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Tantrik Manners

Sunday, June 19th, 2005

Tantra is all about appropriateness. Can you think of anything less sexy? When the topic of appropriateness comes up, ten thousand weekend orgasm workshoppers head for the Marin County hills. Like totally.

But now that they’re out of the room. . . Listen to Auntie Tantra: appropriateness is the sexiest thing going. Why? Because appropriateness in Tantric practice is about getting in tune with the entire cosmos, not just with a few square inches of human flesh. I get goosebumps thinking about it. Funny side note: in the Tantras, spiritual goosebumps are called “horripilation.” Great word, doncha think?

Here’s an analogy. Imagine that the entire cosmos is one humongous game of skip rope. You’ve got Shiva and Shakti turning the rope, and you, longing to jump in and play the game. This is your basic dualistic experience.

In order to play the non-dual way, you’ve got to use all of your senses. You’ve got to watch the rope turning. You’ve got to listen to the rhythmic mantra song of the rope turners. You’ve got to hear and feel the rope slap slapping on the pavement. You’ve got to start moving in time with the whole before you actually jump. You’ve got to tune yourself in to the rope and the rope turners and start to form an experiential connection with them. This is sadhana, or spiritual practice.

If you are not in synch with the whole, if some of your senses are closed down, you’ll jump too soon or too late. You might get all tangled up (karma), or have to run to catch the rhythm (exhaustion), or actually bungle things so badly that your particular game falls apart, the ropes going completely slack (death).

This is what we here in the U.S. call normal life: a general pattern of arrhythmic bungling, tension, and death by exhaustion.

But if we are practicing appropriateness, aka, Tantric practice, we eventually get in the game by establishing a natural rhythm and rediscovering that we already are the game. Then we find ourselves moving effortlessly and gracefully in tune with the ever-changing vibrations of the whole: Shiva, Shakti, us, the rope, the sound, the movement, all One.

Human beings are nothing but nature. Our much-cherished individuality is nothing but a thin smear of patterned consciousness and energy through which the entire cosmos dances and shines. But when we don’t recognize this, when we think that the smear is the whole game, we become diseased. Dis-ease is the hallmark of inappropriateness.

We don’t eat when we are hungry and we gorge when we are not hungry. We keep pushing on through exhaustion until we die of it. We get so stuck in our heads, we’re kind of like brains hopping around on dead sticks. Or we numb out by crawling into our genitals. We are compulsively entangled with a view of life as a series of problems to be solved or knowledge to be acquired. And most of us are largely disconnected from our basic constitutional inheritance, the natural rhythm of each day, each month, and the seasons of our lives. In fact, more and more in our culture, we medicate ourselves against attunement to these rhythms. And guess what? Some of us medicate ourselves with yoga, too.

My teacher talks about the three hallmarks of authentic spiritual practice: health cultivation, working from your real situation, and developing sensitivity to the energetic aspect of existence. These three things together form the basis of appropriate conduct as a human being. Learning extraordinary kriyas and secret mantras, going to power yoga classes every day of the week, or running around collecting initiations and transmissions, will not move you closer to freedom if don’t know how to eat appropriately, sleep appropriately, relate to others appropriately, take honest stock of your life, and if, consequently, you are unable to wake up true energetic sensitivity to yourself and the cosmos at large.

The cool thing is that, beginning with these basic forms of cooperation with nature, you can and will develop the “siddhi” of attunement to the world. You will be able to wake up each morning, sense the energy of the day, and align yourself accordingly. You will begin to experience a much bigger sense of self, one that includes other people, the sun, the moon, the planets, and all of the manifest world. Your moment-to-moment experience will change dramatically, and you will understand in a real way why this tradition is called “Tantra,” a weaving.

OM Shanti, Shambhavi

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