The Unveiled Art of Tantric Healing and Inclusivity
Immediately, when asked upon what you would associate with that word, I generally hear one communal answer… SEX.
We have, for so long, been fed in our society with Western views on sexuality and the “lines” that we cross towards or away from it. Some ideas, which are placed in the category of “SEX”, are there by some social constructs we have hanging over our heads. But why?
What comes with the category of sex is also the lovely effort of taboo, which instills a certain fear of crossing the line of what counts as “SEX” (though the taboo is slowly progressing away)! For example, a Female-Identified to show their chest, it is (misleadingly) in the category of “SEX”. It is the same when it comes to Tantra… there is a very misleading trend of it being placed in the category of “SEX”, as our Western society has appropriated it in that way as a marketing strategy. The practice of Tantra itself has a lot less to do with erotic healing positions, but focuses more on a mixture of holistic ways of being with also an integrated aspect of sacred sexuality at play.
First thing to realize: To uncover the art of Tantra, we must be able to see that the lines of what is considered “SEX” is ever so blurred!
How did it all start?
Tantra has been around for almost as long as religion has. As one article states, it has been traced backwards to around 5th century CE! This practice was first influenced by Hinduism tradition, then grew to evolve like roots on a tree alongside other religions as well, including Buddhism. With many branches and forms, Tantra has been passed through centuries in no structured format; moreso, it still lives today through traditions, rituals, and texts from previous practitioners. It is preserved through the people.
In Western culture, we coined the term “Tantrism”, a word that is different than the “Tantras” we see in South Asia, as Tantrism goes beyond the scriptural texts of “Tantras”, which involve yogi and meditative practices. Western Culture has also used these traditions as a way of marketing this as a “sexual practice” to help sell books (after all, sex does sell), which is why we generally are misunderstood with combining these two ideals together as one package.
What is Tantra?
“Because all of reality is ultimately beyond good and evil and merely an expression of divine energy, the texts state, all of reality can be used to reach the divine. The enlightened being realizes this fact.”
Tantra is not just a focus on the body and the sensations it feels while practicing traditions, as what we tend to lean more towards with sex in Western Culture- feeling pleasure. To live solely in the physical body, as SadGhuru Jaggi Vasudev explains, is limiting, as the experience is not a complete fulfillment; the body only knows what it knows, which is survival and the chemicals it naturally produces (such as hormones). Instead, Tantra includes the revealing of the energetic body, something that can be expressed through raw emotion. How to access that emotional path of enlightenment? Breath and postures that bring awareness to how this energy affects your body. One energy that is quite powerful that we all carry is our sexual energy- which is a base source for most Tantric practitioners when accessing their chakras and energies.
“Unlike sexuality, which tends to find release at the lower level of the energy system, tantra is about building our energies to the fountain-head of the uppermost dimension of the energy system, so that one’s energies spill from the top”
Nadine Lee, A tantric healer that runs workshops for Femmes around the world, sat down in a phone call with me to tell me how she defines Tantra and the challenges that come with this personal journey surrounding your sexual energy and expression for healing.
Me: How long have you been practising Tantra?
Nadine: It has been 9 years since I have been on the path.
Me: What got you into Tantra?
Nadine: Just my own healing journey, I would say. I first was a nutritionist who was helping other women with body image issues or disconnection from their body. I started going further in my personal path with experiencing my own sexuality and what came with it. I had experienced sexual abuse when I was younger, so I started helping women with the same issues and it kind of grew from there. I now do events that help women get in touch and heal their wombs, as it is one of the greater places of life force energy. With Tantra, it has helped me, and others, heal by channeling your life force energy... your sexual energy.
Me: How would you define Tantra?
Nadine: It is a state of balance, and union, within yourself. It is about balancing the masculine and the feminine, balancing elements. There is no denying emotions during Tantra, as that is what heals us. With Tantra, you embrace both the light and the dark of yourself.
Me: What challenges are there in Tantra?
Nadine: I would say the human aspects that we all have- it can be easy to say “embrace it”, but you also have to consider the emotional side of things of entering that state. There also still exists a lot of taboo about sexuality- most of topics surrounding it are not embraced in our culture. It can definitely be easier to live in an inauthentic space than one that is authentic, as it can be confronting to follow the radical path of liberation.
Me: What is the first step you think people should take if they want to start practicing Tantra?
Nadine: I would say start with your own tantric journey. Generally, people think that, in order to practice Tantra properly, you need a partner, which won’t help you heal if you are not properly aligned with your own self. You need to have a strong connection with your inner world before sharing it with another and their energies. First, go within inner exploration and become aware of yourself. For [Femmes], I think it is super important to become aware of your menstrual cycle- how much power and influence it has upon you. Clearing out all the stuff in your second chakra, purifying all those stuck emotions… that is what will help the sexual energy force flow and cycle throughout and help you experience a higher practice of Tantra.
Tantra talks a lot about “Men” and “Women”, “feminine” and “masculine”, what happens if I do not identify within a heterosexual or gender binary context?
In Yab-Yum imagery, those on the outside of Tantric Buddhism usually associate the depiction of a “man” and a “woman” as simply that- the opposing and integrating force of dual genders and sexual polarity. However, as one article put it, there is the way of practicing with the balance of form and emptiness, something that is more of a union, rather than a balance of “opposing forces”, as Tantra sometimes describes with Yoni and Lingam energy (words usually referring to the structure of the vagina and the penis). A way to strip away this categorization is to enter the Tantra practice with the intention you being in touch with BOTH of these energies (no need to identify them as masculine or feminine), which is ultimately the key for a solo practitioner- to balance them as a unit, regardless of their gender-identity or sexual orientation.
In the end, there definitely still lives some exclusivity for some marginalized populations, as the language is very much arranged within the frame of describing certain characteristics as “masculine” and others “feminine”. This video shows a great explanation of how gender duality and mis-gendering can happen. I had the chance to converse with Javi Martinez (she/her), the facilitator in the above mentioned video, on how to create a welcoming space for all people of Tantra. Identifying as a transgender woman, Javi has been in full time practice for over 11 years and is a Facility Apprentice at the International School of Temple Arts (ISTA). Javi has been working towards breaking the barriers between Tantra and trans/non-binary gendered people.
Me: What sort of mindframe do you think people should have going into Tantra, a practice that does not always promotes inclusivity of gender identity and sexual orientation, seeing as the language can come from a very binary cis-gender, heteronormative standpoint?
Javi: As someone who doesn’t conform to the cis/gender binary standpoint, it is difficult. With the words that describe sexual organs, such as Yoni and Lingam being associated with gender, you have to be prepared to be triggered or feeling hurt when entering those spaces. How difficult and painful it is when in a space that does not honor us and vary from class to class depending on the facilitators and teachers; are they aware of the importance of using proper pronouns? Are they compassionate? Do they try their best to help and validate the person being triggering through the process… or are they oblivious? The best things you can do to make a space more friendly to non-binary is to become educated on the differences between sex(genitalia), gender and sexuality because they are all different and distinctive and not everyone falls into the hetero-normative and gender binary model and be more aware of the language being used.
One thing I found helpful was understanding how our sexual organs are the same material, same organs that just grew and developed into different shapes from different hormones in utero. So, looking at Yoni and Lingam, they are made of the same stuff and are very much the same thing. In one workshop, we introduced Yoni and Lingam as “Flower” and “Stem”- if you look at the plant as a whole it is still one. This mindframe was well received by all the non-binary participants as it symbolically still worked and didn’t have the social programming that the Lingam = male and Yoni = female. It is all about the energetic connection that is important.
In the end, Tantra is a huge topic all in itself, as it presents a way of being, a way of living, that doesn’t necessarily come in the “Tantric Sex” books that we see. Instead, it is about expression from your emotions, and the energy that surrounds us and chakras, channeling through your body as if it were a vessel. Unity is a key factor, of both mind, body, and spirit.
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Love and Light,
Sex and Empowerment Coach
Creator of Femme Forth