Some thoughts on suffering (part 3 of 3)

In the realms of spiritual authenticity, our worth is not calculated by our monetary Balancefortune, but rather by our actions and the quality of our emotional mind space at any given moment. We are responsible for our perceptions and attitudes i.e. our thoughts and feelings and, therefore, how we experience outer events. We are only partially in control of how those outer events play out. Life on the physical plane is impermanent and relatively random. To resist or deny that reality is madness. The sanest recourse is to accept life as an ever-changing playing field, to find the point of permanence in the inner self and then to live life with a sense of curiosity and playfulness. “A disciplined mind regards all changes as causal and temporary. The balanced does not fluctuate, and does not suffer.”[1] This tantric attitude takes courage and persistent effort, which is why I refer to it as the way of the warrior. Continue reading

Some thoughts on suffering (part 2 of 3)

Light of the soulMy life experiences and contemplations have brought me to the conclusion that without suffering it would be all too easy to remain in mind-dom i.e. in the clutches of the emotional mind. The latter can always keep us entertained with never-ending, theatrical representations of past events or fantasies of potential future happenings. When everything in our lives is going as planned (by the personality), the emotional mind can be a very comfortable place to take refuge. The risk, however, is that we remain stuck there, which means living in the illusion that our rational mind and emotions are our sole identity. Thanks to suffering, we get the gentle push, or even dramatic shove, to move out of contracted mind-dom and discover the fullness of our (divine) identity and consciousness.

Georg Feuerstein provides a Tantric – and I guess also Buddhist – perspective on suffering when he writes: “Many people […] are not in the least aware of their self-perpetuated state of incarceration. But those in whom wisdom has dawned can see that the world, or rather how they experience it, is confining. They also are sensitive to the fact that worldly existence is suffused with suffering (duhkha).[1] Continue reading

Some thoughts on suffering (part 1 of 3)

What is the (“existential”) purpose of suffering? That question has pursued me for many years now. My own personal struggles I’ve found easier to respond to, in relative terms, coming to see them as a learning ground for a deeper existential and spiritual understanding. What’s always been much more difficult for me is witnessing, or simply knowing of, the suffering endured by other humans and animals in incredibly cruel and/or dangerous circumstances e.g. subject to physical and/or psychological violence, hunger, displacement, personal loss, etc. Consequently, I’ve felt an existential imperative to gain some constructive perspectives on the meaning of suffering in order to understand how best to remain in touch with my empathy, whilst at the same time avoiding the pitfall of feeling discouraged.

SunThe spiritual challenge we face is to be joyful no matter what life conditions we are experiencing i.e. whether we are surrounded by love and good fortune, or suffering and injustice. The tantric tradition offers a helpful insight by distinguishing between ananda, which is our innate blissful state of consciousness, and sukha, which is the emotional state of ordinary happiness that is dependent on external conditions. Continue reading

What is love?

What is love? What comes to your mind when I ask that question? Is it romantic love and sex? Is it religious or spiritual love? Is it filial or parental love? I guess most people would choose out of these options. Would any of us refer to self-love? Without an apologetic tone in our voices? Self-love might start with a rational analysis of our worth and achievements, probably in line with prevailing social and cultural norms. However, such contemplations risk remaining purely intellectual in nature and are likely, therefore, to end in self-condemnation and feelings of inferiority or – quite the opposite – egoic pride and a sense of superiority. To counteract this kind of mental cul-de-sac, the good news is that there’s a more authentic and deeper self-love that can be accessed when we step beyond the rational, thinking mind and the pull of the emotions. This self-love might be experienced as an incredibly calming energy that pervades your whole body, giving you a deep sense of presence, acceptance of the moment and connectivity with all that surrounds you. Tantric techniques aim to stimulate more of this kind of self-love. As such, Tantra offers “the greatest empowerment of all: the power to determine your own inner state, regardless of external circumstance.”[1]

Extract from my book “She Who is Unto Herself”

[1] Wallis, C.D. (2013) Tantra Illuminated. Mattamayura Press: San Rafael, CA, p.192.

Basic Principles behind Sacred Sex

An authentic sacred sexual exchange is only possible if there’s openness, mutual respect and a spiritual intention between lovers. “By maintaining a clear realisation of emptiness in the midst of passion, it becomes possible to turn that passion into supreme bliss.”[1] In Tantra, the male and female bodies are considered divine, and the female yoni and male lingam are sacred – and not solely erogenous – organs. It follows that erotic visualisations, words, etc. though perhaps the easiest way to get the sexual fire burning, don’t constitute the most appropriate focus to hold in a sacred sex context, where the immediate goal is not orgasm, but rather an energetic exchange at a much subtler and more spiritual level than the purely physical. Continue reading

Shakti and Goddess Power (Part 3 of 3)

Tantrikas[1] work with goddess energy through the use of: mantras – sacred sounds; yantras – “diagrams for working with the energies of life”[2]; mandalas – “graphic symbol[s] of the universe, specifically, a circle enclosing a square with a deity on each side”[3]; and, also through ritual practice.

To go into more depth on just one of the above-mentioned methods, a mantra can be considered to be: “… an absolute sound, having no conventional meaning, [that] work[s] on the body and the mind by virtue of [its] vibrational quality.”[4] Indeed, I’ve found very useful and profound to follow Sally Kempton’s recommendation of chanting the mantra shrim [pronounced shreem] to evoke what I understand to be the archetypal energies of the goddess Lakshmi.[5] Shrim (or any other mantra) can be spoken or chanted either aloud or silently. Moreover, mantra repetition can form part of a formal daily meditation practice, or it can be used in response to events that occur in our daily lives. For example, whenever my rational mind begins to churn never-ending fearful or self-bashing thoughts round and around in my head like a washing machine, I find silently chanting shrim and connecting with Lakshmi to be an excellent method for bringing the nose-diving personality back onto an even keel.  Continue reading

Shakti and Goddess Power (Part 2 of 3)

The over-arching Shakti, “the formless course of everything” [1] – a definition that’s strikingly similar to the concept of Tao – is believed to take the form of various gods and goddesses, which personify the “different energies that make up the multiple dimensions of existence and of our own consciousness”.[2]

Cassandra Lorius gives further food for thought on the distinction between Shakti and other goddesses: “In fact, Shakti is not so much a goddess, as the creative force behind existence, who manifests in different forms. That’s why she’s not depicted as a single deity, but as a number of goddesses who represent the various qualities of this primal energy.”[5]

Bearing in mind that abstract concepts are fluid and subject to perception, and as a neophyte to Tantra, I am tempted to situate the all-encompassing Shakti in the transrational sphere and put the various personifications of Shakti – for example, the different tantric goddesses like Durga, Parvati and Tara – within the transpersonal plane in the form of archetypal energies.[3] “When [Tantric adepts] invoke a particular deity, they mentally bridge the gulf between the personal and the impersonal.”[4] Continue reading