When I first experienced what true deep tantric practice is about, I wanted to scream it from the rooftops.
Here was a gorgeous yet rigorous system that welcomed the whole of my being. Emotions were not only helpful to practice, they wer
e essential. Sexual energy was not ignored or treated as a regrettable necessity, but instead harnessed for practice and respected for its power. And, for the first time in my life, I felt respected because I was a woman, not in spite of it.
Through this system that uses my whole body, my desire, my emotions, and critical thinking to investigate the hardest, most fundamental questions in life, I felt like I had come fully alive for the first time.
See, I had been suffering under a heavy weight of “shoulds” and self-criticism, drowning in self-consciousness and painful triggers.
I thought life was just a struggle and you had to do your duty lest you be judged and that was it.
It hadn’t occurred to me that there was any other way to be.
There was right and wrong, black and white, emotions were weak, pleasure would lead you to the devil, and wealth and love were scarce. Tolerance and vulnerability were dangerous, and we had best be on guard because at our core we were sinners, and if I wasn’t careful I might just lose it.
These were the unconscious frameworks in my mind.
I put my head down and worked hard. I was given the best education money could buy. I spent 10 years establishing myself as a scientist. My career was succeeding - I had been awarded my own grants in a highly unique postdoctoral position.
I was married and living in a beautiful house in San Francisco.
Yet, I was miserable.
When I found Tantra, it was like a lightning bolt. Here was a sophisticated and wonder-full way of understanding the nature of reality that accepted my very humanity. Emotions are a source of power, pleasure is not only accepted but essential to the path, vulnerability is valued, and at our core we are basically good. Love is everywhere and inexhaustible. Both embodied experience and critical thinking are valued.
Everything I knew had been turned on its head.
I was full of questions, judgments, and triggers. Yet by some grace, I let down my guard and tried on this way of being in the world. Instantly, I felt in my bones an ease I never imagined could exist. There was no going back.
It was as though I had been trying very hard my whole life to be someone I was not. Without realizing it, I had spent much of life chasing after pleasure and avoiding pain. When all my energy stopped going to that process, I could get curious about my experience, stop beating myself up so much, and open to true connection with others.
I slowed down and started to notice my thoughts, emotions, and impulses without identifying with them or judging them.
It was like my system had been waiting my entire life for me to wake up in this way.
In my long scholastic career, I had never received any education in dealing with my inner world. I actively eschewed anything to do with psychology or philosophy, and so I had no idea that there was another way to be.
People come to spiritual practice in many different ways. Classical tantra is one of the most esoteric and least understood. Until very recently, its deeper teachings and practices were largely inaccessible to the general public.
Of course it turned out to be this path that spoke to my heart.
You do not need to practice Tantra or believe anything in particular to work with me. The underlying principles of acceptance, integration, curiosity, wonder, love, and our essential goodness are the backbone of my work. Those of us who ask deeper questions about our human experience come to their own relationship with these ideas - mine happens to be through Tantra. Please be clear that this is not about pretending everything is rainbows and unicorns. This is going deep into what is, facing it, feeling it, and going deeper still.
One of the benefits of this path is that because our very humanity is valued, we can work together to help each other. It’s not an ascetic practice that’s about going “beyond” somewhere and pushing away life. It’s about going within. It’s not a free-for-all where anything goes, either: we work with awareness and energy; centeredness and expansion.
I was extremely resistant to going deeper into myself, at first. It felt self-indulgent and also scary. My inner world had a lot of pain and self-criticism, and my nervous system was constantly on alert. I didn’t want to go anywhere near that, and my conditioning told me it was a waste of time, anyway. But pushing it away wasn’t working. I had to learn to reach out to myself with curiosity, but I had no idea how. Simple meditation was inaccessible. In the end, what I needed was to use my body.
The life-affirming aspect of Tantra has been essential for me. I was too despondent and pessimistic to change my patterns on my own. And its very wildness, its lack of institutionality, its emphasis on equal respect for the feminine (in all of us) made it the only thing that could have reached through my defenses.
I had been too wounded and too conditioned to please others to ever really fully relax into relationship. It was only in the context of this spiritual practice, with a shared desire to explore the depths of our being with curiosity and wonder, I finally dared to open to the love that had been there all along.