I have been swimming in a sea of tantra this week at the Yoga Journal pre-conference Tantra intensive in the Rocky Mountains. There are Elk crooning, calling their mates outside my bedroom window. The scene is breathtaking, like living inside a postcard. The program was a true intensive, with a wide range of lectures, asana, mantras, yantras, fire ceremonies, and trance dancing filling twelve hour days and opening me to the vast landscape of some of the earliest recorded spiritual doctrine in human history. My previous encounters with these ancient teachings have all revolved around the mysterious sexual rituals that many people associate with the meaning of Tantra. Over the years of building Good Clean Love, I have received multiple invitations from Dakas and Dakinis whose practices were limited to what was identified as the “Left Path” of Tantra, which focuses on elaborate external practices including sexual rituals that are described in great detail in the earliest Vedic teachings.
I have never opted to participate in any of the gatherings offered to me because as curious as I was about the powerful stories of awakened kundalini energy, I had never been prepared to take on the other consequences of enlarging my intimate life to include strangers (even dakinis) in the bedroom. I have had long interviews with many well known sexual tantricas who describe their work as sexual healing. One well known Daka who runs a sacred sex temple greeted me on my visit naked. During our conversation, after he dressed, he explained over a raw vegan lunch how he initiates his clients through specific rituals into sexual pleasure. I know the intensity that comes through waking up orgasmic potential and the ease with which boundaries blur and power exchanges happen without words. I asked him about this danger of his ritual practice. His confident reply that his boundaries were impeccable belied his reputation, which I did mention to him. He conceded that he had trained people in the art that had less clear boundaries and it was a problem.
At the Yoga Journal conference, sexuality was not in the curriculum and the mentions of it were only in the passing joke about sex as a marketing tool. Instead, the immersion focused on the “Right path,” which is a rich, complex and coherent model of self- realization and divine union. This right path is not for the weak of heart, as it demands true devotion to self mastery, which is far more demanding then the desire that fuels the left path. Delving into the depths of your soul requires a work ethic. The secret power of mantra becomes more transparent when you learn that people practiced it thousands of times a day. The profound teachings I learned of how to manifest an internal fire in my own belly, offered me deep insight into both my long standing digestive issues as well as my orgasmic response. As one of my teachers said, “On the right path, as you develop the skills for your own awakening, your relationship to everything in your life is imbued with divinity.”
Still, the discomfort with sexuality was palpable throughout the conference and so, on the final day, I was the catalyst for the lengthy discussion about sexuality. In response to my question, the panel of teachers addressed my question about the divergence of the left and right paths. The schism we suffer about human sexuality is not a modern invention. In fact, the earliest teachings of sexual rituals had no concept of respect or consent built into them and in fact, much of the sexual behavior of the era may well be the earliest forbearers of the endless varieties of sexual abuse that is now a profound and rampant phenomenon on our beautiful and holy planet. In many ways the division between the right and left paths is reflected in our modern constructs, which it seems has always confused the urge for power and pleasure with the deeper search for meaning and true intimacy.
I once had a yoga teacher who told me that it is always through the middle path that we find God. One influential teacher said this, “Learning a systematic and controlled way to awaken the kundalini energy may well bring you to unimaginable heights in your intimate life, but it will be grounded by a love for all of life.” Another esteemed scholar quoted his own teacher’s comments on sexuality: “Clear boundaries, no limits…” Truly, I know that Tantra holds many profound keys to experiencing the divine ecstasy of life, including profound sexual healing, but it isn’t through a weekend workshop on divine sexual ecstasy. It is in fact, in your own heart.