I Went to a Tantra Workshop
And of course my mind found a way to compare, a way to judge. I compared eastern Tantra to western, modern to traditional. I compared what I had read in books to what we were doing. I compared my past teachers with the current teacher. Regardless of all that comparison, nothing can change the reaction that I have to deep conscious breaths. My body knows the cue – let’s take deep belly breaths – and it releases, un-clenches, loosens to such a degree that remaining tightness serves as an indicator. The subtle stabbing sensation north of my right scapula is not a coincidence. It is a reminder of the things I believe and the habits they inform: how I sit, lean, am in the world.
The deep breath, the silence animates the observer within me. No amount of comparing changes the response in my physical body to directing my attention to the energy centers that it contains. The gentle spread and give of tissue, the automatic release. Regardless of the teacher, the lineage, judgments, comparisons, without fail I experience openings when I raise energy in this way. I can’t help but smile when I dance in spite of my embarrassment; but to sigh in relief when directed to breathe deeply; but to notice my awareness unfurl in direct proportion to the intentions that I set at the beginning of a workshop like this.
Even though the workshop was not of the lineage I study, I considered it a part of my Tantric practice. We set intentions for the weekend. I had done so succinctly I thought. But when I repeated the intention and answered clarifying questions, the hull of what I said was stripped away and I was left with two single words. Words I dare not utter on my own, the ones at the core of all the others I’d used in my intention. I wanted fearlessness, I wanted limitlessness. I would never normally ask for such a thing because I believe that fearlessness is a myth, an impossibility. I have the belief that the best I can do is feel fear and proceed anyway. My life with anxiety has taught me to believe that it is naive to pursue fearlessness, an avoidance of reality. The fact that I would dare to ask for such a thing was a testament that I was in altered space.
This intention was the container for the entire weekend: fearlessness. Limitlessness. These words formed the context for my “observer,” that part of me that witnesses. I noticed much more than I would have without the vessel of intentionality. When we drove from the workshop to dinner. During the triggered moments that sometimes happens when I get tired, hungry, where I run out of patience or willingness to socialize. The intention is an awareness container. it prompts the attention to set the intention.
One of the themes that was discussed at the workshop was that of conscious relationship as opposed to the traditional concept of falling in love without intentionality or choice. I couldn’t help but think of valentine’s day and popular notions around love. It has been my personal experience that intentional relationships run a similar course as, let’s say, a weekend workshop. When you set an intent with your beloved, things arise, challenges, support, blessings, and all of these things happen in service and in concert with the original intent. They become the clarifiers, the transformers. Relationships are their own practice when coupled with intentionality.
Not everyone will relate to this metaphor. Especially the person who does not have a spiritual practice. Or those that may not bring awareness to their practice though they have one. But it doesn’t change the power of all relationships regardless of intention. One prime example is divorce. One needn’t be aware to know the degree to which such a change can affect a person. Only recently has the notion of consciousness been paired with ending relationships in popular culture. It’s interesting to think about popular notions of relationships and intimacy around the holidays. Especially one like Valentine’s because there are a lot of associations with what’s acceptable. And for that reason we compare ourselves to mainstream standards and find ourselves to be lacking. Sometimes we suffer or rebel.
Assumptions & Differentness
As I think back on the workshop I can’t help but remember certain assumptions that were made about the attendees. Assumptions that could very well be an opportunity for me to feel alienated while participating. The assumption is that participants would be monogamous. The assumption that love is about working toward or being ready for the “one true beloved,” that the whole life leads up to this union with one “other”. That partnership is heterosexual. That masculine and feminine energy will be related to gender. As I heard these assumptions I was keenly aware that the space was not the most welcoming for those outside these norms. I did not feel triggered because I’ve learned, through the lens of other things, to value my differentness even in spaces where people’s assumptions, beliefs, and privileges preclude them from valuing differentness with me.
It can be hard to remember that when our capitalist society markets toward our feelings of scarcity and continues to assert that something is missing from our lives, that something needs to be added or fixed. We desperately try to fill the void. We try to show up in the ways that are normal. But variance from normal isn’t nearly as problematic in intimate relationship as discrepancies in beliefs related to love between lovers. These discrepancies can be detrimental and, ironically, are commonly overlooked. We would rather change or fix our lovers, buy the add on, the counseling, or supplement, then to notice that we are not meant to be in relationship, hold a boundary, and then say no.
This weekend affirmed intentionality and awareness as the centerpieces of my spiritual practice regardless of where I am; regardless of who I am learning from; regardless of their ability to create the most inclusive space possible. There is always something to be learned. And I can use my intention to create the spaces that I want and need with the people who can relate to me.
This post inspired an email series on how to bring intentionality to your relationships.
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