Tantra is a potent field. What makes it so potent is that it works directly with the lifeforce energy, known traditionally as “Shakti”. This energy is sourced in the sexual energy, but can rise to higher levels than sexuality. This ancient Sanskrit word can be translated as “energy” but also as “power”, highlighting the fact that this energy is extremely powerful.
Therefore anyone entering the field as a facilitator or therapist, would be wise to ask themselves soul searching questions in order to keep this power aligned to the highest good. Misused power can cause a lot of harm in the world. A powerless person may perform harmful deeds, but the effect will still be small. A powerful person’s actions will have a big effect, and this may be a huge positive effect or of course a huge negative effect. The effect of action is known as the “karma” of that action, and ancient Tantric teachings taught practitioners of Tantra the laws of karma.
These days, many of the ancient wisdom that was taught alongside the tantric practices has been left behind. In our ever-eager hunger to gain the skill and build the energy, modern consumers of Tantra have leapt into the practices without the wisdom of how to use the power they gain in alignment with the highest good.
Thus Tantra has a bad rep…and often rightfully so! We hear of teachers who use their power to sleep with students, massage therapists who cross boundaries of their vulnerable clients, facilitators who are teaching tantra only to gain prestige and egoic glory…. and so on and so on. And Tantra is supposed to be the field that is bringing more consciousness to sex and power, not less!
What can be done? Is it time to abandon the whole field of Tantra? Or is it time for a purification of the field? Is it possible for the teachers and therapists to stand together and choose to dedicate this whole path and practice to the highest good of all….and have the self-honesty to look within and purify any self-serving aspects that they have brought into their role with them. In my ceaseless optimism, I like to think so. But it’s a choice we all have to make if we are going to carry the precious gifts of Tantra on into the modern world without harm and destruction.
I once had an incident in my own teaching that rocked me to my core. I was leading an energy-raising ritual in partners, and one woman did not want to partner up with the last guy left. Although I said they could just be apart from each other, not even touching, I encouraged her to stay in the class. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me. Many months later I found out that she had felt traumatised by the experience because they guy reminded her of a man who had harmed her in the past. Of course I didn’t know at the time how serious her resistance was, but I felt so bad for having created a stressful situation for one of my students. I really took some soul-searching reflection, prayed for forgiveness and healing of any harm I had been part of, wrote the student a letter to apologise and modified my language in facilitating to be more open and inviting rather than insistent.
I also made clearer guidelines for students highlighting their right to sit out of any process. The whole experience helped to deepen my understanding on Tantra and the way it works…it can push buttons, that is its very way of working. But I understand now that participants have to choose to press those buttons themselves…it is not the responsibility of the facilitator. In fact they need to choose, because their strong intention is what carries them all the way through their process. Their strong intention and dedication is what marks the difference between transforming and traumatizing.
It was a life lesson. But of course it is better we do not simply learn by mistakes, for then we are causing havoc along the way on our path of learning. Better we learn the underlying principles that create harmonious situations, and look within ourselves to purify any misguided intentions.
So if you feel drawn to hold space for Tantra classes, or to step into the role of being a therapist or massage therapist, here are some soul-searching questions that can help to save you from making mistakes that can be harmful to others. Be honest as you answer them! Soul-searching is not about answering to anyone else’s authority, but appealing to your own inner sovereign truth:
- Why do I want to be a Tantra teacher/ therapist? Key question. What is the very seed of your intent? Are you drawn to the prestige of being a tantra teacher? Do you want to impress/shock/seduce people when they ask what you do? Or is it that you have healed deep sexual trauma, moved through love blockages and fulfilled your spiritual quest using Tantra and now want to share that with others? There may be a mix of answers here. Take time to sift through all of the seeds of your intent, so you can find and throw out any bad seeds, and fertilize the good ones. Don’t be tempted to fool yourself…if you are not radically honest you will not throw out the bad seeds.
- How well have I balanced my study of techniques with a knowledge of how to safely apply them? Do I know anything about the history of Tantra? The philosophy of Tantra? But most of all, the Dharma of Tantra? (Do I even know what Dharma means??? Clue: it means the highest way to live, to practice, and to be.)
- Have I ever bothered to research a code of conduct for my field? Do I know safety procedures for giving massage and holding space? Do I know what the ethics are for the procedures I practice?
- Do I know the law around my field? This is mainly related to Tantric Massage, and the question is do I know what each country’s law is on this subject?
- What is my relationship to power? Am I aware of power dynamics? Am I ever tempted to use power to my own advantage? How sensitive am I towards the vulnerability of those held in my power? Do I treat them like children I am taking care of as they grow and heal in Tantra? Or do I take advantage of the power dynamic in any way?
- Have I used my role in Tantra to manipulate my personal relationships? Do I use my prestige or the allure that I might have some secret tantric skills to try to seduce others?
- Have I mastered how to work with my own sexual desire and energy? Do I know for example, how to sublimate or uplift my sexual energy in situations when I am turned on but choosing not to act upon it (such as with clients and students)?
- What is my awareness, understanding and use of boundaries like? Do I understand boundaries as a method of creating safe space whilst people are in the growing/healing stages of their process? Or do I push boundaries, violate boundaries or even shun them completely?
- Do I have clarity around what my own boundaries are? Have I got a set of guidelines to help me navigate through challenging situations?
- Do I have any strong negative attitudes, actions, habits or emotional expressions in my life? If so, am I willing to own them, look into them, and ask for help and guidance if necessary for my own healing?
If, after some time of soul-searching, you have a sinking feeling that you are not fully-equipped with the wisdom, experience or purity to facilitate this path…there are several steps you might want to take:
- Purification. This is not about drinking supergreen juices, but in raking carefully though the seeds of your actions by soul-searching, and bringing the light of consciousness to where you have acted from a self-serving place. When you find these dodgy seeds, set intention to throw them out.
- Healing/ Reparations. Have you created harmful effects you need to heal? Do you need to ask anyone for forgiveness? Apologize for what you have done? Offer something to heal, such as therapy sessions from a reputable therapist, to someone you violated?
- Atonement. This is a very powerful way to purify oneself. It is a personal appeal to the Highest Consciousness to support your transformation and purification. If this feels a bit far-fetched, you could look at it as your lower egoic-self appealing to the highest potential of your being, and asking to raise yourself up to that level.
- Dedication/ Consecration. Offering oneself and one’s efforts continuously to the Highest Consciousness or to Unconditional Love is a way to start to align your personal power with the higher power, the pure power of Ultimate Truth. Again this is about choosing to act not from your self-serving egoic self, but to choose to act from your highest self, or your pure heart.
- Wisdom. Read books that will bring you trustworthy guidance (some suggestions below…). Look for courses that will empower you in areas where you are weak: possibly in codes and ethics of massage therapists, learning about consent, discovering the laws of dharma, how to hold space etc.
- Support. Look into almost any professional field in the world and you will find support structures in place. But in Tantra this is very weak indeed! Find peers: fellow teachers whom you can trust for feedback and guidance. Find mentors, those who have gone before you and have something to teach you (they may not be older in age, but in experience). Meet and gather of the purpose of evolving together and uplifting the whole field of Tantra.
- Continued Education. Just because you teach or give sessions does not mean you need retire from being a student! There is always something new to learn. You may be a master of tantric massage yet know nothing of Tantric Yoga. The more areas you empower yourself in, the stronger your foundation will be. Also it balanced power to be humble enough to be a student.
- Feedback. Open channels of feedback from students or clients so that you can continuously review the subjective effects of your actions. Make these channels ways that are easy to receive and work with, such as surveys and questionnaires. Often face-to-face is not the best way, as students can be intimidated and teachers/therapists can be guarded.
So I heartily encourage all fellow tantra-teachers and therapists to join me on embarking on our soul-searching quests to raise Tantra to the highest level of service, purity and expression. We are innocent in some respect our human foibles of course, but that is no excuse not to chose to excel! This is not about beating ourselves up, not judging others…but in doing the best we can and supporting our peers to do the best they can also. May Tantra serve the highest in all beings!
I would like to see the whole field of Tantra elevate itself into a trustworthy and respectable field of empowerment, so that it can really offer its tremendous fruits to those who would benefit. In this modern world of sexual trauma, relationship issues and spiritual drought, tantra has so much to offer. May it be part of the solution and not part of the problem!
If any facilitators or therapists have been through their own soul-searching already, and perhaps learned from mistakes and found ways to do things better…I’m interested to hear from you. What did you find? Where were you finding problems? How did you resolve them? Did you find useful resources or guidance somewhere? Please post your finding in the comment below. (And please, this is not a space for criticising others, but for sharing from our own wisdom!!!)