Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tantra as Spiritual Practice

How can tantra help a woman enhance her inner qualities?

Thank you, Bobbin Cat, for posting this question. I have been thinking about it since last night and want to respond in this blog. In short, Tantra is a mystical path of commitment, devotion and dedication to transformation and liberation.

Tantra is about harnessing and amplifying our inner power, our Shakti. The word
tantra means to weave and involves a process of weaving/blending opposite qualities or tensions and experiencing the unity of their common essence. There are various forms of practices in Tantra: mantra, yoga, pranayama, meditation, yantra worship, ritual. Through these practices we learn to experience our mind as a stream of thoughts and emotions. A yogini (or yogi) learns to break the thought patterns through repetitious chanting, focusing the mind on a deity or sacred symbol. Sometimes emotions or thoughts become amplified. Whether one considers them bad or good, one needs to approach them consciously, looking for the root of the feeling/thought, then once it is discovered, holding it with reverence. Tantra teaches us many tools to engage in this process. The energetic properties of mantra, for example, stimulate us on a cellular level and balance and synchronize our energies. Yoga helps open our nadis or energetic channels and leads us to conscious embodiment. Ritual and deity worship help us align with the divinity and find Her/Him within ourself. These practices take us out of our daily often unconscious routine. Our approach to life deepens and becomes imbued with meaning. The universe responds and we notice how It reflects our thoughts and desires. (see Mystery: Death Happens) Signs and synchronicities abound, thereby strengthening the qualities within us that know and remember our divine interconnected essence.

Nandu told me that a yogini does not react to a difficult situation, but responds. She learns to stay balanced and calm in the face of any adversity. And as another one of my teachers told me this week, sometimes a yogini retreats. Periods of meditation, contemplation, solitude and creative expression are necessary. What we need to access our power within varies at different times. Most important is that we do not become all consumed or obsessed with the emotion/experience and do practices to remain conscious of the
lila or play we are experiencing.

To enhance my positive inner qualities, or my Shakti, I attempt to confront and embrace any negative thought or emotion. Sometimes I sit with it and let it run its course for days or weeks, but then eventually I do sadhana-spiritual practice to work with the energies that are inhibiting me from accessing and expressing my Shakti. As the remover of fear and difficulty, Durga teaches us not to run away from that which is difficult, but to face it with composure. Yoga, meditation, mantra, ritual all can help. By transmuting the negative charge of certain mental and emotional experiences we inevitably empower ourselves. When we live in accordance with our intuition, when we have focused our intention on releasing any binding thoughts and commit to transforming limiting patterns, we are able to shine as the divine beings that we are.

Nandu Menon (or Amarananda Bhairavan, author of
Kali's Odiyya and Medicine Wheel of Light) teaches about four fundamental principle of Tantric Mysticism.

1. Non-violence and non-judgment

2. Humility and surrender

3. Unquestioning faith in the Goddess within

4. Unconditional Love for the Goddess within

Embodying these principles leads us to the enhancement of our most beneficent inner qualities.

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