In the early and mid-90's I wrote a column for (the now-defunct) "Tantra, the Magazine". It was an extraordinary publication and well worth your time if you can find a copy. My column was called "Why Tantra?", a title that offered me a wide space to explore my ideas about Tantra in those days. Because so many Americans are more motivated when they have a sufficient answer to the question, "What's in it for me?" I have continually needed to consider how to provide useful answers, so people can have some certainty about why and how it will benefit them to study and practice Tantra. In this series I will share from my ever-unfolding understanding.
Perhaps even before the "why" question is the "what" question: What is Tantra really about and what does it set out to accomplish? So the questions include not only, "What is Tantra?" but also, "What do I need to do to experience Tantra?" After years of studying, practicing, teaching, and observing many people learning Tantra, I have come to the following opinions and perspectives. I believe that what creates the experience of authentic, sacred Tantra and the ability to replicate that experience is a constellation of the following factors. Quite simply, what is required is: a quiet mind, an open heart, a loving "sacred attitude," an increased personal vibration, and the ability to skillfully move internal energy, including sexual energy. Each and all of these require cultivation. Cultivation requires practice so that skill and reliability can be developed. And each of these feeds and is fed synergistically by the others, thus creating Tantra.
Clearly (from observing myself and thousands of students) it's very difficult to maintain a truly sacred attitude without a quiet mind. As long as the mind is busy in the past, regretting, lamenting, or holding onto memories, or busy in the future, planning, worrying, fantasizing, seeking satisfaction, etc., there is insufficient space for the type of awareness that qualifies as a loving, sacred attitude. If you look lovingly at someone you love, there will be a warm feeling generated between the two of you. But as soon as a worry thought, an agenda thought, regret, or past hurt thought, etc., creeps in, the feeling will change and the warmth (love) will diminish. To sustain the loving connection requires a quiet mind, and to go even deeper into a Tantric connection requires a certain style of thinking and awareness. This includes being completely in the present, choosing to think only positive, loving, sacred thoughts, and in between the thoughts relaxing into a quality of empty mind I call spaciousness. So there is more to "quiet mind" than daydreaming, and more to "sacred attitude" than loving thoughts.
Obviously, quiet mind requires training and practice, especially the sustaining of quiet mind. The true, authentic, sacred path of Tantra is based primarily on meditation, awareness, and energy, not on high pleasure and great sex as is often thought. One can have high pleasure and great sex and not have either quiet mind or sacred attitude. The difference will be significant, both in the quality of the experience and in the healing and karmic repercussions. One can occasionally have moments of quiet mind and even chance upon sacred attitude while experiencing high pleasure and great sex, yet over time, the spiritual progress is far less than for one who is committed to practices which cultivate quiet mind and sacred attitude.
Like quiet mind, true sacred attitude nearly always needs to be learned, practiced, and cultivated. This brings us to the important role of the lineages of teachers in true sacred Tantra. The likelihood of advancing in the wisdom of sacred attitude while partnering with others who are only as progressed spiritually as ourselves is much less than from studying with someone who has stabilized their consciousness in the realms of pure unconditional love, sacred intention, holy thoughts, perpetual gratitude, Namaste, and spiritual awareness - the realms of enlightened sacred attitude. Throughout the history of Tantra the lineages of master teachers have carried many students forward into liberation and enlightenment.
Cultivating the sacred attitude of the masters also has a profound affect on the quality and capacity of another necessary aspect of authentic sacred Tantra - the "open heart." The Tibetans refer to this characteristic as "the heart of compassion", and compassion is recognized as a more evolved version of love. Thus, the ability to sustain an open heart is to live and interact from a position of compassion, caring, and unselfishness. The Buddhists call this "Metta" or "loving kindness." The Sufis often refer to mercy and compassion and place those thoughts unceasingly on each breath.
What forms the foundation for quiet mind, sacred attitude, and open heart are the regular, committed practices - the Tantric energy meditations. I call them "energy meditations" because they are designed to cultivate the ability to skillfully focus, increase, expand or contain, and move energy. The regular practice of these energy meditations not only serves to quiet the mind, it also opens the heart and supports sacred attitude by bringing energetic activation to the heart chakra, the third eye, and the crown chakra. Furthermore, it is the synergy of the energy meditations with these other qualities that raises the vibrational rate of the Tantric practitioner, allowing him/her to enter into higher realms of consciousness and energy, alone or with a skillful partner. In subsequent columns I will expand upon the topic of Tantric energy meditations and include the relationship of the sexual practices to this total "Tantric equation." May these thoughts encourage you to continue your practices, and sustain your intention to quiet your mind, open your heart, and cultivate sacred attitude. Blessings to all.