Tantra: Healthy Shameless Intimacy

What is Tantra and how can it help you overcome feelings of shame so you can have mind-blowing sex and intimacy?

I began my study and practice of Tantra thinking it would enhance sex making it hotter and at the same time I was scared that if it made sex hotter I might not be able to handle it.

Eight years later is sex hotter? YES. Is that all? NO.

Tantra translated means expansion through awareness, transformation through pleasure. What that literally means is that your whole being is expanded, increased through awareness of your senses, feelings, energy. This includes awareness of your blockages, places in yourself that stop you from authentically enjoying pleasure. One of these blockages can be said to be shame.

Shame is defined as a painful mental feeling aroused by a sense of having done something wrong or dishonorable or improper.

Tantra, as practiced, encompasses having it all – meaning being able to embrace and have everything available in the world, expanding the boundaries in our personal container big enough to have it all and being able to experience pleasure – really feel it.

So then, having it all would naturally include shameless intimacy, yes?

Well, in Tantric practice, we learn to embrace everything about ourselves, the parts of us we like (which is easy) and the parts we do not like (which is not so easy, often they are hidden even to ourselves). One of the parts we don’t like could include shame about liking sex. It’s sometimes experienced as a double-edged sword.

If we like sex, we feel ashamed based on our upbringing, religious training, ethnic origin, family values. Conversely, if we don’t like sex, too, we feel ashamed based on the media, the hype, advertising, Viagra, the current standards dished up to us by the fashion industry, music videos and HBO.

Reconciling conflicting values within ourselves may seem like a monumental challenge. The solution: learn the practice of Tantra.

In Tantra we use the breath. While consciously breathing, we practice something called witnessing. In this practice, we watch what goes on in our mind with no judgment. We watch our thoughts, assessments, evaluation and attachments (especially to being right!). We notice if painful mental feelings arise, feelings related to having done something wrong or dishonorable or improper. We embrace them all and let them go as we exhale.

Once we can embrace them (which takes constant practice) rather than resist, deny or suppress them, an amazing thing happens. They no longer have their hold on us. They no longer occur as blockage. It’s as if a miracle occurs.

We begin to feel free!

And when we feel free, guess what opens up? Our ability to express our passion, our pleasure. We can actually like sex as a feeling in our body. We can hear and embrace voices in the head and yet we’re free to listen to the wisdom of our molecules liking what we feel. This usually leads to experiencing greater intimacy within ourselves and with our partner.

Now, as I stated earlier, I began my study of Tantra thinking it would lead to enhancement of sex. At the same time I feared that if sex became hotter, I might not be able to handle it. Actually, I found I was afraid of the shame of liking it in accordance with early childhood lessons – “Good girls don’t,” and “Why should a man buy the cow when he can get the milk for free?” Men have told me that they have similar feelings of shame based on not knowing what they are doing (performance) or not understanding why anyone would want to be with them (self-worth).

But in witnessing the thoughts and old programming (also the rebellion – doing it anyway), I noticed a deeper level of fear. I honestly did not discover this subtler level until I practiced Tantra for a while and had embraced my shame of liking sex and had experienced greater physical pleasure.

A kind of openness occurred when I admitted to myself that I was allowed to like sex and that I knew I had shame, but could embrace it. The only way I can describe the feeling is one of vulnerability and letting go. I felt I arrived at a totally new level. I suppose it could be called shameless intimacy.

So, just as I have described the witness practice as it applied to embracing my feelings of shame for liking sex, I then needed to witness my feelings of openness and vulnerability and all the judgments I had about that. I had to embrace my shame of allowing myself to be that vulnerable. In other words I had to consciously breathe and keep granting permission for it all.

My boundaries expanded and I am now able to really feel pleasure in sex and shameless intimacy if I choose. It is exhilarating, energizing, expansive and transformational – very powerful. I feel it is my birthright to feel this way.

The following was submitted to me by one of my students:

“I now allow the magnificent love intelligence to have its way, nothing to ask, nothing to question, nothing to want, nothing to hope for everything happens by itself.

There is no loosing, there is only opening to receive more, just as the Lotus opens to receive more light.”
– Bill Plikaitis, Minneapolis, MN

You can feel this way too!

Getting Started – Beginning Tantra Tips:

1. Sit quietly on a pillow or a chair with your back straight.
2. Breathe in slowly through the nose and out through the mouth as you slowly exhale making a sound like a sigh.
3. Notice your thoughts, judgments, evaluations, assessments (mind chatter) gather it up as you inhale. Then let it all go as you exhale deeply through the mouth making sound.
4. Repeat this practice for at least 5 minutes. Keep bringing yourself back to the present by letting it all go as you exhale deeply through the mouth making a sound.
5. Notice how you feel – look in the body as distinct from the mind.

Laurie Handlers, MA is the President of Butterfly Workshops, Inc., a Washington, DC based company currently offering 3 levels of Tantra, Tantra instructor training, and Leadership courses for corporations and individuals. Her book, Sex and Happiness – The Tantric Laws of Intimacy will be our later this year. You can find out more at www.butterflyworkshops.com.