Of course, every such attempt is just a very provisional effort. There is always more to explore. But this should give you a good place to start.
First, let me narrow down the term:
Tantra actually DOES include all the religious zealotry, the esoteric nonsense, the blatant prostitution, and the commercialisation that you might imagine. After all, there is no such thing as a tantra police, and everybody is free to do whatever they wish and call it tantra. (There is also, I'm fairly certain, every kind of abuse going on in tantric cults, and even in weekend courses. Always be safe! Just saying.)
I will call my special flavor of it "practical secular tantra" in order to distinguish it from other approaches. That's not a very cool or specific name, (in fact, I just made it up on the spot right now) but for this posting, it will suffice.
My approach is distinctly non-spiritual and rooted in western skepticism, but it does not reduce tantra to a mere sex enhancement technique either.
Now, the tag line version:
This is the very shortest definition I can come up with.
"Practical secular tantra" is a method to deepen your capacity for pleasure, in the most sensual way possible, in order to make you a happier, and thus a better person.
Next, there is the executive summary:
This is slightly longer, but, in my opinion, slightly more useful.
"Practical secular tantra" is a tool of personal development. It works by nourishing and harnessing your own sexual energy. That energy will then help you integrate body and mind better. The goal is to achieve more harmony, more inner peace. Ultimately, you might become a better person. Plus, of course, better orgasms and more fun every single day of your life.
Finally, let's break all of that down, sentence by sentence:
"Practical secular tantra" is a tool of personal development.
The tantric experience, like any other meditative technique worthy of the name, can help you become a little more relaxed, take things not quite so seriously, and more importantly, stop being such a ginormous egocentric pile of douchebaggery.
It works by nourishing and harnessing your own sexual energy.
Okay, you knew that it was about sex -- I mean, duuuh, right. In tantra, sexual energy is seen as the central life-force. If you connect with that and learn to let it flow through you, that experience can wholly transform you, and can turn your whole life from the head (the way it is now) back on its feet (the way it is meant to be).
This part is where most of the practical exercises have their place: Breathing, clenching muscles, visualisation, all in the service of recognizing, and then directing, your energy.
(This is also where all the mumbo-jumbo comes in: Chakras, mystical energy fields, "subtle bodies", the kundalini and its frights and terrors, dire warnings against going too fast, and so on and so forth.)
One important aspect of that is to let go of the immediate goal of orgasm, and to learn how to stay in the present moment even in the presence of sexual arousal.
There is a strong tendency to reduce sex to a race towards a goal. This not only makes sex way less joyful and free than it can be, but it also strips us of great opportunities to practice mindfulness.
You cannot feel that energy moving in your body, as long as your focus is on cumming. It's as if you were on a trip all around Europe, and you tried to take in the very beautiful scenery of Tuscany, but at the same time, you were already planning what to do the next day in Vienna. And then, Salzburg the day after that. It does not work.
The more you re-learn that presence of mind, the more you can enjoy sex. Plus, you become a better lover.
That energy will then help you integrate body and mind better.
It's a fairly simple thing, once you think about it: If you feel great, and sexy, and strong, and at peace, then you have more energy to really listen to your body. You will probably find more time for what really matters, too. That MIGHT mean, for example, that there simply is no need for that cigarette, or that chocolate bar. Without even trying...
The caveat: This is not a given. You cannot "use tantra to give up that porn addiction". It is only one more tool in your box. It will help you with some goals. It will completely fail at others.
The goal is to achieve more harmony, more inner peace.
Tantra is not primarily about better sex. Better sex is one important aspect, of course, and it comes quite naturally the more you learn to let go of the goal of orgasm. You learn to "ride the wave", and you experience incredible bliss. And then, after that, there is this whole inner universe of pleasure, and what's more: a kind of depth of experience. The universe, outside as well as inside, becomes ever deeper, more open, more intense.
Ultimately, you might become a better person. Plus, of course, better orgasms and more fun every single day of your life.
Here is a piece of my personal ideology: If we want more peace on earth, what we need is happy people.
Happy people don't wage wars. Happy people don't beat their spouses. Happy people don't feel the need to one-up you. Happy people can calmly get the job done without drama.
To become better human beings, we should not focus on perfect adherence to specific morals, on never crossing any lines. We should practice our pleasure: totally experiencing our inner and outer being, becoming one with ourselves. (That is the most esoteric you'll hear from me, I promise.)
That is precisely what tantra does: It deepens your capacity for pleasure, in the most sensual way possible.
(Please stand by for the next posting: Exercises of practical secular tantra.)