What is tantra and tantric shadow work?
What is Tantra?
Traditionally, tantric practices have been about challenging taboos. A taboo is a strong judgment that is often a part of our culture. For example your relationship to death or your sexuality.
The temples of Khajuraho
Classical Tantric temples were decorated with frescoes of various kinds of sex acts. Visitors to the temples had to walk around the temple walls and watch scenes of heterosexual games, homosexual encounters and even erotic depictions between humans and animals. When viewing the frescoes feelings of desire or revulsion arose and each visitor would consider their feelings and thus see their own ego. The visitors were "pure" enough to enter the temple as the only thing you saw on the temple walls was the expression of the divine power.
Another way to practice tantra is to engage as agori sadhus in cannibalism, coprophagy and necrophilia in order to indulge in the divine in all its forms, even in the dead. There are still sadhus in India today, where they often live on burial grounds and use skulls as bowls to drink from.
If you are curious of why this seemingly repulsive behavior is tantra, please read the previous article about "what is tantra".
Western tantra, also called "neo tantra" is often about practicing tantric sexuality. This is because we in the West have a very complex view of sex. We often experience ourselves as sexually liberated, but just like society in general, our sexuality is characterized by performance anxiety and ego games. There are very few who are really present during sex, which is a direct blueprint of existence in general. In our sexuality, vulnerability and authenticity are taboo and when we challenge taboos, we expand our consciousness and become more of ourselves. When we dare to put our performance and games to bed, the rest of life follows. We become more open, honest and authentic with our boundaries and needs..
Tantric Shadow Work
Before you start practicing tantric sexuality, you should start with tantric shadow work. Tantric shadow work means that you bring out the sides of yourself that operate in the subconscious and that are destructive to you and those close to you. Often these sides are protected by a layer of ignorance, judgment of others or grandiosity towards yourself. Your shadow sides don't want to be seen and the internal mechanisms that hide your shadows take a tremendous amount of energy.
If you live your whole life with your shadows operating in the dark, you will build a fake world that only gets more contracted the older you get.
To hide the shadow sides in you is to reject yourself and in that you separate yourself from others and from the divine. When you bring your shadows into the light, they release their grip on your behavior and your emotional life. When you work with your shadows, you can finally see clearly and your shadows become pure energy.
It is important to remember that your shadow sides are a defense mechanism that many times were established in childhood as a result of your parents not being present and attentive enough to you. It can also be a result of a lack of care, that you have not been allowed to co-regulate your emotions with a safe adult or the effect of a trauma. It's important to have compassion for your defense mechanisms, but never get caught up in blaming the past for your shadow behaviors. Blaming your dark sides on others makes you a powerless victim who cannot take control of their situation and you will create another shadow.
Examples of common shadows:
- Doing something to get something.
This pattern subconsciously tells you that you are not good enough as you are or that your needs are not justified. The pattern leads to you subconsciously manipulating your environment and creating situations where others feel indebted to you. You create an experience in others of not being unconditionally loved.
When the shadow comes into the light, it's about wanting to give love and support to those around you, to belong together and to fulfill a function in the lives of your fellow human beings.
- Lowering others to lift yourself up.
This pattern is subconsciously telling yourself that you have dark sides that need to be hidden with a nice facade. You may have an overwhelming fear within you of being exposed. The pattern will lead to you being perceived as unsympathetic and self-righteous and that you will only have superficial relationships that want to bask in the brilliance you display.
Many times this pattern involves a disguised admiration for others and an inability to experience admiration without beating yourself up for being less admirable.
When the shadow comes into the light, you will appreciate the beauty, strength and power of others. You will also be admired and loved for who you are and not for who you want to show off.
- Feeling offended or misunderstood.
This pattern creates a paranoid personality that believes there is a hidden agenda in other people. This leads to you creating unnecessary conflicts around you. That you step over other people's boundaries and provoke reactions around you. Reactions that already give you "water to the mill".
When the shadow comes into the light, you get in touch with your vulnerability and you become clear in your way of communicating. You will create security in and around you.
Want to know more about Tantric Shadow Work?
Come to my tantra massage retreat on Skeppsudden in October, to our tantra retreat for couples in the Czech Republic or to a private tantra session. I always emphasize shadow work in all my courses!