What is Tantra
What is Tantra? To tell you that, I first need to give you a quick bit of background about us.
For about five years, Jodie and myself ran Tantra workshops as The Temple Space. We were based in Melbourne initially, then Bali, and then Brisbane in Australia. In the end we stopped the work, (Edit: as of January 2020 we are starting to run small workshops in Tantra & Meditation once again, see the Events section for details).
We already both had a lot of experience in Tantra and other areas of sexual and sensual education too, like BDSM and erotica, but our Heart Yoga Tantra workshops were very vanilla and were the entry point for people to come and experience the basics of what Tantra really is about.
We ran regular weekly workshops in meditation and Tantra, and those two things complemented each other nicely. The more meditative, calm, and centered you can become, then the more aware you can be of the subtle sensations going on, in, and around us. Slowing down and becoming aware of the subtle, helps us to understand and experience Tantra properly.
We kept the workshops small so that everyone could have a chance to give and get feedback during the events, and also to get a really good understanding of just what this Tantra thing was all about.
So what is it about? Well, let me first explain what it is NOT about…
The Many Schools of Tantra
There are many different views and many different schools of thought about what exactly Tantra is. In our book we define two distinct differences between what we came to call Eastern Tantra and Western Tantra.
In short, Eastern Tantra is an ancient pathway of wisdom that has been around for many thousands of years, it is rooted in India, and does not just involve sexuality, but is a way of life covering everything from how to run a household to how to follow a spiritual path to enlightenment.
While Western Tantra, on the other hand, has been around since the 1960’s, though probably started a lot earlier, and it is more rooted in the ideas of sensuality, and sexuality, and feeling good with another person.
There is very little real spiritual context to Western Tantra, though people often try to sell it as something magical, it usually is a bit fake or shallow in comparison to Eastern Tantra.
Eastern Tantra takes years of hard work and practice to understand and master, while Western Tantra is really about slowing down and getting rid of the bad habits we have around communication and connnection with another person. We do less, not more.
Understanding these distinctions is important, because we found that a lot of people were confused by expectations when coming to our workshops. Some people came to the workshops expecting to have group sex and instant orgasmic experiences, while others came expecting to be meditating their way to enlightenment by the end of a few hours work.
Today, unfortunately, a lot of people run Tantra workshops with a glass of champagne on the way in and a few hours of teasing and sex talk, with a potential for a hook-up. That really is not Eastern or Western Tantra, that is something else.
Western Tantra is also not 50 Shades of Grey, which is a terrible film if you understand BDSM at all. Really that film just advocates dysfunctional behaviour while suggesting that is what BDSM is all about. It isn’t. I will talk about BDSM in other posts, but 50 Shades of Grey and playing mind/emotional games with other people to manipulate them for sexual thrills, is not Western Tantra either.
Eastern Tantra is far too big a subject to enter into here, but what we will talk about is Western Tantra, and what exactly it is, or rather, what it should be if you go to the right place to find out about it.
So what exactly is Western Tantra?
For us, in our workshops, we decided to define what we did as ‘Heart Yoga’ Tantra because it is really about getting into your heart and out of your head, (Not out of your head like being high or drunk, but rather getting your attention down into your body, and to do that we focused a lot on the heart during our workshops).
Heart Yoga Tantra was definitely in the Western Tantra bracket, because it was about sensuality, but importantly it was about slowing everything down. Not moving about, but rather becoming very still, and then becoming aware of the exquisite subtleties of energy present in each sensation that we felt. We try to tune into that subtle awareness, and as you can imagine, it makes sense that it requires slowing down.
Heart Yoga Tantra can lead you to the Eastern Tantra path because it is a kind of meditation too. We go into it in more detail in the book mentioned above.
What we did at our Tantra workshops
The first thing we did was to get people to become silent, calm, and still when in front of another person. Rather than letting all the excitement overwhelm us and our mind rush about thinking of what we wanted to do to, or experience with the other person, instead we advised everyone to center their focus inside themselves instead and not project outward. This is important.
We would begin by focusing on the heart, our own heart, and let our energy slow down by doing so. Breathing deeply to facilitate that calming stillness and focus. Then we would start to observe the energy of the person in front of us, or rather, the space between us both. That is where the subtle sensations start to reveal themselves. That is the art of Tantra – finding the subtle energy and then just observing it, not trying to do anything with it.
It is important that we do not do lots of talking in our interactions, but rather sit, or stand in front of them quietly, even if you have never met them before. Introductions are not needed in Tantra and to some extent are avoided because they are habits of the uncomfortable Mind, not the body. Bodies need no introduction, they simply read the energy of the other person without much effort from us.
We have all been trained to talk in order to cover up our discomfort. So instead of doing that, we encouraged everyone to be still, quiet, and just observe the energy of others without saying anything, but while we observe them, we focus on keeping ourselves inside ourselves, we stay focused on the energy in our heart. We do not project outward, and especially not lustfully. or with wanton desire.
Putting it simply, we just quietly observe the ‘energy‘ of what is going on between ourselves and the other person. Is there excitement? is there repulsion? is it energetic? or is it still? Do we feel discomfort, or longing, or anger, or sexual, or loving, or sad, or just odd, or any number of feelings? Whatever we feel, we do nothing with it, we just observe it from a place of stillness while we remain in our heart centre.
And you know what? The moment you start doing that, you are engaging in Tantra. It really is that simple to get started.
Is that it? So what happens next?
This experience of silently observing another person, who is also silently observing you, is challenging as well as powerfully transforming. All the small-talk is dropped, all the confusion of making conversation is thrown away. Instead we allow the body to take over from our mind, and our body is very good at observing the energy of another person and knowing what is going on with that.
Where the mind would usually run mad trying to think of things to say and then miss the whole experience, instead we are sat quietly in front of someone who is observing us too. It is impossible to explain just how powerful that is, until you try it. It is something we have all been missing out on.
It really is a beautiful experience and very calming, but most of all, it is very connecting. You don’t have to do a thing, just sit there and experience being in front of another person, in silence, while observing each other’s energy.
That is it! Really, you are doing Tantra at that point! Trust me, it will feel incredibly powerful and not weird at all. Most people can’t believe how powerful such a thing can be until they experience it for themselves. It is actually completely mind-blowing and beautiful. We should be interacting in this way more often.
But…Tantra can’t be that simple!!!
Well, yes, actually it can be that simple. Everyone is naturally an expert at Tantra, but they do not realise it. Why? Because our minds are too busy and never stop calculating, analyzing, thinking, running mad, and trying to figure everything out. We also lust and crave, or dislike and feel averse to everything. Basically, our minds are in the way of us having a decent connection with another human being. All quite safely and without touch too, I might add.
Once you get the Mind’s distractions and the meaningless talk out of the way, then the body and the heart can function with the energy that is happening between you and the person in front of you anyway. Then you start to observe that, and a whole new world opens up. That, is the world of Tantra.
The thing is, we have all been taught to talk, think, and act like dis-associated maniacs when around each other. We are all about ego and show, proving our value and competing. This is an awful way to interact. We all try to impress each other, be interesting, be socially wonderful and exciting. It is all complete rubbish and fakery. We should throw it out as a terrible way to meet new people, and instead meet up and sit in front of each other quietly, observe the energy of each other for a little while first before engaging. Not do anything, just be there. Then we might realise that there really is nothing to add or take away, as a person we already are everything that we need to be. It is far more natural and also a relief from social pressure to function this way.
Every workshop, we would see people come along thinking this was silly but they were willing to give it a go, it all seemed like it was nothing. Then they would try it, and then they would realise they have never sat quietly in front of another person before in their life! And once they experienced it for themselves, they could not get enough.
What if someone can’t get calm?
There are tricks to help people get into their body, to calm their mind and to get their attention down into their heart. That is why we called it Heart Yoga Tantra, because we know the ways to help encourage people to do that.
Our workshops encouraged it and we never failed to get people into the right kind of place for them to feel what was going on, but there really is nothing to it once you get shown the basics.
The Temple Space is The Heart.
We ran our workshops as The Temple Space by which we literally meant, the heart of a person. Everything we did came from the heart, or brought us back to it.
The heart is an intelligent organ, equal to the mind in power and communication capability. The heart is where Tantra functions from best. In our workshops we used the heart to connect with each other, and with complete strangers too. It works very well. It knows what to do much better than the mind does (or the sex organs for that matter, which just create chaotic energy). The mind gets troubled, angry, confused, irritable, lost, urgent, and can’t figure out what to do, or even what it wants. The heart just knows. The heart reads energy. The heart is a very powerful thing. The path to Tantra, is through the heart.
Western Tantra is simply about connection
Western Tantra is really about connection from a place of stillness while focusing on our own heart centre. It is about bringing our attention down from our mind and into our heart and body (not our sex, also called our Sacral, because that just leads to more energetic confusion and risks trauma, so we stick to the heart and the body center in the basics of learning Tantra). From there we observe the person in front of us, quietly, and in a calm way. Nothing more is required, as you will see when you try it after a workshop or one-on-one session.
When we use this method of Tantra approach, a whole world of subtle energy opens up to us that is also perfectly safe, and then we can start to observe where we both connect. The space between us – that is where Tantra happens. Tantra is about energy, subtle shifts, observing them, and not fiddling with them either.
Silence the Mind and Tantra is there waiting for you to engage in it
Gradually, with our attention in our body and down in our heart, it helps stop our mind from questioning every little thing. It means we dont have to talk to try to cover up our discomforts, and we can just come to a calm place inside our self. We feel a balance there. Then we can observe energy a lot better from that position.
It is an agreed state of communion between two people: that we both let this silence descend, and then we observe each other without being uncomfortable about the fact we are not talking. It really is the most beautiful way to experience someone, of either gender, or even of blended gender, it really does not matter. It is still deeply connecting with another human being, and that is what makes us feel good, feel acknowledged, and feel connected. All this, without even touching.
The most powerful Tantra happens without any touch at all
After just a couple of hours in a workshop doing this, changing partners every now and then, and then experiencing the next person in this way, a profound sense of heartfelt warmth pervades the body. There has been no need for touching, nothing sexual, nothing weird, no lines have been crossed. This is as safe as it gets.
It surprises all new-comers just how powerful such an experience can be, and most people leave wondering why the world isn’t doing it more often, and on a daily basis. It would probably be a much better place if we did.
It is a much better way to meet people than in a bar, drinking, or at a club in all the noise, or whatever crazy ways we try to connect with people in the busy mania and noisy dysfunctionality of the world of modernity.
Tantra is about stillness, calmness, and then observing the subtle energy of connection that is already taking place, we really do not have to do anything but observe that. Then we are in Tantra.
Tantra is not about sex at all
Tantra is not about sex at all. It certainly can be, and our book takes you to the deep-end of that journey which can involve group sessions and threesomes and all sorts of things, but it does not have to be that way and we do not teach it at this level.
Either way, to understand and experience Tantra, you need to learn the basics first. So that messy sex stuff all comes a lot later, and in the more advanced levels of the connection experience after you get a good sense of what can be going on in Tantra.
We talk about that advanced level in the book The Experience, A Gentleman’s Guide to Threesomes: Exploring Relationship, Sexual Energy & Western Tantra . In the book we also explain how to run a workshop, what to do, how to get people involved, what NOT to do, and everything you would want to know about experiencing different levels of Western Tantra for yourself either with your partner, or as a single person seeking connection with others. The book explains the best approach, and how to go about sharing that wisdom with other people.
Most people have bad habits that they need to become aware of
The book discusses the more advanced stuff as well as the basics. But for new-comers to Tantra it should never be about sex at all, because first it is about learning how to connect, and often it is about stopping bad habits we have developed in our failed attempts to connect with others.
It is vital that we don’t create more shame in anyone, we don’t point their bad habits out, but what we do is offer better ways to connect and at that moment it usually becomes obvious to the person that their way is not so good. Less lusty, less manic, less distracted, less needy, less sexually driven. Often we have been that way because we did not know how to initiate communication with other people nor to get what we really want, which is a sense of real connection. Tantra offers us ways to connect that are not needy, or rather, do not have to be. Though not all Tantra is good Tantra, and in the world of sexual confusion and games-playing that is certainly an issue and why we keep all sexuality out of it.
Especially when you are first learning the basics of Tantra, it is easy to get things very wrong and start getting carried away with sexuality and projecting your desire onto other people, instead of staying focused in yourself and keeping your energy in your own heart space. Tantra is simply about getting better connection and doing it by avoiding those things, because it starts with how to connect to yourself first. And you do that, from the Heart centre, not the Mind or the Sacral sex centre.
To do that, we pull it all back to the beginning and that is what Heart Yoga Tantra workshops were all about. Starting again, from the beginning. Making it simple. Then of course, by all means go home and get crazy with it!
You can feel incredibly connected to other people even without touch, and it is about being seen for who we are, instead of getting caught up in shame, or stories that we tell ourselves about our abilities, or lack of abilities, or how we look, or are perceived. Those things actually do not matter. Neither does being beautiful, or smelling like a chemical perfume version of a flower. Those things are meaningless, fake, a false front, they are not who we really are, and pretty soon we realise why we don’t need to be anything other than what we already are when in the middle of a Heart Yoga Tantra workshop. Discovering this, is generally a huge relief.
All of us are just big-hearted people wanting to feel met and acknowledged by those around us, even strangers. I defy anyone not to enjoy the experience of Heart Yoga Tantra, simply because everyone has a heart and longs for acknowledgement within the community.
Some have become afraid of touch, and that is fine. No touching is needed in Heart Yoga Tantra
Certainly, for some people they had not been touched or held by another person in years, and so the idea of being touched was a huge challenge for them.
We often had people come to our workshops – or afraid to come – because they were scared of the fact that someone might touch them, or try to hug them. Of course really they were coming because deep-down they longed to be held by another human being without agenda, but we would never force such a thing. This is very important to understand, you will actually traumatize a person if you force touch on them when they do not want it. Even hugs can cause trauma! There are a few people out there that need to realise this. Saying no to being hugged is an important part of learning Tantra and setting your own boundaries.
We assured them it was okay, no one had to touch anyone, there was no touching needed to experience Tantra in all it’s energetic potential because Tantra is about energy and stillness, and not about touch.
‘Heart Yoga’ Tantra is about simply being in the experience, nothing more. It is nourishing for us in ways we don’t realise until we experience it, and then we find that our hearts have become fed by it.
We can feel connected to someone even across the room, because energetically we are connecting even without touch, and it can be done from any distance when we become calm, quiet, and open to such a thing. It really is not hard. It helps to be close enough to feel the energy of the person, almost like heat, but touching is actually not necessary. Some of the most powerful experiences happen without it.
When people came to our workshops, if they did not want to be touched or hugged at all, that was fine. No problem.
Being simple, subtle, and doing less, is the pathway to powerful Tantric experiences.
Our Heart Yoga Tantra workshops were very simple, very vanilla, and very subtle experiences, but they were very powerful because of this. They never failed to impact people deeply, because it is when we slow down that the subtle can become incredibly powerful. Energy is able to work because our mind gets out of the way, and our body and heart get involved.
Tantra and connection with other human beings is actually very easy, we just have to slow ourselves down, and then observe the energy in the space between us. When two people are able to let go to that, then incredibly powerful energy is able to start to make itself felt.
This is what ‘Heart Yoga’ Tantra was all about, and how we presented it in our workshops at The Temple Space. Nothing more. Nothing sexual. Not even touching if people did not want to do it. Just connecting energetically through observation, not projecting sexual thoughts onto another person, not stroking them, or effecting them in any way, but simply being still and staying focused within the self.
Whether we know it or not, we probably need this kind of connection in our life a lot more often than we realise.
And that, is the basics of Western Tantra in a nutshell.
If you want to find out a lot more about the experiences that can be had once you learn how to work with Western Tantra, then I recommend reading our book. We also discuss a bit about Eastern Tantra and go into details on how to setup workshops and how to experience for yourself something we called The Experience. It is an energetic bodily orgasm that can be had without touch, and can blast through a group of people creating an exquisite sensation that can linger on for days and feel quite wonderful. It is a beautiful thing to experience, and well worth learning about once you have mastered the basics of Western Tantra and feel comfortable to explore deeper.
Mark’s main pastimes are Meditation and Tantra and the study of human behaviour in relating. He is co-facilitator at The Temple Space. He is also a travel writer, published author, and music producer. His other books and music publications are available through his website www.MarkDKBerry.com