Read an Excerpt
Seven Tantric Keys of Awakening
The practices and rituals you will find here are doorways that reveal the inherent beauty and meaning of our ordinary moments.
Say yes to life in all its erotic passion.
Go with the flow of the life force within and all around you.
Trust yourself, and allow your personal power to manifest in life.
Open your heart in loving compassion to the self and others.
Authentically express your creativity and your truth.
Look within to achieve clarity and insight in your life.
Surrender to your Source and know gratitude, spiritual peace, and a new capacity to live at your maximum potential in every moment.
These seven Tantric keys can open us up to our essential selves and unleash in us that abundant, joyous energy--EveryDay Ecstasy--that allows us to be all that we can be as human beings with our partners and our children and in our work, our community, and the world. In the process, we discover the meaning of elegance, the art of achieving maximum results with minimum effort. Elegant people are in love with life. And their love calls them to make contributions beyond the call of mere duty, to participate fully, to share their joys, pains, gifts, and truths with others. And, by their example, they remind us that beyond our apparent differences, we are connected in Spirit, We are One.
My own spiritual journey, which led me to the path of EveryDay Ecstasy, began in Paris, when I was eighteen years old. I was wildly in love with my boyfriend; and the first time we made love, at the peak of orgasm, my consciousness expanded until, suddenly, unexpectedly, nothing was left but the absolute certainty that I was utterly and totally free and that this absolute freedom was, for me, the secret of life. This realization set the course of my life.
This may seem like an unusual beginning to many people. Yet most of us have enjoyed one unforgettable peak moment that leaves us with a yearning for that sense of ecstasy, wholeness, or exquisite peace. Unfortunately, our culture does not teach us the value of such experiences or the skills to cultivate them. But after this first ecstatic moment, I knew I wanted to discover how to integrate spirituality with sexuality in my daily life.
My studies and degrees in psychology and philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris did not bring any answers to my quest. Later, my practice as a therapist failed to satisfy my hunger for experiential wisdom. I turned to the study of bodywork therapies and self-development groups: bioenergetics, encounter groups, rolfing, Gestalt, Arica, integral yoga. And still I found no direct answers that explained the connection between sexuality and spirituality. I set out on a journey to explore the traditions of sacred sexuality around the world. I soon was introduced to the ancient Eastern science of Tantra; like yoga, Zen, and Sufism, Tantra is a spiritual path to enlightenment. But unlike most mystical paths, Tantra includes sexuality as a doorway to ecstasy and enlightenment. The essence of the Tantric teachings can be summarized as this: Choose with awareness what gives you joy, and it will lead you to Spirit. A particularly attractive approach, I thought, for us Westerners so deeply influenced by the puritanical Judeo-Christian tradition, which conceives of pleasure not as a door to heaven but rather as a shortcut to hell!
Although this book is not about sexuality, as my other books have been, the Tantric perspective has greatly influenced my work.
What Is Tantra?
Many people today mistakenly believe that Tantra is a spiritual bastardization of sexual therapy, an excuse to indulge in sensual games, an addiction to hours of sexual orgasms. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Tantric path teaches us to embrace and unify the ordinary, the erotic, and the sacred dimensions of life, which all have their roots in Spirit.
The beauty and wisdom of Tantra is that it embraces sexuality as a doorway to the "ecstatic mind of great bliss." Truly, at the peak of orgasm, we pierce through the illusion of fragmentation and separation, and glimpse the unity and interconnectedness of all beings. And through the other--our partner--we fall in love with life.
Because sex holds this great potential for opening our being to the experience of ecstasy, Tantra has for millennia taught the cultivation of sexual love as an art, as a skillful spiritual practice. Then, as now, Tantra challenges the belief promoted by most spiritual and religious paths that we must suppress or transcend our sexuality to practice meditation or awaken our Spirit. Tantra arose in rebellion against these ascetical and life-negating creeds. It acknowledges that sex is at the root of life and that to make human sexuality and erotic union a form of worship and meditation is to practice reverence for life, leading us directly through the pleasure of the senses to spiritual liberation.
Tantra teaches that we master desires not by avoiding them but by immersing ourself in them. Once known and experienced deeply, they can be transcended. In fact, Tantra teaches that nothing is to be excluded from our understanding of reality. We need not suffer by sacrificing pleasures. We can cultivate them as opportunities for awakening. Tantra teaches us to embrace every moment in our totality, to respond bodily, feel from the heart, perceive with clarity, and be fully present to others and to life. In this book, we will explore ways to bring such energy, passion, and awareness to all our seemingly ordinary, and extraordinary, moments and to make our everyday life a journey of awakening.
Tantra is a Sanskrit word derived from the root tan, "to expand." In the process of my study and practice of the Tantric arts, I developed this definition: Tantra is the art of weaving the often contradictory aspects of our self or personality into a unified whole, for the purpose of expanding our consciousness. Scholar Ajit Mookerjee defines Tantra as "knowledge of a systematic, scientific, and experimental method which offers the possibility of expanding man's consciousness and faculties, a process through which the individual's inherent spiritual powers can be realized."
Create an Ecstatic Life
What if you began each day from a state of creative awareness, with a clear vision of what you want and how it can be achieved? For example, when you want to create a perfect dinner party for good friends, you begin with a vision of a warm gathering filled with intimate friendship, laughter, and good food. You begin, first imaginatively, then actually, to feel and create the atmosphere--you choose a menu, the lighting, the dishes you will use, the music or games you will play. You feel the enjoyment of the evening itself as you prepare for it and anticipate it throughout the day. Below is a ritual for starting your day with clarity, by opening all your centers.
A Ritual for Beginning the Day
To remind yourself that each day represents a brand new opportunity to taste the sacredness of life; a chance to be nurtured by the mystery; a chance to relate lovingly, happily, and even with laughter to everyone around you.
Have on hand a candle, incense, and matches.
Prepare a good sound system with slow, meditative music. (Be sure to pick music that will not interfere with your thoughts and that will not run out before the ritual is completed.)
Sit on a comfortable pillow.
Wake up fifteen minutes earlier to allow yourself the time to perform this ritual without feeling rushed.
As you wake up, open your eyes slowly, and close them. Then open them again, this time with awareness. Take a few slow, deep breaths and remind yourself that you wanted to get up early this morning to perform this ritual.
Get up, put on a robe (make sure you're warm and comfortable), and stretch slowly or shake your body loose from the night's sleep.
Light a candle and stick of incense to begin creating your sacred space.
Play your music.
Sit on your meditation pillow, in a comfortable position. If you are doing this ritual with a partner, sit opposite each other, holding hands.
Relax for a few moments, eyes closed, watching the movement of your breath. When you feel calm and quiet, go on to the next step.
Begin to focus gently and effortlessly on the day ahead, breathing slowly and deeply. Go through the day, envisioning each moment. See if one difficult challenge presents itself (for instance, you have too much to do today and not enough time to do it, or your child is home sick from school). Look at the thoughts as you would look at a passing landscape through a car window. Let the thoughts come and go.
Pay attention to your body. How does your body react to these thoughts? Do you feel any tight spots? A constriction in your chest, stomach cramps, heart palpitations, a simple tensing of the muscles of your jaw and neck? Zoom in on the part of your day's vision that is causing your body pain. This is what you will transform in the ritual. (If you find more than one painful area, take them one at a time. Don't try to do too much at once.)
Keep breathing calmly and deeply. Create a mental picture of the difficult moment that you're dreading in your day to come. (We'll use the example of a stressful project at work, one you have to work on with difficult people.) Now release the image, let it travel through your chakras, allowing the energy of each chakra to transform it.
The Root of Creation
Let your awareness dwell in the first chakra, in your genitals. Relax your genital muscles into the earth and allow them to feel vibrant, ready, grounded. Here is where you will generate the vision.
See the difficult situation existing inside your first chakra, let it resonate, and begin the transformation.
Say (to yourself or out loud), "There is enough time, money, trust, love, understanding to heal this situation."
Envision the scene filled with a sense of abundance and resolution. Feel that this is already true, that it has happened. You should not feel pressure to make it happen. When you have this vision firmly in mind, go on to the next chakra.
The Flowing Stream
Let your awareness dwell in your navel area. Breathe into your belly and soften the muscles.
See the difficult situation existing inside your second chakra, and surround it with a sea of fluidity and flexibility.
Say to yourself, "I am open to change."
See yourself enjoying the flow of conversation. See everyone finding the place of flexibility in the situation, being open to changing opinions and positions, adapting effortlessly to the currents of energy that your vision carries. When you have an image of the situation transformed by openness and possibility, go on to the next chakra.
The Radiant Sun
Let your awareness dwell in your solar plexus. Breathe into your solar plexus, feel it expanding, relaxed, and powerful.
See the difficult situation existing inside your third chakra, and infuse it with energy and power.
Say to yourself, "I have all the energy I need to complete this project."
See yourself and all the people in your image feeling alive and on purpose. You make correct choices, you are innovative and responsible. Your authority is respected. When you have an image of the situation transformed through positive action, go on to the next chakra.
The Pulse of Life
Let your awareness dwell in the center of your chest, in your heart area. Open your chest, relaxing the muscles that surround your heart. Feel your heart opening to receive.
See the difficult situation existing inside your fourth chakra, and surround the image and everyone in it with love and acceptance.
Say to yourself, "I am ready to create a common ground." Don't dwell on successes or failures, or petty antagonism, but simply appreciate what everyone has done so far.
Let yourself see how much happier everyone is when they feel acknowledged, how much more motivated they are toward positive results. When you have an image of the situation transformed by love and acceptance, move on to the next chakra.
The Song of the Soul
Let your awareness dwell in your throat. Relax your throat, your jaw.
See the difficult situation existing inside your fifth chakra, and allow everyone in the vision to express their truth in a creative way.
Say to yourself, "I enjoy sharing my creative ideas and hearing others express theirs."
See the comical side of the situation. Exaggerate the image if you need to. See everyone dancing a jig around the office, diving off desks, flying paper airplanes over cubicle walls. See thought balloons coming out of their heads, filled with brilliant, witty, outrageous ideas. When your image is transformed by laughter and creative expression, go on to the next chakra.
The Full Moon
Let your awareness dwell in your third eye, the area between your eyebrows.
Feel the eye opening, taking in the scene with great objectivity. See the difficult situation existing inside your sixth chakra, and envision everyone in the scene feeling connected, integrated between body, mind, and Spirit.
Say to yourself, "I act to realize my vision with intention and purpose. I am clear in my action and make the right choices."
Now you see the big picture; you are no longer bogged down by details or identifying with criticism. You are witnessing the situation but are not lost in it. You have achieved a balance between understanding the context and listening to your intuitive guidance. Move on to the next chakra.
The Open Sky
Let your awareness dwell in the top of your head. Relax the muscles of your scalp and allow this chakra to open, like a cup waiting to be filled. See the newly transformed situation existing as pure potential inside your seventh chakra.
Say to yourself, "I am ready to receive what I need to heal this situation."
See yourself linked with everyone in your image at a soul level. Your Spirits are connecting. You all have a role to play in this situation, and you all know exactly what needs to be done to move the project further. See all of you surrendering your ego needs ("I know better") to your greater purpose: harmony. You become one Spirit. You respect each other. All is well. When you have created this joyous image, let it go out of the top of your head and into the universe, knowing that it has already been accomplished. Move into your day with calm and certainty of success.
Review your meditation. Have you created a joyous, harmonious day? Do you feel ready to move into your day with ease and confidence? If you're not quite ready, move through the chakras again to heal any remaining block.
Take a moment to center yourself. Breathe calmly and deeply for a few more moments, and allow yourself to come back to the present moment. If you are working
From the Hardcover edition.