Tantra is a bold and brave path. By its very nature, it embraces areas of our life that normally we would avoid or suppress. This is part of the healing of Tantra…to be able to embrace what has been blocked. When a blockage is released, there is also a surge of energy, or what’s sometimes called an “energy activation”. A part of life that had been previously cut off is accepted once more and so we become more alive and more total.
But how do you embrace the dark and shadowy parts of your life and the blocked emotions and suppressed memories without getting traumatized?
I frequently say: “it is exactly the same things that could open you up that could traumatize you”. Have you ever considered that? We often long to feel more open, more alive. And the very things that could do that, are always edgy. That is, there is an edge between opening up and being traumatized. So what makes the difference?
I often like to make an analogy with non-tantric experiences. Think about activities like bungee jumping or parachuting, surfing or performing on a stage. These activities move energy in you, unless you are super-trained in them. You will usually feel butterflies in the belly beforehand and a huge sense of exhilaration afterwards. These are both signs of energy….the butterflies is the feeling of energy starting awaken. Then the exhilaration is the feeling of energy flowing freely though all of your energy circuits. You feel alive, free and opened up.
Of course if the bungee chord snapped, or the parachute didn’t open, you went under the surf or you messed up your performance on stage, the result (if you didn’t die) would be one of trauma. If you survived the incident it is unlikely you will ever go near it again. You may suffer from all sorts of symptoms of trauma and feel shut down.
So before embarking on these activities, of course you want to find safety. You want a reputable school, a trustworthy instructor and solid equipment. You want to know you are safe to surrender and let go.
It is very much the same with the subjects addressed in Tantra. Sexuality, intimacy, love, relationships and expanded states of consciousness are often things we yearn for, because we can sense the opening we would have through them. But at the same time there is often much fear. We may even be carrying trauma from past experiences in these areas, and feel very afraid to face them again.
So what do you need to look for in order to safely open up? What steps can you take to try to ensure you will receive Tantra and not trauma? Of course, like anything in life, it is never entirely risk-free, even the most reputable surf clubs have accidents. But you can at least have understanding on this journey.
In Tantra it is understood that what often makes the difference between tantra and trauma, is holding space. This means that someone who has already opened up within themselves, is being aware of the processes of the students. This is usually the facilitator and sometimes also assistants, or in one on one healing sessions this would be the therapist.
What characterises the space holder is that they do not get afraid or overwhelmed by the energy, the emotions or the process of the students/client. They are unafraid because they have already activated the energy within themselves. They can stay present with the students as they open up, and their fearlessness enables the student to feel secure to experience.
An analogy would be the ski instructor. Even though the ski student might be afraid of a particular slope, with the instructor’s guidance and presence at their side, they have the empowerment to do it. After a few times with the instructor, they are sufficiently empowered to do it alone.
An example in Tantra might be the student opening up their fiery energy. Often we are afraid of our fire, our passionate lifeforce energy, incase it burns out of control. Tantra would say that energy is only dangerous when it becomes split from conscious awareness (imagine a drunkard expressing rage and violence…an example of unconscious fire energy). So we need to awaken the energy in the light of consciousness.
We might do an exercise in which we dance very passionately and someone watches us. In these kinds of exercises the energy in the whole room becomes very strong. The facilitator holds this energy in their consciousness…this is how they hold the space. In addition, the observer in each pair is also holding space. This creates a safe space for people to awaken their fire energy in a conscious way. They feel more alive, radiant and passionate…and able to express this energy naturally in their lives.
So in which circumstances does trauma occur?
Not all facilitators can hold space for every energy and emotion, nor should they be expected to, after all they are human! But a good facilitator will not offer up a process that they cannot handle. This might sound obvious, but sometimes facilitators think only about the method and do not consider the energy that will be activated through it. It is a shame there are not more teacher-trainings and apprentice programs so that the more experienced facilitators can pass on these energetic skills to the new ones.
Sometimes the energy in the room can surprise even a seasoned facilitator. For example, if several people go into trauma-release in an exercise then this moves a lot of energy in the room, a lot of emotions may be expressed. For this reason, most facilitators work with a team of assistants or co-teachers.
An area of greater concern however is within private healing sessions. For example, many people are drawn to receive tantric massage to clear sexual blocks. This work can be incredible for shifting stuck energy and healing trauma, healing sexual dysfunction and restoring low libido. Many of the sexual issues in relationships cannot be resolved within the couple, and a professional therapist can help to bring people back to a normal healthy functioning.
However, the therapist needs to have a deep understanding of holding space and a training in client-professional relationship. Sadly, many tantra massage trainings are only teaching techniques, and so the tantra scene is running amok with unprofessional massage therapists.
Most shocking of all, is that there are many cases of men offering tantric massage and then using it as an opportunity to engage sexually with their clients, often trying to justify it as a “tantric transmission”. BS. If a client wants to buy sexual intercourse, they would have booked a session of “sexual intercourse”. If they booked a massage, that meant they wanted A MASSAGE.
Imagine someone who had been sexually violated and abused as a child decides to go for a tantric massage to heal their blockages towards sexual intimacy. They want to open up and be able to enter healthy relationships. So if they book a tantra massage and are then taken advantage of whilst in their open and vulnerable state, then this is trauma not tantra.
So let’s envision what the Tantra scene would look like with adequate training and good space-holding.
- Those who want to be teachers can find teacher trainings or apprenticeships to become empowered and experienced, and thus minimize making mistakes.
- There is full awareness of safe space including: safe physical spaces for the work (private tantra workshop spaces), clear boundaries and guidelines, teachers and assistants holding space, sacred space created to hold the experiences.
- There is an adequate amount of meditation to balance experiences in Tantra. If there are a lot of experiences without enough meditation, then energy gets too much for the amount of awareness. The space becomes unsafe. Tantra is always the union of Shiva and Shakti, which means meditation meets energy.
- There are more professional trainings available for those who want to become bodyworkers and offer tantric massage. These trainings would include techniques as well as professional guidelines. Usually a professional program would be months or even years long.
- There would be high-quality professional establishments where people could go to receive massage and other treatments. At the moment many people find a therapist online and sessions are in private houses, thus there is a higher risk of booking an untrustworthy therapist.
- Teachers and therapists would be like ski instructors or surfing teachers, who understand their role to empower their students and clients, whilst keeping them safe and protected.
It is important not to throw out the baby with the bathwater…there is so much healing potential in the Tantra field. It would be a shame to lose that potential and sadly a few self-serving teachers/therapists can give a bad name to the whole field. Interestingly, there is a shift going on right now within the tantra scene in which many teachers and therapists are getting together and considering what to do about the cases in which the safety of students/clients is violated. So possible, like many other professional fields, the scene will evolve to become even better self-regulated and create safer opportunities for people to open up.