Originating in what is now modern India; Tantra is at least 5000 years old, pre-dating and influencing both Hinduism and Buddhism.
Many religions believe you can have either physical pleasure or spiritual growth, but not both. Tantra flatly disagrees, believing that physical and sensual pleasures are themselves the key to our spiritual growth; without one, you can’t have the other.
Tantrics believe working on our bodies can clear them of accumulated rubbish, enabling healing and re-integration with the surrounding spirit energy. Central to Tantra is its belief in this spirit or energy force, and that the universe – and us individually – are all filled with the same energy. Crucially, Tantrics believe that any repression of this energy leaves us unbalanced and damaged.
Tantra rejects the repressive, moralistic, self-denying code of living propounded by many religions, where our body’s sexual or sensual needs are met with guilt, more guilt, repression, denial and punishment. Where, when attention is paid to bodily needs, it’s usually aimed at avoidance, for example of disease or pregnancy. Little attention is paid to the development and expansion of our body’s sensuality; no teaching us how to embrace it, value it.
Tantrics believe that to grow as complete beings, blockages need clearing from both our physical and psychic systems. Most people accept the idea of physical systems. We all know we have a Liver, Heart, and Stomach for example – but psychic systems? Controversial – but nevertheless, most major religions, do believe that we are more than our physical body.
Tantrics believe that a powerful spirit energy, lives in our Base Chakra, situated between our legs. Once released, it rises through our system. If dormant, our knowledge is limited; aroused it allows the natural spiritual growth we should be experiencing. This vital energy- Kundalini – is ‘fed’ along channels called Meridians. Any obstruction lessens energy flow, much as a kinked hose-pipe produces only a reduced water supply.
Many believe that one manifestation of the ‘Life Energy’ is the Aura. Whether it is actually an aura, with its quasi-religious overtones or ‘only electricity’ is, hotly debated. Some recent scientific research however confirms a generalized electromagnetic current around our body and that all tissue and each individual organ, such as the Heart and the Brain also generates an individual impulse.
Is there a link between this comparatively recent research and the Tantric belief in the Chakra system – spinning wheels of energy, spiralling throughout our body, where the various aspects and levels of our ‘being’ are merged? As with the Meridians, however, factors such as lifestyle, conditioning, guilt, diet, prevent them from fully functioning. Once they’re ‘clogged’ we become sluggish, under-performing.
Tantrics, and some modern therapies, believe we have many such blockages and that trauma, such as remembered grief, pain, embarrassment, physical or emotional abuse, remains stored in our body. The effects of this early blocking continue throughout our life, reducing our well-being, our energy; we may, perhaps, constrict our throats because of childhood conditioning to ‘don’t cry,’ or ‘don’t shout’. Our pelvis may be rigid through our attempts to stifle our genital urges. Our anal sphincter may have tightened, and remain tight as the result of our early – and long forgotten – attempts to repress anger.
Believing our body is utterly central to our well-being; Tantrics use many techniques to ‘repair’ it. One such is massage, it’s believed that massage and Tantric techniques can help break down blockages and flush them out, – that the massage can heal us. Tantric massage uses many techniques familiar in other massages, so what differentiates it from other forms of massage? We would suggest five things:
i) Therapeutic masseurs focus on direct physical benefits; sensualists see pleasure as an end in itself. Tantrics go further, believing that the pleasure is the gateway to spirituality – the means to an end.
ii) In Tantra we give without seeking a return; receive without feeling we have to reciprocate.
iii) It is a way of giving and receiving sensual pleasure without needing to perform in any sexual way.
iv) No externally imposed barriers exist as to where, what and how to touch. The only barriers are those that we, as responsible adults have decided will be there. If the agreement allows exploration of the whole of your partner’s body, they –and you –may find new, totally unexpected, areas of enjoyment. Many Westerners tend to be very genitally orientated. We overlook the other 95% of our body, much of which is capable of giving differing but equally exquisite responses. In this way, Tantra continues the liberation many feel when they realize that touch is both natural and mutually enriching.
v) There are techniques for both breathing and massaging particular areas of the body, such as the Chakras or genitals that are specific to Tantra, or the Chinese Tao.
Tantra is a letting go, a sensual journey that can lead to astounding joy. Striving to be open and honest, it is an uplifting but disciplined approach to the body. It permits – encourages – a freedom to experience, experiment, enjoy and openly delight in our body in a way that we in the West can find in turns, alarming, exhilarating, shaming and – perhaps – ultimately liberating. The results of this openness, allied to it’s emphasis on the journey not the destination being important can be astounding for those used to concentrating on the journey’s end ( i.e. ejaculation for the man which it discourages, and, if she’s lucky, orgasm for the woman). It allows time for us to focus on our partner and their body’s varied sensations. Tantra has, few, if any, taboos, provided –and it is a big proviso – that whatever is done is done with mutual respect and unforced agreement. Power, coercion, emotional blackmail or exploitation is not acceptable in Tantra.
Tantra is the ultimate massage the ultimate gift to yourself and others.