In tantra, a core foundational principle is that of polarity. Polarity is the apparent split that we can experience when Oneness takes form in the realm of duality. It is the principle that all that we see before us is actually one truth appearing as a dance of opposites. So the oneness of nature appears as day and night, as summer and winter. The oneness of unconditional love appears as love and loss, or as giving and receiving, and in other dualities. The oneness of pure lifeforce appears as life and death….and so on.
Tantra aims to embrace both “sides” of all dualities and open up to their union, in order that we touch the oneness behind it all, not only as a transient experience but as our true nature. Each time we experience union we are taken “home”, reminded of our true nature.
A major polarity is known as Shiva and Shakti. It is a metaphysical description of the ultimate masculine and feminine spiritual forces. Shiva describes pure presence, truth and awareness at its highest level…Buddha Nature, enlightenment. Shakti describes pure life force energy, the holy spirit, the creative force at its highest level…Gaia, Nature, Creation.
In Tantra we want to see these highest principles in each other, which is called transfiguration. It is vital to remember that we all contain both, no matter what our physical gender. All of us can be seen as energy and consciousness meeting….in fact in ancient Chinese Medicine wisdom, the union of Yin and Yang as energy and consciousness is what creates human life, and when these two split, we die from this realm of life. (The energy is returned to Earth and consciousness returns to Heaven, according to TCM. Thus health in TCM is all about bringing yin and yang into harmony…)
When we relate as man and woman, we can move from seeing the polarity within ourselves to experiencing the polarity between us. If we chose to, man can resonate with Truth and Consciousness, and woman can express energy and lifeforce (for example, a man watching with awareness as a woman dances for him). It is not that she has no consciousness and that he has no energy, but in this moment they are polarizing to express these two polarities. If they unite together, then they are enacting the union of yin and yang, and in tantric love making they will experience what is known as the “divine union”, a meditative experience in which they return to the Source.
This is a beautiful and profound meditation.
Yet there is also a lot of confusion created in the tantric world by this polarity dance.
Sometimes in the dance of attraction, we forget that we are all made up of Shiva and Shakti. We start labeling all men and all expressions of masculinity as “Shiva”, and all women and all manifestations of femininity as “Shakti”. But then what is the use of such profound terms if we apply them to everything and everyone?
To name “Shiva” to anyone for simply being a man and “Shakti” to anyone who happens to be a woman is losing the whole value of having a transcendent inspiration. Can we really call a man who is being aggressive or egotistic “Shiva”? If a woman is in emotional chaos, should we call that “being Shakti”? Surely it helps if we can distinguish distorted Shiva and distorted Shakti from the Divine aspects? Then we can forgive the distorted expressions more quickly and support our beloveds to return to truth.
I hear many women in the tantra world trying to “surrender to Shiva”, but then surrendering to a false god. Surrendering to a man taking advantage of her or acting out of his ego. What good comes of surrendering to that? And a man might be “holding space for Shakti”, but at the end of the day he is witnessing an emotional storm of energy that will go on forever unless it is healed. Surely he is wasting his time?
How can we step beyond this?
Sitting in silent meditation can help men and women find true Shiva. Buddha, Shiva and other great guides of this path all teach meditation. By meditating we can find Shiva as Consciousness. We can surrender to the true Shiva every time we meditate and surrender our thoughts to Highest Consciousness.
Dancing, singing, touching emotions and moving energy (such as qigong or orgasmic practices) are all time-tested ways used by men and women to access the flow of energy, and allow it to purify as it is allowed to flow once more. Once the energy flows smoothly in our own bodies, then we can find Shakti in all manifestations of energy. We can begin to sense free-flowing Shakti and also recognize places where the energy is blocked or distorted. We can all hold space for Shakti by witnessing the free flow of energy within the field of conscious awareness.
The biggest pitfall of Tantra is surely to get lost in interpersonal relating and not give time and space to the practices that take us into connection with the Highest Consciousness and the Purest Lifeforce. Relationships are useful mirrors, but are on the horizontal plane only. Without the vertical plane, between Heaven (Consciousness) and Earth (Energy), we can get lost in a hall of mirrors, the confusing world of projections and distorted perceptions.
Looking for God only in a man, looking for the Goddess only in a woman…why not step away for a moment and find Shiva and Shakti through your own practices? Then you can return to the human relationship with your newfound state of being and see the divine within the human.