I attended the Grand Gathering for Anusara Inspired Teachers in Squaw Valley, California last week with Anusara founder John Friend. Taking master classes with John and workshops with senior teachers was a supportive, enriching and renewing experience, but what I really enjoyed most was the discussion of Tantra philosophy twice a day.
An inter-religious spiritual movement, Tantra arose in medieval India, as a radically positive, world-embracing vision of the whole of reality as an expression of a joyous Divine Consciousness. And just like that sentence, I have to admit I often find it difficult to understand and follow, but the brilliant scholars at the gathering were so clear and accessible that I started to understand how Tantra applies to my own life.
Here are a few of my insights:
- Tantra is a system, a tool, a technology, that enhances the beauty, the goodness, and the joy of the mind to alleviate pain and suffering in all areas of life. Tantra believes all is sacred, and yes it includes sex (which many identify with Tantra), but it also includes walking down the street, eating ice cream or having a conversation, as everything can become a divine experience.
- Tantra supports the inherent belief that life is good, and that we are good. Now I understand why we always look for the good first in Anusara yoga. Every situation has a gift to offer, even if we don’t see it at the time.
- The discipline of Tantra is not about separation of the mind and body, or trying to stop the busy mind, but rather directing the mind consciously to optimize the energy in the body. I know what we focus on expands, so directing our thoughts to optimize our energy makes sense to me, as in when we set an intention.
- Tantra doesn’t have a “shadow,” just stuck light – and the light is only stuck until you look at it. Yoga asana helps us get into the places that are stuck. This idea explains why so often I feel free and open and unstuck after a yoga class, whether we have worked on hip openers or backbends.
- You cannot resist something and gain insight at the same time. When I am struggling with something, like learning how to use my new MAC, I cannot get all the gifts and how much easier it really is to use. I’ll keep you posted on this one!
- We need to keep all of the energy (anger, fear, sadness) but let go of our “story” around it because every story represents a petrified, locked-up form of energy. As soon as I release the story that I am not strong in arm balances, then I can release my struggle with them and empower myself to do them.
- Tantra is life-enhancing. Follow your heart for your own constitution with a deep listening beyond addictions and mind chatter and ask, what is in my highest and best interest? This concept works equally well for decisions from what you eat for dinner to what direction you want to take in your career.
I know I’m just breaking the surface, but I get the idea that the Tantra philosophy can energize every area of your life when applied appropriately. I would love to hear your thoughts.