In last month’s LivingNow, I began my journey into tantra equipped with only Margot Anand’s book ‘The Art of Sexual Ecstasy’ (and a somewhat reluctant husband). This month the work begins in earnest as we tackle the first set of tantra exercises she sets out.
Awakening your inner lover
Anand begins with three relatively simple practices: conscious breathing, awakening your inner lover and the heart salutation.
Exercise one – conscious breathing
Conscious breathing is all about following the breath. This will be a familiar practice for people who meditate regularly. Take a shower and then allow ten minutes to relax before you do this ten minute exercise.
Sit comfortably and close your eyes. For one minute do nothing at all. Simply try and watch what’s going on behind your closed eyes. You will no doubt find your mind flooded with images and thoughts. Now focus on your breathing, on the steady flow of air in and out of your nostrils. Every time you lose focus and find yourself thinking again, simply label it ‘thinking’ and refocus on simply breathing in and out. Don’t fall into the trap of concentrating too hard on trying to stop thinking. Be patient and easy on yourself. Moving out of the head and into the body takes practice and it will become easier as you do this exercise.
Kat’s diary: This exercise was basically a meditation and I therefore had a tendency to ‘nod off’ occasionally. This is what happens when you have had a busy day with an active toddler and you get the opportunity to ‘relax’ with your eyes closed. My body whispers ‘sleep’ to me and I happily oblige. I forcibly remind myself that I am trying to achieve deeper levels of intimacy – my body reminds me that I am two years into extreme sleep deprivation. When I peep at my husband, I am slightly gratified to hear his gentle snoring.
Hubby’s diary: When I was told that the aim of the exercise was conscious breathing and relaxation, I thought ‘Well, this will be easy.’ And then I fell promptly asleep.
Exercise two – awakening your inner lover
Building on the last exercise of watching the breathing we extend and expand the exercise to meet our own inner lover. This practice develops self-appreciation, which is the quickest way to awaken your inner lover.
Again, get yourself comfortable and relaxed. Play some relaxing music. Begin with the focused breathing from the first exercise – let your hands rest over your heart. Let your breathing be easy and gentle. Let a memory, an image or feeling come from a time in your life when you felt totally loved, supported and protected. When you find one particularly vivid and rewarding image, stick with that and breathe deeply as you study it. Remember it in as much detail as you can. Allow your senses to come alive as you let the colours, sounds, smells, textures and tastes come back to you. Really live in that moment again. Find a word or a phrase that expresses that sense of wonder you are now experiencing and repeat it to yourself until you can comfortably say them aloud. Accept and enjoy your uniqueness. Then gradually return to normal waking state.
Kat’s diary: I hated this exercise. It sounded too ‘sit in lotus position and knit your own yoghurt’ for my tastes. I found my memories of feeling loved and supported to be very thin on the ground. I know, poor me. I had to come right into early adulthood before I could find anything tangible to focus on and then I felt guilty because it was a memory involving an ex. I wondered if my husband was having the same difficulties. I could evoke only some of the expected sensory feelings and I really didn’t feel them ‘igniting’ or ‘coming alive’ inside of me as Anand suggests might happen. I really just wanted it to be over.
Hubby’s diary: Though my memories of being loved and supported are easier to access than Kat’s, I still had trouble connecting with this exercise. It felt too airy-fairy for my liking and seemed to have little to do with awakening any type of inner lover I’d care to meet.
Exercise three – the heart salutation
The heart salutation will become a regular practice used as a way to begin and end each exercise.
Create a beautiful and private space in your home. Allow five to ten minutes for this practice.
Note: If you are doing this alone, do the salutation in front of a mirror and substitute your own name.
Correct posture is very important in this exercise. Sit facing your partner for a few minutes gazing gently into their eyes. As you inhale, bring your hands into prayer position in front of you, resting your thumbs against your chest. Together with your partner, close your eyes. On the exhale gently bend forward from the waist, keeping your back straight. Bend forward at a 45-degree angle, until your foreheads touch lightly. Hold this contact for a few moments, feeling the connection between you. Focus on your breathing and allow yourself to soften and open towards your partner. Inhaling, gently straighten your back keeping your hands in prayer position at your heart.
You can either look into your partner’s eyes and say, “[Name] I salute the god/goddess within you” or “I honour you [Name] as an aspect of the Divine.” Or, if you prefer, you can simply continue to hold your partner’s gaze and sound out the word ‘Om’ as you each bend forward towards each other on the exhale. Om is regarded as the root of all sounds – the very sound of the Universe itself manifesting. It is an opening and expansive sound and one that connects us to the Divine in ourselves and one another.
Kat’s diary: This exercise was much easier for me. For a start it actually involved me connecting with my husband as opposed to simply being in the same room as him while we each did our own thing. We lit some candles and incense in our bedroom and we sat opposite each other breathing slowly and steadily. We began what I call ‘soul gazing’ which is holding each other’s gaze gently but without looking away and breathing in time with one another. Straight away this brings me into the present moment and allows me to let go of the busyness of the day. It also reminds me of how much I love this man amid moments of, “He really needs a shave”, or “My bum has gone numb”. Thankfully the running commentary passes quickly if I focus on my breath and keep staring into his big blue eyes. I have done this exercise before with lovely results and am not surprised when a feeling of tenderness for my lovely man washes through me. It’s not always easy to be vulnerable with him and I do have to squash my urge to giggle and make a joke when things get uncomfortable for me.
Hubby’s diary: I liked this exercise, although I did find it hard to focus. For example, do I look at her left eye, or her right, and what am I supposed to be thinking exactly? I didn’t really connect deeply with Kat but it was a good start.
Next month: We will be attempting to create a sacred space for our tantric practices without having to move home or hire a trailer. Apparently we will also be communicating honestly about our fears, resistances and even our sexual fantasies. I’m sure that will be much more of a challenge for me as I don’t really have any fantasies (unless you count the desperate one I have about uninterrupted sleep).
Kat Skarbek is a writer and Head Honcho of The Divine Feminine specialising in unique events for women.
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