Tantric rituals: Inviting intimacy
Let your breath be your prayer. Let your prayer be your breath. Falling into the stillness of that which you are
Without realising it, ritual is a natural part of our life. From waking up in the morning and the way our day begins to unfold – making a cuppa, having our breakfast etc to the way celebrate birth, marriages and death. Through ritual an act becomes focussed and in Tantra, ritual can take you (and your partner) into a deeper space of spiritual awareness and connection. When we perform any act consciously and with awareness, it becomes a ritual. These are beautiful times of mutual encounter where presence and respect are the gifts we offer to each other.
Scientists had thought that human intelligence had not evolved the capacity to perform group rituals until perhaps 40 000 years ago, but in 2006 the discovery of pythons head made of stone plus other artefacts in the Kalahari Desert, dates human ritual as far back as 70 000 years ago.
Tantra has many paths but there are two distinct paths of training, a left hand path (yama-marga) and a right hand path (dakshina-marga). The left hand path practices a more literal form of Tantra that often involves sex. The right hand path, on the other hand, practises a symbolic form of Tantra that views sex as a symbol or metaphor. Some followers of the left hand path of Tantra practise the maithuna ritual, also known as ‘The Five Makaras’ which involves partaking in the five symbols of pleasure – madya (wine), matsya (fish), mamsa (meat), mudra (parched grain) and maithuna (sacred sex).
There is also the ritual of love and devotion where candles or lamps are lit and songs of devotion are sung. Offerings are made to the beloved (this could be a god or your partner) that symbolise the five great elements (the pancha mahabhutas). Earth (prithvi) is an offering of flowers. There will be an offering of water (jala) and fire (tejas) is represented through lamps. Air (vayu) is symbolised by a peacock feather and ether (akasa) by the hair from a Tibetan yak. The five tanmatras which are connected to our senses may also be included – sound (shabda), touch (sparsha), vision (roopa), taste (rasa) and smell (gnadha)
I love ritual. It is a part of my everyday life and those that work with me share in that. Because I travel so much I have even begun to carry a small ‘altar box’ (I make sure it is easy to access in my carry-on luggage as it always triggers security at the airport). I drop into ritual, and for me my love is mantras, in so many moments, feeling the expanse of my heart and sacredness of each breath. Tantric rituals are healing; moving us away from the humdrum of life, moving away from the endless swirl of thoughts of the past and the future to a space where every breath is as if we are drinking the sweet nectar or heaven itself.
There are as many different types of rituals as there are intentions. Sexual rites and rituals form a part of many ancient traditions and used in various ways. A ritual is not so much about what you do, but the intention behind it. For Tantrists and Taoists, ritual love making was considered central to achieving enlightenment through self realisation. Energy flows in and out and around us; it is a part of us and who we are and we cannot separate ourselves from it. When we move into ritual, our connection with our energy and that of our partner heightens and our hearts open to a new level of trust and sense of the sacred. Tantric rituals are spaces of higher consciousness and erotic presence. They invite us to arrive fully in the present moment and to stay a while.
Creating a Sacred Tantra Ritual
When you are creating your ritual space, it need not be elaborate; again it is about your intention. Bring in lots of soft, plump cushions and light some candles. Awaken the senses with flowers, an enchanting fragrance, sensual music and personal items that you love. You might want to have some towels and oil handy in case you want to move into touch. And make sure you are warm enough. Before the ritual, soak in a luxurious bath and wrap a beautiful cloth around yourself. Become part of the offering, the prayer.
Sit comfortably facing each other (if you need a chair that is fine – you need to be comfortable), as close as possible, with your back straight and your spine relaxed. Honour each other with a heart salutation (bringing your hands together in prayer position and gently bending forward until your foreheads touch. Hold this contact for a moment before slowly coming back to sitting straight). You can say ‘Namaste’ if that feels good to you which means ‘’I honour the spirit within you/I see you’. Hold each other’s hands in a relaxed way. Breathe deep and slow, through your nose. Feel the air go all the way down to the belly. Close eyes go inside mind and body. When you feel quiet, squeeze the hand and wait for the return signal. Open eyes, let gazes connect. (Keep your eyes relaxed). Look into the left eye of partner, the receptive eye.
Direct your complete attention to your gaze. Slowly, notice the breathing of your partner and gently harmonize the inhale and exhale. Breathe though the nose, keep it simple and subtle. Say internally or aloud “I recognize you and honour you as an aspect of myself ''.End with a heart salutation.