Stretch Tantric Tools for More Loving Relationships Three tantric tools that can help deepen your relationships with friends, lovers, relatives—and yourself. By Helen Avery Photo by Roberto Nickson I love the Tantrics. Indeed, I consider myself to be one. For those unfamiliar with Tantra, the word can often conjure up images of 1980s videos of couples eye-gazing and lovemaking for days on end. But I can assure you I am not spending hours locked in a gaze or embrace with my partner—as nice as that would be. The Tantrics are, in the most basic sense, mystic yogis. They possess an insatiable curiosity, and a passion to awaken so fully that they will use everything in their pathway as a tool for spiritual exploration—and yes, that does include sex. But it also includes the stars, nature, food, science, the body, music and art, work, walking, yoga, travel—and all human connection. As Emma Power, founder and teacher at Tantra Is Love, explains: “The Tantrics ask themselves: How can we have an extraordinary experience of life? And, one step further: How can we bring consciousness and awareness to all that we do? The Tantrics see existence as an opportunity for evolution.” They view life as a spiritual practice. And while Tantra can often be considered esoteric because of its less mainstream yogic practices like mantra and yantra meditation, or tantric sex, Tantra is actually a path accessible to everyone. As Emma points out: “You can use this moment and every moment to awaken. You don’t have to go off and live in a cave in order to experience spirituality. Everything in life can bring you to a state of pure awareness if you intend it so.” When we begin to view relationships through this lens, then—when challenges arise—we can lean in because we are committed to becoming a better friend, lover, colleague, child, parent, and human. By far the greatest benefit I have had in adopting a tantric philosophy is within my relationships—all relationships—including the one with myself. For what Tantra has made me aware of is that relationships are an opportunity for growth. They are my spiritual practice—which is fortunate as it means I get to practice in every moment of the day. When we begin to view relationships through this lens, then—when challenges arise—we can lean in because we are committed to becoming a better friend, lover, colleague, child, parent, and human. Emma points to yoga as a comparison. “If you come to yoga to build strength, you will have one experience. But if you come to yoga with the aim of deepening your awareness of yourself, if you view yoga as your practice, the experience will be far richer. You will be approaching your class from a place of reverence and devotion, with an open heart. Imagine approaching your relationships in this way.” We become less likely to take the other for granted. We keep an open heart when conflict arises. We come from a place of love and compassion for ourselves and for others. We realize the sacredness of all relationships. So, whether single, in a couple, or in-between: Photo by Becca Tapert 3 Tantric Tools to Help All Your Relationships 1. Transfiguration Transfiguration means seeing the Divine in yourself and the one in front of you, and is the foundation of Tantra. It’s what happens naturally when we fall in love—we see the other in all their perfection. But how often do we practice falling in love with everyone, all the time? How many people are there in our lives who we look upon with judgment rather than with love? Transfiguration starts with a simple change in mindset, says Emma. “We commit to seeing everyone through the lens of love, and when we approach the world through this filter then we begin to treat each other with great reverence and kindness. Personality differences become less important.” One way to embody Tantra is through an eye-gazing practice. “When you’re looking into the eyes of another you cannot have negative thoughts. The heart just blossoms, and you begin to see them through the eyes of love,” says Emma. And it doesn’t need to be for hours at a time. You can eye-gaze for a few minutes with a partner before lovemaking to move you to a place of deep connection; you can eye-gaze before having a challenging conversation to remind yourselves of the love you feel for each other; you can eye-gaze with a friend to deepen your friendship; and you can eye-gaze with yourself in the mirror to cultivate self-love. To practice eye-gazing Emma recommends siting opposite another (or your reflection), holding hands, and, with eyes closed, breathing together to become present. Then, “gently begin to open the eyes and gaze upon the left eye of the one facing you. If the mind wanders just bring it back to the intention to focus on the one in front, and to see their divinity,” she advises. If you start every day with a one-minute eye-gaze with your partner, or with yourself in the mirror, it will remind you of the divine spark that sits within us all—and then the day begins from a place of an open heart. 2. Consecration Consecration is one of the most powerful yet simple tools used by the Tantrics. In its purest form it is an offering of energy to the Divine. It can be used as an opportunity to take a moment—before a decision or action—to become present. To pause, to return to the breath, to call in our higher selves, and set an intention to offer the benefits of our actions to the greater good. You can consecrate before eating, before meetings, before a yoga practice, before writing and painting, or before reading a bedtime story to a child. In relationships a consecration can provide a much-welcomed centering before a tough conversation, or before making a difficult decision together. “It’s essentially taking a moment to say—here I am, committed to bringing my best self to this conversation, and surrendering any attachment to the outcome. It opens the heart up to hear the other person with love, and with greater presence,” says Emma. The sharing nature of a consecration can also serve as a reminder of the sacred connection between us all. Some tantric couples offer up their lovemaking as a consecration—offering to share their love with the world. Equally a consecration could be used before a date to share that joyful anticipation with the universe, or to move into a more loving and calm mindset. 3. Transmutation The Tantrics love alchemy—taking one energy and transmuting it into another. And in relationships this means looking for the positive in a difficult situation—turning the situation around for the better. Whether it is with a friend, colleague, relative, or partner, transmutation as a practice means asking: Where is the gold in the argument we just had? What can we learn about this challenge to help us grow next time? Rather than just simply forgetting the argument, and facing the same issue in the future. When we commit to exploring a difficult or awkward moment in this way, we set aside who is right and who is wrong, and instead have the opportunity to grow closer. In every situation, there is a beautiful or important lesson, and transmutation teaches us to focus on this. If we don’t find the other person wanting to join us in that conversation, it’s OK. We know we can be growing ourselves. Essentially we offer ourselves up in service, alone or together. And that is what we are doing when we approach our relationships through the lens of spiritual growth, says Emma. “We are committing to serve the one in front of us, and to bring greater compassion and love to the world.” — Helen Avery is a Section Editor at Wanderlust Media, working on the Vitality and Wisdom channels on Wanderlust.com. She is a journalist, writer, yoga teacher, minister-in-training, and full-time dog walker of Millie.