Mind, Reflection, Spirit, Travel

A Taste of Tantra

I just spent the most beautiful fluffy 3 days on a tantra workshop. Tantra? I hear you say….how very exotic.

My tantra journey began a few months before I went off on my travels. Before attending my first workshop I had no idea what tantra was really about. Images of Sting came to mind and a mild anxiety that I’d walk in to a room full of naked people. I love a bit of self exploration so thought what the heck,  I’ll give it a go.

I’ve attended three workshops in total now – two mixed gender and one specifically for women. I’m not sure I can define what tantra actually is,  I’m still learning. The best place to start is by sharing my experience to give you a flavour. Essentially I think it’s about self awareness and connection, expression, honoring the feminine and masculine, self love and creativity.

So let’s get the sex bit out of the way first. Whenever I say tantra to people they immediately think of sex. I’ve attended a lot of self development workshops and what I love about tantra is that unlike other workshops it acknowledges sexuality. It’s a funny old thing sex – on one hand sex sells, it’s big business,  it’s everywhere. Whilst on the other it’s this taboo subject that you just don’t talk about. Sexuality is such a huge subject that isn’t just about sex and tantra explores this as part of a wider self awareness programme.

What happens in a workshop then? Well there are a series of individual, pair and group work activities. Each have a different focus which I see as working from a foundation of self love, opening your heart and working with others with kindness and compassion. A safe and trusting environment is created for you to go through the process on a deep level if you choose to. Exercises involve eye contact, exploring boundaries, asking for what you want,  blindfolded trust exercises, breath work, physical touch and so much more.

I see the workshops as a mirror. You’ll work with someone that you’ll have an instant connection with, or someone you can’t quite gel with or someone you find attractive or someone that reminds you of someone else. It’s how I respond in each of the situations that I find fascinating. Am I really open,  do I shut down,  am I shy, do I fall under their spell? All echo how I respond out in the real world,  so it becomes a great opportunity to explore who I am with others and what thoughts and feelings arise as a result.

To give an example of how I have been impacted – two of the processes that came up for me were the fear of rejection as well as experiencing a block in offering my love and affection. This created the opportunity to go inward and notice any previous patterns of this nature and reflect on where this might come from.

This is another great example of why I love tantra.  The exercises have a really interesting  psychodynamic focus, inviting you to go back into childhood and unblock old memories and repair old wounds. Anything that acknowleges the inner child during a workshop gets bonus points in my book! It has been a very healing process to revisit my relationship with my mum and dad and express all the things I never got the opportunity to say as a kid. The healing came after the incredibly raw, emotional, vulnerable bit, sobbing into the arms of my partner. Sometimes I think the therapeutic process can be somewhat masochistic -it’s super hardcore but you feel great after (eventually). Once the crying has been done there is space for love, compassion, acceptance and forgiveness.

Tantra workshops are amazingly creative, with lots of dance and singing/chanting. Each activity is accompanied by amazing music, you can tell the facilitators go to great effort to select the music. One of the exercises I did was to think of a situation I was going through and express myself through dance which was then interpreted by the group members. The body stores so much information and sometimes words can be a barrier so expressing myself through dance felt so liberating. The same for singing and chanting, my whole world glows when I’m singing mantras.

Tantra honours the masculine and feminine energies inside of each other. It’s very powerful having a line of men queuing to look me in the eye and then honour me as a woman whilst bowing at my feet. Experiencing the same exercise with my head at the feet of these same men was incredibly humbling and heart melting. It put my male / female power awareness to one side and gave me permission to just appreciate this person for all that being a man is. Just wonderful. Similarly experiencing an all woman group where we expressed our inner goddess, all of the great vibrant colours that makes us women felt almost primal, sacred! While we’re on the subject of sacred – tantra introduced me to my new bible – a book by Naomi Wolf called Vagina. This book, like tantra has changed my life. Read it!

I’ve never known bliss in the same way as I have after a tantra workshop. I’m not joking – I’m not in over enthusiastic Lesley mode here. I experience the most intense natural high through connecting with others and giving/receiving healthy loving physical touch and doing breath work.

So that’s tantra – imagine all of that at the foothills of the Himalaya, by the Ganga in the spiritual centre that is Rishikesh. Mind and heart explodes! There are some pictures from the workshop that you can see here. I can’t wait to continue my tantra journey. I’ve added a space on my blog called Feminine Flow which will talk more about tantra and related stuff that I think you should all know about. I’ll make recommendations for workshops and books – I believe this stuff is made for sharing – although bare with me whilst travelling – it’s a work in progress. If you have any questions about tantra then do get in touch – I hugely recommend you give it a try. Big love x

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