Monday, August 15, 2011
My Tantric History, Part 1
I'm not an expert in the field of tantra. Nor do I feel that the concept of experts is particularly useful in this context. These days, I'm often reminded of Shunryu Suzuki's book, "Zen Mind - Beginner's Mind". It seems to me like expert knowledge gets in the way of actual experience.
That doesn't mean that we shouldn't know things, of course... but I'm getting off topic, so let me get back.
How did I start out with tantra? It must have been in 2005 or so, and I remember I was extremely unhappy and unsatisfied with my job. I had read a little bit about tantra, had some vague idea of it being sexual and esoteric, and it was the closest I could allow myself to get to actual prostitution. I have actually tried prostitution twice in my life, but both times I wasn't even able to have an erection - the atmosphere of sterile professionalism was such a huge turn-off, and my knowledge about the violent circumstances surrounding it rendered the experience even less overwhelming.
Depressed as I was, I needed to show to myself that I was doing something good to myself. A sign of self-love, symbolizing my hope of self-improvement. So I looked through the classifieds in some small weekly magazine, and I dialled some tantra practitioner's number with trembling fingers.
It was a rather mixed experience. The lady practiced in her own flat, which was a rather shabby apartnment, on a mattress on the between her bed and her desk. She answered the door clothed in a cheap negligée. I had the impression that she had just finished some weekend course in tantric massage and was seizing the opportunity to make a little money on the side. It wasn't a bad experience, it was really what you might expect from classified ads in this price range - maybe the best description is "dedicated layperson". Yeah, that fits well. She was dedicated all right. And I was trying my best to relax. But something just didn't click. Maybe I just wasn't ready.
I forgot the whole thing. Other matters had to be taken care of, I switched jobs, had a relationship, and got into zen.
That whole zen meditation thing is worth talking about - it really helped me see things from a different perspective, and it taught me how to deal with some emotional problems that I had - on the other hand, I soon found myself getting into a somewhat rigid mindset: Zazen has to be performed every day, you have to let go of your judgments, you have to stay present... and furthermore, there were frequent moments of seeming breakthroughs, sudden states of bliss that felt "enlightened", and every single time I thought that this time, it will stay with me - but of course, it never did. (Indeed, I am convinced today that it just doesn't. I think our brains are not made for what the buddhists call enlightenment. At least for the huge majority of people, this seems to be the case.)
So I let go of zen after a few years. I wouldn't want to miss the experience, and I can definitely say that it has improved my life in many ways - the ability to look into one's own states and feelings with a clear, nonjudgmental mind is obviously a treasure worth diving deep for.
In short, I <3 buddhism as a training of mindfulness and non-judgment, but I deeply mistrust the religion they built around it.
I won't go into detail here about all of the techniques I've tried. Some were more useful than others. Some are a bit more out there. Some are surrounded by huge marketing schemes. Some are huge marketing schemes. And some are just plain stupid.
I looked into tantra through the years, infrequently, with some entusiasm that usually lasted for a few days. I liked the idea of spiritual sexuality, I had an inkling that there were transformative opportunities in there, but I never really got into the whole thing.
Anyway, in the summer of 2011, I had 2 weeks of holidays, and I decided to give it another try. Only, this time, I went for a real professional (and rather expensive) offer. As it turned out, this was a wise decision. This really set the mood, or the topic, for the time ahead, and helped me with some emotional trouble I was going through.