Yogis in a sensual embrace. Konarak 11th -12th Century India.
Tantric sex is meditative sex. You use meditation to open your senses, all of them. This increases your ability to perceive pleasure and give it. You learn to ride your sexual energies into your inner world, the world of the soul, as well as outward into relationship. Then you practice lovemaking as a form of meditation.
In tantra, you stretch your ability to pay attention, you extend your capacity to tolerate the electricity of sex.
From The Radiance Sutras
The word tantra has interesting resonances. Its usage here is “the teaching,” and is from the Sanskrit tantram, meaning “loom.” There is the image of stretching threads in patterns across the framework of a loom - a tapestry of knowledge. The Indo-European root of the tan in tantram is ten- , to stretch. Thus tantra comes from the same root that gives English the words “attention,” “tender,” “intend,” “entertain,” “intensity,” and “tendon.” Tantra is to stretch ourselves, to extend our capacity for attention to the utmost. Tantra is also the pattern of interconnectedness that we discover when we do so.
The tra of tantra means “technique.” The same root shows up in mantra (manas=mind, + tra=skill, thus, “a tool of thought”). Each verse of a tantra is called a sutra, (there's tra again) which means “thread,” and is cognate with the English “suture,” the thread that joins together. So we are presented with images of skillfully weaving together all the elements of life - mind, body, emotions, breath, soul, individuality and infinity into one tapestry.
Meditation is about taking one thing and going deeper and deeper into it. Ask your body to teach you and to lead you into the realm of these experiences. If you ask, life will lead you for these are all sensory experiences, and all have to do with how life maintains life. Breath is, after all, something that we do thousands of times a day. Meditation invites us into a deeper relationship with breath, with the pulsing of our hearts and emotions. Meditation is taking a wondering, appreciative attitude toward sensing rather than taking it for granted. This manner of inquiry - wondering, posing questions to life, is an essential aspect of meditation. The attitude that this tantra advocates is simple - a completely undefended looking at and feeling into the essential activities of life: joy, sorrow, breathing, loving, walking, dancing, sleeping, exploring. Meditation is diving into your entire sensorium so fearlessly that you go beyond it into the core of your being and rest there.
Tantric practices awaken us to perceiving the loom of life, the radiant threads of light and substance that connect everything to everything, everywhere to everywhere. These threads or strings seem to be made out of vibration. They are because they resonate. When our senses have, through love and meditation, become saturated with love, then they weave together the apparent opposites of body and soul, head and heart, inner and outer.
Below are selections from The Radiance Sutras. These are classic meditative and yoga practices. Notice how intrinsically erotic they are. When you have internalized these ways of paying attention to your experience, then all lovemaking becomes tantric.
Follow the path of the radiant life force
as she flashes upward like lightning
through your body.
to the perineum, that bright place between the legs,
to the crown of the skull,
and to that shining star-place above the head.
Notice how this living electricity becomes ever more subtle
as she rises, radiant as the morning sun
until she streams outward from
the top of the head into all-embracing gratitude.
Thus become intimate with the life of all beings.
Or trace the river of life that flows through you,
the luxuriously rising energies,
Gradually kissing each of the centers along the spine,
Savor each particle of color along the way.
Enter each area tenderly, loving as you go
and then finally, gently
dissolving in the crown of the head.
Let your attention glide
Through the centers of awareness along the spine
with adoring intent.
There is a song to each area of the body.
Listen to these sounds resonating in sweet vortexes,
long rhythmic vowels.
Ah . . . .
and Eee . . . .
Hummmm . . .
resonating on and on.
Listen to these as sounds,
then more subtly as an underlying hum,
eventually as most subtle feeling.
Then diving more deeply,
expand into freedom.
Embrace each of your senses in turn,
Seeing as being touched by light.
Hearing as immersion in an ocean of sound.
Tasting as enlightening.
Smelling as knowing.
Touching as electrifying.
Now leave all these behind,
and be intimate with the unknowable.
Put the attention into the luminous connections
between each of the centers throughout the body.
The base of the spine and the top of the skull,
The genitals and the heart!
The heart and the throat,
the throat and the forehead,
the forehead to the top of the head . . .
Attend to the current of relationship
electrifying, ever-pulsating, richly textured,
between each of these and every other.
Then attend simultaneously to resonance of all with all.
Enter that glowing net of light
with the focus born of awe
and even your bones will know enlightenment.
Return again and again to savoring
the space between breaths.
Learn to delight in each momentary turn.
Rest the attention in your blessed core
as you practice this,
and continually be born into a new and fresh world.