‘Dark Tantra’ is a term I use to describe the conscious exploration of the mysterious and beautiful places where Sacred Sexuality, Conscious Kink, and the erotic shadow overlap.
What does this mean exactly?
Tantra is a word that is often overused, misused, and misunderstood.
Tantra has a long history consisting of many threads throughout continental Asia and contrary to popular belief, does not represent a single cohesive practice. Historically, it has never been about simply ‘bringing spirituality into sexuality’, which is how it’s often perceived and taught in the West. If anything, it has been the other way around Tantra has a history of being a spiritual practice, which in some cases includes rituals of a sexual nature.
With so many different understandings of the nature of Tantra, it is hard for anyone to use the term and be understood.
As a rough guide, though, I am interested in ritual that deepens our collective self-knowledge and furthers our ability to see ourselves as divine beings. Conscious Sexual practices are a definite and active part of this. To live fully means embracing all parts of you fully. Including parts you might judge or even feel afraid of.
Many of us had sex before we had good communication about sex. We have been brought up in an era where very few of us talk openly and honestly about our own sexuality. Such discussions are usually shunned, or at least filled with awkwardness. There may have been some sex education at school but that is usually about reproduction rather than pleasure, consent and sexuality. Some of us may have had sex-positive parents to some degree, but for the most part we have had to learn about sexuality all by ourselves.
Conscious Sexuality movement is the practice of actively communicating with our lovers about our desires. It knows that other people have desires that do not match ours and this is acceptable to us. Everyone has a different experience of sexuality and we acknowledge this. With lovers, we communicate with words, with touch, with facial expressions and with our hearts. We assert our boundaries and we enthusiastically respect it when others assert their boundaries to us. Conscious Sexuality is being truly present in our bodies when we join our lovers, and doing all we can to break out of subconscious patterns by bringing these patterns into awareness.
Kinky Tantra is fun and empowering. We will explore the edges of your comfort zone in a playful way. You will learn some basics of both Tantra and BDSM and how you can imply imprint you received in daily life.
The Shadow – that part of ourselves that, due to societal conditioning, we hide from ourselves and those around us. In this context, we are mostly interested in the erotic parts of the shadow, this tends to be where the most potent power is, and the room for most growth.
Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. Yet to penetrate the darkness we must summon all the powers of enlightenment that consciousness can offer.
The Erotic Shadow is any sexual impulse at all; for others the shadow pertains to specific kinks and fetishes. Most of us on planet earth have been brought up to hide at least a part of our sexual impulses. This hiding allows us to fit into society, but we are denying a part of ourselves by doing so. There may be ‘negative’ emotions around our erotic shadows. Feelings such as shame, guilt, or self-loathing can be very present when a part of the self has been suppressed. It takes an act of courageous self-love to decide to take a deep breath, look inward, and examine what lies in the shadows within. Note that the emotions we identify as negative can be highly charged, and this charge can be very useful.
The thing is, beyond procreation and recreation, human sexuality becomes highly complex, nuanced, and mysterious. For the most part these aspects of our personal sexuality have been repressed, ignored, vilified, and hidden from view in most ways in modern culture. Most of us don’t know that much about it and when we finally escape the grips of our oppressive sexual upbringing, we are still stuck trying without a healthy role model or peer group to be able to find, explore, express, create, and integrate our authentic sexual desires into which we are overall. This often leaves the darker sides un-explored.
Combining the desire to explore sacred sexuality (movement towards spiritual self-knowledge) and the understanding that we have suppressed large chunks of our selves into our Shadows, the goal then becomes to explore and ultimately integrate those suppressed parts of ourselves. By consciously and willfully choosing to look at our Shadows, we are attempting to bring those suppressed parts into our own awareness.
Exploring the Shadow is akin to lighting a candle, and exploring the myriad of caves within our unconscious minds.
As many of our Shadows are of a sexual nature, and sexuality is a powerful force to be reckoned with, it requires a high degree of alertness and awareness to explore the Shadow recesses of our mind.
Our shadows do not just stay comfortably hidden and out of the way. Life has a funny
knack for ensuring we cannot sustainably reject parts of the Self. They have a tendency to demand our attention by taking on volatile, addictive, and ‘icky’ qualities. Often we project our shadows on to others, judging qualities in them that unconsciously we actually reject in ourselves. Focusing on our dislike of others may feel good initially as we do not have to focus on our own demons, however being caught up in a web of illusions and judgements does not feel good for long! Ultimately it just reinforces our own self-judgement and shame.
How do we deal with this deeply embedded fear, inadequacy, shame and judgements as we open up the depth of our erotic desires and how will they affect how we express or do not express our sexuality. In one sense, Dark Tantra overlaps a lot of esoteric mystery traditions. One common goal of many of these traditions is for each explorer to fully remember that we are all divine beings and the goal of the work is to bring our divine nature into full consciousness. In other words: one purpose in exploring Dark Tantra is to help us see through all of the illusions and mental programming and to remember who we really are and to help others also remember.
In a practical sense, Dark Tantra is about creating safe and conscious ritual spaces where we can take time to look within, explore what we find there, integrate those things we find and come out more whole and more empowered. As so much of our darkness is tied up with our sexuality, a Dark Tantra session or workshop involves using the tools of Conscious Sexuality and Conscious Kink in order to forge a path within ourselves.
As grown ups, we have the ability to consciously explore our sexuality a bit more, we use tools from conscious kink around touch and consent negotiation. We combine these skills with erotic ritual and inner transformation as a shamanic journey through mind, body, and soul to explore pieces of our inner erotic landscape from the lighter side to the deeper hidden psychology that might be in the shadows. This is where we might access our own personal hidden erotic gold. This process will help integrate these aspects of self-leading to a further embodiment of what wholeness of self-feels like.
Conscious Kink also allows for our darker erotic fantasies to be explored, and for this reason a large part of workshops is geared towards learning common tools for asserting boundaries and ensuring healthy methods for gaining authentic consent from those involved in our scene. Consent is everything!!!.
In conclusion, our societal wounding around sexuality is covered by a distorted oppression of desire, through exploring the shadow we can bring it into consciousness and create the potential to live a deeper more passionate life. Conscious Kink is important to our exploration of the Shadow as it allows us to explore any fetishes we might have in an empowering and nurturing way.
When we explore a kink, fetish or fantasy for the first time, especially if we have been aware of it for a long time, several things can happen.
Firstly we can get what we call a “shame hangover” and this is evident when you ask yourself, “What the fuck did I just do?” To some degree this is to be expected as you have just explored something that you felt was shameful just a few days earlier. It is now time for self-love and self-nurturing. You have done a big thing and you have brought a light to your own shadow. You survived the challenge your inner world called you to embark upon. In shamanic language, you may like to think of this as retrieving a piece of yourself that you had earlier cut off. I recommend lots of self-nurturing things like feel-good movies, snuggles and chocolate though each person needs to integrate in their own way.
I often like to create art after a Dark Tantra ritual. The unconscious mind might need to express itself. Allow emotions to flow. Be held. It will not be long before the integration starts to feel good, you have realized what you have explored is actually beautiful and you are even possibly wanting to start exploring again.
Some of the benefits of exploring the erotic shadow in this way are: we know ourselves better, we are better capable of more intimacy, and we are better equipped emotionally for what life might bring us, healing of old wounds and trauma while also releasing blockages in the body. When we know our own shadow we become more embodied and have more power in the world we live in. Consequently we easily become more sexually satisfied at a deeply profound level of our being as we expand our ability to give and receive pleasure.