What is tantra? (2019)
Hi Andy! Tantric Rope bondage! How is it tantric? What kind of tantra are you connecting it to? White, red, black, Hindu, Buddhistic, or TNT?
I have received this question many times, so I wanted to answer it here properly. First off, I’m NOT a tantric historian. I started to learn rope bondage in the BDSM community about 15 years ago. Five years later I started to be invited as a teacher in various tantric communities. The first of such was Sexsibility in Sweden – a festival that is very much inspired by Barbara Carellas’ Urban Tantra. Funnily enough, I’ve heard it said that Barbara regrets calling it “Tantra” in the first place because of this question in particular! As, in essence, what we practice is a handful of techniques and values that makes sense by themselves, without connecting them to a spiritual and mystical legacy. It doesn’t matter if you associate the techniques with a Hindu or Buddhist deity, or none at all because they work anyway (for most people).
What do you think about the colours – white, red, and black tantra?
As I understand it, white tantra is connected to spirituality and devotion. Red tantra to sexuality and sensuality. Black tantra to power and control. I’ve also seen it explained as the left and the right-hand path. The right being the righteous, holy, and pure. While left being the manipulative, catalytic, and chaotic. All these different words are symbols to explain the frame of what is happening, and not happening in their practice. I don’t want to say that my tantric rope bondage is rainbow tantra, but the approach is to welcome all reasons to explore oneself. To do so consciously and with a no-fucking-charity attitude – to focus on what is good for you and to communicate that clearly. My tantric rope bondage is definitely not guru tantra. I’m not a guru that knows better than you – in that aspect, I’m very different from TNT.
What are the techniques and values that you work with?
Focus on the present experience. Not an expectation or a goal, and not a memory from the past. Slow down to have time to actually experience the present. There is a danger that the brain makes a lazy shortcut and shows us what we assume about the present instead of what is actually there. There is also a paradox because fantasy is super important as a guide. Barbara explains it well in Urban Tantra – make all the preparations using all your knowledge from the past and your fantasies about the future, BUT when you begin, you have let go and trust the present.
The importance of breath, intent, and “energy”. These are all tools bringing us to the present and to the embodied experience. Rituals are an extension of this – to separate the present experience in time and space from everyday life. We can prototype new behaviours, and then consciously decide how we want to incorporate them with the outside world. This allows us to check-in with our morals and when possible ask for consent. For example, learning how to dominate someone in a rope session has made me much less interested in dominating people in everyday life.
The idea that what we suppress is just as important as what we express. To suppress something takes effort because it is the activity to block something that wants to be expressed. This is the big difference between suppressing and ignoring. The suppression can be rooted in our society or our personality. Sometimes suppression is vital, like suppressing sexuality in the workspace or to avoid old traumas. Other times it is blocking ourselves to express the grandeur of our being. This is why prototyping it consciously and consensually in a protected space is so important.
Maybe this is where my tantric rope bondage shares something with the old Hindu tantric traditions, as their society was very active in controlling power and sexuality. Limiting sexuality to a means of reproduction, and dividing the power according to the cast-system. I’ve been told that tantra was a form of rebellion against this. As Esther Perel says “Basically most of us will get turned on at night by the very same things that we will demonstrate against during the day.”
I’ll stop here, and hopefully, this has clarified the relationship between my tantric rope bondage, and the word tantra. Sorry for the rant.
It’s very rare that I get to see myself teach and demonstrate rope, that why I’m so grateful to Ken Buslay for these images.