantric meditations. 2.
The verses are mesmerizing in their poeticism. Here are a few:
Sweet princess, while being caressed, enter everlasting life.
When breath is all out and stopped of itself, or all in and stopped – in such universal pause, one’s small self vanishes. This is difficult only for the impure.
At the start of sexual union, keep attentive on the fire in the beginning, and so continuing, avoid the embers in the end.
As I read these verses, the keys they hold reveal themselves to me as practices I can share with others. It’s a dance of pure beauty, the revelation. I see a gateway into the unfathomable depths of bliss and beauty that these practices can open for two people who come together to deepen in truth and love – and to turn their lovemaking into a meditation.
Back home in South Africa, I arrange a retreat focused on sharing these practices. Totally unexpectedly, a man walks into my life at this time. He happens to have been practicing Tantra for close on 20 years.
We assemble in the forest retreat space. People are coming from all walks of life, and entering in with some curiosity, some aloofness – and a lot of willingness. We begin the practice the Friday night.
Halfway through Saturday, the new man in my life takes my hand and looks at me with pure awe. “In all my years of Tantric practice,” he says, “I’ve never seen people drop so deeply so quickly.” The state of bliss is tangible in the hall. The silence of the forest is whispering through the rhythms of people breathing. Everyone is dropping deeper and deeper. As happened to me, they are falling in love with each other – but most of all, with themselves.
At the end of the retreat, a man and a woman drive off together, compelled by the wave that opened between them. Now, seven years later, they are still together, and more in love than ever. They remember that retreat as a time of sacred initiation into the Tantric mysteries… And of being opened to unfathomable ecstasy.
Over the years, I continue to share these practices with couples, and see the astounding results. One couple who have been immersing themselves in these practices for years share:
From a couple who have immersed themselves in these meditations:
“As our bodies touch, and we begin breathing together, the slowness and the relaxation move me into a beautiful space of openness, where I feel the subtlety of sensations I wouldn’t have noticed earlier, and become present and quietly aware… in love with the moment, in love with my husband, in love with myself. I give thanks for the gift of this love, this stillness, this bliss.” – Kerry, partner of Dion.
“As I move into the slowness and stillness of our togetherness, I feel the oneness growing within, building in intensity, the present moment being the only moment. I feel everything, yet am aware of nothing but overwhelming love. The intensity of my breath merges with the intensity of the energy building within. My mind, body and soul become one, within me, with my beloved and with the world around me.” – Dion, partner of Kerry.
I returned from the mystical land of India, many years back, with a deep appreciation for the quality of devotion I met there – and a deep knowing that Truth and Love reside in as and are ready to reveal themselves from within. Thus too, the mysteries of Tantric practice are waiting for you to discover them. All you need to do is dive in – and start practicing.
To make your journey of discovery easier, I have created an audio, video and e-book course for couples that is available to you in the privacy of your bedroom, right now. It’s called Ten Tantric Partner Meditations – a carefully selected compilation of my practices inspired by the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra. As February is the month of celebrating intimate love, I’m offering you a free video and guided audio of one of the beautiful Tantric partner practices.
If you’re reading this and don’t have a lover – or you’re in relationship but would like to also practice on your own – I have good news for you! You can deepen in Tantric partner practice on your own. Have a look at my free video series for women, and for men.
I know that these practices can transform your relationship with your own sexuality and the intimacy between you and your beloved. More than that, I know that they can support you in falling in love with yourself – and life – like never before.