21 October 2009

all the way to america

It has been an eternity since temples have lingered in our midst. The temples were the sacred vessels of the lineage of goddess and the ancient wisdom - tantra. This ground was the gathering place of women and men, who stood in the moment, uncompromised and wild.

This year, news of a temple in Sedona arrived at my door. There was to be a gathering of wisdom and love of the finest in the land. After thousands of years I would once again dance in the temple and in the love orgy of awareness.

I immediately called delta airlines and secured my booking. I also sent some spies ahead. Their reports were disturbing. Tantra was used for trade and sold in the market place next to vending machines and stock shares. The juice of tantra was used to cement and anchor egoic structures rather than free them - “tantric sex master” a not uncommon phrase.

I hesitated deeply but the urge of existence persisted and I went carrying my dread heroically. ..

As a dakini, where ever I land I inquire into the mind and the possible flowering of the people of that land. It is a little like a painter who is always aware of the light of any city. Florence has exquisite light, as does a little cottage in Tucson where Georgia o’ Keefe painted. I can say, as painters are to light dakinis are to awareness.

I was curious to know the ways of these tantrikas and what their approach was to the cultural mind that they had been assigned to. How do they assist others to move though their resistance and conditioning into presence and flowering?

The dakinis and dakas began to share their work. I bounced from tantrika to tantrika.

The most obvious and repeated word was “boundary”. I have paid attention to the stories of this land. The prevailing theme is threat. Someone, somewhere wants to kill you and your family. For decades, the children of this country have been told they must be afraid. This conditioning is deeply rooted.

Margot Anand commented on this conditioning as she left left America for Bali - she says “ It is as if my being, my soul, my essence were deeply thirsty for that which appeared so difficult to reach in the USA. The feeling that time is eternal. That there are no “to do” lists, no “orange alerts”, no dire warnings of impending doom. Just the contemplation of the ocean, the right to remain undisturbed.”

Certainly this conditioning will be in the fore thought of a conferring of tantrikas... There is a twist here. They were speaking in favour of boundaries, specifically how to bring boundaries and safety into a tantra session. The dakinis and dakas have not transcended the conditioning of boundaries but have incorporated boundaries into tantra. This is a common difficulty on the path. A woman who has begun a spiritual journey may stop insisting her husband to buy a convertible, but now insists that he becomes more spiritual. She has transferred the mind’s insistence with the justification of it being spiritual. Nothing has actually moved in her awareness.

Tantra invites you to jump off the cliff into the abyss of mystery. There is no safety net.

The first thief of the moment becomes clear. The drop in the ocean can and should have a boundary from the ocean, say the american tantrikas.

The next thief of the moment is knowledge.

A dakini was sharing her work. She began to speak about advaita , “all you have to do is transcend duality to oneness, its easy”. Hah, I thought, she has no idea, just speaking pretty words.

Advaita is a spiritual method, that through the attempt to understand duality, one enters into the exploration of your yes and your no to life. Consider the duality of innocence and guilt . When you feel guilt, enter the feeling as fully as you are able, and the same with innocence. These moments will span over many years. Slowly the awareness and understanding of this energy that moves between the poles of guilt and innocence begins to dawn on the sincere seeker. The depth of these moments ever increasing as more of both polarities is allowed. The transcendence into oneness of these two poles can only be known in the final moment of total allowing. There will be many challenging aspects in this exploration and others that open delightfully and sweetly like a whore on New Year’s eve.

“It’s easy” can only be uttered by the lips of someone who has not taken the first step. She has heard these words and has arrived at a mental construct of meaning without any application.

Consider a line from a poem, “ the spring god knows not from where the spring blossoms come” In the east knowledge and god are not synonymous.

A famous monk living high in the mountains was once visited by a highly learned man. The man came to him and said, “ I have sought all manner of knowledge, and now I wish to learn from you. The monk did not reply but simply began to pour a cup of tea. He continued pouring until the cup began to overflow. The visitor protested but still the monk poured. Finally the monk spoke, until you arrive at my door empty, dropping all knowledge that you have collected before you enter, there is nothing I can teach you. The arrow smith woman said the same to Saraho, which ultimately led to the birth of Tantra in Tibet.

Knowledge is relative and changes as awareness changes. True understanding can only be realised in the heart where logic, rationality and language do not apply.

This brings us to the last thief; the teachings of love.

“There is no greater enemy of love than the teachings of love”, says Osho. I was having a conversation with a woman. She burst into tears in defense of her beloved country’s actions in Iraq. I realised that americans are taught many things about love. If you love your country you will support the war machine, if you love your country you will turn a blind eye to the loss of your own civil rights and the refusal of america to uphold the Geneva convention. Stephen King said it in The Green Mile, “they kill us with our love all the time.”

A few years ago I realised that the arab nations could perhaps become the greatest lovers on the planet. The reason why I came to this was because they hold the shadow so loudly and clearly. When the shadow is very big, that which causes the shadow must also be very big. One may notice the arabic history, music like rich velvet, that drapes the women, as they swirl their flesh, at the feet of lovers, on the road to mecca. Mecca, home of the yoni of goddess - the Kaaba - the void from which all comes and all returns.

This little bend on the path, my story of lovers, is to suggest that as arab is to lover, american is to heart. The shadow is so thick it can suggest nothing else.

The american heart is fairly transparent. They want to save everyone and everything, but actually land up the destroyers - whether it is the greatest pollutants or the busiest warmongers.

The heart has been led astray. Or perhaps it is more true to say, the heart is forgotten in favour of the words of what heart or love is.

The teachings of love that I found amongst the american tantrikas centered on relationship solving. How you must love your partner, how you must love ... Love is madman who rides shooting stars to kiss the feet of his beloved. There is no how to and nobody knows better than him. Relationship solving is a sanitised walk down a concrete path with trees planted in rows. Yes, it suggests that the inquiry into heart has begun, but only the beginning … where one finds what love is not.

In following the teachings of love, you miss love utterly. Hungry for love, you incessantly attempt to get your needs met and find a zillion techniques for better relationships. Love remains unknown and for that you will always be hungry.

There is a new business in america called tantra. Many years ago I traveled america as a pitchmen. The origins of pitchmen were the sellers of snake medicine ( the cure all potion ) who traveled from town to town in the old west. Pitchmen are an impressive bunch. The true greats can literally hypnotise an audience with voice and carefully rehearsed movements. At the end of the pitch, by such a master, you will buy anything from china that he happens to be flogging that day.

I learnt a few tricks as a pitchman. There is something called a fake turn. This is where you have a crowd in front of you. You have dazzled them with the possibilities of the mop, or the shammy or the pot you may be selling. They are caught, captivated, well almost. You see, if you don’t do the fake turn you will lose them. It goes something like this; you have told them the glories of the mop, you have told them of the unbelievable free gift you will be throwing in, but you have limited stock and you can only do this, now scan the crowd - there are about 20 people - you can only do this for the first 15 people in every demonstration - you still have not got them - now - you point to thin air between two people - you point hard and with utter conviction - and you announce, “you number one”, point to another thin air spot - “you number two” - and now the crowd has jumped in lest they lose their opportunity of a mop and free gift - and you no longer have to point to thin air.

The american public have been conditioned to shop since birth. The experience of freedom comes from the ching ching of the credit card which is why they do not feel wronged when their true freedom is forsaken.

The tantra business uses these old methods of drawing in new customers.

What we selling today? More orgasms more love, more bliss, better and bigger relationships - more more more is always about the ego - empty and desperate. Tantra is not this. Tantra is about the discovery of the moment - utterly complete - the idea of more drops out of your being. This is enough - now. If you want more, rather stick with positive thinking, LOA and how to be a better person.

Tantra is for those who have the capacity to pick up the scent of a rose and let love find the flowers that shower this scent. There the dakini sits .. there the dakini waits .. for the lovers that have the awareness to follow the scent of a rose.

To complete this picture I must also tell you what I love of the american tantrikas.

Their capacity, ingenuity and precision in their body work is unparalleled whether it be yoga practice or tumbling you into love using their body and ground. They are masters of technique and innovators of taking physical practice to new and beautiful planes.

The tantrikas are outrageously brave. They explore non ownership of the beloved with veracity and intent.

The depth of sincerity in their work touched my heart as did the willingness for friendliness. I have traveled to america several times and am always amazed at how quickly an american will become my friend and invite me to play. Regardless of all the politics, they like foreigners and they like new friends.

One meets an openness in americans that clarifies why so many great minds and movements began here.

The beauty of the women, especially the ones living outside the system and not paying attention to what they are supposed to look like, ravages the soul. The men too have big willingness to meet the beloved women. It is beautifully sweet and very sincere.

The two weeks I spent in this land feels like a highly condensed download. The three thieves arrived in my consciousness first and then followed the possibilities of the tantrikas of this land.

I write this mostly as a hope that it will be of some use to the tantrikas in their teaching. It is always more difficult to recognise the conditioning of your birth place. It is also an invitation to come play.

My feeling is that much of the back breaking ground work is done. There is a great readiness for the next step up the mountain. If you were to come to the feet of a master, and I mean a master of tantra because tantra is your journey, then you would fly in moments, conditioning and fear an old and rusty memory.

One last thought .. if you are a sexual healer and not a tantrika none of what has been said applies to you .. then you use boundaries, knowledge, even teachings of love and market your work according to what catches attention. Please understand the distinction. A sexual healer works with people of the culture who who would like to fulfill their potential and heal old wounds. A tantrika throws seekers off a cliff so that they may look Existence in the face and see themselves.

Inner and outer heat in Tantra

Inner and outer heat in Tantra
Copyright Shakti Malan

In Tantric lovemaking, an extraordinary movement of inner and outer heat occurs. This heat and what accompanies it, is what I call dragon's nectar - the theme of my upcoming retreat in the Drakensberg. I will attempt to give you a sense of the experience of this heat here, as well as some information on how this energy has been perceived in Tantric mystery traditions.

Building a bonfire

In ordinary/unconscous lovemaking, what effectively happens is that suppressed energies build up to an involuntary crescendo of contraction and drivenness. The heart rate increases rapidly, as do body movements and organ pulsation. We race towards peak orgasm. And then we collapse in exhaustion. This is like building a huge bonfire - putting all the logs on at the same time - and enjoying the short ecstasy of heat before the logs burn out.

Physiologically what happens here is that the sympathetic nervous system - our fight and flight response - goes into overdrive. This can be very exilirating, a bit like the adrenalin rush we get from extreme sports.

But that fire burns out pretty quickly. It is like one big fiery roar from our inner dragon - impressive, volumous, short lived, and it leaves a trail of destruction in its passing. You may get tired or suspicious of this kind of sexual expression at some point. Good. Now it is important to realize that the trouble is not the fire. The fire is needed. Without the dragon there is no dragons nectar. What needs to change is the way we build the fire.

Stay at the beginning

In the Vigyam Bhairav Tantra, Shiva says: "At the start of sexual union, keep attentive to the fire in the beginning, and, so continuing, avoid the embers at the end."(verse 42)

The art is to learn to build that fire slowly, consciously, with full awareness and clear intent.

Inner heat and the feminine

"In order to allow for the birth of the [ultimate dakini, the wisdom that realizes emptiness], one must eliminate the gross forms of consciousness
by means of the inner heat (tummo) practice that is a particular form of bliss.
This bliss is the means of eliminating coarse consciousness:
therefore, the inner heat represents a meaning of dakini"


This quote comes from a beautiful book by Judith Simmer-brown called Dakini's Warm breath. She describes that in Tibetan Tantric practice, it is understood that the subtle body has three main channels: the non-dual central channel (called the shushumna in Sanskrit) and the two flanking channels. One of these channels is regarded as feminine and is governed by the fire element and the sun. The vital breath of the feminine is warm. The other is regarded as masculine and is governed by the moon and the water element. The vital breath of the masculine is cool.

The focal center of the cool masculine breath is the head, and the center of the warm feminine breath is the navel. Tibetan Tantric practice brings the energy of the icy father down to the navel to be melted by the fiery mother. In that way, the energy of the flanking channels gets united in the central channel. From this comes a great centered stillness and inner heat.

The inner heat is associated with the quality of bodhichitta. Bodhichitta refers to the awakened mind that aspires to liberate all sentient beings. When the vital breaths get united in the center, we live in unity consciousness. There is a quality of bliss associated with this state. But even greater bliss is that of the bodhichitta, who desires to share her bliss with others. This is an essential quality of the dakini.

The inner fire in the belly burns up all states and experiences that keep us from living in pure presence. Therefore, the dakini takes great delight in pulling the practitioner into this fire, even if the burning feels to the recipient like a cruel and heartless act. Dakini knows that true love can burn, to the core.

Outer heat and the masculine

In his fascinating book The Hero: Manhood and Power, John Nash writes about the cultivation of heat by the masculine. Nash is of the opinion that men have also encountered this heat in a very masculine activity - "its awesome power arising within himself, spontaneously, time and time again, through dangerous and exhilirating exertions of another kind - the perils of the hunt."

He also writes that, since ancient times, humanity has understood the sacredness of the feminine because of her ability to birth, without any attempt to 'make' this happen. The masculine, on the other hand, has had to prove his virility by conquering and mastering powers in nature far exceeding his own.

He talks specifically about practices to cultivate the mystic heat. One example is sweat lodges, a heat ceremony from the South American Shamanic tradition designed specifically to help men access the altered states of consciousness that women naturally have access to, especially during menstruation. Nash also refers to certain forms of yoga that raise the metabolic heat of male practitioners to excessive, unnatural degrees. He refers to the Tibetan practice of 'tummo', "'heat-yoga so intense that the monk with his naked body dries blanket after blanket that has been soaked in an icy mountain torrent."

Tummo is the practice that the Dalai Lama referred to in the above quote as a core expression of the dakini in a seeker. The extreme yoga Nash refers to here is a practice using determination, discipline and will power to invoke this fire in celibate practice. But then the Dalai Lama's quote refers to dual cultivation - in this case specifically with the dakini or feminine as embodiment of the wisdom principle. In Tibetan Tantric practice, the monk would deepen his meditation and strengthen his tummo practice until he reached a certain level of realization or awakening. Then his master would introduce him to the dakini who would take him through the final stages.

Ultimately, it is the merging of the feminine (dakini) and masculine energies that take the seeker into the central channel where the inner heat is experienced, and we live in unity consciousness. We all have both masculine and feminine principles inside us. The ultimate merging happens when masculine and feminine merges inside us. In that sense, Tantric practice supports a seeker, no matter what your sexual orientation is. When two men or two women come together in Tantric practice, one will adopt the feminine and one the masculine principle.

The rippling fire of Tantra - my experience

I have had the rare privilege in my lifetime to experience what happens when the masculine and feminine come together in pure presence in Tantric lovemaking. It has left me with a clear realization as to why the Hindu gods are always depicted as being blue. There is a fire that starts to ripple over a person's skin when s/he practices Tantric lovemaking - and takes time about it. This fire is cool, it is spread out all over the body, and for me, its colour is distinctly blue.

Building the slow fire

Tantric lovemaking builds a slow, shimmering, delicious fire. At times, yes, we welcome and build the hot fire of the dragon's breath, of wild passion and roaring delight. But the quality of the meeting is guided mostly by the feminine - receptivity, relaxation, openness to the moment, to the greater flow of what is. The feminine moves like wind and water, dissolving, flowing, folding. The masculine, enveloped by the caress of the feminine, holds one pointed focus. He is the rock. He holds stillness, but without contraction or force. He surrenders into pure presence.

In this space of pure presence, time and space lose their usual hold on us. The moment becomes eternity. Eight hours pass in one timeless flow of the moment. Slowly, deeply, your energy builds, and so too the levels of bliss you can stand. Bodies lose their familiar appearance. You come to experience, beyond doubt, that we are not as solid and fixed a we are. And that, in fact, there is no separation at all. It is this state of subtle, seamless bliss which I call the dragon's nectar.

To be available to this quality of lovemaking takes some preparation, some unlearning of old conditioning, and some sharpening of presence. It takes the willingness to face, and embrace, the erotic impulses you have suppressed. It takes the laying aside of body armoring that keeps you from being fully responsive in your body. It takes deep presence in breath and sensation. It takes a bump-up in your level of openness to sensory impulses. It takes huge expansion of your heart capacity.

Dragon's Nectar, my Tantra retreat in the Drakensberg 20 - 25 November, is designed to support you in exactly this journey. For details, see http://totalitytherapy.com/events/2009/07/dragons-nectar-tantra-intensive-retreat.html. It's time to step into the fire - and say yes!

"Some day, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of love; and then for the second time in the history of the world, men will have discovered fire!" – Theilard de Chardin

05 October 2009

International Dakini / Daka Conference, Africa 27 to 29 Nov

Dakini Shima went to the Arizona conference earlier in the year.

The stories of her visit are hers to tell, but in the meantime, some of the tantrikas she met there will be visiting for the African conference.

These annual events are arranged by Baba Dez Nichols, a Daka of much experience, and (with Kamla Devi) co-author of Sexual Healing. The main idea of this first one in Africa is to provide an opportunity for those of us who work with the sexual aspects of people's lives to connect and share techniques and information. Also, of course, he comes to share his methods and teachings. After the conference, he will be presenting a training in his approach for aspirant Dakas and Dakinis.

Several teachers of this school will be involved, and we are appealing to sexual educators of all disciplines to do likewise. Inclusive of, but not at all limited to:

Sexologists, psychologists, relationship advisors, trauma counsellors, tantric and taoist massage practitioners, sexual surrogates, sex workers, married people and other professionals who work with client/student’s sexual problems/aspirations.

Naturally, Dakinis, Dakas and other tantrikas of all persuasions are expressly invited. We have shared the contacts we have among South African teachers of tantra, advaita, spirituality and sexuality with Baba Dez. If you haven't had an invitation from him, please do not be insulted! He would love to hear from you.

This event is about Tantra, sacred sexuality and sexual healing in the widest sense. Presentations so far cover a wide and intriguing range of topics.

The page for this event at Sedona Temple is at http://www.sedonatemple.com/event/1114/First-Annual-African-Conference-of-Sacred-Sexual-Educators/Featured-Events.php

Baba Dez will be in South Africa for a few weeks beforehand to promote the event and to raise awareness of tantra and related work. Watch out for him in your local media.