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Sex vs. Tantra vs. Spiritual Practice - A Man's Perspective

Updated: Jul 6, 2018


Sex. Tantra. Spiritual Practice.


What’s the difference? And why should we care?


You can have sex without spirituality.


You can do things in the name of 'spiritual practice' that are actually based on a fear of your sexual self.


And tantra can be an honouring of our full divine selves, or it can be diminished into something less.


Yet when it all comes together, we can feel a coming home to into the fullness and bliss of who we are that is truly like nothing else.


Here's a short story of my exploration in these areas, and what I learned along the way.



~ SEX ~


Growing up as a teenager I learned about sex.


I learned about safety, hygiene and reproduction in sex ed class.


Somewhat tellingly of the deficiencies in these classes and of the sex-ed system in general, one of the teachers responsible for this part of my education ended up being fired from my high school for accessing porn on a school computer. A perfect illustration of what happens when we try and suppress the natural force of what sexuality truly is.


It was still the early days of the internet where online videos were a rare thing. Porn websites were basically just endless lists of pictures of every sexual scenario imaginable. So I learned ideas about pleasure and philosophy more from movies, sex scenes in novels, a few porn VHS tapes I managed to obtain, and from the twisted mind of the Marquise de Sade who’s books I found in a boxes of old books that had been recently gifted to our family.


Without a structured and holistic sexual education that I imagine will one day will be offered as our society develops, I was left as most people have been (at least of my generation & older) to educate myself with all this material that would somewhat randomly make itself available in my life.


Some of the things I learned were actually quite positive. Others were damaging to my psyche and self-esteem in ways that would take me years to unravel.


Most things pointed to sex as being both a powerful source of pleasure, and a foundation on which love, relationships and respect were both built and destroyed.


I learned that to be “good at sex” was actually a key to love and respect from both partners and friends alike, and that perhaps the entire point of life was possibly to have as much good sex as possible. What could possibly be a more fulfilling or pleasurable way to spend the limited years of our atoms and molecules behaving and combusting to temporarily animate our minds and bodies?


Taking these learnings into life & relationship in my later teenage years, my experiences seemed to confirm what all my ‘research’ had been hinting at.


Sex was indeed incredibly pleasurable and even transcendent when it was good. When sex was good it allowed me to feel love, to have girlfriends and connections that helped me feel more full and complete than ever before. And when sex was bad, I felt terrible. If I felt myself underperforming or not measuring up in some idea of how should be sexually performing, the confidence of my whole being seemed to be shaken.


And when I felt rejected it was just the worst, a feeling that I had failed in some way to meet the standard of a man I had somewhere subconsciously decided that I needed to be.

And so in my late teens and early twenties, on a deep level my life revolved around sex, even when I wasn’t having any. Sex had become so inextricably linked to my self-esteem and sense of pleasure (or simply being able to feel), my every action was in some way calculated on the basis of would it increase my sexual attractiveness or confidence, and therefore allow me to feel more of the connection and love I was yearning for.



~ SPIRITUAL PRACTICE ~


At 23 my life changed completely and I rediscovered a spiritual dimension of life within me and around me.


I awoke to feeling god, universal love, source, or whatever you want to call it around me and within me, and discovered that blissful states could be as simple to reach as sitting or lying in meditation.


I realised in each moment I could make a choice that opened me to more of spirit, to more of this divine love, or I could make a choice to shut it down and hide from it’s magnificence.

Feeling that a divine bliss was possible and now I had tasted it there was no going back, my life began to be a constant choice of spiritual practice.


Healing, meditation, and aligning my consciousness with love & god became the primary activities of my days and weeks, along with making the money to attend my next spiritual immersion, course and get the next ‘upgrade’.


In a way just as my first few years of sexual exploration contained a sort of innocent joy of exploring a new world of feeling and being, so did the first few years of spiritual practice, jumping from course to course, from one new mind altering experience to another, getting off on the next spiritual upgrade to some new cool experience or state of being.


Yet what was missing in my first few years of spiritual practice was the integration of sex. It wasn’t quite ’no sex here please we’re spiritual’ but a bit more like how sex got talked about in my family growing up. Very little. With my new found spiritual friends sex was treated like “something fun about being human” but not really an important component of spiritual practice.



~ TANTRA ~


After a couple of years of intense spiritual practice and healing, where I managed to unravel many of my old misconceptions and unhelpful learnings about sex, I started to get interested in Tantra. I didn’t really know anything about tantra, only that it was some traditional form of ‘spiritual sex’ and it seemed like the logical place to find out more about what was possible in sexuality from a spiritual perspective.


At first I just read books on Tantra & Sacred Sexuality which deeply affected me and inspired me to go further. And when I then started to attend tantra workshops & courses, it was like coming home to myself, and coming to sexuality and spirituality in a way that was always meant to be.


I realised that sexuality & spirituality are in a sense two sides of the one coin, and that to focus on one without the other will always be a relatively imbalanced and empty experience, relative to allowing these complimentary aspects of ourselves to be merged and re-united within our being.


I learned that when I allowed my spirituality to fully include my body & sexuality I felt a sense of wholeness, completeness and bliss that beforehand felt like an emptiness waiting to be filled. And when I allowed my sexuality to be expressed with an intention of honouring the divine in all things, that sexuality itself could become a vehicle: opening to honour and realise the spiritual nature of every aspect of reality.


It became natural and evident that sex, spiritual practice & tantra could all be the one thing. That the divine moves in all areas and aspects of my body and feelings, and when I let it flow through me fully it was an incomparably spiritual, blissful & healing experience.





~ SO WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE? ~


You can have sex without spirituality. Or at least without a consciously spiritual or loving intention.


If I was to have sex with only my physical pleasure in mind, or only my partners, my focus is narrowed to a small outcome that is far less than what's possible.


There's nothing wrong at all with this, and of course ‘just sex’ can be a lot of fun. Sex can also be deeply spiritual even without a conscious intention of anything more than feeling good.


Yet sometimes if our soul or heart is calling to be acknowledged or feel connected to another's, and if our sex is only accounting for our pleasure or genitals, then a sexual experience can feel hollow or leave a sense of emptiness.


Before I had my phase of ‘spiritual awakening’ I’d sometimes feel like this, even with partners I loved, and didn’t fully understand why.


As you can have sex without a spiritual intention, so you can do spiritual practice in denial of sexuality.


Because of societal and religious fears around sexuality, there has been a lot of spiritual practice done that in some way is based on fear or outright denunciation of our sexual nature.


The form of practice is not what makes the difference. Once again it is the core intention or energy. You can do a sitting meditation with a conscious or unconscious intention of denying your sexuality. Or you can do a sitting meditation that includes the possibility and potential of who you are as a sexual being.


The two things can look the same on the outside, and even be done according to the same words or instruction.


There is nothing wrong with either. However from my perspective, one intention is fundamentally limited and fearful, the other is not. It feels more true for me not to set such limits on what I do.


WHEN IS TANTRA NOT TANTRA?


In essence, tantra is the merging and integration of sexuality and spirituality.


Or perhaps more accurately and simply, tantra is spirituality, simply done in a way that is not in denial or fear of sex. This is at least how I interpret it’s essence, and the core message of the diverse spiritual practices and traditions the word derives from.


Tantra as both a philosophy and a practice could be viewed in this way as one of the few spiritual traditions that is complete, in the sense that it includes our whole being.


What can be a bit confusing and create some challenges in the contemporary world is that many different things these days are being called “Tantra”, some of which are much closer on the spectrum to 'just sex’.


A lot of Tantra is marketed on the basis of ‘have more pleasure’, and ‘have better orgasms’.


This can start the confusion, but the real difference is the intention of the delivery.


In my experience the fullness of tantra comes when we live from a place of honouring and opening to all of who we are as divine beings. When we do this then pleasure, orgasm and bliss is the natural result. Yet it is always pleasure contained within expansive energy of divine love and consciousness.


When so called ‘tantric practices’ are done only with the intention of increasing pleasure, or even romantic love and connection, the practice can look the same on the outside and pleasure will still increase, but it will be empty of some aspect of the divinity and honouring which makes it a full spiritual practice and experience.


This can lead to people thinking they are “doing tantra” and getting all the benefits it has to offer, but still wondering why there’s a sense of emptiness they're looking to fill. And so people can end up looking for ever more sex, or even be in a mild form of sex addiction as they attempt to find the spiritual wholeness that is missing from their intention.


This is one reason why I’m so passionate about sharing the fullness of tantra as a spiritual practice that I’ve experienced in this work. There's such richness possible through this powerful practice, and the more people can experience it without getting disillusioned or put off, the more love and joy there'll be in the world, in our bodies and our hearts.


......


So there you have it.


The difference between Sex, Spiritual Practice & Tantra is fundamentally in your intention.


Intend for your sex to be an honouring of all of who you are as a divine being.


Let your spiritual practice not be in fear of the physical & sexual being that you are.


Let your Tantric practice light up your entire being from base to crown and beyond.


And then your heart, soul and body will find the fullness of love that is your home, and you will rediscover the bliss that is who you truly are.