What Is Tantra? Hint: It’s About More Than Just Sex

by Michaela d'Artois


What Is Tantra? Hint: It’s About More Than Just Sex

Here’s how this ancient practice can transform your life.

If I’m being completely honest, this year has really taken it out of me. The constant grief has fatigued my emotional system. I have surpassed the puzzle phase and the bread-making phase of quarantine. I even overcame the “the-world-actually-ending” phase and settled into a sense of stillness. Somewhere along the way, I found solace in an unexpected place: Tantra.

Upon reading that word, I can only imagine that your head is filled with images of sex cults and Sting’s private life. But forget everything you think you know — Tantra’s Western translation is far from its origins, and far more than just sex. I turned to Tao Tantric Arts Facilitator Birjiwan Kaur to define the term and educate me about this ancient practice. “People often think tantra is only about sex and that you need a partner to practice,” Kaur says, “but neither of those ideas are accurate.” At its core, Tantra is a modality that “redirects our energy to bring the ultimate presence and awareness onto what is alive,” she says. “By doing so, we cultivate genuine openness, curiosity, and playfulness towards the human experience.” Essentially, it’s an opportunity to breathe aliveness back into our lives. To prove her point, I won’t talk any more about sex or partnership. Instead, here are the most pragmatic Tantric elements that can benefit us in the now. No accessories needed.

Be Here Now

In times as fragile as these, it’s easy to get caught up in the past or fear for the future. And that’s valid: for many of us our livelihoods and wellbeing are consistently being put on the line. Often, we turn to unhealthy thought patterns to self-soothe. However, with depression levels rising across the nation, we need to find balance. Tantra teaches in its simplest form to connect with our sense of awareness and live in the moment. To do so we must first drop into our bodies and then acknowledge our surroundings. Breathwork is a great way to check-in with our body’s state and find reprieve from the constant mental chatter. If you’re in the presence of others, a great way to stay present is to make meaningful eye-contact while you interact with others. Both practices teach us to bring our awareness to the Now and push away distractions, even if only momentarily. The more you do this, the more you will find yourself living in the present and the less your sources of anxiety have power over you. Bonus: you will feel more connected to others, which in times like these, is priceless.

Establish Systems of Trust

Tantra may not be all about sex, but it is definitely about intimacy. The key to intimacy is trust, and what better way to strengthen trust than with yourself? Since the establishment of the hierarchy of needs, we have known we must create safe surroundings and dynamics in order to flourish. Before anything else, make sure you have the basics you need to thrive: a fridge stocked full of nutrient-dense foods, a source of clean drinking water, and clean, safe shelter. In times of high-stress, making sure these very simple needs are met can work wonders for the psyche and your level of trust in yourself. Once these are ticked off your list, work with yourself to build trust with your decision making process. Due to our past experiences, we often second guess our ability to make decisions. But with a little practice and faith, we can repair that doubt, re-establish an intimate bond with our own inner guidance, and find the confidence in ourselves to succeed.

Tantra may not be all about sex, but it is definitely about intimacy.”

Remember Enjoyment?

In the words of the great Shania Twain: “The best thing about being a woman is the prerogative to have a little fun.” We often go through our days on autopilot; getting the job done, but with very little moments of uninhibited glee. Tantra encourages us to engage all senses, generously and frequently, to balance the logistics of our lives with our very human need to seek pleasure. The easiest way to do this? Create a conscious practice of engaging all five senses at some point during the day. This could be as simple as choosing uplifting music over a news podcast during your morning commute, cooking with aromatic herbs and spices while indulging in a good glass of wine, treating yourself to a decadent treat, or making space for a massage in your monthly self-care budget. All of these sensory experiences remind us what it is to be alive, not just exist. 

Become One with Your Shadow Self

In Tantra, there is no space for shame. Focusing on our areas of shame is a huge energy leak. Kaur reminds us that by redirecting energy away from suppressing parts of yourself, you can instead step into the most powerful, free version of yourself. Once you have identified and faced your sources of shame, they can no longer harm you. They can be transmuted into an area of intrigue for self-exploration, or better yet, an area of deep pleasure. This kind of freedom directly can unlock sources of happiness we’ve often only dreamt of. 

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