“Tantra refers to this step [of re-directing sexual energy through relaxation instead of tension] as placing a foot on the first step of the ladder of growth.” Richardson
Why does it usually seem that our spiritual practices are so separate from our sexual behavior? In the interest of body-mind integration, BoBuReview checks out a non-Buddhist book on sexual tantra, or tantra yoga, to see if and/or where there are any lines of convergence between our upper and lower charkas.
If we follow Buddhism’s middle way, we know the wisdom of avoiding extremes. Over-indulgence in sex will not help us on the path to realization. But neither will pretending we don’t have bodies, or trying to repress/deny/ignore our sexuality. We need to work intelligently with our vital energy – thigles, in Tibetan – otherwise practice can become dry, dull, or overly intellectual. And to be frank, most of us could use some sexual healing.
For practitioners especially, the more we understand our sexuality, the more likely we are to channel it into spiritually-productive pathways. As author Diana Richardson says, “As prevalent as sex is, it is a rare person who has discovered a way to derive full satisfaction or a loving heart from its practice.” Ms. Richardson is rather like a tantric goddess who has come to give us some much-needed sexual instruction, but from a spiritual perspective.
Diana Richardson is dynamically unembarrassed about sex, as well as learned in healthy ways of using it to open our hearts and enhance awareness. She describes the ascending and descending phases of sexual energy; the spiritual path emphasizes the former, while the biological emphasizes the latter.
“Tantra refers to this step [of re-directing sexual energy through relaxation instead of tension] as placing a foot on the first step of the ladder of growth.” Richardson claims that our tendency of “goal-orientation,” making sex into another item on our already-full To Do list, results in haste, which “effectively and seriously” represses our sexual energy. In this regard, Richardson’s book is a stand-in for a sex therapist who would first remind us to reclaim our sexuality before we can use tantra to transform it. “We only know how to ‘do’ in love, and not how to ‘be’ in love.”
Richardson gives many specific practices to counteract our cultural uncomfortability with sex. “In the Western world . . . we keep busy to avoid facing the insecurities or anxieties we may feel about love and intimacy.” Even more relevant may be her insight that sexual tension “lives on as frustrated desire [lung, in Tibetan], that accumulates with time and is continually seeking release.” (And, needless to say, ends up being a destructive force in our lives if left unhealed.)
Yet, when we “validate sexuality by incorporating consciousness . . . we discover sex to be a [natural] healing spiritual force.” Contrary to ordinary sexual attraction, which tends to decrease over time, Richardson states that with tantra, “attraction increases [as] the sexual experience gets finer and finer.”
One of the more surprising statements she makes, based on years of study, practice, and counseling her own clients, is that Tantra’s “positive poles of love” are the male organ and the female breasts. “These two polarities must be drawn into love-making in order to avoid great dissatisfaction in sex.”
Diana Richardson claims that real female kundalini energy “lies not at the spinal base . . . but in the breasts.” She elaborates on her findings in a thought-provoking section on generating sexual energy through polarity. “Making love in this way, utilizing polarity, begins the process of establishing a powerful energy field between and within two bodies. Bio-electricity flowing within the magnetic field follows a spiral path . . . the kundalini energy, located at the base of the male spine.”
“The Heart of Tantric Sex” makes it clear that when the breasts (and thus the heart) of a woman “are fully resonant, this snake [of kundalini energy] will implode, gracefully unwinding and giving way within.” Which might result in what many people are looking for with coitus, i.e., the best sex ever.
Improved gender relations involve a return to true masculine-feminine polarity, not as dominant-submissive, but as attractive opposite forces that complement each other. “Falling into balance through this intrinsic polarity creates harmony, understanding, respect, and mutual appreciation.”
For those on the path who are in loving relationships, the art of sexual tantra (as opposed to deity practice) is the “union of sex and meditation . . . awareness transforms sex into love.” While I’m not sure there is such a thing as easy sex magic, Richardson writes like a tantric dakini who wants us to share in the joys of sacred sex.
“Tantra roots the consciousness in the body and uses it as a constant reference point, enabling us to stay increasingly in the present moment . . . Indeed [since] the body is the only thing that exists in the present moment, learning to live through the body increases our chances of overall happiness.”
Even though everyone presumably enjoys orgasm, if not multiple orgasms, obviously tantric love-making isn’t for everyone. It requires that we take the time to be still and drop our agendas and allow our emotions, tears as well as laughter, to come to the surface. All of which can be very unsettling for the ego – and precisely why it can be good for spiritual practice.
As an expert in tantra techniques, Richardson is an unapologetic crusader for a return to “a sense of uncontrived aliveness in the body, which is as essential to the act of meditation as it is to making love.”
She outlines a series of exercises, including tantric massage, to enhance this aliveness, from using our breathing as a bridge between mind/thinking and body/feeling, to deep, open-eyed gazing between partners to increase emotional connection, to communicating how we’re feeling in the present moment, including during the act of sex.
“The more the mask of the personality is challenged and dissolved, the deeper the experience of Tantric union.”
If we can question our sexual conditioning and reframe sex as a support for our spiritual practice, incorporating some of Richardson’s tantric lovemaking ideas, we may be able to transform ordinary desire into a rare and delightful fuel on the path to awakening for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Curated by Erbe