Some friends joined a dating site and have been telling me their experiences of it. The consensus is: It’s a jungle out there. It seems these days, the hip thing to do is to put on your profile that your favorite book is the Kama Sutra and that you are into tantra. Then, during the first couple of instant messages, the conversations start turning all freaky and pornie. WTF??? That is their first clue that these people do not know what tantra is at all. Many use the word tantra to mean tantric sex. The word “tantra” is being used to market everything from bath salts to music, but what the uninformed do not know is that tantric sex is only one facet of tantra. Tantra is an entire lifestyle, just as yoga is a lifestyle and encompasses much more than merely body postures (asanas). The concept of true tantra, as in true yoga, is an entire state of consciousness that imbues everything you do with a sense of oneness and connection. It seeks to commune in a holy manner with everything you come in contact with, animate or inanimate, animal, mineral, vegetable or etheric. It treats everything with utmost respect, kindness and reverence, and celebrates every thing at every moment. Tantra teaches to live in an orgasmic state of being. That is what living a tantric lifestyle is all about.
A tantric practitioner approaches every moment with no agenda other than to taste fully the essence and form of it. To delve deeply into the experience of each moment and become one with it. To become timeless, to be in the ever present. To remain in that present, to become the union of act and actor. Hurry exists when mindfulness does not. When you hurry, you are not becoming one. In tantric sex, the same applies.
The topic of celibacy comes up for every student on the spiritual path. Celibacy is when you make the conscious decision to abstain from sex. Celibacy is not when you haven’t had sex for 3 weeks through no fault of your own. Some people complain about how unnatural celibacy is, that it leads to frustration and physical ailments related to the reproductive organs. As always, though, it is not the activity (or non-activity) that causes the “problems,” it is how someone thinks about the activity or abstention while engaged in it. If someone has made a conscious choice to abstain from sex, and is content with their choice, they’re not going to experience frustration or pathology. Real celibacy is when you are whole, fulfilled and your mind does not dwell on sexual matters.
Although I was previously married, I’ve chosen celibacy for extended periods in my life and suffered no ill effects from it. My time was spent doing a variety of projects I enjoyed, and spending time with friends on the spiritual path and, for the most part, sex seldom crossed my mind. During these times, I was mostly without media contact, so I didn’t have the tv surprising me with titillating images and the radio wasn’t bombarding me with codependent love songs or pop songs with sexual innuendo. I spent most of my time in the company of others who were doing the same thing I was doing, so our attention was usually otherwise engaged.
The last few years I’ve chosen not to pairbond because I’ve just got so much other stuff going on and I find emotional fulfillment through my friends, my family and my practice. I just don’t yet miss having a partner and can’t see having sex with anyone who’s not a significant part of my life. I’ve learned how emotionally and psychologically attached we humans become to those we are intimate with, and having casual sex carries more consequences than I’m interested in being responsible for.
One thing I say to those who ask is, yes, it’s entirely possible to live a fun and fulfilling life without having a partner to share it with. I feel so in love with all my friends and family, that I can’t imagine feeling any better if I singled one particular person out to pour love onto. It will be nice when it comes along again, if it does. But it’s equally blissful as it is.
My thoughts on relationship at this point in my life are: First, I want to make sure I have a happy and fulfilling life, doing all the things I think of doing. I want to be involved in my own personal growth and spiritual development. To this end, I regularly attend discussion groups and classes, as well as church services, and plan little projects and vacations and retreats for myself. I figure, if I am going about my life doing what I find fun and informative, sooner or later I’m gonna glance over and there will be some who are walking alongside me, involved in the same activities. It is likely from these that I will choose my future partner.
Not that we can only find happiness with one who is just like us, because that’s not always the case. No matter how different we are, if we focus on our similarities when we’re together, we’ll find harmony. To the extent that we stay focused the things we like about each other, and how much we love and respect and honor each other, to that extent will everything else work itself out just fine.
And, in the meantime, I chop every vegetable, and cook every dish as if the Beloved would eat it from my hands. I wash every cup as though the Beloved had touched it to his very lips. That is the tantric way. I enjoy the sensation of the hot, soapy water and use just enough effort to lift each dish as is required. I dry the dishes slowly and put them back in the cabinet as though the Beloved himself would open the door for them next. I tend the garden as though each vegetable were my son and each flower my daughter, with the sky as grandfather and the moon as grandmother. True tantra is living continually in that orgasmic state of being, whether you have sex or not, whether you have a partner or not. Tantra is living in that state of yes, yes, yes! even while sweeping the walk and mowing the lawn and driving to work; in interacting in every moment of every day.
And the thought of that just tickles my fancy.