Personal Development and Tantra
The way of the lovers, Tantra, is an ancient tradition with a very modern message - "know thyself and you shall know the world". There are many immature people who come to Tantra because they are excited by the prospect of super-human sex, of orgasms that last hours, of extraordinary ecstasies. These experiences are available as are other amazing abilities from fulfilling your potential, but they are side effects rather than the target of the way of wisdom and mystery.
This is the result of the traditional focus on sex as a symbol, when the real centre of Tantra is marriage, of which sex is clearly the flower. Not marriage in any particular form, rather as a more general representation of a relationship based on a passionate commitment to a larger identity. This larger identity can be share by two or more people in the intimate form - a family marriage as first comes to mind. It can also be a community, tribe, a corporation, nation depending on which Chakra you are focusing on.
More importantly it represents the marriage that is the inner life, the sense of continuity that you feel as unique individuals. For the warrior there are pure unadulterated identities which require total commitment to the exclusion of all others. These other identities are seen as enemies and so we see the ego (the sense of individuality) as the enemy in some teachings. The aim of these teachings is to have you immerse yourself in the larger identity represented by the morals, philosophies and stories of the community lead by the teacher.
There is a lot of shame, guilt, self-loathing, self-abuse and rage in these teaching and the people who choose to follow them.
For esoteric Tantra there is no conflict between our many Identities. You can be an individual, a husband or wife, of one city, of a nation and of a corporation without there being conflict between them. Well not without conflict, but rather minimizing it.
So an important part of the way of the Lovers is the management of conflict, of the warrior, firstly internally between the different voices within, the different passions, desires and fears. Then with the relationships around you. It does acknowledge that one way of doing this, is to surrender to a bigger experience, to someone you love and trust - Bahkti, it is traditional called.
But there are some who use this as part of a warrior's conquest, and at its worst leads to suicide bombers and terrorists. Many followers of Yoga and New Age versions of spirituality will probably accuse me of being negative, of undermining a fundamental part of the great traditions. I'd say we a being overly romantic if we aren't prepared to look at all the consequences of very powerful approaches to the inner life.
The Chakras give us a structure for building awareness of the elements of identity, classifying approaches to self exploration and personal development and types of relationships.
Everything we do starts with our own point of view.
If you can accept, even love, the reality of who you are, even at your most ugly, embarrassing and shameful then you have a chance to experience the greatest ecstasies available from everyday life and the relationships therein. Part of that personal love of self is the love of the conflicts both inner and outer, without seeking to create more of it or basing your sense of identity on it. Loving another and being loved by another means loving the differences you share, when they are the most likely source of conflict and shame.
This kind of love means you won't allow yourself to be abused, and will be open to learning, and sensitive to yourself and your partners in love, life and business without bowing to them inappropriate.
Personal Development and The Chakras.
The Cycles of Life
There are many ways to talk about the process of personal/spiritual development. You can use the kabala to talk about ten phases, Jacob's Ladder has seven steps with the centres of the kaballa divided between them or the tarot with twenty two or even seventy eight. You can use the I Ching of China with 6 transitions and sixty four possibilities or the five phases (elements or essences) of their medical and spiritual system. You can use the four elements of the western tradition applied to the twelve signs of astrology representing the process of life.
For us, with our focus on Tantra, the Chakras signify the phases of development or transition.
How do you choose from all these possibilities. Firstly, by not taking them too seriously. In Zen they say be careful you don't spend too much time looking at the finger that points to the moon, when you should be looking at the moon itself. We are all humans and one aspect of the path is to trust your intuition. Your passions, your intuition will tell you which of the many available systems, metaphors, is your starting point.
In our understanding the seven Chakras offer helpful insight in the following way.
1. The first Chakra represents fear, history, survival, background environment. So the first step on the path is the recognition that something isn't quite right. We realise this because we feel disconnected from our environment, culture. Something about our history and/or body has left you in pain or discomfort. Sometimes we feel that this is just life as it was meant to be and don't even realise that change is possible that there is any other way for you to be.
So the first lessons are about overcoming fear, and understanding where you came from.
2. The second Chakra is about desire, motivation, passion, and movement. The next step is the realisation that there are other possibilities and that change would be good. Motivation is sometimes based on a positive step towards a better life, other times it is a negative step away from bad situations. Usually the real reasons are a marriage of these two and other things as well.
The second lessons are about discovering what you want, and the basis for your motivations, and the structure of your emotions.
3. The third Chakra is about will, identity, form, body. Sometimes you can have these the insight of the first two chakras and yet move nowhere or circle around yourself. This phase represents the realisation that change is possible, that you have the capibility of doing it and the path you are going to take.
These lessons are about which path is the best for you. Having a teacher you can trust or teaching yourself. Researching the territories and directions possible, developing strength (in the form will, focus), intuition and the capacity for trust.
4. The Fourth Chakra is about action, taking it, doing it expressing your power, your love, your passion, in whatever form. You may know where the destination is and how to get there but it will only be a fantasy if you don't walk it.
This phase is about connection with people, walking whatever path you've chosen, being in the world and doing the things you believe in, testing them against the reality of your world.
5. The fifth Chakra is about communication, listening, sensitivity to the immediate affects and effects of your actions. There are two kinds of affects and effects to your actions, primary and secondary. The primary effects are the immediate sensuous results on yourself and the people and things close to you. Examples are you say something and the other person understands and reacts. You use a hammer and a nail goes in the board. In personal development there will be affects on your relationships, immediate consequences sometimes good and exciting, sometimes uncomfortable and difficult.
This phase is about developing sensitivity, listening to the people and things around you. Paying attention. It can also mean being tested by those who don't want you to change.
6. The Sixth Chakra is about meaning, the broader affects and effects on the bigger environment and your sense of self and purpose. These are the secondary affects and effects. They are the effects that are the ramifications of your action rippling through the world. For example, when you say something it has an immediate meaning and affect (covered by the fifth chakra) and it also contributes to how the people around you know who you are as a person. When you hammer a nail into a board it is part of a building project that may end up as a house you can live in safely. As you develop, as you live, the small actions build into the principles you use to organise your life, as the foundations of your actions and so you know yourself and others know you.
This Phase is about contemplation on the hierarchies of values which organise your experiences. It is about stepping out of the personal and immediately sensuous experience of being you and considering the real, objective affects and effects your actions on the bigger picture of your life. It is also about how your thinking creates your world.
7. The seventh Chakra is about allowing for the unpredictable and about how you handle it. This phase brings you face to face with the limitations of reality, of being human, with the possibilities of the very biggest aspects of the universe (some call it God/Goddess) beyond us which we are part of. Death. Humility. Infinity. Awe. Mystery. With having to start over and over the cycle of life, of the Chakras, of energy to form to energy. It realise that all your've done is in the background, has become grist for the first chakra, and so you start over as a new person. And so it asks to find a new place to sit, a transcendent place, where the cycle of life is ongoing but our love of it means we allow it, participate in it, be excited and passionate about it. let the battle settle into the background.
The lessons here are focused on centring, balancing - flexibility and strength, grief and love, risk and security, trust and knowledge. Surrender/submission - bahkti. It is about learning from living with the unpredictable reality of separate people. And with this understanding and love of it comes the ability to step across the gap between us.
These are the phases of a cycle, not a linear hierarchy with one on top of the others - writing requires that organisation. Each phase is interactive with all the others, feeding back through the whole. And there are active and receptive sides to each, lovers and warriors approaches to the lessons and attitudes engendered. Rituals are great symbols, because they cut through the digital tendencies of the intellect (the warrior's mind) and marry them all together allowing us to see the limitations pointed to by the last in the list.
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